Many people recognize that each person prefers different learning styles and techniques. Some learn best by watching, others by doing, others by talking, and so on and so forth. In conventional schools, with their randomly assembled classes and mass manufacturing approach to teaching, this recognition is usually warped into a mandate for each teacher to build a variety of learning styles into their teaching plan. The result: every student gets what they need only some of the time. It’s a hallmark of “modern”, oh so new and improved just-add-water education. Why does anybody think of this as a good system?
Different learning styles become nowhere more apparent than in remedial classes and schools specialized on behavioral challenges. Students in these classes are often so resistant to anything that happens in school that the one thing which interests them or the one style which suits them may be the only one which can draw them out of their shells. For example, in my work in various public and private schools, I have often found well done documentary videos to capture the attention of students who otherwise tuned out anything and anyone else in school so completely that they might have been able to teach Gandhi a thing or two about nonviolent resistance.
Once you shift to another activity, because your lords and masters make you do so in the interest of mixing up styles, you lose these students again. Imagine what we could do in a school like JSS, a school without assigned classes and bell schedule. We could have regularly scheduled viewings of science documentary series like James Burke’s “Connections” and Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, David Attenborough’s various nature documentaries, and a slew of great documentaries on history and archaeology. Some students might soak them all up. Some students might be more selective. Some students might always watch the full showing, while others might stay only as long as they are interested, then maybe to move off to do something better suited to them. Some might stay until the end of the following discussion even as it reaches higher and higher levels and greater depths or roams into distant connections, whereas others might form their own break out discussion somewhere else at a different level. Some discussions might be short while others might go on for a long time and kindle talks that go on for days in the community. It would all be organic and dynamic. Imagine trying to do this in a school with randomly assembled classes of students grouped purely by age, force fed a lesson plan which the teacher is required to impose on the whole group, and held captive for a preset amount of time by a bell schedule.
This is one of the many reasons to base schools on the Sudbury model, built around freedom and respect for our young ones.