Schools of thought: Five big trends in innovation
All children do not necessarily benefit from traditional methods of teaching
Some schools have embedded programmes centred on empathy-based methodology, as well as restorative practice through yoga and meditation, says Fiona Collins of Ashoka Ireland
1. The flipped classroom
For well over a decade, there has been a growing body of evidence that clearly shows homework does not deliver clear academic benefits and may actually be harming students. But, rooted in tradition and habit, schools have been reluctant to ditch it, perhaps worried that students won’t get the skills and practice they need. Now, technology is providing an answer, with a growing number of schools opting for a flipped classroom model. Essentially, learning is done at home, while hands-on practice and exercises take place in class. Damien Owens, registrar at Engineers Ireland, explains: “The teacher or lecturer provides the material in advance so they students do the reading at home and then come to class prepared. This allows a much higher level of engagement.” St Brigid’s national school in Greystones, Co Wicklow, is one school that uses this model.
2. Holistic wellbeing: mental and emotional health
Fiona Collins is changemaker manager at Ashoka Ireland which, through a global network of innovative schools, provide young people with the opportunity to develop a skillset that enables them to meet their full potential and help change the world for the better. She says they have witnessed an encouraging trend towards incorporating more positive mental health practices, with a particular emphasis on social-emotional development. “Deis’s ‘Band 1’ schools, whose students often have to grapple with significant challenges in their home life, are pioneers in this area. Our Lady Mary Immaculate JNS in Darndale, Dublin 17, and Corpus Christi NS in Moyross, Co Limerick, have embedded programmes centred on empathy-based methodology, such as behaviour support through peer mediation, and restorative practice through yoga and meditation,” she says.
3. Technology: holistic approaches to digital skills
4. Education for life: adaptability
Coping with change, resilience and adaptability are seen as essential components of the school curriculum. “These are often called ‘life skills’ and are understood to encourage greater participation in school life, adjusting behaviours, controlling negative thinking and managing emotions,” says Collins. “Adopting a school culture around the teaching of adaptability not only prepares children for an ever changing world, but is also seen as essential as schools tackle the complexities of contemporary issues such as cyberbullying and gender identities. Galway ETNS has incorporated this through Life Skills for Young People, a 12-week pilot programme aiming to inspire students to be resilient, creative and mindful young people.”
5. Project development and social entrepreneurship
Today’s children will need to more adaptable than the generations that proceeded them, and encouraging entrepreneurial thinking and leadership helps to achieve these goals, says Collins. Our Lady and St Mochua’s primary in Derrynoose, Co Armagh, places a focus on technology and entrepreneurship in the student-organised Swap Shop, which runs all year round and culminates in Young Enterprise Week, an exhibition of the pupil’s own ideas and projects. Meanwhile, St Oliver’s NS in Killarney, Co Kerry, has turned one of its buildings into a café staffed by asylum seekers from the local direct provision centre, helping to bring together students and the surrounding community.