In our work with educators and schools to improve teaching and learning, we find that many struggle with the transition from the traditional “sage on the stage” method of teaching to inquiry-based classrooms. One of the most common “blockers” is “What will the parents think?” Many parents, although they want the best education possible for their children, still see education the way the media portrays it, and the way they were taught, themselves – the teacher at the front of the class encouraging/exhorting/ inspiring/threatening/etc the students into learning. Although they want their children’s school to be better than the one down the road, they get nervous when their school does something different. They are not always comfortable with change.
So, any good school, in the process of educational improvement, invites the parents to be partners in the journey, informing them along the way and listening to their concerns.
We used to ask parents “What do you want for your child?” This was useful in persuading them that student-centred learning led to more positive, sustainable outcomes. However, we realised that we could have actually been reinforcing, in many minds, that what they still wanted was the traditional high marks, leading to a good university, good job, success in life, etc – the model which facilitates disengagement of young people world wide.
The question we now ask is “What sort of world do you want your child to live in?” This opens up the dialogue about the important things being discussed by educators nowadays, such as higher-order thinking, grit, mindset, passion, authentic learning, etc. It suddenly becomes much easier for parents and teachers to realise that young global citizens will, as they grow as learners, achieve their best, academically, as a matter of course. They will also be far more likely to develop the requisite attitudes, skills and knowledge to make a positive difference to their families, communities, countries and planet.