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 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.

 

Learning how to coach online – Powerful, proactive and personal

Cascading a coaching culture across a school or college creates opportunities for highly focused professional interaction that can empower individuals to accept change and allow them to take risks and find solutions. This has never been more important as we continue to try to find ways to teach and engage with learners both virtually and in very different classrooms.  Coaching brings together individuals who can share their successes, encourage reflection and foster resilience when the going gets tough.

Here at Learning Cultures that is certainly what we have had to do.  Offsite courses where people travel and spend time in groups in hotels and other conference spaces has not been on the agenda.  Survival for us has required innovation and a willingness to embrace change.  The answer has been surprisingly simple and has proved hugely successful. Coaching, we thought might prove tricky to deliver online. How wrong we were.

The Zoom coaching courses that we have run through May and June have been a huge success and provide an intimate and structured dimension to one to one and group interaction.  The impact of our training is just as powerful as it has always been and the opportunities for the development of more frequent coaching conversations with the trainer and with other participants means practising coaching skills is readily available, time friendly and outstandingly good value for all. We have broken down the full day we usually host into two sessions of two and a half hours each with a week in between for practice and reflection. It works so well, it is less tiring, more rewarding and more intense in terms of depth of learning.

There is still a place for face to face coaching interaction and learning but it isn’t happening any time soon and coaching is urgently needed as a means of empowering and motivating staff and learners to continue to be a part of a learning culture. The current coaching courses we have available online through July and August are:-

Have a look on our website at all the other courses we are offering through our Zoom platform. All our Zoom courses are for individuals to work through and currently cost £150.00 + VAT inclusive of both sessions which is a price that is too good to miss out on.

We also have a suite of courses that are now available on a Moodle platform for schools to buy as CPD packages that can be delivered as a whole school INSET, a series of training sessions or twilight sessions across an academic year. Discounted by 30% to £695.00 + VAT they are exceptional value.

 

Creating Seamless Learning across the Transition Bridge from KS2 to KS3

Transition from primary to secondary school is in the spotlight as never before.  How can you make sure that you can create the right conditions for pupils to make the leap from their primary school to a very different secondary world?

Curriculum leaders, year heads and pastoral leaders should join us online to learn from experts in the field of transition how to ensure that pupils can build on their prior learning, have the confidence to continue their learning journey and feel safe and comfortable with the many changes they will encounter.

We have included a new section looking specifically at some of the issues that will inevitably emerge as a result of the current pandemic and its effect on pupils’ academic achievements as well as their well-being and self-esteem.

The online version of  ‘Crossing the Transition Bridge from KS2 to KS3 – How to build on prior learning and ensure seamless progression as pupils move from primary to secondary school  will provide you with the same resources, activities and extra research and other articles to support the development of a transition strategy that will ensure all pupils thrive and progress during their vital first year in secondary school.

The cost for this online course is £145.00 + VAT which is discounted by 50% of the cost of the offsite course.  We are hosting our online courses as two half days instead of one full day with time to reflect in between. The dates are 23rd June and 3rd July. The only thing missing is the superb lunch we always provide and pastries and biscuits.  That will be up to you!

Other similar courses being hosted this term are listed below.

We also have a suite of courses available on our MOODLE site that can be delivered at any time to all staff. Have a look at these on our website here.

Accessing Education CPD through a Virtual Learning Platform

Online CPD for educators is undoubtedly the way forward.  Certainly, in the short term.  Here at Learning Cultures we are working hard to bring you our highly acclaimed training courses to a virtual platform.

We have six courses ready to go.  We are discounting the cost of these by 30% to £695.00 + VAT from £995.00 + VAT per school. We intend to continue this offer until such time as we can provide offsite and INSET training again. You will have access to the course and login details for up to 10 members of staff.

Each course you buy will allow up to ten members of staff to access the array of materials, presentations and activities as many times as they want for up to twelve months. Each will have their own log in details and can then use the training for their own use and to share with their teams. Each of our courses has an element of coaching within it. Coaching is by far the best way to ensure that the learning is cascaded and shared widely.

We are watching carefully the unfolding picture as to how we move forward from here towards a more normal way of life.  It is clear that group activities in large hotels and conference centres are unlikely to happen in the very near future.

However, training your staff is still an essential element of school life and all staff must have opportunities to learn new skills, reflect on their practice and work together through professional conversations and motivational dialogue.  Those who have attended our training courses in the past will know that all our training is outstanding, and full of new and highly researched evidence-based learning materials.  Our online platform will offer the same and more.

Have a look here for more details and order your virtual CPD so that all your staff can continue to develop professionally using the acclaimed resources and presentations for which we are justifiably proud.

Online courses from Learning Cultures -Virtually speaking with feeling, style and presence

Virtually speaking with feeling, style and presence

Learning how to coach has given every single member of the Learning Cultures’ team the positivity and creativity to find solutions to this unique situation we all find ourselves in.  We can’t, and probably won’t be able to for some time to come, travel and gather in hotels and other venues for training, meetings, or coaching sessions.  So what we have decided to do is to bring our considerable expertise and wealth of highly praised materials and resources to an online platform.

Continuous Professional Development (CPD) is essential to all those in the education profession.  We advocate that the sharing of good and outstanding practice as part of a process of continuous improvement should be an important aspect of school life. Even that most simple and cost-effective way of learning from each other is not happening for many professionals who are now working from home for much of the time. We have six courses available as part of the first of our CPD on-line sequence which include something for leaders and middle managers, for subject leaders and for teachers.

These courses are broken down into five sections and will mirror our approach to in-house and off-site courses.  They have been designed, recorded and produced by an ex Channel 4 film maker and a producer who has a wealth of technical and creative experience designing high profile on-line courses for some of our largest companies. For all of those who have attended our training courses we offer the same wealth of expert content that is built on high profile and current research.

The first six of our courses listed above are delivered by Glynis Frater who is an expert coach with a wealth of experience of training leaders, managers and teachers for over 15 years. These courses have been carefully reviewed and we are so pleased with the extremely positive evaluations we have received.

“Outstanding, so much material that is easy to follow and extremely informative.  There is enough in one course to use for several online opportunities for all our staff.”

Headteacher from a Hospital School in the South West

You will have training courses that you can use to deliver a whole school INSET or for specific teams within your school or college. If you buy one course up to 10 individuals will have log in details so several members of a team can work together to plan how to use the materials, share their learning and use the resources to support their own professional development and provide opportunities for professional dialogue across the whole school, within teams and departments and for individual members of staff.

We have chosen the above six titles as a starting point. There is something for leaders and managers, (Appraisal and Lesson Observation) for subject and team leaders (the role of the subject leader) and something for all teaching staff (Formative Assessment and The Learning Room).  The current price of £695.00 + VAT is discounted by 30% for the duration of this quarantine period.  Book now and ensure that all your staff continue to have the highly professional CPD that they deserve.

 

Are you being heard? – Listening an essential skill for learning

Listening is essential for learning. However, ensuring learners are listening to the important information they need to learn remotely is difficult.

Here at Learning Cultures we train teachers how to listen when they are learning to become coaches. We stress the importance of active listening. We raise would be coach’s awareness of how easy it is to be distracted, to miss important signals, to take back the conversation too quickly. Teachers soon recognise that this skill along with deep and rich questioning are the necessary ingredients to ignite learning.

So what can we do that will create a virtual classroom where we can be sure that the audience, the learner is listening?

We know from many pieces of research that it is likely that your learners will only hear around 40% of what you are saying regardless of whether you are face to face or online. So, categorise the information you want to impart into small chunks with not too much talking. Ask for feedback and give simple tasks linked to the information such as taking notes, producing a mind map, recording the key words.  Create the opportunity for learners to learn incrementally.

For some of the online courses we have on offer we are using whiteboard software to convey our messages through cartoons and stories.  Using visuals in a fast, fun way with text and the spoken voice is a powerful tool for raising the level of interest and the listening. Video Scribe is a cost effective way of building some highly interactive lesson content.

When you are planning the learning think about what it is that your learners will see and hear. Would you be happy sitting and listening in the same way? How interesting are you? How can you encourage learners to listen and take in what you are saying?

Use suspense to engage your learners. This can be a useful approach for all sorts of subjects. In Science, ‘what do you think happens next?’ In History, ‘what were the consequences of his/her decision?’ In Geography, ‘what would happen if you chose that route?’

Make listening part of the learning. We know from our training that everyone loves to think about how well they listen and actually how bad we all are at using this vital skill. Talk about listening and create a quiz that your learners can do after you have asked them to listen to you.  They will, inevitably, not score highly. It is a powerful way to raise awareness about their listening skills or the lack of them.

Our online learning offer for teachers is growing.  Remember that your learning is also important.  Face to face CPD may not be available for some time to come.  We are creating virtual platforms for some of our courses that you can buy as a package. The first ones are listed here.

 

The answers you hope for depend on the questions you ask

What are the questions that achieve the best outcomes from your learners? Do you have at your fingertips questions that will inspire enquiry, problem solving and challenge? Are you stimulating for your pupils the desire to learn, find out more and deepen knowledge and understanding?

“the disciplined practice of thoughtful questioning enables the learner to examine ideas and be able to determine the validity of those ideas” Socrates

The Learning Cultures’ team are experts in coaching.  This gives us an edge in the techniques required to be innovative in how to ask the right questions.  We know that incisive and focused questioning is one of the most fundamental skills a coach must develop. It is also the most powerful pedagogy in the classroom. This exceptional time in our lives and the lives of all our learners provides us with the time to reflect on how to skilfully use questioning as a stimulus for learning.

Asking open questions that start with who, when, where, what, how or why require the recipient of the question to answer fully.  Asking a learner ‘where did you find the information to inform your answer?’ ‘What do you know already about the Romans?’ cannot be answered with a yes or no answer and lead the learner to explain their reasoning or recall what they already have learnt.  We have included here some resources that you can use to reflect on how you use questioning and how you can use specific types of questioning to challenge deeper thinking, create opportunities for reflection and motivate learners to take risks and find their own solutions.

We have included a proforma that explains the main questioning types and when to use them. We have put together a few slides from a presentation we use to deepen knowledge about questioning and how to cleverly use questioning techniques as part of learning how to coach. We have also added in a list of ‘Socratic questions’ and example answers. We have also included a table that provides some examples of progressive questioning for higher levels of response linked to Bloom’s taxonomy.

Happy questioning to all of you out there learning how to teach remotely. I wonder how much will change for all of us as we remain in this virtual world for a little while longer.

We are going virtual with some of our training courses. CPD for educators while we are not in school is just as important as ensuring the right approach to teaching our pupils. Have a look below at our first suite of online CPD for educators,

 

 

 

Comprehension – a vital key to unlocking deeper learning in a virtual world

How well do your pupils understand the work they are given in this time of virtual learning?  In a classroom the teacher fills the gaps explains the unfamiliar and corrects misconceptions.  How can we ensure this happens at home?

Comprehension is essential if pupils are to deepen their learning and unlock their potential to make sense of how the world works.  Blooms in its original form and the more recent revised form (as above) both recognise the importance of comprehension or understanding quite early on in their respective hierarchical pyramids. We cannot begin to analyse, justify, compare and contrast or evaluate until we have the skills with which to make sense of the facts. In any classroom we would expect to see some or all of the list below.

  • Discussion
  • Collaboration
  • Investigation
  • The acquisition of knowledge
  • Practice and reinforcement
  • What the learner produces to obtain feedback

For all of the above there is an essential component part which is being able to understand the information they have at their disposal. Learning how to de-code the written word or other information will lead to pupils being able to share, have a discussion or do some independent enquiry of their own. There is an opportunity here to focus on how to help your pupils to shape their own learning. Pupils should reflect and ask questions to test their own understanding of the content of the work being given to them or the reading they are asked to undertake.  Learning how to deeply understand text or indeed other materials such as graphs, charts, photographs and diagrams will reinforce what they already know and provide the platform to then build new learning.

A friend and colleague of mine developed a tool for her PGCE students to use as part of their teaching of English.  We have adapted the 5Ps of comprehension for English into 5Ps for other subjects and for non-fiction texts, worksheets or indeed graphs, photographs and diagrams.  Create for your pupils studying from home an opportunity to use a tool that will help them to articulate what they do understand and to focus on where they are unsure. It will give all pupils the confidence to reflect on the importance of understanding what they are given to support their developing knowledge.

The five Ps of comprehension   – Download the questions in this PDF that will provide pupils with an opportunity to reflect on how well they understand what they are reading or researching. The 5Ps are listed below.

  • Points of View – What is the text telling you and do you agree?
  • Patterns and connections – How has reading this added to what you already know?
  • Puzzles – What is puzzling you?
  • Possibilities? – Now you know this what else can you learn to add to your understanding?
  • Prediction – What might happen if…?

We are producing a suite of on-line training courses for leaders, managers and teachers in schools and colleges. These will be available after the Easter holiday at the end of April.  Keep up your CPD. Continue to follow our weekly posts with advice for how to support pupils learning from home.