This field study was based on experiences as a teacher and parent in an alternative, progressive early childhood school: The Co-Operative School, O’Connor, ACT. The data for the study was recorded during 1978, 1979, 1980; the first three years of the school’s existence as a Government school. The development and educational progress of fourteen girls and boys, aged from five to eight years in 1978, was followed. The philosophy, policies, organization, curriculum content, teaching strategies and general milieu of the school were examined. The aim of the study was to analyse the philosophy of the school, as set out in the constitution, and to see how it related to curriculum and teaching strategies. Issues of freedom and choice within a compulsory school environment were examined in relation to the stated aims of the school: the underlying reason for this examination was the problem caused by the gap which existed between philosophy and practice, which caused the experiences of the children in the school, to often be at variance with stated aims. The developmental needs of children in the early childhood age group, and the personal variables they brought to the learning situation, were related to the school environment. Social learning theory was utilised, from which to provide a unified conceptual basis, for planned interventions in teaching and learning. The importance of modelling, self-expectation, feelings of self-efficacy and competency, were related to the community, the curriculum content, and teaching strategies of the school. Decision-making strategies were examined for their relevance to consensus-based processes and a co-operative style of community management. Consideration was given to the provision of a cohesive environment, in which adult members of the community could participate freely in autonomous learning experiences with children. The area of conflict resolution and the incidence of aggressive behaviour in the school were explored, and techniques for successful negotiation of differences were suggested. Areas of the curriculum which have traditionally been difficult for alternative schools to implement to the satisfaction of all community members were examined. Areas such as: goal-setting and motivation of children; basic skills in early childhood; transition to mainstream education; the effect of emergent lifestyle values; the provision of equal opportunity for girls and boys; and the importance of co-operative learning strategies. The study ends with reflections on the place of alternative, progressive schools in the 1980s, and the need for such schools to exist to provide an educational choice for parents and children in the future.
|Date of Award||2022|