This year, the GHFP was invited by Beijing Normal University to teach a credit course on HCE. Dr Scherto Gill and Professor Kenneth Gergen, a fellow of the GHFP, provided the lectures together.

Participants are masters, doctoral and post-doctoral students. The lectures focused on the theories and practices of Human-Centred Education. The course concluded with a peer-evaluation day when students reflected on their own learning and discussed how they might take some of the ideas to their own research and work. A high note was reached when one of the students burst into tears about her awakening to this humanising view of students and the potential such human-centred approach might have in transforming lives of children and the society.

On 16th October, 52 school principals and their key members of staff travelled from different corners of the country to attend a one-day lecture on HCE provided by both Dr Gill and Prof Gergen. This lecture was likewise appreciated by the Principals, but they felt this was only a beginning. Schools in China are eager to learn how to integrate HCE practices in classrooms.

“A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to find out who and what you are!” (student participant)

Saturday Satya is a co-curricular programme, originally designed and created in 2007 as part of the Eton-Slough-Hounslow Independent & State School Partnership initiative and Eton College’s Wisdom Project, with the support of the GHFP.

Satya is a Sanskrit word for ‘truth’ or ‘ultimate reality’ and refers to the virtue of being truthful in one’s thought, speech and action. Saturday Satya is a series of Saturday morning sessions in which a group of young people from diverse backgrounds are challenged and guided to explore their understandings of themselves, others and the world around them in more empowered and nuanced ways.

Saturday Satya supports students’ whole-person development and growth, enabling individuals to strengthen a sense of themselves and to gain an appreciation of others and their different perspectives. The programme’s activities enable the students to develop self-conceptions and personal identity through building understanding in three interrelated areas:

  • Understanding oneself: Students are more able to see themselves in new and more positive ways, such as feeling more confident and more creative, with a more positive self-image. 
  • Understanding others: Students get to know and understand individuals from different social and cultural backgrounds, which in turn helps them interrogate or develop their own perspectives, including learning to develop attitudes of acceptance and respect for differences.
  • Understanding one’s own orientation within the wider community: Students are enabled them to explore cultural roles and their own socio-political and religious orientation within or outside of these contexts.

In supporting the development of students’ self-conceptions and personal identity, the programme offers rich opportunities for students’ social, moral, spiritual and cultural (SMSC) development, as defined within OFSTED guidelines. 

Human-centred pedagogies embedded in the programme’s activities and the teacher-mentors’ practices play a pivotal part in supporting these learning opportunities and in creating rich and safe learning spaces:

  • A Pedagogy of Care: This involves the cultivation of genuine, human relationships between teacher-mentors and students, built on trust, respect and care. This approach to relationships, alongside an open and ‘no-right-answers’ approach to learning, helps to create safe and nurturing spaces where young people feel able to explore and examine their own and others’ ideas and perceptions without fear of failure or judgement. This ethos of the Saturday Satya is enriched by the teacher-mentors’ willingness to listen deeply to the voices of students and to care for and respect their individual needs.
  • A Pedagogy of Whole-Person Engagement: The activities of Saturday Satya are rich and diverse, engaging students on many different levels, and thereby supporting their whole-person development. Some activities engage students through their physical senses, some challenge them through their intellect and some invite them to explore their emotional landscapes. Still others engage their creativity and imagination and others prompt them to be reflective or encourage them to be contemplative.
  • A Pedagogy of Presence: Through meditative practices, silence and stillness, and activities which give students opportunities to bear witness to each other’s experiences, they are enabled to be truly present to the here and now. By leaving behind the pressures and anxieties of home and school life, and being able to engage fully with their experiences within the sessions, students are empowered to learn in engaged and meaningful ways. The teacher-mentors embody this presence, allowing themselves to be truly available to students, rather than ‘performing’ the role of a teacher.

In this way, the Saturday Satya’s pedagogical practices enable the teacher-mentors and students to live values which are fundamental to young people’s well-being in education.

The Saturday Satya programme provides participants with significant opportunities to learn and develop holistically, strengthening their sense of who they are and promoting an openness to otherness and an appreciation of diversity. The pedagogies of the programme feature respectful, caring, imaginative and open-minded approaches which help create safe spaces and enable students to explore different aspects of themselves and engage with others’ perspectives.

If you would be interested in developing Saturday Satya or a similar programme with young people in your school or area, please do get in touch via the website.

The GHFP’s HCE pilot in a school in La Tebaida, Colombia, is witnessing transformative experiences in their students. Mentoring sessions provide a safe space for students to share their lives in ways they have seldom done before. Students feel deeply touched by the care shown by the pastoral team; they feel their lives matter and their well-being is respected.

The teaching team engage in various ongoing professional learning and development activities, to support them to work together in a concerted way. These activities include:

  • Sharing their respective learning biographies as a basis for each teacher to articulate their personal ‘theorisation’ of learning and approaches to teaching. This sharing in turn helps bring teachers closer as their appreciation of each other’s narrative and life histories deepens. 
  • Forming mentoring partnership pairings. Pairs observe and provide feedback to each other on activity design, classroom teaching, and interaction with students.
  • Weekly meetings dedicated to reading HCE theories together and discussing how the key philosophical ideas might be relevant and applied to the school’s situation, especially in terms of how teachers relate to students. This weekly meeting is also a social time when the team share stories of the week over coffee. The message is clear: professional development is fun, enlivening and relaxing.

A Child’s Garden of Peace (ACGP)* is a collaborative effort to create gardens where children can play in peace. Children, parents, teachers and other members of the school community take part in developing the garden together. Once established, children will continue to work with others in nurturing the garden, learn to care for the plants, and grow food for themselves and their families. It is an excellent example of HCE in practice as it locates learning within community relationships and thereby enrich these relationships and in the processes of caring – caring for children’s learning and well-being, caring for the flourishing of the community, and caring for nature.

The GHFP sponsored the garden project (el huerto) in Puebla, Mexico. This is a collaboration with the Fundacion BP Casa Cuna Palafox y Mendoza, a child care center serving poor families with children aged 0 to 5. The garden is fully integrated in the daycare centre’s educational activities. The project engages children in all aspects of the garden, including composting food waste from the kitchen, planting vegetable gardens, herbs and fruit trees and collecting and making food. Young children learn first hand about the food they eat and explore the life cycle of nature.

*A Child’s Garden of Peace is founded and directed by Dr. Illène Pevec

On Wednesday 20th March, our HCE team in Brighton welcomed local Well-Being Leaders and Coordinators from across Brighton and Hove to join us for a twilight seminar on “A Whole School Approach to Well-Being in Secondary Schools“.

well-being_treeThe seminar offered an opportunity to explore and share good practices on well-being and inclusion and to make links with local colleagues. We began with an inspiring keynote from Professor Colleen McLaughlin, Director of Education Innovation at the University of Cambridge, to spark discussion and raise pertinent questions, followed by facilitated open dialogue and sharing, through which participants will be encouraged to develop a rich understanding and awareness of critical issues relating to student (and staff) well-being in secondary schools.

The event was free to attend, sponsored  by the Guerrand-Hermès Foundation for Peace (GHFP), a Brighton based international think-tank dedicated to promoting well-being and whole-person learning. The GHFP is also the sponsor of the Human-Centred Education Programmes.

If you would be interested in attending or hosting a similar event in your school (or another setting!), please do get in contact via our website. We work with diverse teams to develop professional learning opportunites that are tailored to the needs and interests of the group, faciliating open dialogue spaces where staff can explore ideas and ask critical questions.

For a school to become a learning community, it requires processes whereby leaders, staff members, students, parents and others in the community integrate and live out human-centred values and imbibe a human-centred culture. Redesigning the school involves a systemic approach to transformation in five core areas:

  1. Uniting all stakeholders around a common vision and a shared set of values. The more a school and its members are clear and aware of its vision and values, the more likely they will live and embody the values of care and respect, the more such values become the very fabric of the community.
  2. Adopting a set of HCE policies, agreed upon by the community as a whole, which will guide practice in the school. These policies must be aligned with the main aim of education as the holistic development of the students as whole persons.
  3. Introducing some elements (curriculum areas) of the HCE curriculum, in accordance with the school’s conditions and situation. These should be introduced in conjunction with HCE pedagogy and evaluative practices.
  4. Nurturing a HCE culture, in which there is no fear (e.g. of failure, of authority, of teachers, of punishment, of speaking one’s mind). This is a starting point for the creation of a culture of caring, respect and mutuality.
  5. Developing institutional processes to train and support teachers. In doing so, teachers will begin to relish newly defined activities within the HCE curriculum and welcome new opportunities for personal and professional learning. This involves shifting teachers’ mindset from teaching as instructing and delivering, towards teaching as dialogue, collaboration, co-creation and facilitation.

For support with integrating an HCE approach in your school, including teacher training and professional development, please do contact us.

A learning community:

(1) Is integrated in the local community. Ideally, a human-centred learning community is within walking distance of local businesses, community centres, residential areas and public services (e.g. hospitals, police stations). This enables young people to more easily make links with the local community, including through work experience and visits, and raise the profile of the school in the community by its proximity.

(2) Has flexible teaching spaces. The traditional classroom setting with rows of tables and chairs has long been challenged. From a human-centred perspective, the diversity of curriculum activities demands flexibility of space. Such flexibility might allow horseshoe-shaped classrooms, or the group to sit in a circle, both of which enable the class to meet face-to-face. A human centred teacher is not on the centre of the stage; she facilitates and guides, but she is also part of the group.

(3) Has large indoor spaces with natural light. These spaces are particularly valuable for Group Emotional Exploration Time. Young people need spaces where they can feel free to make noise and where they can be physically more distant from one another. Too often classrooms feel crowded and controlled. Large spaces where students feel less constrained are likely to provide opportunities for more creativity and emotional development.

(4) Provides students access to green outdoor spaces. These have similar benefits to large indoor spaces but with the advantages of fresh air and no walls! Inspiring green outdoor spaces can also offer students an alternative working environment when they do not wish to study indoors, as well as opening opportunities for developing gardening and other outdoor skills, for instance, during Independent Project Time.

(5) Offers students the opportunities for organised sports. The school should allow students uncomplicated access to a sufficient range of sport-specific apparatus. eg. a sports centre or sports ground.

(6) Has a large and fully stocked library. The school’s library facilities need to be extensive due to the independent nature of much of the study in a human-centred school. Students need access to a wide range of materials. Ideally the library has sufficient comfortable study space close to the books where students can carry out independent study. Where possible there should be a digital library and a audio/visual library, as well as online and physical records of students’ writings, arts and performances.

(7) Offers access to technology and specialist facilities. A human-centred school should have sufficient technological resources (computers, Internet-based educational resources, etc.) to enable students to access learning materials to carry out their own research, as well as supporting technology-based learning styles. Students would ideally also have access to specialist facilities and technology such as darkrooms, cameras, laboratories, design technology apparatus and art supplies.

(8) Provides quiet spaces for solitary time. These are spaces where young people and adults are able to spend time alone, to reflect, think or simply to clear their minds. Giving members of the school community the possibility of removing themselves from the often intense social and academic environment and seeking their own company is a way of respecting them. Time spent alone can be powerful in enabling young people to be more thoughtful and less stressed, and it can help them connect with the spiritual and with nature. Both outdoor and inside spaces would make it possible for students and staff to seek solitude at any time.

Title Author Publisher ISBN Date
Taking Education Really Seriously Michael Fielding RoutledgeFalmer 0415252105 2001
Real Education: varieties of freedom David Gribble Libertarian Education 0951399756 1998
Understanding Waldorf Education : Teaching from the Inside Out Jack Petrash Gryphon House 0876592469 2002
The Foundations of Human Experience Rudolf Steiner Steiner Books 0880103922 1996
The Montessori Method Maria Montessori Kuperard 0805209220 1989
Alternative Approaches to Education Fiona Carnie Routledge (UK) 0415248175 2002
The Pestalozzi Experiment in Child-based Education Rebecca Wild Shambhala Publications 1570624550 2006
To Educate the Human Potential Maria Montessori Clio Press 1851090940 1989
The Secret of Childhood Maria Montessori Ballantine Books 0345305833 1966
The Discovery of the Child Maria Montessori Clio Press 185109086X 1997
The Handbook of Education and Human Development David R. Olson and Nancy Torrance Blackwell Publishers 0631211861 1998
The Philosophy of Human Learning Christopher Winch Routledge 0415161908 1998
Complexities of Teaching : Child-Centred Perspectives Ciaran Surgrue Falmer Press 0750704799 1997
The Aims of Education and Other Essays Alfred North Whitehead Simon & Schuster 0029351804 1967
How Children Learn John Holt Perseus Publishing 0201484048 1995
Learning all the time John Holt Addison Wesley Publishing Company 0201550911 1990
Summerhill: A Radical Approach to Child Rearing A. S. Neill Hart Pub Co 0805512993 1984
Summerhill School : A New View of Childhood A. S. Neill St. Martin’s Griffin 0312141378 1995
Freedom: Not License! A. S. Neill Hart Pub Co 0805500162 1966
Experience And Education John Dewey Free Press 0684838281 1997
Democracy And Education John Dewey Free Press 0684836319 1997
Education and the Significance of Life Jiddu Krishnamurti HarperSanFrancisco 0060648767 1981
Minding the Light: Essays in Friendly Pedagogy Dalke, A., Dixson, B. and Dalke, A. (Eds) Peter Lang Pub Inc 0820463574 2006
The Challenge to Care in Schools Nel Noddings Columbia University Teachers College Press 0807746096 1992

 

rethinking_secondary_education

Rethinking Secondary Education: A Human-Centred Approach by Scherto Gill & Garrett Thomson, published by Pearson Education in 2012. This book articulates and develops a human-centred vision from conceptual perspectives. These theories form the philosophical underpinning of Human-Centred Education.

This is a timely, accessible and engaging book of considerable intellectual stature, bold imagination and practical wisdom.” – Professor Michael Fielding, Institute of Education, University of London, UK.

 

 

Human-Centred Education: A Practical Handbook and Guide by Scherto Gill & Garrett Thomson, published by Routledge in 2016. This book presents a HCE approach to schooling. It provides implementable suggestions as to how HCE might be adopted as a whole-school initiative, or else woven into particular aspects of existing school life. “This book is a welcome antidote to the impersonal nature of much educational theory and practice. It should be on the reading list of both trainee teachers and those teachers who need to be refreshed in their further professional development.” – Professor Richard Pring, Department of Education, University of Oxford

A human-centred school is a community of persons. This inevitably involves radically rethinking a school’s identity and the nature of its culture. This process of rethinking will vary according to the specific circumstances of each school, but there are some common key aspects to all human-centred schools:

  • Students, staff and other stakeholders have a strong sense of ‘we-ness’ and belonging. Because of this, they feel a responsibility towards each other and towards the betterment of the school.
  • All members know and respect one another, adults and young people alike. Such intimate knowledge and mutual respect are the fruit of interaction through collaborative learning activities, dialogues, community meetings and fora.
  • All persons in the community recognise that learning is to become more fully human. This awareness of a school’s purpose and the aims of education is vitally important for the realisation of a shared culture.
  • There is a close partnership with parents and others within the wider community whose participation is of pivotal importance for students’ learning and development. Parents themselves may also learn and grow as they participate in the life of the school community.

By embedding these values across the whole school community, it is possible to create a culture where curriculum, pedagogy and feedback and review can reinforce each other.

For more information on the kinds of practical features core to a learning community, see What is a Learning Community Like?

Learning Mentors work with the student on one-to-one level. We tend to call this vertical mentoring which is different from horizontal mentoring, such as group mentoring and peer mentoring. There are broadly five key aspects to the work of mentoring between an adult learning mentor and a student:

Getting to know the student
– getting to know the student’s background (eg, life history)
– understanding the student’s character traits (eg. learning biography)
– knowing the student’s strengths and weaknesses (eg. talents, skills and knowledge)
– discovering the student’s personal goals (eg. main interests and passions)

Setting the context for learning
– the context of secondary education and educational processes of schooling to link education to one’s overall personal development
– the context of the curriculum and each aspect of it to clarify what to study and why
– the context of standards to understand what counts as progress and how to make progress accordingly

Helping construct personal goals, Learning Agreement and tailored curriculum
– articulating a set of goals for the short, medium and long term
– drawing up a Learning Agreement
– formulating a learning plan
– mapping out the student’s learning activities

Nurturing, challenging and supporting the student’s holistic development
– being attentive the student’s learning processes
– posing right questions at the right time to encourage the student’s reflection on learning and experiences
– helping the student pinpoint the obstacles to learning and overcome them
– enabling the student forge a picture of their future and learning trajectories towards it

Providing feedback
– providing feedback on the student learning
– reviewing student’s progress
– preparing a personalised record to represent progress (eg. learning portfolios)

Whilst one-to-one mentoring with a dedicated Learning Mentor is one approach to implementing mentoring, schools might also consider other models, such as group mentoring (facilitated by an adult) and peer mentoring, in which students are empowered to support and guide one another. These other approaches to mentoring will have many common features, and all mentors (peer or adult) will require training in active listening, dialogue and mutual learning.