Every time is a time of great change: 42 years after Hall-Dennis

From 2010 in Prince Edward Island, the Proceedings of the Minister’s Summit on Learning:

There was a clear and widespread understanding among participants that the traditional learning model requires some modification to adapt to the changing social and economic context in which Islanders live. In the global society, students elsewhere are being given the advantages of a larger toolkit, developing not only the knowledge content, but also the skills needed to flourish in the information and imagination age; it would be a disservice to our Island learners to deny them those same advantages. The Summit acknowledged that some students do very well (or at least cope) in traditional, lecture-based formats, but there is room to improve. The vast majority of Summit participants supported the call for re-balancing the use of the learning tools to make more room for skill-building through experiential and project-centred learning.

The Summit did not suggest an education revolution; however, it did suggest that the current education system needs to adapt and evolve to enable students to gather the skills needed to be life-long learners. Much of the knowledge and information with which we will use in our lives in twenty years’ time does not yet exist, so it is not possible to teach people everything they will ever need to know in thirteen years of public schooling. However, they can acquire the skills and confidence that will enable them to continue to learn as required throughout their life paths. Skills and confidence come from the experience and practice involved in project-centred learning. This adaptation does not require an end to lecture-based learning, but rather a search for appropriate opportunities to introduce more project-based learning and integrate content and skill learning.

From 1968, the “Hall-Dennis Report” in Ontario, Living and Learning: The Report of the Provincial Committee on Aims and Objectives of Education in the Schools of Ontario:

Needs and aspirations change, and this is especially true of our time. The condition of dynamic economic and cultural growth in which we now find ourselves demands that educational policy and practice be the result of expert long-term and short-term forecasts. A co-ordinated, systematic approach to the identification of society’s goals and the planning for their attainment is a prerequisite to the sound performance of educational service in Ontario.

Very many other and important changes and innovations require consideration. The lock-step structure of past times must give way to a system in which the child will progress from year to year throughout the school system without the hazards and frustrations of failure. His natural curiosity and initiative must be recognized and developed. New methods of assessment and promotion must be devised. Counselling by competent persons should be an integral part of the educational process. The atmosphere within the class room must be positive and encouraging. The fixed positions of pupil and teacher, the insistence on silence, and the punitive approach must give way to a more relaxed teacher-pupil relationship which will encourage discussion, inquiry, and experimentation, and enhance the dignity of the individual.

The curriculum must provide a greater array of learning experiences than heretofore. Classes must be more mobile, within and beyond the local environment, and the rigid position of education must yield to a flexibility capable of meeting new needs. These and other innovations will be aimed at developing in the child a sense of personal achievement and responsibility commensurate with his age and ability, to the end that going to school will be a pleasant growing experience, and that as he enters and passes through adolescence he will do so without any sudden or traumatic change and without a sense of alienation from society.

Coincident with the learning experience the school must be aware of the health and emotional needs of pupils. Accordingly, health services, including psychiatric assessment and counselling, must become an integral element of the school program. Qualified personnel should be called upon as resource people by teachers when the interest or need arises in such matters as family and community relationships; physical and emotional growth; sexual ethics; and the dangers of excessive smoking, alcoholism, and drug addiction; and other areas of concern, so that young children as well as adolescents will develop a well-rounded understanding of those conditions and practices which go into the making of a responsible and healthy adult.

No school which ignores the importance of recreational pursuits and physical development can meet the needs of today’s pupils. Accordingly, the curriculum must recognize such areas as important aspects of the learning experience. Such recognition, however, should emphasize the aesthetic, social, and physical rewards of such experience rather than team engagement and spectator participation.


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