Schools to become Learning Organisations
Unlike anywhere else we know of, the Welsh government has recognised the amount of change involved in implementing Successful Futures and has developed an all-Wales model of schools as learning organisations. ‘Schools in Wales as Learning Organisations’ sets out a framework with seven dimensions:
- developing and sharing a vision centred on the learning of all students
- creating and supporting continuous learning opportunities for all staff
- promoting team learning and collaboration among all staff
- establishing a culture of inquiry, innovation and exploration
- embedding systems for collecting and exchanging knowledge and learning
- learning with and from the external environment and larger learning system
- modelling and growing learning leadership
A recent paper by ESTYN??? noted that currant weaknesses in schools included ;
- the development of a shared vision centred on learning for all
- establishing a culture of inquiry, innovation and exploration
The establishment of an enquiry culture lies at the heart of building powerful learners (BLP) across the school.
As Welsh schools take on becoming learning organisations they will begin to understand a school as a learning system and look closely at how the seven dimensions interact and affect each other. Like learning powered learners, schools will become conscious of their own learning behaviours and understand the inter-relationships across the whole organisation as opposed to simple cause and effect chains. This accurate and continual self-reflection will give schools a real picture of themselves whose role, and indeed purpose, is to develop both staff and students as powerful learners.
Brian…2 official documents needed here
Schools in Wales as learning Organisations AND an Estyn doc that I don’t know the name of yet
How schools can become Learning Organisations
Imagine a school that understands the importance of learning and enables all individuals to act as learners whatever their role within the school. Such a school is led by people who have a clear understanding of what it takes to bring out the best in other people.
They know that top-down approaches, where learners are told what to do and given few opportunities to exercise initiative and responsibility, don’t work. They know that learners are more effective when the level of threat and blame is low and the challenge of personal accountability is high. In such a school principles of learning are modelled and encouraged consistently, teachers provide opportunities for all students to take up the learning challenge. In this culture, students and their teachers aren’t passive recipients of instruction and prescriptive approaches but are actively engaged in developing the qualities of lifelong learners in order to engage in actively shaping their world.
The school’s purpose is clear: to enable young people to contribute positively to the collective aspirations of society and to take a lead, in some measure, within their own lives. Hence all pupils are expected to take responsibility for themselves and their own actions in a constructive way because learning is recognised as an essential life skill. The school believes that learning habits can be learnt and that good learners are made, not born.
Steve does the below veer too much towards TLCs and if so could it go under the teaching ones. And if so could we pinch a few paragraphs from LQF about Learning Orgs eg Vision, Leadership, Staff development, anything else???
The cascade effect
As schools take on developing their students as emotionally intelligent learners who are cognitively skilled, socially adept and strategically aware, teachers themselves will need to adopt these qualities, modelling and bringing to the surface the behaviours they wish to build in their students. Similarly, teachers will find it difficult to do this unless the school, as an organisation, displays these qualities. Thus in adopting a focus on learning a school needs to:
- ensure its own improvement as an organisation;
- ensure its teachers grow as confident, interdependent, risk taking professionals, who in turn..
- guide students to become self-regulating learners. It’s a cascade effect.
As John Hattie says in Visible Learning for Teachers:
“The remarkable feature of the evidence is that the greatest effects on student learning occur when teachers become learners of their own teaching, and when students become their own teachers”
Innovation of this magnitude requires leadership approaches that involve creating a vision for learning, stimulating dialogue, creating a culture of enquiry, and keeping an eye on what’s working. All are essential in this quest to broaden the scope of education.
The centrality of creating a culture of enquiry for staff
Cultures of enquiry for teachers lie at the heart of learning schools. Achieving different outcomes for their students involves teachers in changing their teaching habits. This doesn’t just mean them knowing about new techniques, it is about doing what they do differently. That’s much harder. It involves changes to:
- what they know – knowledge;
- what they believe – feelings or attitudes;
- what they can do – their skills;
- what they actually do – putting it all into practice.
So changing how you teach is a delicate, complex process……...that’s why it’s hard! And the hardest thing isn’t getting new ideas into teachers’ heads. It’s getting the old ones out…….that’s why it takes time and effort.
All the evidence shows that teachers change their practice when they work together and support each other in trying out new teaching strategies, within a culture of classroom-based action research. It’s about teachers being empowered to explore together to find out what works with their students, in this context, at this time. As a consequence, the school learns its way forward, as an organisation.
That’s why the BLP online learning programmes are based on how adults learn and the researched Professional Development approach of teacher learning communities.
Brian create a Find out more button for the text below
What it takes to grow innovative practice
For the school to take on wholeheartedly the new roles and new paradigms that minute-to-minute and day-by-day build better learning requires far more than just a quick exposure to its principles and methods. Development of this magnitude asks a lot of teachers. You have to go through a process of un-knowing, re-learning, unpacking and re-adjusting.
The programme to help schools build better learners is a careful blend of:
- online learning sessions….that faithfully disseminate the researched content for building better learners;
- professional learning team sessions ……actioned by the school that provide sustained, meaningful assistance; learning with and from colleagues;
- trying things out for yourself in your classroom……because “learning by doing” is integral to the development of expertise and expertise cannot be developed quickly. It can only be developed if you have ample opportunity for practice, reflection, and adjustment.
This trio of learning opportunities work together to help teachers replace long-standing habituated practices with more effective ones.
Turn research into practice
The first aspect of these carefully blended learning programmes is the online learning. This provides the content of the Building Better Learning approach based on over 20 years of research and development in schools.
Such content merits online units because over time we’ve discovered that:
- this level of innovation in classroom culture is harder, more complicated than it appears;
- research has revealed just what it takes to shift classroom cultures to being more learning friendly. This has given the approach a richer, more concrete vision of how to implement it across a school;
- unique research into how learners grow and progress as learners has made the approach more purposeful. Not an approach but a way of being which has added purpose and rigour.
The rich ideas now embedded in Building Powerful Learners are far too extensive and deep to be dealt with in a single training day for a school. The different facets need to be focused into digestible pieces to help schools take them on board and make the most of them in action.
So, the online units and in-school learning sessions are attempting to:
- cut the complex innovation of Building Better Learners into bite size chunks for schools;
- order those chunks in a way that schools and teachers can make sense of and implement over time;
- faithfully offer the researched content in a do-able form i.e. so that you only get the bits we know work. This saves you time trying out ideas that may sound good but doesn’t do the job;
- couple the best ways of supporting and delivering changes in classroom practice.
- no point in just knowing more stuff unless you can use it to change/improve your practice
- no point in changing your practice unless you know more about what sort of change is likely to work
The blended learning courses will enable the school to build better learners right not lite, make a complex set of ideas work on a practical level and, achieve the outcomes you want for your learners efficiently and effectively.
Frameworks for a Learning School NOT THIS VERSION
The Learning Quality Framework
Many schools find it helpful to seek guidance in the development of a learning-powered culture. The Learning Quality Framework [LQF] offers a set of staged descriptions of the development of a school whose prime educational goal is to develop better learners. The LQF tries to capture the essence of what a learning school does to ensure that all of its people become better learners.
The LQF is organised under twelve principles which are concerned with different aspects of a school’s culture, such as the school’s vision for learning, how leaders lead learning, how classroom practice works, how assessment and the curriculum need to be designed in order to build learning habits, and how the school acts on its own learning. In other words all of the issues that are incorporated into Wales Schools as Learning Organisations.
LQF aims to serve three useful functions:
- As a diagnostic instrument, the LQF enables schools to assess where it is now on its learning journey. By matching current practice against the twelve LQF principles, schools can assess where they have reached thus far and so identify areas of development.
- As a formative instrument, the LQF provides a school with a clear set of guidelines for planning their way forward. From the analysis of ‘what is’, which the framework provides, the school can develop a strategic overview of next steps.
- As a summative instrument, it gives schools an external view of their progress through an external assessment and the award of a LQF quality mark. Developing a culture in which real world learning thrives is not an insignificant job, so stages along the way are worth recognising and celebrating. A school’s progress can be publicly validated and accredited by The Learning Organisation, as and when it feels ready to seek accreditation.
The Learning Quality Framework – an intelligent Sat-Nav for the journey
Question yourself about your school
To get a glimpse of the LQF principles and to consider the extent to which your school currently meets them, try this informal self-evaluation against the 12 principles. The quiz is a useful starter activity for leadership teams to undertake together to gain a sense of the direction of travel and to review the school as it currently is.Download as a pdf
Key Learning Question:
Does the school, as an organisation, create the conditions in which learning power can flourish?
Schools’ Learning Journey 1
A fair amount of ‘behind the scene’ activity began in focusing people on key themes which were already present in our developments. Questionnaires and analyses were used widely to inform thinking. Governors were invited to discuss and complete a STEEEP analysis. Parents completed a questionnaire which invited them to comment on current provision and future priorities. Teaching staff used a proforma to ‘score’ their individual feelings about different areas of the work of our school. All these activities were followed by discussion and clarification which proved developmental for each group. By the time we came to formalise the vision and mission there was already a level of agreement even though it may have been expressed in a variety of forms.
Writing the vision and mission was a crucial piece of early work in our quest to becoming a learning school. In existing school documentation we had aims and objectives which probably looked much like many other schools’, cribbed from all sorts of places. We went ‘back to basics’ during a ‘Vision Day’ of hour-long workshop sessions. Governors, teaching and support staff and parent representatives were invited to participate in what turned out to be an exhausting but rewarding series of discussions. Each group was asked to
- ‘Draw a picture of how your school should look in five/ six years time. No words to be used.’
Having overcome expected initial reluctance to stick-people, each group managed to create a Picasso-like representation of our school, worthy of being framed and hung in the National. What came as a surprise to us at the time – but not as we have looked back and discussed the whole process – was the similarity of ‘themes’ which arose in all groups.
This similarity of ideas made the whole process of writing vision and mission statements a relatively straightforward exercise. The School Management Team pulled all the ideas together to create a first draft. The statements were organised to match the strategic diamond framework to ensure that all areas of that particular model of school effectiveness had been included. Added to this was all the information we had gathered from questionnaires and analyses. We considered it to be very important that everyone’s Case study 102 contribution was recorded or could be identified in some form in this statement.
The first draft was discussed and further improved at Governor and Staff meetings. It was finally ready for publication some two months after the initial drawing. It has proven to be a sound piece of work for us and we have no cause to add to or refine it. The main sticking point was in our attempt to find a suitable school motto which would encompass our sense of purpose and direction for our school. Discussions went back and forth and were eventually put back to the Governors. After only a few more carefully considered minutes they came up with ‘Learning for Life’. That moment was wonderful. Its powerful meaning of lifelong learning as well as learning for living has been more dynamic than we could have imagined. All other pieces of the jigsaw fell into place easily. It was as if all thinking and purpose of discussions had been focused on that moment and the ease with which everyone accepted it as being the obvious statement for us meant it just had to be. The next task was to translate the vision into a five year Strategic Plan. In many ways this proved to be the most intellectually searching for us. We had been used to implementing projects but we were now being asked to think about creating measurable targets, time-scales, budgets, staffing and staff development implications with review dates and, above all, evaluation. We needed to shift our thinking.
For the next INSET school closure day we invited all staff, Governors and parent representatives as before to review progress and see if any issues had been overlooked. No glaring omissions were identified but it was a valuable opportunity to continue involving all groups in order to move to the next phase. Teaching staff were then taken through the process of translating vision statements into goals and targets. This was a time of intensive thought and challenge to develop a shared understanding of what goals and targets really mean to our school. By the end of the day we had come up with agreed goals, associated targets and several strategies which were developed into two alternative five year plans. At each stage of discussion it was apparent that there was a real energy directed towards achieving the school goals. When both strategic plans were shared it was obvious that going through the process had been as important as the final result. A common language, an awareness of the inter-relationships of each project, an understanding of the size of each strategy being proposed, increased a sense of teamwork from all staff.
The final-draft Strategic Plan grew easily from the shared sense of purpose and proved a relatively easy matter to sequence and prioritise. There had been strong elements of leadership in creating this shared understanding but at the moments of final pen to paper participants felt it was their own contributions which were being included. This draft was then offered to Governors and staff for further discussion and notes taken from each group before reaching final agreement.
In looking back over those months of work we feel fitter and stronger to meet challenges which face our school.
- There is a feeling of shared purpose, collaboration, of school identity and a secure knowledge that decisions are taken strategically.
- We are starting to have measures of our success rather than only having a feeling for it.
- We are more effective in targeting and developing key resources and we now have the means of identifying strengths and relative weaknesses in a systematic way.
- We feel that our school has developed a climate in which we are flexible enough to take on board the unexpected as well as being strong enough to resist any transitory ‘band-wagon’.
Schools’ Learning Journey 2
This needs turning into a story and adding to
Cultures of enquiry
Professional Learning Teams or teacher learning communities have the potential to provide teachers and support staff with the information and support needed to develop their practice in deep and lasting ways. Furthermore these communities are designed to build school capacity to support individual and whole school change over time.
Teacher learning communities provide a forum for supporting staff in converting the information and ideas into “lived” practices within specific subjects and classrooms. They provide a safe forum in which to;
- kick around ideas from the online content,
- unpack it’s meaning when it’s unclear,
- consider what’s do-able and appropriate for your pupils
- make plans for what and how you might incorporate the ideas into your practice
- share and unpack what you have tried in the classroom
- relate your triumphs and tribulations
- reflect on what you hope you might do differently
Because teacher learning communities are embedded in the day-to-day realities of classrooms they provide a time and place where you can hear real-life stories from colleagues that show the benefits of adopting these techniques in situations similar to your own. They provide local reassurances. As you adjust your practice, you are risking both disorder and less-than-accomplished performance on the part of your pupils and yourself. Being a member of a community of teacher-learners, engaged together in a change process, provides the support you need to take such risks.
School’s Learning Journey 3
Gold Standard Learning Power
Ideally this would be a Welsh eg
We couldn’t let the term end without celebrating Wibsey primary school’s achievement, that of reaching Gold level of the Learning Quality award.
Inspired by the story of Miriam Lord Primary, another Bradford school, Nigel Cooper – Headteacher at Wibsey Primary School – started his staff and pupils on building their learning power just three years ago. In March this year they were assessed against the Learning Quality Framework and were awarded Gold Level accreditation. The assessment report offers a clear insight into the characteristics of a school that has really got stuck into learning power and making a difference with it.
As you would expect Wibsey school has a clear vision for what it is trying to achieve and this is unambiguously nurtured by the senior team. This feature of committed leadership has led to two standout features:
- An inclusive Community of Learners
- A refined language for learning
An inclusive Community of Learners
‘Community of learners’ is an oft trotted out phrase, often with little substance. But for Wibsey it is considered as ‘our spine’ because it runs through everything they do. This community of learners involves everyone; leaders including governors, staff, pupils and parents.
Learning power is a recurring theme at governors meetings and they have come to realise that this, sometimes hard to understand approach, has been of real benefit for the school.
Parents are drawn into the process through a handbook designed to help them support their children at home, through Skills Afternoons where they can see learning power in action,and through pupil reports which give clear indications of the precise behaviours their children are using in lessons. Furthermore parents are helped by the children themselves who, to their parents’ amazement, come home and talk about their learning process.
There is a real culture of experimentation and risk taking which everyone recognises as important in ensuring the evolution of learning power across the school. The focus of monitoring classroom practice has moved from a top down monitorial model to a developmental approach that supports teachers to identify and address their own development needs. Staff learn by sharing experiences and ideas and have plenty of opportunities to observe each other. They set themselves learning targets just as pupils do.
Most importantly, responsibility for learning has been placed securely with the learner, where coaching rather than telling is the preferred way of working. Hence the distinction teacher and learner is becoming more blurred as teachers learn alongside their pupils. Having taken on their responsibility for learning pupils have gained a positive view of themselves as learners and as their understanding of learning behaviours grows they are more able to take control of their improvement trajectory. They are reflective about themselves as learners and are able to describe how they are growing as effective learners.
In the words of headteacher Nigel Cooper: “Building Learning Power has enabled the whole school to change dramatically. Whereas, previously, our pupils were more “spoon fed” they have now become learners who can think and learn for themselves, and reflect on their own learning. The staff have also benefited from BLP. For example, they work more collaboratively within the classroom and with each other. Parents have also been involved in gaining an understanding of BLP and this has helped them support their children with their school work.”
A refined language for learning
It is the strength of practice in relation to the progression in learning behaviours, and how this has back-washed into the curriculum and all aspects of the school culture, that sets Wibsey apart from many other schools. Unsurprisingly, curriculum progress is strong as evidenced by Raise Online and by ongoing monitoring data.
The school has paid particular attention to how it will ensure progression in the acquisition of learning habits and teachers actively pursue this through discussion as pupils move through the school. Most practitioners and pupils are well-versed in the school’s language for learning as defined in the school’s learning behaviour Progression Map ( i.e. how the behaviours become more skilled and sophisticated) and use it in discussion about learning to draw attention to existing effective behaviours and to encourage pupils to adopt / develop others.
Pupils are familiar with the school’s map of progression and use it the better to understand how they learn and what more they can/should do. As a result older pupils are well aware that their lessons help them to both acquire content and exercise / stretch their learning behaviours and that their growth as a learner is linked to and enhances their subject progress and attainment.
The school has a variety of formative methods of assessing, recording and reporting progression in learning habits linked to their detailed map of progression. Middle leaders refer to this map as ‘the holy grail’. The map is being interpreted for children primarily through the use of progression ‘ladders’ which are evident in everyday classroom practice.
More importantly, interviews revealed pupils’ deep understanding of these finer-grained learning behaviours which is leading to a focus on stretching, rather than simply using them. Conversations with pupils uncovered: how an individual was improving as a collaborative learner and what being a highly effective collaborator does; how a year 5 pupil who used to think ‘when it’s done it’s done’ has realised that by using a range of revising skills she is able to further improve on her first attempts; how blends of a range of behaviours help pupils to solve problems in mathematics. None of this would have been possible if pupils did not have a detailed understanding of learning behaviours and how they improve.
Put simply, the school has worked on and embedded the ‘Building‘ aspect of Building Learning Power and it is this aspect of the approach that’s made the difference.
But what about results? The school feels that in the last three years, BLP has made a significant difference to Key Stage 2:
- Key Stage 2 pupils reaching the expected standard across Reading, Writing and Maths in 2016 was above the national result by 8%. In previous years this figure had been in line with the national figure.
- In Maths attainment was 9% above the national average and in Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling attainment was 16% above the national figure.
BLP has also raised the attainment of the younger pupils. At the end of Key Stage 1, the school’s attainment results had previously been in line with the national figures; but in 2017, the attainment in Reading was 7% above the national, 11% above in Writing, and 6% above in Maths. These results are all the more satisfying as they come in the face of the higher demands of the new National Curriculum.
We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the staff and pupils of Wibsey on their achievement! They have already received significant coverage in their regional newspaper and this has been picked up by Asian Image, a satellite newspaper belonging to the Telegraph & Argus in Bradford. At the beginning of July the school welcomed visitors from Australia who wanted to know what the best of Learning Power looks like. The school is an outstanding example of how to adopt a consistent and forensic approach to building better learners. That this has been achieved in under three years is remarkable.
If you feel your school would benefit from taking a deeper look at BLP and getting to grips with the progression of learning habits, take a look at some of our online learning courses:
or contact us for further support.
If you read this and thought “Yes, this is what my school already feels like!” you could be ready for a Learning Quality Framework assessment and award. Take a look here for more information.