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Q: Pioneering schools and education ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Pioneering schools and education
Category: Reference, Education and News > Education
Asked by: dtnl42-ga
List Price: $40.00
Posted: 27 Jan 2005 00:33 PST
Expires: 26 Feb 2005 00:33 PST
Question ID: 464119
What sort of approaches / education / learning / techniques are
pioneering schools from around the world doing that are different from
the rest - in particular around encouraging young people how to think,
rather than what to think?
Subject: Re: Pioneering schools and education
Answered By: adiloren-ga on 28 Jan 2005 02:17 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi, thanks for the question! This topic is of particular interest to
me as a teacher and scholar of education theory. I have outlined some
of the primary movements in experimental education that are most
closely alligned with the spirit of your question below. I hope this



"Unschooling is the term given to an increasingly popular method of
homeschooling. Proponents of unschooling argue that a system of public
education does not allow children to receive the best education
available, as it is too centralized. Under unschooling education,
parents act as facilitators and are responsible for having a
wide-range of resources available to provide their children with a
quality education.

The term unschooling was coined by John Holt, author of 10 books on
education. John Holt founded the unschooling magazine Growing Without

This model is sometimes used in schools, such as the Sudbury Valley School."

"The Sudbury Valley School was founded in 1968 in Framingham,
Massachusetts. There are about 30 schools based on this model in the
United States, Canada, Denmark, Israel, and Australia. The model has
two basic tenets: educational freedom and democratic governance.

Students at the school are free to choose how to spend their time and
all decisions affecting the school community are made by majority vote
of all those affected by the decision."

Sudbury Home Page


Democratic Schools or Free Schools:

"A democratic school is a school run after democratic principles with
full and equal participation from both students and staff.

The first democratic school, the Summerhill School in England, was founded in 1921.

Today there are at least 70 democratic schools around the world, in
countries such us Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Israel, Japan,
New Zealand Russia, South Africa, The Netherlands, United Kingdom and
United States.

Since 1993 there is an International Democratic Education Conference
(IDEC), held in a different country each year."

Summerhill School

"A.S. Neill founded the controversial Summerhill School in 1921 in
Hellerau near Dresden. Today it is a boarding and day school currently
located in Leiston, Suffolk, England, serving primary and secondary
education in a democratic fashion. It is now run by Neill's daughter,
Zoe Readhead.

Summerhill is noted for its influential and groundbreaking philosophy
that children learn best with freedom from coercion. All lessons are
optional, and pupils are free to choose what to do with their time.
Neill founded Summerhill with the belief that "the function of a child
is to live his own life - not the life that his anxious parents think
he should live, not a life according to the purpose of an educator who
thinks he knows best."

In addition to taking control of their own time, pupils can
participate in the self-governing community of the school. School
meetings are held four times a week, where pupils and staff alike have
an equal voice in the decisions that affect their day-to-day lives,
discussing issues and creating or changing school laws.

It is upon these major principles, namely, democracy and equality,
that Summerhill School operates."

A school's life without rules 

"Despite its extremely liberal approach, the school produces students
who tend to thrive and generally emerge well prepared for adult life.

Home page

Summerhill School : A New View of Childhood
by Alexander S. Neill
(Great Book! If you haven't read it- check it out)

Save Summerhill Campaign

Albany Free School:

This school is similar to Summerhill but takes the experiment to a
different demographic, the inner city.

"When Mary Leue, our founder, asked A.S. Neill what he thought of her
idea of starting a free school in the inner city, he responded with
only one thought: "I would think myself daft to try."

But Mary was used to doing things her own way, and so try she did. She
was determined to found a school based on freedom and democratic
principles that was equally, if not more accessible to children of the

Thirty-two years later, the Albany Free School is still going strong,
comfortably housed in a 130 year-old, former parochial school building
on a residential side street in a racially and socioeconomically mixed
downtown neighborhood in the nation's oldest incorporated city. "

"Part of the reason we are so successful with students in crisis is
that we neither segregate them away from, nor place them in
competition against their peers. Instead, we invest faith in their
integrity and ability, as well as place them in a position of
responsibility for themselves and the school as a whole - all the
while paying close attention to their emotional development. Students
who come to us essentially for refuge and repair leave us able to make
a successful return to the conventional settings from whence they came
- even after spending as little as a year here."


Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA):

This is an interesting case study. The state of Kentucky basically
completely revamped their education system over a few years.

"KERA - the Kentucky Education Reform Act was passed by the Kentucky
State Legislature in 1990 in response to a ruling the previous year by
the Kentucky Supreme Court that the commonwealth's education system
was unconstitutional. The court mandated that the Legislature was to
enact broad and sweeping reforms at a systemic level, statewide."

Goals of KERA

"KERA was based on six goals:

1.	Students use basic communication and mathematics skills for
purposes and situations they will encounter throughout their lives.
2.	Students apply concepts and principles from mathematics, the
sciences, the arts, the humanities, social studies, practical living
studies, and vocational studies to what they will encounter throughout
their lives.
3.	Students develop their abilities to become self-sufficient individuals.
4.	Students become responsible members of a family, work group, or
community, including demonstrating effectiveness in community service.
5.	Students think and solve problems in school situations and in a
variety of situations they will encounter in life.
6.	Students connect and integrate experiences and new knowledge from
all subject matter fields with what they have previously learned, and
build on past learning experiences to acquire new information through
various media sources."

Success of KERA

"Although KERA's deep systemic changes met with some controversy, most
researchers agree that Kentucky Schools have experienced overall
improvement in the quality of Education. Poverty in the state has
diminished and college enrollment has increased. SAT scores have risen
as has the number of graduating seniors.

In 1998, The Ford Foundation and Harvard University awarded Kentucky's
education system the Innovations in American Government Award. The
success of KERA has made it a model for education systems in other
states and around the world."

Additional Links on KERA:

University of Kentucky

KERA Goals




The Inquiry Method:

This movement in education theory changed the way a lot of teachers
approached their profession.

"Neil Postman has been a strong contemporary voice in both methods and
philosophy of education. His 1969 book "Teaching as a Subversive
Activity" (co-authored with Charles Weingartner) introduced the
concept of a school driven by the Inquiry Method, the basis of which
is to get the students themselves to ask and answer relevant
questions. The "teacher" (the two authors disdained the term and
thought a new one should be used) would be limited in the number of
declarative sentences he could utter per class, as well as questions
he personally knew the answer to. The aim of this type of inquiry
would be to prepare the students to lead responsible adult lives,
primarily by functioning as an antidote to the rampant bureaucracy
most adults are faced with after leaving school."

Goals of the Inquiry Method:

"The inquiry method is motivated by Postman's and Weingartner's
recognition that the activities and behaviors of intelligent people
("good learners") at all stages in life focuses on the process of
inquiry, not an end product of static knowledge. They write that
certain characteristics are common to all good learners (Teaching as a
Subversive Activity, pp. 31-33), saying that all good learners have:

*	self-confidence in their learning ability;
*	pleasure in problem solving;
*	a keen sense of relevance;
*	reliance on their own judgment over other people's or society's;
*	no fear of being wrong;
*	no haste in answering;
*	flexibility in point of view;
*	respect for facts, and the ability to distinguish between fact and opinion;
*	no need for final answers to all questions, and comfort in not
knowing an answer to difficult questions rather than settling for a
simplistic answer."

Pedagogical Teaching 

"they avoid telling students what they "ought to know";
*	they talk to students mostly by questioning, and especially by
asking divergent questions;
*	they do not accept short, simple answers to questions;
*	they encourage students to interact directly with one another, and
avoid mediating or judging what is said in student interactions;
*	they do not summarize students' discussion;
*	they do not plan the direction of their lessons in advance, but
allow it to develop in response to students' interests;
*	their lessons pose problems to students;
*	they gauge their success by change in students' inquiry behaviors
(with the above characteristics of "good learners" as a goal)."

From Pretenses to Real Meaning: 
A Book Review of Teaching as a Subversive Activity 
January 29, 1998

Institutions that employ the inquiry method (among others):

Kent Gardens Elementary School, McLean, Virginia 

"This public school combines inquiry-based learning with a
multiple-intelligences approach. It offers a French language immersion
program, where students learn math and science in French while
studying social studies and language arts in English."

The Exploratorium 

"Housed within San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts, the Exploratorium
has a collection of 650 science, art, and human perception exhibits.
The museum was founded in 1969 by physicist and educator Frank
Oppenheimer, who was director until his death in 1985. It helps
promote inquiry-based learning not only in the sciences but also in
the arts. A great site for examples of inquiry method in teaching and
learning. The Exploratorium's Institute of Inquiry is a great place to
start. "


The Montessori Method:

I don't know that much about this method, but it is said to focus on
spirituality, individuality, etc. It also abandons any sense of a
strict pace to learning.

"The Montessori method is described as a way about thinking about who
children are. As a philosophy, it emphasizes the unique individuality
of each child. Dr. Montessori believed in the worthiness, value and
importance of children. Comparisons to norms and standards measured by
traditional educational systems are discouraged in Montessori
practice. Instead, Montessori adherents believe that children should
be free to succeed and learn without restriction or criticism.

As an educational approach, the Montessori method takes to heart the
needs, talents, gifts, and special individuality of each child.
Montessori practitioners believe children learn in their own way at
their own pace. The driving concept is the promotion of the joy of
learning. This joy of learning, according to Montessori theory,
develops a well-adjusted person who has a purpose and direction in his
or her life. Children who experience the joy of learning are believed
to be happy, confident, and fulfilled. In essence Montessori helps
bring forth the giftedness of each child."

<<For young children, Montessori is a hands-on approach to learning.
It encourages children to develop their observation skills by doing
many types of activities. These activities include use of the five
senses, kinetic movement, spatial refinement, small and large motor
skill coordination, and concrete knowledge that leads to later

For a grade school child Montessori encourages a child to proceed at
his or her own pace onto abstract thinking, writing, reading, science,
mathematics and most importantly, to absorb his or her culture and
environment. Culture includes interaction with nature, art, music,
religion, societal organizations, and customs.

A Montessori teacher or instructor observes each child like a
scientist, providing every child with an individual program for
learning. Phoebe Child, head of the Montessori trust in London, said
"we must be prepared to wait patiently like a servant, to watch
carefully like a scientist, and to understand through love and wonder
like a saint.">>

What is The Montessori method

Montessori Programs in Public Schools. ERIC Digest.

The Montessori Foundation

Montessori Association of New Zealand


New York City's Experimental Academies:

"In 1992, New York City launched an experiment in education by
permitting small, innovative public academies to be formed by
community groups and borough-level school districts seeking freedom
from central regulation and control. The schools have been largely
free to pick teachers, set their curricula and in some cases select
their students."


The MUKAVA Project in Finland

"The Acronym, MUKAVA, is derived from the finnish words ?muistuttaa
kasvatusvastuusta?, which remind Finnish adults of their
responsibility for raising and educating their children.

The MUKAVA project is comprised of seven component projects that
collectively serve to enhance the social capital of Finland?s youth.
MUKAVA focuses on the student (preschool and health education); and
the relationships between the school and the community, thus
familiarizing students with working life and volunteerism and further
strengthening the cooperation between home and school). The central
component of MUKAVA is considered to be the integrated school day,
funded by the Finnish National Fund for Research and Development
(SITRA). The MUKAVA program started in 2002 and seven schools (in
Sipoo, Jyväskylä, Sievi and Kuopio) participate in the first stage."


Additional Resources:

A Practical Look at Comprehensive School Reform for Rural Schools. ERIC Digest.

Implementing Whole-School Reform. ERIC Digest.

Systemic Education Reform. ERIC Digest

Sum It Up 
U.S. Govt. Case Studies of Non-U.S. Schools

Association for Experiential Education

Journal of Experimental Education


Google Search Terms:

"experimental education"
"free schools"
"democratic schools"
"progressive schools"
"education trends"
"inquiry method"
"philosophy of education"

Please let me know if you need any clarification of my response and
I'll be happy to provide it.

Good luck!

-Anthony (adiloren-ga)
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