Here is a connectivist style argument putting the case for change:
If year 12 exams are content based then nobody can blame teachers for focusing on content. That is true but another way to look at it is that students see schools as less relevant each year because the students have little input into what they have to learn.The above quote is based on something I wrote to the South Australian teachers list in January 2006 when I was more supportive (but with some reservations even then) of George Siemen's connectivism theory
1) half life for relevance of any given piece of knowledge is declining
2) informal learning is becoming more important
3) The pipe is more important than the contents
An interesting discussion ensued, here are some of the points and counter points that were debated :
- Students need to obtain a certain level of independent learning skills before they can learn how to use the "pipe"
- Some content is important, trust me, it's the adult teachers who know this, not the students.
- Students need guidance about what content is important, guidance about what that content actually means when they study it and guidance about how to apply it
- One lister expressed anger that his daughter had done a tertiary photography course and had not been taught about focal length.
- Discovery learning and student centred learning can largely be dismissed as fads, which lack sufficient teacher direction. Course objectives that replaced content with expressions such as "must be able to seek appropriate methods and apply them accordingly" were ridiculed.
- Teaching learning how to learn skills is important (granted) but content is still very important. We are going backwards wrt science, maths and trade skills in Australia
- The difficulty of trying to define "fundamental knowledge" and the amount of time that can be wasted in attempting to do that
- The counter argument that "fundamental knowledge" does change over time but it is still worthwhile spending the time to re-evaluate and define it
But the slogan, "The pipe is more important than the contents" doesn't hold any deeper meaning than being a good, provocative discussion starter. The responses I received on the list shows that teachers are looking for hard edged, verifiable theories with exemplars. Although, sometimes, this does reflect conservative attitudes about change from some teachers the responses are nevertheless extremely reasonable.