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The Story of Me – increasing vocabulary recognition.

I am a primary school class teacher, based in Scotland. I teach Primary 2 (age 6 -7 years).

I designed the Story of Me project to promote recall of vocabulary. It was inspired by an article I read recently by Turk et Al (2015) which found that children were more likely to recall target vocabulary if it was used in sentences where they themselves were the subject of the sentence.

At the same time I had been doing lots of work with my class on improving their drawings of themselves. I had been modelling the step by step process I would take to draw a person and discussing with them all the elements that one might think about when trying to represent somebody in an illustration and then, following on from that, how you might illustrate what they are doing in the picture.

I put together the project based on these on these two ideas to see whether co-authoring and the experience of being the subject of both text and illustration could make target words more memorable for children and also to see whether seeing themselves represented by an illustrator would improve their self-portrait skills!

I am currently studying illustration and I was engaged in this project as an illustrator as well as the class teacher (although the children were not aware that some of their stories were being illustrated by me!).

The model was as follows:

  • Identify target group of words for each child – these were a mixture of ‘high frequency words’ and ‘keywords’ from our reading scheme.
  • Children create sentences about themselves using these words.
  • Aspiring children’s illustrators were recruited to work (virtually) with the children in the class – they draw one illustration for each child’s sentence per week.
  • Child is created as a central character so each sentence becomes part of a story about them.
  • Aspiring illustrators gain experience in the creation of a character and placing that character in different situations each week.
  • Illustrations come back to the children via email or online sharing.
  • Over the 4 weeks of the project the children will compile a special book (either a paper book or an e-book) containing an illustrated story about themselves.

The primary aims of the project were as follows:

  • Children develop a strong relationship with the target words and recall them accurately.
  • Illustrators model good quality drawing and illustration for the children and the children develop their ability to draw figures and faces.
  • Illustrators gain experience creating a character and placing it in different situations.

Other intended outcomes:

  • Children get a taste of the collaboration of author and illustrator.
  • Children gain a better understanding of the work of both an author and an illustrator.
  • All children see themselves in the role of an author – they have written a book!
  • Children’s ideas are valued and celebrated.
  • Children themselves are at the centre of the story – they are important and interesting.

The project is now complete and you can see a compilation of our wonderful stories at http://bit.ly/StoryOM2.

There is also a summary of the findings and outcomes of the project against its intended aims.

I hope you enjoy The Story of Me!

Susannah Jeffries

Twitter @mrsjteaches

Instagram @MrsJDraws

 

Closing the mindset gap!

HOW DO WE INCREASE THE ATTAINMENT AND CONFIDENCE OF OUR LEARNERS ACROSS SCOTLAND?

While there is no overall magic bullet, I believe that by creating a growth mindset culture within our schools; we can do much to improve children’s attainment and mental health.

Let’s focus on the issue of closing the attainment gap. The link between attainment and poverty is well documented in education research, including the Joseph Rowntree report on closing the gap. However, working to support parents and teachers to embed a growth mindset culture transcends social class. It does so by raising the bar of expectation, in a way that is realistic, based on credible feedback that is supportive, friendly and person centred. Having increased confidence, resilience, appetite for learning and understanding by working hard and practising different strategies can bridge the deficit when there may be little aspiration or value attached to education in the family home.So, how do we make it practical? Growth mindset has the potential to act as a way of supporting vulnerable learners by working on their resilience and using a growth mindset to increase appetite and engagement with learning and allowing those who have reached a good command of a subject to achieve mastery while enabling everyone to improve. Teachers can fulfil this role as well by thinking about the language they use in class and how they differentiate work for pupils – thinking through their own judgements that are applied to student potential (such as avoiding the use of ‘sets’ at too early a stage; using mixed ability groupings to encourage learning, peer learning opportunities, etc).

Mindset activities within the school should be included within school plans but not necessarily as a separate area for improvement. Think what can growth mindset can do within the context of literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing. Standing back and looking at all activities that happen within the school can create the opportunity to think about teaching and engagement strategies that help learners to seek help, understand their intelligence is not fixed and that everyone can improve in their education.

We need to pay attention to transition points, to language, to the curriculum and in ensuring that everyone across the school community is working hard to promote growth mindset consistently and based on a plan that is right for your particular school and community.

So, what are you going to do today to make mindset real within your school for your pupils, fellow staff and parents? Comment below if you are using mindset to help attainment in your school.

John Paul

Interpersonal Small Group Mediation

The purpose of this guide is to support teachers/tutors in resolving conflicts within Learning Sets through Interpersonal Small Group Mediation strategies. 

As I have expressed in a number of articles on my site collaborativegrouplearning.com, Learning Sets are dynamic group structures designed to engineer and facilitate both effective socialised-learning and social relationships. The three principles of:

1: 6 in number;

2: Heterogeneous in character (diversely mixed);  

3: Sustained overtime;

have the potential to either enable high functioning learning and social relationships or low functioning learning and social relationships. To enable the desired outcome of the Learning Set relationships must be nurtured by all 7 members of the Learning Set; the 6 students and the 1 tutor

As with any group, problems and issues concerning relationships can emerge and if unresolved can evolve into corrosively negative group relations. The key therefore is to enable the successful resolution of substantive, communication and relational problems as they emerge. Vigilance, swift action and mediation on the part of the tutor can enable the group to locate the causes, course and consequences of the problem or issue and with this foster healthier Learning Set relationship.  

A Learning Set’s success is in direct correlation with the strength of the Learning Set’s relationship.

The long term goal is to enable students to better negotiate their own solutions to substantive, communication and relational problems. Students need to recognise that the relationship of the group is the responsibility of every member. Through modelling and interventions such as Learning Set Mediation, students can come to be ever more self-regulating, aware of how to negotiate their way through the complexities of learning and social relationships. Within this process the Learning Set’s tutor plays a key role.

Learning Set Mediation involves:

  • Voluntary participation (all members of the Learning Set agree to it
  • Face-to-face discussions between the parties in conflict facilitated through the tutor as mediator
  • An unbiased mediator who helps those involved to understand each other’s point of view and come to an agreement
  • Equal opportunities for all participants to speak and explain their perspective
  • All relevant information being shared openly by all participants 
  • A shared agreement between the parties
  • Revisiting the agreement to ensure application and resolution  

The Role of the Learning Set Mediator:

As mediator the teacher of tutor’s role is to enable the process of mediation to be undertaken.

The key to effective mediation is the tutors fulfillment of organisational and communication duties. Good communication during the act of mediation is crucial. Good communication involves the mediator putting aside their own views and feelings in order to help the parties listen to and understand each other. To these ends the tutor must place themselves physically within the group acting as a conduit of communication for mediation (discussion-resolution). 

A mediator needs a range of skills, including:

  • Active listening skills;
  • Questioning and clarifying skills (reflective listening, normalizing, reframing) to grasp both the facts and the areas of controversy;
  • Emotional intelligence to understand the underlying emotions;
  • Summarising skills to set out the main points of controversy, and underlying emotions, and also to help the participants to reframe issues in less emotive language; and 
  • Empathy to help each party to stand in each other’s shoes and understand each other’s point of view.

As a mediator the tutor must not take sides, or be seen to be acting unfairly. Acknowledge points made by all parties, and spend equal time with each person or on their issues, enabling them to speak and actively listening. 

The task is complex but is essentially all about being fair, listening to all and enabling all to speak. It is about not reaching a personal judgement but helping the group find an agreement enabling them all to move forward. Enabling, through questioning, to get to the root cause of the problem or issue by helping the group to:

  1. track back from consequences (the present situation);
  2. through the course (he said-she said);
  3. to the cause (where did it begin and why?).

Mediation can be time consuming and will require a number of daily-weekly-monthly sessions, all depending on the nature and complexity of the problem or issue. 

The time spent however can reap rewards for all involved in the long run and for the tutor cement their role as an informed and important member of the Learning Set.

The Mediation Process:

1: Preparation

  • Select a place to conduct the mediation. This should be a neutral and private space, free of interruptions, where the group can sit together in a circle with the mediator sat as part of this circle.
  • Each session should last not more than 20 minutes.
  • When sat in the circle members should be distraction free; nothing in their hands to fiddle with.  
  • Once in the space and sat the mediator needs to introduce themselves, set out the mediator’s role (to be impartial and help to communicate and reach their solution) and lay out the ‘ground rules’ for the mediation process. These should include the basic rules of communication (once voice at a time, eye contact with the speaker, no interruptions, use of a person’s name when referring to them) and confidentiality. 

2: Reconstructing and Understanding the Conflict

Through questioning, active listening, revoicing and management of the group:

  • Enable each member in turn to identify the present situation (the consequence, problem and/or issue)
  • Enable each member in turn to identify their feelings and emotions concerning the present situation (repeat these emotions back to enable all to recognise them)
  • Enable each member in turn to identify how the present situation has come to be (the course of actions towards the present problem and/or issue)
  • Enable each member in turn to identify what they believe the starting point or cause is of the present situation (the cause of the problem and/or issue)

3: Defining Points of Agreement and Dispute

During this stage, the tutor’s role is to help all to move towards a position where they start to understand each other’s point of view, and can then begin to resolve the shared problem.

  • Enable the group to move from a focus on the past to one on the future. 
  • Enable the group to see areas of agreement, commonality and shared feelings.

4: Creating Options for Resolution

  • Enable the group to develop options for resolution.
  • Help the group select the most likely to succeed option (relevant, achievable, suits all parties). 
  • When relevant offer tools to aid the successful application of the preferred option (Communication Cards, Learning Set Role Cards, Learning Set Report)
  • When relevant help the group to develop evaluation criteria, which should ideally be objective and in order of importance, for the successful application of the agreed option.

5: Moving Forward 

  • Enable the group to agree to the proposed resolution.
  • When relevant set the group or individuals SMART targets to enable the successful application of the resolution. 
  • Agree a follow up meeting to discuss how things are moving forward. 

A Potential Mediation Script:

1: Preparation

“Thank you for making the time to be here today  and thank you for joining the circle.”

“This is not about blaming anyone but a chance for us all to understand what the situation is, what has happened and how it is effecting you all.” 

“My role in this process is to be impartial, listening to what you all say and helping you all through effective communication reach a solution to the present situation so that we can all move forward.”

“Before we begin there are some ground rules to cover. For this to work well we must apply the basic rules of communication which are once voice at a time, eye contact with the speaker, no interruptions and the use of a person’s name when referring to them. Everyone will have many chances to speak and I would like to remind you all that everything you say here today is confidential. However if you say something that makes me really concerned about your safety and wellbeing I will have to report it to…”

2: Reconstructing and Understanding the Conflict

“Let’s take it in turn to share our thoughts and feelings about the situation. (name) will start first and we will move around the group in a clockwise direction listening to what everyone has to say”. 

“….what is the problem/issue/situation as you see it?” “How does this affect you?”

“….what has been happening to get to this point, can you think of any situations or examples of things that have happened?” “What has been your involvement?”

“I think I understand what you are saying, is it right to say that…”

“What started all this off?”

“What do you feel has caused this situation/to get out of control?”

3: Defining Points of Agreement and Dispute

“The past is just that, what can we do together to move forward? …what do you feel we could do?”

“I hear what you are saying, what do you…feel?”

“What I noticed when you were talking this through is that you agreed about…”

“Can we use what you agree about as starting point for a possible solution?”

4: Creating Options for Resolution

“Do you believe…that this is an effective resolution? How would you make it better? Who agrees/disagrees? What’s your opinion…?”

“I agree/disagree that the option you are suggesting will be the most effective at resolving the situation because…What are your thoughts…?” 

“What resources could I offer you to help you all move forward? Perhaps….would be of use.”

“I think that those evaluation criteria will work really well because…”

“I feel that some of those evaluation criteria could be enhanced a little, for example…”

5: Moving Forward 

“Do we all agree to the proposed resolution? Why do you…agree to the resolution? Why do you…disagree to the resolution?” 

“What would be the best SMART targets that you feel you could all follow to ensure that…”

“We will meet again…in order to see how things are moving forward, is this ok with everybody?” 

Developed with help from:

http://www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/mediation-skills.html#ixzz427eU7BsP (accessed 06/03/16)

Thorsborne. M., & Vinegrad. D. ( 2011) Restorative Justice Pocketbook, Teachers Pocketboks. Hampshire.

Ongoing research into situated group dynamics.

Creativity in teaching: Creative Pedagogy

In a previous article (ICT enhanced teaching and learning or ‘digital pedagogy‘) I shared my current work, commissioned by UCL IOE on behalf of the Government of Macedonia, concerning ICT, pedagogy and more broadly creativity within education. This article outlines my thoughts relating to creativity in teaching and creative teaching or ‘creative pedagogy’.

Why do we need creativity in teaching and education? 

The post modern knowledge society we find ourselves part of requires much more from todays learners and their teachers. Traditional approaches to the teaching of the triumvirate of knowledge, understanding and skills is no longer an appropriate preparation of adolescent learners for their place in our Brave New World (see for example Long, 1990; Field, 2000; Skidmore, 2003; Alheit, 2009 for a discussion of how education systems need to respond to global economic and social change).

Creative pedagogies which actively foster a learning orientation (Watkins et al., 2002), a willingness to learn (see Skidmore, 2003, p.15), and the attributes that could enable a capacity to engage with learning lifelong (Yaxlee, 1929) and lifewide (Ekholm and Hard, 2000, p.18; Alheit, 2009, p.117), offer a route to empowering students with the cognitive and social tools that would enable them to positively interact with an unknown future (see Costa, 1991; Broadfoot, 1996, p.23; Costa and Liebman, 1997; Skidmore, 2003, p.14; Watkins et al., 2007, p.18; Costa and Kallick, 2009).

What is the relationship between creative pedagogy and effective learning?

If the most effective learning results from an active process of engagement with learning (Ireson, 2008, p.6) in order to achieve premeditated goals (Resnich, 1987) then what can activate this process? Illeris (2007) suggests that this active process is stimulated by the interactions between three dimensions of learning, content, incentive and environment, a theory supported by Claxton (1999), Watkins et al. (2002) and Ireson (2008). When such an interaction process is placed within a social context, such as the classroom, a further tri-directional relationship is activated between rules, tools and community, all of which shapes the activation, direction and nature of learning (Engestrom, 1987, 2009).

At the heart of this paradigm is an acceptance of the enabling role of social factors, a central tenet of constructivist, social- constructivist and particularly social-constructionist philosophies championed by Piaget (1923), Vygotsky (1978) and Burr (1999). Learning as a social process is explored throughout the literature relating to effective learning (see Lave and Wenger, 1991; Watkins, 2005), cooperative learning (Johnson and Johnson, 1999) and collaborative learning (Gratton, 2015). A valid interpretation therefore is that if we are to engineer effective learning processes and opportunities we must consider and exploit the social nature of learning and to do so requires creativity.

What is creativity and creative teaching?

Of the various creative attempts by teachers to socialise classroom learning and to facilitate effective learning, such as Dialogic Teaching and Learning (Lefstein, 2010), Think>Pair>Share (Lyman, 1981), AfL (see Black et al., 2004) and Collaborative Group Learning (Gratton2015), the most beneficial methodologies seem to be those seeking to engineer and facilitate cooperation-collaboration between learners. Whatever the methodology one thing unifies them all, creative teachers and creative teaching practices.

The most effective methodologies are created and delivered by the most creative of teachers working in creative educational environments. A creative pedagogy is recognised within a teachers ability to develop something novel and adapt to new situations in order to enable effective learning. Unusual solutions alongside originality are visible parts of creativity (Hackbert, 2010; Lemons, 2005). Lin (2011) describes creative teaching from three different perspectives: creative teaching, teaching for creativity and creative learning; referring to them as creative pedagogy. We are particularly interested in Lin’s (2011) conception of creative teaching in particular. Creative teaching, focuses on teaching and teacher’s actions (Lin, 2011, see also Sawyer, 2004, 2006). Lin (2011) draws on Craft (2005) referring to creative teaching as a creative, innovative and imaginative approach to teaching. These ideas are extended by Sawyer (2004, 2006) who emphasises a creative teacher’s ability to use improvisational elements within their lessons. The creative teacher lives in the moment, acting spontaneously, courageously and confidently taking the ideas that have arisen from the student learners and change the lesson to finish it in another and arguable better way (Sawyer, 2004, 2006). This definition of creative pedagogy reflects both a creative teaching practice and the widely  recognised tenets of effective learning facilitation. It also highlights a crucial aspect of creative teaching, the capacity to be creative within ones teaching.

Creativity is a multi-dimensional and complex phenomenon (Toivanen et al., 2013). Conceptions of creativity sit within four dimensions: the creative person, product, process or environment (Lemons, 2005; McCammon et al., 2010). We are interested in the creative person, specifically a teaching professional, their creative product in the form of creative teaching methodology (Aleinikov, 1989) and the environment which enables creativity to occur (Lemons, 2005). Creativity is described, within the research literature, as a process and an inseparable part of its surrounding culture (Toivanen et al., 2013).

How do we enable creative pedagogy? 

Case studies such as High Tech High (San Diego), UCL Academy (London) and Ørestad Gymnasium (Copenhagen) reflect the existence of the four dimensions of creativity outlined above, in particular the creative environment or context. It has been recognised (Kim, 2010, 2011) that to enable creativity within teachers, education systems need to empower all to develop characteristics and attributes associated with creative practice; self-motivation, confidence, curiosity and flexibility. Flexibility within teachers and within school systems is the most important of these enabling states. Without flexibility, trust and the promotion of teacher agency, measured risks can’t be taken; with risk central to creativity (Cleeland, 2012). We can expect a certain degree of creativity from our teachers but to enable teachers to be highly creative in their approaches to enacting effective learning then the capacity to do so needs to be nurtured and supported.  Enabling teaching professionals, through training and support, to have a growth mindset (Dweck, 2012), to develop their own agency for enhanced professional practices (Priestly et al., 2012) and empowering them to form and use collaborative networks in order to enable a sustained application of a creative pedagogy are vital.

The type of society dictates the type of pedagogy. Our society requires a creativity, creative people and a creative pedagogy. As such it is up to those that shape education, in all its facets, to enable a creative pedagogy to be realised.

Presently I am undertaking some design and teaching work for UCL IOE on behalf of the Government of Macedonia. I am fortunate to be part of a small team developing a training program for the Macedonian Secondary Teachers ITT course and as part of this group I am leading on ICT enhanced teaching and learning and Creative teaching.

ICT enhanced teaching and learning: digital pedagogy.

At the moment I am undertaking some design and teaching work for UCL IOE on behalf of the Government of Macedonia. I am fortunate to be part of a small team developing a training program for the Macedonian Secondary Teachers ITT course and as part of this group am leading on ICT enhanced teaching and learning and Creative teaching. Below are my initial thoughts concerning ICT enhanced teaching and learning or ‘digital pedagogy’.

Why do we need ICT enabled teaching and learning and what is its relationship with effective learning?

It is my belief that learning results from an active process of engagement with learning in order to achieve premeditated goals (Ireson, 2008; Resnich, 1987). This process is enabled through cognitive and physical interactions between three dimensions of learning, content, incentive and environment, (Illeris, 2007) with the environment conceptualised as a tri-directional relationship between rules, tools and community, shaping the activation, direction and nature of learning (Engestrom, 1987, 2009). As in the cases of an active, critical and creative pedagogy, ICT enabled teaching and learning and a possible digital pedagogy should reflect this articulation of effective learning.

Students beginning their secondary level education will never have lived in a world without the internet or computers. Those in primary level education will never have experienced a world without smart phones. Such rapid advances have arguably revolutionised the way in which we learn, play communicate and socialise (Mouza and Lavigne 2013). This Net Gen (Tapscott, 2008) have Grown up Digital (Tapscott, 2009) and with this have developed a capacity to engage with the multimedia landscape, without being fully conscious of such a process, in such a way as to become more knowledgeable and skilled.

A utopian view of digitally enhanced self-directed learning (such as that championed by Sugata Mitra) is not the consensus. Many signal warnings with relation to digitally enhanced learning outside and within the classroom (see for example Bauerlein, 2008; and Twenge, 2006). Without seeking to undermine the well constructed arguments of the critics of digitally enhanced learning, I am confident that educators were equally concerned when chalk boards and textbooks were introduced into the classroom for the very first time. Whatever our sense or personal opinion about this new culture, as educators we can not ignore its existence or its obvious value and potential for enhancing effective learning. This is particularly true when it is evidently such an important aspect of the rapidly changing youth environment (Weigel et. al., 2010) and a symbiotic facet of our post modern knowledge society (see for example Long, 1990; Field, 2000; Skidmore, 2003; Alheit, 2009 for a discussion of how education systems need to respond to global economic and social change). To prepare through a formal education for an unknown future a creative pedagogy which empowers learners, is required. ICT enabled teaching and learning, what may be called a digital pedagogy, would be an example of such a creative approach to teaching and learning relevant to todays student learners. Such a pedagogy should be based on 1: understanding how new digital media can complement or enhance effective learning processes 2: how new digital media skills can be taught through an adapted curriculum and 3: a sustainable capacity to harness technology and new digital media to enhance all functions of the ‘teacher’.

What is ICT enabled teaching and learning?

According to Halverson and Smith (2010) Technologies for Learning are generic tools that define learning goals, develop structures to guide students, and in some cases provide measures of learning outcomes regardless of motivation or the ability of individual learners (see for example Khan Academy and MOOCS). Technologies for learners emphasise student agency by allowing learners to select their own route through their learning journey. These have begun to be increasingly prevalent in out of school contexts. Yet the enabled teacher could seek to enhance their practice and the learning of others by adopting such technologies within classrooms, forming a greater interface between the learner and the duel facilitator (teacher and technology). Bridging formal and informal learning contexts through augmentation of the digital and physical classroom could stimulate the most effective forms of learning. These digital technologies which support effective learning could be separated into 4 areas: Technologies that support,

  • Learning to understand and create;
  • Learning by collaboration;
  • Anytime, anyplace learning; and
  • Learning by Gaming (Mouza and Lavigne, 2013).

In addition to technologies for learning and learners, differing models of the relationship between humans and the digital domain where learning, of some form, happens can be conceptualised. The ‘Solarian model’ (Sternberg, 2010) of people in isolation learning online, a second model of distance learning where learners nominally work with unseen others, a third model of students working physically together in a 1:1 technology rich classroom undertaking lessons presented online, a fourth model of ICT enabled interactive group-inquiry taking place within a classroom environment where physical and online interactions can take place and a fifth ‘blended’ model where a fluid (solo-local-global) relationship of learning networks with pre-meditated and/or collaboratively co-constructed goals emerge (see for example the investigation into the causes of SARS in 2003). For the classroom teacher seeking to develop a digital pedagogy the above models may be considered but the most effective practitioners of a digital pedagogy will be those that collaboratively construct models relevant to their own contexts.

An effective framework has been developed by Law et. al. (2011) which can be used to model, implement, assess and evaluate levels of innovativeness within six dimensions of ICT enabled teaching innovation. These dimensions of Learning objectives, Teacher’s role(s), Students’ role(s), ICT used, Connectedness, and Multiplicity of learning outcomes exhibited, reflect features of professional practice within the online and physical classroom. Application of such practices combined with an understanding of the technologies and models of an applied ICT enhanced approach to teaching and learning is what is commonly being called a ‘Blended Learning’ methodology.

How do we enable a digital pedagogy? 

Plomp, Brummelhuis and Rapmund (1996) discuss the concept of emergent pedagogical practices arising out of the implementation of ICT within classroom based teaching and learning. They consider issues related to the management of change associated with integrating ICT into teaching and learning. Process is not just adoption of new technologies. The process must also, if it is to be sustainable and highly effective, produce new learning outcomes and new ‘creative’ modes of learning. Exposure to good practice case studies and the creative use of digital tools such as the Google Apps package or the educational use of so called ‘learning platforms’ is vital, but to impose ‘off the peg’ solutions such as IWB’s (see the 2007 IOE study) or expecting digital literacy from educators would fail to create an ecologically sustainable model of digital practice within education. This process of innovation is gradual and must begin with ITT and maintained throughout the lifespan of an educators professional practice. The approach outlined by Law et. al. (2011) should be coupled with,

  • ongoing teacher exposure to existing innovative practices;
  • awareness of developments in new digital media and technology;
  • the creation of an enabling environment for creativity and innovation; and, fundamentally
  • a teachers capacity to ask the question How will this enable and enhance the most effective learning?

Tools such as those developed by Law et. al. (2011) and an application of a taxonomy of digital and information literacies linked to Bloom’s Taxonomy,  such as that developed by Beetham and Sharpe (2013), would begin a learning focused engagement with ICT enhanced teaching and learning. To direct training and ‘innovation’ is ‘to do to’, but to empower and enable an educator to direct their own engagement with ICT enabled teaching and learning would reap a more fruitful digital pedagogy.

As has been discussed in previous articles on this site it is flexibility within teachers and within school systems which enables creativity in teaching, and what is more creative than coopting technologies and new digital media to the pursuit of organised effective learning? Without flexibility, trust and the promotion of teacher agency, measured risks can’t be taken; with risk central to creativity (Cleeland, 2012). Enabling teaching professionals, through training and support, to have a growth mindset (Dweck, 2012), to develop their own agency for enhanced professional practices (Priestly et al., 2012) and empowering them to form and use collaborative networks in order to enable a sustained application of a digital pedagogy are vital.

Differentiated CPD – It’s The Future! I’ve Tasted It!

Have you ever been forced to sit through a whole day training session on an area of teaching you consider to be one of your strengths? Has a trainer visited your school to say that you should be teaching in a style that really wouldn’t work for you? Did you go to the same Teachmeet as me last year where an ‘Educational Consultant’ stood up and spent ten minutes telling a room full of qualified teachers what the difference is between formative and summative assessment? (She gave me her business card if anyone’s interested.) How about a death by Powerpoint experience? An evangelist with an annoying amount of enthusiasm for an idea that’s a tiny bit rubbish? If you are like me, the answer will be yes to all of these questions.

It’s funny how we are all busy differentiating our lessons for the benefit of the children we teach. But what about our learning? How can we make sure that we are getting the CPD we need to be the best we can be? The answer is something like Pedagoo Hampshire.

A menu selection of 40 mini seminars, each delivered by different speakers who ranged from primary, secondary and further education teachers from across the south east of England, was available to choose from before arrival. After a talk by @graham_irisc which set the tone superbly, it was off to the starter course – Telescopic Education by @chrischivers2 and Collaboration by @hayleymc2222. Hayley bought to the table a plethora of suggestions on who to follow in the Twitter world as well as some wise words on how to organise a Teachmeet – something I would recommend to anyone looking to develop their own, as well as their school’s teaching and learning philosophy and delivery. I love the fact that Hayley organised one in her NQT year – amazing! It was nice to get a mention on one of Hayley’s slides (they say everyone is famous for 5 minutes don’t they?) but I didn’t let this go to my head. Instead, I concentrated on the importance of learning from each other. Next, Chris Chivers stimulated a discussion between a group of primary teachers on the barriers faced when trying to implement a bottom-up teaching model to secure progress. Admittedly, the group digressed into a sharing of ideas on curriculum enrichment and CPD opportunities and what the barriers to these are instead. The message was loud and clear – lots of teachers feel scared to digress from the core subjects – a terrible shame in my opinion, and that of my peers in the group.

The sorbet course to cleanse the pallet came in the guise of @basnettj on giving pupils feedback and @lizbpattison on how differentiation might just be counter-productive. There were some great discussions generated around the importance of involving students in feedback. I raised the question of peer feedback in mixed ability groups and whether this can work for the higher attainer – I haven’t yet found my answer. Then my clever (sorry I mean able/gifted/talented *delete as applicable) friend Liz stepped up with some fascinating thoughts on the effectiveness of differentiation on the growth mindset we are all looking to expand. What did I take away from her talk? Well, it reinforced my view that differentiation is brilliant when done properly but can be disastrous when done badly – as it was for Liz during her school days when she was labelled ‘middle ability.’ (You wouldn’t know it to hear her now!) Unfortunately for Liz, but fortunately for us, she still can’t let it go, which means I am very much looking forward to hearing about the research she continues to do into the subject.

The main course was a corned beef and pickle sandwich (me) paired with a fillet steak and triple cooked chips (@graham_irisc). Graham invited a discussion on what is important to focus on – is it inspection? Is it budgets? Is it the standard of biscuits in the staffroom? No, the room came to the conclusion it was teaching & learning. Although, in my opinion, biscuits definitely feed into this. (Pardon the very accidental pun) Then it was my turn to evangelise on the benefits of empowering middle leaders along with some tips on how these vital members of staff can empower themselves to deliver brilliant learning experiences for their pupils. Thank you to everyone who turned up – I hadn’t slept for a week wondering if I still would have delivered my presentation to an empty room! I think I would have – it would have been a terrible waste to have not given it an airing.

And then, just when the full-up sleepy feeling started to take over, there was @natalielovemath to wake us up from our slumber with a very inspiring talk on using objects bought from Poundland to enrich Maths lessons. I don’t teach Maths anymore and this session only served to make me sad about this fact. Although, the idea of pasta graphs, children writing on disposable table cloths and sticking numbers on fly-swatters have been enthusiastically received by the Maths teachers at my school! Then, just when I thought things couldn’t get any more surreal (in a brilliant and inspiring way!) @haslemeremuseum extracted woolen brains from a poor Egyptian rag doll. Learning through objects is very under-rated and can be the key to unlock the door of learners who struggle to take an interest.

Before departing, the classy port and cheese board came in the form of @lcll_director who pressed home the need for using days like this to actually make changes in our practice. “All of these brilliant ideas are no good just stored in our heads,” murmured the rag doll from session 4.

So there we have it – a day of differentiated CPD just for me. Imagine if groups of schools got together to do this at the start of every school year – giving teachers a choice of CPD suited just to them through the sharing of strengths and passions of their peers. Would that be better than a whole-school INSET day which doesn’t differentiate for the needs of every learner; in this case, teachers? I think so. How about you?

Engineering the Learning Set: A Socialised-learning Capacity

From the start I have been adamant that my doctoral research was of a nature that could have a true practical application rather than merely concerning itself with theory and principle. My research has resulted in an emergent understanding of the ‘Reality’ of learning as, with and because of a group, which has led to a redefined approach towards the initial construction of the group which seeks to enhance the socialised-learning process of collaboration within the classroom.

I have written about the theory, principles, practice and outcomes of constructing or ‘engineering’ such a group in a number of previous articles and will seek to avoid unnecessary repetition:
3 PRINCIPLES FOR CONSTRUCTING COLLABORATIVE LEARNING GROUPS
HOME & AWAY: CONSTRUCTING A COLLABORATIVE LEARNING GROUP

As such the focus of this article is upon the application of an eighth applied criteria when initially constructing the group; a socialised-learning capacity.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

One of the most fundamental aspects of Collaborative Group Learning is the construction of the initial group; the Learning Set. When applied to an educational context a student would be placed into an ‘appropriate’ group of 6 (the Learning Set) based on the following criteria to ensure Principal 3 (heterogeneity) of Learning Set construction is achieved:

academic profile
any additional learning needs
gender
reading age
socio-economic background
socio-cultural background
prior educational establishment e.g. Primary or Middle School

Ensuring that the Learning Set represents a balanced mix of the above criteria has been a successful means of enhancing the heterogeneity of knowledge, understanding and skill potential of the Learning Set as a whole, with that ‘whole being greater than the sum of its parts’. But what has been illuminated through my empirical research is that more was needed in terms of recognising and understanding the ‘parts’ and considering each individual in more depth before constructing the Learning Set.

As such I have devised and implemented an eighth criteria to the construction of a Learning Set;
8. a socialised-learning capacity.

Understanding the Learner

To gain a greater understanding about each learner before determining which individuals should be placed together to create an effective collaborative learning group I designed and applied (to a cohort of 180 11 year old students) a questionnaire comprising open and closed questions of a quantitative and qualitative nature.
These questions were designed to gather general information about the individual which could prove useful pre-knowledge (for example their language ability and their access to the internet at home), gain information relating to criteria 3, 6 and 7 of the heterogeneity principle, and questions which sought to elicit information about the individuals beliefs concerning learning and education and to determine the learners academic self-concept (the Myself As a Learner questionnaire was incorporated into the wider questionnaire to achieve this). In total the questionnaire comprised 51 questions in 3 sections (Tell me about you, Your views about yourself, Learning) and took between 25 and 45 minutes to complete.

Assessing an Individuals Socialised-learning Capacity

To ascertain an individuals ‘potential’ socialised-learning capacity a ‘crude’ point score system was applied to responses relating to the following questions:

Do you like learning the best…(mostly on your own, mostly with others, I don’t know)
Do you like helping others to learn? (Yes-No)
Even if this means you don’t get all your work done? (Yes-No)
Do you get frustrated when other people ask you for help? (Yes-No)
When learning in a group which role do you think you are most likely to take? (options provided)
I find it easy to work with others (MAL scale)
What are you motivated to learn the most by? (options provided)
I can make friends easy (MAL scale)
Which subjects do you believe you are good at? (number of selected subjects used to determine overall subject confidence)

A higher point value was assigned to a response which aligned with a belief which indicated a positive capacity for socialised-learning and a lower point value for a negative capacity for socialised-learning. A total of 23 points were available, with 23 indicating a highly positive capacity for socialised-learning. Once applied a point score was assigned to each individual, with point scores relating to this cohort ranging from 23 down to 5, and 3 coloured bands applied to aid categorisation (Red 0-11, Amber 12-16, Green 17-23). Both the band and the point score was then considered when assigning students to a group seeking to create a balanced mix of socialised-learning capacities.

Assessing an Individuals Academic Self-concept

By incorporating the well established Myself As a Learner suite of 23 multiple choice questions within this questionnaire it was possible to apply the MAL point scoring system and identify each individuals academic self-concept as a numerical score ranging from 53 (low self-concept) too 98 (high self-concept). As with the socialised-learning capacity point score 3 coloured bands were applied to aid categorisation (Red 0-69, Amber 70-79, Green 80-98). Both the band and the point score was then considered when assigning students to a group seeking to create a balanced mix of academic self-concept.

Constructing the Learning Set

Combining the two point scores, socialised-learning capacity and academic self-concept, and producing a third data set banded again into 3 colours (Red 0-79, Amber 80-99, Green 100-120) a new ‘total’ score was created for the mean of group allocation. By ‘reading’ both the point score and banded colours of each of the three categories, as well as considering the 7 criteria outlined above individuals could now be ‘matched’ to others in order to create a balanced and mixed group of learners.

1         2                       3      4     5       6      7
Girl     Islam                        12    71     83     2
Girl     No religion               15   62      77     2
Girl     No religion               16   96     112    2
Boy     Islam                       17    83     100   2
Boy    Judaism            Y     20    71     91     2
Boy    Christianity               21    89    110    2

The above highlights how the Learning Set (column 7) was constructed considering:

  1. gender
  2. identified socio-cultural background
  3. level of English language proficiency (EAL)
  4. socialised-learning capacity
  5. academic self-concept
  6. combined capacity and concept.

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This new approach was applied in the construction of a new cohort of Learning Sets in the summer of 2015. These individuals have been learning with, as and because of their Learning Sets for 6 academic weeks. So far observations of interactions and the nature of the socialised-learning being undertaken indicates that this more considered and detailed approach to group construction may have achieved its aim of enhancing the socialised-learning process of collaboration within the classroom. I will continue to observe the effects of this approach to grouping and will share my reflections in future articles.

If you want to know more about the approach undertaken or any aspect of Collaborative Group Learning feel free to contact me at rgratton.cgl@gmail.com

Thank you #rEDScot
Image by @dgilmour

It’s a bit like standing above a pool of cold, deep water and daring to jump in, isn’t it? My first Pedagoo post…..Can I do it? Think how good I’ll feel if I do…..No, I’m too scared……I’ll let him just go first…..Oh no wait, now he’s beaten me too it….I’m useless……Oh maybe not….deep breath….Splash!!

Back in the spring of last year I got caught up in a Twitter debate about the need for teachers to engage in research. Whilst I could absolutely see the point of what was being said, I asked how on earth teachers were supposed to fit in research along with the hundreds of other tasks that fill their days (and nights). Wasn’t creating an expectation that they should do research just another way of making them feel inadequate when they couldn’t find the time?

And then came my discovery of the debunking of Brain Gym and Learning Styles. “What?” I cried, feeling entirely defensive and embarrassed at having launched a ‘Learn to Learn’ programme in several schools which has both within its content…..”But I DID research around those! I read shiny, published books by Alistair Smith and others and they’d done LOADS of research in writing those books….” I felt let down (as well as stupid) and thought indignantly that if, as teachers, we don’t have time personally to do the research, we should surely be able to trust the ‘big names and the shiny books’.

And in such a frame of mind, my eye fell upon a tweet from Mark Healy about researchED Scotland. Late to the Twitter party and not at all knowledgeable about researchED, I decided to go along and see whether it would be able to help me with my malaise about the relationship between educational research and practice.

What was I expecting? Maybe something above my head and overly intellectual. I suspected, having driven for 2 hours to get there, that I might duck out at lunchtime and get back to my family. It was Saturday, after all.

What did I find? Passion, connection, challenge and stimulation and some answers to my questions, plus a few more questions to ponder…Do I have any part to play in the research debate as someone who fell for Brain Gym? Yes, as Tom Bennett said, everyone within the education eco-system has a right to talk to everyone else in that system.

Is the research always 100% to be trusted? No. As George Gilchrist said, sometimes we stop, take stock and have to ask “what have we been doing for the last five years?” before moving on and trying something different. What worked 2, 5 or 10 years ago may not work any more.

If the research provides compelling evidence that we should teach in a particular way, should we ignore it? No, said Anne Glennie. Not in terms of teaching reading and when we are risking the future wellbeing and life-chances of our children.

Is IQ testing outmoded as a useful benchmark? No; Andrew Sabisky has a LOT of data and evidence that proves otherwise. Can it assess all types of intelligence? No… but then the definition of intelligence is the stuff of another huge debate…

Can we half-do Mindset interventions? Mark Healy and Marc Smith would argue not. Everyone in the institution needs to understand the theory and walk and talk the values. But this can be problematic when the system we are working in is based on different values. Character education must be a good thing, right? Not necessarily. Gary Walsh explained that the jury is out and that we need to continue to seek hard evidence of its benefits.

And where exactly is the love? Well, my love has found a new recipient. His name is David Cameron and my tweet, after attending his session was “Your talk today was the most inspirational 40 minutes of my educational life. You are my new hero and I actually love you.”

The key messages of his talk? Don’t be blinded by research that isn’t. Don’t allow politics to rule education. Use relevant, pertinent data to inform developments. And “it is better to try in the face of incorrectness than to give up on children’s lives.”

I stayed until the bitter end and was sorry not to be able to join the others in the pub after the final panel session. I left with my faith in research, passion and debate restored. I know to be a little more cautious of the big names and shiny books in future….but also that passion and meaningful research can combine to create the best possible outcomes for our learners. Thank you so much to all those who made it happen and brought researchED to Scotland.

Shocking CPD

Two and a half hours of death by PowerPoint and where the only engagement with a hall of teachers were mini exercises, that if you had pre-read the course material you would have found all of the answers. I’ve been subjected to some pretty poor CPD events, and it makes me angry! Our profession works incredibly hard to raise the aspirations of learners and to ensure that we all have a better future, yet we are often subjected to poor CPD! I want to learn and improve my professional development; any teacher worth their salt wants the same.

Ideas Thoughts Knowledge Intelligence Learning Thoughts MeetingBut how do we construct CPD environments where teachers receive rich professional learning? WE have to construct it for ourselves! On episode 26 of the Inspiration 4 Teachers Podcast Show, Bill Lucas Director of the Centre for Real-World Learning and Professor of Learning at the University of Winchester, shares his experience of teacher research groups to divulge his discoveries on developing rich professional learning communities for schools.

Together Bill and I discuss thought-provoking ideas on constructing safe CPD opportunities for teachers to allow them to develop strategies for experimental learning.

Episode take-aways:

  • Developing rich professional learning communities for schools
  • Constructing safe CPD opportunities for teachers to develop strategies for experimental learning
  • Being brave and honest about the true importance of education

What has been your worst and best CPD experience? What would be our commandments for exceptional CPD?  

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

INSPIRATION 4 TEACHERS

BRINGING YOU INTERVIEWS WITH INSPIRING PEOPLE WHO ARE CHANGING THE FACE OF EDUCATION!

 

The future leaders challenge

Is leadership greatness beyond our reach? Many would have us think so! But the great leaders are everyday people willing to put themselves forward, to do the everyday, day after day, in order to make a change.

Leadership

But how many great leaders are out there, secretly loitering in the corridors or recesses of school classrooms that don’t perceive their own potential, or believe in their own ability? What are the barriers that hold people back?

At a recent women in leadership event, I discovered some startling facts about women in senior leadership roles. For a profession dominated by women, only 38% of them aspire to headship roles, and women in those roles earn significantly less than their male counterparts! Why is this, and is this why so few women become head teachers?

There are many barriers that prevent women stepping up:

  • The sandwich effect, looking after young children and / or caring for elderly parents
  • Risk associated with increasing accountability measures in schools
  • Lack of good, visible role models
  • Inflexible leadership progression routes and unclear succession planning
  • Blockades created by governors and stakeholder organisations

The list goes on, however the one barrier that sticks in my mind and it is not necessarily a gender issue but a common human flaw, is that we tend to support, encourage and champion talent that looks like us and who we can relate to! But that is not a sound basis for developing future leaders. These barriers should be challenged but in a way that generates thought-provoking discussion about cultivating leadership talent that will create schools that foster dynamic, resilient and prepared learners.

Jill Berry, a former head is one person challenging the barriers women face into leadership roles. Together on episode 22 of the Inspiration 4 Teachers Podcast Show Jill and I discuss how removing some of the leadership barriers can cultivate an environment where talent can flourish.

Episode take-aways:

  • How current leaders can create a talent environment where aspiring leaders are nurtured
  • Enriching professional development
  • Strategies for building relationships

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

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