The direct answer is that we don’t (yet) know. However, this is good news.
SOLE is simultaneously transformative of current teaching practices AND supportive of current curricular demands. While SOLE successfully introduces a new style of learning, it also enables the established curriculum to be covered. Because there is an element of transformation, we don’t yet know what to measure. If we use pass rates as the measure, we tacitly lend our support to the educational status quo. From what we know so far, there are far more benefits to SOLE than simply improving pass rates. That’s why we’re so excited to include a formal measurement project as part of SOLE SA’s rollout. It’s a project to fine tune the indicators and measurements related to teacher empowerment and learner outcomes.
Until we have the results, there are two things we can offer as evidence that SOLE is effective:
1. The groundswell of global interest in SOLE;
2. Feedback from educators around the world who have used SOLE for a
year or more.
Global Interest in SOLE
SOLEs have garnered international acclaim precisely because they are so innovative, and because of exciting early results.
Sugata Mitra’s 2013 TED talk, which won a $1m grant from TED, introduced SOLE and the School in the Cloud. It has been viewed over 2.8m times on TED.com and over 400,000 times on Youtube.
Since 2008, Mitra has been invited to deliver on average 25 keynote speeches a year to different educational practitioner and policy audiences in 27 different countries across all 5 continents.
Newcastle University opened SOLE Central in 2014, as a global hub for research on self-organized learning. The platform is managed at the university's Culture Lab.
There are currently 27 registered Global SOLEs and Labs (physical learning spaces, sponsored by the TED prize)*:
||Chandrakona* , Dasghara*, Goa, Gocharan*, Kalkaji*, Korakati*, Phaltan*
||Martlesham, Newton Aycliffe*, Newcastle Upon Tyne*, SOLE Central, SOLE UK
||Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda
||Cleveland, Georgia, NYC
||Argentina, Australia, Colombia, Greece, Jamaica, Japan, Khud (Pakistan), Mexico, Spain.
As of 2016, more than 16,000 SOLE registered sessions have taken place globally.
Over sixty major press articles have been written about the work (including New York Times, TIME, the BBC and Times of India).
This kind of attention creates a powerful discourse around SOLEs and is therefore part of the context which draws educators and parents to the SOLE concept.
Feedback from SOLE Educators
There is evidence of impact on classroom practice and student learning from schools around the world. Here are a few examples, researched and coordinated by SOLE Central.
As a result of the work of the principal of a primary school in New South Wales, Australia, this research has, reports the principal, “Influenced our pedagogy and resulted in positive changes to the teaching and learning culture in our schools and is being adopted and utilised in a growing number of schools in our region”. The principal talks of “a change in mindset in terms of how they (teachers) teach”. Examples are given of impact on students: “student enjoyment and engagement in their learning has increased” and as a result “classroom misbehaviours are virtually non-existent during SOLE learning”.
The principal has promoted this model of learning at numerous conferences in both Australia and New Zealand. As a result, he reports, “a variety of schools from different settings are now enthusiastically trialling SOLE”. The primary school is now recognised as a pioneer of self-organised learning. As a result, the school attracts a continuous flow of visitors from other schools across Australia. The principal has been approached by the largest school region in New South Wales to lead a SOLE strategy across the region and provide training.
The Director of`21st Century Schools, a US based education company specialising in professional staff development and curriculum design, has shared research on SOLE to 25,000 subscribers globally. She has been inspired to study SOLEs in greater depth, altering her materials and processes inline with the ideas of SOLEs, telling many others about SOLEs. She notes: “At 21st Century Schools we believe that Dr. Mitra’s work is invaluable, and we see it as fulfilling of our vision and mission to promote his research to as many people as possible, especially educators.”
The Curriculum Leader for Design and Art at a High School (North Tyneside, UK) states: “the impact has been huge…whole school CPD is being developed on SOLE and interwoven into our school priorities”. This leader has set up a network group to share practice across schools and promotes SOLE through presentations and Twitter. She says: “The biggest impact has been…the learning that is achieved is outstanding and the levels of attainment much higher than groups that are taught traditionally.”
A classroom teacher who regularly used SOLEs between 2009-11, with a Year 4 classroom (8/9yrs) in an urban North East England primary school, in partnership with university researchers Dolan, Mitra and Leat described the impact on her teaching. A diary kept for a year (2010) evidences in detail the positive impact over time on her teaching practice, leading her to become more reflective, more able to see all her pupils as “learners”. She said: “I was able to see how the students would choose to learn without any input from me. It’s more representative of what they’re like. You feel like you know them a little bit better. They’re more themselves, there’s less pressure on them to perform, to do what they think I want them to do… It makes you think about how to operate in other lessons, like if you need to be ‘on the case’ all the time. It makes you think about why you teach in a certain style…It raises your expectations of what they’re able to do without your help. You can relinquish more control…It makes you reflect on your practice. You think about how you present non-SOLE lessons, how much time you give them to talk, how much time you give them to follow their own learning, how much structure is necessary.”
The Director of Arts at a High School, Durham, said Skype in the classroom implemented by Leat and Lofthouse (lecturer, 2003-on-going) had: “huge impact on the development of a new facility which can be accessed by the school and the community. The particular teachers involved have been amazed at some of the findings and have been surprised at students handing in high quality work a lot earlier than requested due to their interest and engagement during this research.”
An Ofsted report on Middlestone Moor Primary School, Durham, UK cited SOLE as evidence of good practice in 2012.
External Mentions & References