Why do we do what we do? I’m sure that every educator has pondered this at some point. Perhaps during a particularly difficult lesson with a less that cooperative class. Perhaps during a late night spent writing report comments. It’s an important point to ponder in our profession as our role is a diverse one which is prone to continuous change as technologies and societies change and develop.
Since the release of the Australian Curriculum we have had the opportunity to ponder the role of the General Capabilities in education. What do they mean to students? To assessment? To planning for learning? Guy Claxton has much to say and has published extensively on this matter. Guy discussed the Capabilities as the means by which we assist students to build their capacity to learn. By increasing their capacity to learn, by supporting the systematic, gradual and deliberate growth of the Capabilities, we observe success in all learning areas increasing. Guy gave an example from his own early education, studying Chemistry. He compared the methods of two of his teachers, both knowledgeable, both respected. The first aimed to maximise the efficiency of the lessons in order to provide maximum time for the learning of content. Practical activities were streamlined by providing the exact equipment and materials required and a complete set of instructions. Expected results were discussed. Unexpected results explained as an error in methodology. Students were not asked to consider the ‘how and why’ of investigations – just the ‘what and when’ of Chemistry. The second teacher would ask students to consider the method of the investigation prior to commencing. How would they set up their equipment? What would they expect to observe and why? Equipment was available to select from. Some of the equipment was not necessary – it was there to provide fuel for further thought. The process was not terribly time consuming, ten minutes at most. The result for students was that they moved towards becoming more critical and creative thinkers. These are traits that we hope to see in scientists. These are traits that we hope to see in educated people.
So why do we do what we do? Because communities commission us to help to produce educated people. Because they hope that their young people will continue to build and support their community (both locally and globally). The Capabilities are the areas of potential that we hope to grow in young people. There is opportunity in every learning area, every interaction and every educational setting to provide a systematic, gradual and deliberate approach towards building the Capabilities.