Tag Archives: education for the future

School to school lesson study 2

I recently blogged about our changing approach to Lesson Study.   Having operated in a number of different ways, we have moved to a school to school model that we hope will be sustainable in the face of cuts to school budgets.   Our existing model requires a lot of release time for staff, and although every cycle of lesson study has proved to be extremely valuable, such as model is operationally challenging as we move forward.  The school to school model requires less release time and has other benefits that we are beginning to see from our early forays into this CPD research field.

As blogged previously, we have tried out different approaches and engaged in some school to school research but are now planning more strategically to build on our previous work.  We recently completed a first round of school to school lesson study with three Y4 classes.   One class acted as host and the research lessons took place in this class over a two week period.  The three teachers involved followed the same approach as we had successfully employed in our own setting with joint planning time and post lesson pupil interviews and review built in to the process.   As is often the case with such things, staff gave their own time over and above the release each school allocated, simply because the research findings and conversations enthused them.

The research in this round focussed on the language used in maths.   The findings suggested that children in the class were put off tougher problems if they didn’t understand the words being used in the problems. Some children didn’t have a clear understanding of the word ‘explain’ and therefore avoided any problems using this word, even though they could solve the actual calculations.   In response to this the teachers decided to create a bank of words often used in maths, and find simple explanations and meanings to display in classes next to them.   From the post lesson pupil interviews it was felt this would help the children access the questions.   The research shows that we may assume children’s understanding of some of the words we regularly use in maths and that it is worth spending time unpicking meanings carefully with children in order to give them the best chance of answering the word problems.

The staff involved in this latest round of research have now planned a presentation to deliver in staff meetings in the schools after the Easter break.   This opportunity to share their findings in more than one school is also a great CPD opportunity and I am sure, it will open up further rich dialogue around this area.   Following this successful trial, we plan to extend the model to other year groups during the summer term.




Think Time and The Three Minute Culture

We live in a world of increasing pace and change.

The media worry that if something exciting isn’t happening every few minutes, people will get bored, switch channels, find something else to do. Developing interest, concentrating and mulling things over seem to be discouraged in today’s society. It’s as if there isn’t the time to dwell on things, to think, to form ideas and develop opinions.

In the classroom this can have a damaging effect as children grow up in an increaingly restless climate. As we try and encourage thinking, questioning and deeper learning, we are obviously out of step with society.   Children can become easily bored and increasingly,  pressure is put on teachers to up the pace, move on quickly, keep the children stimulated lest they switch off from their learning etc…

I remember watching ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’ on TV a few years ago – to get through to the hot seat, contestants had to answer a relatively simple question (e.g. put a certain set of dates on order) in the quickest time.   We would sit at home wondering how on earth these questions could be answered incorrectly.   The reason of course is that in rushing them to get the answer down simple mistakes were made.   The brain isn’t allowed to properly engage hence the forced errors.

Now I’m not suggesting there isn’t a need to quickly work out the change in your hand when shopping, or to react speedily when in certain situations.   But I think there is a need to really allow children in school to develop the ability to concentrate, to recognise that learning isn’t all about mirroring a media culture that worries about losing its audience if it dwells too long on one thing.   Children need to be exposed to real, authentic learning environments and they need to have the opportunity to engage in deep learning.  Maybe developing such skills will enable them to question the very culture that currently relies on their obsession to exist.

The teacher and the surgeon

Here’s an often told story that puts educational change in perspective. I can’t remember where I first heard it but I’ve told it many times since to illustrate how slowly education is changing to meet the needs of today.

A teacher and a surgeon from 100 years ago were magically transported from their places of work to an operating theatre and classroom today.

The surgeon commented first.

“What’s this?” He cried. “What are all these machines for? These lights, these controls on the wall, the screen here that moves over the bed, are these cameras, what do these controls do? Does this go over your ears? What is all this? It is nothing like my operating theatre I would not know where to start or what to do. The world of the surgeon has completely and utterly changed.”

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The Educators’ Friend – CPD via Twitter

CPD is changing and the change is being driven by Twitter. Tweeting is a quick way of gaining ideas and advice from colleagues across the globe. You have a question? Ask it on Twitter and get a range of answers. Want some ideas on a new topic you’re trying out?Ask on Twitter. Someone, somewhere will have tried something similar.

Twitter has opened up conversations, furthered professional dialogue and engaged practitioners worldwide. It has lifted the profession from the classroom, the school and the district to a global platform where cpd is relevant, personal, immediate and succintly stated.

Beyond Twitter but through it, PLNs have developed, teachmeets have grown and a range of other forums that allow for extended CPD. 140 character is sometimes not enough! Personal Learning Networks allow you to further conversations that can start on Twitter, to ask for advice and help. To pick others’ brains and share their thoughts and ideas. I have recently seen the Educators PLN provide such support and provoke great dialogue and discussion on a range of areas of education that are relevant across the globe thanks to the sustained efforts of @tomwhitby @shellterrell and many others.

It is the freedom to dip in and out of conversation, to chose what is relevant and join in where and when you like that makes the Educators PLN and others like it so powerful. I also benefit hugely from my peers across the world who help me, encourage me and support me both through Twitter and Educators PLN.

Teachmeet grew out of people’s desire to share technology to support learning. Two minute and seven minute presentations allow ‘enthusiastic lurkers’ and fellow presenters to gain so much CPD in one evening that you would be hard pressed not to allow it to impact positively back at base!

‘TeachMeet grew from a meeting of minds around some French food in Edinburgh, during the Spring of 2005’ (source: edublogs). Since that initial meeting where @ewanmcintosh and a group of online friends brought educational opportunity and dialogue into a new, more relevant and accessible format, teachmeets can be found occurring across the world providing teachers with personal, effective and exciting CPD.

Teachmeets also sorts the wheat from the chaff. Teachers aren’t directed to attend, the sessions fall outside the school day on many occasions, meaning you’re getting a bunch of truly committed practitioners, prepared to give up a fair chunk of their own time to develop their learning and their practice without being directed to.

All of the above represents how CPD is changing, a change brought about by Twitter. The future is exciting, the possibilities for teachers CPD seemingly endless. Let’s hope this move to ‘for teachers, by teachers’ sees a shift towards more autonomy in the profession as a whole. A move away from centralised prescription towards trusting teachers as the skilled, committed professionals they are- CPD doesn’t have to come from government, or local authorities. It can and should come from the professional’s personal needs. Great teachers go beyond what they’re asked to do because for them, teaching isn’t a job. It’s more important than that.

Some ‘sources of TeachMeet’ links: http://is.gd/6SV7X
http://is.gd/6SUiE ;
http://is.gd/6SVvq ;
With much gratitude to @ssutherland

Educating for tomorrow

As a headteacher and father I see many children disengaged from the education system. For many, formal schooling is a hindrance to their real learning. What should be providing them with core life skills and the tools for the future is turning many off that most important of human traits – learning. Education is a complex, uncertain and ever changing landscape that mirrors the world we live in.   We can’t use the tools of the past to give today’s learners the skills they need for tomorrow.