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This conversation comes at an interesting time in the broader context of the future of education. In the wake of progress 8 results in the UK and NAEP scores in the United States, there appears to be a narrowing of educational possibilities toward a very particular model of schooling, or at least a model whose proponents have been the loudest in proclaiming victory. It has has gone by many names over the years but recently solidified under the umbrella of #ResearchEd or the “science of learning”. The claim here is that we understand and agree upon the ends of education - that is to raise standardized achievement scores - and it’s simply a matter of aligning the means around “what works” to close gaps, raise scores - and at least in the context of pandemic schooling since 2020 - combat & reverse “learning loss”. “What works” of course, is the reiteration of adult authority with a laser focus on high expectations and results, the centrality of explicit/direct instruction, and above all a strict approach to school discipline. It’s a model listeners in the United States might associate with Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion and listeners in the UK with Katharine Birbalsingh’s Michaela School, where I imagine the notion of a self-directed education would be greeted with the same incredulity as geocentrism.
Bolstered by these measures of success in national contexts, this model is increasingly decontextualized and exported as the solution to educational ills the world over.
Dr. Naomi Fisher is a clinical psychologist and mother of two self-directed learners. She has a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology and a PhD in Developmental Cognitive Psychology, focusing on autism. She combines years of hands-on experience of self-directed education with an in-depth knowledge of the psychology of learning and well-being. Her work has been published in The Green Parent, The Psychologist, SEN Magazine, Juno and Tipping Points. She is a regular speaker on self-directed education, presenting at the Freedom to Learn Forum, Homeschooling Summit, and recently was a keynote at the Rethinking Education Conference in London. She is also the author of “Changing Our Minds: How Children Can Take Control of Their Own Learning”, which I would highly recommend, and the upcoming book “A Different Way to Learn: Neurodiversity and Self-Directed Education” to be published in 2023.