Open Class (OC): principle
The OC has been created for people who feel uncomfortable with the “average” pace at which subjects are taught: for some the pace is too fast, for others too slow. By learning individually, people develop their own pace. The contents learnt in an OC are based on merely achieving the competences, stripped of all paraphernalia, creating enough time for the student to concentrate on his task.
People learn when they can fall back onto a solid foundation. The only foundation a student has is what he has already learnt, including the mistakes. What is written in a course or in a handout, ready to be taught, gives many a slow learner no or little support.
The Open Class is a real open class. Students need not hurry to be in class when the school bell rings. Those who come later, start later, those who start earlier, can also leave earlier when e.g. they need to collect the children from school. Those who cannot come can write, read or listen at home and hand in the tasks the next day. Those who wish to work extra at home, are very much encouraged to do so.
Unlike in a traditional, closed class, students have no catching up to do after any period of absence. They continue where they have previously left off. Every student composes his course differently: no two students do exactly the same exercises or tasks (but they do learn to master the same competences). No student has to feel guilty staying home. In a traditional class, the teacher continues with the syllabus and students have to catch up later on, on their own accord, often copying pages given by their fellow students, or they have to take extra classes. Hence, extra pressure is built up in order to assimilate unseen matter, hoping for the best. In the OC, such situations do not occur, which is a blessing for especially the slower learner.
In the OC, the student receives feedback on the spot. Hence, they can work on their shortcomings within the same time-span. Unlike in a traditional class, finished tasks are not left lying around for days or weeks. The remedial feedback follows immediately upon the completion of the task. Feedback does not mean correcting mistakes only, but also pointing out which areas can be expanded.
Students enrolled at the beginning of B1 can progress faster if they like. Some students complete the whole of B1 within one module. That is sheer time gain for those who want to look for work or enroll for another course that demands B1 as a minimum requirement. The opposite is also true: those who enroll for B1 but who need more time to complete their goals can re-enroll in the same module: the competences for which they have a pass are transferred to the next module. These credits remain with them and need not be repeated. Students can then concentrate merely on their shortcomings and on credits that still need to be obtained.
As from the beginning, students write and speak about their own world. Students who know what they want in life, can focus on exactly that. Some students start job hunting in the OC because that is their biggest concern at that moment. Some students have already found a real-life job while they were in the OC.
Students are encouraged and are expected to be self-sufficient and independent. At the onset, they are taught the tools which are needed to increase their independence.
As they progress, students can either use the archives with exercises and tasks which the OC provides them, but they can also work with material which they need to master e.g. one student was studying to become a personal trainer and had to dig himself into a really complicated bundle of course material concerning physiognomy, training techniques, diets, etc. He has used this material, and no material of the OC archives, to master his competences. In the OC, the internet becomes the student’s library and the computer is their tool to get access to it. This results in the student being constantly in contact with the real world.
The teacher is the person who highlights the strong points and corrects, adjusts and coaches where necessary. He is no longer a lecturer but he is a teach-er in the true sense of the word; “teacher” comes from the Saxon and old English “tekan” which means “sign”. The teacher is amongst his students and he signals where the students have to go to in order to learn something in particular.
Gradually, students have to discover which role(s) they have to take up in society and they have to learn what is necessary to fulfill those roles: be it the role of a mother, a student, a shop-assistant, …. It is up to the student to learn what is needed; no teacher can do that in his or her place.
All students that enter the OC come from a very traditional teacher-student background; the teacher traditionally stands in front of the blackboard and is/was supposed to know better than anyone else, what the students need to learn. The OC reverses this model: it is up to the student to know what he needs to learn and the teacher offers the support necessary to achieve this. This model is for many a student revolutionary, but once they discover that they both have to and are allowed to take matter into their own hands, they progress faster than normal. Whatever needs to be learnt is no longer like a corset which restrains the pace of their learning process. In this way, the learner is treated as an adult, and not as a sheep following day-to-day orders from the teacher.
Students are encouraged to work together and to help eachother in their progress. At the end of B1, students have to be able to assess themselves individually: they have to gauge what their strong points are and which points still need perfecting. Together with the teacher, students have to assess how much improvement they have made.
It is only logical that supporting knowledge and skills (vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, …) are there to help the student achieve his coal and improve his performance. Such items are offered to the student according to necessity.
The OC is the ultimate Freinet approach of teaching. It Is the most personalized way of teaching. The OC will no doubt be an inspiration for many schools at all levels (elementary, secondary and higher education).