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The Chocolate Cafe Manifesto

For Learning after Lockdown; This blog is about my ideas and work connected to Heutagogy, what Stewart Hase defines as “self-determined learning” and which I am interested in as a way of enabling learner-centred learning in the UK (and elsewhere). We think that, following the pandemic, as a “new normal” is introduced in the UK schools will not be capable of 100% attendance and will have to design for 50/50 learning. Arguably this might force schools to recognise that they will have to “trust the learner” for a change and allow some learning agency into UK schools. Schools will become “time poor” so they will have to become “learning-rich” This blog post looks at some ways in which that might be achieved.

Introduction (Secondary Education UK); For reasons to do with the Brainsrusting group who are discussing this issue and writing the “manifesto” we are focussing on Secondary Education in the UK, although the principles and thoughts we share might be useful anywhere. We met monthly at The Chocolate Cafe in Canterbury (famous for its Cathedral School 1000 years ago) and have debated how we might share our discussion and ideas as a “Manifesto for Learning” so here it is/will be.

50/50 Learning; We think that social distancing will require schools to offer only 50% of time in the classroom compared to the previous 100%. We are also assuming that UK (English) schools for the next academic year 20/21 will continue to follow the rigid OFSTED driven high-stakes achievement oriented education model that was introduced in the UK to “make sure the sixties never happens again” (PM Margaret Thatcher). From that perspective the 50% in classroom time will arguably remain the same but the 50% “beyond the classroom” learning time might allow some learning agency for schoolchildren. It is in this new “heutagogic learning time” that some freedom of learning might emerge. Our hierarchical schools made now be time poor but they can become “learning rich” instead.

Fast Education/Slow Learning; We need to design an education system that isn’t just concerned with the unchallenging “memorization” of “facts” the so-called “learning by rote” that is the hallmark of our exam-driven secondary system; what I call “Fast Education”. We also need to allow for the thoughtful, reflective “Eureka” process of “slow learning” where we make sense of the world for ourselves, to be part of our education system. Daniel Kahneman talked of “Thinking Fast and Slow” and showed how “slow thinking” is how we make sense and create our own meaning, whereas as “fast thinking” is about developing high speed answers to known questions. Our secondary education is almost entirely concerned with “fast thinking” and so points students at clearly defined subject areas where the teacher knows the answer. This is an education system that is good for providing clear answers for exams, but no-good for solving-problems and enabling sense-making when events diverge from the norm; as in pandemics. Here are our 4 big ideas; (more…)

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