Less Coverage; Deeper Learning

My own research and interest into the issues swirling around assessment in schools coincides with the new purpos/ed campaign. Below is another comment left on the Google Doc from which I am highlighting and instigating some further debate around the subject.

Teachers and leaders need to see this as a change in philosophy and pedagogy and that will take good cpd and leadership to embed. It is a shift in balance of teachers’ skills; requires planning which doesn’t depend on fixed SOW as has to flex and bend to meet the needs of young people, there can be no ‘one size fits all’. Also time has to given for reflection which means less ‘coverage’ but deeper learning.

this was commented on by another contributor:

reflection is especially important to give children the time to comment on how they feel about their learning; all too often the time given for plenary/reflection is painfully short. Also, reflection needs to be modelled and focussed to be effective…

An approach being unique to each individual school, even each class and child is something that must be baked into assessment for learning. This malleability must also be reflected in the curriculum that is being used as a foundation and also validated by senior staff in school. There must be a clear message that if assessment takes a curriculum or project into an unexpected direction it is ok, there must be space for the students to feel this and for the teacher to know it is OK.

All too often we are worried about “coverage”, and our supposed accountability to that, to ever venture from the well trodden path – but it is often on the edges where we find the most powerful learning opportunities.

One size will not fit all, as the contributor rightly points out and we all will face different challenges in the classes we work with – where there is a need for consistency is in the space provided to do it well.

The second comment touches on this point. Reflection is all to often an after-thought, nor is it actively taught, demonstrated and explicitly modelled. There needs to be more discussion about learning and the process we go through and this needs to be brought to the surface by the teacher.

Teachers and pupils alike need the space (from school leaders,from local authorities, from government) to adapt what they are doing to improve the learning process: the curriculum space to explore the edges; the timetable space to reflect on the process and the professional space to make judgements about where learning is heading.

Pic: Deep under

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Kate Pill
Guest
5 years 11 months ago

Good points – it is very tricky as a trainee (what with finding your feet in the classroom) to take this sort of practice into the field. Teaching – an infinitely rewarding but very complex career. Wouldn’t have it any other way 🙂

Colleen Young
Guest
5 years 11 months ago

Your post reminds me of a favourite quote of mine: “You can’t teach people everything they need to know. The best you can do is position them where they can find what they need to know when they need to know it.” Seymour Papert

Alison P
Guest
Alison P
5 years 11 months ago
At my last (primary) school we planned whole school topics (there were only 4 classes) and we made the topics whatever length we felt they would suit.  We planned from the national curriculum every year, looking at what we needed to pick up on from the previous year.  It worked well for us, the kids and parents were happy and although it was a bit more work for us it was so much more enjoyable – we got lots of variety and we were learning as well as the children. It’s amazing what you can get out of a two… Read more »
Alison P
Guest
Alison P
5 years 11 months ago
At my last (primary) school we planned whole school topics (there were only 4 classes) and we made the topics whatever length we felt they would suit.  We planned from the national curriculum every year, looking at what we needed to pick up on from the previous year.  It worked well for us, the kids and parents were happy and although it was a bit more work for us it was so much more enjoyable – we got lots of variety and we were learning as well as the children. It’s amazing what you can get out of a two… Read more »
Tracy Watanabe
Guest
5 years 11 months ago
Great question! I had just switched to a new school district and was starting my Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction. I wanted to try something I had a hunch would help my learners, which was focus on learning styles through Multiple Intelligences in number sense in math. It spilled over to all content areas and made me expand to looking at Bloom’s taxonomy. Before I knew it, I was doing PBL in my classroom (although I didn’t realize it at the time). The only way I could go in such depth was to not worry about the checklist of objectives.… Read more »
Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous
5 years 11 months ago

I think the language we use with students is a crucial in shaping a learning ethos. Thanks for your thoughts.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous
5 years 11 months ago

Some great advice here, thankyou so much for sharing some practical steps for implementing a reflective learning environment. “Joy, lots and lots of joy” sounds good to me.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous
5 years 11 months ago

I think the issue with teacher training is that trainees naturally mould to the schools they work in and often these are the most important experiences. Pushing out against existing practice, timetables and routines within a short teaching placement is often difficult. Taking the theory into the field is often much harder as a trainee.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous
5 years 11 months ago

Solutions? Perhaps schools and school leaders need to get back control over the curriculum that is delivered and innovate more readily within the constraints we all feel. 

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous
5 years 11 months ago

How did you get to that stage Tracy? Was it a concerted effort to change existing practice in your school? Did you have the freedom and lack of restraint to change, or has the whole school taken that path? It would be interesting to hear some more of the practical details.

Tracy Watanabe
Guest
5 years 11 months ago

I have found that depth made everything sink in and stick — which allowed us to learn more. So, in the end, students learned all the curriculum they were suppose to learn and they retained it longer with less reteaching because of our depth. But I have to admit, it sure was scary taking those steps and am thankful that I did.

Cristina Just Cristina
Guest
Cristina Just Cristina
5 years 11 months ago

I totally concur and I think metacognition is a critical in learning and teachers CAN do it if willing.  ( examples from my own class here http://ateacherswonderings.posterous.com/reflection-with-and-by-students )
The curriculum though is somewhat beyond teachers’ control. What can they do to narrow it when the policy is the polarization width vs. depth? The “more” implies less time for critical thinking, less time for students to inquire and to reflect. Solutions?…

Annettemblack
Guest
Annettemblack
5 years 11 months ago
Firstly, there will always be a place for traditional style learning where student set a target, focus and produce a body of work.  ‘How to …the philosophical classroom?’ is more a book than blog subject! But a few thoughts.  A deep rapport with the students-spending time outside the timetable with them. Bring your own passionate curiosity to the classroom.  For students who are unused to reflecting  challenge them gently at first, they can be quite startled if you dive in deep! When you see a very bright student crumple under a ‘but what if?’ question, you feel how badly ‘education’… Read more »
Markmoorhouse
Guest
Markmoorhouse
5 years 11 months ago
Totally realistic with 30 learners: peer review, or Group Critique as Ron Berger refers to it in “An Ethic of Excellence”.  A shared language of learning alive and meaningful within the institution is a prerequisite also, but a language with the clear authenticity of tools such as Bristol University’s Effective Life-Long Learning Inventory, rather than a disparate cloud of How To Get to The Next Level instructions: the real Assessment for Learning, ie. reflection on learning process, which Prof Charles Deforges has demonstrated does most to increase achievement in schools.  And teachers seeing themselves and expressing themselves as learners, using… Read more »
Markmoorhouse
Guest
Markmoorhouse
5 years 11 months ago
Totally realistic with 30 learners: peer review, or Group Critique as Ron Berger refers to it in “An Ethic of Excellence”.  A shared language of learning alive and meaningful within the institution is a prerequisite also, but a language with the clear authenticity of tools such as Bristol University’s Effective Life-Long Learning Inventory, rather than a disparate cloud of How To Get to The Next Level instructions: the real Assessment for Learning, ie. reflection on learning process, which Prof Charles Deforges has demonstrated does most to increase achievement in schools.  And teachers seeing themselves and expressing themselves as learners, using… Read more »
Kate Pill
Guest
5 years 11 months ago
Couldn’t agree more. I think that many teachers feel pressured to cover an increasingly “busy”curriculum so that, as a result, very little time is given for students to truly reflect on their learning. Perhaps an argument could also be made that more time needs to be spent in our teacher education courses, in not only modelling the skill of reflection, but also teaching how it can be applied in schools. (Also bearing in mind that class sizes may also be a factor in providing this opportunity for students.) Whilst meaningful reflection may at first appear difficult to build into the learning… Read more »
Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous
5 years 11 months ago

If children had an open invitation for reflection throughout their learning the responsibility would shift to everyone in the classroom. What sort of things can teachers do to help develop this inquisition and make it part and parcel of daily routines? Is it realistic with 30 children?

Annettemblack
Guest
Annettemblack
5 years 11 months ago
I am passionate about students reflecting.  And reflection and what I call  a philosophical curiosity go together. Sadly,  parents rarely model these skills at home. They have taken their lead from the content driven curriculum where reflection boils down to the ‘is it right or wrong?’ question and curiosity is the acquisition of facts.  Any kind of ‘philosophy’ is seen as the preserve of intellectuals.  Children are intellectuals. From an early age they should explore philosophy. Yet I don’t see it as a subject, I see it as a framework, an attitude, the question that never goes away.  The teaching… Read more »
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