As Clayton Dyer’s class rush out to recess and the pleasant hum of happy, laughing children recedes, I take the opportunity to grab a few words with this expert, long-standing collaborator of the Extraordinary Learning Foundation™.
In his tailored beige cardigan, Dyer strikes me as the epitome of the Zeitgeist.
“We teach children, Tait; that’s the key.” Dyer smooths his elegantly trimmed beard as he speaks, “We don’t teach content. We don’t teach subjects. We teach children.”
It’s a profound statement and one that summarises my own thirty-year journey of discovery about the phrenology of learning. It’s about the child. If there is one thing that all of the supremely talented educators that we work with here at the Extraordinary Learning Foundation™ would agree on, it is that we teach children; we teach situated, contextualised, definitional children (apart from those of us involved in adult education).
When I read of some of the ‘reforms’ that are taking place in the global edusphere, I sometimes worry about the children. I wonder if they are front and centre of our concerns. Am I alone?
I don’t think so! As Dyer explains, children are definitely at the top of his list.
“One of the strategies that we’ve been working on with the Extraordinary Learning Foundation™ is a model based upon Talk-it-out™ with a particular focus on the pre-cognitive/recognitive stage.”
Talk-it-out™ is one of the successful Extraordinary Learning Foundation™ strategies that we have action-researched across a number of contexts and situations, finding it to be extraordinarily powerful and effective.
Clayton Dyer and his colleagues at the William Rodgers Middle School have been successfully trialling and researching a modification of this model with a particular emphasis on the mentalistic elements.
“What we found,” Explains Dyer, “Was that, when presented with standard curriculum content, children would typically try to work out what it was; describe it, list it, recall it and so on. But they did not interact with it critically. They would not ask how these knowledges related to the reigning hegemony and therefore whether they were disputable or at least coalesced into different patterns from alternative, diverse, inclusive perspectives.”
This is a problematisation that I am familiar with from many multi-layered contexts.
Dyer continues, “We used the architecture of Talk-it-out™ to help formulate some of the critical vocabulary. But vocabulary are still just words. We needed students to speak for meaning rather than just speak. And so we decided to spend more time in the pre-cognitive/recognitive in order to give them tools to add meaning to their own thoughts.”
This is the model that Dyer and his colleagues developed:
The benefits could not be clearer than that.