Category Archives: Professional

Yin and Yang, golf and leadership⤴

from @ School Leadership - A Scottish Perspective

Being a leader, whether it be of a school, or any other type of organisation, can be both challenging and rewarding. We could see these as the Yin and Yang of formal leadership roles, no matter what the level of experience you bring to that role. Whether you are in your first year of leadership, or your twenty first,  challenges and rewards still remain. However, if you are a leader who is finding their role neither challenging or rewarding, then surely it is time to move on, or move out, which can be a challenge in itself.

To experience both challenge and reward requires action. Actions you take as a leader will bring both risk and reward. If you have chosen them carefully, the rewards will be experienced by all. Chosen poorly and you, and others, might only experience challenge, and struggle to identify many rewards. They may be there, but sometime it takes time for them to emerge. Not every action you take as a leader will bring about positive results. There will be times when you fail. That is okay, as long as you learned something from your failure, the reward. Other actions will be very successful and the rewards will be obvious to, and hopefully appreciated by, all involved.

To use a golf analogy, leadership actions can be a real 'risk and reward' activity. Just, as a golfer has to weigh up whether to take on the long shot over a hazard, you have to take risks, but risks which are considered and informed, so that you can achieve the best outcomes for you school and learners. When they come off, the results justify the levels of challenge presented by the actions. When they don't, you still learn. The golfer who clears the hazard may gain a stroke on the field. If he fails to make it, he still learns better for next time.

Having been a school leader for almost twenty years, I believe there are some actions all leaders can take that are actually low risk and high reward. Perhaps the only risk they present is to your own perceptions of yourself as a leader, and to practices that you formerly adopted. However, if school leaders are not prepared to expose themselves and their practices to scrutiny, reflection and change, how can they expect those they lead to adopt such dispositions?

These are my eight recommendations for actions that all leaders can take throughout their careers, and which will have the greatest impact on what they are trying to achieve, whilst containing the least risk to them and those they lead. They also offer the greatest rewards in terms of all that you may achieve as a school leader.

Firstly, school leaders should be seeking to build, create and sustain collaborative learning cultures in their establishments. Schools should be focused on the learning of everyone. We need to create cultures where all teachers and staff recognise themselves as learners, and are modelling those life-long learning dispositions to the young learners they work with. This needs to be situated in practices that are collaborative and collegiate in their nature. By creating deep learning cultures, they become part of the school's identity, as well as the individual identity of those who make up the community. Learning dispositions need to sit at the heart of everyone's' practice and identity. We will see when this is being successful through the attitudes and actions of all learners, and focused dialogue, conversations and collaborations happening around learning at all levels. Indeed, you as the school leader must model these dispositions and actions yourself, more on that later.

This cannot be achieved without the development of relationships. Leaders need to be working constantly to develop and nurture the myriad of relationships necessary for any school to achieve the very best for all learners. True partnership working and commitment needs to be established as a priority for all, with a common aim of improving outcomes and experiences for all learners. Education and learning is mainly a social activity therefore, relationships and their strength are crucial. The focus on relationships should be central to all school activity, in classrooms, across school and departments, and beyond the school into the community and other schools. We need school leaders to be emotionally and socially aware, committed to establishing and sustaining relationships with all partners who can help them deliver, and who they can support to achieve some of their own objectives. Relationships work both ways, if you are just taking then that is not a relationship that is going to survive for too long. Relationships sustain us during the challenging times and make the good times better.

Supporting all relationships is trust. School leaders have to build trust, because without it you are left with shallow compliance and no risk taking. Trust takes time to build, but is a foundation stone for healthy cultures that are going to help schools develop in a deep, embedded and sustainable way. As a leader you will have the opportunity to lead, and work alongside, many very able, intelligent and professional people, who will be getting salaries that reflect this. Many of these you may well have appointed yourself, and some you won't. If this is the case, why not get out of their way, support them and trust them to employ their talents, in a way that creates a better whole, utilising the power of individuals to support you and each other? As a leader, you cannot do it all on your own and you cannot micromanage all the complex interactions that take place across a school community, so you had better learn to trust people and give them the space to fly, for everyone's benefit, including your own. Be strategic and leaderly, but trust the people you lead to deliver. Some may let you down at times, but that doesn't mean they should lose your trust. No-one comes into work wanting to deliver poor performance, leaders need to recognise and support where necessary. If you trust them, they are more likely to trust you, then together you can make a real difference.

Keep your focus, and that of your team, on the main thing. The main thing is the young people in your school, and beyond, and the learning and teaching taking place in your establishment. Anything else is a distraction. If there are things you are doing, or are being asked to do, that do not contribute positively to learners and their experiences, then you need to stop doing them. It is so easy to get distracted by activities and busyness that have no impact on your core purpose, because everyone wants a piece of your time. This is why you have to prioritise and make it clear to everyone what your priorities are, Support any actions that will help your learners, their learning and your staff to deliver ever improving experiences, cut everything else. There is still too much practice that goes on in schools, because it has always gone on, not because it has obvious benefits to learners. Get rid of this, and support staff to get rid of and change this too.

Know, and be true to your values and principles. It may well be your personal and professional values and principles that led to you being appointed into a leadership position. Don't compromise on these,  use them to direct, and reflect on, your actions. If your belief in your values is strong, your actions will match these. I have always believed that values are reflected in your actions, not your words. Use them to measure your actions and to assess proposed future actions. Make sure, everyone can see what your values are and why you feel so strong about them. This is not to say they will never change, or require adjustment. This may well happen in the light of more experience and knowledge, but, when this happens, be clear on what they are and why you hold them. Closely associated with your values will be the principles under which you wish to operate as a school leader. Again, these may change with experience, but once established you should always aim to avoid compromising these. People you work with, and for, will respect someone with strong values and principles, and who acts ethically, even though they might not always agree with your decisions and actions. Be that person.

Engage with research and read. Leaders need to be informed. There are some aspects of leadership that are intuitive, based on experience, but in general there should be a sound evidence and research base for how you operate and how you act as a leader. It is your responsibility to be aware of this, and to have considered and discussed what you read, with colleagues and others, in order to help shape your own thinking and practice as a leader. Most school leaders desire their teachers to be informed by research and evidence in their practice, and they should be prepared to model this in their own. Anyone who has achieved a leadership position, and is successful, knows that they had to keep on learning and developing when they reached that position. It is right that leaders should be able to articulate their philosophy and vison of leadership, and explain their practice, then be able to link this to theoretical work and research about leadership. Leaders who fly by the seat of their pants, and make decisions on a wing and a prayer, don't survive very long, but can cause a lot of turmoil before they go.

Linked to engaging with research and reading is, actively seeking out professional dialogue and conversations. Just as you wish your establishment to work collaboratively, so should you. Build a network of leaders and researchers that you can talk to and discuss your thinking and the research and reading you have engaged with. Be open to exploring and engaging critically with colleagues, because by doing this you will deepen your understandings and be able to relate what you have read, or what you think, to your own particular context. Collaboration is the only way forward, for individuals, schools and systems. Policy makers understand this, and can see how such collaboration is a cost-effective way for the system to develop. Collaborations are best when they are not forced and not driven by financial motivators. Leaders need to not only create cultures within their own establishments to support collaborative practices, they need to create them for themselves. Speak to colleagues, face to face wherever possible, but also by using social media and writing, to engage with as many people as possible who can help you explore the complexities of school leadership. At the same time as your network is helping and supporting you, you are also doing the same for others in your network.

Much of the above is linked to professional development. It is important that school leaders not only support professional development in their schools, they need to be active participants in this too. Get actively involved in a continuous process of professional development, which is research informed and focused on learning and teaching, and support your staff in their personal development and growth. Such activity is crucial to school and staff well-being, ensuring individuals are being supported to maintain their own development as they grow their practice and understanding. The same applies to yourself. Don't neglect your own professional development, some of the steps to this are described above, but may also involve more formal courses and further qualifications. Career-long professional development should not be a platitude or a soundbite, but a disposition for all, including leaders.

These then are some key actions that I believe school leaders can take, which have high reward and low risk associated with them. You may have discovered them already yourself, or you may have discovered some of your own. Why not talk to someone about it?

PS Another effective action you can take is to smile and say thank you. Amazing the difference this can make.

😊 Thank you!

Articulation in action⤴

from @ Engage for Education

Further and Higher Education Minister Shirley-Anne Somerville today met a former roadie who swapped life touring the world with a band to train for his dream job as an ambulance paramedic thanks to a college access course to university.

Chris Anderson, who is now studying for his BSc in Paramedic Science at Glasgow Caledonian University, was travelling and working at international music venues when he realised his true vocation.

Chris, who is 39 and originally from Bellshill, said:

“I witnessed a few injuries that happened in the large crowds that gathered for our concerts. I watched the emergency personnel that came in, taking ill or injured people out of the crowds and looking after them and work they did seemed both exciting and important. It inspired me to change direction, go to college and now I’ll be ready to apply to the ambulance service when I graduate.”

Chris was one of the students meeting Scotland’s Higher Education Minister Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP when she visited Glasgow Caledonian University to find out about the support available for more than 1,000 college students who join degree courses at the University each year.

Ms Somerville, said:

“This has been a good opportunity to see the work that Glasgow Caledonian University is taking forward to support students from a variety of backgrounds to fulfil their potential at university. Widening access is a key priority for this Government. Part of delivering this change is looking at examples of best practice to understand what works well and sharing that learning across the university sector.

“The work that Glasgow Caledonian University does to support students articulating from college is a clear demonstration of the university’s commitment to the widening access agenda. It was a privilege to meet Chris and hear his amazing story – it really brings home how important college is as a route into university and why it is imperative that we do what we can as a government and as a sector to make these opportunities more readily available.”

Paramedic Science student Chris Anderson meeting Scottish Government Higher Education minister, Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP at Glasgow Caledonian University campus

Glasgow Caledonian University welcomes more than 1,000 students from 17 colleges around Scotland each year, the second largest intake in the country. As well as access to summer schools, college applicants can also use the library, gym and computing labs to help them prepare for the move to university.

The University’s Head of Outreach, Eleanor Wilson MBE, said:

“We work closely with colleges to make Glasgow Caledonian University first choice for many students. Our admissions procedures recognise applicant’s potential with measures in place to support students from the beginning. Through our student mentors and highly-skilled staff, we aim to ease transition from college to university by creating an excellent student experience.  Their prospects are very good, because we have just recorded our best-ever figures for students completing their degrees and 97% are in work or further study six months after graduation.”

Chris Anderson says the college courses he took were a perfect preparation for university. He is now going out on placement as part of his course and he’s certain he’s made the right move.

“I get to go out observing and assisting qualified paramedics as they work. I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life, but nothing compares to that feeling of riding in the ambulance on the way to help someone who is in a life-threatening situation. To be able to be there, to be equipped and trained to help-out and maybe save a life is just amazing. It’s a lot more exciting than a tour bus.”

The post Articulation in action appeared first on Engage for Education.

Spacing and interleaving in the STEM classroom⤴

from @ Memory & Education Blog - Jonathan Firth

 Interleaving examples of different species of animal can help learners to remember these new categories and to transfer this learning when trying to identify novel examples.  Image: Pixabay .

Interleaving examples of different species of animal can help learners to remember these new categories and to transfer this learning when trying to identify novel examples. Image: Pixabay.

I thought I'd share a slightly extended version of my answer to a question about spacing and interleaving from the CogSciSci email group.

The question essentially asked what spacing and interleaving might look like in practice when teaching science (I have written about these two concepts in much more detail and in ways that apply to multiple teaching subjects in my book with Marc Smith, Psychology in the Classroom).

The spacing effect means that when study and re-study are separated by a delay, this benefits learning. It could involve study of anything - a lot of the evidence has focused on vocabulary, so an obvious link to science would be to use spacing for terminology. Although it's counterintuitive to think that waiting longer before restudy would be helpful, an element of forgetting actually seems to help, in comparison to following up on something more quickly. A useful analogy is to imagine painting a wall - it's better to wait, because there's no point in applying the second coat until the first one has dried.

When spacing out practice, a longer gap is better than a short one; there is almost no limit to this, but for practical reasons you probably don't want to space by more than a few weeks within a typical course. Still, it's really important to point out that the information needs to be well learned in the first session, otherwise it will simply be forgotten with no benefit to spacing. The learners need to have really got it at that point. As Rawson & Dunlosky (2011) put it, "our prescriptive conclusion for students is to practice recalling concepts to an initial criterion of 3 correct recalls and then to relearn them 3 times at widely spaced intervals" (p. 283).

The term interleaving refers to varying the order of a set of tasks or examples, whereby each item is immediately followed and preceded by an example of a different category/concept rather than appearing in blocks of the same type of item repeatedly (which is termed a ‘blocked’ arrangement). It could arise due to a randomisation or ‘shuffling’ of the order of items, or a more deliberate alternation of items (e.g. presenting geoscience pupils with an example of a u-shaped glacial valley, then an example of a river valley, then another glacial valley, and so on).

There are two main things you can interleave - initial learning or practice. The evidence is pretty good that for practice, interleaving different types of examples is a good idea, rather than doing lots of the same type of practice problem. This has been best demonstrated for maths (e.g. Rohrer et al, 2015), though a similar idea could be applied to any subject with lots of short answer or multiple-choice questions. The key thing is to mix up lots of different types of problems/questions rather than present them categorised by type (so not, for example, giving learners a set of problems that are all about multiplying fractions).

It may be that you would tend to interleave practice questions like this anyway, but it's probably quite common in classrooms to give learners lots of practice of recent material and skills, rather than interleaving these with past examples. One reason for the benefit is that interleaving seems to help learners recognise what strategy to use in later tests - the unpredictable order means it's not immediately obvious what concepts and strategies are going to be needed in order to answer the question. It therefore helps them learn to read and analyse questions.

For initial learning, interleaving involves presenting different, easily confused concepts side by side, rather than several examples of the same thing being presented together, and again this has benefits compared to categorising items into a 'block' of the same type. It has relevance to any sort of concept learning, including for science subjects, although most of the research conducted so far has been done on abstract stimuli (such as shapes and patterns) rather than educational materials. Two useful studies that are directly relevant to science are Eglington & Kang (2017), who used interleaved examples of chemical molecules, and Rawson et al (2015), who gave definitions of new psychology concepts and then interleaved real world examples of the concepts. Both studies found that interleaving was advantageous compared to presenting multiple examples of the same concept.

The benefit seems to derive from the interleaved order making it easier for learners to identify key differences between concepts that are easily confused, and for this reason, it's not going to be helpful if concepts are very different (because nobody would confuse them). For example, nobody is going to mix up a fish with a bird, but they might confuse a reptile and an amphibian, so the latter categories might benefit from presenting learners with interleaved examples.

An important point for both types of interleaving is that they don't just improve memory for previous examples, but also make learners better able to categorise new examples (i.e. they showed transfer of learning).

Spacing and interleaving have implications for how teachers plan and structure lessons and topics, though they also relate to students' revision. In my next post, I'll give some advice on how these techniques can be put to use to help make revision more effective - ideal for exam season!

If you are a science educator interested in applying cognitive science to your work, you can apply to join the CogSciSci email group here.

Life in Links: you are never on holiday edition⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

I’ve been on holiday for the last two weeks, the second spent unwell with a sinus infection that made me uninterested in everything bar Lemsip and a bit of netflix.

Feeling a bit better and reviewing my pinboard links. Most seem to be around poetry, maths and micro:bits in the classroom ( I need to get out more).

Header image created with above mentioned Sketch Machine.

Modern Apprenticeship Gaelic Administrator Opportunity⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

Giglets Education are looking to recruit an enthusiastic Modern Apprentice with fluent skills in Gaelic to join their team.

For more information and to apply please follow this link : 

The UKs first Intergenerational care home and nursery⤴

from @

I’ve written about ‘doing things differently before’ particularly when it comes to education and the building of schools. A couple of years ago a stumbled across an intergenerational care home and nursery (pre-school) that had been set up in Seattle, USA.

I was delighted to read that similar provision has opened in Nightingale House in Wandsworth and there was a nice write up on the innovation on The Independent newspaper website yesterday.

“The children trot in and they love it. They dance and they prance. And we love it too,” beams Anna Platman, 93, who has been a resident of the care home for nearly a year. “Being old has its moments. But for the hour or so you forget that you’re away from your own family.”

Innovations like this make so much sense particularly in areas of Scotland (and other parts of the world) where there is a rapidly aging population and where at the same time the Government has made bold commitment to increase the amount of free childcare to 1,140 hours per year (30 hours per week) by 2020.

As well as the social benefits of intergenerational working there will be obvious academic benefits as well. For example we know that Back-and-forth exchanges boost children's brain response to language which in turn develops literacy rates - but for these back-and-forth exchanges to occur you need more people to talk to the young children (a ratio of 1:10 just won’t cut it). There will be other subtle benefits as well, such as young people learning about mobility, disability (eg: hearing impairment) and loss.

Making Engineering Playful in Schools [report]⤴

from @

Making Engineering Playful in Schools

This booklet presents findings from a research collaboration between Tufts University, members of the CEEO, the International School of Billund (ISB), and the LEGO Foundation that focused on how making and makerspaces can promote playful learning in schools. It is intended to help educators, administrators, and researchers continue to explore how students can learn by designing and making things.

Over the course of 2-years, researchers from Tufts partnered with teachers and students from ISB to explore different aspects of making and makerspaces in schools. These included early childhood makerspaces, appropriate tools, technologies, and materials for making, and ways of thinking about assessment, narrative, and representation in making processes.

The document "tells the story of making" at ISB, and offers vignettes and guiding principals for making engineering playful in other schools across the world.

Read the full report here.