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I’m not your Stepping Stone…

I’ve been reading a lot lately, both online in blogs and tweets and in things like TES, about Learning Outcomes and the varying schools of thought around their efficacy or otherwise.

Reading the supposed gurus (no names, no pack drill) and their published texts, you’d be forgiven for thinking you had to use them all the time and get the jargon  exactly right or no learning would ever take place.

I remember a lecture/tutorial thing from my time at Jordanhill (BA Sport in the Community, not BEd…) when we had a session during a block about coaching and the coaching process. Our tutor, a venerable ex PE teacher and Scotland Rugby Internationalist, asked us questions along the lines of “are Learning Outcomes goals we MUST get to? Are there stepping stones on the way? What might they be called? Are they objectives? Must we do things in a certain way and with a certain vocabulary to get the best results?”

He summed up, after we’d batted the idea about for a good ninety minutes, with something I still think is valid today:

It doesn’t matter what you call them as long as they tell you what you want to do, how you’re going to get there and how you’ll know if you’ve done it or not.

I also “studied” (attended lectures, rattled off an assignment) Marketing at the time as part of the course. They like their objectives those Marketing guys. That’s fair enough, people (companies, businesses, public sector organisations) are spending a lot of money to promote whatever it is they need to promote, so it’s only right that there are checks and balances in place to ensure they’re getting a fair bang for their buck.

One way of doing that is to ensure that any plan/campaign/initiative they devise has an associated set of targets. They like to call them “SMART Targets” – I’m sure you’ve heard of them. It’s an acronym. Now, for me, acronyms are generally hateful things but this one stands up well.

The exact nomenclature changes depending on the publication you read but SMART is generally taken to mean that a target must be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound
These, I hope, are pretty much self-explanatory but just in case here’s another wee version of the same. The crux of it is that things (whatever they may be) can’t work well or at any rate *efficiently* if you don’t have an agreed timetable for them to happen to.
Other acronyms, WALT and WILF are often maligned and, to be fair, I’m not keen on the anthropomorphism of them into “characters” but I accept that it’s good to have something to hang your lesson and ideas on.

I don’t always use the phrase “We are learning to…” with the class, sometimes it’s “we are looking at…” or “we’d like to know if…” but the bottom line is the same: it says what you’re hoping to do. I never have too many “WALTS” because then it gets busy, messy and difficult to evaluate but I do always try to flag up any accidental/serendipitious learning after the lesson.

For example, I might write up on the whiteboard during the plenary (tick!):

WALT “x…y…z” – we know we achieved it because “…(revisit WILF)” and We Also Found/Learned/Discovered….

In the Curriculum for Excellence this kind of “accidental learning” or discovery is the kind that I’m finding more and more of.

Today in Science with p4-7 we started off on vinegar and baking soda and ended up looking at the Giant’s Causeway. Don’t ask. It does however mean that, through the children’s own enquiry, we’ve now collaboratively mapped out some possibilities to explore in the coming weeks, everything from studying basalt to trying to organise a talk about the geological history of Ben Nevis.

If I’d put up a strict (ie must-be-adhered-to) list of objectives/targets/whatevers for yesterday’s  lesson then anyone sitting with a checklist would have failed the lot of us yet I’d argue we all got more out of the session as a result of discussions and “happy accidents”.

That’s not to say, of course, that we can ignore plans and pre-determined Outcomes – we must keep them there if we want to ensure appropriate coverage in terms of depth and progression – but they can’t be an enslaving ideology, they must be more of a guiding principle. Surely that’s not too much of a Mission (Statement): Impossible?


TeachMeet : The Scottish Learning Fringe 2012

Every good festival has a fringe so I like to think there is a certain inevitability about this…

SLFringe Logo.png

After years of thinking that the inspiring Scottish Learning Festival was wasted by being held during the week when the majority of teachers couldn’t make it, we here at Pedagoo.org decided to do something about it. This year, the Scottish Learning Festival gets a Fringe! And, because we are all working teachers who can’t get to the Festival proper, we’re holding it on a Saturday.

TeachMeet : The Scottish Learning Fringe 2012

The day will be a mix of Round Table discussions and sharing which should be familiar to anyone who has ever been to a TeachMeet in the past… and a heady mix of enthusiasm, sharing and collaboration for anyone who hasn’t been to one. We have no secret agenda, we are not affiliated with any organisation, we are not doing this to score brownie points with our employers… but we are all teachers who are in the process of implementing the new Scottish Curriculum and who are willing to share what we have tried and explain what did or didn’t work. In short, we are you.

Who is the day for?

The day will be aimed at teachers who wish to learn more about the practical aspects of introducing the Scottish Curriculum. There will be a series of round table demonstrations/discussions led by practitioners who are trying some new things. What they do have in common is a willingness to share what they have tried: good, bad or ‘meh’!
This is a day for those who wish to learn and to share. It is possible that you will get some concrete answers on the day, but what is more likely is that you will be able to join in with a network of fellow teachers who are willing to kick ideas around, and work with you to help develop your own answers.

Screen Shot 2012-04-17 at 20.06.07.png

Where and when will it be?

Having secured sponsorship for the venue thanks to the generosity of ELT Consultants the first SLFringe will take place in a yet to be decided venue in central Glasgow…watch this space!

What’s the catch?

There isn’t really one… The venue is being provided thanks to the incredible generosity of ELT Consultants… but after that, we’re on our own! You’ll either need to bring sandwiches and a flask (leather elbow patches are optional), cash to buy some of the excellent (and reasonable) food from the venue, or see if you can find someone to sponsor a tray of sandwiches or a jar of coffee! (Or cakes… we like cakes…)

The only possible catch is that places will be extremely limited. There will only be about 90 places available on the day… :(

What will the day look like?

We will finalise details nearer the time, but at the moment this is the current plan:

  • There will be 10 round table workshops led by teachers where they share something they’ve been doing in their classroom and then lead a discussion around this
  • Participants will sign up to three of these workshops
  • Lunch
  • We will work in groups to cross-pollinate and share key learning outcomes
  • We will retire to some suitable venue for a #BeerMeet/#TeachEat to round the day off

    Sounds amazing! How do I sign up?

    At this stage we are looking for teachers to volunteer to lead a workshop at TeachMeet Scottish Learning Fringe 2012. If you are interested in presenting, you can sign up to do so on the TeachMeet SLFringe Wiki.We will open up registration for attendance at a later date and will notify of this on here and on twitter as @pedagoo and using the hashtag #tmSLFringe12.

    Here’s the blurb from the TMWiki!

    Have you tried something in your classroom you’d like to share with colleagues from across the country? Here’s your chance to do so. By signing up you’ll be required to present something you’ve done in your classroom for approximately 20 minutes and then lead a discussion on this with your group of up to 10 participants for 20 minutes. You may be required to lead your workshop up to 3 times in the course of the morning. There will be no audio-visual equipment available for the workshops – the emphasis is therefore very much on the dialogue. We will also ask that you share your presentation and the outcomes of the discussions as a blog post on pedagoo.org.