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Pedagoo & TeachMeets

This week has seen my introduction to pedagoo and also presenting at teach meets. I was originally going to blog about how I think consistently good is outstanding, but I’ve had to rethink!

My school hosted a teach meet this week and I was asked several weeks ago if I would present. I had thought about presenting at a teach meet since I attended one earlier in the year and this was a great opportunity to do so. It was also lovely to be asked! (I made sure that I was doing a 2 minute nano presentation rather than a 5 minute one at the front of a lecture theatre). Although I found out closer to the teach meet that I had to present 11 times in 22 minutes! I was nervous prior to the event but afterwards it felt great to have been one of the few to present – I look forward to the next one! I didn’t really feel proud of what I had done until the following Saturday…

This Saturday I went to Pedagoo Wonderland at Joseph Swan Academy. I must admit, at this stage of the term I’m flagging considerably and I was very tempted to spend that Saturday wrapped up watching Soccer Saturday. However, I did find the energy to go with a friend who I trained with last year (lovely to catch up!) and not only am I glad that I went, I feel extremely grateful to all the effort put into the day by some very talented and enthusiastic people. I’m sorry I ever even considered not going!

At Joseph Swan they have a beautiful learning environment and they had gone to great lengths to put on a spectacle for us – sleighs, balloons, turkey sandwiches, Christmas cards and even Father Christmas himself made an appearance! I attended four workshops which were all very different but all equally brilliant. My workshops (which were personalised!) included a differentiation carousel, foldable fun, independent reindeers (or learners if you prefer) and enquiry based learning (specifically for maths).

I gained so many ideas from the day but I have to say that they weren’t the reason why I’m thrilled that I attended. At this winter wonderland were masses of people who had given up their Saturday to attend and some incredible individuals, teachers and students, who had put a huge amount of effort into creating such a fantastic afternoon of CPD. I thought as the afternoon went on that there is probably no other profession in the world where the professionals volunteer to train one another and do so at such a high level. The passion and commitment was brought to the day by NQTs all the way up to people who have been teaching for longer than I’ve been alive! I found the enthusiasm and passion again that brought me into teaching which had begun to fade away as I struggled through my NQT year. I feel re-invigorated again and I can’t wait for more teach meets and pedagoo wonderlands!

Many of us are worried about where the government is taking our Country’s education system. I think we should take comfort in how our profession, through teach meets, blogging, twitter and pedagoo, has shouldered the responsibility of developing each other in order to give children the best education we possibly can. We should all be very privileged to be part of such a passionate, talented and giving community.


0530 on a Saturday morning is difficult, cold and after another long night of the ashes, very miserable. However, I was off to a Pedagoo event, packed with exciting speakers, thoughtful teachers, inspiring individuals and I was pretty confident that my chosen Saturday CPD event was going to be brilliant. It was…

The first thing that blew me away (after registering with the very welcoming pupils of the school) was the amazing building. It was bright, clean, tidy and very much the type of modern building I come to expect when I go ‘somewhere nice’. Just as our children know when they are being shortchanged as regards use of windows XP on old PC’s, they know it when they walk into a dingy building which is in desperate need of a paint job. Michael Gove said that the building and environment of a school makes no difference. I drive past these buildings at Fettes and Stewart’s Melville on the way to my school every day. Clearly, environment makes a difference.

The other thing about the building I loved was the use of images of Joseph Swan children working, often with ideas about how they work, or slogans/quotations about respect, reading etc behind them. That is something I will try and create in the next couple of weeks if energies allow as it looks so good and inspires.

Whilst having my complimentary tea and danish pastry (which would contravene the bring your own tea and biscuits policy of many councils) I set about reading my welcome pack. I loved the Happy Mondays leaflet which contained loads of great, ready to use, ideas for enhancing and reinforcing learning in the classroom. The Happy Mondays reference is because the teachers at Joseph Swan receive and e-mail every Monday, with a new idea or resource in it from their SMT. I love that idea!

MY first session of the day was in the Reading Room (and what an amazing space that is…) with David Hodgson. David talked about how we learn and how we can use techniques in the classroom to help children learn and remember how they learned things. As a primary teacher I get asked lots of questions from the children and my most frequent answer to them is good question. I don’t believe in throwing the knowledge confetti about for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I’m not convinced the children will remember it whilst they walk back to their desks and secondly I (or A.N.Other teacher) will not always be there for them when they have a question or want to learn something. The things we did in his session were all practical examples of an NLP approach, and I was so impressed I bought his book for my Kindle this morning. He used this pupil feelings graphic in his session too which I find a useful tool to have by my desk in the class room. Something David said which rang a bell was that we should ensure our children ‘Have a get out clause for children when they don’t learn’. This is vital, so often our children get way more stressed than we ever do about a wrong answer. We need them to take risks, get it wrong, change it and get it wrong again, smiling all the time! That is a successful learner right there.

The next session was with Rachel Orr who is HT at Holy Trinity Rosehill Her workshop was about developing writing through Primary Learning and specifically using Pie Corbett’s talk for writing work. I had worked on a Pie Corbett workshop for writing day before (January 2007??) and it was amazing. I’ve bought a few of his books and love his approach to writing. There is a lot of material on the internet too to supplement his written work. I also liked the punctuation sounds and actions which children are to use when they are talking and can then reinforce the assessment process in class. Rachel has used Pie’s work in two differing schools now and shared with us examples of the successes her young writers had, and these examples cal be seen on her school blogs. Rachel gave us a disk with loads of fantastic resources on, many her own work (the learning keys are a great idea!).

During lunch I met some great folk including @spiceweasel77 who is doing some brilliantly exciting things with his class!

After lunch it was on to Hywel Roberts session. Hywel spoke passionately and humourously about creating contexts in the curriculum, allowing the children to view the learning they are given through their own filters and engaging children in their learning. I made loads of notes during Hywel’s session and later tweeted many of them. Here’s the quotations I tweeted:

‘It’s our job to get the World thinking.’

‘We need to dig learning holes for our children to fall into.’

‘we are the people who make sense of the curriculum we are given. ‘

‘Have a what’s great 2 mins at the start of staff meetings’

‘we need to induct our kids into learning’

‘all of these things are just doing the job we’ve been asked to do. That we’re paid for. ‘

I’ve got Hywel’s book and it’s a great read. I need to do more of this in my classes. It’s great stuff. I was incredibly impressed with Hywel and the way he works in schools.

Finally, my last session was about using enquiry based learning in maths. Stephanie Thirtle took this session, she is a maths teacher at Joseph Swan. (I’d love The Girl to have her as a maths teacher, lessons would be so interesting!)
We did some enquiry based openers which really got us thinking and she talked about the approach of letting the children work things out for themselves, rather than an I teach then you do model. I love the work things out idea and think the way she’s bringing it to maths in a high school works really well. Much of the rationale for enquiry based learning was on her presentation and clearly showed examples of enquiry based learning which we could use as one-off lessons or develop for a maths topic. Such things investigating square numbers, straight line graphs using algebra, and one which P7 will be seeing soon – 12 Days of Christmas maths.
Her room displays were wonderful and I snapped many of them on my phone and you can see them here. I particularly liked that ways she put maths into context making it real for the children.
That chimed so well with the session from Hywel previously.

I came away with my head full of wonderful ideas and a bag full of goodies!
So, what next…well before Christmas I will make some posters of children and their ideas about learning to go up in school and I will also make some musical posters for the music room.

After Christmas I will take loads more of these ideas and run with them. It’ll be different, fun and learning will happen.

Pedagoo needs you – Yes, You!
November 21, 2013

Pedagoo needs you! Yes, You classroom teacher!

We would like to invite all our followers to write a post for the Pedagoo website, to share your day-to-day classroom practice. We firmly believe that Pedagoo is a grassroots teaching movement, run by teachers for teachers. We can improve our own practice by learning from the wisdom and mistakes of others, and one way we can do this is by sharing.

Many teachers might feel they don’t have anything special to contribute, or that their practice isn’t interesting or special enough, but it is. We are over whelmed by the wealth of Pedagoo Friday tweets each week, and would love to see more of them explained a bit more fully as a blog post.

You might not have written about your teaching practice before, but the Pedagoo community is a welcoming and nurturing one, where we welcome submissions from any classroom practitioner focused on pedagogy, curriculum and assessment. Take the plunge- it is truly rewarding to see your ideas having impact beyond the four walls of your classroom, and receiving feedback from teachers all over the country.

Maybe start with a post that is a walk-through of a successful lesson, or anything else from your teaching practice that you feel is appropriate. It can be any length, and include images if you have them.

You can submit a post by creating an account on the Pedagoo website, and submitting your post for review, or if that sounds daunting just contact us by DM and one of our admin team can help you with the tech side.

Please think about writing for us. It’s a brilliant boost to receive feedback in a profession that often feels beleaguered and you will be helping other teachers at the same time. We don’t always have time to ask teachers individually, so this is an open invitation to you, yes you.

We look forward to reading about all the brilliant things that go on in your classroom, and sharing them with the wider teaching community.

Picture This
June 14, 2013

We recently had a request to use one of the pictures on Pedagoo and this raised some interesting questions over the usage rights. In an effort to make sure we all keep legal and safe, We’ve put together a brief guide to image use, and also taken the opportunity to highlight some aspects of accessibility. Hopefully you will find these useful, and you could even take what you learn and pass it on in class.

Teachers are born hoarders. We spot something we could use in class, and grab hold of it. In my mum’s day, it was old cereal boxes and fairy liquid bottles, in mine, it is websites and online images. In fact, if this were true, I’d be loaded:

Cartoon Illustration: A stick figure is looking at a TV news report which is saying,

The truth is, the ease with which we can find pictures and images means that we can be quite bad at remembering where they came from… something we get away with in the classroom, but something that becomes more important if we wish to re-use the image on a website.

Creative Commons Licensed photograph of a Salami sausage with a slice cut off it.

We want to keep Pedagoo online and useful, and that means making sure we don’t post any pictures of Salami… as the excellent Edublogs found to their cost. They were shut down while the offending image was removed.

Obviously, we don’t want the same happening to us, so here’s a quick Pedagoo guide to making sure your pictures are OK to use.


1) Take them yourself! This is really obvious advice, but often overlooked. If you have taken the photograph yourself, you hold the rights to it. If you use your own photograph, it’s a safe bet you’ve given yourself permission to use it. If not, why not?

That said, be very careful about what the photograph is of. A photograph of a branded salami with the logo in the picture could still be a breach of copyright… (I know. Don’t ask.)

2) Become familiar with Creative Commons. Creative Commons is a Copyleft movement that encourages sharing and reusing of works. It is an internationally recognised idea that is committed to making works available. In short, use Creative Commons (CC) as much as possible. Even better, upload your images to a site like flickr. That way, everyone wins.

3) Learn about other sites for image searching. It’s far too easy to simply go on to Google, type in the search phrase we want, and take the first image we find. (BTW: It’s worth clicking that link if you have never seen “Let Me Google That For You” before.)

Here is a very quick list of the sites I use regularly. It’s not definitive by any means… feel free to add any you use in the comments:


And a special mention to one of the most useful sites around for keeping you safe: ImageStamper. This site will log when you accessed the image, as well as keeping a note of the usage rights that were in place when you accessed it. Most of this is done automatically, though not all sites are supported yet.


Obviously, this is no more than a wee reminder and hopefully a couple of useful links you may not have known about. The bottom line is this, we need to be mindful of copyright issues if we are to keep Pedagoo on the right side of the copyright laws… Responsible Citizens, are we!


One final, but very important, point. You have the option of adding “Alternate Text” to an uploaded image.

Screengrab showing where to add Alternate Text.

This text will be read out by screen readers and aids visually impaired visitors. Adding it is straightforward, and also a good exercise in descriptive writing. (Try it in class some day… you’ll see what I mean). There is an excellent guide to making images accessible on the Web Accessibility In Mind site. It is highly recommended for anyone posting images online.

So, to sum up:

Please ensure all your images are allowed to be used on Pedagoo, and consider adding an Alternate Text description. Let’s be careful out there!

May 14, 2013

Welcome to Issue 1 of pedagoo.mag. This is our first issue, and we are already thinking about the next one, but most importantly, we need your suggestions. What would you like to see, learn about, find of value in the next edition.

Please leave your suggestions in the comments, or drop us an email at the usual address dedicated new email: mag@pedagoo.org

You are free to download this issue and share it as widely as you wish.

There are a number of ways you can access the mag:

PDF (Low resolution) -> Pedagoo Issue 01-1

Screengrab of the PDF of PedagooMag

Click to download the PDF of the Mag

On Scribd (Full resolution download available): http://www.scribd.com/doc/141499996/Pedagoo-mag-Issue-01

On Issuu (Full resolution download available): http://issuu.com/pedagoo/docs/pedagoo-mag-01

And there is now an iPad enhanced version on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/pedagoo.mag/id648136407?ls=1

Enjoy, and please leave your thoughts and suggestions in the comments or drop us an email to: mag@pedagoo.org

[UPDATED: I think the original post with the embed was slowing down the whole Pedagoo site, so I've streamlined it and also added the Issuu link after some requests. Finally, the iPad/iTunes version is now live, complete with added videos and picture galleries - it looks fabulous... though I am biased! Apologies for the changes to the post. We'll know better next time!]

Radio #EDUtalk @ #ACTS2013: Kenny Pieper and Neil Winton on Pedagoo
February 17, 2013

Kenny Pieper and Neil Winton on Radio EDUtalk


At the end of the ACTS conference I had a chat to Kenny Pieper and Neil Winton about Pedagoo, one of the most vibrant communities of teachers online.

One of several recording that we streamed from the Association of Chartered Teachers Conference at the Stirling Management Centre on Saturday 2nd February. These are being archived on EDUtalk

There is an open invitation to anyone interested in Education to publish audio on EDUtalk. This can be done in several ways. Pedagooers are most welcome!

Going SOLO – Part 2 : Hexagon Alley

I don’t know how well my overall approach to SOLO is going to go — it’s still too early to tell — but what I can say after my first week trying to apply some of the ideas in my classroom is that hexagons are amazing. No argument, they make a profound difference to how I approach delivery, and more importantly, how learners engage with what they are doing. Read on to find out how my #pedagooresolution is going.

Before talking about my week, I do want to just take a second to reply to this tweet that I received:


I will be honest that I make no claims to being expert in using it… or even, necessarily particularly competent. That will require time and repetition (and how often do we say that to our classes?), but the early signs are very encouraging. As I interpret it, SOLO is a means of giving learners the tools by which they can ask their own questions, and drive their own learning. If this sounds like the Holy Grail of education, then you already appreciate that the fundamentals of teaching learners how to actually learn is one of the most important skills they will need as they grow and develop.  As I mentioned in part one of these reflections, SOLO describes 5 stages in the development of understanding: Prestructural through to Extended Abstract. These recognise the 5 stages of learning from knowing nothing through to being able to taking knowledge and hypothesising or creating in an abstract way based on what has been learned. What follows is my somewhat enthusiastic approach this past week… I have made a couple of mistakes as I progressed, but my classes and I have learned a lot!


SOlo HexagonAs I was reading through the reflections of other teachers who use SOLO, I recognised a common technique that many use when teaching: hexagons. As best as I can tell, these originated with Damian Clark on his In Visible Learning blog, though I first encountered them from David Didau’s Learning Spy. In simple terms, they are a physical/concrete means of encouraging learners to move beyond Unistructural and Multistructural knowledge to Relational understanding. In other words, they are used to take statements of facts and basic knowledge of the text/topic/subject/theory/etc, and to ‘see’ the relationships between them. As I have found, they are an incredibly powerful enabler for most learners.

Using Hexagons – The methodology bit!

Screen Shot 2013-01-13 at 11.22.44I had started by giving the class a sheet of A4 with blank hexagons (click the picture to the right to download the pdf for yourself) and simply asked them to write down a fact about the text they had been studying. Then, once I had done a quick visual check that they had done this (“Class, hold up your sheets… er, David, you’ve gone over the lines… have a new sheet and try again!” {tip: have spare sheets!}) , I asked them to add another couple of facts. I then threw in a couple of single words (basically the theme[s] or some key concepts from the text) for them to write in a hexagon, then asked them to write 3 or 4 statements about the characters, and finally, to fill in the rest of the hexagons with interesting lines/quotations from the text. In doing so, they were essentially moving from Unistructural (knowing one thing) to Multistructural (knowing lots of things). Next came the scissors!

Paired Hex Working

Two of my learners sorting their hexagons based on Cathy MacPhail's novel "Tribes". They responded magnificently to the challenge and surprised themselves almost as much as they did me!


I provided a pile of scissors and asked the class to cut out the individual hexagons (Learning point: ask them to put their name/initials on the reverse of each hexagon! I found out the hard way). Once we had a delightful mess, I tasked them with putting the hexagons together, the only criteria being that they had to explain why they had them touching — in other words, what the relationship was between them.

What followed was absolute magic. The class grasped what they had to do, and became thoroughly engaged. My role changed in that, rather than directing them to ‘the’ answer, I became a challenge agent. I could see at a glance what they were trying to put together, and could simply ask them to justify their decisions. And what decisions they came up with! The simple act of moving pieces of paper around, but with a reason, became really involving. I was finding genuine engagement and genuine responses in a way that way surpassed my hopes for the lessons. Before long, every desk was a mosaic of hexagons and a lot of learners were very evidently beginning to grasp the key concepts and relationships in their texts.

The next step was to pair them up with their neighbour/shoulder partner, and to see if they could combine their hexagons into one bigger mosaic. Given that they had had to come up with their own initial hexagons, none of them had exactly the same things written on them. Suddenly, and quite unintentionally, I heard them explaining to each other why they had written what they had, and in a totally natural and organic way, they were merging their knowledge. They also began to ask for some blank hexagons so they could add more to their creations — for me, evidence that they were learning and looking for deeper answers.

The Penny Dropped

I tried using hexagonal learning with all my classes this week (no half measures here!), and want to recount two classes experiences in particular — both S2 classes (aged about 13).

I have a really interesting mixed class with a number of pupils who do not have English as a first language, some who have problems staying focussed, and others who quite wrongly do not believe they are capable of performing well. I always have another support teacher (Mrs Jackson) in the class, and because of this, while the majority of the class have been studying Cathy MacPhail’s novel Tribes, some of the class have been looking at The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore on my iPad. Despite having read two different texts in class, all the class were able to complete hexagons for their text. They were also able to add extra information, and more importantly, no matter which text it was, they were all demonstrating really deep learning as they justified the hexagons they placed together. Working with this class was genuinely infectious. They responded so magnificently that it was impossible not to be proud of them. This also converted wonderfully into some of the most focussed essay writing they have done for me. In addition, what struck me after the fact was that, for the first time, they weren’t asking me to check what they had written was OK every couple of sentences. I see this as a sign of the confidence they had developed through the exercise, and also a sign that, having moved from Uni/Multistructural knowledge of their texts to Relational understanding, they had the confidence to write without seeking constant reassurance from myself or Mrs Jackson. In fact, Mrs Jackson was positively raving about the difference in the learners… to the extent that she has been telling everyone she has met about this technique! And we’re only just beginning to scratch the surface.

BUT… I got cocky! I have another S2 class who are very, very able. And I blew it completely. Having had a week of thinking I was beginning to master hexagons and the theory of SOLO taxonomy, I tried to deliver a really ambitious lesson that I hadn’t had the time to think through properly. It crashed and burned big time! Ironically, one of the classes I thought this would work best with, I had the least success with… but on reflection, this was about me trying to run before I could walk. I had not thought through the lesson, and crucially, it wasn’t my lesson I was using. I’d found James Theobold’s brilliant Heston Blumethal approach to poetry on the Wildern School Improvement site, and — because I admire Heston Blumenthal, and know a wee bit about poetry — thought that would be a great lesson to try. I hadn’t thought through the importance of making sure my own knowledge was deep enough, and so because of that, and my over-confidence at having had such startling successes with my other classes, I expected magic to happen again, but instead, the class found it too difficult to make the relationships between poetry and Heston Blumenthal come to life. The whole exercise began to feel forced and very unnatural. Lesson learned. Stick to my own texts/knowledge/topics, or make sure I am thoroughly up to speed before using someone else’s materials.


I’m becoming very convinced that SOLO taxonomy as an approach should be an essential part of any teacher’s skill-set/tool box. It is not the only answer, but it is an incredibly powerful part of the solution. I am aware that the use of hexagons to develop Relational understanding is only a part of the SOLO process, but even if some of my learners never become capable of moving to the next stage (though I expect they all will), they have almost all found a technique that empowered them to be able to talk about, and write about, texts in a way that even a week ago, I wouldn’t have believed. This is a technique that I will be using regularly  in the future. It works…

Next week

Having focussed on one particular technique, and one particular stage (Relational) of SOLO, I’m going to be looking at making sure my classes begin to feel comfortable with the whole process. This will mean giving them the full SOLO toolkit, and especially the verbs they will need to allow them to make their own decisions and to become even more independent in their learning. Exciting times!


NB: I am finding my way so it is essential for me (and anyone else learning about SOLO) that you should pass on any thoughts, hints & tips, and especially clarifications in the comments — Thanks!
Cross posted to If You Don’t Like Change…

OK… there must be something in the air, but I read an article this morning, and have been inspired to get busy with a completely ridiculous idea. An idea so daft that I’m going ahead with some serious planning to see if it is at all feasible… so, without further ado, how would you like to write the first pedagoo.book?

I came across a link to this blog post about a group of Finnish teachers, academics and pupils who have gathered this weekend to write a Maths coursebook in a weekend. The idea is based on the hackathon model and involves a group of people gathering for anything from a day to a week with a specific focus and working like hell to complete a specific project (I think it’s called end-of-term revision by some!). See that glow in Perthshire? That’s a massive light bulb going on above my head!

Just over a week ago, I heard Nick Hood talking about how Scottish Physics teachers work together to create communal resources, and then a week ago I was speaking at the TMSLFringe we organised… and it came to me… we should organise a hackathon to create a book/resource pack for Literacy & English/Literacy Across Learning. Something aimed at supporting Level/Nats 3/4/5. Something that combines some of the awesome ideas I’ve heard of people using with a practical set of lessons and resources that any one teaching Literacy to a pupil in S1-3 can pick up and use with minimal preparation. Something that is made available to all under a CC2.5:Scotland licence.

So… here it is: pedagoo.book. At the moment, it is no more than an idea and a wiki, but I’m intending seeing if I can find a venue, some funding/sponsorship, and then invite anyone who wants to become involved in working his or her socks off on a pure, mad, mental weekend blitz to try and create a book or series of resources that anyone in Scotland can use to deliver Literacy for 3/4/5. Oh, and also to deliver Literacy Across Learning — which is why I’ll be looking for teachers from other disciplines than just English.

I know that this is a ridiculously ambitious idea… but it should also be great fun (probably in retrospect), and something concrete and useful. If you think you’d like to contribute in some small or big way, jump over to the wiki and sign up. What have we got to lose? Nothing compared to what we could gain. Let’s do it!

CfE : Using the E & Os

As I mentioned, I was delivering a workshop at the Pedagoo TMSLFringe last Saturday. Here is a variation on what I said — not least because it was different each time, and I received lots of great ideas and suggestions and questions from those kind enough to come and listen!

I took as my topic how I’m moving towards getting the learners to use the Curriculum Experiences and Outcomes for Literacy & English (and if you think that’s a mouthful, you should see the new URLs on the Education Website!). While the focus was based on my own classwork in English, many of the ideas I’ve been trying out have potential for other subject areas — not least because as you will see with my closing example, opening up the means of exemplifying what has been learned can lead to cross-curricular fertilisation that can be immensely rewarding.

Giving The Learners Ownership

As I said on the day, I take my starting point as being the need to give the learners ownership of their own learning. This means handing over the E&Os as soon as possible and is based on the following simple and obvious thought…

I sometimes feel that we as a profession have spent too long agonising over the E&Os — yet they do not exist for us. They are the property and right of the learner. Our role is to introduce, explain and exemplify them, and quite simply bring them to life for the learner. So, as I see it, the E&Os are simply the rules of the game…

As such, we need to teach the learners the rules so they can ‘play’ the game. (And yes, I am well aware of the potentially negative connotations of ‘playing the game’ — but no cynicism is intended or should be implied! ;) )


What Do I Do?

In simple terms, I have changed the nature of the tasks I set… and this permeates my whole approach.

In a sense, I suppose I haven’t really changed the task as much as I could, but what I have done is consciously moved away from the old tasks I used to set — the ones that involved me teaching with a specific outcome in mind from the first lesson (usually an essay), and being disappointed when the learners didn’t just hand me back the notes I’d given them in the form of an essay. I now try to set tasks that have more of a potential for research and discovery, and that allow the learner to demonstrate his or her learning in the way s/he thinks most appropriate… It’s not as difficult as it sounds at this stage… the real fun comes later!

The key difference is this…

I genuinely have done everything I can to stop agonising about the assessment. My focus is on what is or can be learned… and even in this aspect, I am trying to stop myself from pointing the learners in specific directions. For me, this is where my skill and knowledge as a teacher come into play. My role is as a guide, or mentor, or critical friend, and absolutely not as a sage on the stage. This is not to say that I abandon the learners… quite the reverse… but it does mean I have to advise a direction for studying, and sometimes standing aside and letting the learner get it wrong, while being ready to help him or her reflect on why things didn’t work out. This is a challenging position to take, but I find it immensely rewarding. In short…

I cannot stress this enough… by all means, point learners in particular directions, encourage them by providing them with relevant resources, metaphorically hold their hands as they make the inevitable mistakes (or ‘Management Learning Points’ as an old boss of mine used to call them), but I also try to support them to draw on their existing skills and knowledge as they prepare to gather what they have learned into a format they can share…

If I ask for an essay, I’ll get an essay… and I’ll be really disappointed if it doesn’t do what I expect (see point above)… yet I cannot think when I last shared what I had learned by writing an essay. I am also struck by how limiting the essay as a format is for some things. I recall being told that I wasn’t allowed to include diagrams or pictures in an essay because — essentially — “it just wasn’t done”. Yet I am just as visually literate as I am with words, and more importantly, most of us are. It appears perverse to me to place artificial barriers on the sharing of learning, yet that is pretty much what we do all the time. As I said in my workshop, I keep coming back to The Barometer Problem. This is the possibly apocryphal story about Niels Bohr being asked to measure the height of a skyscraper using only a barometer. Rather than giving the expected ‘right’ answer, he gave several solutions all designed to illustrate his frustrations at his professors:

…teaching him how to think … rather than teaching him the structure of the subject.

If we ask closed questions, we get predictably dissatisfying closed answers. If we allow the learner to choose his or her own means of demonstrating what has been learned, we can be amazed and inspired… but this requires a great leap of faith but by shifting the focus from assessment to learning, we give ourselves and our learners something better…

We are given the freedom to learn, but for many there is an inevitable element of fear associated with this but we need to persevere. Remember, we too need to be ‘confident individuals’!

So to attempt to sum up my new approach, I am moving from…

I am much more receptive to receiving evidence of learning in formats that are non-traditional. Since adopting this approach, I have received presentations, essays, talks, songs (in response to WW1 poetry), posters, ‘graphic’ novels, and videos… and each of these have been looked at and reflected on against the E&Os… and you know what? They have come up pretty well. And this has given me the confidence to have faith in what I am teaching and also to use the E&Os with the learners to demonstrate evidence of good learning.

One More Thing

There is one other aspect of the work my classes are doing now that I want to share. I am emphasising one thing above all others…

I think it essential that pupils be proud of their work. They need to find something that they can take ownership of and that is evidence of something they have done well or better than they have before. This requires reflection and honesty on the part of the learner, and this is also where referring to the E&Os can be invaluable… when a learner sees something s/he has done referred to as an outcome it is a confirmation for him or her that their work has value and worth. Interestingly, pride can come form the simplest of things like correctly using paragraphs where previously there were none…

As I ask (challenge?) my classes, “What are you proud of in your work?”… and if the answer is nothing, “Then why are you bothering?”

Pulling it together

So… enough talking… what does this look like when it works? The best example generated by one of my learners so far came as the result of an open task that I set my S2 class. I simply asked the the question: What Is Beauty? Obviously, there was a little more to it than that, but you can see the whole preamble I gave the class on their blog (click HERE to find it).

A surprising number of the class gave me traditional essays. Some gave me presentations. And then one of the class handed me a DVD with the following presentation on it:

If you don’t want to watch the whole video, skip to 6:43 and see her conclusion. This is the section that the real David Cameron was talking about when he summed up the day last Saturday. I think it is one of the most moving and impressive pieces of homework I’ll ever be handed. But I am gradually realising that as I become more confident in finding evidence using the E&Os, and more importantly, as the learners do too, work like Eilidh’s is likely to be the norm rather than the truly exceptional.

There was much more said by me and those in my workshops on the day, but this post is already too long! Please use the comments to ask or suggest. Learning is a communal thing, so please add your voice here or on Pedagoo!

Cross posted at If You Don’t Like Change…

PedagooAngels? PedagooReps? PedagooPlus?…?
June 7, 2012

At our first PedagooAdmin meeting in the real world last weekend we vowed to try to stop coming up with new ideas, and focus instead on increasing involvement in the many ideas we’re already working on…we then promptly (& predictably) came up with a new idea which we just have to try!

The idea stems from two sources. Firstly, on top of their PedagooAdmin remits of events & CPD, Kirsty & Martyn have been doing stirling work promoting Pedagoo in the Borders, where they both teach. They’ve been busy organising BeerMeets, contacting the Local Authority and are planning a TeachMeet. That got us to thinking, wouldn’t it be great to have teachers in every local authority doing this sort of work. Promoting Pedagoo locally and organising BeerMeets, TeachMeets and CPD sessions…

We were also thinking that there are loads of you lovely Pedagoo supporters out there who might well be up for taking on a bigger role in leading and promoting the Pedagoo community, without taking on the increasingly large commitment of being on the PedagooAdmin team. This could therefore potentially provide a perfect role for you, if this is you.

Whilst we think this is potentially a great idea…we can’t think of a name for this role. Help!

What do you think? Would you be interested in taking on such a role in your Local Authority/Institution? If so, what do you think the remit should be? And, what should you be called? Please add your ideas below…