Imagine a school…
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.
The BLP online learning programmes are based on how adults learn and the researched Professional Development approach of teacher learning communities.
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.