In Vermont, we have an unprecedented opening for driving real change in education policy. Our Governor, the Secretary of Education, school boards and administrators are deeply engaged in conversations that demonstrate a historic commitment to reform.
We know, however, that the transformation of public education does not begin in the conference rooms of policymakers. It begins today - right now - with the work that goes on in the classrooms of the teachers of Vermont. Despite our grandest ideas, teachers are on the frontlines every day and have the direct experience of what educating our children looks like on the ground. To drive meaningful policy change, we must create structures to include teachers in this dialogue.
We must also provide teachers with the ongoing mentoring and support to implement policy and bring it to life in the classroom. The time to do this is now. By partnering with Vermont school districts, I believe that Vermont’s institutions of higher education can and must play an active role in this transformation.
Goddard College has formed a new educational partnership with the Franklin Central Supervisory Union District to provide up to 20 district teachers with master’s-level professional development. The coursework is based on the inquiry-based, learner-centered model that is the hallmark of the progressive pedagogy, the principles on which Goddard was founded.
Even in the information age of today, we still have much to learn from the progressive model. The progressive movement began in the late 19th century as a response to growing dissatisfaction with a curriculum highly differentiated across social classes, where the schoolhouse provided on the one hand a training ground for factory workers and on the other classical preparation for university-bound elite.
It sought to both democratize and enhance the textbook learning model with cross-disciplinary, highly personalized, hands-on experiences that placed the learner at the center of the learning process. By integrating local community service projects and entrepreneurship into the daily curriculum, it stressed life-long learning, social responsibility and action over rote knowledge, memorization and repetition.
With the Vermont’s adoption of the Common Core Curriculum Standards, public school educators face the challenge of incorporating knowledge and performance-based standards into student learning. Goddard’s EDU Program integrates these standards into an effective pedagogy that, at its core, connects students to the context of their lives.
In my view, good teaching is really about helping learners frame good questions. If our teaching is focused only on providing content, students will use it until it is no longer relevant. But if we teach them how to find and frame critical and relevant questions to their own experiences, then we cultivate understanding, true learning, and ultimately an intelligent thinking citizenry.
Educators will experience these tenets firsthand through their Goddard coursework. The program also aims to position teachers to be catalysts and facilitators in the transformation of our public school model, because teachers and teaching itself is central to the solution. Let’s bring teachers into this conversation.