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Posts tagged with: CfEfuture

More Change Ahead?

Depending on when you measure it from, the new Scottish Curriculum (or Curriculum for Excellence as it’s more commonly known) has been around in one form or another for approximately nine years given that the report from the Curriculum Review Group was published in 2004. In these days of rapid changes in society one could argue that a decade would be around the right sort of time to begin the process of looking again at what’s happening in our education system. However, in terms of the process of implementation of the new National Qualifications, which most Secondary teachers rightly or wrongly will be measuring implementation of the new curriculum by, we’re only half-way through. The cohort who are the first to sit the new NQs are currently in S3 with potentially three more years of school ahead. With no one yet to sit the new qualifications, I can just imagine the sharp intake of breath at the mere suggestion of a major curriculum review. However, in case you’d missed them there have been two substantial reports on the progress and direction of change in Scottish Education in recent months. As a result I’ve been wondering two things. Firstly, does this signal the beginnings of further policy change? And secondly, are there any overlapping themes in these reports which might signal the direction of any such changes should they occur?

The reports I refer to could almost be looked at in the opposite order from the sequence they were published. The most recent one “By Diverse Means: Improving Scottish Education” was published this week by Reform Scotland and the Centre for Scottish Public Policy. This report is more standard in its format and approach having taken a series of written submissions and produced a report brimming with numerous recommendations. Whilst clearly aiming to improve Education in the future it does so by attempting to paint a picture of the current situation and then a make a series of recommendations which could be implemented in the short to medium term.

The first of the reports, published last month, is “By 2025, Scotland will be regarded as a world-leading learning nation” by the Goodison Group in Scotland and Scotland’s Futures Forum. This report takes a radically different format. Having held a series of events with different groups of stakeholders the final report takes the form of scenarios. It presents four possible visions of the future and outlines approaches groups could take to engaging with these scenarios. To me therefore, this would seem to be more about identifying the future we wish to achieve and working out the necessary steps we ought be taking to get there.

Obviously I can’t really do justice to both reports here, you’ll need to read them yourself, but what sort of change do they indicate? Are there any overlapping themes? For me, there are two major similarities between the two reports. Both seem to indicate that we still have a lot to do in terms of equality & social justice and that sufficient changes to the structures and processes of schools have yet to be achieved in order to meet the needs of our citizens in the 21st Century. This is perhaps best summarised by the axes in the following diagram from the GGiS report:

This I think correlates with the following recommendations from the CfSPP report:

2 The Scottish Government should make clear that it views Curriculum for Excellence as a long-term process of iterative change rather than a one-off programme intended to achieve only specific short-term objectives such as the introduction of new qualifications.

5 Change processes in Scottish education are not as effective as they should be. The improvement of these processes must be seen as a matter of the highest priority.

7 The allocation of support for pupils and schools experiencing disadvantage should be reviewed and needs to be better targeted. More of the available support should follow the individual disadvantaged learner.

8 Talented staff should be encouraged to teach and remain in schools in the most disadvantaged areas. Such schools should be resourced in a manner that will make them attractive places in which to work and develop a career.

10 A dedicated centre for the improvement of educational outcomes in Scotland’s most disadvantaged communities should be established.

17 At all levels of the system, vigorous and sustained effort is needed to create in Scottish education a sense of common endeavour, an understanding that learning is co-produced and a culture of mutual respect.

20 The autonomy of schools should be greatly extended. As a general principle, decisions that can competently be taken at school level should not be taken elsewhere.

By Diverse Means: Improving Scottish Education

There are more also, but I think that’s more than enough to demonstrate the overlap. So, is a replacement to CfE on the horizon? The CfSPP report rightly points out with its first recommendation that there’s no real need. All of these ambitions are set out in the Curriculum for Excellence documents and there is therefore just a need to realise these ambitions still. I suppose that ideally it shouldn’t really matter what we call these policy initiatives as long as we achieve the outcomes we hope and aim to achieve, but I suspect the name might well matter. A.V. Kelly (no relation) rightly points out that the success and failure of changes to educational policy lies in the hands of teachers. Whilst many might baulk at the idea of further change, it could be argued that if there is a widespread perception in 2016 that it’s job done because the cohort has progressed all the way through the new NQs then any further substantial change might be difficult to achieve, perhaps creating the need to indicate the necessity of further change through a “new” policy. Either way, for these much more ambitious outstanding aims of Curriculum for Excellence, it will require a much more sophisticated approach to implementation, support and leadership than has been managed thus far. I think the approaches described in the GGiS report demonstrate the sorts of professional development opportunities which will be needed, as well as the CfSPP’s recommendations on leadership and research, such as:

32 Steps should be taken to strengthen educational research in Scotland.

One thing I am very pleased about is that both of these reports encourage us to continue on the journey we’re already on. If we don’t continue to persevere with this direction of travel as a profession and a society I fear that one day in the future these sorts of reports will begin to look a lot different and begin demanding that we start taking backward steps instead…we only need to look South to see just how possible this is.

On #Pedagoo

I’m surprised to discover that I’ve never written a blog post on #Pedagoo. How odd. It wasn’t a deliberate move, I think it’s just been quite all-encompassing that I hadn’t ever got round to it. In fact, it’s been so busy of late that I haven’t managed to get round to writing much of anything on my blog, which is a shame.

So, why am I inspired to write something about it now? Because (touch wood) it seems to be really beginning to take off. The last I mentioned of the idea was when I floated the idea of a collaborative blog following the #CfEfuture debate – almost exactly a year ago. Since then the blogged morphed into pedagoo.org and has since been growing arms and legs. How did it morph into pedagoo from education futures scotland? This is explained over on pedagoo.org/about [and what a near-miss that was in terms of the name!]

Since pedagoo’s creation on the 24th May last year, the #PedagooAdmin team has grown to six very enthusiastic teachers, supported by many many equally enthusiastic teachers who contribute on twitter, facebook and on the blog. In fact, the blog recently has become quite overwhelming in terms of the quality of the posts – and #PedagooFriday is just something else. On top of that we’re planning TeachMeet Retreat and TeachMeet SLFringe…and we’re currently hatching another plan – PedagooCPD. Plus we’re receiving lots of great support from Universities, National Bodies and some fantastically enthusiastic and helpful individuals who are no longer in the classroom. All in all, it’s becoming quite breathtaking. But, why is it working and where are we going with it?

I think there are many reasons why Pedagoo might be beginning to get somewhere. I think perhaps it may be partly to do with the fact that there may now be a critical mass of teachers using twitter who we’ve been able to reach in a way which simply wasn’t possible at a grassroots level in the past. I think also that during this time of change, there are significant number of teachers out there who are looking for honest and challenging support and dialogue from like-minded colleagues and are finding that there are very few opportunities to develop these sorts of networks. Whatever the reasons, I’m just glad that folk are finding it useful.

But, where do we go with this? In the short to medium term, I’m hoping that we can…

  • offer more, and more varied, opportunities for teachers to learn from other teachers – whether that be online, or through events we organise.
  • continue to expand the membership and widen the involvement in all things pedagoo.
  • encourage more members to contribute more frequently to the site, and to foster more debate on a wider range of issues.
  • provide a space for communities and discussions which develop in the real world to continue after events such as TeachMeets, or any other form of CPD event for that matter.
  • anything else…?
In the longer term? Who knows. Part of me still hopes that we, as teachers, can take hold of our own destiny and use an organisation such as pedagoo to pull together and take the lead on  pedagogy – forming our own grassroots version of the Innovation Unit. I used to think that was a flight of fancy, but as the impossible increasingly seems to be becoming possible just now…why not?


Following my post this morning, I got an interesting reply on twitter from Don Ledingham;

@ We are thinking about setting up an event for staff to develop such a framework for EL Any ideas how we can give teachers ownership?
Don Ledingham

I was, of course, very intrigued and replied as follows;

@ Wow. A cracking question can I give it some thought? We should also ask how we can give learners ownership too? Event for them 1st?
Fearghal Kelly

This has since snowballed on twitter and has now evolved into #LearnMeet, which is beginning to look something like this;

My Idea for 1st #LearnMeet is a central Edinburgh venue, for senior pupils (S6) to give their ideas and opinions. Held after school hours.
Ruairidh Nicolson

I’m struggling to say what I think on all this, especially in 140 characters – so I thought I’d try a wee blog post instead…I’d like to start by saying I have nothing against the suggested format for a LearnMeet proposed above by Ruairidh – it could be great and I’d be encouraging our Seniors along. However, I think this is disjointed from the original discussion.

I really like Don’s idea, and I think it’s important that pupils and parents have opportunities to input into this framework…but this needs to be done as part of the system. Schools and Local Authorities need to continue to increase the opportunities for a wider range of stakeholders to formally input into the direction of learning and teaching in schools – but this needs to be taken seriously and carried out properly. If the students and parents consulted are to feel as though their opinion really matters, they need to be giving it in an appropriate context…which can of course be augmented by social media, but not entirely reliant on it. And if those who will be developing the framework are to take this input seriously, they need to be confident in the mechanism by which it was acquired…i.e. not in a fringe, twilight event with a small selection of our learners.

I think I would frame this process as updating East Lothian’s Teaching & Learning Policy, which as far as I know hasn’t been touched since 2007. I would certainly be wanting to involve as many pupils, parents and staff as possible in the process through a combination of physical face-to-face groups and online engagement with a clear outcome/framework produced as a result…

A framework for learning & teaching

The current trend of giving a document a title which doesn’t match its contents is not new. Building the Curriculum 3 is guilty of this too, a ‘framework for learning and teaching’ it is not. As far back as April 2009, I’ve shared on this blog how I used my interpretation of this document to try to develop a pedagogy which would meet its aims and principles. Arriving at this interpretation was not easy, and I’m sure others have arrived at different ones. The subsequent implementation of this interpretation has not been straightforward either. It’s quite difficult to develop and change something as complex as your approaches to learning and teaching in relative isolation. All of which leaves me with little surprise that many practicing teachers across Scotland are still at a bit of a loss as to what Curriculum for Excellence is supposed to mean for them and their learners beyond the content in the Experiences and Outcomes and the infamous changes in approach to assessment.

It is for this reason that I think the introduction of the learning cycle model and learn2learn at my school is being so positively received. This actual framework for learning and teaching is filling the vacuum left by the Curriculum for Excellence documents by providing teachers with something concrete to build learning experiences around. The implementation of the model is also being supported by those who’ve helped develop it – and crucially – use it day in day out. I’ve already begun to demonstrate how this approach relates to the literature and my experience of using it so far suggests that it has a positive impact on learning (in its broadest sense). I’m also finding that this model is in no way restrictive and actually provides vast potential for development of practice – but in a focused way.

I think all of this provides us with lessons on how to move forward. It’s not, as some would argue, that all secondary teachers are resistant to change. It’s that they need clear guidance and support to make change. In an ideal world we’d all be able to develop our own practice collaboratively based on literature and evidence, within very broad guidance – but this is just simply not realistic. Can Scotland now learn from past mistakes and develop the guidance which will actually impact on classroom practice and the crucial support to make it happen? I hope so, but I have my doubts.

How can planning learning experiences using an accelerated learning cycle lead to more engaged learners?

The latest installment of my MEd involved me writing up the group preparation for a collaborative professional enquiry which will be carried out next term. As I moved school however at Easter, I also changed my enquiry from the proposal stage to bring it in line with developments already taking place at my new school. As I’d previously posted the rationale from my proposal, I thought I should post my new rationale. This is a slightly edited version from my assignment [which has not yet been marked – fingers crossed!]

How can planning learning experiences using an accelerated learning cycle lead to more engaged learners?
• How can planning learning experiences using an accelerated learning cycle change the learners’ understanding of the role of the teacher in learning?
• How can planning learning experiences using an accelerated learning cycle change the learners’ understanding of the role of themselves in learning?
• How can planning learning experiences using an accelerated learning cycle lead to learners becoming more engaged in their learning?

What is an ‘Accelerated Learning Cycle’?
There are many iterations of both learning cycles and accelerated learning programs (Kolb 1984, Meier 2000, McCarthy & McCarthy 2006, Heron 2009). The accelerated learning cycle we refer to has its roots in Smith (1996) where he outlines seven stages to effective learning plus a further pre-stage as follows:

Accelerated Learning Cycle from Smith (1996, p.11)

We are using a modified version of this cycle and have incorporated these stages into our lesson planning. We have used the term ‘Discuss Learning Outcomes’ instead of ‘Describe the outcomes’ to encourage a higher level of involvement of learners in the process than is implied by the Smith’s wording. In addition, we have found in practice that the ‘Big Picture’ stage can be incorporated into ‘Connect the Learning’ or ‘Discuss Learning Outcomes’. Teachers planning lessons using these stages is what we mean by ‘planning learning experiences using an accelerated learning cycle’ in this enquiry.

What do we mean by ‘Learner Engagement’?
A lack of pupil engagement is an issue which I have identified in my own practice, but is also an issue which has been highlighted nationally (HMIe 2009, p.48) and by others in my school. Harris (2010) classifies two types of student engagement: engagement in schooling and engagement in learning. She argues that much of the literature on student engagement, such as the 2003 OECD report (Willms 2003), focuses on behavioural engagement. She goes on to point out that if we are interested in improvements in student learning we should be focusing instead on cognitive engagement. As a result of her work with secondary teachers Harris (2010) has a developed a continuum of engagement which I have summarised in the table below:

Continuum of Learner Engagement adapted from Harris (2010)

This continuum demonstrates the potential relationship between learners becoming more autonomous and their engagement in learning. We discussed this continuum and agreed that this articulated what we mean by “Learner Engagement” for the purposes of this enquiry. Our aim is to change our practice to support learners to move up this continuum towards “owning learning”.

What will be different?
Changing a planning proforma does not necessarily lead to changes in the learning experiences; we therefore discussed the changes we expect to see in lessons which are planned in this way. The primary change to most lessons will involve the provision of explicit opportunities to consolidate, demonstrate and review learning. Through discussions as a collaborative group it is clear that we currently tend to focus too heavily on inputting new information and too often halt the learning process at this point. Whilst we may occasionally provide an activity to practice what has just been covered, we tend not to do so consistently nor to a sufficiently challenging degree to allow us to really gauge progression. We seem to be particularly guilty at failing to protect the time to review learning and encourage learners to reflect on how, as well as what, they have learnt. This has a tendency to result in learners becoming passive participants in the learning process, detached from the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of the learning which is taking place (Black et. al. 2006, p.124). Taking an accelerated learning cycle approach to lessons changes this as teachers take a learning, as opposed to a content, view of planning lessons and therefore ensure that time is taken to demonstrate and review learning.

How does our intervention relate to literature and policy?
Smith (1996) uses a collection of disparate educational theories to support his accelerated learning cycle, some of which have since fallen out of favour. Despite this, the approaches he outlines have relevance today and are supported by contemporary literature. There are two areas of literature which are particularly relevant to Smith’s learning cycle; Assessment for Learning and Learning How To Learn.

The accelerated learning cycle has Assessment for Learning (AfL) at its core. AfL has recently been revisited by Black & Wiliam (2009) in an attempt to develop a framework to help define the practices which this term encompasses. This paper provides a comprehensive analysis of the literature through which they determine the following five key strategies:

Black & Wiliam (2009)

These strategies overlap significantly with the stages of the accelerated learning cycle by placing an emphasis on the importance of discussing learning outcomes, including activities which allow learners to demonstrate their understanding and by ensuring opportunities for learners to reflect on learning. The potential impact of strategies which provide learning feedback loops are highlighted by Petty (2009) in his review of the meta-analyses of John Hattie and Robert Marzano. Although such meta-analyses need to be treated with a degree of caution, it is significant that both found feedback to have one of the largest effect sizes in terms of learning outcomes (p.87). Once again, Petty’s representation of the most effective learning process, based on evidence, bears a similarity to the stages identified in the accelerated learning cycle (p.86) and helps clarify the crucial role which feedback plays in the process.

A related, and increasingly overlapping, aspect of literature which is also relevant to the accelerated learning cycle is sometimes known as Learning How To Learn (LHTL) but can also be referred to as Learn to Learn (L2L). Although our school is implementing a parallel specific L2L programme in S1 and S2 from next session, we will use the term LHTL as defined by Black et. al. (2006). This term is more appropriate for this enquiry as we are not evaluating the impact of implementing a L2L programme, but determining whether increasing the opportunities for demonstrating understanding and reflecting on learning in lessons can have an impact on pupils’ perceptions and understanding of themselves as learners, and ultimately on engagement. James & McCormick (2009) outline a relationship between AfL and LHTL in a way which has particular relevance to this enquiry:

Relationship between AfL, LHTL and Learning Autonomy
from James & McCormick (2009)

Throughout our meetings my colleagues have repeatedly shared their concern that their pupils’ perceptions of themselves as learners, and their perceptions of the teacher’s role in the learning process, has, to a certain degree, led them to become disengaged as learners. The diagram above demonstrates the relationship between Assessment for Learning as an integral component of Learning How To Learn, and ultimately learner autonomy. We feel that by changing the pupils’ perceptions, we will increase their engagement on Harris’ (2010) scale by allowing them to see the purpose and, in the long-term, become owners of their learning.

Recent Scottish Government policies have focused significantly on changing pedagogy, assessment and curriculum in order to raise achievement through increased learner involvement and engagement in learning (Scottish Government 2008, p.27; Learning & Teaching Scotland 2009, p.13; Scottish Government 2010, p.19; Learning & Teaching Scotland 2010, p.4). These policy changes have been subsequently transferred into local policy, for example the intended impact of aspects of our Local Authority’s Curriculum for Excellence implementation plan include “pupils will be more actively involved in their learning and will make links between their learning” and “learners will be actively involved in assessing their progress” (East Lothian Council, 2011).

What is Collaborative Professional Enquiry?
The concept of teachers co-constructing knowledge of practice is developing prominence in both policy and literature. A recent report on teacher education in Scotland highlighted the “significant potential for greater collaboration in supporting inquiry-based improvement” (Donaldson 2010, p.70), however the potential contribution of these approaches to professional development in general, and Curriculum for Excellence in particular, had already been highlighted by the Curriculum for Excellence Management Board the previous year (Scottish Government 2009, p.15).

Hargreaves (2003) also argues for the need for teachers to work together, but further suggests that this work “consistently focuses on improving teaching and learning, and uses evidence and data as a basis for informing classroom improvement efforts” (p.134). This way of working is very much in line with the definitions provided for collaborative professional enquiry provided by others (Jackson & Street 2005, p.10; Watkins 2005, p.191; Drew et. al. 2008, p.53). Collaborative professional enquiry promotes practitioner research as both an effective tool for improving teaching and a key aspect of professional learning (Loughran, 2010), but also builds on this to encompass a Vygotskyan view of teacher learning (Warford, 2010).

We discussed the concept of collaborative enquiry as a group in the first of our meetings and agreed that the phases outlined by Temperley & McGrane (2005, p.73) provide a useful sequence to guide our enquiry.


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Black, P. & Wiliam, D. (2009) Developing the theory of formative assessment. Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability, 21 pp. 5–31

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