Posted in Learning

What if…

We used to, (and some magpie eagle-eye teachers in the academy still do!), run an activity in R&P/RE lessons and days called ‘The What If Scenario’. Quite a simple premise, pupils are provided with several generic What If scenarios and must work through them, flow diagram-like, to their natural conclusion. We then discuss the overall outcomes of this situation, and the impact it would have on a local, national and global scale. The themes usually start at the school-wide level, What if there was no homework? What if all PE lessons were outside? What if all the school’s money was spent on English and Maths?

The scenarios then predictably evolve with the help of the pupils into some far reaching, slightly existential/ridiculous situations; What if all crimes had the same punishment? What if medical care was removed for anyone 70 years and over? What if spiders grew to the size of dogs?

The essential learning and development aspect is discussion that follows. They are not going to happen these situations, (especially not the last bloody one!), they are thought experiments, and it has led to a raft of What if questions relating to the pedagogical practice of teachers. Some have been approached on blogs before, (David Didau looks at a whole host of issues surrounding this topic), but the impact of some of these, no matter how absurd and counterintuitive they may seem, are the sort of questions that may lead to effective change in practice.

Freeing ourselves to think like this and increase our engagement in the process of change can hold us to account for the decisions we can sometimes make as a matter of ease rather than impact. How many times have we photocopied 25 sheets knowing that the pupils would be perfectly capable of achieving the learning through a discussion, which would mean more managing from us? What if we weren’t allowed to photocopy for a week?

Active reflection and introspection are a teachers best friend.

Habitually, we do this looking at our lessons and unpicking aspects that worked and areas that will need changing. But how much of an impact does this eventually have on the learning? Are we reflecting for the pupils and their learning, or to make our workload easier? What if all lessons had to planned around an artefact brought in from home?

I invite anyone who feels inclined to read my small yet perfectly formed ramblings on how we should all be ‘Proud to Learn‘ to comment on any of the What ifs mentioned so far, and the scenarios underneath, you never know, we could create an educational trend that innovates and shifts the focus of curriculums across the system! Or it could just be a fun way of vocalising an educational ideal!

What if meeting could last no longer than 30 minutes?

What if there were no more numeric gradings?

What if all formal assessments had to include an pupil interview element to them?

What if for one week each academic year,  pupils’ English and Maths lessons were not taught by their normal teachers?

What if year 7 designed the year 11 curriculum and vice versa?

Posted in Learning

Minor Mistakes lead to Major Learning

This is what I have been emphasising to our pupils over the last term, that those who make the most mistakes win! Making mistakes is all part of being at school, of being part of a learning environment, but having a structured framework with which to learn from those mistakes is key to ensuring a successful learning arc. Being clear that getting it wrong is OK, that low threat environment we endeavor to create for all learners will ultimately lead to independent and confident learners, skilled in reflection and adaption when presented with challenging situations. Mary Myatt (@MaryMyatt) postulates in her new book, High Challenge, Low Threat (read in one sitting its that good!), that those moving positively thought their learning journey say to themselves ‘I could have done that better and why didn’t that go so well?’

Modelling to our pupils that to reflect upon or practice and create next steps based on these reflections is essential to their development. Not divulging every minor transgression, but demonstrating enough to them that a doer makes it, a doer makes mistakes. Pragmatically, we know that we can’t afford certain demographics of pupils to make mistakes, our exam sitting masses need to get it right, to display high quality learning skills. But removing the threat of getting it wrong earlier in their learning journey can only serve to benefit them when they face these pressurised situations. Developing the fight response to cancel out any thoughts of flight should be happening at the major transition points of the pupils learning lives.

In terms of developing an clear and coherent transition structure the focus could be on these types of areas, which will all inevitably impact on one another;

  1. Creation of situations and projects that translate across establishments, demonstrating to pupils that they will do things wrong n matter where they are, but the consistent approach is always to learning from it.
  2. To create reciprocal visits between transitioning establishments, modelling these pedagogical points in each location.

Here is an example of our pupils Mistake Wall, a motivational display linked to Dweck’s Mindset materialPicture1

Pencils have rubbers for a reason, the universe wants us to