Interim reports

Education Learning Log


I had a really interesting day today. In amongst the usual, first day back after school holiday, excitement and heidie type things, I spent the day with the head of another primary in our learning community. She visited so we could begin doing some work on ACfE.

Our plan was to look at how we could do something with our current maths scheme, to reduce the reliance on workbooks, have more active learning, and give back the responsiblility for organising learning and teaching to the teachers (rather than following a scheme)….So as with these discussions and planning days what we came up with was radically different to what we thought we would. And that’s how it should be I suspect.

 First we decided that matching new numeracy outcomes in to our current scheme, deciding pages to miss out and then listing active learning ideas down was going to make the same mistake we had made previously with programmes of study. Basically we would be swapping one prescriptive scheme and way of teaching for another.

Then we agreed what we wanted was

  • to reduce the amount of planning we have overall – highlighting sheets, ticky boxes, assessment records which we mostly don’t need etc.
  • Give back trust to our teaching staff by believing that they are capable of organising learning and teaching in different ways
  • Monitor and observe learning and teaching in a more coherent and effective way

Here’s what we plan to discuss with staff

  • Remove planning blocks and the handing in of Forward Plans for “marking” by HT and DHT
  • Refocus on daily responsive planning with built in ways for peer assessment and plenaries which change what might happen the next day
  • Remove timetables! PE etc will remain timed but staff will have leeway to complete work in various curricular areas.
  • Leave programmes of study as “background planning” which staff will use as a resource rather than driving force. Outcomes then become the driver.
  • Refocus how we as HTs and DHTs monitor learning and teaching – take out the Forward Plan feedback discussions and feedback sheets from us, take out classroom formal visits.
  • Timetable weekly “drop in” discussion times after school which staff can opt into with HT or DHT
  • Timetable a day a week for DHT and HT to work in class with one teacher. This will work on a rotation. Coaching session to follow these days.
  • Timetable a monthly meeting at CCC time with each teacher and HT and DHT to have learning and teaching conversations. Target setting for national assessments will be part of this for individual children.

We were both quite excited at where this conversation with staff might take us…. I’ll keep you posted!

October 22, 2007 Posted by | planning | , | Leave a comment

Not enough asking why.

As always Ewan MacIntosh has lots of interesting things to say. There’s an interesting Google video of his recent talk in New Zealand on his blog.

A couple of things have been making me think recently. Ewan talks a lot about Gladwell’s notion of thin slicing and recently of this idea of digital holiday makers – people who do something neat for a while with ICT then just go back to what they did before at the end of the pilot or project. He also talks about not buying into digital natives and immigrants and I have to agree that people who have inspired me with ICT or indeed with anything in education have not all been mere youngsters, but tend to have been a little older with a bit of wisdom. But that’s the way of things, good teachers or educationalists keep wanting to learn, improve and do better teaching and will actively seek out tools which can help them, whatever those tools might be.

But I’d say that this thin slicing of education ideas goes way beyond just ICT. People who should maybe know better do this in education all the time… I was reading about the small study on using Nintendo DS games and brain gym. One implication was that maybe brain gym isn’t as marvellous as we may have been led to believe. The study is too wee to decide that but why do we all suddenly believe in the claims made for certain things?

Here are a couple of examples of things I’ve watched over the past few years. It appears that something is said whether at a conference, TAPESTRY, Learning Festival or whatever. We do our own pepsi challenge and decide this is a good thing and before we know it we all have to do it because it must be a good thing. We often have no data which leads us to know this is a good thing.

Brain Gym is an example – I have no doubt it gives children a wee rest and wakes them up a bit, maybe even helps relax them but above that……Massage in school – lovely, we’ve done it, kids like it, nice calm atmosphere is had by all, but…..Learning styles, yes we all do the questionnaires, the children discuss it, but is aiming everything at one learning style for anyone sensible? Should we not maybe be using lots of learning styles with all our children to help them learn in different ways than their favourite way? Are we actually doing our children a favour here or not? Just a thought…

So here’s my point – thin slicing is a pretty poor thing for us to do as teachers and results in us doing this holiday maker thing all the time whether with ICT or other educational things, with no real advances in educational pedagogies and no opportunity for staff to do any sort of deep learning. These things appear to happen because of the hold certain communities of thought have within education, a few lectures, a few conferences and we appear to reach tipping point very quickly. This is why Ewan’s Teachmeet events are important. I think this model of bringing people together to have quick bits of input, followed then by social media allowing them to research and really think about what and why they do things is more important than he may realise. It’s giving more of a bottom up way of learning and flattening things out more, which is allowing us to question and ask why much more, giving us much more worthwhile tipping points where we are thinking about learning and teaching as opposed to just sticking in new things like brain gym or learning styles or whatever because we’re told they are a good thing.. Maybe that’s what we should have been doing for a while….Maybe Learning and Teaching Scotland should be using this model much more with ACfE developments…..Maybe we should just ask why before we do things in the future….

October 20, 2007 Posted by | TeachMeet | , , | 2 Comments

Tracking and Predicting

This week coming up is where we set our attainment predictions for the coming session.Our Head of Learning Community worked with some software developers to come up with a prediction and tracking system. It uses a traffic light system so I can see when testing is due. Before we get to that stage we sit down and look at each stage and look at the individual children, working out where we predict they will attain over the next session. We input all the information, and depending on the information we have given, the software can give us a fairly reliable prediction. Within that prediction we may make adjustments for individual children.

We’re into our second year of working with this software. Initially there was a bit of worry that the computer would be running our attainment and that figures would be skewed. Now that we’ve used it however that suspicion has settled and I feel I’m much more on top of tracking and monitoring attainment. It will be interesting to see how this will fit with ACfE as it comes on line.

We have some early testing to get caught up with too, so it’ll be good to get this under our belt.

It’s that time of year when you realise almost a whole term has gone by and you’re running to catch up! As always we’ve had our share of good days and the odd crisis too since August, but I wonder how I would find it working in a different job. I wake up every day with something exciting and invariably new to focus on and can’t imagine what else I would rather do. It’s a privilege doing this job and I think as a leadership crisis looms on the horizon we should all be sharing that with aspiring Heads.

September 24, 2007 Posted by | Tracking | , , | Leave a comment