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Pedagoo.org is Moving!
September 28, 2015

Pedagoo.org is moving to a new host this week.

To avoid any content being lost in the move, I’ve turned off users’ ability to add new posts and I would recommend that you do not create a new account at this time.

If you would like to share a post, or create an account, on Pedagoo.org please email us at share@pedagoo.org and we’ll work something out.

As I’m sure you know, moving can be a stressful time for all involved. Please bear with us while we manage this move (it’s our first time!).

Dae something…….Dae something…..Dae something……
Image by Tracey Alvarez

Having had the privilege to have heard a number of superb educational speakers over the past 6 months, among them Iain White from Newlands Junior College, who quoted from the great Billy Connolly’s classic Crucifixion joke the need to ‘Dae something….’ in terms of leading with courage; this leads me into the new, unfamiliar (and a little scary) world of blogging. But having been supported by my authority, SCEL and dared by colleagues Jay and Lena, I feel that I owe it to myself and those amazing people I have heard to put some thoughts on paper and ‘out there’……..

I should be so lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky…….

Being of the same generation as Kylie, I am one of the lucky ones in education who has been nurtured, supported, encouraged and invested in during a career of over amazing 20 years. I have been incredibly fortunate to have been part of the SCEL Fellowship programme for its second cohort this year.

As part of my systems leadership enquiry for the Fellowship Programme with SCEL I have been planning a Network group of middle leaders across Argyll and Bute, based on a model I was part of in Cheshire, called the CHiLL Network. Ten middle leaders have the opportunity to read and discuss current educational theory around leadership and develop accurate school self evaluation through a focussed project on school self improvement that they are passionate about and supported by their Head Teacher. At the beginning of the month I had the great privilege to lead the first session and the talent, thoughts and reflections were of the highest quality. It was an uplifting and exciting experience for all concerned and I am looking forward to seeing how the leaders projects and thinking have progressed at our next meeting in November.

Sir Andrew Cubie, who amongst many posts and roles throughout a distinguished career, chairs the Scottish Credit and Qualifications framework and Leadership Foundation for Higher Education; presented to the SCEL participants at our inaugural event and talked about SCEL fellowship as being a fantastic opportunity to make a difference and had the potential to enhance the esteem of the teaching profession. He recognised that Head Teachers and leaders can be in a lonely and isolated position and it was important for us to feel that ‘we could do it’ and to have ‘leadership beyond authority’. By this Sir Andrew said that we needed to empower others to do something ourselves together rather than waiting for others ‘in authority’ to be able to move on. Sir Andrew also emphasised that it is often the process of change rather than the outcome that is important. He questioned why some colleagues may hold back from taking the lead and that we should have a vision where mediocre is not accepted. Finally, Sir Andrew challenged us to think about how our vision, values and aims are felt physically when we walk into our schools?

We were fortunate in Argyll and Bute recently to have Sir Andrew speak for us and facilitate conversations between Head Teachers. Professor Clive Dimmock, representing the Robert Owen Centre for Education, also gave a considerable contribution focussing on the personal qualities (personality traits, dispositions and attributes) associated highly successful leaders and asking the question from research are leaders born or made?

All the speakers had very particular styles and affect on their audience, one senior manager reflected on how Professor Dimmock had a gentle prodding way of encouraging colleagues to think about where they were in terms of being a high performing leader when conveying his research and thoughts but his crescendo of educational passion warms your enthusiasm and she found ‘that he was walking with me in terms of my own development and it has stayed with me in terms of thinking about how to move forward’. Powerful stuff.

However, as mentioned previously; the inspirational, witty and straight talking style of Iain White engaged many of my HT colleagues at the same event; many recognising a great deal of the challenges Iain spoke of in leadership and agreed with his view that at the end of the day we need to focus on what is right for our children and not lose sight of our core values.

Little wonder that feedback we have received about such quality of input from Head Teachers present has been that the session was incredibly valuable and one that should be built upon in the future here in Argyll and Bute.

We need to provide staff with quality time with quality input from thoughtful speakers to develop their practice of critical thinking of their own role in the classroom and in leadership terms.

My Mum always said it’s important to keep an eye on the company you keep…..

It has not only been the amazing opportunity to hear top quality speakers during the last 6 months that has moved my educational world but also the opportunity to work with my fellow participants. Louise, Sheila, Andy, Jim, John and George are all more experienced than myself and have such differing situations but I cannot spend 15 minutes in their company without learning something and my thinking being challenged. Hence the need to listen, discuss with colleagues thoughts and ideas and apply your thinking to your practice in a conscious way. Indeed, my fellowship colleague Andy Travis in his captivating presentation at SLF this week described the experience of SCEL’s Fellowship programme as giving ‘Head space for Head Teachers.’

While there is exciting practice in our authority, the importance for us to get out of the glen and see what is happening elsewhere is vital to move our thinking on and I am incredibly excited at being able to work with George Cooper from Bearsden Academy in late November when both of our middle leadership groups will be working together.

Tom Bennett at the recent ResearchED conference in Glasgow said that the nature of CPD is changing; the positive energy around the event was palpable as it was about practitioners attending an event at a weekend with quality speakers and the need for them to be up to date with current research so that their work can be evidence based and they can ask ‘Why?’ with confidence (and all for £30!). Teachers need a choice in their development and how they need to be supported. Giving staff opportunities to hear quality speakers talking about what they are passionate about is motivating in itself and reflection important but it is what you do with it that counts. Where and when does it roll out into your practice? Where is the impact on our children?

As I said previously – Kylie and I have been lucky, but what of the next generation of teachers and leaders? The leadership habits I formed as a middle leader in a successful network have stayed with me into my Headship and it has been interesting that the focus of more than half of the SCEL fellowship participants this year is on capacity building and supporting leaders of the future, here’s hoping the impact is tangible and sustainable.

Personally, given that I have only outlined a fraction of what I have experienced as part of the SCEL experience, I have a feeling that my learning still needs time and space to breathe and it will be over the following year in which things become embedded and some of my leadership habits will to continue to evolve, as well as developing my systems leadership skills.

So, when Iain White says to us to ‘Dae something….’ we need to follow his advice – these are challenging times and our children deserve the best possible experiences possible. Our biggest asset is our staff, we need to listen, value, support and develop the talent that is out there so ‘Dae something….’

Shaping our Global Future

Young people worry about the future: including their own personal, family and economic futures. So why don’t we evolve a curriculum that amounts to a structured conversation with them about these futures? If we could do this, we might shape a dialogue that allowed them more ownership of the lives they might lead and the people they might become. We might help yah people to imagine themselves and feel excited about the future and the challenges it presents.

But, we also need to make them more aware of the legacy being created for future generations in the early twenty first century. My book, Shaping our Global Future, A Guide for Young People seeks to inform young people about the world their children and grandchildren will inhabit. So the book focuses on seven global wonders and seven future challenges.

The book is part of the Postcards from Scotland series, commissioned by the Centre for Confridence and Wellbeing. It takes is available from the centre here. All money’s derived from this project go to the Centre for Confidence and Wellbeing, a registered charity.

I hope that young people read it and reflect. I hope that teachers read it and use it in classrooms. Mostly, I hope that it helps young people, educators and parents to have a structured conversation about our human future and the world we are building.

A new Digital Learning resource #digilearnscot
September 23, 2015

Today sees the launch of a new resource to support the development of Digital Learning in Scotland: digilearn.scot

Supported by a new twitter account, the new Digital Learning Community website aims to support teachers to share digital practice and discuss digital learning and teaching. It’s a well designed, and open, site which has three main components: Talking Points, Sharing Zone and News & Events.

sharingzoneAs well as viewing the content, teachers are encouraged to contribute to the site and submit their own content. What’s great is that this is really easy to do. There’s no login required, no password to remember, just a really simple form with lots of spaces to include your links. Although it has been developed for Scottish teachers, the site is completely open and contributions are welcome from outwith Scotland.

So if you’ve found a great digital learning resource, or have got something to say about digital learning, get yourself over to digilearn.scot and join in.

Applying for a new job?
September 22, 2015

How many jobs have you applied for and been unsuccessful? At what stage were you unsuccessful, on application or at interview?

When faced with rejection it is inevitable that you will feel frustration and that can quickly turn into feeling like a failure!  I know, I have felt it!  But that is where we need to turn to the great words of Shakespeare, in particular his Julius Caesar play,

“The fault, dear Brutus is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

 The interpretation is that it is not fate that dooms men, but instead their own failings.  Now that sounds harsh that I’m blaming you for your inability to secure that job that you really wanted.  But Shakespeare got it right!


If we really want to correct the fault in our stars then we need to address the underlying causes behind our shortcomings.  Objectively, reviewing your own performance is not easy, especially when the bruises of a failed application are still so raw!  Allowing for the dust to settle is too long to wait.  You want to capture yourself in the moment.  I’m not advocating storming up to the selection committee and giving them what for, but being your own critical friend and asking, “why did this not work out for me?” is the mindset to continuous improvement and success. 

There may be many reasons as to why your application or interview was rejected, perhaps you are not mentally in the zone or physically ready for the challenge; trust me I know, I once went to an interview three days after having a knee operation.  I hobbled into the room, explained away my crutches and then totally bombed on the interview.  A* for effort and commitment to the cause, but totally ungraded for preparation and being mentally ready for the interview.  I mean seriously how much preparation could I have done being drugged to the eyeballs on painkillers?  In hindsight, (which is such a beautiful thing) I should have called, explained my circumstances, expressed my passion for the role and ask to be considered should they be unsuccessful in securing a candidate.  At least that could have kept me in the frame in case the first round of interviews were unsuccessful, or if a future role was on the cards.

The key to all of this is to truly not beat yourself up!  Instead, consider yourself as always the prospective candidate. 

That way you’ll always be taking the steps to reflect upon your goals and what you need to do “daily” to achieve them.  I say “daily” because without continuous tweaks and improvements over time, not only to your CV but to your own professional learning you are not positioning yourself as the number one candidate.  As a Business Studies teacher I regularly teach Kaizen, the Japanese practice of continuous improvement.

Its core principal, change (kai) for the good (zen) can be applied to your own career development and when seeking new job roles. Kaizen suggests that everything can be improved, your research, pre-interview preparation, your CV, application form, cover letter, interview technique, observed lesson etc.

Don’t take my word as gospel; Ross Morrison McGill of Teacher Toolkit the leading blog for teachers in the UK has experienced adversity in the face of redundancy.  Experiencing first-hand the challenges of the senior leadership application process, Ross shares his key takeaways on stepping up into senior leadership.  On episode 36 of the Inspiration 4 Teachers Podcast Show, Ross offers his experience and advice to support you in your pursuit of Deputy Headship.

Press play and listen to our 3 Tip Challenge designed to provide you with Ross’s three essential tips when applying for roles in senior leadership:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LnwpmbMoKWk&w=560&h=315]

If you enjoyed this article please tweet the knowledge forward and share it with your community! 



Until next time ~ Keep inspiring! 

Teach Like A Pirate #FabEduBooks

My favourite edubook is Teach Like A Pirate by Dave Burgess. I found this book on Twitter. I’d seen lots of tweets with #TLAP after them, so tapped on #TLAP and there it was – everyone talking about this book called Teach Like A Pirate. I ordered a copy, read it cover to cover and was absolutely inspired!

“Teach Like A Pirate: increase student engagement; boost your creativity; transform your life as an educator.” Dave Burgess splits the book into three parts with the first being all about passion. This put into words a lot of things I’d thought and felt – the fact you can listen to someone who is passionate about their subject for hours, even if the content is something you had no interest at all in to begin with but by the end you want to study it! I would bet that almost every educator reading this has a reason for being the educator that they are, and it’s most likely a teacher they had in school, or someone that supported them that was passionate and enthusiastic about their subject matter and about their students. By demonstrating our passion for what we love and for learning, we pass that on to our students.

“There is nothing more contagious on this planet than enthusiasm. The songs become incidental, what people receive is your joy.” Carlos Santana (Teach Like A Pirate, p65)

The second part of Teach Like A Pirate is all about “crafting engaging lessons”. There are so many ideas, techniques, hints and tips in this section to encourage great classroom practice – I would recommend this section to everyone, and especially anyone looking for help creating engaging learning experiences. It all starts before the students even come into the room…

“If people think something is going to be great they are more likely to experience it as such.” Teach Like A Pirate p122

The third part is all about ‘Building a Better Pirate’. In this part Dave Burgess talks about some personal experiences that have shaped him and gives words of encouragement to those who are finding it a struggle to keep up their passion and enthusiasm.

This book will encourage you, comfort you, inspire you and remind you why you are an educator in the first place!

Go out and Teach Like A Pirate!

#FabEduBooks is supported by Crown House Publishing

Everyone who shares a post on their favourite edubook this September on Pedagoo.org will be entered into a draw at the start of October. The lucky winner will receive a Big Bag of Books from Crown House Publishing.

To find out how to submit your post, click on the following link: Pedagoo.org/newpost


Involving Learners in Planning Learning
September 15, 2015

I’m a big believer in the power of engaging young people in their learning through involving them in the learning process. As Lois Harris argues, if students are going to feel that they own their learning they need to have opportunities to collaborate in the learning process:

Continuum of Learner Engagement (What) and how teachers can achieve these levels of engagement (How). Adapted from Harris (2010).

Continuum of Learner Engagement (What) and how teachers can achieve these levels of engagement (How).
Adapted from Harris (2010).

But how on earth can we as teachers involve our students in planning their learning? I’ve been working on adapting my practice to make this possible for a number of years now, so perhaps I could tell you how to go about doing this yourself?

Well, I’m not going to. My students are. I’d been working with my S1 Science class on developing approaches to involving them in planning learning last session when we were approached by Children in Scotland to participate in their Leaders of Learning project. Children in Scotland, the students and myself worked together over a number of weeks to explore and develop approaches to involve the students in planning their learning to a much greater extent. The project culminated in the students evaluating what we’d done, and producing the following video to communicate what we’d learned together.

Hope you enjoy learning from them, I know I have!

Cross-posted from fkelly.co.uk

What science knows vs what education does

What is the longest period of time you can focus your attention without your mind beginning to wander and your concentration plummeting off a cliff?

Wikipedia states that the maximum attention span for the average human is 5 minutes.  The longest time for healthy teenagers and adults is 20 minutes.

However, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, at the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the average attention span of a human being has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013. This is one second less than the attention span of a goldfish.

Inspiration 4 Teachers Podcast Show8 seconds to a maximum of 20 minutes is a startling difference, and worrying if you are an educator, but there are two key types of attention.  The 8 second attention span is known as ‘transient attention’ which is a short-term response to a stimulus that temporarily attracts or distracts attention.

Where educators need to focus their energy for learning is on selective sustained attention, also known as ‘focused attention’.  It is the level of attention that produces results on a task over time.  But if we only have a maximum of 20 minutes, why are most school lessons constructed around a 50 – 70 minute lesson structure, four to five times a day?  That means in the average school day there are around 20, twenty minute learning opportunities before breaks are considered.  If that seems like a lot, once you add in classroom transient distractions it’s possible that those opportunities for sustained concentration significantly decrease.

How do educators and schools address these lack of opportune moments for learning?  Shorter school days, more frequent lessons or breaks, the options are vast, but this is where we must focus our thought back on what science knows to be true.

Studies into the investigation of physical activity for learning reveal that:

“… breaks throughout the day can improve both student behaviour and learning (Trost, 2007)” (Reilly, Buskist, and Gross, 2012).


Science also reveals that sustained movement-aided learning significantly improves learning rather than purely mental learning activities:

“Movement is an exterior stimulus, and as long as the learner is engaged in his or her learning task the movement indicates that the learner’s attention is directed toward what is being learned. When attention is purely mental (interior) the activity becomes very difficult to sustain, because the nerve and muscle systems are inactive” (Shoval, 2011).

If frequent breaks and connecting the mind and body for learning have been proven to work, why does our education system not evolve based on what science knows?

On episode 35 of the Inspiration 4 Teachers Podcast Show, Rae Pica, host of Studentcentricity and founder of BAM Radio Network, discusses how connecting the mind and body is crucial for learning.  She reveals the ideal mind and body classroom for learning:

If you enjoyed this article please tweet the knowledge forward and share it with your community! 



The Elephant in the Classroom #FabEduBooks

My favourite edubook is The Elephant in the Classroom by Jo Boaler. In the book Boaler talks about the mathematical progress of thousands of students from the UK and USA whom she followed over a number of years from school into their adult life. She also gives some great suggestions of ways in which maths can be taught better in schools.

I remember being skeptical as I didn’t want to read a book which gave you lots of data about what was working in schools and what wasn’t: I didn’t want to read a textbook. However, The Elephant in the Classroom managed to give you the information needed to understand the theory and ways to put this into practice whilst being captivating and informative. I had the book finished within a few days and I read it again this time annotating parts and taking notes for things I wanted to do in the classroom.

Back in 2010 two chapters stood out for me. In “A vision for a better future” Boaler sets out two different ways we can make maths more engaging and meaningful for pupils: a project based approach and a communicative one. As someone who had just finished a PGDE where the approach was to introduce the topic, explain the rules and have students practice them multiple times, I was intrigued to try out something different.

The other chapter was “Making ‘low ability’ children” which in no uncertain terms told me the system “tell(s) children from a very young age, that they are no good at maths”. I was shocked by the bluntness but after thinking about how we ‘set’ pupils from S1 by ability I couldn’t disagree. This started a love/hate relationship with me around setting – something I still think about.

Having picked up the book again to write this post I rediscovered another chapter which I’m going to re-read: “Paying the price for sugar and spice: how girls and women are kept out of maths and science”. I’ve recently spent a bit of time researching the social constructs of gender and how we use these in schools as ways to control behaviour and sort young people into groups. I’m interested to find out what Boaler said…back soon *opens chapter*

#FabEduBooks is supported by Crown House Publishing

Everyone who shares a post on their favourite edubook this September on Pedagoo.org will be entered into a draw at the start of October. The lucky winner will receive a Big Bag of Books from Crown House Publishing.

To find out how to submit your post, click on the following link: Pedagoo.org/newpost


Open-question starter keyring
September 12, 2015

Having shared the following tweet on #PedagooFriday yesterday, lots of teachers have asked me to share the template used to make this resource.

The resource is one that was shared at an in-school twilight CPD on Learning Conversations, just this past Wednesday. About 25 of the staff will be using them over the coming term to support and extend learning conversations as part of a wider school focus on Skills Development. Examples of uses and benefits will emerge as we follow up and share good practice.

Click here to download the template for an open-question starter for Learning Conversations, based on Bloom’s categories.

Use or alter size to fit preference – long strips, credit card, etc.  Print out on six different colours of card. Laminate, punch and clip together with keyring.  Example tweeted used credit card size laminating punches and round hinched binding rings.

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