Picture: Jacksonville School Kids 1980s
The shape of classrooms
The term became current almost twenty years ago, after a US study of the resistance to educational reforms. In their seminal article, Tyack and Tobin wrote:
- The basic “grammar” of schooling, like the shape of classrooms, has remained remarkably stable over the decades.
- By the “grammar” of schooling we mean the regular structures and rules that organize the work of instruction.
- For example, standardized organizational practices in dividing time and space, classifying students and allocating them to classrooms, and splintering knowledge into “subjects.”
When we speak, we do not consciously follow the rules of grammar.
- Practices like graded classrooms structure schools in a manner analogous to the way grammar organizes meaning in language.
- Much of the grammar of schooling has become so well established that it is typically taken for granted as just the way schools are. It is the departure from customary practice in schooling or speaking that attracts attention.
Grammar works behind the scene.
Fifteen years later much had changed. School remained resistant to change. But now politicians, school authorities and educators were struggling with the impact and the potential of digital technology in education.
In 2009, Martínez Arbelaiz and Correa Gorospe asked whether the grammar of schooling could be changed.
- Tyack and Tobin´s concept of the “grammar of schooling” is a very powerful metaphor that can help explain why ICT integration is seldom successful.
- We propose that this rigid set of structures and rules are lecture-type sessions, which include, among other defining features: exams, a clear division between subjects, standards for different topics, etc.
- This rigidity in turn prevents ICT from being significantly integrated into school practices and holds innovation back, since it tends to block ICT possibilities.
They add that
- Administrators, teachers, parents and students usually have an unconscious underlying knowledge of what the “real school” consists of and consequently, any innovation or teaching changes that deviate from that internalized model, hardly if ever, succeed.
- David Tyack and William Tobin (Stanford University). The “Grammar” of Schooling: Why Has it Been so Hard to Change? American Educational Research Journal. Fall, Vol. 31 1994), No. 3, pp. 453-479
- Asunción Martínez Arbelaiza; José Miguel Correa Gorospe. Can the grammar of schooling be changed? Computers & Education, Volume 53, Issue 1, August 2009, Pages 51–56