It is a big enough challenge helping our students to become independent learners but this is no longer enough. We need to take them further so they can develop into interdependent learners. In our model of the 4Cs learner we strive to move from Independent Confident Learners, covered in Learners at the Centre II, to Interdependent Co-operative, Connected and Creative Learners. As I’ve said before this is part reality and part vision, we still have a long way to travel before all our students are interdependent learners. However, if Vision 2040 is to be realised the interdependent learner will be at the heart of education.
In a fantastic symposium led by Professors Guy Claxton & Bill Lucas, What Kind of Teaching for What Kind of Learning?, the following draft principles were proposed:
Whilst these are challenging enough for schools I believe by 2040 we will need to replace schools as the foundation of a life time of learning with learners as the foundation of a lifetime of learning. Schooling will be insufficient, we will need to create educated and interdependent learners capable of learning throughout their lifetime. Now, more than at any other time in history, learners are able to capture and share knowledge quickly and easily and develop their understanding using the internet. Teachers and peers may still remain the main source of learning in schools particularly for core subjects but there is the potential for highly personalised learning, niche community learning beyond that. Imagine a day when students of all ages have study periods to pursue their own personalised, niche projects and learning.
The three elements of the 4Cs Learner below all have “attributes” linked to them which are part of the 5Rs – Traits & Attributes of Effective Learners and so I won’t repeat this in each section. The pictures below, taken from my brain, can be seen in a more dynamic presentation at the link here.
The 4Cs Co-operative Learner is socially and emotionally literate and Kagan competent. Thanks to Peter Rubery, headteacher of The Fallibroome Academy, who I always found hugely generous in sharing ideas and practice, who introduced me to Co-operative Learning and the power of Kagan structures on a train back from London.
I have enjoyed using the Kagan structures – simple ways of getting pairs and groups of people working together in a structured way – with a large group of over a hundred adult learners and seen them used very effectively to transform interactions in a classroom. There is a danger that they can be overused and it is vitally important that people keep the structures pure. As ever the decision making skill of the teacher, when to use and when not, is all important. If you want to find out more information have a look at the website www.t2tuk.co.uk. The structures help students develop the skills of co-operation and learning together.
The principles of Co-operative Learning (PIES) were the first thing we were taught as a staff – when you set students a learning activity, to work on in pairs or as a group, is the activity fit for purpose and structured appropriately? Would they say to their partner or group members,
“I cannot complete this task and learn from it without your help and support?”
“I need to keep focussed because I may be the one explaining our thinking or outcome”
“It’s great that no one can monopolise the task or discussion (hogs) and no-one can sit back and do nothing (logs), we are all taking part.”
“We can all engage at the same time, no sitting waiting around or day dreaming here.”
This peer to peer learning as one aspect of practice in developing the interdependent learners we will need as part of the process and outcome of education in 2040.
The Connected Learner obviously looks at skills required and outcomes linked to the digital world but also builds on our Catholic ethos of being “One Body” with a community focus – local, national and international.
Our students engage with issues of social justice with great enthusiasm and generosity. For us community service, positive action and fundraising are matters of justice not choice. The fundraising varies from a focus on three schools in Ghana, to a variety of local charities, to individual named children & pensioners (obviously not their real names) who are bought presents at Christmas by the students and distributed by local charities or parishes. The positive action also extends to working with children from a local special school, bespoke stand alone projects, St. Vincent de Paul Society and so the list goes on. This is an important part of our student’s education in a global society and my experience tells me that are happier doing something about injustice rather than talking about it.
The second element involves the use of new technology which is increasingly a challenge for all schools. I’m not going to revisit it here as @JohnTomsett covered the issues in his comprehensive blog “This much I (don’t) know about the future of ICT in Schools”.
What we do know is that the megatrends in technology have been towards personal ownership of devices, mobile usage and cloud technology. However, in schools we still build rooms containing desktop machines with huge storage on site which is sometimes inaccessible from outside. The odd trolley of laptops is thrown in but without any ownership too often become damaged. John’s concern about spending £170,000 per annum on ICT is real. Maybe this was possible in the good times but in times of financial constraint schools are not funded to provide mobile devices to all students.
Our own approach, fortunately supported by BSF, has been to flood the school with wireless capability and look to each student having their own laptop which is funded by parents as part of a voluntary scheme – parents are invited to be part of the laptop scheme with a suggestion of £12 per month donation and a reduction to £6 for subsequent children from the same family or those entitled to Pupil Premium. Individual cases are always looked at but the overwhelming majority of parents see it as great value for money. About 70% of students are involved in the scheme and the income is approaching £100,000 per annum, with nearly all year groups involved. This money is used to buy a laptop for students on entry to the College with a new device in the middle of Y9 and on entry to Sixth Form. The scheme is now self-financing and sustainable. The biggest issue or frustration for parents is whether we are using them enough in class and when we don’t use them enough students then don’t bother or forget to bring them in. I’m sure within a number of years we will have moved to a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) style of scheme. The greatest digital divide over the next decade will be the “can do” and “cannot do” rather than the “have and have nots”.
Getting teachers to find ways to incorporate ICT in lessons so that it actively enhances learning is a real challenge and long journey, we are still journeying and just keep taking the next step. However, the years to come are bound to see us buy devices for students that are currently not yet on the market, see a greater integration of technology and learning and provide more opportunities to genuinely use technology to enhance and personalise a student’s learning rather than simply use technology more often with no real purpose. Students will need to be increasingly skilled and understand what they are doing in the digital world, their use and misuse of social media sometimes shows a worrying naivety and lack of real understanding.
There are a number of elements of the Creative Learner. I’ve blogged about the Project Based Element before stressing the need for real rigour and not PBL Lite. Project based learning provides students with a controlled environment in which to develop the skills required for enquiry based, self-directed learning that is at the heart of a more personalised education.
This links to the development of divergent thinkers. As a nation we have some of the most creative people on Earth (I know I’m biased) with the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics being a celebration of this creativity. The education system must play a part in developing this creativity. We need to think about the development of this divergent thinker in all our subjects not just pretend it belongs to a limited number of “Creative” subjects. The opportunity for students to use their knowledge and understanding to explore open ended tasks through projects like STEM Club all builds the problem solving skills used at work and in life in general.
The elements of the 4Cs Learner – Confident, Co-operative, Connected and Creative – overlap, integrate and are mutually supportive. If you want to see an example of the connected, co-operative learner have a look at this great blog from @ICTEvangelist on Student Digital Leaders. I find it inspiring as it gives a coherent structure for the power of peer to peer learning (with a bit of support thrown in for teachers) in the digital world. Key to development of the 4Cs Learner is the time spent on metacognition and exploring, identifying and honing the skills used in learning and as a learner. These skills are powerful and transferable. Just imagine a class room where all students possessed them.
The 4Cs Learner is not the model but a model of a learner developed specifically at St. Mary’s but pulling on good practice we have seen elsewhere. There are other great models available. The most important thing is for teachers and schools to have a model of a learner that they explicitly develop over time.
Chris McShane, Headteacher of Winton Community Academy recently included in a blog post from the Headteachers’ Roundtable the idea that:
“Subject knowledge was the DNA of teaching and learning in the 20th century we need to rewrite the DNA for the 21st.”
I would like to build on this idea:
It is the whole structure, knowledge, understanding, subject skills and learner skills that are all key, no-one part of the structure is greater than the whole, despite various arguments put forward by some in education. Our DNA gives us life and allows us to produce new life. It is at the heart of our uniqueness. The educational DNA of this century, running through our schools, must put the learner, who’s explicitly developed, at the centre of their own education as part of their learning and to help them create new more personalised learning themselves.
If you want to understand the thinking behind my direction of travel in this post, please read Learners at the Centre I
In the first part of what now looks like it will be a trilogy, Vision 2040: Learners at the Centre I, I put forward the idea that as we move towards 2040 we will see various power shifts in education including from teachers to students, where the learner takes centre stage in decision making about her/his learning both its direction and process.
Take a moment to think about the best learners you have ever taught, not necessarily the most able, articulate or brightest but the learner who impressed you most with her/his approach to your lessons … now imagine a whole class full of these learners sat in front of you! This would fundamentally change what happens in schools, for the better, but we have a responsibility to explicitly develop these learners. Tom Sherrington (Chair of the SSAT Vision 2040 Redesigning Schools Group and tweeting as @headguruteacher) effectively pre-empted the first part of this post with his comment on my previous post:
As I think about schools and learners of the future then three aspects of learning have to be put into place. We need to see these as interrelated, summative and synergistic as we work with all three elements together:
We need students to have a cognitively and vocationally challenging curriculum. They need to develop sufficient knowledge on which to build a conceptual framework of an area of study, a real deep understanding, and this conceptual framework is then the basis on which further knowledge and concepts can be built. I’ve blogged before about the SOLO Taxonomy (Redesigning Classrooms: Using SOLO to Increase Challenge which has links to some other posts that might be of interest). Lots of teachers at St. Mary’s have found the SOLO Taxonomy really useful to build challenge into their class room practice on in a sequentially and organised way.
We also need to build the habits of mind and skills that will allow students to be scientist, historians, linguists, technologists, mathematicians etc rather than simply doing our subject. An interesting experiment pitted a group of history professors against some American history undergraduates. The first part of the experiment tested knowledge and understanding focussed on a period of history studied by the undergraduates but not the specialist area of the professors. The undergraduates outperformed the professors. However when both groups were given materials about a period of history neither were familiar with the professors way outperformed the undergraduates. The undergraduates had learnt about a period of history but the professors knew how to be historians – critically analyse sources, make hypothesise, draw out different inferences and come to a conclusion. We need our students to be not simply to know.
Let me just turn this on its head for a moment as these procedural skills need to be placed in a rich and challenging curriculum not a vacuum. About twenty five years ago, as a young Science teacher, I was asked to speak at a Science Conference about some work I was doing on Process Science – explicitly teaching scientific procedural skills. There were a number of presenters and one was talking about a thirty minute observation homework where students had to observe the bubbles for half and hour and write about what happens to bubbles made with washing up liquid in water. I don’t know about you but this would bore me stupid: process without a challenging context is superficial and a wasted opportunity.
Both these areas, whilst always accepting that we could improve further, are familiar to schools. The real gap in many schools and in our curriculum thinking and planning is around the explicit development of a learner.
We need learners who initially becomes independent but whose ultimate aim is for interdependence. This is part of a natural process akin to the move from childhood dependency, to teenage independence and then an adult interdependency. As we set our sights on 2040 we need to put the learner at the centre, a decision making highly able learner, who can personalise their curriculum both within any mandated core and beyond it. Learning in 2040 will be more multi-faceted, distributed and personalised than it currently is or was in the 20th Century and this will be massively accelerated by technology.
The 4Cs Learner
The 4Cs Learner was first produced in Summer 2008 in response to a request from a member of staff to put a stream of different ideas and thoughts I was presenting and discussing with teachers, about the type of learner we should be aiming to develop, onto one side of A4. Staff were interested in the various ideas but were really confused by my usual “box of frogs” thinking and needed a coherent picture to engage them. However, the root of the 4Cs Learner goes much further back to fundamental beliefs about what education is about. Part of this is how we build academic success for our students. In my first presentation to staff at St. Mary’s, on Day 1 as a newly appointed headteacher in September 2000, I said that we would build our students’ academic success on three things: literate, numerate and ICT capable learners; learners with good interpersonal and social skills and learners with a wide range of thinking skills. This pretty much still sums up what I believe now about developing learners. My thinking was greatly influenced by Alistair Smith (@alatalite) who I first heard talk about developing learners and learning in the late 1990s in Leeds and the Cognitive Acceleration in Science (CASE) Programme, which is one of the few things I would make compulsory in schools if I was Secretary of State for Education for a day.
The link below takes you to a different view of the 4Cs learner which is a bit more dynamic and has some resources attached – it’s like looking into my mind, so carries a big health warning.
You cannot create the power shift in decision making required to personalise learning, at a micro or student level, without having highly confident, co-operative, connected and creative learners. I want to focus on the Confident Learner, as this is the first stage of the journey, that takes the learner from dependency on a teacher to independence as a learner.
The Confident Learner consists of a number of key elements, ensuring a learner has: the literacy and numeracy skills required to access an increasingly challenging curriculum; the attributes of a successful learner that we have based on Alistair Smith’s 5Rs and combined these with Social & Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL) and the development of thinking skills and use of thinking tools.
In some ways I feel that we were doing better in realising the vision of a learner back in 2008. A huge capital building programme has knocked the school sideways in recent years but we are approaching the end of that and I intend to help staff reconnect the 4Cs Learner with everyday practice. However, here are a few things already going on to help us realise the Confident Learner:
Literacy & Numeracy
The development of literacy and numeracy has had its profile raised by the most recent Ofsted framework but it has always been there in most teachers’ minds. Last year our Head of Learning Support, Paul Gillespie, started a pilot with paired reading between Year 11 students and students in Years 7 & 8 who had low reading scores, on standardised tests. This was a real joy to observe, as you walked down the “street” you would see younger students being mentored in their reading by older ones during morning registration. He followed this up with spelling tests for Years 7 & 8 also in morning registration. Paul produced a list of twenty spellings for the week which were handed out to students in Year 7 & 8 forms by Year 11 students who would then administer the test and mark them before reporting scores back to Paul – a highly efficient system. This year we want to move this on and look at the use of MangaHigh and Khan Academy to help develop students’ numeracy skills and mathematical understanding.
This September we will be implementing the National Mathematics Partnership’s “Passport Maths” programme which aims to move students who enter secondary school at level 3 or a weak level 4 to a secure level 4 in the first term of Year 7. We have also just appointed a new Literacy Co-ordinator, in an agreement with a number of our associated primary schools, who will work primary co-ordinators to develop a coherent English and literacy curriculum across the later years of primary school and the early ones of the secondary. In addition she will develop or find a literacy programme, similar to the Maths one mentioned above, to move students with weaker literacy skills to a “good level 4” as soon as possible in Year 7.
These developments all have real promise and collectively could be powerful agents in helping develop our students as Confident learners. Our challenge is to pull this together into a coherent and consistent programme of literacy and numeracy development for all students in their early secondary years. We have started but there is a long way to go.
Attributes (Traits) of a Successful Learner
These are a set of soft skills that I hope we will develop in all learners – we want our learners to be responsible, resourceful, reasoning, reflective and resilient.
To help clarify, there was a great little “twitter dialogue” about resilience as part of #sltchat. One line of thinking developed from “we need students to be resilient and able to keep learning particularly when they are struggling or find the work difficult” with the other developing from “we need cognitively demanding work first for students to develop the attribute of resilience in their learning”. Within a few tweets love and fraternity broke out as it is clear these are mutually inclusive perspectives. Resilience cannot be developed in a vacuum lacking rigour and challenge but if we want to increase the level of rigour and challenge then we need students to be resilient in their learning.
These are expected to be present in teachers’ planning, lesson objectives, success criteria when marking key pieces of work and we report on these to parents. I say “expected” as we still have someway to go but this is about fundamental beliefs as a teacher and converting this into daily class room reality – do you believe it is part of a teacher’s role to explicitly develop students as learners? If “yes” then all that needs sorting out is the what and how. If “no” then who will develop the learning skills of those students who don’t possess them, often some of our most vulnerable young people?
Thinking Skills & Thinking Tools
To help develop young people’s thinking skills we use a range of different courses across Key Stage 3 particularly in Year 7. Thinking Skills in History and Thinking Skills in Geography plus Cognitive Acceleration in Science and Maths. A Learning to Learn Programme, co-developed by Alistair Smith at ALITE, is delivered by a number of departments: the RE Department teach “I Learner”, the Science Department “Team Learner” and the ICT & Computing Department “21st Century Learner”. Most recently we’ve had a dynamic day with different year groups trialling the “I Thinker” challenges.
The thinking tools sound exotic but will be familiar to many teachers as graphic organisers which help students order and organise their thinking and ideas. There are many really useful examples of tools that can be found on the internet – my current favourite is the “Lotus Diagram”.
Our challenge as a school is to develop the 4Cs Learner and the associated elements consistently and to a very high quality. This is very much a work in progress, part vision and part reality, but it is an essential element of Vision 2040 if power is going to shift.
An explanation of the Co-operative Connected, Creative Learner can be found in Learner at the Centre III.
My first blog post on Vision 2040 was “Reflections of an Apprentice 2040 Visioner” but there are an increasing number of great blog posts coming in from Kev Bartle Part I and Part II and all the Vision 2040 Group – it would be great if you got involved.
The theme of “knowing your vision, values & direction” again featured heavily at the symposium led by that first class double act – Professor Guy Claxton & Professor Bill Lucas. The full presentations can be found here but as ever this blog tries to provide a summary and some ideas. The message from these symposia is beginning to go deep and to the core – Redesigning Schools will mean redesigning classrooms, what actually goes on in them, and the professional development of the staff leading them. This is not system but systemic redesign.
“The test of successful education is not the amount of knowledge pupils take away from schools, but their appetite to know and capacity to learn.”
Sir Richard Livingstone, OxfordUniversity, 1942
It’s a fairly challenging question for a Monday morning to be asked, “What are the valued residues from education that must be left when all else is forgotten or gone, what do we want students to leave our schools with?” These “virtuous residues” may be classified as:
“The skills you can learn when you’re at school will be obsolete by the time you get into the workplace – except one: the skill of making the right response to situations for which you have not been specifically prepared.”
Prof Seymour Papert, MIT, 1998
Important learning this morning included that the “either/or” debate about subject content versus subject processes is technically referred to as “bollocks” (did you know that?). The same is true of the “either/or” debate relating to good examination outcomes versus a good education. The growth mindset and abundance mentality, which we need in education more than ever these days, is all about “and”. You can have a good education leading to good examination outcomes and rigorous subject content alongside developing the habits of mind and skills of a learner, in fact, when we get it right the different approaches and outcomes complement each other.
Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas kept returning to the theme of, “What do you believe in, what is of value in an education?” This can be looked at from various angles including our own classroom practice. If you are a History teacher do you believe that History is about retention and reproduction of facts or critical analysis of sources, perspectives and bias or both? Whilst this may look a loaded question all of these approaches have merit but what is happening in your classroom? Is your teaching congruent with your value system of education? A simple touchstone, I often use, is whether you would be happy for your own child/children to experience your teaching – is it helping produce the residual virtues you value in education? As Dylan Wiliam said, “If you don’t believe in it, don’t do it”.
To help exemplify this further, have a look at the eight principles of expansive teaching and learning below. They are full of judgements about what we value in education.
Eight Principles of Expansive Teaching and Learning in Schools (For Discussion)
After discussion with a number of people around the table (thank you for your time and expertise today) we determined there were a number of things we agreed with and others we didn’t. I have written my own first thoughts below which take extensively from the list given but also has some important changes and one addition that is significant to me. It begins to expose my own views and values in education. It is a great exercise to really challenge your thinking and help form a vision for education that you will rely on in the coming years as you lead in the classroom, department, school or system.
Principles of Expansive Teaching and Learning (Also For Discussion)
Learners are themselves the foundation for a lifetime of learning:
Learning works well when:
I believe that content is an important vehicle on which we build students’ learning (the SOLO Taxonomy is really helpful here) and develop students as learners. There is a lot of evidence about what works in the classroom (see Hattie’s work) so we should use it as a menu to choose from. Is this belief sufficiently reflected in the principles above or not?
Supporting our learners from disadvantaged backgrounds, if s/he doesn’t already have the social capital in his/her family life, and helping them to develop as learners is crucial. The more disadvantaged the student’s background the “more grit, more social intelligence, more self control” s/he will need. This is part of the moral purpose we need to develop within our, schools, classroom and thinking if we are to help the most disadvantaged. It isn’t fair but it is real and some of our poorest students have to learn to be resilient, responsible, resourceful, reasoning and reflective – Alistair Smith’s 5Rs. The same is true of developing our high achieving and very able student as learners. When they suddenly come across an academic challenge that doesn’t appear to have an immediate and obvious solution they must be able to “flounder intelligently”.
The challenge that redesigning schools presents to us is, if we accept the above, or at least most of it, is to help develop a set of virtues in young people that can take them into adulthood, so they may carry on learning in an increasingly complex World that is changing at an exponential rate.
What are the barriers to making things happen?
We managed to very quickly come up with three but you might easily beat this.
We are potentially producing a profession that is Stressed, Stuck and Solitary!
It’s time for some courageous leaders. The Redesigning Schools: Building Professional Capacity Symposium led by Andy Hargreaves has much to offer in how we can move forward together as we seek to develop new habits in the classroom and leave old ones behind.
What New Habits do we Need as we Redesign Classrooms
Our vision needs to be realised in the lived, everyday classroom experience of young people – it is the hard miles, the perspiration to put policy into practice that requires our long term commitment once the vision, values and direction has been determined. In the early stages this may require: an inspiring vision to engage and give direction to staff’s work with high quality CPD (pull); careful and rigorous monitoring of what is happening in reality as past habits are difficult to break and new habits challenging to embed (push) and a bit of “nudging” in the right direction – coaching, Teachmeet sessions and celebrating practice that is congruent with vision.
Possible New Habits
These changes will require subject leaders to become the pedagogical coach of their team and the Headteacher to become the Chief Pedagogical Coach (coach of coaches) influencing other leaders – pull, push and nudge. We may not have enough time but we probably have sufficient, the challenge will be to use the available time to best effect. If your interested in Expansive Education and wish to join an action research orientated network click here for more information.
Redesigning schools is the mainstream movement for schools today, even if it doesn’t yet know it or only a small minority of schools currently involved. Thanks to Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas for another fantastic day and to Sue Williamson who is leading the SSAT onto fertile and crucially important ground. Interested in Redesigning Schools? Get involved.