Telling the Story:
Neohumanist Assessment and Student Enrichment
Eric Jacobson led this session which was a very focussed discussion on how NH philosophy applies to assessment and student enrichment. With assessment, there was a consensus that it becomes very important in NHE to pay attention to Sarkar’s statement “Educated are those who have learnt much, remembered much and made use of their learning in practical life.” While current practice of evaluation is heavy on the first third of the statement, much more development needs to take place to value long-term memory and use of knowledge. To that end, some suggested techniques are observations, portfolios and project sharing. He also suggested that moral development should always keep pace with academic development. PSOLI uses a simple check, check plus and check minus system on four basic standards of behaviour: Interpersonal (good relationships), Intrapersonal (introspect and correct errors), Respect (rules, consistency outside of classroom, respect to adults), Silence (meditation, concentration, attention)
Eric stated that student enrichment was the single most important tool he has found for helping young people achieve the PSOLI stated goals for an individual graduate of NHE: “To discover the gifts given by God, to develop those gifts, and to overcome all obstacles in offering them to the world as a life mission.” In order for students to achieve these ends, there must be time allotted in the week for personal exploration, discovery and sharing. He suggested about 10-15% of the week be devoted to this, and that other less important lessons be scrapped if necessary. The learning that takes place from the sharing of each student’s interests is worth much more than the few lessons that may need to be sacrificed. The genius of the teacher is to not only help a student find and develop innate talents and interests, but also to connect these to needs around them, so that they begin to see their life as a service.
In both Student Assessment and Enrichment, there is a common element: Multiple Intelligences. Howard Gardner’s theory is in keeping with NHE philosophy. It is very useful in evaluation in that it values intelligence not typically rewarded in school age children. Schools tend to reward only linguistic and mathematical intelligence, leaving many to feel worthless and lost as they then attempt to discover their niche later in life. Also, a multiple intelligence classroom will allow for more diverse enrichment. Recently, naturalist and existential intelligence were added to the list, making nine in total.
Eric also pointed out that student enrichment was the great weapon in dealing with pseudo-culture. If children’s lives are filled with positive experiences in the arts, sciences and community, then their self esteem is high and they are less interested in destructive behaviour. Therefore Eric asserted that the Music teacher was the most important teacher in his school – followed by the art teacher. These teachers are central in developing cultural programmes that capture children’s attention, are fun and enriching, have strong moral and ethical implications (not necessarily didactic) and also tie in with themes running through the schools academic programme.
The following discussion focused on anecdotes relating how pseudo-culture was kept at bay with positive culture and also on issues relating to how to structure time in the classroom for extension work that allows students to follow their passions. Eric notes that the time allocated to core curricula – math, language arts, etc, was less than that mandated by the state but the extra time spent on student enrichment clearly correlated with higher academic performance and stronger character development in Progressive School students.
The Neohumanist Tapestry:
Dr. Marcus Bussey offered an overview of humanism and neohumanism in historical and philosophical context. This was important as many administrators, teachers and parents are often asked ‘why neohumanism?’ and ‘what has it to do with humanism?’ His summary (see article elsewhere in this newsletter) led into an overview of outcomes from the four days together.
There were many positive outcomes of this four day conference summarized here below:
Impressions from Didi Ananda Shubhada
I am working in Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur. I just started a children’s project and was at the conference and would like to say it was a great opportunity that I had come to the conference. It gave me a better understanding about the philosophy of neohumanism and in a better perspective, too.
It is also important for me to know how to use the ideas in the classroom so with a lot of discussion among the educators at the conference, I gained more confidence in how to work with the children. Not only that, but by observing the classrooms it gave me practical training, which I love also. I feel I learn faster by this method. I feel I have a better understanding of what a neohumanist school should be like.
I was so inspired by the presentations in the different projects around the world and they gave me strength and energy to bring back to Malaysia to improve and expand the small project here. I really enjoyed the company there, too. It was a blessing for me being there.
Personal thanks to Gurukula for organizing this activity and especially to River School for hosting the program and last but not least to the organizer who put a lot of effort to make the program successful. Thanks again.