Blending the Curriculum – Securing High Quality Learning

What is learning?

Schools and those who design and deliver the curriculum need to have the answer to this question. The current reality must link learning to the learner and how they are coping and able to absorb learning especially where remote learning is a new experience.

“Learning….that reflective activity which enables the learner to draw upon previous experience to understand and evaluate the present, so as to shape future action and formulate new knowledge.”    John Abbott 2000

OFSTEDs most recent briefing in their COVID 19 series describes how schools are delivering the curriculum now and when schools were closed. There are no judgements, opinions or suggestions just observations as to what is happening.  However, the examples that are included here do reveal how some schools have made the decision to abandon the planned curriculum in order to deliver more appropriate content that is accessible to the learner.

“For instance, one school had taught a poetry unit during the summer because it was more accessible for pupils who were learning at home than a Shakespeare unit which would be revisited in the autumn term.

Some primary schools had decided to focus on skills….and were teaching historical enquiry skills or mapping skills in place of some new historical or geographical content.”

Research from the Education Endowment Foundation emphatically suggests the focusing on developing skills in this new and challenging world of blended learning is by far the best way to ensure that learning does indeed take place.  School leaders, subject specialists and all those who have a hand in delivering the curriculum should stand back and look closely at the potential for experiential and conceptual learning to take place.

A paper from the National School Improvement Network from 2002 describes the outcomes of effective learning as:

  • more connected knowledge
  • use of a wide range of learning strategies
  • greater complexity of understanding
  • enhanced action appropriate to goals and context
  • increased engagement and self-direction
  • a more reflective approach
  • having more positive emotions and affiliation to learning
  • defining one’s future self as a learner
  • greater facility for learning with others
  • more of a sense of participation in a knowledge community

The messages in the list above mirror those of  EEF, UNESCO and OFSTED writing today about how to ensure positive learning outcomes for all. The curriculum is only useful to the learner if they see that its content is appropriate to their experience, their future aspirations and connects with what they already know and can do. The curriculum must ignite and motivate the learner to want to find out more. This is not possible if the content is inaccessible, the learner can’t read or can’t make sense of what is in front of them. If the subject is irrelevant or out of kilter with their current adversity learning is unlikely to take place.

Focus on the learner and the current reality, re-define the learning goals to be much more about the skills learners need to learn such as reading for meaning, listening actively, enquiry, sharing learning with peers or parents, teachers or siblings, making connections with their own experiences, using their interests as starting points for conceptual learning or subject content. Much of the current commentary and research evidence points to the need to focus on the learning and not simply on the curriculum content. Where learners have the metacognition that allows them to think, reflect and learn the content is far easier to access.

Join us at one of our live webinars for an in-depth look at Blended Learning.

Blended Learning: Mixing the Virtual with the Actual – a pedagogy for the future

Buy our In a Nutshell course that focuses on the transition from home learning to the classroom

Planning a learning curriculum that will translate between home schooling and the classroom

Buy our off the shelf five section training package:-

The Learning Room: Exploring metacognition and the tools that knit knowledge and learning for progression

We have a range of other online off the shelf courses, live webinars and In a Nutshell sips of training that cover a wide range of relevant and essential CPD for schools and colleges. Remember that the research also makes very clear the absolute importance of ensuring all staff have access to professional development.

Changing perceptions of learning: Recognising the learner voice

What is learning and how do we change our perceptions when learners are working away from the classroom? 

Remote learning means that learners are in control of their own space and are responsible for how they manage their time in terms of learning.  Focusing on how learners learn in the absence of the teacher and the processes involved is essential if we are going to continue to deliver quality outcomes for all.

A continued emphasis on content is impossible to deliver. The protocols that exist in the classroom do not apply in the same way and if we continue to put the teacher in charge we may well be missing profound opportunities to provide for the learner a new set of skills that will allow them to find their own route to the content and give them a whole suite of essential life skills.

Evidence suggests that taking account of learner voice has a profound impact on motivation, concentration and the desire to succeed. Creating for the learner a sense that they own their learning and can understand how they learn has a significant impact on outcomes. The list below is taken from an article I wrote in 2011 about curriculum decision making and the importance of learner voice and emphasises what the learner says they want:-

  • More emphasis on skills, and on personal and social development
  • More practical work linked to a skill or vocation
  • A more obvious link with the curriculum and real life
  • More connections made across different areas of the curriculum
  • A balance between academic subjects and those that are more creative, practical, or vocational
  • More choice, especially at Key Stage 4
  • A variety of approaches to teaching and learning
  • More emphasis given to how they can progress to achieve the next level
  • More opportunity to take responsibility for their own learning

This wish list still stands today and resonates even more when we look at some of the points that are pertinent to the need to create a blended learning approach.

Let us concentrate on one of the points above and link it to shifting the paradigm from content to experiential and conceptual learning.

‘A more obvious link with the curriculum and real life’

A focus on what learners are experiencing through enforced isolation such as looking at a lack of contact with peers, fear of loss, an imposition on their freedoms, having to be resilient, to reflect on their own ability to learn, enquire and draw conclusions are all a part of wider learning curve.

Applying some of these to concepts that overlay subject specific curriculum content may provide a rich and deep vein for delivering the curriculum and creating breadth and balance that recognises the importance of the learner. Freedom is a concept that learners will understand and can relate to a history topic focusing on slavery, emancipation of women or conscription during war time. Disease is a concept that in science might allow a narrative about previous vaccines for smallpox or polio.  How about baking bread, growing seeds, making models out of waste cartons, all of which allow for conceptual learning linked to specific subjects. I could go on and on with the connections that exist and that relate to the learner’s own experience.

We expand on these essential messages in our ‘In a nutshell’ course, Planning a learning curriculum that will translate between home schooling and the classroom and our live webinar about blended learning Blended Learning – Mixing the virtual with the actual: A pedagogy for the future

Have a look at all of our online CPD and other services by going to our website.

CPD in a Nutshell – One hour training sessions ready to use anytime, anywhere, any place

In a nutshell maybe the only way to access CPD for many working in schools and colleges at the moment. Research abounds that says that it is the opportunity for professional development and time to share learning, good practice and possibilities with their peers that is helping all those in education to cope with current events.

The first six titles are listed below:-

We are surviving by being innovative and positive about how we can help to ensure that the profession continues to have the training and development opportunities that will sustain high quality education for all. CPD is not a luxury and it is certainly essential as everyone is managing significant change in the way they teach and manage to maintain a learning culture.

Our suite of nutshell courses will take about one hour to complete. They are ready to use packages that have all our trademark expertise, quality materials and activities.  We have included video presentations, whiteboard animations, activities, a card sort and access to a range of research and further reading. They are themed to be relevant to the current issues facing us all in education and are linked to our larger 5 section online packages that will deliver whole school or college INSET or provide training and development over a series of sessions for multiple users.

Each nutshell costs £95.00 + VAT and if as a result of taking a sip of our excellent CPD you want to buy one of the larger packages you can put £50.00 towards it and continue to take advantage of some superb training and development opportunities. Find out more about our off the shelf five section courses here, have a look at our list of live webinars that have been so successful over the past few months. There is lots more to dip into on our website such as our unrivalled suite of coaching courses, our leadership programmes, our new team coaching training and one to one coaching for all those senior and middle leaders who are feeling more than a little anxious and alone at the moment.

Learning Cultures are leading the way towards the classroom of tomorrow.  The future of learning is exciting as the possibilities, the flexibility and the endless opportunities of this new and emerging CPD world in a cloud begin to be realised.

CPD any time, any place, any where – to learn, to grow, to share

A new menu for online CPD on Learning Cultures’ website
Have a look at our new online learning brochure here
INSET  – Powerful online CPD for all staff – click below
Leadership – Lead a coaching school towards excellence – click below
 CPD AND TRAINING – Continuing professional learning – click below
Building Tomorrow’s Classrooms Today – Thinking, learning and talking in a cloud

Reflections on what we have learnt from an extraordinary period in history

CPD was not very high on the agenda in March of this year and all of us at Learning Cultures were very unsure as to what the future would hold for a company that does nothing else except deliver training and development for schools and colleges.

We had to make significant changes to our business model and change our approach to how we can provide an offer that will help and support all those in the profession to manage the profound changes the pandemic and school closures have created.

Learning how to create an online platform that is as successful as face to face training has given us all a host of new skills.  We have been surprisingly busy with some innovative sessions and have worked with delegates from the UK and much further afield.  We have delivered whole school virtual INSET with break out rooms and opportunities for highly interactive learning conversations. We have facilitated live links with senior leadership teams who wanted to focus on how to strategically manage blended learning and we have designed a suite of tools for educators to use to ensure they continue to deliver high quality learning.

We are continuing to innovate to ensure the outstanding courses that we have designed and delivered over many years continue to provide educators with the knowledge and skills they need for continuous professional development.  This term has been operational for many, strategic planning that will inevitably include CPD has probably remained something for later.  When you are ready, we have some superb training courses, coaching programmes and a certification route to becoming a coach. We have ready-made training packages with everything there to deliver CPD to suit your training timetable. We have live webinars where the trainer is there and we have a new range of CPD in a nutshell courses that individuals can dip into in their own time.

We can also offer you our expert team of coaches if you want to talk, share ideas or discuss the best approaches to ensuring learning continues and everyone is safe. This next week is about reflecting on what is important and building the reserves ready for what happens next.  Remember the importance of CPD to your own well-being and continuing professional learning and when you are ready dip into what is simply the best, most highly researched and well-regarded training out there.

  • Live Webinars, two sessions of two hours covering the same content as our offsite courses and providing the same high-quality resources and materials either as twilight sessions or sessions in the morning
  • Inclusive online CPD programmes where the whole course is for use at a time to suit the CPD timetable. Everything is there including video presentations, whiteboard animations, activities, card sorts, resources, links to research and relevant publications and a multiple-choice quiz. This suite is designed to be used as part of your own CPD timetable
  • In a Nutshell courses – one- hour webinars to buy off the shelf and to use at any time. We have six courses and will be adding to these over the next few weeks.  They provide a generous starting point for anyone wanting to learn a little about coaching, curriculum design, and learning.
  • Bespoke online or in-house CPD delivered for whole school, college or team sessions where the content is tailor-made linked to whole organisational or team priorities
  • Online one-to-one coaching sessions for senior and middle leaders and for teachers and other staff in a school or college
  • Leadership consultancy working with an expert coach to co-construct excellence in school strategic planning and building high quality outcomes for all involved in educating the next generation.
  • We also offer a 360° review service. This is a highly beneficial process that provides an in-depth focus for strategic professional development and the management of change.


CPD is more important now than ever – never forget, your staff are your most valuable asset

Access to high quality, challenging and meaningful CPD is crucial in these unprecedented times. All staff in schools and colleges everywhere are working the hardest they have ever worked. There is an imperative to ensure that learning continues despite huge obstacles and changing protocols. Have a go at our online learning  self-assessment tool to highlight your successes and your priorities.

There is a wealth of research that defines the right ways to educate in a blended classroom or a totally online classroom. Finding the time to access the research and develop strategies that ensure learning continues and learners learn is not easy and that is where working with professionals like ourselves matters. We read the research and interpret the findings and turn them into practical training applications that lead to changes in practice that will deliver impact and ensure learning is not lost.  Read our 15 top tips

We know from the many accolades we have received over the past few months how helpful our online CPD has been for all those who have participated.  We make sure that the content is challenging, relevant and practical and that the resources we have designed will be used to ensure the training is cascaded to others.  The depth of our collective knowledge is unparalleled. The strength we draw from the experts we employ is clear to see from the high quality programmes that are making a difference to individuals, teams and for schools and colleges collectively. Go to the online training page of our website to see what we have to offer.

Each organisation is different and has different needs. We have therefore produced a range of CPD packages that are flexible and accessible. Follow the links below to find out more.  Your staff are your most valuable asset, make sure you show them how much you value them.



How do we weave curriculum design and intent into a blended learning tapestry?

How do senior leaders empower their teams to continue to plan for and implement a curriculum that has depth and breadth and delivers high quality learning? Have a look at some tips that we have compiled from research here in the UK and internationally, Planning a Blended Learning Strategy – Advice on planning for a blended future.

Planning for a blended learning curriculum is essential as the unfolding story of this pandemic continues to dominate. Schools are compelled to provide online learning where learners are not in school for whatever reason and this creates a challenge for curriculum leaders in how they plan and develop a curriculum that can be delivered both in school and online.

Schools have worked hard over the past two years to be curriculum ready for the introduction of the OFSTED Handbook in September 2019.  Nobody could have predicted what happened next and what did happen next has meant that for many the implementation of the intended curriculum is much more difficult to deliver and measure in terms of depth, breadth and cross curricular consistency, never mind the interweaving of skills and the challenge of mastery.

If seamless learning is the goal then forward planning and high quality professional conversations virtually or otherwise are essential.  Teachers and learners are back in school but for many time away from school is still a reality and if the situation deteriorates there is a suggestion that schools could operate a system where learners are in school for two weeks and home for two weeks.

With this as a possibility blending the learning between these two scenarios is the only way forward. Planning ahead for this is critical and requires innovation and creativity in how teachers can use the learning of the last six months to create a tapestry curriculum that blends technology with other traditional learning tools to ensure that the curriculum can be delivered and can provide learners with the knowledge and skills they need to progress and learn.

Our course Blended Learning – Mixing the Virtual with the Actual: a pedagogy for the future focuses on some of the issues that all staff especially middle leaders and teachers need to focus on. Essentially, planning a blended curriculum, teaching and learning strategies, building in challenge, tackling engagement, assessment and collaboration between teachers and teachers, teachers and learners and peer to peer learner interaction. We have drawn on national and international research combined with our own team’s considerable expertise to build a course that will inform future strategy and curriculum planning. Use our self-assessment tool to assess how ready you are to blend the learning and then join us and learn a great deal.

Click on the picture below to download Learning Cultures’ new online learning brochure

Learning Cultures new brochure that celebrates the online CPD we have developed in response to the current situation.  The feedback from the courses we have delivered and the programmes we have sold is amazing.  This is a new dawn and we may never completely return to what was there before.

Identifying new ways to learn – Blended learning is tomorrow’s classroom today

Some Blended Learning Tools for you to download

Blended learning is the new pedagogy that none of us in education can ignore.  In a nutshell blended learning is creating a learning culture that combines learning remotely with learning in the classroom.  The last six months have been a time where many learners have learnt using technology, in isolation from their teacher and their peers. Teachers have also had to learn a whole new repertoire of strategies for ensuring learning takes place for individuals who are working in isolation and where the teacher has little control. We as CPD providers have also had to learn how to continue to provide CPD remotely and to offer answers for education as to how to teach in this new world.

We have produced a Blended Learning Self-Assessment Tool for schools to use to focus on how to continue to use a blended approach especially as some learners are still in isolation. This tool helps to define what is working well and your priorities for change.

Have a look at our fifteen top tips guide for ensuring learners can make the transition from home schools to the classroom.

The latest in our repertoire of live webinars is a course specifically designed to look at blended learning. We have now run this course several times either at prescribed times in the morning or as twilights or where schools have asked us to deliver it their whole teaching staff. Have a look at the course content below,

Blended Learning – Mixing the virtual with the actual: a pedagogy of the future

You may also be interested in our suite of inclusive off the shelf courses that you can buy to deliver at a time to suit the CPD timetable and calendar.  One of these courses is called The Learning Room – a series of strategies linked to metacognition and thinking skills and looks especially at group working, independent learning, comprehension or reading for understanding and enquiry skills. All of which are essential skills in a world that will become increasingly reliant on a blended approach to learning. See the EEF research paper Metacognition and Self-regulation

We have six titles currently available to buy and more on the way.  Have a look in more detail here.

We are delivering all of our courses as live webinars which are virtual face to face sessions for individuals to attend. They offer 4 hours of training split over two sessions with time for reflection in between.  There is a personal presenter and a wealth of resources and materials sent physically and electronically. Find out more.

We cannot ignore the changes to our understanding of ourselves whether we are the teacher, the trainer or the learner.  Learning has a new shape and we must not ignore the fact that for many it is unlikely that we will return to the past normal.  Technology has been our salvation and we have all had to learn how to use it in more innovative ways.


CPD and coaching – how to lead the way in this time of crisis to creating the right blend of professional learning

Listening, questioning, sharing, collaborating, co-constructing, talking, reflecting, creating, empowering, influencing

A few of the words that describe the power of coaching as the most desirable way to build a CPD strategy for your school or college.  Back to school does not mean been back to normal and many leaders in education are facing challenges that are unprecedented. Finding the solutions to continuing to provide a high quality of education and ensure all staff have the knowledge, skills, energy and motivation to deliver it is essential for learning for pupils and personnel across the organisation. Coaching is that solution.

The Learning Cultures’ coaching team know from many years’ experience that the most cost effective, innovative and solutions-focused way forward is to set about using the principles of coaching as a starting point for planning CPD for the next year and beyond. For most this will mean using virtual platforms and online tools.

The Education Endowment Foundation have come to the same conclusion, their recent Rapid Evidence Assessment of the efficacy of remote professional development concludes,

Remote coaching, mentoring and expert support can be effective alone or as part of broader professional development programmes (PD)

  • Coaching and mentoring can improve skills and knowledge of professionals when delivered remotely and may reduce feelings of isolation in professionals
  • Remote or blended coaching, mentoring and expert support can be used to complement broader remote or blended PD programmes
  • Collaboration between colleagues may also improve PD outcomes through enabling reflective practice and collective problem-solving

The power of coaching transforms learning and teaching, builds dynamic teams and creates positive and incisive leaders. We have had a part to play in ensuring coaching is at the heart of CPD across many schools and colleges here in the UK and internationally.  We have now spent the last six months finalising our online programmes using an ex Channel 4 producer and an award-winning designer to work with us to ensure our highly-praised and well-researched content is also accessible, interesting and relevant.

We have been astounded by the outcomes from the live coaching webinars that we have delivered throughout the summer and the success of the Moodle courses that we have developed for schools and colleges to buy and use anytime within their CPD calendar. The quality and flexibility of this approach means a whole new world of CPD and coaching possibilities to suit all those who educate across all sectors.


How can teachers capture the unplanned learning of the past six months?

How do we learn?  The past six months have given everyone who educates time to ponder this conundrum. Robert Bjork asks a different question in his forward to David Didau’s book What if everything you knew about education was wrong?

He asks, ‘How do we think we learn?’ He says that where we see learning as what is produced as an outcome it is actually measuring performance and is not necessarily learning that will be retained over time.  Learning is not a one-dimensional process and it is not something that just happens when the learner is in school; it is a life long process built through a myriad of experiences and opportunities for acquiring knowledge and having the skills to apply and access that knowledge. The experiences of the past six months and those that will emerge moving forward from here will shape all our lives and it may be a very long time before we truly realise what we have learnt along the way.

It is essential that teachers at any stage across the education spectrum recognise that their learners have had a variety of experiences and certainly older children will have found out quite a lot more about themselves, how they have made use of time, learnt to work independently, kept in contact with friends, learnt new domestic or other skills, talked to their parents more, learnt to live more harmoniously with their siblings or grandparents, learnt survival tactics when faced with adversity. Acknowledging that learning can take many different forms needs to be a part of the recovery process and part of building a new normal that does not dismiss that past six months but uses the experience as integral to the learning process for both teachers and their pupils. We have created a 15 top tips guide for ensuring learners can make the transition from home schools learning to the classroom.

Download the PDF here. We have used a variety of pieces of research to put together these top tips some of which will be included in the resources section of our new newsletter.

We have a new online course delivered as a live webinar that looks closely at how schools and colleges can develop a blended learning approach that may be very necessary as we continue to learn how to teach in new socially distanced classrooms where some learners may well have to continue to learn virtually, at home or in other settings within a school or college. See below.

Blended Learning: Mixing the virtual with the actual – a pedagogy for the future

Have a look here at our suite of live interactive webinars that we are running either in the morning between 10am and 12.30pm or as twilight sessions from 3.45pm to 5.45pm.  You can also see the suite of courses that schools and colleges can buy as a package to deliver CPD to staff as an INSET or as single sessions over time.