I interviewed Jelmer Evers, to find out more of his ideas on education reform in the Netherlands and wider. This is part of my THNK Challenge on the Future of Education.
Jelmer is an avid blogger, tweeter, teacher and education reformer. He teaches at UniC in Utrecht, NL and has, together with his students experiemented with a number of new forms of teaching such as flipping the classroom. He says ‘ Students must become the owner of their own learning process’
Skype interview. January 8th 2013.
Let’s kick off with the role of the teacher in the class, how do you see it?
Jelmer: That depends a bit, on the level of the students, mainly I believe it’s about helping the students to find their own voice. It’s been a big introspection on my own learning experiences and this has shaped the way I teach. Sometimes you deviate from your plans, and sometimes students prefer more formal methods, it’s good to note that children between 12 and 18 also need structure. Too much structure doesn’t work and too much freedom doesn’t either. What I can say is that across the board, all students like practical assignments. Theoretically minded and practically minded students alike they like working on real assignments.
Let’s talk about the role of the teacher in the designing of curricula
Jelmer: Ownership of your topic and autonomy in how you teach it, is essential to good teaching, you should really enjoy teaching your subject, you have to own it and shape it. In my vision, a teacher should help students to become makers, so you need that quality of making and designing yourself in order to pass it on. If you want good teacher’s they should also be instructional designers too. Instructional design was only a small part of the teacher training in the Netherlands, that should have been more. Teaching is a really creative profession.
And how does Holland compare to Finland, the walhalla of Education
In Finland they teach maybe 500 hours or less to a class, while Holland has one of the highest rates with nearly 700 hours of teaching. Check out the OECD comparison here. This difference is key, those are the hours that teachers can spend on lesson development and building their own capacities, keeping up with new developments. People designing education don’t seem to have a clue what it really takes time wise to teach. You have to allow people time to be the best teachers, it’s a key component in the mix.
In UniC, where Jelmer teaches, they work as a team, in developing a path through the curriculum, curating the contents from available sources. He is just about to spend three days with his co-teachers of History, Geography, social sciences and economics to make a shared curriculum. If you design your own path through the curriculum, it can also save you time down the road, as you own the process.
Jelmer on education Reform in Holland.
The system really needs to change, many of the things we do in schools now are a complete waste of time for students. The system needs to change both from the top down and from bottom up. That’s where Jelmer and his ilk come in. There is a history in Holland of top down change which hasn’t worked. What’s needed for bottom up change is to allow teachers to innovate and to keep the innovative teachers in the profession. The Ministry of Education can benefit by having more people working there who are active teachers, as opposed to only listening to educators or policy makers. It’s just too easy to underestimate the tenacity of the system.
Teacher’s are needed to co-create education reform.
And which education visionaries inspire Jelmer?
Here are some of his favorites:
Andy Hargreaves, The Fourth Way.
Will Richardson, blogger and former teacher.
Pasi Salberg, Finnish researcher.
And the classics such as John Dewi, Maria Montessori and JeanPiaget combined with technical disruption.
Steven Downes, who invented Moocs, toegther with George Siemens.
He preaches a new version of social constructivism, called connectivism.
Steve Wheeler, with a focus on new technologies.
Dylan William, professional education.
Daniel Wilingham, educational pyschologist, gives teaching and learning. Gives teaching more fundaments. and combines teacher practice and research.
Aside: Are there no ladies in this field?
And finally, too many people leave teaching, Jelmer is trying to combine, his passion for teaching with his other passions such as teacher trainer and blogger. He really enjoys teaching. Let’s hope he stays, students need great teachers like him.