Self-Organised Learning Environments (SOLEs) in an English School: an example of transformative pedagogy?

Paul Dolan, David Leat, Laura Mazzoli Smith, Sugata Mitra, Liz Todd, Kate Wall

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Self-Organised Learning Environments (SOLEs) are models of learning in which students self-organise in groups and learn using a computer connected to the internet with minimal teacher support. The original ‘hole in the wall’ experiments in India are now applied to classrooms around the world. The idea of SOLEs is a social innovation that is inspiring educators (in schooling and also business contexts) everywhere, as demonstrated by Mitra’s award of the 2013 TED prize. However, when SOLEs are located in classrooms, a number of questions arise. Are SOLEs easily adapted for the classroom context? Is the impact on learning as transformative as suggested by the original ideas? This paper considers in detail the application over two years by one teacher, using SOLEs in a Year 4 classroom in an urban North East England primary school, in partnership with university researchers Dolan, Mitra and Leat. Issues of innovation and transformation are discussed, informed by the ideas of Bernstein, Engestrom, and Giroux. The SOLE concept, although flexible, has the potential to offer a divergent, radical transformative pedagogy. This sits somewhat uncomfortably alongside more convergent approaches which position the learner as subservient to the curriculum, with the task of merely mastering subject matter prescribed by the teacher. However, what is notable from this analysis is that transformative pedagogy seems to be positioned alongside, rather than in conflict with, the dominant educational framework.
Original languageEnglish
JournalOnline Education Research Journal
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013


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