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Trivium 21C Review in International School Magazine

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My 2015 review of Martin Robinson's "Trivium 21C" book on education, inquiry and getting to the heart of what matters in learning.

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Trivium 21C Review in International School Magazine

  1. 1. 66 Spring | | 2015 Autumn Trivium 21c Preparing young people for the future with lessons from the past by Martin Robinson (2013) Independent Thinking Press Review by Stephen Taylor In this erudite, engaging, and entertaining exploration of the history of teaching and learning, author and educator Martin Robinson sets out to describe the practical conceptualisation of his ideals for his daughter’s education. Tired of the never- ending battle between traditionalist and progressive views on education and their effects on policy, practice and student learning, Robinson looks to the ancient past and the foreseeable future to chart a path that he hopes will inspire his daughter to be a knowledgeable and critical learner. He has succeeded in this volume to bridge the gap between the high-altitude philosophies of educational evangelists such as Sir Ken Robinson (no relation) and the chalkface realities of the practising teacher. He recognises that we all aim to develop students who are critical thinkers, but that this aim needs to be built upon the knowledge-rich foundation of a strong curriculum. The result of Robinson’s explorations is a Trivium for the 21st century: Grammar, Dialectic and Rhetoric. The Grammar aligns most closely with a traditional, content-based curriculum. This is a curriculum that is relevant to our culture, meaningful to our students and expertly taught in our classrooms. The Grammar is the knowledge upon which all inquiry is founded, including literacy and numeracy as well as subject-area knowledge and cultural literacy. The Dialectic represents the application and evaluation of the learning of the Grammar. Perhaps more in line with progressive views on education, the Dialectic puts the students’ ‘higher-order’ skills to use in their analysis of the roles of logos (logic), pathos (emotion) and ethos (credibility) in their learning. As the Grammar and Dialectic operate in a cycle of positive feedback, the student develops a stronger foundation of knowledge and a more sophisticated set of skills to put that knowledge to work. The final element of the Trivium, the Rhetoric, represents “the great discussion” between the student’s learning and the wider world. Rhetorical skills are constantly developed as the student communicates and evaluates his or her learning. Through the Rhetoric, the student learns to communicate, reflect, debate, write, present and participate with integrity and care in the global community. The product of Robinson’s Trivium 21c education is the philosopher kid: a knowledgeable, reflective thinker who communicates with fluency and confidence and whose actions contribute to our wider society. International Baccalaureate educators will immediately recognise the philosopher kid as an embodiment of the IB Learner Profile, and as I read further into the text I became more convinced that Robinson was describing the foundations of a well-implemented continuum of an IB education. Robinson recognises this to some extent near the end of the text, with reference to the strengths of the IB Diploma’s Theory of Knowledge component, the Middle Years Programme’s assessment frameworks, and the whole continuum’s focus on service learning. I enjoyed and was inspired by this book, though it was by no means a quick read. Robinson writes with wit and clarity, and you may find that you need to stop, think and even dig deeper into some of the ideas of his cast of characters, especially in the first half. As a critical-thinking drama teacher, Robinson’s interests span the arts, the classics, the humanities and the sciences – and this gives his book an authority that might be missing from the views of a more single-minded educator. I would recommend Trivium 21c to anyone with an active interest in education reform and pedagogy: school leaders and those responsible for curriculum development would gain a lot from the messages here. It does help to have an understanding of progressive vs traditionalist views on learning, and though it may be a bit much for the newly- training teacher, this book would be an excellent read for those continuing their studies in education. Robinson is an active blogger and Twitter user (@ SurrealAnarchy), frequently engaging in discussion of issues of education and learning. My own diagrammatic representation of his idea of the Trivium 21c can be accessed via http://is.gd/taylortriviumreview Stephen Taylor is an MYP Coordinator and MYP and IB Diploma sciences teacher in Japan. His website i-Biology.net supports IB students and teachers while raising donations for charity, and he moderates #MYPChat on Twitter. This review is adapted from one of his blog posts at ibiologystephen.wordpress.com. Email: stephen@i-biology.net Book reviews

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