Perhaps the biggest influences on the quality of teaching and learning in schools today are Curriculum and Pedagogy. These, by definition, must be able to provide students with all that they need to survive in the world. By this, I mean they must be provided with knowledge, skills, morals and attitudes; and strategies to comprehend themselves and others, to be able to build relationships and to connect with the wider world, as demonstrated in the Australian Curriculum.
In her article Beyond Four Walls: Experiential and Situated Learning (2009), Johnson explained how excursions and incursions are significant and important in supporting students in their general learning and in their social and emotional learning as well.
The social theorists, Lave and Wenger, believe that enhanced learning takes place in context, with social interaction (Johnson (2009)
When we look at these approaches, we see that our pedagogical approach must enable a community of practice, in this case – social learning. Students and teachers need to be involved in sharing ideas, exchanging knowledge, questioning, critically examining, helping and even challenging each other continually in an ongoing process. This inspires all to be more open and can change peoples’ ways of thinking.
As educators we constantly ask how we can keep all of our students engaged for the maximum achievement of outcomes. How do we get them involved? First, we must know our students. Their background, their prior knowledge, their culture, their experiences. What do they have to offer?
This leads to extending the community of practice to beyond the walls of the classroom and beyond the school fence. Who has some knowledge or skills that will benefit the community of practice?
When we look at this information, and combine it with the requirements of the curriculum we can start to ask bigger questions about just what the students need.
When thinking about excursions, we open our community of practice to specific individuals and organisations who have knowledge and skill sets that we need to enhance our knowledge and understanding by introducing these. This is used to actively engage and involve students to encourage the taking place of more powerful learning.
This is best accomplished with meticulous planning, not just of the physical aspects but of what the students actually need to learn from the experience. Therefore the teacher needs to be very well prepared before the day and the students must be prepared as well.
Just as important as preparation is the follow-up. Students must be able to reflect on the activity and its relevance to their current learning. When the learner takes action following an excursion and begins incorporating it into the learning of the community of practice.
Pedagogy and curriculum, enabled by a community of practice, create a process whereby students engage in learning to make connections between learning and experiences.
Johnson, J. (2009). Beyond four walls: experiential and situated learning. [online].Teacher (198), 18-20. Retrieved from http://search.informit.com.au/fullText;dn=173862;res=AEIPT