What happens if students are asked to learn Geography content, specifically Population, through SOLE?

Sally Rix, Stefan McElwee


Is the role of a teacher in the results driven education business of schools a didactic provider of information, imparting knowledge, examples and subject techniques to pupils? Or is there still a greater need for the development of a new pedagogy, one in which teachers take a metaphorical back seat to facilitate self-led learning, where students take ownership through effective collaboration and enquiry? This paper describes an action research cycle undertaken to explore the potential of a Self-Organised Learning Environment (SOLE) to increase engagement and learning in a low achievement cohort of Year 8 pupils in a secondary school in England. We describe the strengths and limitations of SOLE in our context and recognise significant improvements in learning generated by effective peer support from Sixth Form mediators. Based on our observations we recommend that scaffolding (Wood et al. 1976) is introduced to support students as they develop the metacognitive ability to participate in a SOLE effectively. This paper draws the tentative conclusion that SOLE may be described as an evolving pedagogy, where students develop a deeper knowledge of subject content through access to a wide range of sophisticated geographical content. We believe that it is necessary for school leaders to adopt a longitudinal approach to self-organised learning in order to afford students the time needed to adapt to the SOLE ethos and thus to embrace ‘learning at the edge of chaos’ (Mitra 2014b).


SOLE; self organised learning; Educational alternatives; progressive education; alternative education; difference; educational theory; educational philosophy; home education; education policy

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