We are meant to equip pupils with the skills to make an informed decision and form their own opinions from the information they have been given. This, in my experience, is very difficult. There are several challenges that stand in the way of us creating responsible citizens and informed learners some of which may be a surprise and some of which are clearly just common sense.
Some pupils expect to be handed the answers on a plate and if they aren’t, promptly give up. This is attitudinal barrier affects both their learning and other people’s learning.
2. The curriculum
There are debating sections, there are creative sections, there are discursive sections. The curriculum and the tasks that pupils undertake are neatly parcelled up into different sections. Our pupils’ opinions should be an integral part of every day teaching and learning this is often not the case.
3. Health and wellbeing
Sorry for quoting the literature but the principles and practices surrounding one of the major cross cutting themes of CfE, Health and Wellbeing, states that pupils’ mental health and wellbeing is affected by a lack of opportunity to express and justify their own opinions. This was something I hadn’t considered and is an area that we should perhaps all take more note of.
4. Class breakdown
It is a familiar scene, there are the loud ones with a lot to say without much content, there are the quiet ones who say nothing and there are the ones in the middle who probably have something to say if only they go the chance. It is a difficulty for all of us to try and include all the pupils fairly and equally and an aspect of teaching that I believe all teachers need to work on.
5. Teacher opinions
It is very difficult to keep your opinions to yourself on certain issues. Yes, we present a balanced argument for whatever we are doing but it is hard to stop our personal bias creeping in, however, subtly. This is a minefield for teachers as we can’t be seen influencing opinion but at the same time we do have a voice and an opinion that has the same right to be heard as any of our pupils’ voices.
When looking at the four capacities it is difficult to see at first how we can create responsible citizens who can express themselves and given coherent opinions but it is clear that there are several areas which we don’t have a good enough understanding of. If we are to move forward we need to have value and incorporate the opinions of our pupils more thoroughly into our lessons in whatever subject teach.