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.
The world of education is changing again and like many changes it is bringing us almost full circle. If you are a teacher of about fifty years or older you may just about be able to remember a time before the National Curriculum and when levels weren’t part of your life (even if like me you are struggling to remember what you had for lunch or where your car keys are). This is not quite taking us back full circle to pre-1988 as the sharp edge of accountability means you aren’t likely to tell a new Science teacher that you “can teach them (less able Year 10 group) anything you like as long as you keep them in the classroom.” The latter part of this instruction proved more difficult than I at first thought.
Much has changed in education with respect to the level of informed professional practice of teachers and the degree of accountability we all experience. The excellent SSAT Redesigning School Symposia are up and running in both Manchester and London. With Dylan Wiliam leading on the development of new curricula and assessment – the “what” we have to do – and Andy Hargreaves on Professional Capacity – the “how” to do it – we can move with both excitement and no small degree of trepidation into the next phase of education in this country. It’s time for the profession to take the lead, working with government and other interested parties, to deliver an education fit for the 21st Century and fit for our students.
Dylan’s classic one liner was “don’t implement things you don’t believe in.” I wonder what your school’s response was to the E-Bacc a number of years ago.
We need to get our curriculum compass out and make sure we know which way we are heading particularly if, after years of being told what to do, we’ve lost sight of why we are doing certain things within the curriculum. At the symposium we were challenged to think about seven curriculum principles and which where the most important three. I failed miserably to identify just three but managed to realise it is the tension between the different principles that was going to be key in breathing life into the curriculum at St. Mary’s.
Dylan’s principles for a good curriculum were: balanced, rigorous, coherent, vertically integrated, appropriate, focused and relevant (you need to take care with these terms as they had a technical meaning that doesn’t necessarily relate directly to everyday use and meaning).
In developing our new curriculum what would teachers need to know if they were going to be effective? Here’s my starter for teachers but you will need to add your own thoughts as well:
What does research say about the most effective teachers and the pedagogy they use? Hattie goes for: teacher clarity (learning intentions & success criteria), feedback (but make sure the learner has to respond to it by improving his/her work), relationships and peer discussions. If you have fifteen minutes this is a great summary of Hattie’s work presented by himself on what to do and what not to do.
I had the chance to listen to Dylan a couple of year’s ago at a SSAT Think tank and immediately went back to school to redraft the College’s Curriculum Policy. After discussions with staff it was written in the style of a handbook and may give you some ideas about what to do and what to avoid. We are currently challenging ourselves to increase the pace in Key Stage 3 by building programmes of study based on learning intentions written in SOLO Taxonomy style. We want to make seven sub-levels progress in Key Stage 3 for all students and more with the most and least able.
Now that brings me to the afternoon’s work which nearly made my head explode. What are we going to do if, as it seems likely, levels disappear? If you are a teacher under fifty you won’t know life without levels. Now don’t get me wrong I realise that levels were pretty much made up by subject groups sat in rooms, have been revised, revised again, had sub-levels introduced and by now probably don’t really link to how subject knowledge and concepts are vertically organised and integrated. I know this but there is something very comfortable about the familiar. I sense the comfort blanket is about to be taken away and we are going to grow up rapidly as a profession – we are more than capable of meeting this challenge with a little more wisdom from Dylan and some assessment principles. We focussed on summative assessment. The principles to guide in building a reliable system are:
The introduction of data and its use in schools over the last decade has taught us much: make sure you know a student’s starting point (teach them from this point), set challenging and explicit goals linked to specific knowledge, understanding and skills that s/he needs to attain and check how they are going during lessons, at the end of topics and periodically through the key stage. The information generated from assessments can be used to monitor progress and intervene when necessary. This is great learning for us as professionals.
As we hopefully take the lead in matters of curriculum, pedagogy and assessment there is a need to make sure we build the professional capacity within our school, localities and nationally. That was day two of the Redesigning Schools symposia with Andy Hargreaves, PC = f [HC, SC, DC], the “how” we can do it.
This is my second ever blog, the first attempt to write one I have managed to lose in the ether. If you find it please send it back to me. I’ll gather my thoughts on the building of professional capital, courtesy of Andy Hargreaves and blog again.