Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in comments
Search in excerpt
Search in posts
Search in pages
Search in groups
Search in users
Search in forums
Filter by Categories
Admin
Assessment
Book
Creativity
Curricular Areas
Curriculum
English
Expressive Arts
History
ICT
Ideas
Implementation
Involving Pupils
Leadership
Literacy
mag
Maths
Modern Languages
PE
Pedagoo
Pedagoo@PL
PedagooFriday
PedagooGlasgow
PedagooLondon
PedagooReflect
PedagooResolutions
PedagooSunshine
Professional Learning
Qualification
Research
Resource
Resource
Science
Scottish Learning Fringe
SLFringe
Social Studies
SOLO
TeachMeets
Technologies
tmlovelibraries
Uncategorized
xmasparty
Running-based Learning Along The Pennine Way
Ultimate ultrarunner?Ultimate ultrarunner?

Going The Extra Miles For Sport Relief

Think like an athlete: Focus on what you want

Think like an athlete: Focus on what you want

This is an account of a unique pilot project designed and delivered by Andy Mouncey to a selection of schools in the north of England. Andy is not a teacher – he is a record-setting endurance athlete who is a professional speaker and trainer across sport, business and education. A list of participating schools, reaction and film clicks can be found www.bigandscaryrunning.com This account was written by Andy not long after Sport Relief day earlier this year:

Unless you were the TV personality Davina McCall, most people ran a mile for Sport Relief back in March. What Miss McCall didn’t know as she called into Edale primary school during her Edinburgh to London fund-raising triathlon was that pupils, staff and parents were also near the end of their own endurance challenge laid down by me some five months previously:

  • Run 268 miles – the equivalent length of The Pennine Way (TPW) – with the final mile as the Sport Relief Mile
  • Raise money for Sport Relief
  • Record their experiences in a training diary

In return I would teach them how to think and behave like an endurance athlete so that they could:

  • Raise aspirations and learn to persevere through setbacks
  • Develop a goal-orientated mindset
  • Experience the challenge and pride of working together to help others
Running a loooong way for Sport Relief

Running a loooong way for Sport Relief

Skills they could use to make any future challenge – like sitting exams or moving school – seem simple, straightforward and compelling.

It just so happens that Edale primary school sits directly opposite the end of The Pennine Way national trail. This is important because the catalyst for this challenge was my attempt to complete The Spine Race, Britain’s most brutal ultramarathon in which runners have seven days to cover the full length of TPW most walkers take three weeks to complete. The catch? The race takes place in January in winter and I had already failed once – only getting as far as 105 miles in 2013. For Edale primary school there was another hurdle; with a total number of 13 pupils there were not very many children to share the miles around. Step up mums, dads and members of staff…

By the time race day arrived in January I had recruited 13 schools along or close to TPW and 1600 pupils to my ‘Cracking The Spine’ challenge. I had visited all those schools three times which made for an awful lot of new friends. Pupils could watch the race in real-time online and send messages via social media because all the runners wore tracking devices. Despite the combined will of 1600 children urging me on I dropped out of the race at 160 miles having battled creeping hypothermia for most of three days. My visits back to the schools after the race were ‘interesting’ to say the least!

To the staff, however, my failure to finish for a second time was an unexpected bonus because it challenged some of the key messages children see and hear via the media:

Success is easy, quick, and it’s something that someone else gives you

Inspiration

Inspiration

I – who they had got to know as someone who did some mad stuff and was really quite like them as well – had just made personal a lesson that we all come to sooner or later:

‘(Meaningful) success isn’t easy, it rarely happens in a straight line or when you want it, and it’s something YOU need to work at. So when it does happen – as it will if you practice the skills of perseverance – it is a life-enhancing experience.’

I will be back at The Spine Race in January 2015.

I have to because I am also making a film of the whole project and every film needs an end. There is also 1600 children who want to see me finish the job. ‘Cracking The Spine’ will be an improved version available to schools from September. A first grant has just been awarded by Big Lottery Awards For All scheme and other grant funding routes for participating schools are opening up.

Outcomes from the pilot? Money raised £7,200.  All the schools reached their 268 mile target and many clocked up much more. Total miles run stands at 4572.

One secondary school pupil ran the full 268 miles on his own, one primary school pupil covered 100 miles and raised £1000, four families from one primary school clocked up over 300 miles per family, and a group of secondary school girls made a film about their weekend runs.

Running diaries

Running diaries

There was race week themed lessons plans and related learning on history, geology, physiology, maths, creative writing and speaking, science, and technology.

I was formally adopted as a Learning Hero role model, there are at least three school running clubs now set up, and many schools formalized the project into learning menus and creative curriculum design. As many of the schools were rural and relatively isolated it was, said many of the staff, just a relief to have something brand new and exciting for everyone to get involved in during the dark wet winter months.

Andy Mouncey
www.bigandscaryrunning.com
CTS FinishCertificate

Money Man’opoly’ – A board game for a broad gain…

This weeks blog reflects on a lesson I delivered a little earlier in the year as part of an enrichment session to level 3 learners.

At the beginning of the academic year, learners were given autonomy over the topics delivered and this week, the session was based on money management.

In preparing for the session, I considered simply investigating the income and expenditure of learners and helping them to plan how they could save income and prioritise and calculate their spending. However, would this approach really engage 16-20 year olds? Possibly not some of them anyway – despite the consensus that this was an area they wished to look at.

So what did I do?… Well I approached the session with the mindset of a child – by playing a game! My favourite board game, monopoly was surely the perfect way to subtly utilise money management skills?…

Of course, I couldn’t just use the traditional monopoly board and let them play, it would have no meaning like this. So I embarked on creating my own monopoly board with items that would resonate with the learners (see board).
20130529-190841.jpg

I had to ensure that I had differentiated objectives and this could only be achieved by giving some structure to the game, so I made four characters with different likes, dislikes and incomes (which they received when passing go). This meant that learners could prioritise what they spent based on their characters. The characters with more disposable income were strategically given to the less able learners and vice versa with more able, meaning the learners were challenged according to needs. Of course it goes without saying that learners had to keep a record of all calculations on their task sheet. The aim of the game was to finish with more money (inclusive of the value of items bought).

20130529-191047.jpg
Prior to the game, learners were asked to identify different money management skills using a post-it note approach and questions were posed to ascertain meaning. Although I encouraged learners to utilise these skills, I was hoping to let the use of them occur naturally based on the restrictions imposed (i.e. character likes/dislikes etc), with the intention that reflection would demonstrate an understanding of skills.

During the game, learners were questioned to check understanding such as “what was your last purchase and why?” This was accompanied by the chance and community chest cards which threw in ‘curve ball’ income/expenditure, which learners had to explain what they would do based on the information provided. To end the lesson, learners were asked to reflect on the money management skills that they had used in the session. Peer assessment was utilised to ensure that they were able to justify where each skill was used in the game.

In summary, the session was highly engaging, fun and certainly ‘enriched’ their studies. It may have had more of an impact in a longer session… All of the above was done in an hour! Quite a lot to cram in really. I will certainly be using the method again and am happy to share resources if anyone would like to try? Tweet me @danwilliams1984 for more info.

To text poll or not to text poll, that is the question?

Although I have come across online text polls in the past, I hadn’t used them myself until last week in one of my lessons and came to the conclusion that they are more time and effort than they are worth – let me explain why…

The group of learners I used this with were Entry Level 3 and in a nutshell the objective of the session was to identify and demonstrate skills, qualities and values required when assisting at a sport and active leisure event.

So after providing learners with their personalised targets for the session I asked them to place their mobile phones on their desks. Out of the 12 learners in attendance, only 10 had a phone…already the task was not going to plan!..so, I paired the learners without phones with somebody with one.

I then provided the text number and opening question…”what skills are needed when helping to lead a sports event?”… Learners were allowed open ended answers and the premise was that the answers that were text to the number would appear on the smart board…what I didn’t realise until the time was that learners who didn’t have phone credit, could not participate…another two learners out of the task and requiring a partner. Those that did have credit began to text their answers and they started to appear on the board – great!

However, it soon became apparent that it wasn’t clear who was texting what answers (thus making it difficult to target questions to the learner concerned and also ensuring that all learners answered). Moreover the answers that came through were not just skills, but also qualities and values… Not such a bad thing, but in order to differentiate between the three areas I had to write everything on the white board (almost defeating the purpose of this e learning tool) and ask learners to dissect the information into the relevant categories.

So after almost 20 minutes and the disengagement of those without a phone/credit, I came to the conclusion that I could have provided the learners with a much more effective learning environment had I used ‘post-its’ or any other traditional strategy which allows all to be involved, whilst allowing me to see who answers.

Despite believing that there is room for e-learning in the classroom, I do feel that we need to ensure that whatever is chosen as a strategy is effective and not just used because the school/college has an e-learning agenda.

On the other hand, perhaps I approached text polls in the wrong fashion, so if you have used them with success, please share your comments.

Analogies and metaphors to aid understanding…

Having been introduced to Hattie’s work on ‘effect sizes’ in the learning environment last year (http://www.learningandteaching.info/teaching/what_works.htm), I took it upon myself to investigate advanced organisers in my own practice. This is said to have an average effect size of 0.37, which in comparison to other methods is reasonably small. However, I opted to focus on the use of analogies and metaphors within my teaching practice, as personally I believe comprehension to be greater if a new subject is related to a familiar subject. Of course, many of us will naturally do this without a second thought, but I intended to consciously approach sessions with the intention of overtly using this method.

One example of this practice quite recently was when teaching the flow of blood around the cardiovascular system to a group of level 2 BTEC learners. I introduced the topic by asking the group to share their thoughts on the process of going to the gym – this involved eating food to give you fuel (collecting oxygen from lungs), travelling to the gym and going through the changing rooms (left side of the heart), working out and ‘burning’ the fuel (feeding the muscles with oxygen), travel back through the changing rooms (right side of heart) before travelling home (the lungs) to start the process again. Obviously when doing this, I did illustrate on the white board. I then made reference to the fact that the gym process is similar to the flow of blood…Following this, I gave the learners the opportunity to create their own analogies of the process. Working in groups they created some amazing ideas such as the process of topping up and using a mobile phone, travelling through the petrol station to name a few.

For the learners, this particular process taught alone can be very challenging, yet now they have their own analogies for the process, they are able to demonstrate a far greater understanding.

Any comments would be greatly appreciated!

Education as Inquiry

Mark Priestley wrote a perceptive piece about the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) in the Scotsman (link) that rightly attracted some attention among the followers of Pedagoo. He points out that the CfE might not be fit for purpose. Priestley admits to mixed feelings on this. I have mixed feelings also but their cause is less, I think, to do with the philosophy, experiences and outcomes, and CfE documents directly but with the lingering, inappropriate metaphors that are still ‘hanging-in’ from pre-CfE days. There has been discussion here of the harmful effects of the ‘education as a factory system‘ and ‘teacher as technician‘ metaphors on learning and also human dignity. Is there a better metaphor? Returning to an earlier applied metaphor of ‘education as initiation into worthwhile activities’ may, it was suggested, help. That, of course, leaves us with the problem of deciding what are the educationally worthwhile activities we wish to initiate pupils/ students (in line with what seems to becoming international convention, I will use ‘students’ from now) into. For the purposes here, let us assume that the capacities and experiences outlined in the CfE at least form the basis for worthwhile activities. One worthwhile activity strongly suggested in the CfE documents is ‘active learning.’

Active Learning
I confess to having some difficulty with this term as it implies that the opposite, passive learning, occurs more often at present in our classrooms. Indeed many writers refer to passive learning and include rote learning as an example. But rote learning requires activity-the activity of actively memorising. It seems to me that most learning in schools that is to do with what is in the curriculum is ‘active.’ We don’t teach concepts, theories, how to interpret literature, understanding the narratives of history, how to carry out experiments, and so on through methods based on conditioning. Learning through conditioning would be more of a passive process than rote learning. If conditioning occurs in educational contexts, it is for other reasons than teaching for the typical knowledge and understanding found in school subjects. The problem is that some forms of active learning are less productive than others: rote learning is regarded as less useful than learning for understanding, for example. It is also hard to remain actively learning, unless the teacher is a very gifted orator, through a whole hour of dictated notes. The context demands a form of active learning that is difficult to sustain.

The mistake is to equate physical passivity (sitting still) with mental or cognitive passivity (not trying to listen or process what is being said). We all have experienced students (perhaps only a few) who actively focus on everything we say, process it for real understanding, and easily get ‘A’ grades in the national exams. For them active learning in ‘traditional teaching’ is easy. They are always cognitively active in our classes, however, we teach. For the rest of us, in the same conditions, it requires more concentration than we are always able to muster. It is not that passive learning takes over when taught through what are generally called transmission methods. We may hardly learn at all as we switch off and think about other things. Then we have to revise harder for the exams and resort again to rote learning- that experience of, “I don’t remember doing this!” That is, if we bother at all. Not all our students appear to. Nevertheless, those students that are learning anything at all are being active somewhere and somehow. To repeat, I am arguing that they do not learn anything in the way of conceptual knowledge and understanding, even in rote forms, through being passive.

So, what form of active learning might be more widely useful in supporting the learning of more of our pupils/students in ways that we value (supporting ‘real’ understanding, for example)? One candidate is inquiry.

Inquiry
The European Union is concerned about the supply of scientists generally and levels of scientific literacy in the wider population. As part of the solution, it sees the wider use of inquiry- based learning and teaching as being desirable. This, they believe, would foster greater engagement in, and enthusiasm for, science. Accordingly, the EU has funded international projects which aim to support science teachers, and also those in STEM subjects generally, to use more inquiry-based methods (the word ‘more’ is important, as we shall see below). One project is S-TEAM (Science Teacher Education Advanced Methods). The reflections below arise from the author’s participation in that project but do not necessarily represent any consensus within it.

First, if the EU is correct in thinking that inquiry is supportive of greater engagement in STEM subjects, then that is likely to be the case across the whole curriculum. Unfortunately, ‘inquiry’ is also a contested concept- it is surprisingly difficult to get an agreed definition. The difficulty in my view is that, from an observer’s perspective, there are many forms of activity that make up many different ways of inquiring. That does not prevent academics attempting to define what inquiry teaching would be so that we can categorise activities as being inquiry or not. There is an alternative to this academic game that teachers from East Lothian adopted in an S-TEAM sponsored professional learning module (PISCES). They used the strategy of thinking what inquiry would be from the learner’s (not the teachers’ or academics’) perspective.

Any lesson is an investigation from the pupils’ point of view if, during it, they are exploring their own questions or having their own questions answered. (PPK Journal Paper Page 14, see also, PISCES Book Chapter)

From this perspective, inquiry is not a teaching method as such, but a mental orientation that we try to encourage and support in pupils. Our exceptional pupils referred to above already adopt this orientation most, if not at all, times. From this simple point there follows a set of conditions that education needs to adopt and strive for to support inquiry. These conditions apply not only to teachers, but also to policy makers, curriculum developers, academic researchers, inspectors – all of us. They add up to seeing education itself as a shared process of inquiry.

Supporting the inquiry orientation in students: education as inquiry:

1. Adopt the pupils’ perspective.
If we take as a first step, the same one as above and think of inquiry as a learning orientation in which the students think of all lessons as being contexts in which they have questions in mind and are seeking answers to those questions (whether through listening, group work, discussions, independent research activities, or whatever), then encouraging that orientation and making it possible is our first step in supporting inquiry. We need to find ways to support our students in consistently taking this learning orientation. To do so, makes all our practice ‘more‘ inquiry-based.

Not necessarily easy though. However, that it can be achieved in various ways by teachers carrying out experiments in their on practice is illustrated by the work of the above mentioned teachers (see the above links). Given the right support (which may include conceptual tools to help in analysing the problem in its local forms) and encouragement, teachers do not need direction or prescription from above to solve such problems. In the points below, we take this as an aim of our educational system and suggest what it can do to support it. However, note we already have identified two points, towards justifying the title of this post – ‘education as inquiry.’

A) We aim to support our students in consistently adopting this learning orientation of having questions in mind and exploring possible answers to them
B) Teachers are inquiring also. They are inquiring into how to provide support for student inquiry as defined here. Teachers, from this perspective, are inquirers into solving problems of supporting student inquiry in their own classrooms for (or with) their own particular groups of students.

2. Get our thinking in step with the above aim.
There are several aspects to this. First, we (all of us, not just teachers) have to actively ditch the factory and teacher as technician metaphors referred to above. Apart from the demeaning aspects on both teacher and students discussed elsewhere, (link) they are incompatible with students as inquirers. Taking the students’ perspective also implies some autonomy for the students as they plan for and research, discuss and share their solutions to questions and problems. It also implies autonomy for them in deciding when to ask an expert (the teacher, for example) and when to sit and listen to her. To facilitate and support these activities, metaphors that reduce students to objects to be manipulated are, to say the least, unsatisfactory – they do not facilitate thinking about how to support our students in self-direction and in working towards developing their strengths and reaching their aspirations. The prevalence of these metaphors through our current assessment models un!
dermines any rhetoric about students taking responsibility for their learning. Students who do this, and teachers who support it, do so despite the system, not because of it.

And this brings us to the next point. Thinking that is appropriately applied to students – to support them in achieving a learning orientation in which they consistently formulate and seek answers to questions) is also appropriate to apply to teachers. Externally applied quality indicators and standards of competence undermine any rhetoric about teachers taking responsibility for their learning and practice. Indicators and competencies are touted as ‘tools for self-evaluation’ and may have a role in this respect. However, as we all know, in practice they are used as tools of direction and control. So, achieving education as inquiry means loosening up on heavy, top-down managerialism and thinking more in terms of supporting teacher inquiry into solving, and developing conceptual frameworks or theories of practice around this, the problems of supporting student inquiry that they face in their own contexts. One size does not fit all, if we accept this argument. Teachers are ‘the professionals in situ’.

Finally, we have to be consistent in our thinking and the language we use. The factory and technician metaphors have been with us for some time now and have shaped our thinking, even when we have tried to resist them – probably, because we have no choice but to live by them in our teaching lives, as we fill in reports, plan lessons, engage in improvement planning, and so on. So even though teachers probably do not a really think of their students as objects and education in terms of ‘throughput’, it is not always easy to act or talk accordingly. Our language often does not match our thinking. Here are a couple of things that I have caught myself doing that is inconsistent with the thinking advocated here. You can reflect on your own.

A) Thinking in terms of delivering a module. This should be thinking in terms of supporting learning (my own, as well as those persuaded to participate) through joint engagement in a module.
B) Using language such as, “Developing my students’ thinking”, instead of, “Supporting my students in developing their thinking”.

I am sure there would be many more examples, if I was aware of them.

3. Make sure our language is in line with the direction we want our thinking to go.
Although this has already arisen in the above, it seems worth stating it as a point on its own. If we do not achieve this, we can undermine our best efforts and it is not always as easy as we imagine.

4. Align all our roles
We have already seen that if students are to adopt consistently the mental orientation we are here referring to as inquiry from their perspective, teachers become inquirers into how consistently to support the students in achieving and maintaining that orientation. Teacher and student roles align in this way. But teachers and students do not act alone. There are others who need to align their roles- at least, the following.

A) School management need to inquire into how best to support the teachers in the school in their inquiries into how best to support their students’ inquires.

B) Local Authority education personnel need to inquire into how best to support school management in inquiring into supporting their teachers’ inquiries.

C) Politicians and national educational bodies (including inspectors) need to inquire into how best to provide the conditions that allow all the above inquiries, and educational research below, to flourish.

D) Educational researchers need to inquire into how to support all the above in their various forms of inquiry. For teachers, I and colleagues have argued this does not involve prescriptions but tools and insights that support them in inquiring into solving problems in their own contexts. It is assumed that this would apply to the rest.

Innovations would happen at all levels. However, the innovations by the teachers would be those that supported student inquiry directly. The others’ value would lie in more indirect support for this

5. Understand that these inquiries are life-long or, at least, working-life long.
Is there room in education for anyone who thinks they have all the answers and can impose them on others?

Education as inquiry
Achieve the above and Education has become a process of shared inquiry. Is that the metaphor we are looking for? I invite you to discuss. Or should I say, ‘ I invite you to share in inquiring’?

What do we mean by Active Learning?

Cross-posted from Not Just Any Brick In The Wall

This question was posed as a way of ‘advertising’ a CPD session. The shortest answer given was simply a department’s name, the inference being that the department in question was ‘active learning’ – can this be true?

Building the Curriculum 2 (2007) provides the following definition: “Active learning is learning which engages and challenges children’s thinking using real-life and imaginary situations. It takes full advantage of the opportunities for learning presented by:

    • spontaneous play
    • planned, purposeful play
    • investigating and exploring” …. p (5) and so it goes on.

Here’s the problem I have with this definition; it’s far to woolly, indeed that accusation might be levelled at CfE as a whole – but that’s for another day! What seems to be the case from conversations had or overheard is that some have taken the bulleted points, put them in a High School context and now believe that active learning is having pupils moving about, making stuff or acting! Educationally, they could not be more wrong.

The phrase ‘active learning’ in this context is essentially to do with meta-cognition: the understanding and awareness of one’s own thought processes. From an educational (pupil) point of view it can be defined as:

  • any instructional method that engages a pupil in their learning
  • requiring pupils to think about what they are doing
  • pupils learn by engaging in a process of sense-making
  • pupils actively constructing new meaning (being cognitively involved) and in a social sense actively collaborating with others

I know from bitter experience that some pupils put no thought into what they are doing. But, If we accept this definition then we can say that active learning requires more of a pupil than simply doing stuff. It involves pupils actively involved in planning and evaluating their own learning, initiating learning experiences and planning what they hope to achieve. It involves creating an environment in which pupils can think; use their imaginations; test out their ideas and try to solve problems whilst learning from their mistakes. At its very best it should encourage pupils to undertake a range of activities for their own satisfaction and enjoyment, rather than having pre-set outcomes ‘forced’ on them – challenging in our current set-up I admit.

There are many ways to achieve these aspirations, here are some suggestions (not an exhaustive list) that I’ve used in my own classroom:

  • Introduce co-operative learning groups
  • Collective problem-solving; groups come up with solutions and insights that may not come about individually.
  • Providing collaborative work skills; pupils learn to work together rather than just dividing the workload.
  • Peer reviewing; pupils review each others work and suggest corrections or improvements
  • Self-mark/evaluate work; pupils assess own work against agreed criteria (or a marking script)
     

    S4 GC pupil self-marking

  • Remove all the erasers for the class and have pupils correct their work using colour pencils
     

    Self correction – no eraser

  • Pupils review the learning experience and make judgements about how well they have learned and what they need to do next
     

    S3 pupil self-assessment

I’m trying very hard to not just include active learning as an ‘add on’ in my lessons but to make it central to my pedagogy, it has not been easy. Resistance comes from many quarters the most surprising (for me) was from pupils; one pleading “…why can you not just tell me what I need to know” and “…why can’t you just teach the normal way”. Herein lies the problem, if pupils are being taught ‘the normal way’ in most of the rest of the school this way does appear very different to them and puts them out of their comfort zone. That said I’ve had very positive comments from most pupils on the changes I’m making.

To date the most successful of the suggestions I’ve made and tried have been peer reviewing and self marking. Removing the erasers is starting to work but it’s a pupil ‘goto’ response to a mistake so will take time. And that’s the point here, anything we do different in class will take time to embed and make a difference, but if you believe in it you need to persevere.

The evidence I’ve looked at suggests that passive pupils sitting listening to the teacher or doing without thinking/reflecting do not retain enough knowledge to instil deep understanding and that for this to happen they need to be actively involved in reviewing and assessing their learning and adapting it to make sense to them. So if you make one change to your pedagogy this year, make it this one.

Readings that helped me:

Grabinger, R. S., and Dunlap, J. C., (1996), Rich environments for active learning: a definitionin Wilson, B. G., (1996) Constructivist Learning Environments. New Jersey, Education Publications Inc.

Prince, M. (2004) Does Active Learning Work? A Review of the Research, Journal for Engineering Education, 93(3), 223-231

Watkins, C., Carnell, E. & Lodge, C. (2007). Effective Learning in Classrooms.London, Sage.