Bolstad and Gilbert, Disciplining and Drafting 21 Century Learning, 2008
An Analogy for Student Centered Learning
The Forked River The Forked River is our metaphor for the traditional senior secondary system. Here we have students paddling along through their senior secondary years, navigating through the “rapids” of exams and qualifications, and gradually getting sorted towards one of two pathways – the academic, and the vocational. If a student has been heading towards one fork of the river but decides they want to change to another, this can be difficult (though not impossible). Indeed, in decades past, students were often told which pathway they were best suited for, usually based on how well they did (or didn’t) perform in their academic subjects.
The Braided River The Braided River is quite similar to a lot of senior secondary education systems around the world today. This braided river metaphor acknowledges that people will take different pathways when they leave school, but the ‘rapids’ (i.e. qualification structures) are organized so that people’s options are not closed down early by early subject choices, and to allow people to change courses. Students can follow their interests, but also change their minds and work towards a different post-school pathway, all the while continuing to move down the secondary school river. They can mix academic and vocational learning throughout their secondary education, whatever they think they will do after secondary school.
The Braided River with a Take-Out The Braided River adds in a Take-Out point—or safe haven—for students who are having trouble navigating or even staying afloat. These could be students with learning difficulties, or students with other difficulties in their lives which usually results in school not being a priority or not meeting their needs. To avoid allowing these students to drown, or to be washed up on an uninhabited part of the riverbank, a camping ground area is set up to give these students a different, non-‘mainstream’ senior secondary experience, the eventual aim being that they have the skills and confidence to go back into the river. The camping ground teachers are more like mentors and the students spend time learning together as a group, mixing work experience learning with programs designed to develop life skills, personal development skills, and the educational basics.
Student-Centered Based Model The Student Centered Model represents an approach to learning that professes that all students can learn at the highest and that it is possible to get to that level by a variety of different routes, at a speed that suits the individual. Because, in the 21st century, we are less sure of knowing exactly where that somewhere is (and what it looks like), we can no longer be so sharply focused on the one best way. The Student Centered Model thus reinvents the traditional educational landscape. The river system moves into the background, as do the old hurdles and the old emphasis on subjects. Lifting everyone’s game is in the foreground. The central goal is to develop certain key competencies in everyone, to use—and build on— understanding people’s strengths and interests, while also ensuring that everyone has proficient academic skill
Bibliography Bolstad and Gilbert, Disciplining and Drafting 21 Century Learning, 2008