Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Controlled Chaos - a School caring for Learning Styles

On DR2 tv (one of two public service channels in Denmark), there are ongoing reports from school experiment. One was presenting a rather traditional teacher from Norway taking over a grade six for one week, in Denmark, at a newly built, open plan school for grades 0-9.
The plot was obviously to show how a very undisciplined and anti authoritarian class would cope with having a foreign language speaking guest teacher with a different approach to classroom management. Thorleif Høyvik, the Norwegian teacher appeared as a friendly but somewhat stressed person. His ambition of having all of the children do the same thing simultaneously, like in the ordinary classroom, was challenged by these autonomous children who were already more familiar with a very open, individual and trusting pedagogy.

I don't think this short film was really doing justice to the open plan system. The two daily teachers were almost anonymous, not saying much, apart from a very short presentation statement about this school being built so that everybody could see everybody all of the time, and a brief evaluation of the second day (which was a totally messy kitchen class).

Some years ago, I've visited this school at an evening arrangement at an early point when it was either just started, or just about to. It was very confusing indeed. Although I admired the master plan and the background ideals for this choice, I actually disliked the architecture, feeling uncomfortable with the very open space and almost labyrinthic inner logic. I was just wondering which learning style I would have been preferring myself as a child, had this opportunity had any actuality by then. Probably a nice and cosy reading corner with very bright light, and not too many disturbing factors - one of those corners or niches where one could be less visible, more private. And which the Ny Hellerup Skole building also tries to provide.

How one school can change totally over a period with much attention and full teacher and leadership support, working from a Learning styles approach is the ongoing experiment now shown in TV2 -

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