„Trans-diciplinary Lerling System “EVOLSCH“
Presentation at the Conferene ”Teaching and Researhing Big History: Exploring a New Scholary Field, IBHA Panel 31/Big History and Education (Session 4), August 2-5, 2012, Grand Valley State University
Today, I would like to present the EVOLSCH concept. This is just one of the links in the global teaching system, developed for middle schoolstudents.
The name is derived from EVOLution, which is the logical core of this system of SCHool education. I want to emphasise, however, that EVOLSCH is not a subject of study, it is an educational system. It is supposed to fill the complete educational space at school, replacing the course-centred system.
School has long been in need of major change. The children are coming to school with joy and expectation . They must spend 10 or 12 years there. The most favorable age for learning!
They are incredibly curious and seek to understand the world. Do they receive assistance in this matter at the school? Hardly!
The set of subjects taught at schools does not provide students with a comprehensive worldview. Knowledge disrupted in its logic, dispersed among different courses and years, is like puzzle pieces from different packages that do not add up to an integrated picture in the student’s eyes.
How quickly appears disappointment, when instead of offering a complete picture of the world, only different elements of knowledge about it are offered. Unbalanced knowledge is the school’s most important problem. As a teacher, I often sow, as my other colleagues do, discrepancies between different subjects taught at school, where the same concept is studied at different points in time and in different classes. The ever growing volume of information inflates the curriculum, making it more complicated, which in turn makes the process even worse. While globalisation and integration take place in all the areas of public and social life, school is – quite on the contrary – in the process of differentiation of knowledge with a hopelessly outdated educational system.
A thematically oriented education model should replace the kaleidoscope information across various areas of science. With a general notion of the world, middle school students will have a foundation for finding their way in life, both professional and private. We suggest rejecting old approaches and schemes and aligning the education with the requirements of the globalisation era and the schoolchildren’s cognitive needs.
Cognitive curiosity is the natural potential that opens the way for collaborative learning. This, however, will only be efficient if the substance of teaching corresponds to the students’ needs. Important as it is, this factor is not being taken into account by traditional school. This leads to wide-spread lack of both interest and motivation. Neurobiologists have found that pupils only memorise the information that has some sense and meaning for them. Otherwise, the knowledge will only stay in short-term episodic memory until the exam has been passed, only to disappear forever. Teenagers have no other motivation to learn except their interest in the subject. Formulae, laws or rules as such are not of interest for middle school´s students, meaning they cannot be really taken in.
We believe the school system should be restructured to provide for consistent, synchronous studying of reality phenomena. The students’ attention is attracted to the processes and phenomena around them, so they are the starting point on which the new teaching model focuses.
With their level of intellectual development, middle school students can recognise the interconnections and interrelations in the world, which is extremely important in shaping an all-encompassing worldview.
The integrated, holistic EVOLSCH model is an answer to the challenge of our time. The concept is based on new approaches to teaching. Among other things, changes will concern:
– objectives and focus of education,
– its contents and structure,
– the logic of teaching,
– the way teaching materials are compiled and knowledge transmitted,
– types of teaching and learning,
– creative opportunities for students
– the quality of education.
New approaches to teaching
This concept provide for NEW SUBSTANCE OF TEACHING. The universe and its development dynamics become the object of study at school. The new logic of teaching includes explaining the basic, universal ideas directly when studying the world around us. With this approach, getting to know the world is combined with acquiring diverse information about it, and the learning process becomes an exciting journey through the world of knowledge. The new way to transmit knowledge means it is learned directly through the thematic context in the process of studying vital topics, not a priori as such.
Relevant knowledge from different areas of arts and sciences is drawn as necessary in combination to explain in depth and from different points of view a specific natural or social phenomenon. Thus, you need to know about photosynthesis to understand why leaves are green; you have to explain the basics of thermonuclear processes to explain why the Sun shines. It is knowledge in context that becomes meaningful for the students, allowing them to understand how the world functions. The information offered in this way becomes an integral part of the educational process. Learning is now interesting and fascinating, and provides perfect conditions to digest information.
COURSE STRUCTURE BY EVOLUTION
EVOLSCH is an educational model to explain the reality on a global scale. As an objective development process, evolution is the best possible matrix for a teaching system that could make the educational process cohesive from the point of view of substance and structure. Evolution represents the diversity of the world in all its manifestations and interrelations, and allows building a logically strong thematic framework for a course, aligning and combining different kinds of knowledge into a flexible consolidated system.
The Universe, the whole world around us, humans themselves and their notion of the world result from this on-going process of huge dimensions, which takes place in the Universe as well as in the origins of life and development of culture. The objective of EVOLSCH is to provide insight into the major areas where evolution manifests itself.
The teaching system is constructed based on the main stages of the evolution: material, biologic and intellectual. WORLD, HUMAN BEING and SOCIETY are the corresponding teaching modules. These comprehegnsive structural units extend over the whole range of existing knowledge and skills gathered by the humanity.
These topics also correspond to people’s main interests. There are three major interest areas that can be observed throughout all nations and all eras: humans, their environment and the processes within their society. This ordering of the material gives the answer to the “eternal” questions; to apie each person in each generation, namely: How das the World works? What are the possibilities of Human Being? How das sosiety function? The module system, comprising clusters and projects, allows for large-scale and integrated presentation of teaching material.
BASIC TEACHING MODULES : WORLD, HUMAN BEING and SOCIETY.
Module 1: “World.” Module 1 presents various kinds of information about the origin and development of the Universe, our Galaxy and the Earth, and the genesis of living organisms up to human beings.
In the first cluster, the origin of the world is considered in terms of mythology, religion, and the dynamics of the scientific worldview. Thus, the students are able to observe the evolution of people’s views on how the Universe is constructed, and learn various approaches to the world outlook. In the second cluster, the history of the world and its origins is demonstrated in a consistent manner, with the proofs and hypotheses of modern science.
In the second module „Human beings“ with all their complex issues are studied in their entirety. It comprises the knowledge about human that has been gathered in different areas of science and art. The students learn various aspects of the topic, including physiology, psychology, ethics, law, etc.
The common logic underlying the module is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. By analysing basic needs, we can show the essence of human beings in its diversity, explain the reasons and objectives of individual behaviour. The hierarchy of needs graphically demonstrates the higher spiritual goals of human existence; satisfying those means finding genuine harmony and happiness. The pyramid helps students realise how necessary it is to develop and realise their potential.
The intellectual evolution is shown in the “Society” module. It represents the social developments during the entire history of mankind. Work on this module goes through two dimensions, or clusters, and includes systemic analysis of major development aspects for ethnic groups on all the continents from a global historic perspective, and the society as a single civilisation on the planet, respectively. Fundamental areas of social development represent the criteria for analysis within the whole project. This module depicts, from a historic and global perspective, a majestic picture of how scientific knowledge, industrial skills and technologies, worldview and intellectual culture, as well as social, politic and economic structures appeared and evolved. The first cluster uses historic cross-sections for the lifecycles of social structures typical for our civilisation, from the first associations of early humans through the international globalisation patterns arising today.
The most important events are presented in different aspects of social development in a worldwide chronological order, as five global synchronous cross-sections: 1. Early humans. 2. Urban civilisation. 3. Great empires. 4. Nation-states. 5. Globalisation era.
As facts are studied, we gradually fill in graphic comparative tables to include the focal points of each section. The coordinates system for the section is the X axis, where geographic units (continents, countries, nations) are shown, and, the Y [wa͟ɪ] axis, bearing the fundamental aspects of social development. Through multi-aspect synchronous analysis the students can have a comprehensive idea of the major development processes of a civilisation, in historic cross-sections (vertical).
In the second cluster, basic aspects of global social development (horizontal) are put through an end-to-end problem analysis. At this stage, the students discover characteristic features of evolution of a society, leaving aside the details and specifics of individual countries. As a result, they can review and summarise all the knowledge collected throughout previous modules.
The teaching modules are defined through focused synthesising the information on the topic currently studied.
The EVOLSCH model is based on a transdisciplinary approach to a global educational system, which transgresses boundaries of time and individual branches of science. The new logic of arranging course materials means synthesis of the knowledge within the framework of topics studied, and modelling the learning process in a new way, by establishing in-depth connections between different aspects from various areas of knowledge. The information within each module is integrated based on logical strings. Each topic of the course is studied from different angles and viewpoints, adding diverse information on each project. This system gives the students a complex view of the subject, regardless of what fields of study investigated it, and from what point of view. This integrated, global approach means interaction not just of natural sciences, but also relevant arts and humanities. For instance, when covering the nature of the Solar System, knowledge from physics, chemistry, and astronomy, but also from mythology, history, literature, music, etc. is included. Fundamental knowledge, interconnected and mutually cumulative, dissolves in a common context.
The essence of the new teaching model is using the enormous cognitive potential of each topic as a treasure trove of opportunities for transmitting knowledge. This model creates extremely favourable opportunities for direct learning during the work on the project, cluster, or module.
For example, in “The Big Bang as the beginning of the Universe” project the students learned about elementary particles, the structure of atomic nucleus, how first elements came into existence, and about the concepts of matter, energy, space, time, etc.
When working on the series of projects “Travel to the stars,” they learn about the fundamental natural phenomena such as gravitation or thermonuclear fusion, or the origin of elements that constitute everything in the world including living creatures. At the same time, they learn about the myths and astronomic notions of ancient civilisations, how to make a simple telescope, techniques to observe the stars, etc. In the course of study, knowledge from different chapters of mathematics, cosmology, history etc. is combined in a natural way. Scientific concepts and cultural imagery merge in the deep perception and help form an integrated, multi-dimensional worldview in students.
The knowledge so acquired can be easily recalled from memory as necessary, because it is associated with the processes and phenomena important in every individual’s life. This approach provides a fundamentally new level of education: a strong blend of understanding events and processes through the synergies of knowledge.
The EVOLSCH logic suggests the following structure of teaching: start with a general overview of the course, project or cluster, given by the teacher, and move to a more detailed analysis and presentations by students. Each module, cluster or project is accompanied by graphs, tables or charts to summarise the material and present it in close and visible detail.
The overview that precedes work at each stage allows for a holistic perception of the topic. This approach substantially raises the students’ motivation and interest and paves the way to goal-oriented learning. While the pupils are becoming aware of the course subject, everyone has the opportunity to consciously choose the topic and area for their independent work on the project.
EVOLSCH includes the following types of learning:
– intellectual: search for information, analyse and classify theories, carry out experiments and research;
– creative: provides an opportunity to see how the subject is represented in literature and art, and to process the subject through creative expression in different fields, including poetry, painting, photograph, rhythmics, dance, or music;
– practical: includes presenting the subject in practice and implementing own ideas in the project workshop such as handicrafts, miniature models, instruments, etc.
It should be mentioned that the EVOLSCH programme only stipulates the general direction or a teaching strategy, whereas the range, depth, and order in which the topics are covered is defined by the student – as well as the speed of learning. Thus, each student can find the best possible conditions for learning, based on his or her interests and capabilities. They construct their own logic strings, and other project participants benefit from general discussions and final conferences.
Project work also includes creating interest groups: the students distribute tasks on their own, prepare and show experiments, exhibitions, crossword puzzles, etc. The knowledge is tested in competitions, games, and open presentations. The children learn naturally, without pressure. This is the kind of school they dream about: no notes, no forced learning, huge bulks of information or rushing speeds.
The EVOLSCH model thus creates favourable conditions for students to reveal and use their creative potential. I am sure that this system of education will prepare students for the perception of Big History Coors at high school and university level.
The first working experience under this perspective demonstrates the huge potential of the system to encourage and stimulate the students as they get the opportunity to actively and reasonably participate in the learning process.
The teaches are convinced that working under the EVOLSCH system brings creative joy to the teacher as well as students. However, separate projects obviously will not be enough to implement the holistic education concept.
To fully leverage the work with the students and implement the new system, subject teachers should apply a creative approach together. The international educational association EVOLSCH has been set up to implement this idea. Preparations currently underway to implement a pilot EVOLSCH project. We invite schools that share our views and beliefs to join us on this project, to make school life successful and happy.