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We have invested a great deal in ensuring that we gain exposure to the best ideas about teaching and learning and we have then piloted the ideas, through action research in our context, to make sure they suit us before investing further. Learning is a complex process requiring a multi-faceted approach and so we have been guided by the principle of complementarity, meaning that each subsequent initiative should build on and enhance existing practice.
If you never change your mind, why have one?
Edward de Bono
Reflecting on our work over the past few years, we would say our focus on teaching and learning has helped to create a learning culture and ethos throughout the school. On one level there is the student experience in the classroom, where we have worked to help them become more aware of the learning process and of the need for their active contribution to it. Cooperative learning and Assessment for Learning have facilitated this shift, as has our increasing use of evidence generated from the ‘student voice’ via interviews and questionnaires.
An average teacher reaches 60-80% of students. A great teacher reaches 60-80% of students. The difference is that an average teacher reaches the same 60-80% all the time while great teachers reach a different 60-80% each lesson.
Strategies for Closing the Learning Gap, Mike Hughes with Andy Vass, p. 174
On a second level, it has been necessary to make a substantial and sustained investment in staff development, so that our staff could learn about new research into the learning process; have the opportunity to reflect on this information and make links to their own practice; and then adopt the new ideas and incorporate them into their day to day work. This ongoing process is reflected in the breadth and depth of our in-house training school programme.
Unfortunately we have come to believe that learning is best promoted by being taught. In fact learning is best promoted by being motivated to learn and being in a situation which allows learning to occur.
Cooperative Learning, Dr Spencer Kagan and Miguel Kagan
Finally, there is the strategic level and here, the process of being involved in tightly structured action research, focused on the classroom has been of real benefit. It has emphasised the value of creating professional learning programmes, tightly focused on classroom practice, with sustained opportunities for dialogue and reflection. In addition it has helped us strengthen our capacity for critical reflection, enhanced our ability to gather and use data from a greater range of sources and improved our capacity to interpret data both more skilfully and more rigorously. Explicit discussion of learning, using practical examples from the classroom experience of both staff and students, is now more frequent and more precise and we believe that this will allow us to continue to build on what we have achieved so far.
Recently we have been involved in an initiative called “Enquiring Schools” through an organisation called Future Lab.