Sharing Butterflies 

Image:  Edward Norton Lorenz’s strange attractor notion

In chaos theory, small causes can have a huge impact. This idea came to be known as the “butterfly effect” when half a century ago, meteorologist professor, Edward Norton Lorenz suggested that the flap of a butterfly’s wings might ultimately cause a tornado.

In 2013, Sir Tim Brighouse wrote an article for the Guardian ‘The butterfly effect in schools: sharing simple ideas can have a big impact’ where the ‘butterflies’ are the tips for teaching better. That same year, Alex Quigley followed up this article in Confident Leadership, when he wrote  ‘The Butterfly Effect in School’ in which he discussed the conditions needed for the butterfly to thrive. I was particularly struck by the three questions that the butterfly analogy sparked for Alex.

What are the ‘butterflies’ in my school and in my classroom?

What conditions do I need to create for ‘butterflies’ to flourish?

What classrooms and teachers provide the most fertile conditions for learning? Can we shine a light on those teachers and share their ‘butterflies’?

To aid the identification of ‘butterflies’ it is useful to have a good understanding of what the research tells us ‘great teaching’ is. I recommend reading the following as a starting point:

Inspiring Teachers Perspectives and Summary Report [Educational Development Trust 2016] 

What makes great teaching? [Professor Coe et al. Sutton Trust 2014]

Hattie Ranking: 195 Influences And Effect Sizes Related To Student Achievement [Visible Learning.Org 2016]

It is worth remembering that whilst teaching is an evidence based profesion, teachers are ‘actively’ gathering evidence every day as to ‘what’ has the most impact on student achievement for their children right now. Whilst, much of what is found is underpinned by the research – reassuring to know that ‘great’ practice stands the test of time – we must be mindful of a changing world and the individuality/complex needs of the children we are teaching today. What works with some children, may not work with others.

Some useful questions to ask prior to the collection of evidence of student learning:

What does success look like?

How will you measure success? E.g. Qualitative and quantitative data

How will you gather evidence of children’s thinking/learning prior to the teaching sequence, during and afterwards?

When/How do you and the children reflect on the impact of teaching/learning strategies? E.g. Reflective learning journals, daily/weekly

What direct/indirect evidence will you collect to evidence impact?

When/Where and to ‘whom’ will you share your butterflies?

There is nothing more powerful in schools than collective efficacy. Where there is an open-door culture. Where teachers are passionately ‘talking’ about teaching and learning and more importantly are empowered to learn from each other. Teachers respond positively, are more motivated and enthused when they don’t feel threatened by a fear of failure.

John Hattie discovered that teachers are far more likely to have a large and positive impact if they:

Are passionate about helping their students learn

Forge strong relationships with their students

Are clear about what they want their students to learn

Adopt evidence-based teaching strategies

Monitor their impact on students’ learning, and adjust their approaches accordingly

Actively seek to improve their own teaching

Are viewed by the students as being credible

How do you as leaders build collective efficacy in your schools? How many ‘butterflies’ are your teachers sharing?



Practical Strategies for Sharing Butterflies

1.  Attend and present at TeachMeets

2.  Teacher ‘Learning Wall’ in the Staffroom

3.  Be brave and video yourself

4.  Team Teach

5.  Lesson Study

6.  Keep a reflective learning journal

7.  Feedback Forum

8.  Connect with other professionals e.g. Twitter

9.  Write a blog

10. Join a research project

Strategies from the Literacy Wagoll Blog

 1) Speed dating – Staff members bring one short snappy idea that they use in their classroom. Each teacher sits facing another and they both share their idea, showing resources and explaining the impact it has on their children. Professionals rotate around until all ideas have been shared with everyone. Teachers can then vote for their favourite idea to take away and implement. by choosing specific themes, best practice can be share din focused areas that link to the School Improvement Plan.

2) Social Media Pages – One of the major barriers to sharing ideas is time. however, everyone finds time to flick through Facebook or Twitter. By creating a ‘Teaching and Learning’ page you can share best practice by literally putting it in their hands. Teachers will stumble upon new ideas that your social media page shares. These ideas can come from observed ideas from lessons or from external sources. As the page grows, you may find that teachers are willing to share their own ideas on the page when something has gone well in class.

3) 3 Minute Presentations – Before staff meetings take place allow an opportunity for a member of staff to share one strategy that works in their classroom. Their challenge is to explain and share within 3 minutes. This can occur at the beginning of the week, so that staff can be encouraged to give the idea a go in their own classrooms.

4) Ideas That Stick – A simple way to share ideas is by creating a teaching and learning display in the classroom. Teachers can stick an idea on a sticky note and post it onto the board. The board can have a variety of categories which help teachers navigate around the display to find fresh new ideas that are relevant to them.

5) The Market Place – Teachers can bring an idea that they use in the classroom and set up a small market stall displaying their best practice. Teachers can move around and talk to teachers about their ideas and the impact they have had on their children. This is a great event to invite other local schools to so that teachers gain new teaching strategies from outside their school.

Is the Tide Turning? Hope for Struggling Schools

Justine Greening’s speech at the Sutton Trust’s Mobiity Summit must have given a glimmer of hope to every leader currently serving in schools with challenging contexts.
It’s been a long time coming, but as James Bowen, Director of NAHT Edge, wrote recently in the TES ‘Greening’s signals for a less ‘punitive’ approach towards struggling schools’ could be the ‘light we’ve been waiting to see.’

It has been well documented that disadvantaged contexts impact hugely on both educational attainment and school quality, which are typically lower than that of other schools. This is primarily due to the difficulties with the recruitment of high-quality teaching staff, limited ‘short-life’ funding, high levels of pupil mobility and the increasingly low starting points of children, who are ‘quite frankly’ just not ‘school ready’ upon entry. Yet, despite these facts being widely cited, schools continue to be battered by high-level, punitive accountability measures. Is the tide about to turn?

Greening acknowledges that: “We do need to move away from a perception of a reliance on a pure punitive intervention approach. We need to, moreover, move towards a culture of having the right support in the right places at the right time, and I think for too long our strategy hasn’t had that breadth to it, and perhaps that clarity around it.”

Yes, Ms Greening, we do indeed need to move towards a culture of support, rather than this prescriptive, short-sighted approach that sees some leaders reduced to ‘playing the numbers game’ rather than incentivising them to play for the long-term gains that can only be achieved when ‘time’ and ‘money’ are factored into the equation.
As someone who has the privilege of working across schools with some of the ‘highest levels’ of deprivation in the country. I see first-hand just what our ‘amazing leaders’ are doing for the life chances of the children in their care. Actions, that simply cannot be measured under our current, narrow ‘data driven’ system. For the 3.7 million children living in poverty in the UK, their most basic needs must be met first – before the learning process can start.

I don’t know of any leader who would argue against the need to improve. We just need to be really clear about what we mean by ‘improve’.

Leaders, in particularly challenging contexts are generally ‘pretty special people’ who go above and beyond the call of duty to ‘improve’ the quality of life for the children in their care. They know, that success for our poorest children cannot really be measured ‘fully’ until they reach adulthood. When it is hoped, that despite the challenges they faced as children, of low aspirations, low income and unemployment, poor housing, poor health, tiredness and hunger, they emerge fully prepared from our education system, with the knowledge, skills and understanding to take their place in society. This can only be achieved, when leaders of our schools in challenging contexts, across all phases,  ensure that our poorest children are fed during term time and through the holidays; make provision if they need a place to sleep during the school day; enrich their lives through engaging learning experiences and above all, keep them safe, loved and nurtured – because that is what our poorest children need.


It is with this relentless focus on ‘improving’ the life chances for our poorest children that will give them the fighting chances as adults, to compete against their more privileged counterparts in securing a sustainable income through long-term employment and a longer life expectancy. Surely, that is the real measure of success?

Most leaders are guided by a strong moral compass who genuinely want to make a difference for children. Yet when you hear of dedicated leaders exiting the profession due to the stress caused when a set of results does not meet the ‘required standard’ and the context of the ‘why’ is pretty much ignored. You know that we haven’t got it right YET!

We all need to work together to secure school improvement in our most struggling schools. This improvement must be contextualised because there is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution to the challenges they are facing. Schools serving depriving communities need ‘time’ to improve outcomes for children.

Fund them well – and let them lead the way!

#5priorities

  

Don’t let CREATIVITY be the Missing Ingredient in YOUR Classroom

In 2013, Jon Kamen (chairman and CEO of radicalmedia.com, a transmedia company) wrote an article for Wired Magazine entitled ‘Creativity is the missing ingredient in education.‘ He argues that with so much emphasis on STEM subjects, creativity is being squeezed out of education and along with it opportunities for creative thinking. His solution: the acronym STEM should be changed to STEAM to include the arts. Why? Because these subjects still respect the creative process.
Creative thinking leads to innovation, and innovation leads to success. Sure, science, technology, engineering and maths are necessary, but without the initial creative stimulus for solving a problem or imagining the possible, nothing would ever be accomplished.’ [kamen, J:2013]

Kamen’s viewpoint is supported in the brilliant, and freely available book ‘Creativity in the English language classroom’ (2015) written by an international community of educators and published by the British Council. Editors Alan Maley and Nik Peachey state that due to current curriculum and assessment constraints, creativity is something of an endangered species in our classrooms; and that ‘creativity isn’t something which is reserved for a special part of a course or a lesson, but that it is something which can and should be integrated into every aspect of our classroom practice and at every level of our learners’ experience.’


Sylvia Guinan’s review of this book is well worth a read, as is her blog.

In the book ‘Creativity in the Primary Classroom’ (2012) author Julia Desailly has further compelling arguments of the impact of creativity, when she writes that ‘becoming a teacher who is able to teach creatively and to encourage pupils to learn creatively and to develop their own creativity is also to become a highly effective teacher.’

As if we needed any more persuasion about the absolute necessity for the creative classroom. I will leave it to Sir Ken Robson to have the last word…


I’m sure everyone has viewed his TED Talk – but just in case… ‘Do schools kill creativity?’ 

And just because I love this anecdote…

‘A six-year old pupil in a drawing class said she was going to draw a picture of God. The teacher said: ‘But nobody knows what God looks like’. ‘They will, in a minute’, the child replied.’    Sir Ken Robson

[Please let me know if any of the links are broken or not working]


Beyond Pedagogy: Should we be embracing ‘heutagogic learning’ in our schools today?


If we are to prepare children for their future – to be lifelong learners and global citizens – who are able to apply their competencies and skills independently, effectively and  creatively – in a range of contexts; in our ever changing, technology rich world – does pedagogy really have a place in the classroom today? Should we be focussing more on heutagogy?

What is Heutagogy?

Heutagogy is the study of self-determined learning … It is also an attempt to challenge some ideas about teaching and learning that still prevail in teacher centred learning and the need for, as Bill Ford (1997) eloquently puts it ‘knowledge sharing’ rather than ‘knowledge hoarding’. In this respect heutagogy looks to the future in which knowing how to learn will be a fundamental skill given the pace of innovation and the changing structure of communities and workplaces.”

Hase, S. and Kenyon, C. (2000). From andragogy to heutagogy. Ultibase, RMIT. 


In self-determined learning, it is important that learners acquire both competencies and capabilities (Stephenson, 1994 as cited in McAuliffe et al., 2008, p. 3; Hase & Kenyon, 2000, 2007). Competency can be understood as proven ability in acquiring knowledge and skills, while capability is characterized by learner confidence in his or her competency and, as a result, the ability “to take appropriate and effective action to formulate and solve problems in both familiar and unfamiliar and changing settings” (Cairns, 2000, p. 1, as cited in Gardner, Hase, Gardner, Dunn, & Carryer, 2007, p. 252).

Blaschke, L.M. (2012). Heutagogy and lifelong learning: A review of heutagogical practice and self-determined learning. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13(1), 56-71.

What to read more? I recommend accessing the following WordPress site – where the above information came from.
Heutagogy Community of Practice

I also recommend…

teachthought: Shifting from Pedgagogy to Heutagogy in Education

What are the skills children need to prepare them for the future?

Leading futurist John B. Mahaffie looks at the personal and learning skills that will make our children successful in the future.

1. Love of Learning — With no certainty about the skills and knowledge we will need. A desire to learn will give an individual greater success. That comes from experiences as a child in which learning is challenging, interesting, rewarding, and fun, and sometimes includes what the child wants to learn.
2. Skill at learning — Learning to learn is a teachable skill and should be at the core of the school curriculum. This includes iterative efforts at instilling and advancing learning skills, and giving students the chance to reflect and learn about how they learn best.
3. Self-knowledge — Self-knowledge is thus a central skill. A critical part of it is humility, but another is self-confidence. The self-aware child will grow to be someone who can and wants to talk to all sorts of people. To listen well and to continue to learn.
4. People sense — Children may be naturally self-focused and thus in practice, selfish. There is a way out. We can work with them to understand the situations others are in, the points of view that other people have. The child who develops people sense will be a strong collaborator.
5. Communication — Communication includes spoken, written, and increasingly, visual communication, and will be fundamental to most kinds of work. This is strengthened by people sense, and in turn improves and strengthens skill at collaboration.
6. Worldliness — Not all education happens in school. Consider the advantages of the child who has been to the capital city and has seen what’s there compared with the child who has never left the village. Or, to be fair, also the child who lives in the city and has never seen a farm or village.
7. Comfort with complexity — The world is not driven by simple cause and effect and big questions are not black or white. Our world is full of subtlety and complexity. Examining it and understanding it that way is essential for success in work and in life.
8. Goal setting — Successful people learn how to set goals and meet them. For the employer, this means they are productive. For the individual, this can mean personal success and advancement. 
9. Open minds — No success is possible if we don’t raise children to become adaptable, thoughtful, open-minded adults. 

Theirs will be a world of constant challenge and change, and being strong and prepared means being able to change.
Innovative programs around the world put a focus on at least some of these nine skills, often with curricula that emphasize experiential learning, collaboration, and a focus on the learner’s own interests, needs, and motivation. For example, many of the tenets of progressive education mesh with, or directly support, these critical skills and provide a philosophy and framework for addressing them even more. [Article retrieved from Wiser ed.review]

From my research so far – heutogagy has been of particular interest for educators involved in long distance learning and further education – and it makes sense – for the mature student, who has choice – and the technological tools available to them, to enable them to decide what and how they want to study. However, the more I read about this theory – and its approach to learning – should we be looking beyond pedagogy to underpin the learning experiences children ‘should’ be having in today’s classroom – if we are to prepare them for tomorrow? Perhaps we should be looking to employ ‘Blended Heutagogy?’ Food for thought.
I have just downloaded the following book – will aim to post a summary when I have read it.


Buy on Amazon
You might find the following research links of some interest:

Playing with heutagogy: exploring strategies to empower mature learners in higher education

From Andragogy to Heutagogy [This is a MUST read!] 

Heutogogy and Lifelong Learning: A Review of Heutogogical Practice and Self-Determined Learning

I would really like to connect with any educators who have researched/currently employing this theory in the primary classroom. You can find me on Twitter @splozza
[Source for cover image: Stewart Hase and Chris Kenyon – see teachthought link above]

‘Why is your Ofsted Grade more important than your Parent Grade?’ Via @Oldprimaryhead1 This Distance Between Us – Parent School Relationships

“You can’t teach children to behave better by making them feel worse. When children feel better, they behave better.” Pam Leo This blog has been inspired by Carrie and David Grant who spoke about the parent school relationship at this week’s NAHT SEND Conference. I was once browsing in a very large HMV close to […]

http://oldprimaryhead.com/2016/03/12/this-distance-between-us/

Thinking about Curriculum Design! #edchat #ukedchat #21stedchat

The purpose of this post is NOT to analyse the national  curriculum – it has already been carved up by a whole host of experts who have been/still are divided about the changes. I remember primary maths being a topic of much discussion because when you look at top performing countries like Finland – where children aren’t introduced to fractions until the age of 9 – yet our children start looking at fractions at the ages of 5/6 – you have to question the whole rationale of introducing difficult concepts to even younger children – and wonder if it will actually make a difference? I guess only time will tell. The history curriculum caused a huge Twitter storm – with some experts saying it was great, others just a narrow list… And, what about the Arts? Music reduced to a couple of lines?! I could go on… But I won’t!

  
The bottom line is that in England, state schools have a statutory duty to cover the curriculum – and whilst academies don’t have to – many do – because they still have statutory duties to follow… (see link below)

Do academies have to follow statutory guidance?

I have to say that I’m not ‘anti’ the national curriculum. Every single child, regardless of background is entitled to an ‘excellent’ education and there should be equity of curriculum provision to ensure this – regardless of where you happen to live. Let’s face facts – there were/are too many children who were/are left behind and whose educational experience was/is less than satisfactory. Thus, a national curriculum was introduced in 1988 with the intention of eradicating these inequalities – and to set out the minimum entitlement a child should receive. Have they succeeded? Someone out there will have the finer details I’m sure! However, as always happens when we feel things are forced upon us – there was much controversy and debate that – not only are we being told what to teach – we are also being told how to teach and thus effectively deskilling teachers. And that’s a whole other issue. But, if implementing a standardised curriculum has improved life chances for children – then it has to be worth it. I like to think we have achieved a great deal in our schools – and whilst we might not like some of the accountability measures imposed on us – we have to remember that you are only a child once – we have to get it right for them. And for children born in poverty – a good education may be the only way out.

  
With the introduction of the ‘tough’ new ‘slimmed down’ curriculum in 2014 – the government says that it now ensures depth and now does not tell teachers “how to teach”, but concentrates on “the essential knowledge and skills every child should have” so that teachers “have the freedom to to shape the curriculum to their pupils’ needs”.

So, if we have the freedom to shape the curriculum – but must still ensure that the essential knowledge and skills are covered. Then, what does that look like? Everyone has their own opinions and dare I say ‘passions’ about curriculum design. It got me thinking – how should we design the curriculum to ensure high quality outcomes? What are the key principles and processes? How narrow/broad should the curriculum be? Is one approach more successful than another e.g. Thematic approach or a focus on the basics only. I mean – it’s all about good teaching – isn’t it?

I have read a substantial amount of research/literature about school improvement and the implementation of a new curriculum for schools that have been failing – is cited as being crucial to securing and sustaining improvement. So – with this in mind I thought I’d start looking at the curriculum that outstanding schools offer. Are there common themes? What can we learn?

 Ofsted found the following principles: 

The National College looked at top performing countries and identified the following:
 The national college also asked 10 school leaders of good and outstanding schools to share some of the ways that learning is organised in their schools. This section illustrates some of the many different ways they seek to achieve a balance between teaching basic skills, subjects and thematic learning.

“Our curriculum is carefully planned as a mix of integrated and discrete elements. Where possible we use themes to enhance learning but recognise that this is not always appropriate for all aspects of the curriculum”

“We plan for progression in all subjects to ensure challenge. We also agree on ways to extend and deepen learning through topics and themes in long term planning.”

“Everything is interlinked. Subject specific language, ideas and skills are taught and a cross-curricular approach is used, especially when this makes learning more meaningful.”

“To ensure progression we have essential skills of literacy and numeracy mapped across the curriculum. The skills map is constantly revisited. We have termly curriculum days to monitor. “

“All literacy is linked with thematic work alongside discrete phonics daily and reading workshops. We carefully map literacy and numeracy skills across the whole curriculum. We also have themed weeks, such as climate week. There is a toolkit with advice on how to plan these weeks so that they have real rigour.”

“We really emphasise the basics as a strong foundation. We then build a rich curriculum on top of this. For example, we may have an art day or week where we train teachers to focus on particular skills, such as observational sketching, and this leads to high quality work and displays.”

“We adjust the balance between a focus on basic skills and other subjects to meet the needs of particular children if we feel particular gaps need filling.”

Our medium term plan identifies the skills and knowledge and how they are targeted at different groups. Teachers always know where their children are with regard to what they know, can do and understand. They use this knowledge to plan next steps.

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The national curriculum has been likened to  a set of ingredients – but not the whole dish. Or a coathanger to hang your coat on. What is clear – is that outstanding schools are offering a rich, innovative curriculum that engages pupils in a meaningful way – that has opportunties to extend, and enrich learning in a variety of contexts e.g. Themed, cross-curricular and outdoor. A curriculum that has a context (local and global) and with one eye clearly on the future – but at the heart of it – the basics, the essential skills and knowledge that children need in order to deepen their learning experiences and create their own learning pathways.

Schools need to be innovative and visionary. My next stop will be to research if there is a particular approach that encompasses all the principles and values underpinning curriculum excellence e.g. Project Based Learning, 21st Century Ecuation and to look at different curriculum design models e.g. Subject centered, student centered, problem-solving centered and so on.

What I would really like to know from schools – is how many teachers and children were involved in the curriculum design process? Did you involve all stakeholders when building your curriculum – or was it a top-down approach? Are you confident that all stakeholders could communicate the vision? Also, how often do you revisit your curriculum? Is it still fit for purpose?

So many questions…

Please excuse any grammatical/spelling errors! Beauty of blogging – freedom to let thoughts run… 🙂

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Links to schools who participating in the Grand Curriculum Designs Project – The Institute of Ecuation (UCL)

Grewelthorpe Primary School

Lesson Study Resources/Links

Lesson Study is a powerful, professional learning approach that dramatically improves learning and teaching and the practice and subject knowledge of teachers.
Following on from my introductory blog to Lesson Study – I have compiled a list of resources you might find useful in school. As Peter Dudley is the Lesson Study guru – I would check out Lesson Study UK first.

Books

  

Booklets to download

Improving Practice and Progression through Lesson Study

Peter Dudley’s Handbook for Lesson Study in EYFS

Lesson Study Handbook by Peter Dudley

Lesson Study: Enhancing Mathematics Teaching and Learning

Websites

  
Lesson Study UK
The Collaborative Classroom: Lesson Study Resources

NCETM: Lesson Study

Classroom Videos

Research Lesson Videos

Lesson Study UK have lots of videos/resources. Also check out lesson study channels on YouTube.