The invisible knowledge in our classes and classrooms

14th June 2018 by Dr Donna Barwood
The invisible knowledge in our classes and classrooms

This month I visited New Zealand for a Critical Health Education Conference and although I am always blown away by the beauty of Queenstown, I was reminded of how fortunate we are to have such beautiful beaches in Perth. I literally went from swimming at City Beach one day, to wearing gloves, hat and scarf and seeing my own breath, the next. It certainly was very cold as it was an early start to their snow season.

Health Education as the primary focus for a conference doesn’t come around very often so although expensive, I thought it important to attend. The conference did not disappoint with lots of thoughtful discussion but it did serve to remind me that I am firmly based in the practicalities of teaching. I certainly appreciate theory, reflection and all that jazz but talk to me about how we can improve teaching on the front line and have a real impact in the classroom, then you will see the light turn on in my eyes.

For me, the most profound moment of the conference came from a lovely lady visiting from South Africa called Marty who questioned how we acknowledge the invisible knowledge in the room. I thought this was a poetic, beautiful but insightful way to provoke thought about all the students in our classes who are silent and yet, through experience, diversity and sheer wisdom have unlocked potential to share. This of course, is not just in the context of health education but physical education, outdoor education and all the different learning contexts to which we may be involved.  Marty’s words lead me to re-think about ways to promote and in some cases be the voice for others? Or, perhaps to consider whether such voices need mediating and how?

Furthermore, how do we really encourage the sharing of this invisible knowledge but also maintain the integrity and focus of the curriculum?

I know it is difficult but I want to take this time to advocate teachers to question, reflect and perhaps even reconsider curriculum choices and build opportunities for those really meaningful participatory practices. Although most experienced teachers will continually question, let’s question:

  • Am I delivering on what is perceived to be appropriate content or am I engaging students into curriculum decision-making processes regarding what they learn, their needs and their futures?
  • Am I connecting to their lives and lived experiences, and am I impacting upon behaviours with meaningful and valuable understandings and opportunities, generated from their perspectives or I am presenting perceived or articulated content inclusions?
  • Am I lighting that fire in the young person’s belly for lifelong living of enhanced health and wellbeing?
  • Am I thinking outside the box at how they might perceive?
  • Am I embracing the challenges and creating opportunities to support and strengthen healthier, safer and more active living?
  • Am I acknowledging the invisible knowledge in the room?

Let’s take the time to reflect and requestion our practice. Believe me it’s not only good for our learning experiences but it is actually really good for the soul!

By Dr Donna Barwood