O'Connor, D. (2012). A pedagogy of freedom: Why primary school teachers should embrace educational emancipation. 5th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation.
Rich stories of learning journeys that arose from a Life History Research Project resulted in the development of a growing awareness on the part of the author in the role that freedom can productively play within the primary school classroom. The stories that adults told of their most memorable learning experiences almost exclusively occurred outside of the classroom within play and social situations where they were free to engage in a meaningful and personalised learning experience. Learning stories involving risk and even danger, conflict and resolution, freedom from supervision and responsibility as a self-regulated mantle of growing maturity were common themes within the stories. The learning, when scrutinised, revealed deep learning within the domains of problem solving, inventiveness, innovation, creativity, coping skills, processing skills, emotional intelligence, personal happiness, belonging, identity, confidence, political ideology, ethical formation, interpersonal communication and many others. These domains are highly valued within the adult population. However, social change within modern childhood has resulted in many societies espousing social norms that result in children growing up within highly controlled environments with high levels of adult input, supervision, watchfulness, involvement and interference. The level of time spent indoors as opposed to outdoors has also increased dramatically between the last two generations (O’Connor, McCormack, Angus & MacLaughlin 2012). The consequences of this social change are largely unknown as of yet, however, it is surmissable that the impact on the development of skills that require freedom within childhood to flourish is at least a strong possibility. What will this mean for future generations? Who will lead? Who will innovate? Who will be happy?
The role of primary school is more than the development of academic skills such as numeracy and literacy; it is also preparation for life. The broader skillset that can be developed within child led activities has a role within the primary classroom. Educators who embrace a pedagogy of freedom will be well rewarded in many ways. They will enjoy rich integrated teaching experiences and will also experience the joy of seeing children reach their true potential in a supportive learning environment which the children and their teacher have created together within a partnership approach to childhood education that is based on mutual respect for the innate wisdom of all learners.
pedagogy, freedom, primary school, teachers, holistic education, student empowerment