Tag Archives: Professional Learning

UnsustainED? Why ESD isn’t working.⤴

from @ robin_macp

“Why should I be studying for a future that soon may be no more, when no one is doing anything to save that future? And what is the point of learning facts when the most important facts clearly mean nothing to our society?” – Greta Thunberg

2019 has seen millions of schoolchildren across the world strike on Fridays because of inaction on climate change. As a teacher, this poses an ethical dilemma. We want our pupils to show exactly the kind of intelligence and integrity that Thunberg does, but we don’t want to see formal education being excluded from the solution. It’s a damning indictment of our profession if pupil empowerment comes from skipping school rather than being in lessons. 

At the heart of this is a significant issue that isn’t widely enough acknowledged; the drive for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) has singularly failed to improve the sustainability consciousness (SC) of young people. This is despite UNESCO organising an entire decade (the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, or DESD) from 2005 to 2014 on the issue. National programmes of certification of eco schools have been rolled out on different continents, but the research done so far on their efficacy all points to one uncomfortable truth; its impact has been negligible. 

There are big questions to answer here. What problems has research into the approach revealed? Why has the approach largely failed?  And, crucially, can it be rescued? Let’s begin with the issues that have been thrown up by schools that have followed some form of certified approach which requires standard practices like audits of the curriculum and basic operations. Different research papers have focused on Belgium (Boeve-de Pauw and Van Petegem 2013), Sweden (Olsson et al, 2015), Taiwan (Olsson et al, 2018) and America (Higgs and McMillan, 2006), to name but a few. There are some common themes that emerge:

  1. Gender gap: girls are more likely to exhibit behaviours and attitudes that show sustainability consciousness than boys. This may even be due to implicit gender stereotyping in how programmes are constructed. 
  2. Age fluctuation: young children (typically up to age 12) show genuine interest in ESD programmes, but by age 14-15 this actually becomes negative – what Olsson calls the ‘adolescent dip’. There is an improvement by age 18, assuming the programmes are continued to that age.
  3. Socio-economic background: schools in areas with higher levels of income struggle to make any inroads on SC, and in fact the overall effect may be negative. 
  4. Death by Certification: schools that have followed certified programmes show little if any improvements over schools that do not, in terms of the SC of their pupils. Effect sizes where eco programmes are adopted are 0.2 at best. Worryingly, many of these schools think they are making a difference when they are not.

Much of this is due to the limited interpretation of what sustainability really is. When the focus is restricted to environmental issues only, the knowingness, behaviours and attitudes of pupils shows little change. What schools are failing to emphasise are the social and economic dimensions. In his PhD thesis (2018), Olsson goes into depth on his development of this model:

Olsson diagram

In this context, ‘knowingness’ is defined as a “theory of knowing” about the fundamentals of sustainable development, where critical thinking is an essential component. This addresses a core issue: much of what is going on in ESD-focused classrooms is about imparting knowledge without understanding. For example, pupils may know that eating less meat is good for the environment. Do they know why? And are they able to critically debate the dissonance about environmental sustainability (reduced water consumption) and economic sustainability (the impact on farmers)? This is where ESD is currently falling down: there is an absence of both breadth of the concept and critical thinking about it.

What is emphasised as making a difference is the need for pluralism and holism in teaching methods. What this means is teaching the full range of ESD concepts (not just environmental) from multiple disciplines and angles. This leads to ‘action competence’ in pupils, which means they understand a range of possible options, have confidence that they have agency, and then show willingness to turn this into concrete actions. Research conducted so far suggests that ESD can have an impact if it leads to this, but all too often it is ideologically driven, lacking in solid pedagogy, confined to environmental issues, and the agenda is driven by agencies outside of education. 

Back in 2007, Vare and Scott made an important distinction between ESD 1 (education for sustainable development) and ESD 2 (education as sustainable development). ESD 2 offers much more promise, as it focuses on critical thinking (which the authors emphasise is domain specific) and metacognition. This approach appeals to me and I hope that it will be the basis of ESD going forward.

There is no doubt that making all systems that support human life more sustainable is ethical and desirable. What we need to do is make sure that education about these issues is itself sustainable, and that is what bodies like UNESCO and the OECD have yet to get right. The Incheon Declaration of 2015 and the laudable goals it sets out have 15 years to deliver. Four years in, the Greta Thunberg effect suggests that a lot will need to be done in the next 11 years if this is going to make a difference.  

References:

Lyons Higgs, A., and McMillan, (2006) V.,‘Teaching Through Modeling: Four Schools’ Experiences in Sustainability Education’, Journal of Environmental Education, Vol. 38, No1

Olsson, D (2018) ‘Student Sustainability Consciousness: Investigating Effects of Education for Sustainable Development in Sweden and Beyond’ Doctoral Thesis, Karlstad University Studies

Olsson, D., N. Gericke, and Chang Rundgren, S.-N. (2016) ‘The effect of implementation of education for sustainable development in Swedish compulsory schools assessing pupilssustainability consciousness’, Environmental Education Research, Vol. 22, No. 2, 176202,

Olsson, D., Gericke, N., Boeve-de Pauw, J., Berglund T., Chang, T., (2019) ‘Green schools in Taiwan – Effects on student sustainability consciousness’, Global Environmental Change 54, 184–194 

Vare, P. and Scott, W. (2007) ‘Learning for a Change: Exploring the Relationship Between Education and Sustainable Development’, Journal of Education for Sustainable Development 1:2, 191–198

Lochend Community High School: Developing the Young Workforce⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

At Lochend Community High school they strive to open up opportunities for all of young people regardless of ability or background. They have a strong focus on Developing the Young Workforce across the whole school and through their links with colleges, universities, employers, local business and other organisations. They want to embed work related learning opportunities across the whole school. They continue to expand and develop skills through a range of activities in and out of the classroom with a particular focus on ‘closing the gap’. They are empowering young people to develop their skills for Life, Learning and Work. This strategy involves establishing ever-increasing local, regional, national and global partnerships to support all curricular areas to provide real- life contexts for learning.

How have they done this?

Working with young people and partners to embed opportunities and developing skills across the curriculum.

Enhance young peoples understanding of different career routes ,offering curricular programmes and regular engagement with employers.

Actively collaborate with partners to develop and deliver a curriculum that supports the development of young peoples employability and career management skills.

Reviewing the work placement model in line with the ‘Work Placement Standard’,creating bespoke opportunities tailored to the needs of all young people.

Careers Events
Allowing  young people to find out about potential employers. Young people have the opportunity to talk directly with representatives from industry and education.

HE/FE Fairs
Partnerships with City of Glasgow, Glasgow Clyde, Glasgow Kelvin, West College Scotland, GCU, UWS, UoG, Strathclyde, Stirling and Glasgow School of Art. Each year group has a short presentation and an opportunity to meet with the Further and Higher Education representatives to ask  questions about courses, entry requirements and education beyond school in general.  Parents of senior phase young people are invited to attend.

Mock Interviews
All young people are given interview skills training and mock interviews from their business partners.

Salters Chemistry Festival
In partnership with University of Glasgow, Salters Chemistry and Royal Society of Chemistry, young people are given experience of working in a working laboratory carrying out investigations and experiments.

Chemistry Careers Event
In partnership with Glasgow Science Centre, UWS and Royal Society of Chemistry young people learn about laboratory techniques, discuss career pathways and alternative routes into careers in Chemistry

STEM Glasgow/Jacobs Engineering Challenge
In partnership with DYW Glasgow, West Partnership, Glasgow City Council and Jacobs Engineering young people are involved in real life engineering challenges. Working  with partners to create a solution to plastic pollution while investigating and learning about careers in the sector.

Go4Set
Young people have the opportunity to develop skills, inform subject choice and change perceptions about STEM, raising awareness of how studying STEM related subjects can lead to rewarding careers.

SmartSTEMs
In partnership with Glasgow Kelvin College young people explore STEM related careers with input from various organisations. Young people take part in practical activities to enhance skills and knowledge of STEM based careers.

Science Club
In partnership with STEM Ambassadors S1 young people are involved in weekly activities which promote learning and careers in STEM.  Links are made to STEM careers and young people are encouraged to explore and research  career pathways.

Numeracy Week
Making links between numeracy used in subjects across the school and how numeracy is used in the world of work. Using partners such as credit unions, Barclays Bank, Santander, Mott McDonald, NHS, Marks and Spencer to showcase Maths in the world of work.

Apprenticeship Tests
Young people have the opportunity to learn and practice numeracy tests for apprenticeships, colleges and universities.

P7 Maths Challenge
Young people work in teams to learn about Maths in the world of work.

ScotBeef/Aldi 
Young people working collaboratively,  researching existing products and designing a new product to present as part of the competition. The winners will have their product marketed, displayed and sold in Aldi stores across the country.

Quality Meat Scotland Chef Visit
Chef visit to work with S2 young people, demonstrating and embedding skills as well as sharing their experience of working in the hospitality industry

ZooLab Junk Bus
Delivered in partnership with Zoolab Junk Bus young people learn about the production of some of our favourite foods.

GHA/ Loretto Afternoon Tea
Partnership with Glasgow Housing Association and Loretto Housing allowed young people to work with local partners  and allowed an opportunity to experience working in this sector.

Future Textiles
Developing an understanding of the textile industry and the available progressions pathways.

Marks and Spencer – Work Placement Programme.
The partnership was set up to strengthen the link between employers and young people, building  confidence and supporting the transition between school and the workplace.

30 young people have had the opportunity to apply and experience a work placement in the retail sector. Many young people have secured part time jobs as a result of the experience.

Glasgow Kelvin College Pathway
As part of the S2 options process, young people will be offered the opportunity to attend Kelvin College for one afternoon per week throughout the school session. This partnership programme allows young people to participate in a college based course alongside their school studies. This will not only enrich their learning experiences but will provide them with qualifications in the form of SCQF Level 4 units. Young people enrolled in these courses will also be considered as an internal applicant for any further courses.

RUTS
RUTS aims to equip young people with the confidence and skills, raising their aspirations. RUTS are currently delivering a bespoke personal development/employability, this is achieved through motorcycle and bicycle based programmes tailored to the individual needs of the young people.

NHS @ Work
Young people S1-S6 have the opportunity to attend an NHS@Work Event showcasing the careers available within the NHS, dispelling some of the myths about working in the NHS.

Widening Participation
Educational support and guidance programme designed to widen access to higher education.

FARE
FARE are a voluntary organisation based in Easterhouse . They work with communities to improve the lives of children and families. FARE are employed within the school, engaging with a number of projects and programmes that link to the DYW agenda.

Young Enterprise Company Programme
The Company Programme is the ultimate business experience for S5 and S6 young people. They set up and run their own company and develop a range of skills throughout this entrepreneurial experience.

Career Ready
Career Ready is a programme that prepares young people for the world of work. The model links young people to employers through master classes, mentoring, workplace visits and internships.

EY Foundation partnership
EY Foundation is a charity that works directly with disadvantaged young people,employers and social entrepreneurs to create and support routes into education, employment and enterprise. They support the school in world of work events, mock interviews and industry presentations. They also have a paid work experience programme called Smart Futures.

Skills Academy
Working with a range of business partners, young people who are studying less than two National 5 qualifications are invited to attend a programme that helps develop crucial knowledge and understanding of the world of work.

Flexible Work Placement Model
Lochend  offer a flexible approach to work placements, encouraging and supporting young people to source and secure their own work placement . There are also targeted placement opportunities available on WorkIT and via our business partners which are available to all young people.

Departmental DYW displays 
Displaying potential careers and pathways relevant to their own curricular area. The Pupil Leadership Team have created a number of notice boards around the school to promote the DYW agenda. The boards also include live job/apprenticeship and work placement opportunities.

Lochend CHS Skills Framework
They established a systematic and progressive skills development framework that will be used across learning. Young people will have the opportunity to reflect on these on an on-going basis and incorporate them into their profiling activities. The Skills Framework will be displayed throughout the school.

During the academic year all staff took part in CLPL around the DYW agenda.  Staff received an introduction to the Career Education Standards and an introduction to labour market Information.

Social Media
All information relating to DYW and employability is advertised on Facebook and the DYW Twitter page. Parents engaged regularly with posts on Facebook which ensured that parents/carers/guardians were more aware of the range of opportunities and supports available.

Work Inspiration Visits
Young people have has the opportunity to experience the world of work and to find out more about career pathways:

Art Galleries Hilton Hotel Group IBIS Hotel Group
UK parliament Engie GHA
Auchenlea Building Site TIGERS Construction Training STV
Glasgow Film Theatre National Theatre of Scotland Platform @ The Bridge
Emirates Arena Braehead Shopping Centre BBC Scotland
Glasgow Fort Marks and Spencer Glasgow Kelvin College
City of Glasgow College Glasgow Caledonian University FARE
Glasgow Life

Next Steps
Increase the number of MWOW ambassadors

Engage in  more profiling support

Recording achievements using My World of Work

DYW newsletter

Parental Engagement

Quotation
“I developed so much confidence from taking part in a lot of these activities. I have met so many great people who have helped nurture me and give me the platform to learn. I have so many more contacts now than I did before.”
Young Person

Briefing on Gaelic Education⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

Seo fiosrachadh ùr bhuainn:

https://education.gov.scot/improvement/Documents/BriefingonGaelicEducationSept2019.pdf 

Please see our September  Briefing on Gaelic Education here:

https://education.gov.scot/improvement/Documents/BriefingonGaelicEducationSept2019.pdf

Our briefings on Gaelic Education  keep practitioners updated of some of Education Scotland’s, and key partners’, support for improvement in Gaelic Education. Please follow this link for more information:

https://education.gov.scot/improvement/learning-resources/Briefings%20on%20Gaelic%20Education/Fiosrachadh%20mun%20Ghàidhlig

Portlethen Academy: Raising the profile of skills in learning and teaching.⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

Every classroom has a poster for Skills for Learning, Skills for Life and Skills for Work. Pupil-friendly definitions of these skills were produced by a working group of staff. Teachers are asked to make reference to these skills in their learning intentions and success criteria and in the content of the lesson itself. The impact of DYW is discussed in the videos:

Head Teacher

Young People

All S1 pupils are recording the development of these skills in a Skills Passport booklet during DCT. The main purpose of the booklet is to help the pupils document the skills they are developing, the subjects in which they use these skills and the evidence they have to support their judgements on how well they are progressing with particular skills in learning, life and work. The booklet also includes sections on profiling, SMART targets, reflection, mental health, recognising wider achievement, subject reports and self-evaluation.

The school has used several key methods to ensure that the strategy has the desired impact to the learners:

  • Researched examples of skills frameworks and received valuable input from Larbert High School after seeing their materials on the National Improvement Hub
  • Decided to develop their version of a skills framework and to link it to our tutor time programme for tracking purposes
  • Established a staff team to develop the framework and materials
  • Introduced the focus on skills to staff at collegiate session.
  • Introduced the focus on skills to pupils at year group assemblies.
  • Produced a set of posters for every classroom
  • Obtained feedback on reference to skills for learning, life and work through pupil focus groups where 5 pupils are selected form various year groups once a week.

The school believes that the changes have impacted on their learners, the key indicators:

  • Promoted skills development in learning and teaching
  •  Ensure staff are consistently embedding skills development in their classroom practice
  •  Ensure pupils know what skills they possess
  •  Helping pupils develop the ability to confidently articulate the skills they are developing
  •  Ensure pupils can utilise these skills across different subject areas
  •  Ensure pupils realise the value and importance of skills they develop in school and how these relate to the world of work

This is a journey for staff and young people, the key points are:

  • Staff are referencing skills development in their lesson planning
  •  Pupils are noticing the increased focus on skills and realising their value as they progress through the school
  •  Pupils are becoming more aware of how often they are using different skills
  •  Pupils are realising the value of transferrable skills
  •  Pupils are realising the importance of skills for their future careers

Porthlethen see DYW as integral and underpin out their work with young people by making the links between skills and the workplace. They refer to the school as just another workplace, which reinforces the link between education and skills for work. The skills framework has helped by providing a clear focus. It has allowed them to monitor it through their focus groups, and they can reference it more easily due to the visual nature of their posters. When they have speakers or reference areas of employment in their career of the week they ensure skills are highlighted.

Portlethen are working hard on partnership and engagement with industry. Curricular experiences through DYW include:

Breadth of careers
Mock interviews
Rural skills
Air traffic control
NHS
Enterprise day (S2)
Micro Tyco
MWOW ambassadors
Hospitality (chef of the week, Royal navy chefs)

Next Steps
They have started formally recording and documenting skills development and progression in S1. They are looking at creative ways to record and document skills development as this cohort become more mature and progress through the school. They will formalise the inclusion of skills development in lesson planning, learning intentions and success criteria to ensure a consistent approach by all staff.

For example, staff create a range of lesson starters focusing on particular skills. A pupil will then select a skill to be used in the lesson starter.

When asked for advice that they could pass to others, they suggested:

  • Having a visual display of the skills you are focusing on
  •  Reference skills in all aspects of the lesson where appropriate
  •  Help pupils realise the range of skills they possess
  •  Ensure pupils know which skills they are developing
  •  Help pupils transfer these skills to different contexts and subject areas

“The framework diagrams give me a key point of reference in planning lessons and for reference in class.” Teacher

“I like the framework because I can click on it and see what it means” S1 pupil

“Having the framework on your website helped me link my presentation to the skills required to work in the catering industry in a way that pupils could understand”  DYW presenter

Episode 13 – Professional Learning⤴

from

Listen to this episode on spotify, apple podcast, soundcloud or any other podcasting app. You can also click on the picture above to listen to this episode.

COBIS and researchED Dubai: takeaways⤴

from @ robin_macp

I spoke at the Innovation in Education conference last week at Dubai College for COBIS and researchED, which was a great chance to catch up with friends and meet new people working in the Middle East. Here are a few thoughts based on the sessions I saw.

Becky Allen – @profbeckyallen

This is always a pleasure, because Becky’s book with Sam Sims ‘The Teacher Gap’ is excellent and takes to task the poor policies and practices that have beset the profession in recent years. There are massive crises in terms of recruitment and retention (with 20% the typical turnover figure per school per annum), but few people are doing something about it. Becky is. She’s also responsible for Teacher TAPP, which, if you haven’t downloaded it, do. It’s nicely addictive and is the best opinion poll on teaching out there: weapons-grade data, served daily.

Becky A

David Bott

Positive education is getting a lot of traction internationally and David taught at Geelong Grammar School in Australia, which has been a pioneer in the field. They send all Year 9 pupils to a remote campus at Timbertop for a year (without any tech or much comfort) to develop resilience and coping skills, and established the Institute of Positive Education. There was definitely an evangelical feel to the room and David’s charisma fueled this, and I liked the discussion that followed from his simple question of ‘what do you most want for your students?’ This said, I’m not convinced about this approach and want to see that it means more than virtue signalling. Wellbeing is important and young people do need support, but at the moment I see more style than substance here. I’d be happy to be proved wrong, but the evidence base looks shaky to me.

David Didau – @DavidDidau

A double dose of Didau, covering his two books ‘What if everything you knew about education was wrong?’ and ‘Making Kids Cleverer’. What I like about David is that he always challenges established norms and makes you reconsider everything you think you know. I don’t always agree with him, but you can’t deny the breadth of his knowledge in terms of research. What caused a storm on edutwitter was my support for this slide:

Didau
I have a lot of issues with the 21st century skills narrative because it is misleading and may even detract from skills that are more recent and need sharper focus for students (networking, for example). Is creativity a skill? No, it is a characteristic. Is it 21st century? No, it is as old as the human race. Can it be taught? I don’t think it can be taught explicitly, but can be nurtured in the right environment. In this respect, it is the product of a good education rather than a subset of a curriculum. It is the sum of the whole school experience. Needless to say, the jury is still out on this though.

Kate Jones – @87History

No one has done more to promote effective teaching and learning in the Middle Eastern classroom than Kate Jones (not least because she runs @teachuaechat) and her book ‘Love to Teach’ is a modern classic. She offers a wealth of practical strategies to try in the classroom and has read pretty much every edubook moving. In particular I liked her own version of the TPACCK model, which looks like this:

20190427_151817

Kate’s addition is cognitive knowledge and it’s fair to argue that the sweet spot in the middle of this leads to great teaching and learning. The best way to find out more is to follow her blog here.

Mike Lambert – @DCol_Head

Mike is the headteacher at Dubai College and from what I have heard (and now seen) he is doing a great job. He has been a key figure in bringing  UAE schools together to form a strategic alliance which will bring huge benefit to pupils in the country. This isn’t easy – competition for pupils means that schools here have not cooperated a great deal in the past because they are rivals more than allies. This seems to be changing and the culture now is very different to the one I experienced in the UAE a decade ago. Mike elaborated on the efficacy of systems leadership and the extent of his knowledge on the evidence base is really robust. Definitely one to follow on Twitter.

20190427_112117

Olly Lewis – @OLewis_coaching

This was really impressive. Olly is doing great work in ed-tech and recommended (and demonstrated successfully) a number of websites and apps that I haven’t come across, like Mentimeter. There was also a great discussion at the end about the level of engagement between teachers and ed-tech companies, sparked by the presence of an ed-tech rep in the room who spoke up for the companies that often get slated for failing to listen to teachers or be familiar with the needs of schools. I’ve got a long list of things to look at from this, so tweet Olly for more recommendations.

Rose Luckin – @Knowldgillusion

Artificial Intelligence is the Fourth Education Revolution, but what impact will it have on education? Rose Luckin is a Professor at UCL IoE and helped to establish the Institute for Ethical Artificial Intelligence in Education. She tackled some of the standard claims about AI, such as the extent to which it will consume jobs. Crucially, she pointed out that machine learning cannot understand everything, including itself, and also asserted that AI will mean a need for more teachers, not fewer. This field continues to be contentious, and although I missed the panel debate afterwards I gather it got a bit heated. It’s an area we’ll all be hearing more about, but I would like to see more people challenging the assumption that AI will be the end of us all; I want more hard evidence, less Terminator-style narratives.

Rose L

Me…

I did two sessions, one (happily) titled ‘death to CPD’, and the second on the reasons for the rise of cognitive psychology principles in teaching over the past decade. In short, I find the old model of CPD (one-size fits all, one day courses and little impact for high cost) infuriating. I’ve written about this here, and argued that we need to look at under-used resources that have greater benefit and cost less.  Above all, good professional learning takes time and needs to be stretched over a year. The Teacher Development Trust is a great place to look for more on this, as is ‘Unleashing Great Teaching’ by Bridget Clay and David Weston.

IMG_20190428_223902

On cog-sci, I am a big fan but I think it’s important that we stop to consider some of the issues that arise from its sudden and widespread adoption.  The field goes back to when Hermann Ebbinghaus started his groundbreaking research into memory in 1879, and spread further when the ‘father of cognitive psychology’ Ulric Neisser published his seminal book in 1967. This raises various questions. What caused the shift towards cog-sci, and why is it only relatively recently that it has grown in popularity? Secondly, are we sufficiently skilled as a profession to practise this? After all, how many of us had proper training in this field during ITT? Are we just an army of enthusiastic amateurs? If we embrace interleaving fully, what are the implications for the curriculum? Mark Healy (@cijane02), a graduate and teacher of psychology for 25 years, tells me that even now he struggles to understand some of the nuances of working memory – yet everyone on Twitter is apparently an expert. These are all valid concerns so I will continue to a) use cog-sci in the classroom but b) critically scrutinise whether I am getting it right. As is often the case with research, the evidence base and theory are solid, but application can be awry. To be continued…

And finally…

A huge thanks to Annie Kirkaldy, Dee Saran, Sarah Lambert and all the other Dubai College staff who hosted and ran the events over two days superbly. Let’s hope it becomes a staple of the Middle Eastern education calendar.

The Ship of Theseus: the Nature of Change in Schools⤴

from @ robin_macp

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” – Heraclitus

This is about a philosophical thinking problem, and the messages that emerge for teachers and school leaders. If you know your philosophy, you can skip to the second half. If you don’t, read on…

A philosophical dilemma: the Ship of Theseus

Plutarch highlighted this problem and it has been developed and debated for centuries. In the dilemma, the ship of Theseus returns after a long period of voyaging (aided by the youth of Athens, he slew the Minotaur). When his voyage ends his ship is maintained for posterity, so when any part of it decays it is replaced. In the fullness of time, none of the original ship is left, but it still looks exactly like the ship of Theseus. This raises a question: is it still the same ship?

There are various riffs on this dilemma. A popular one is Washington’s axe, but you can also use Trigger’s broom. Washington’s axe resides in a museum, but the handle becomes rotten and is replaced. Then the blade becomes rusted, so it is also replaced. Same axe? Not the same axe? Personally I prefer Trigger’s broom (from Only Fools and Horses). Trigger wins an award for using the same broom for twenty years. He then reveals he’s changed the head seventeen times and the handle fourteen times. If you ask Trigger though, it’s the same broom – it looks the same and does the same job. No doubt he would agree that it’s the same axe wielded by George Washington.

You may be unconvinced by the ship, and the axe/broom examples seem trite. But how about Shinto temples? Their wood is replaced every 20 years. In one temple, the wood always comes from the same nearby forest because the trees are held to be sacred. Is this still the same temple?

And finally – to really mess with your mind – no cell in the human body lives longer than seven years. If you’ve done the ten year challenge, then consider this: not a single physical shred of that person exists anymore. Is it the same ship/axe/broom/temple/you?

What does this mean for teachers?

“Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished.” – Daniel Gilbert, Harvard psychologist

Education has never been, nor ever will be, static. Pedagogy changes, policy changes, culture changes – children change. We can never stay still as we constantly need to be up to speed with our professional practice. However, we all know people who teach exactly the same way in 2019 that they did back in 2009. They think they’ve cracked teaching and that what they do ‘works’, but how do we define what ‘works’ and how can teachers know if their practice is effective? Something to consider is that we have learned a great deal from cognitive psychology in the last decade. The quest for a better understanding about how we learn and how our memories work will take decades yet. Teaching will change in line with our collective knowledge.

I accept that lessons I taught that I thought were great a decade ago won’t pass muster now. I accept this, and I welcome it as a challenge of my job. My father decided to quit teaching (at age 71, incidentally) when he felt he had run his course in the classroom. He probably hadn’t, but he I admire him for having such self-awareness and being so honest with himself. It’s what we now call being a reflective practitioner, and good teachers have always done this. Therefore what we do can change, but there is also consistency in what it is to be a true professional.

This is where meaningful professional learning comes in. We, as teachers, need to stay current in our practice the same way that medics need to keep on top of new developments in treatment and pharmacology. Evidence is key. Here are three things that I’ve changed about my craft that came after serious reflection and engagement with educational research:

  • Marking: I loved (and I choose that word deliberately) forensic marking. It made me feel that I was doing my job well, and that my pupils respected me for my work ethic and commitment to them. It gave me lots of lovely data and – I mistakenly believed – made them better at what they do. Now I have read more, I realise that written feedback is limited and my lessons could have been better if I’d planned (and read) more, rather than dedicating too much of my time to marking. I now follow Dylan Wiliam’s ‘four quarters marking’ regime and everyone is better off for it.
  • Feedback: related to the above, my feedback came mainly through my pen. I was fast at turning around essays (always back the next lesson) but I now see that live feedback is much better. I am seeing more tangible learning gains by oral feedback on the spot than I am from my trusty red pen. Whole class feedback has been a revelation to me and I strongly recommend it.
  • Peer and self-assessment: again, related to the above, I was always distrustful of these practices as I thought they were for show and were actually treated with disdain by pupils. That’s probably true if they are done badly (as always happens when you do things in a tokenistic way). However, training pupils to be discerning critics of their work can come through practice of evaluating their peers’ work. Done well, it can lead to greater insight and progress than having yet another piece of work marked by me. Without it, four quarters marking falls down.

So am I the same teacher? I certainly hope not. I also hope I won’t be doing things the same way in ten years’ time. Great teaching is about evolving your practice. It terrifies me to think that teachers plateau after only three years, as David Weston’s work with the Teacher Development Trust shows. Don’t let that happen to you.

What does this mean for school leaders?

Change is an ever-present word in leadership conversations. In fact, the Standards for Leadership and Management in Scottish education put change right at the heart of it:

“Leadership is central to educational quality. Leadership is the ability to: develop a vision for change, which leads to improvements in outcomes for learners and is based on shared values and robust evaluation of evidence of current practice and outcomes; mobilise, enable and support others to develop and follow through on strategies for achieving that change; Management is the operational implementation and maintenance of the practices and systems required to achieve this change.”

Therefore the same golden rule applies to schools as well as teachers: change comes from knowing that we can always be better, and must move in that direction. Bill Clinton once said that you can have good politics, or good policy, but without both you can’t have good government. The same is true for school leaders. What you do and how you do it are equally important.

Some key points:

  1. Accept that change is inevitable, but aim to control the extent, pace and timing. Too little leads to stagnation, too much leads to chaos. You will see things that you need to change, but you will probably also have to change things that you like too. The key is to recognise the need, choose the moment, and don’t break the speed limit.
  2. Develop a culture of professional learning that embraces change. The teachers in your school need a mindset where they recognise that their practice needs to evolve. The Wiliam mantra is invaluable: improvement doesn’t come from inadequacy, but from the certain knowledge that we can always be better at what we do. So be very careful about how you use the word ‘improvement’ – never make your staff feel that it is motivated by a feeling that they are not good enough.
  3. Are you still the same teacher? I hope not – but how do you know? Do you remember what it’s like to teach a full timetable? If you’re asking teachers to mark a lot of books, ask yourself when you last marked a set of books? I have yet to come across a teacher who didn’t value a senior leader who led by example. What example are you setting?

So is it still the same ship?

The ship has changed in its constituent parts, but its core purpose and overall identity are the same. This is how I view teachers and schools. Throughout their lifespan, a teacher and a school will have the same overarching purpose. Yet how they achieve this will be in a state of constant evolution, and at times it may need revolution. Change fatigue is a serious issue for teachers, but so too is stagnation. Deng Xiaoping tried to bring order to China after the ideological upheaval of Mao’s long tenure, and his maxim was “it doesn’t matter if the cat is black or white, as long as it catches the mouse.” I don’t mind what the answer is to the Ship of Theseus dilemma, but if it still sails well then I’m fine with that.

Further reading

Five great books on school leadership:

National Digital Learning Week 2019⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

National Digital Learning Week is back! This year the event will take place Monday 13 until Friday 17 May.

For this year’s even all Early Learning and Childcare Centres and Schools across Scotland are invited to take part in 5 Curriculum focused challenges in: STEM, Social Studies, Expressive Arts, Numeracy and Literacy.

Here’ a 2 minute video that tells you everything you need to know about the event.

Visit the Glow Blog today and get started. https://bit.ly/2PfR0Go

Masters level learning in Gaelic Medium Education (Streap)⤴

from @ Education Scotland's Learning Blog

Applications are now invited for this 60-credit programme on Gaelic Medium Education. The programme is delivered by Aberdeen University and Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, and is fully-funded by the Scottish Government. Find out more.

Scottish EduTwitter⤴

from @ robin_macp

At the start of 2019, UKEdChat.com published a lengthy list of educators to follow in both the UK and abroad. Without wishing to sound parochial, I was frustrated at the presence of just a couple of people based in Scotland. The list is made up by nominations, so it’s not necessarily anyone’s fault. However, I know from personal experience just how many people I’m in contact with in Scottish education who have invaluable experience and knowledge that can benefit teachers around the world. After a couple of #FF tweets, I was inundated with many more Twitter handles to add to my list. What follows below is therefore a team effort and one that I hope proves useful to many others.

I’m a big believer in using Twitter as professional (as distinct from social or personal) media. It provides a voice for teachers that allows them to share ideas and blogs, or challenge poor policies and practice. This grassroots community is an essential counterpoise to officialdom that enables us to discuss education in a democratic fashion. Yes, there can be disputes and even abuse, but you can always block or report. I also know from working abroad that keeping in touch with what’s happening back at home is essential, especially if you are looking to return to Scottish education. Thankfully, moving abroad for a spell isn’t the career suicide that I was warned it was when I left in 2008.

So I hope this helps to build Scottish EduTwitter, and gets our fantastic talent in the sector the wider recognition that their work deserves.

NB: if you want to be removed from this list, or your details need to be changed, drop me a line. And finally, there are over 100 individuals on the list, with no rationale to that other than I ran out of steam. It is NOT comprehensive, nor final…

Twitter Handle
@aileendunbar
@ajcorrigan
@AllM14891126
@amweston ‏
@andrewkbailey13
@anna_d_beck
@anneglennie
@BrotherMunro
@carolinebreyley
@catmac705
@ChrisMcGrane84
@ChristineCouser
@ciaracreative
@cijane02
@claganach
@DB_AKODS
@Dean_Campbell_
@DenholmHT
@don_iain ‏
@DrSarahMcG
@DrZoeRob
@EarlyYearsIdeas
@eLearnMissKelly ‏
@emma_r_andrew
@Emma_Seith
@emsosu
@FearghalKelly
@gems_sand
@gibsoni
@GilchristGeorge
@Glazgow ‏
@gray730
@GTCS_Charlaine
@Henry_Hepburn
@IanStuart66
@JebJill
@jminelly27
@johnjohnston
@jonesieboy
@JW_Firth
@kate_wall98
@KateJohnson3
@KCrommie ‏
@kelsmif
@Kenny73 ‏
@kennypieper
@Korenth69
@L0ur0Col
@learningjay
@lenabellina
@Lindabell15
@literacyadviser
@lizziegowans
@loumsanders
@LynneJ0nes
@Margery25
@MarkRPriestley
@MckechnieJanet
@MissAHolmes ‏ 
@MissHiggins6
@MissLapere
@mrallanmaths
@MrBeattieS
@mrdissent
@MrMcEnaney
@MrSMathsWizard
@MrsPert1
@MrsRSeaview ‏
@neiledinburgh
@nickmward
@owexelstein ‏
@PaulineMurray8
@Peter_N_Smith
@pimpmymemory
@princesssandi07
@professoredith
@realdcameron
@relativism
@richardjholme ‏
@robfmac
@roffeme
@Rokewood
@ScotsTeach
@sdisbury ‏
@Sfm36
@stuartphysics
@susanward30
@TheCo_opTeacher
@thegerrydillon
@ValerieDrew1
Organisations
@EducationScot
@EISUnion
@gtcs
@pedagoo
@RCET_Scot
@RemSrebScot
@researchEDScot1