The popular metaphor of the “learning journey” has been around for quite some time now and although I feel it is a rather over used I am going to exploit it here as I reflect on some of the less frequently explored aspects of it.
I enjoy spending time with my family geocaching when we get the chance. This involves long rambles through the coutryside looking for hidden tokens, signing logbooks to authenticate our endeavours. We follow clues and use our mobile phones to help locate our targets, we scramble under bushes and over styles with a common purpose that drives us on mile after mile for the satisfaction of achieving our objectives. We have been part of the geocaching community for nearly a year now and we have made great progress in our ability to decipher the hints provided by those who lay the trails. We are also fitter and healthier than when we started, I’m pleased to say. This downtime in the countryside brings an opportunity for relaxation as we tussle with a different set of demands and enjoy the beauty of our surroundings.
So, what does this have to do with education?
Well, several themes emerged as I clambered through fallow, nature-filled fields just yesterday.
- Succesful journeys require good planning. Time spent with a map beforehand is time well spent, ensuring that you have what you need (sting cream, power pack, water, tweezers…) will help too.
- Experience counts! I grew up in the countryside and know how to deal with curious heifers and other animals we come across.
- Local knowledge and community bring big advantages. Other cachers leave feedback online and invaluable information can be gained from their comments. We learn together and share the same challenges.
- The unexpected can be joyful. Yesterday this was illustrated by an array of rarely seen wildlife: a weasel, a hare, a grey wagtail, a muntjac.
So, education policy makers you really need to :
- ensure that those guiding learners of their journey have the time to plan and prepare well. No more last-minute changes of course and excessive, rigid assessment regimes which militate against their understanding of the true needs of their charges,
- listen to the voices of experience, those who have a better understanding of how learning works and the central purpose of education,
- facilitate and reward interconnection between education professionals and the wider community to ensure that we are not stranded in competing silos,
- support creativity and innovation in learning so that we can keep the ecosystem of education thriving through a biodiversity of approaches to realise the potential of every individual.
If this is not sufficiently clear then maybe you need to go for a long walk to clear your head?