The purpose of learning is for an individual to construct his or her own meaning, not just memorise the “right” answers and regurgitate someone else’s meaning
I began my workshop at TLT13 by asking what people saw as the pros and cons of a learning framework. There were more cons than pros which may have been unsettling for a session designed to show how a framework can be used but the reservations were exactly those you would expect from committed and creative people who would obviously be concerned by the idea of an agreed whole school learning model as it may lead to uniformity and a restriction on teacher freedom and innovation.
The TEEP model (Teacher Effectiveness Enhancement Programme – see http://www.teep.org.uk for more) is one which often leads to these concerns from teachers when we are delivering the training and it was these type of reactions that led me to choose the focus for my session in the first place. My intention wasn’t to use the time as a sales pitch for SSAT and encourage people to invest school CPD money into it but to ease some anxieties people may have about the notion of a whole school framework by showing how it’s possible to have a framework and employ it creatively to such an extent that you can even use something as innovative and potentially revolutionary as PuNk learning and see how it sits perfectly comfortably.
My first intention was to pick up on the positives of a learning framework and also to suggest how I see a framework in practice. My reference point was the TEEP framework as this is the one I train people in and also use in my own school and classroom. I think it’s a cracking way to approach learning and really do think it can make a difference, having seen it work in my own practice, those of colleagues who have decided to fully adopt it and in schools where we’ve delivered the training but the same principles apply to any well thought out and comprehensive framework.
As was suggested by the teachers in the room the support that a framework gives to a teacher who is perhaps newly entered to the profession or would benefit from some support is definitely one of the positives. My headteacher likens the framework to a supermarket where you know where things are going to be so as you go from store to store or classroom to classroom it’s easy to make sense of the learning. The other main benefit I would stress and one that is always vital when we are delivering training is that there are principles behind the stages of the cycle and at the heart of the framework is an understanding of learning and this is far more important than the activities that might be used. It’s part of the problem I have with CPD courses that will make you an ‘outstanding teacher of x’ in a day and promise a cd rom full of activities ready for you to use the ‘very next day.’ Without real understanding and appreciation of the learning you have a series of tricks and gimmicks that will fall apart and most likely take practice backwards and demotivate.
It was this that I wanted to stress during the session and this that for me underpins TEEP and is the reason why it is far from restrictive but is in fact simply good learning and a basis for creativity grounded in good practice and appreciation of learning.
For me this is why PuNk learning sits perfectly with the use of framework designed to develop great learning because that’s what PuNk is.
I won’t go to far into PuNk learning here as I would do it a massive disservice and it’s better to get it from the horses mouth so check out the creator Tait Coles either through @totallywired77 or his blog at http://taitcoles.wordpress.com There’s also a book coming in the new year. What I will do is explain how I used the principles to change a scheme of work for my Year 8 classes and share some of the results.
The scheme was based around the environment and had lesson plans, resources and activities all included. These would fit perfectly into the learning framework set out by TEEP and as, all of our Competency Based Curriculum lessons do, work through the learning cycle but I wanted to do more to stretch the learners and hand the work over to them. I’d read Tait’s work and also been fuelled by conversations with Paul Ginnis who I knew was an inspiration for Tait so wanted to have a more constructivist approach in my classroom. Being as this was the last scheme of work for the year and the students had been developing as more effective learners I wanted to give them a real challenge and see just how much progress they had made.
So. We started off with our Big Picture – part of the Prepare for Learning stage of the cycle – which was Man and the Environment. This was all that was given aside from an image and students were asked to set their own questions. In doing so they were setting their own Learning Outcomes and as we progressed through Tait’s Question Formulation Technique they began to Construct – their own questions and later their own methods of researching and exploring these questions.
Applying to Demonstrate was covered (and how!) in which ever way the students decided with the only expectation being that they shared the answers in a creative way. This also fitted with the Create part of our CBC assessment, with Enquire, Participate and Reflect also featuring within the lessons and the project. Students completed animations, models, video games, presented information about recycling on pieces of pizza and packaging. There was a vast array of information answering some fantastic questions in really creative ways.
All of the information and resources we would have used and I predominantly would have delivered had I followed the intended scheme were available to the students. This would perfectly cover the Present New Information stage of the cycle but, and I think more effectively, this would not be presented by me. This meant students were looking for the information that was pertinent to their own question and in a methodology I hope to develop further with Paul Ginnis’ visits to our school next year could revisit as and when they needed to to progress their work or recap any information.
In order to Review (TEEP) and Reflect (CBC) students were using assessment criteria for each of the four assessment areas of CBC that they had determined as a class with each class having their own and each group reviewing where they were at different stages. As well as this they worked on wipe clean sheets that were updated each lesson or two, or three, setting new targets for the specific bits of the overall question they were working on. We used a forum to post updates and set tasks as well as commenting on each others’ projects, suggesting research that they had found useful and allowing me to track the work and make my own contributions to discussion. This worked well with students who may not otherwise lead taking a commanding voice within the forum.
I was hoping to demonstrate that a framework can be used creatively and something that could at first cause concerns about restricting creativity can actually sit comfortably alongside something that appears as anarchic as PuNk learning and it shouldn’t really be a surprise that this worked as well as it did – it’s all good learning innit?
Lots of Love