This week I spend in Scotland. I was invited by Education Scotland to be part of a panel on curriculum innovation during the Scottish Learning Festival on Wednesday. TES Magazine wrote an article about the panel session. On Thursday, I had the honour to inspire the Education Scotland Curriculum Innovation Team with a workshop. We started at 9.30 am and kept on going until 1.45 pm! We’ve talked a lot about the hardships of educational change, the insecurities that come with it, the new language we have to develop, and the fact that there is no element in (traditional) education that we shouldn’t use while we evolve into new forms of education.
We all agreed on some simple facts:
- The way we educate has to evolve because we prepare pupils for their future in an evolving world.
- There is no shame in admitting that you don’t exactly know where this will end because we are evolving: That’s an iterative process.
We also concluded that Education Scotland has two great resources to build on: Curriculum for Excellence and Realizing The ambition: Being Me.
The workshop took place at one of my favourite primary schools: Torphichen and involved kids from Westfield as well. I wrote a blog about the fantastic things they were doing after a visit last spring. It was fascinating to see how these kids contributed to the workshop. One of the boys told me afterwards: “It felt like the people from the curriculum innovation team treated us as a grown-ups.”
I took the opportunity to stay a couple of extra days at these schools. And as you can see above, they prepare everything with their pupils. The pupils didn’t just make the drawings, they were involved in the full debate about their values, vision and aims. It was great to see how much they progressed as a school since my previous visit in April. This is best illustrated by a speech three of their elven-year-old students wrote for the Scottish Learning Festival:
In our school, we learn in an agile way. This means that all pupils have a big say in what and how we learn and that we have time to play, to grow our interests and passions, to develop skills and decide on our own learning journey much more than we did before. There are lots of different things that make up our agile approach but we are going to share three of these with you today. I am going to tell you about our Expert Network. Our expert network is made up of staff, pupils, parents and other people in the community or beyond. We ask everyone who comes in what their skills and hobbies are and what they do for a living. They then get a place on our wall. When we are doing our projects, we can go to the network to see if there is anyone we can get to help us. Our teachers then help us to email or phone them to arrange for support. We also use our experts to do ‘offerings’ Offerings are one off workshops or talks. One of our teachers organises these and then advertises what is on, so we can choose if we want to join in or not. Sometimes they are in person, sometimes they are online, sometimes they are led by pupils, parents, partners. Some recent offerings we have had have been fitness, guitar lessons, caring for snakes and candle-making. If the offerings are popular, then they might become masterclasses or projects. We find the expert network useful and interesting because it gives us access to more people in the wider community and it helps our learning because we can work with people who are really skilled in certain things.
Masterclasses are like offerings but they are different because we have to sign up for them and commit to going to at least three in a row. Although they are not optional, we get lots of choice. There are up to 13 options to choose from and we sign up for four of them. There is also always a choice of PE masterclasses, and we choose two of them each week. The teachers (or other experts) plan the masterclasses around our projects or interests, around experiences and outcomes or around open-ended activities that we have explored beforehand to see where we want to take our learning. The teachers also make sure the masterclasses are full of opportunities for us to practice our literacy and numeracy. Because all the teachers do masterclasses at the same time, we get to work with a range of teachers each week and in a range of spaces in the school. We enjoy masterclasses because we have more say in what we are learning and how we learn and there is always stuff that you never thought you could do on offer, so it makes you try new things. You are not doing what your friends are doing – you are doing what you are interested in. We think we learn better this way because it is linked to what we are interested in so it all makes more sense.
We always have project time during the week. There are four different types of projects- teacher led; teacher initiated; pupil led or pupil initiated. Sometimes the teacher decides on the project, and gives us the learning goals. We then use our learning canvas to plan the steps we will take to achieve these goals. If the project is teacher initiated, that means the teacher has given us different provocations that are planned to inspire us and that we can explore and play with. We then decide where we want to take our learning and come up with our own goals and success criteria. Then we have pupil led or pupil initiated projects. This is where we get to fully decide what we want to do – based on our passions and interests. With this type of project, we have to prepare a pitch and present to staff and peers. It feels a bit like Dragons Den or like an interview. We have to say what our main goal is, how we plan on achieving this, which skills we are hoping to develop and what our learning will be. After the pitch, the project might be approved straight away. Or, it might need to be tweaked so we go and make changes then try again. Or, sometimes, it might be rejected all together and we need to rethink. The teachers help us with this using coaching, so we are supported to come up with our own solutions to any problems we are having with the projects. And, the same as with masterclasses, we can use all the different spaces in school and get support from all the teachers and other adults during project time. For all of the projects, we use the learning canvas to help us plan and organise our learning. We keep a track of our projects using them, making sure we stay on track and can work to a deadline, and we use them to keep focussing on our goals and success criteria. Any evidence of our goals being achieved are put on a digital platform called Seesaw. This helps us give and get feedback on the learning that has taken place during the projects, and it lets us share our learning journey with our families. We like this way of doing projects because we feel it is like being in the world of business!
It is more enjoyable and we think we learn more and get the chance to more creative.
I want to thank Maris, Callum and Oliver for sharing their speech with me and for helping me during the Education Scotland team workshop. I need to thank Amy and Freya also, the workshop wouldn’t be a success without their contribution.
To wrap things up, I love to share Freya’s notes (her interpretation of the workshop).
Interested in these schools? Follow them on Twitter: Torphichen & Westfield Primary Or ask one of the pupils for a tour 😉