ABSTRACT. Schools are complex, adaptive systems (CAS) (Davis & Sumara, 2006) that engage in an iterative process of reform/change, which sometimes repeats itself after a generation or two (Cuban, 1984; Sadovnik, Cookson, & Semel, 2006). For example, the autonomous teacher in the egg-crate classroom has been the norm for most public schools in the US. But in the 1960s, ‘open schools’ emerged in which schools attempted a more child-centred pedagogy featuring increased student agency and personal choice, multi-age grouping, collaborative and inquiry-based projects, and diversity in evaluation methods. Additionally, physical spaces were replaced with open, flexible layouts. This movement rose and fell between 1966 and 1983. Around the turn of the 21st century, signs of a revival of open education tenets emerged. This paper seeks to 1) provide a brief overview of the genesis of open schools from the 1960s and the similarities in teaching and classroom set-up between that time and today, 2) explore the reasons behind the perceived failure of open education in the 1960s to 1980s, and 3) interrogate whether these same conditions for failure exist today. The author argues that understanding of ‘what went wrong’ with open schooling of the past could inform the efforts at work today.

Keywords: progressive education; open schools; open education; open-space schools; philosophy of education; student-centred education

How to cite: Morrison, K. A. (2022). Open schools: Will it be different this time? Knowledge Cultures, 10(1), 45-67.

Received 22 September 2021 • Received in revised form 23 February 2022
Accepted 24 February 2022 • Available online 01 April 2022

Kristan A. Morrison
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Radford University
Radford, VA, USA

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