Rethinking school content and teaching methods: the advice of Elisabetta Nigris, teacher of General Didactics and Didactic Planning, curator of the new Giunti Edu series "The essential knowledge"
The 2020/2021 school year is in the home straight, and it was probably, in the modern era, the most complicated that we found ourselves facing. Students and teachers have had to adapt to new methodologies, a new way of teaching and have had to deal with continuous organizational changes. How was the impact on boys and girls at an educational level? We talked about it with Elisabetta Nigris, professor of General Didactics and Didactic Design and Evaluation at the University of Milan-Bicocca, curator of the new series of Giunti Edu "The essential knowledge", three volumes focused on science, geography, history, addressed to third grade students of lower secondary school, with the aim of making it easier to understand, memorize, study and review.
Will the school system, after this experience, be more the same as it was before?
Surely we will not be able to go back to the past as if we had not gone through this epochal experience. Or, at least, it should be. Although not all teachers seem to have grasped these aspects, the immersion in the DAD has highlighted not only the need to update themselves on the use of educational technologies, but above all it has brought out the importance of the communicative aspect in teaching and, even before that, the centrality of educational relations as the pivot on which to build the teaching / learning process. And above all, this period drew attention to the need to rethink school contents, selecting the essential ones, starting from the fundamental thematic nuclei for the different disciplines, which can no longer be extended.
He tells us how the idea for this series was born and what are the main characteristics of "Essential knowledge".
Reconnecting to what has been said, already the school in the presence highlighted the redundancy of the contents treated in the Italian school, a school that still focuses on the concept of completeness of the contents, on their quantitative accumulation I would say, and not on the conceptual learning that is based instead, as I was saying about the thematic and conceptual nuclei identified by the experts of the discipline. Students of the Italian school often find themselves disoriented when faced with textbooks built precisely on the principle of exhaustiveness and on the erroneous conception that it is possible to "cover" all the contents of a discipline. This difficulty generates two types of problems: first of all the fact that these contents are treated in a superficial way, which provokes in the children a study of a mnemonic and list type, or excessive simplifications that are not always correct, which allow them to dominate non-accessible materials and contents. . It follows that the ability to understand and process content depends on receiving help at home. On the one hand, the "Essential Knowledge" series aims to select the contents according to epistemological criteria appropriate for that discipline, and on the other hand to accompany children in the construction of a study method and effective learning.
One of the aims of the series is to make students more autonomous. What is the level of autonomy of today's students? Do you have any suggestions to educate them to practice it?
Students are rarely able to carry out self-employment for the reasons that we have illustrated above which give rise to a very strong inequality: on the one hand, persecuted children, in which the parent can even replace the children to allow them to be successful at school. On the other hand, young people who come from disadvantaged families (economically, culturally and / or linguistically), who find themselves displaced and alone in the face of a content approach and in front of inaccessible texts. The autonomy of children starts from an approach to teaching / learning based on the active participation of children in the classroom, on the possibility that already at school students can make choices, organize and coordinate with each other, in a context in which the teacher is present and it can guide, support, and even correct the paths taken by the students. In other words, it is necessary for teachers to support this commitment to the method of study in the classroom and to change the setting of the textbooks.
What are the basic rules that every student should follow to make the study as effective as possible? And what advice can he give to parents?
These strategies are the same that we have tried to apply in the “Essential Knowledge” texts. Starting from questions and curiosities that are at the origin of the studies that built disciplinary knowledge; identify relationships and links between the different contents and concepts to reconstruct the steps in the construction of conceptual knowledge, but above all to capture links between those contents and the world (s) in which the children are immersed (images, memories, experiences…). But all this alone they cannot learn. Then, autonomously, if wisely guided in the construction of the method we have talked about, then they can find more individual strategies: tell (rather than repeat) to others what we have learned; take notes, build maps (independently and not given by others) in which to find yourself, etc.
The series aims to be a useful guide for general review also in view of the final exam. In the future, do you plan to implement it also for the other school years, as a support, for example, for SLD students?
We do not place limits on providence … joking aside, wanting to be very ambitious, I think it is important to rethink school publishing as a whole.
Making sure that the children are passionate about the disciplines that the school proposes: do you feel like giving advice to teachers? And what can be done at home to fuel this passion?
Question with a thousand points, on which long-term training of teachers would be necessary (before and after entering the service) but, if we wanted to be lapidary, I believe that the sine qua non is that the passion starts from the teachers, that they themselves are able to discover the secret of their disciplines, the fascination from which studies and researches in the disciplinary field in which they operate start. On the other hand, the possibility of exciting young people also depends on the fact that we also look at young people with curiosity, with the desire to understand them, to know their worlds, to have access to their languages and their interests to give birth to new ones. , culturally broader and deeper. It is a question of discovering and adopting strategies, active methodologies and differentiated teaching tools that for many teachers are still unknown, because they are still so focused on frontal teaching, not very dialogical and participatory, and crushed on a content study.
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