Slow Education

Promoting deep learning

"The Slow Education movement believes in promoting deep learning in the context of a broad curriculum that recognises the talents of all students."

What are the key principles of this approach to the curriculum?

The Slow Education movement believes in promoting deep learning in the context of a broad curriculum that recognises the talents of all students.

Slow Education argues that the process of education is not about supplying students with lumps of information to be regurgitated on demand.  It is about enabling students to learn how to learn and about giving them opportunities to hear what others have learnt and then to discuss, argue and reflect on this knowledge.

What are the main benefits of this approach?

Advocates of slow education emphasises deep learning, being allowed to pursue your own interests, and equipping children with the ability to act responsibly in a complex society, rather than a curriculum based on goals, inspections and standards. There is a strong emphasis on making time to talk to children, and finding out what they like, and what motivates them.

What does this mean in practice?

There are schools in England that are using ‘slow’ principles, encouraging children to progress at their own pace, and nurture curiosity and discovery rather than a standards driven agenda.  Often these are done through activities around food production, preparation and consumption, but also many other real life experiences

Matthew Moss High School in Rochdale [LINK] has incorporated slow principles in their curriculum. Throughout the first two years of secondary, pupils spend six hours a week - taken out of the English, humanities, science and technology timetables - pursuing knowledge, skills and understanding through enquiry-based learning.

They are given a starting point for a project and encouraged to take it wherever their own interests lead them, touching on a variety of subject areas as they move along. They are encouraged to talk about their work, and at the end of their investigations, which can last up to half a term, they have university-style vivas.

What does this mean for teachers?

At Matthew Moss High School, the aim is to put the learner at the centre of what they do, and develop experiences that promote what the learner needs to be successful.  However, staff realised that project based learning may not provide the best learning experience in every situation.  The school does not promote an orthodoxy about how learning should be promoted, rather it asks that all staff are willing to research the best methods around.

This means taking the teacher out of the centre spot, and asking them to be skilled in facilitating learning. Teachers cannot plan everything; they have to create space for the learners to co-construct their learning experiences.  They want to move away from ‘work’ in exercise books that nobody really values and move to learning for real outcomes and real audiences.

How can I find out more?