Freedom to Learn Section II: Responsible Freedom in the Classroom (part one)

Section II “permits a diverse assortment of teacher-facilitators to tell their own stories of excitement, frustration and reward as they work to humanize their classrooms” – along with Rogers clarifying and illustrating some of the meanings.

1.   A Sixth Grade Teacher Experiments

This chapter reports on and presents ‘A Teacher’s Diary’ by Barbara J. Schiel, which “will release other teachers to be adventuresome and honest”.

1.1         A Teacher’s Diary: Barbara J. Shiel

Barbara’s diary reflects on a difficult, undisciplined, apathetic class and uncooperative or defensive parents. She initiated a programme of student-centred teaching with a very high level of freedom for the children and very low levels of control on the part of the teacher. The experiment developed as two groups, a large non-directed one, and a smaller teacher-directed one for those unable to find direction (and which group continued to shrink in size as children realised they preferred non-directivity).
The programme was very successful and resulted in greater opportunities “for self-growth, not only creativity, initiative, imagination, but self-discipline, self-acceptance, and understanding.”

1.2         Comments on the Experiment

Rogers points out some of the salient transferable features.

1.2.1     Commitment

This is essential, as is conviction - it is not simply ‘a new method’.

1.2.2     Internal locus of evaluation

It was her own scheme, her experiment - “By being open to the evidence in the situation including her own feelings and intuitions, and basing her judgements on that evidence, she kept herself flexible in the situation. She was not trying to please someone else or follow some ‘correct’ model. She was living and acting and deciding in a fluid situation. She was even aware of the elements most threatening to her and faed these frightening aspects of the experience openly in herself.”

1.2.3     Aware of the realities

Not ignoring but absorbing institutional requirements.

1.2.4     Group Problem solving

She put her trust in the capacity of the group to solve problems.

1.2.5     Experience

This can bring assurance, but also “a new teacher would have less to unlearn.”

1.2.6     Support

Backing and security make risk-taking easier (and don’t assure no support - administrators are human too)

1.2.7     Communicability to others

This is about helping teachers to properly grasp the learnings here.

1.3         Summary

“Shiel’s experience is most certainly not a model for another teacher to follow. Indeed, one of the most meaningful elements in this account is that she risked giving freedom to her pupils only so far as she dared, only so far as she felt reasonably comfortable. Thus, it is an account of a changing, risky approach to a classroom situation by a changing, risk-taking human being, who felt at times defeated and at times very moved and stimulated by the consequences of what she was attempting.”