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Posts tagged ‘cfefuture’

Getting to know the E’s and O’s

I know, I know. The experiences and outcomes have been around for ages now. Surely we’re long past getting to know them? In my experience however, this simply isn’t the case. Many of us seem to have taken something from them first time through, but now that we’re approaching the blunt end of assessment and reporting we’re beginning to wonder if we got them right.

Through our work with Myra Young, we’re being encouraged to take another look at the experiences and outcomes – this time starting with the purpose. This can often lead to a quite different approach to planning. Rather than looking at the experiences and outcomes and jumping straight to the activities we’d carry out, we think first about what the purposes of the outcomes are in terms of learning, how this could be evidenced and what the success criteria are.

On our inservice days next week at my new school, we’re lucky enough to be receiving CPD from teachers at Cramlington Learning Village with a view to planning our lessons using the accelerated learning cycle. But first I’m going to suggest that we need to ensure we understand the curriculum before jumping into detailed collaborative planning of lessons based on the learning cycle.

This can be illustrated with one of our science experiences and outcomes. Whilst in the past this might have led to us planning a series of lessons covering all the various organs of the systems we feel we need to ‘cover’, a fresh look at the purpose of the learning outlined in the curriculum brings a different emphasis and therefore quite different lessons.

We often complain the experiences and outcomes are vague and complex (which they are…but do we really want a version of the National Curriculum instead?) but if they are how can we expect to be fully familiar with them already? As difficult as it is to accept from the perspective of development work (which is going to get worse when the new NQs start arriving), the reality is that our understanding of the curriculum is going to evolve over time and I’m doing my best to try to keep my mind open to that…

Cross-posted on Fearghal Kelly’s thoughts

EdFutScot Open Meeting – Minutes

The following are some notes I made during the first Education Futures : Scotland open meeting tonight. You can watch it back here. A huge thank you to everyone who attended and contributed!

  • What is it we’re trying to achieve?
  • Highlight what’s good. Positive. Possibilities. Highlight good practice. Try things in public.
  • Building a system which deliberately sets out to create positive feedback loops. Pick up, use, spread.
  • Isn’t that LTS? We’re not a corporate a voice. Classroom practice. How we are implementing it in our classrooms. Practicalities of implementing CfE.
  • On the ground and practical or a systems approach? Whole school approaches are vastly different across Scotland. Some are using inservice, others learning rounds etc. Still a dissatisfaction as to how we’re going about this – the system we as teachers are having to go through. A bitty approach. Need a systems view.
  • Are these contradictory or complimentary? Complimentary…all finding our way…isn’t this part of autonomy? But still constrained by a National framework.
  • Core business = voices of the classroom.
  • Initiative fatigue – no mugs/mouse mats etc with edubuzz.org Is CfE seen as an initiative?
  • This is about a fundamental change in the way go about teaching, not an initiative.
  • Can we change the narrative? Use “Best Education System in the World”?
  • Practitioner led/owned leading to a change in the narrative of CfE.
  • How do we reach out to more than the twitterati? Should we be attempting to do more than blog?
  • Learning Rounds – Share practice. Work with other schools. Learning Rounds style approach to the twitterati?
  • Forming/Storming/Norming/Performing – are we at the storming stage? What are the norms…?
  • Learning Rounds – look to be very effective, but still can be seen as threatening…
  • How can we make use of these ideas? Move these ideas away from National agendas – collaborative web. Not top down. We are autonomous and appreciate the potential this gives us as a profession.
  • Perhaps this is best described as a permanent, online TeachMeet?
  • Modeling the opportunities – begin to communicate beyond the Twitterati…and to parents too? Massive social campaign…on a par with clunk, click every trip?
  • Need to share real ideas of classroom practice – and the learning resulting from trying.
  • Have we made the right call by going with a collaborative wordpress blog? Could we/should we go for another format? How about this from @dgilmour?
  • WordPress = a good start. 10/40000 at this meeting though…? A big challenge ahead.
  • Need a Facebook presence too.
  • What about Glow? Glow brings advantages, but many disadvantages also.
  • Shall we get our own domain name and have the blog hosted to help avoid filters? We have had a kind offer for hosting from paulwheatley.com
  • General feeling of approval in the room. Not perfect (i.e. possibly less permanent), but probably the best compromise between wordpress.com and glow.
  • Have we made the right call with the name? Can anyone think of anything better?
  • Perhaps could be catchier…ask for suggestions on twitter.
  • LearnMeet? A TeachMeet for learners was suggested. This could be fantastic. Who’s going to take this one forward…?

Sometimes, it’s the little things

Cross-Posted on Fearghal Kelly’s thoughts

I’m just back in the classroom this week – phew, I’d forgotten how much of a rollercoaster teaching is! You strap yourself in and off you go…good fun though!

One of the things though which has really struck me this week so far is how much I’ve changed as a teacher in the last couple of years – but if you were observing me you might not even notice. For example, when planning for some of the lessons this week I was looking through some of the supporting PowerPoints on the server and while the were perfectly fine, I just had to make a couple of changes. Rather than starting with titles and learning intentions, I added striking relevant images to the start to get the discussion going, their brains whirring and make them inquisitive. And where there was a diagram, I tried when possible to add a picture or a video to give the slide more relevance and interest.

There’s other examples as well. When meeting each of my classes, I haven’t started by reading out the rules and telling them the consequences of their actions and so on. I’ve started by telling them a little about me, finding a little about them and carrying out an activity which required them to work in groups to share their thoughts on how they learn, what they’ve learnt, why they want to do well, why science is relevant and how they should behave and then getting them to summarise the responses – some which are fantastic.

One of my classes is revising for an exam and so with 20 minutes remaining in a lesson I told them to open their textbook to the contents page, find the topic which they found the hardest and go to that chapter. I then told them to look at the questions in the chapter and not to do any which they knew the answer to, skip those and do the ones which they had no clue about. This threw quite a few of them, but I simply explained that they were there to learn and to do so they needed to search out the things they can’t do – not the things they can do already. I’ll be honest and admit I made this up on the spot – I’ve never taken this approach to revision before.

All of these examples are tiny. I’m almost embarrassed to be writing them up and publishing them on the web as so many of you probably to do all of this and more every day. What I am proud of, and the reason I can bring myself to publishing this, is that to me these are much more than simple ‘techniques’. These are the manifestation of much of the reading I have been undertaking into learning and I am therefore convinced that the consistent application of approaches such of these, and more, will lead to better learning experiences for the pupils in my classes.

So much of Curriculum for Excellence is being undermined by the perceived expectation that lessons need to appear radically different. I disagree with this assessment of the change. For me, lessons can appear to have changed only a little to the untrained eye, but should be increasingly planned with a sound educational rationale in mind. That will take time however.

Medicine and agriculture are now both ‘evidence based’, and it is time for education to follow their example. It is no shame to follow them; it is easier to work out how a liver works or how a plant grows than how a person learns. But we do know a great deal about how people learn now, and we need to change our practice accordingly. Geoff Petty, Evidence Based Teaching

*Excellence not Guaranteed!

Excellence; the fact or state of excelling; superiority; being exceptionally good. So does Curriculum for Excellence mean we have to build an excellent curriculum, then deliver an excellent curriculum and create excellence? This is what I find most daunting about CfE. Just by its title it doesn’t feel achievable and I don’t feel worthy enough to build, deliver or create it, and I know lot’s of others who feel the same. Last term, when discussing CfE in the staffroom, it was jokingly suggested that our school motto should be *Excellence not Guaranteed. I find it sad that one word can make good teachers feel they have to put a disclaimer under their teaching. So I say ignore the title and ignore the phrases; excellence groups, sharing best practice and building your curriculum that make us feel inadequate and focus on the fantastic learning and teaching that we are all capable of.

The ten point implementation plan was supposed to enhance teachers’ confidence in CfE, but I’m not sure these statements would make me feel better; “drawing on experience of teachers from neighbouring schools who have already fully prepared for the new curriculum” translates to ‘this is how you should have prepared’ and “excellence groups” translates to ‘if you are deemed good enough we would like your input’. I agree that the best way to move forward is to get out and about and see how other’s put things into practice but the focus put on this has maybe been more of leading by example rather than networking and building together.

The focus needs to be on sharing and realising that we are in charge of our own classrooms and if our children are happy, engaged and learning, and we are experimenting with different techniques and trying to make learning relevant, deep and enjoyable then we have our own perfect mix of non guaranteed excellence!

Collegiality is going to be one of the most important ways of building each others confidence and moving CfE forward. We need to talk, share, moan and develop together in safe and nurturing places, whether physical places or virtual places, such as here or twitter. The best thing we did at school recently was go out for coffee. At 3.15 on the last Tuesday of the month we ditch the folders, schoolbags and USB drives with our lives on them and just go drink coffee, eat cake and chat. It was great to do and reminded you that the best discussions, developments and ideas come in the least stressful environments! We need to work together in the way we ask the children to, we need to put our hands up if we are stuck and praise ourselves and others for the fantastic work we do! So leave a positive comment, go out for a coffee, introduce someone to twitter, compliment someone and feel good about yourself!

*Apologies for the very happy shiny circle time feel to this post but we need some positivity sometimes!

Reflecting on Learning

At a time when Scottish education is changing and standard tests were no longer around, I wanted to develop my own use of assessment within the classroom. I already used different forms of formative assessment which gave me as an educator instant feedback but although the use of ‘thumbs up, in the middle or down’ etc was somewhat useful, I wanted it to be more beneficial to the children. In short, I wanted assessment to inform next steps.

I then went onto create a Learning Log. As my first attempt had a few flaws (it was just based on achievement…it didn’t work too well!), I went on to develop a Log based on ‘Two Stars and a Wish.’ Every Friday the children reflect over each curricular area and write down what they have learned. They think of a maths and a writing wish too. Although they found it difficult to start with, the class now find it easier to identify specific wishes that they work on the next week. This means that each learner knows exactly how to improve their work. The children are encouraged when their wishes turn to stars.

When the opportunity came for the staff from our cluster schools to join/lead Learning Communities (groups of teachers from various schools working on a chosen topic to enhance learning and teaching in their classroom) I really wanted to be involved with the assessment community.

As a newly formed group, we wanted to look at the ‘Learning and Teaching’ A4 ring-binders our school had given every pupil, as well as Learning Logs. We tried out different types of Learning Logs within our classrooms. We also benefitted from an opportunity to visit another local school to view their folders to see what they were including. The whole group liked the ‘I can…’ list for every curricular area/topic covered in class so the children know exactly where their learning is going. (However, I would create these lists after the learners have helped to plan their topics.) From this visit I realised that these lists would be helpful but I still wanted to include a personal reflection ‘wish’ section so the learners know what specific points they have to work on.

The group have since asked the children and parents what they think of the folders- we received very positive feedback and interesting suggestions to improve them further.

As my Primary 4 class are now reflecting on their learning more specifically and regularly, I would like them to record their reflections on our class blog (http://edubuzz.org/blogs/dunbarprimaryschoolp4d/) or through film. It’s always good to keep things fun and fresh! Perhaps they have some ideas…

Throughout the year I have enjoyed seeing the class embed reflection into daily class life, not just as a written exercise once a week. Their honesty and enthusiasm to progress has certainly helped their learning progress and they, along with me, are greatly encouraged by it.

Involving Pupils in Assessment

One of the questions on the Suggested Themes page is:

How, realistically, can pupils be involved in both their learning and assessment?

This really reminded me of a practical example from Stoneyhill Primary School, where P3 demonstrated how they are actively involved in their assessment…

As a secondary teacher, I love this video. It exemplifies not only how it’s possible to involve pupils in assessment, but also that the Primary 3 pupils are gaining a lot from having this sort of opportunity. And if they can do this in P3, imagine what they could be doing in S1!