Have you ever been in a situation where you have felt completely unprepared, perhaps overwhelmed or just scared because you were faced with something brand new? Maybe it was something as small as taking a mode of public transport to somewhere you had never been before or walking into a room full of people you had never met. I am sure we have all been in a similar situation at some point in our lives, but what is it that makes something that seems so small such a big deal? As someone who has particularly struggled in situations where the final outcome is not clear, I wanted to explore why this is and what it could mean in relation to my practice. Why is it that we can be so fearful of the unknown?
Take some time to watch the video below. Particularly focus in from 6:13 to 8:34:
This idea that teachers are surprised when pupils won’t enter into open-ended projects, yet show little confidence when asked to do exactly that, has made me question whether it is the fear of the unknown instilled by teachers and other adults that makes children and young people equally as terrified to attempt a task without knowing what the end result will be. This idea has made me reflect on my own experience of school, when most subjects had a clear timeline, from start to finish, of intended learning and what should be achieved in order to pass the next test or exam. There were very few occasions, if any, when a teacher said that we were going to find out something new without having a very clear, tick-box idea of what the outcome of the lesson would be for the class as a whole. This was where university came as quite a shock to many people, as we were suddenly all expected to take a very individual, critical stance on assignments which did not come with a set list of do’s and don’ts. Even now there are people who struggle the fact that we are not told exactly what is expected of us in every submission as this is how we have learned to behave throughout our time at school.
At this point in my professional development I have being doing a lot of reflection on the benefits of allowing children to take ownership of their own learning and presenting them with opportunities to learn skills that will be transferable in other aspects of their lives. A perfect example of this type of approach is the transdisciplinary learning model, most commonly used in International Baccalaureate schools. This approach is distinct from multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary learning as its goal is to allow children to create new ideas and form deeper levels of understanding of the world they live in, by blurring subject boundaries and creating an environment which enables rich, authentic learning to take place (IBO, 2010).
As a teacher I have often found myself feeling the need to take control, however recently I have wondered whether this is where the fear of the unknown comes from. Without knowing what is to come, it is difficult to have a feeling of being in control. Maybe letting go of the need to be so in control is something that will allow for new learning opportunities to occur. By taking risks in my own practice, I hope to model to my pupils that by stepping into the unknown there will be new opportunities to enjoy and connections to be made but there will also be challenges to face. I believe that if children learn these transferable skills at a young age then they will be more set up to deal with other challenges they face in the future.
IBO (2010) The Primary Years Programme as a Model of Transdisciplinary Learning. Cardiff: International Baccalaureate Organization.