Category Archives: Experiential Learning

Die Hard…Or Not At All

Die Hard…Or Not At All

We have both lived in our small home town for 12  years. There is one route through the centre. After the first 3 years, the local council changed the road markings at a junction. You no longer had to make a right turn in order to exit the town, you just had to continue. You still drove on exactly the same roads but there was no longer a need to signal.

However, despite the fact that this change was made 9 years ago, both of us automatically signal a right turn as we approach the former junction...unless we make a conscious effort not to do so. We are not the only ones. I frequently follow drivers who signal needlessly at this junction and a knowing smile of empathy appears on my face. Old habits die hard…or, in this case, not at all.

The original pattern of neural pathways that must be triggered when approaching this junction seems deeply and irreversibly ingrained.  The flow of neural information needs to be consciously re-routed each time. This got me thinking about pedagogy, (sad but true), particularly ‘effective questioning’. Read on…

Image 1 - Version 2There is a place for ‘lower-order’ recall questions but I have been in many classrooms and settings where they are the only type of question posed to learners. Sometimes, it is just a straightforward ‘Who was Henry VIII’s second wife?’.

Sometimes, it’s the ‘finish my sentence’ variety, ‘…and the day after Tuesday is…is….hands up…anyone?’’

Then there is the ‘guess what’s in my head’ question – a recall disguised as a higher-order question – ‘How can we use Pythagoras’s Theorem in real life?…C’mon…you should know the answer…I told you last week!

Encouraging learners to engage in higher-order thinking, beyond recall, requires ‘thoughtful’ questioning from the practitioner. Of course, many of you reading this may have attended courses on ‘Effective Questioning’, ‘Higher-Order Thinking Skills’, ‘Bloom’s Taxonomy’ and ‘Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy’! You may have walked away with handouts of ‘levels’, ‘question starters’, etc. etc. You may even have walked away with inspiration and good intentions!

Despite the best efforts of your course presenter/trainer, it is unlikely that you walked away with a new, deeply-ingrained pattern of neural connections – unless, of course, your trainer was Derren Brown! Your automatic, habitual style of questioning is probably deeply and irreversibly(?) engrained. Effective questioning, one of the pillars of formative assessment, may not come naturally to you. Eek! What to do?

Speaking personally, I was educated and ‘trained’ in the traditional recall style. This was the pattern that I heard from my teachers and to which I responded. It is no effort for me to emulate them and think of recall questions. However, when I started to think about how I could engage my learners with ‘better’ questions, I found myself quite challenged. It was not as easy as simply following a ‘starter’ pattern listed on a handout. But, like most skills, the more I practised and experimented with formulating ‘thinking’ questions, the more comfortable I became with the process…and the results.

However, I can still slip into the habit of closed answer or recall questions, especially in a potentially stressful situation. The old neural patterns kick in and I have to consciously over-ride them.

Many moons ago, after attending a ‘thinking skills’ course, I scoffed at the idea of preparing questions in advance of a lesson, believing that any educator worth their salt would be able to create questions as needed. Since then, I’ve reassessed that view. I have always invested time and effort into preparing physical resources. Effective questions are a powerful resource. It seems strange to me now that I baulked at the idea of preparing questions to deeply engage learners with their learning. I can forgive myself because it was not part of my original training as an educator and thankfully, experience has been a wise and challenging mentor.

The good news is that by putting in the effort to design effective questions we are engaging and exercising our own grey matter in higher-order thinking activities…and I like it when educators actually model the skills they want to develop in their learners, instead of blindly following a commercially produced script. They call it integrity…I think. 🙂

OK. So, old habits die hard (…or not at all) because we may be up against forces at a molecular biology level – myelination and the like! That is forgivable. Knowlingly condemning learners to day after day of ‘Guess what’s in my head?’ is not. I echo this sentiment for every aspect of education where educators resist developing their own pedagogy because they believe they are ‘too set in their ways’. If we are are in the business of learning we need to be model learners…and sometimes we need to unlearn…and sometimes that can be tough…but in the words of John McLane “Yippee-ki-yay [ inset plural noun of your choice ]..!

For those of you who like/need to know this stuff…

*The image used  is a portion Sylvester (The 7th Doctor) McCoy’s costume from The ‘Dr Who Experience’, Cardiff.

** ‘Yippee-ki-yay + expletive’ is the character John McLane’s catchphrase, in the ‘Die Hard’ movies…when he leaps into action and violently destroys the bad guys/gals.

 

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‘Village’ People…

(…or Consciously Creating Community)

ny2 007

I grew up in a city in the 1960s. A network of terraced houses built in the 1800s to accommodate the local docks’ workers. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins lived a few streets or a short bus ride away. Front doors were frequently left unlocked. There was a butcher’s at the end of the street, a bakery on the corner of the next. My great aunt and uncle owned the local grocery (one of the few family members who were self-employed). We had a Post Office, a pharmacy (‘chemist’s’), a fish’n’chip shop, a cafe, a newsagent’s, a sweet shop and one of those small shops that defies categorisation, selling an odd assortment of bric-a-brac, toys, ironmongery, and textiles. If it had been 19th century USA it would probably have been labelled the ‘General Store’. There was even a small ‘dairy’ – no cows, just a distribution point for the local milkman to collect full milk bottles and deposit the ‘empties’.  All this within five minutes walk of my house. It was a ‘village’ within a city. Half a mile away there was another ‘village’ replicating the variety of shops.

As a toddler, shopping with my mother or grandmother could be interminable. Progress from shop to shop could be slow, as neighbours, acquaintances, and family members randomly met and exchanged news and gossip. Shopping for a neighbour or family member was not unusual. If it rained while you were out shopping, a neighbour would take your washing off the line and put it inside your back door.

Many of my grandparents’ generation lacked formal education, having left school at 14 in order to assist or solely support their families. They valued education and its potential rewards, encouraging their children to aspire to careers beyond the skilled or unskilled manual labour of the docks.

Consequently, family members of my parents’ generation gained a few academic or specialised qualifications. Changing their ‘collar’ colour from blue to white. With greater earning capacity and a wider choice of job opportunities, they left the ‘village’ and began to populate suburbia or more distant population centres. Some emigrated to new continents.

The family homes which had seemed like a busy network of bee-hives, with their constant to-ing and fro-ing between them, became quiet except for ‘celebration’ days or holidays. The telephone became the substitute for face-to-face interaction.

I am a child of the ‘diaspora’. My first cousins are scattered around the globe. The nearest member of my family lives 25 miles away.

The ‘village’ had its negatives as well as its positives. Those that didn’t conform could be shunned, bullied and belittled. They were not necessarily undermining the community, they were often expressing their individuality. You could be gossiped about for wearing clothes that were ‘too loud’ or having ‘ideas above your station’. For some, leaving the ‘village’ was  a liberating experience, essential for their personal growth and well-being. Be assured, I am not idealising. The ‘village’ had its fair share of ‘ne’er-do-wells’, rogues and a criminal element. In addition, maintaining a degree of privacy could be viewed as suspiciously secretive or exclusive.

What’s my point? Where am I going with this?

OK. In the ‘village’, the process of building and maintaining community required a minimum of effort. You could avoid it if you really tried but otherwise it just ‘happened’. The historical/geographical context governed the degree of interaction. Families and neighbours facing similar ‘struggles’ could and would empathise with each other. They would offer support, share resources and seek solutions. If you destroyed trust, the repercussions could last a lifetime (or two)!

In the strive for individualism and independence, have we lost that real sense of interdependence and kinship? How much would you really sacrifice for a suburban neighbour or co-worker who may be there one moment and gone the next? As we have become more ‘mobile’, both work and personal relationships may have a greater sense of ‘impermanence’. Also, if someone destroys trust, they may not have to live with the consequences for too long.

Building classroom communities requires deliberate and sustained effort. The values, attitudes, skills and knowledge to build a healthy community have to be internalised by learners who may not have had the experience of growing up in a ‘village’. The ethos and climate of classrooms cannot be solely dependent on the charisma, mood swings or dictats of the teacher/educator. At the other extreme, empowering learners does not mean allowing ‘jungle law’ to develop.

In a world seemingly driven by mobility and material acquisition, there is an even greater need to acquire ‘values’ which value people and embrace diversity; which value skills needed to develop emotional intelligence and collaboration;  and values which build and maintain community.

While I abhor the abuse of social network media, from a personal point of view, the recent advances in this type of technology has enabled my family ‘diaspora’ to begin a process of reconnection and the rekindling of a sense of kinship. A virtual ‘village’.

We are social animals. We are interdependent. And, while we pursue political or educational policies which promote hierarchy and the selfish individualism of a dog-eat-dog society, we merely serve to widen divisions and ignore our collective responsibility for the well-being of all.

Getting the balance right means that we not only provide opportunity for and tolerance of a diversity of individual aspirations and beliefs but also a sense of responsibility for and contribution to the community, which is dynamic and ever-changing. This is real lifelong learning. And, when individuals feel secure and valued, they develop greater motivation and confidence to take risks and explore their potential.

 

For more thoughts on building and maintaining community see  our previous post ‘All hours, all weathers.’

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All hours, all weathers.

UK roadworks sign. In other European countries...

M4 motorway. 8.30 p.m. Somewhere between Bristol and the Severn Crossing. We have been driving on motorways for three-and-a-half hours. There is another warning sign to reduce speed to 50 mph. Another long stretch of road works. There are average speed cameras looming at intervals. I am moving at exactly 50 mph and have another vehicle ‘tail-gating’ me, despite the fact that the passing lane is empty. 

Lynne commented, ‘They always seem to be working on this motorway. You never seem to be able to just drive it without road-works somewhere or other.’ That got me thinking…

The motorway is built to allow people to reach destinations as swiftly and safely as possible. However, it is subject to constant wear and tear from vehicles and the environment. 

It is alarming how quickly roads can become damaged. One short period of snow and ice can cause a rash of potholes to appear, which, left unchecked, become larger, causing accidents and/or vehicle damage. Underground watercourses can cause subsidence and the seasonal variation in temperature attacks the integrity of the road surface. Even roads built to the highest standards are subject to environmental attack. And the safety of the most well-constructed road is ultimately compromised by the individual or collective behaviour of its users.

The motorway regulations of the Highway Code are there for a purpose – safety. There are those motorists who flagrantly disregard them. You see them travelling at high speed, weaving in and out, ignoring lane priority, tail-gating, intimidating with total disregard for the safety of other road users or their own personal safety. Then there are those of us who, perhaps, just push the boundaries if we think there is a need…and we can get away with it…and then there are middle-lane drivers…don’t get me started!

Yes, road-works can be frustrating, especially when it is unexpected and a delay could have undesirable consequences. Yet without this vigilance and maintenance, the consequences could be fatal. So I had a paradigm shift as I was motoring at a constant 50 mph. ‘Hard hats’ off to the road workers, who are out at all hours in all weather.

A community ethos is a bit like that motorway. It is a ‘living’ thing, constantly changing as it interacts with its environment. You build it for a purpose, to carry your learners safely, swiftly, and as directly as possible, to their destinations. 

Learning communities will never be perfect. The ethos and infrastructure will always be and under attack from all sorts of environmental factors. That is nature’s way. And, no matter how comprehensive our class rules, charters and contracts may be, they are only as effective as the the ‘users’ decide they will be. There are those who will flout, those that will push, those that will comply and those who will be inflexible, unaware or unable to use appropriate judgement (middle-lane drivers…aaargh!).

To maintain a viable ethos in the learning community, we need to be attentive and proactive. Planning for ‘routine maintenance’ ‘seasonal repairs’ and dealing with the potholes as they occur, not waiting until the ‘accident rate’ triggers a response, by which time significant and possibly irreparable damage has been done.  Community building is not something that you do as a ‘one off’ at the beginning of an academic year. It requires constant vigilance and maintenance – reflection and discussion…and…it is the responsibility of all members. Sometimes, you need to be responsive and maintain or repair community when it is not convenient to do so. ‘All hours’ and ‘all weathers’. 

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Good Afternoon (Two Days in Stirling Part Four)

Single Steps Learning's Stirling Adventure

Re-caffeinated, and accompanied by the sound of screeching of brakes, we arrive at Riverside Nursery. It’s great to see Jackie Elliot and Lorna McAllister again (we are late but they are smiling!). We are excited to be here. We have already seen the ‘Documentation’ (annotated and pictorial record of learning) and we have been invited to observe the children collaborating in order to solve a problem. 

They receive a phone call from ‘The Zoo’. One of the animals has escaped! Can they help return the animal (represented by a soft toy), negotiating a series of obstacles…and without direct ‘hand’ contact. 

There is an assortment of resources that the children could use. They are immediately engaged by the scenario and ideas are flowing freely. Resources are chosen and one group settles on using some ‘tools’ to lift the animal into a carrier bag. Using a combination of readily available classroom materials, the children successfully cross a ‘river’ and a ‘swamp’. There is much celebration followed by a ‘debrief’ in which the children reflect on how they solved the problem and interacted with each other. 

Debrief with nursery children sounds a bit ominous and formal but it is a brief reflection and exploration of their learning. Unfortunately, we have seen, in a discussion forum of a national publication, disparaging and mocking comments about asking Early Years children to reflect on their learning. But isn’t this what ‘good’ parents do naturally – question, discuss, show interest and value the thoughts of their offspring? So why would we do anything less? The perception that the educator’s role is to fill empty heads with important stuff is still one of the biggest barriers to effective learning – but not in Riverside Nursery!

The careful questioning we observed, guided the children’s thinking and enabled them to ‘crystallise’ their experience into something tangible. There will, of course, be different learning outcomes for different children – some will be able to articulate reasoning, some may only be able to recall events and feelings and yes, some may not be ready to engage fully. However, taking part in the ‘ritual’ of valuing experiences has to begin somewhere – do we wait until children formally understand all the concepts of a birthday celebration before we allow them to take part in the ‘rituals’? No, we don’t.

We then have our own ‘debrief’ with Jackie and Lorna, who are modelling high quality learning themselves, using collaborative tools and strategies to develop reflective practice within their setting. Thank you both!

We leave the nursery building at a respectful walking pace, run to the car, then back to Bannockburn and Park Drive Nursery. The ‘Drive’ was easy…the ‘Park’ was more difficult. We arrive just as children are being collected…not a parking space to be seen…

Eventually, we meet with Jackie Dupont, discard our coats and bags and have a tour of the setting. We are delighted to meet Sharron McIntosh again and see how she has been visibly recording the children’s ideas for developing their learning. There are some wonderful questions about animals – ‘Can a giraffe fit in a house?’, ‘Why does the farmer put ‘jobbies’ on the field?’

We are thankful for some refreshments and settle down for a chat with Jackie, Sharron and Head of Nursery, Joan Gillanders. Our informal chat turns into an exciting and productive brainstorming/planning session. The minutes fly by and it is time to leave. Thanks to you all for the invitation and the welcome.

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Better Latte Than Never

So, we left Killin, according to schedule (Honestly..we did!). The A85 is picturesque, single-lane road but also a main artery through the Highlands. Just outside Killin, a set of temporary traffic lights had appeared (which wasn’t there at 8.15 a.m.) and a work crew were resurfacing the road. We joined the queue which is headed by a large articulated lorry. I know, you can already see where this is going…not very far/not very fast!

Unfortunately, we didn’t get over 30 mph for the next 30 miles. At the roundabout on the outskirts of Stirling, the lorry took the exit for the motorway – we cheered. We took the exit for Stirling…and end up behind a JCB digger moving at 15 mph. At this point we both went a bit Victor Meldrew (‘I don’t believe it!). We are obliged to follow the JCB, through Stirling, until we are almost at our destination.

We arrived at Viewforth Offices and found a parking space right outside the main doors (hooray!). We were 10 minutes late for our appointment with Early Years Curriculum Development Officer Mary Pat McConnell. We were acutely aware that Mary Pat had already relinquished a good portion of our planned meeting time so that we could squeeze in another school visit.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.** Reception cannot locate Mary Pat. We had a momentary panic that we were in the wrong meeting venue. Not so (Phew!) Eventually, Mary Pat appeared and we exchanged apologies for lateness. She, like us, had been unavoidably delayed and not in a position to send or receive messages on her mobile phone.

We headed off to the canteen. Where we had a very focused and productive 20 minute meeting (brainstorm – distil – decide – design) fuelled by an extra shot in the Starbucks latte (Thanks Mary Pat!) and we were off to our next port of call!

Better Latte Than Never

The learning journey. We had a plan, we had a schedule, we had means of communication. However, real life happened. Plans had to change, we had to adapt. At times, despite our frustration, there was nothing we could do. Our speed was being dictated by outside forces. There were points on the journey that we could have ‘escaped’ the lorry but this would have still lengthened our journey or we could have become completely lost. There are times when that would be OK, or even fun, but not on this occasion!

Despite a practitioner’s best effort, thorough planning, passion and enthusiasm, there are so many external forces that can impact on learners and learning. This is not about finding excuses, it is about recognising and acknowledging that learning is a messy business. And unless we recognise, acknowledge and deal with ‘real life’ forces, no amount of imposed ‘structure’ and standardised testing is going to affect significant positive change in a learning culture.

And finally, there are often unexpected bonuses when plans go awry. In this case, if all had gone according to plan, we might never have met the lovely Linda Stevenson, whom we had only spoken to on the phone.

**Does this make sense in an age of digital timepieces?

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To learn or not to learn…

…that was the question this week.

We had decided for a variety of reasons that it was time to move our blog posts to a different platform. After much debating and seeking of advice, we opted for WordPress

And then came the bigger decision. How would we go about this? We had stumbled upon some commercial tools that would provide a smooth, relatively easy and supposedly quick transition from iWeb to WordPress. But they came at a cost. 

Tempting.

Especially with time being a commodity.

Yet something stopped us. I’m not actually sure whether it was concern over wasted cash…pride…a deep sense of principles…or a thirst to learn new skills and explore new territory. 

So we set aside time. A day to play and investigate. Make mistakes. Squeal with delight when something worked – often accompanied by a quick clap of hands and some hopping – and then a deep sense of satisfaction. 

This day was invaluable. We didn’t aim to be perfect and get it right first time. We knew we would make mistakes, but we also knew we had allowed time to learn from these mistakes, refine our skills and knowledge… and try again! 

The transfer of 16 months of blogging took place over the following 2 days…along with the discovery of adding more pages to WordPress and connecting it directly to our main website. It is now 16:39 on a friday afternoon…and there is a sense of achievement. A sense of having felt motivated and engaged. A sense of persevering. And a sense of knowing that this specific learning journey has only just begun.

On reflection…

The kind of experience we just went through resulted in deep learning and a retention of new skills, understanding and knowledge. It required us to apply certain attitudes in order to persevere and find a solution. 

We could have opted for someone else to do this for us – in a ‘quick fix’ kind of way. We could have handed over our blogs to the experts…or downloaded a package that said do this, do that, click this…done. 

And now I find myself connecting this to teaching and education. And the curriculum. As a teacher, how many times did I ‘spoon-feed’ my learners or offer them the ‘quick fix’? And how many learners actually just wanted the ‘quick fix’ and the ‘spoon-feeding’? In my early years as a teacher, I think I was guilty of doing this quite often…but with the best intentions. It seemed manageable. It actually resulted in something I could control – which felt safe and the right thing to do. And it meant I had correct answers and almost perfect products, workbooks etc to show on parent’s evening or during inspections. Gold star. And I covered the curriculum and could tick all the boxes.

And then the paradigm shift. 

Teaching should not be solely about me feeling good about being able to impart my knowledge, control the input and output, and have perfect things to show parents/inspectors. 

I wasn’t all bad, I have to admit. I did care about the learners. I loved the time we spent together…no matter how challenging some of the behaviour could be…

About 8 years ago, I began to transform my thinking, my practice and the way I organised learning experiences in the classroom. I was not perfect. I am still not perfect. I stopped just ‘covering the curriculum’ and began to organise deeper learning experiences for the class. Real experiences where children were engaged in finding and solving problems collaboratively. We were all co-learners and we made sure we had time to make mistakes, reflect on our learning and refine our products and processes. And we had fun. We enjoyed  both the perseverance, the success and the sense of community. 

We live in a fast-changing world. Education systems are also changing at an alarming rate. Sometimes for the good. Sometimes not. There seems to be a bizarre mixture of  messages – a global curriculum overhaul to prepare students for an unknown future within a time of technological growth, which encourages teachers to’take a risk’ and organise learning in new and exciting ways…yet it is coupled with the ‘fear factor’ of  ‘do not get it wrong…we are watching and measuring you and we will publicly name and shame.’

I have no problem with accountability. I do have a problem with a lack of ‘indivisibility of principles’. We are all learners – whether we are 3 years old, 15 years old, 38 years old, 79 years old. A teacher is a learner. A learner is a teacher. Effective learning principles apply at all ages. 

This week we experienced deep learning. We made time for this to happen within our own busy ‘curriculum’. We do what we do in Single Steps Learning because we passionately believe in exploring the potential of all learners and finding creative, effective ways of unlocking this. And we recognise ourselves as learners too. 

So…a couple of clicks and the first Single Steps Learning blog via ‘WordPress’ goes public. Our learning journey continues…



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‘Designing for Learning’ in action…

Last October we began work with inspirational practitioners in Dorset. Gary Spracklen is one of those practitioners and has sent us a video clip of learners from Prince of Wales First School, engaging collaboratively in order to solve a seasonal problem.

Please watch and enjoy! Then take a moment to reflect on the skills, attitudes and knowledge needed to complete this task successfully, from all learners involved  – children and adults!

http://static.photobucket.com/player.swf?file=http://vid1239.photobucket.com/albums/ff513/Nelkcarps/SingleStepsLearning.mp4

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Embedded CPD in Evenlode Primary

Headteacher, Steve Rees, couldn’t wait to model the glasses made by the Year 1 children in Evenlode Primary. The children were quick to remind everyone that the glasses were made for the Giant in ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’, so, unfortunately for Steve, he was not allowed to keep them!

 

During the past year, we have supported CPD in the school in a variety of ways: designing and delivering training, co-planning, co-teaching and co-learning alongside the staff and children. We have always received a warm welcome, along with an enthusiasm to discuss learning and explore methods of implementation. (On this visit, a Year 1 child asked why I had a visitor’s badge, commenting ‘You are not really a visitor anymore, are you?’).

 

Last week, it was ‘embedded CPD’ in the Year 1 classes. Picture the scene…friday, rain, Christmas concerts looming…yet all the children and staff were ‘up’ for planning and leading a collaborative, problem-based learning session! Emma and Andrea, the Year 1 teachers, had already enlisted the support of family members and produced a DVD that would arrive in school for the children. It contained an ‘Oscar’-winning performance of the Giant’s wife (from Jack and the Beanstalk) insisting that Jack and his friends (the children in the class) design and make a new pair of glasses for the Giant. The reason for this – Jack had stolen the GOLDEN HEN and now the giants were too poor to go and get his glasses repaired! And we all know what a grumpy giant is like!

 

The children rose to the challenge and worked in groups of 3, each taking on team roles and responsibility for completing the product within the allocated time frame. A ‘quality checklist’ supplied by the giant helped to ensure the product met the requirements. Although one reflective thought from a child was, ‘Next time, maybe we will look at what we have to do and choose which will take the longest and do that first…rather than leave it ‘til last and run out of time…especially if it is an important bit!’. I think many adults can also learn from this reflection too!

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Whilst the children tackled the task independently and interdependently, the staff had an opportunity to engage in authentic AfL – what did the learning actually look like and sound like? Digital cameras and Flipcams were used. Notes were taken, ready to feedback to the children in order to move the learning process forward through shared reflection and negotiation.

 

And the final ‘wow’…the staff also agreed to ‘walk the talk’ and operate an ‘indivisibility of principles’ approach. Observational notes were taken on the whole learning process – with no judgements made. Just what was seen and heard within that learning environment (both from the adults and children). It formed a basis to open up a reflective dialogue about learning and teaching. Embedded CPD supported by peer coaching and mentoring.

 

(And, if we are thinking about curriculum and standards, mapping this back into the curriculum caused some problems as it ‘hit’ so many of the requirements in so many areas! A well-designed task can not only be a vehicle for curriculum requirements, it can also be fun, engaging, motivating and offer those moments of true inspiration and entrepreneurial thinking!)

 

A big thank you to all the staff and children at Evenlode Primary.

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Embedded CPD in Aberbargoed Primary

Coping with Change (Part 1)    

As you drive down School Street in Aberbargoed, the sign on the fencing next to the gate reads ‘For Sale’. No. Headteacher, Mr David Lewis, is not selling off bits of the school to make ends meet! However, David and his staff are doing a fantastic job of providing a sense of normality for their learners, while new classrooms are being built across the road from the old Victorian building.

The old school was the venue for two days training, Step 3 in the Designing for Learning journey. We explored the concept and use of rubrics as formative assessment tools and once again made reflections and connections on ways to empower learners.

But it didn’t end there! We had the privilege of spending the next three days, teaching and observing in every class throughout the school.

In Foundation Phase, Sarah Driscoll’s Nursery children made and tested waterproof footwear for gingerbread men; Teresa Hamling’s Reception class designed and constructed vehicles to transport a giant turnip; and Ly-Anne Pyle’s Year 1 and 2 produced crowns for the royal wedding of Prince Charming and Rapunzel.

In his cross-phase (Year 2/3) class Teifion Lewis. guided his learners through the process of designing more appealing dental hygiene packaging.

At Key Stage 2, the Year 3/4 learners in Jayne Harris’s class explored sieves and designed and tested their own. In order to demonstrate their understanding of the human body, Marilyn Phillips’s learners made 3-D body maps. And last, but not least, Jacqueline John led her Year 6 through discussion and debate about the rich and poor in Tudor times.

A wide variety of curriculum knowledge and skills! However, all learners explored their specific curriculum area(s) in collaborative groups. It’s been a year since many of the learners and practitioners were introduced to the tools and processes of collaborative learning. This has now become embedded in the classroom culture with learners showing a high level of engagement and the development of skills and attitudes to support independent and interdependent learning.

In addition to those above, we would like to mention the other staff who work in Aberbargoed Primary and attended the training  – John, Karen, Sian, Gill, Wendy, Michelle, Katrina, Cheryl, Kelly, Nicole, Leanne and Kelly. Thank you all for making us so welcome.

A final thanks to David for inviting us back to assist in the continuing professional development of staff in Aberbargoed.

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Two Superb Days in Class…

A huge thank you to Vicky Jenkins-Delf and her class of 9-11 year olds in Miskin Primary School. They welcomed us into their learning community for the last 2 days and made us feel like we really belonged! The 2 days were full of activities from community builders, line-ups, quality question carousels, whole class problem solving to cross a minefield, singing, reflecting honestly, connecting, learning, laughing, supporting and making discoveries about yourself and others. A class with 75% boys, 25% girls – all of whom were full of ideas, enthusiasm and character! Andrew’s opening line ‘So boys, what have you done with all the girls?’ – the quick response back ‘taken over their bodies and turned them into boys like us, of course!’.

We handed the camera over to the class – there were no arguments. They distributed it fairly amongst them over the 2 days. They captured learning moments…including us (not all flattering!!) and loved the photofeedback. More photos to come showing the children in action – as soon as we receive permission slips.

The class told us that they thought the top 4 things a teacher should be like is – kind, thoughtful, responsible and reliable. And they told us that Vicky was like this…but even better because she made them laugh too! To watch a class want to continue learning when the playtime bell went…you know that something special is going on in their community. It is a class that engages with enthusiasm and is not scared to be honest in their responses. It is a real class with real kids and real learning moments – so not everything goes right all the time. But what went right is that they were willing to debrief moments honestly and everyone always came back to thinking about making thoughtful choices and being fair with everyone in the room.

The 2 days completely reinforced what we believe in about learning and community…and why we have chosen to do what we do. It was a complete pleasure to spend the last 2 days in their class…and in the words of one of the boys…this class certainly seemed to have ‘bigger, more brains’ when solving problems than some of us adults!

We loved our time with you all!

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Filed under Coaching, Community Learning, Designing for Learning, Education, Embedded CPD, Experiential Learning, Primary, Problem-Based Learning, Quality Learning, Reflective Learning, Values