220px-Elwyn_Richardson        He toi whakairo he mana tangata

          Where there is artistic excellence there is human dignity

Elwyn Stuart Richardson, QSO (July 8, 1925 – 24 December, 2012), was a New Zealand educator. He is best known for his book In the Early World a record of the development of his educational philosophy while teaching at a small rural school in Northland during the 1950’s. Over thirteen years, from 1949 to 1962, Richardson developed his own philosophy of education. He discarded the official syllabus and turned instead to the children’s lives and immediate environment for the basis of his curriculum. Using the children’s natural curiosity and interest, Richardson taught them how to look closely at the world around them and to observe and record their new discoveries and their own responses to these. From here, he developed a dynamic programme anchored in the children’s surroundings and real lives. Through environmental study, the children learned the basis of scientific method, and brought these skills to bear on studies that spanned all subjects. It was a revolt away from science as a separate subject to an integrated programme of arts and science often using Māori legend as a medium for learning. On the strength of his early work, the school is granted ‘experimental status’ by Clarence Beeby, Director of Education, a special consideration that allowed him to develop his own teaching methods and curriculum largely unimpeded by school inspectors. Richardson is considered a significant figure in New Zealand education because of his own work and educational writings and the critical impact of his educational philosophy internationally. (Thanks to Dr Margaret MacDonald)


The messages from this PLD were:

  • Art is a tool for enquiry – is it being used to its full potential? Art influences who a person is and how they develop. Our appreciation of the world is active and not passive and there are limitations of language as a medium for children to express their understandings of the world around them, and art provides an opportunity for children to create their own symbols. There are close connections between the natural world and art as a vehicle for learning.
  • Geographical links are a context to find identity, the use of art to express that identity launches children on journeys of imagination. Teachers often do not understand the theoretical basis of their visual arts programme, there is a synergy and contradiction between practice and curriculum – a flourishing and constraining depending on teacher understandings.
  • NZCER research shared: Supporting future oriented learning and teaching: A NZ perspective, (http://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/publications/schooling/109306). Research suggests at least six emerging principles to foster creativity and imagination in the 21st century :
  1.     personalised learning – one-size does not fit all
  2.    diversity is a strength, plurality is encouraged, to move easily between two worlds is a benefit
  3.    using current knowledge to build learning capacity and support changes in thinking
  4.    rethinking learner and teacher roles; supporting students to solve their own problems rather than rote learning facts
  5. continuous learning, creation of learning organisations, professional learning and networked learning communities
  6. More visible partnerships between schools and communities; so communities can understand 21st-century learning and why it matters
  • A reflective question from this research is how will ICT connect to the 6 themes and support art practices
  • Teachers work is curriculum and when seeking to understand teacher practice the teachers own ideas and questions are required. Teachers should be listening for things they do not know from children. Effective teachers understand their own values, their image of the child and reflect on the arts curriculum in their context. They know, understand and control curriculum – they understand very well how to create relevant curriculum in their context for all children, they also know how to report it to agencies and whānau. To focus heavily on numeracy and literacy devastates the arts curriculum in education. What informs authentic, situational learning practices in your context?
in the early world

Elwyn Richardson’s seminal work – In the early world

The speakers were Janita Craw, Victoria O’Sullivan, Professor Helen May, Rachel Bolstad, Associate Professor Nesta Devine, Ian Bowell, Sarah Probine, Dr Joce Jesson and Dr Margaret MacDonald