To develop cultural awareness amongst our pupils and provide staff with the opportunity to work with colleagues from across the EU, we got involved in the British Council’s Comenius Project. Now into our second year we have made some fantastic connections, enjoyed some super visits and built lasting professional and personal friendships with schools and staff from around Europe. Following a contact seminar in Belgium, we were successful in our application and in October 2008, we hosted 15 staff from our partner schools. We were able to look at our own school and practice in different ways and celebrate what we do well. It gave us all a sense of pride in what we do and helped us open the door to further improvements, routed in the good practice of our colleagues from Belgium, Czech Rep, Germany, Italy and Finland.
The children are working with a real sense of purpose as they know their learning on the agreed themes will be shared with their peers in our partner schools. It gave them a real sense of pride to know their work is being used to inform learning in schools across Europe.
Visits to Italy and Czech Rep have enabled staff to engage in relevant, exciting and fun CPD, learning so much from others and then bringing back new ideas and stories to inform what we do at Hawes Side. The project had also opened up a new level of professional dialogue amongst staff.
The pupils have a shared Comenius blog which is beginning to act as a great platform for the sharing of ideas, thoughts and questions. This year staff from school will be visiting our partners in Germany, Belgium and Finland. The children will be sharing their learning on three new agreed themes giving their work a real audience and a real sense of purpose. It’s a global village out there and Comenius is one of our most exciting ventures in this arena.
As part of our work on teaching and learning at school, we felt it was important to have a group of children to represent their peers. These children meet each week with myself and other staff to discuss T&L and talk about how we can become more effective learners. Over the past three years, different groups of children have produced some great research, presented findings to their peers and collaborated with children in staff in our partner schools both here in the UK and in Australia via video conference.
In the beginning the children led surveys into preferred learning styles and MI which they then presented back to the rest of the school through assemblies and powerpoint. The rest of the children loved fnding out all about how they learned best and the findings also helped teachers plan and become more aware of their children’s needs.
The group made films entitled ‘What is Learning?’ where they interview children across the school and ‘The Ideal Teacher/Ideal Learner’ where they used the findings of research they had done with the different classes to create an informative film which we shared with our partner schools (who all made a similar piece based on their own findings.)
The films provoked some great discussion among staff and children and helped make us all aware of how we can become more effective as both teachers and learners.
This last year the children have worked on Guy Claxton and Chris Quigley’s research into learning. Along with all our partner schools the children have worked through Quigely’s five Rs of learning. The first R we looked at was reflectiveness. The children decided to create a learning mat with prompts for children to be more reflective. They chose to work with a Y3 class who they observed and then discussed with the teacher before deciding how the learning mats could hep them. They then led a session with the class on how to use the learning mats and went back a couple of weeks later to see how they had been used. Some small alterations were necessary but the mats helped the children reflect on their learning.
Other projects this year have included a learning inventory to help learners become more resourceful and a poster campaign to help children become more resilient. All this work is shared with our partner schools as we agreed the themes in advance. The children enjoy looking at differences and similarities in the work of their peers in other schools. We ended the year with a T&L conference where the children presented thier findings to each school’s T&L group, reflected back on the year and agreed ways forward for the groups next year.
The two key qualities needed by teachers are professionalism and creativity. However we utilise new technologies and other resources in the classroom, teachers need to have a creative approach. We need to harness children’s curiosity, their desire to explore and their technological understanding in order to provide them them the best learning experiences possible. Most importantly, we need to help them navigate their own learning journey and facilitate this as best we can. A new role for teachers or a new kind of teaching?
What role do teacher training colleges have in ensuring new teachers are exercising their creativity and not slavishly following schemes which deliver content for the masses rather than catering for the individual?