The “shape” of learning

Funnel shaped

When explaining the pedagogy behind the teaching style employed using the philosophy of time space education, Edna Sackson captured me saying that learning can be “funnel-shaped”.

These conversations were part of the debriefing sessions after a series of demonstration lessons Chad and I ran at Mt. Scopus College in Melbourne. We were lucky to get the chance to teach four year levels all all the very beginning of new units of inquiry. As a result, we got to do some of the very first provocations that students experienced in the new contexts of the units. The “shape” of each lesson, it turned out, was like a funnel. We began with a very wide scope, calling upon students to consider such things as:

  • everything they eat, buy and use (in a unit about consumer choice)
  • what they know, think they know and don’t know about the materials that everyday objects are made from (in a unit about materials and matter)
  • their own experiences of moving and settling – from “small” examples like changing from one classroom to another, to “big” examples like moving country (in a unit about settlement)
  • their gut reactions to a wide variety of examples of art (in a unit about the art appreciation)

As we moved through the flow of each session with the students, we narrowed the focus further and further in order to get more details and increasingly personal responses, to explore their interests and curiosities, to extract their genuine thoughts on the things that came up and to see where they may head with their own personal inquiries.

The final part of each session was, in a general sense, a response to “what are you thinking now?” although the questions each time were quite different.

This approach is not only a wonderfully simple way to bring all students into the equation, it also shows them that we are actually interested in them and who they are in whatever context it is we are looking at – be it them as scientist, artist, consumer, settler and so on. Taking the time to use this flow, probably many times in the early stages of each unit, allows the students to really understand what we are doing with them, space to find themselves and freedom to explore within a clear focus.

So, sometimes the learning really is “funnel-shaped”!

You can see the flow of the sessions outlined in this posting by looking at these links:

Year 5 unit on consumer choice

Year 6 unit on materials and matter

Year 4 unit on settlement

Year 3 unit on art appreciation



One comment

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