Conception of the New Humanitarian School

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логотип НГШ-23
 


New Humanitarian School

(Moscow, Russia)

 

 

Conception of the New Humanitarian School

 

 

SPECIFIC TRAITS OF THE NEW HUMANITARIAN SCHOOL

 

1.       Essential is teaching cross-curricular abilities; the task of the school is to develop these abilities into mindsets and skills.

2.       Subject abilities are viewed as a basis for cross-curricular abilities.

3.       It is assumed that forms of work, along with subject-oriented content, also have cross-curricular content. The teacher teaches children to perform the activities the teacher himself performs during lessons within teaching the subject.

4.       The slogan “Knowledge is Power” is accepted only if this knowledge is a means for some actions beyond the framework of the subject in which it has been acquired.

5.       Training and education are viewed as different notions.

6.       The school’s aims of education are different from those of other schools (see below).

7.       The school’s principles of education are different from those of other schools (see below).

8.       The school offers different contents of education (see below).

9.       It is postulated that primary education is not qualitatively different from education in general: it is just the initial stage of permanent education.

10.   It is postulated that education is not only a result of teaching: it is a result of both targeted artificial-technical influences over the child and a set of influences that naturally arise in the educational environment that has been artificially formed around the child.

11.   The school puts forward a postulate, which, at its extreme, sounds like that: give a child the means (i.e. means of thinking, activity, reflectivity, understanding, etc.) and provide them with an adequate system of motivations (which is to lead to formation of a certain system of values), and the child will do everything by himself: he will learn and understand all the necessary things on his own.

12.   “Capabilities” and “incapabilities” of a child are not viewed as something fatally predestined by “nature”. Thus, our school puts forward the postulate: there are no incurable diseases – the problem is always in the presence or absence of remedies.

 

 

PRINCIPLES UNDERLYING THE CONCEPTION

 

1. Living-through as an obligatory component of education. It is noteworthy that living-through (or experiencing) can be straightforward (which, in turn, can be natural or artificially organized), i.e. taking place in an immediate, “live” form, or can be involved in its indirect form, i.e. in the form of the learners’ life experience, which is actualized and focused on the situation which is currently subject for interiorization and understanding.

2. Reflectivity as an indispensable component of the educational process. Reflection can be directed both onto the student’s life and activities, and onto his thinking, feelings, axiological bases of his deeds, motives, etc., i.e. his entire inner world as it is.

3. Priority of thinking, understanding, and reflection over knowledge. Knowledge can be fairly called an individual’s asset when it has been acquired as a result of his own thinking, understanding, and reflection.

4. Priority of understanding over knowledge and recognition. Understanding implies overcoming non-understanding (which a person is aware of, as a rule) and acquisition of new knowledge, whereas recognition (“usage of knowledge”) makes one see only some old, already available piece of knowledge in any new situation.

5. Priority of acting (activity) over behavior. An action implies a purpose (a project), analysis of a situation, a choice of means of activity adequate to the activity, etc, whereas behavior goes on without an aim and without the person’s being aware of it. Behavior goes on within the logic of a cause but not the logic of a purpose.

6. Priority of creative activity over reproductive activity. It is preferable that a child should invent a mode of action, make a “discovery” by themselves, since it is much more useful than repeating what they have been offered as a pattern. At the same time, the value of reproductive activity is not in the least underestimated in the fields where this activity is the most adequate and creativity, on the contrary, is unacceptable (e.g. while studying a language at the stage of mastering spelling norms, etc.).

7. Principle of goodwill and absence of compulsion. Everything children do they do voluntarily. Certainly, this principle has nothing to do with the policy of indiscriminate indulgence and encouragement of elementary disorderliness. Goodwill implies responsibilities taken voluntarily by a child.

8. Principle of awareness and understanding. A child should understand the meaning of all the events that are going on and actions he/she performs. Special work is done with the aim to form in a child the vital need in awareness and understanding, as well as means, methods, norms, and experience of this sort of understanding.

9. Principle of orientation to the zone of proximal development. Hence some other principles, such as precipitated coverage of the program of studies and enhanced difficulty of the learning material.

10. Principle of organization of the educational environment (micro-society) as the key way and means of teaching and upbringing.  This principle implies extra requirements for the teaching staff, such as high cognitive activeness, enthusiasm about intellectual activity, high culture of behavior, speech and thinking, as well as creativity, readiness for non-trivial solutions, benevolence, etc. A teacher must be an example to follow for a child. 

11. A higher value of asking questions and posing problems (“learned ignorance”, according to Nicholas of Cusa) than of giving answers, ready solutions and dogmatic knowledge.

12. Treatment of a pupil as a personality. This, in particular, implies a child’s right to independent actions, an opinion of their own, a personal attitude, etc. A learner is equal to a teacher as a personality as he / she has all the rights of a personality there are in the civilized world.

13. The principle of dialogue, pluralism and positionality. In accordance with this principle, there are no solutions or pieces of knowledge that should be marked as universally true. Any knowledge and rule is valid within a limited space, whose borders can be drawn by a certain approach, worldview, position, etc. The ideology of “uprooting incorrect viewpoints” is unacceptable, since each viewpoint has its right to exist and its more or less limited area of adequacy.

14. The principle of unity of culture and freedom. This principle implies constant movement towards the golden mean between the “dogmatic” approach to culture (“What should I think if I know?”) and a non-cultural mode of creative work and thinking (“Why should I know if I can make it up?”).

15. School years are not a preparation for life but life itself. What is going on in the course of study is not a rehearsal of something that might take place in the future: this is life itself. What is going on is real but not made-up according to some childish rules, and so it is necessary to live the school life responsibly and to the full extent.

Programs in different school subjects are formed on the basis of development of cross-curricular (transferable) skills.

 

 

AIMS OF THE EDUCATIONAL PROCESS

 

·      to form a personality having

а) readiness (i.e. ability and desire) for self-determination, reflectivity, understanding, thinking, independent activity (including creative work);

б) a worldview taking into account other people’s subjectivity;

в) a will;

·      to introduce this personality into the space of culture (culture is viewed as a system of norms and patterns in both synchronic and diachronic approaches), which apparently consists of the following “blocks”: culture of thinking, culture of activity, philological culture (which is subdivided into language culture, culture of speech, and hermeneutic culture), political culture (the culture of communication), psychological culture, ethical culture, aesthetic culture, emotional culture, and physical culture.

 

 

CONTENTS OF EDUCATION

1. Teaching basic operations and types of activity. A students should be skilled at such things as setting goals, analyzing a situation, choosing an adequate sequence of operations for transforming the initial material into the final product, controlling their activities, and altering them if the situation changes or the goal becomes different. This list of activities also comprises fulfilling projects, programming, and forecasting. A child should be able to perform such basic types of activities as organization, management, administration, investigation, and learning (the latter also implies the ability to organize a child’s own activities, self-management, and self-education). A child should be able to make a choice, make decisions, and explain them.

2. Teaching to think. The NHS views thinking mainly from the philosophical viewpoint, as the ability to work with abstract ideas and categories, to see the essence of things and events, to operate with categories and notions, to perform the ascension from the sensually concrete through the abstract to the ideally concrete.

3. Teaching reflectivity (or metacognition). That is, the ability to take a detached view of one`s own actions, feelings, thoughts and so on, the ability to see and to understand what you yourself are doing and what  you feel, why you are doing and why you feel this or that way, what you are doing it for. It also means teaching the ability to relate to human soul, to understand what one feels, thinks, wants, etc.  Metacognition also gives one the ability to act by themselves and not to be an object of anybody's manipulations.

4. Teaching to understand. We consider understanding prior to knowing. Being capable to understand one can learn things which he doesn`t know, thus learning new things, while dogmatic knowledge very often shuts the door against understanding and new knowledge (what should one understand for if one "knows everything as it is"?). Teaching understanding includes teaching to use hermeneutic techniques, such as breaking the hermeneutical circle, desobjectivation (Entgegenständlichung), etc.

5. Teaching creative activity technologies. We are guided here by the concept of creative activity adopted by the school and by analogous Russian and foreign advances in the field of development of creativity, e.g. brainstorming, synectics, etc. These technologies are aimed at development of imagination and fantasy, and accumulation of the experience of successful creative work; children master methods, modes, and approaches that enable them to perform these activities. The school is purposefully introducing the ideology of desirability and preciousness of creative work, in particular in terms of finding non-typical solutions and approaches, independent investigation, transference of the past experience and knowledge into the current unfamiliar situation; extraordinary ideas (even sometimes eccentric ones) are always welcome here.

6. Teaching communication, which involves teaching the following things:

a) acquiring rhetoric skills, i.e. the ability to produce texts, adequate to the goal and the situation of the communication (texts that can exert necessary influence on recipients);

b) acquiring hermeneutic skills, i.e. the ability to understand oral and written texts (to understand not only the immediate contents of the text, but also motives, goals, values, ideology, etc. which lie behind it);

c) acquiring political and psychological skills  such  as  the ability to understand and take into account psychological features of all the participants of the communication, the ability to adapt one's communicative  activity  to  political, psychological and language peculiarities of the communicative situation (to prevent and settle conflicts, identify moments of misunderstanding, choose an adequate manner and style of communication, etc.).

7. Introduction into the world of spiritual culture - the world of different religions and spiritual searches of humankind. We are not going to make our students Christians or Buddhists, but we think it important to introduce them to the world of different spiritual traditions and develop in them the ability to search their own path in the world of spiritual values, problems, and searches.

8. Teaching languages (Russian and foreign languages). The NHS sees to it that its students master at least one European language.

9. Introduction into the world of artistic culture (belles-lettres, music, fine arts, etc.) and ensuring the knowledge of classical (in the broad sense) texts of artistic culture. We proceed from the existence of a specific artistic reality - the world of works of art contents, and the knowledge of this world, its laws and particularities, the ability to act and to orientate oneself in it we consider to be an indispensable component of humanitarian education.

10. Development of emotionality, including higher human sentiments (ethical, artistic, etc.)  and  securing  conditions  for acquiring and comprehending the experience of emotional and value relation to facts of human life and culture.

11. Ensuring the conditions for development of mature personality, in particular for development of such features as the ability to determine one's own position, to be free in one's actions, feelings and thoughts, the ability to engage in interpersonal relations full of empathy and understanding, the ability to see one's own weak points and unattractive thoughts and feelings and to solve one's psychological problems and so on. Among these conditions are creation  at  school an atmosphere of unconditional acceptance and  respect  for  students' and teachers' personality, introducing the position  of  tutor  (whose task is to help students in coping with various everyday problems,  to cultivate favorable interpersonal relations in class; to act, when  necessary, as a mediator between students, teachers and parents, and  so on) and many others.  

12. Building up historical self-consciousness and making a close study of Russian and world history. We consider it necessary for an educated person to be able to live and act not only in the present-day socio-cultural situation, but also in the space of history.

13. Formation of a child’s own worldview and system of values.

14. Teaching to work with one's own self, i.e., on the one hand, to analyze and understand oneself, one's own motives and axiological grounds of one’s own deeds, to realize one's wishes and aspirations, and, on the other hand, to  master special methods (developed in spiritual traditions of the East and the West and in modern psychology) of self-regulation and of managing one's inner world.

15. Mastering norms and patterns of a healthy lifestyle.

16. Teaching skills allowing one to control their own body.

 

 

PRINCIPLES OF ORGANIZATION OF THE PROCESS OF EDUCATION

 

The aforementioned principles are reflected in unfolding of the educational process in three “spaces”:

а) the space of learning;

b) the space of practical activity;

в) the club space.

In the space of teaching and learning a student takes the position of a learner. Main forms of his activity here are perception, comprehension and understanding of cultural norms and patterns, the principal result of staying in this space is some  kind  of  knowledge (theoretical, or phenomenal, or technical, or methodical).  

In the space of practical activity a student acts in the position of the subject of activities. He sets goals, works out projects, analyzes situations, chooses the initial material and means and methods of activity for transferring the initial material into the final product. He also controls (or monitors) the process referring to the final goal and the current situation. The main result of practical activity are mastering methods of activity (skills) and acquiring experience of creative work.

In the club space a student appears as a personality, equal in this sense to his teachers. Basic forms of activity here are self-determining (determining one's own position in relation to various school events and happenings), communication and reflection on all events and happenings taking place in any of these three spaces. Main results of staying here are development of personal qualities and personality as a whole, acquiring the experience of forming emotional and value attitudes, of interpersonal communication, of cooperative thinking activity.

 

 

SPECIFICITY OF ORGANIZATION OF EDUCATIONAL PROCESS IN THE NHS

 

1. The key condition of education and development of the personality is a child's activity aimed at realization of their capabilities and ideas, understanding of the outer and inner worlds, and acquisition of new generalized methods of acting. At lessons, starting from the preparatory group up to the 11th grade, organization of the students’ activity is one of the key tasks of a teacher. For this purpose teachers use games, training dialogues, and various problem-solving and creative tasks.

2. Another important condition of it is development and maintenance of students’ learning motivation. For this purpose teachers use the technique of critical thinking involving trick questions, high difficulty tasks, and other such means encouraging children to study with interest.

3. Construction of the educational environment in the extra-curricular time also plays an important role in the process of development of a child’s educational activity.

For maintaining a child’s cognitive activity the school does the following things:

-       every week the school conducts internal competitions when teams including pupils from different grades compete in solving tasks requiring a non-trivial approach, logic, and independent thinking.

-       there is common practice of projects: each student of the senior school (6-10th grades) works on a project within one or several subjects. 

-       the school regularly conducts theme weeks devoted to a particular school subject or to co-curricular activities (a week of games, a week of art, a week of mathematics, a history week, etc.). Within the theme weeks children solve creative tasks, play games, and take part in various theme competitions and quiz shows.

-       every years the school conducts the Self-Government Day, when students of the senior grades (5-11) for the whole day take all the key positions in the school, including the security guard, secretaries, the headmaster, his deputies, teachers, guidance counselors, etc. Students of the senior grades compile the timetable for the day, teach younger children, conduct extra-curricular events, and even feed other children and school workers in the canteen.

-       starting from the first grade, children can take advantage of the school’s system of clubs and optional courses giving children opportunities to thoroughly engage in what they are most interested in.

4. Special attention is paid to development and encouragement of the children’s creative work. Building up the atmosphere of creativity is one of the essential principles of the work of the school. A special feature of our school is that children can engage in creative activities not only at art lessons (Arts, Dancing, Drama), but also at all other subjects (they write pieces of art at Literature, compose creative essays at History lessons, create “mathematical fairytales”, etc.). Besides, during the extra-curricular time they have competitions of projects, design of the school plot, competitions of sketches of the school logo, etc.

5. Sufficient development of a child’s personality also requires an experience in cooperation and tolerance in relations. Children acquire the experience in cooperation with their fellow-students through their involvement in various forms of cooperative activities, both in class and during the co-curricular time. For the same purpose they also take part in team games. It is necessary to highlight the existence of teams including children of different age groups for participation in intellectual games, preparations for celebrations, etc.

The following measures contribute to the children’s acquisition of experience of cooperation with grown-ups:

-       development and signing of trilateral compacts between the school, the student, and a parent, which stipulate reciprocal rights and duties of the sides as regards resolving different educational issues. This practice is common beginning from the teenage, mainly for resolving conflicts related to violation of the school discipline (when students are late for classes, have not done their homework, etc.). It is essential that in this case the student acts as a fully legitimate side of the agreement thus gaining the experience of civilized resolution of conflicts and taking into account not only their own wishes but also their rights and duties.

-       training graduate students for entering a higher educational institution of their own choice;

-       preparation and conducting of the traditional Self-Government Day, when an adult teacher discusses the child’s future lesson as a co-worker and then encourages the child to reflect on the lesson.

-       development of the school newspaper, school and class websites, the school video news program, preparation and conducting of school events мероприятий (Jeopardy!, The Literary Duel, The Club for the Lightheaded and Quick-Witted, etc.). 

6. A human in their actions, morals, and patterns of behavior depends on their self-interpretation and self-understanding.  Starting from the preparatory grade, children are taught to put themselves such questions as “What do I want to gain?”, “How do I do it, or how am I going to do it?”,  “Does the final result correspond to what I was planning to get, and why have the deviations taken place?”

7. Regular monitoring of results of teaching and development of cognitive abilities enables the school to display individual approach to each pupil. In case of lagging behind or moving ahead of other children a pupil can be taught individually. On senior grades the program of education is compiled individually with the reference to the higher educational institution the child has chosen.  

 





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