At a time when curriculum development is having a much needed revamp, where architects of curriculums are moving towards a progression model that focus on a domain of knowledge, rather than what will be on terminal examinations, it is now that we can really evaluate what we choose to include (and not include) in our everyday teaching and learning.
The infamous saying “tax shouldn’t be taxing” is something that I feel rings true for its synonym, to assess. Assessment is a key element of teaching and learning, both in its summative and formative forms, and enables for a review of progress. Assessment is most valuable when it translates into effective feedback which supports bespoke, personalised future-learning, both empowering students to take ownership for development and equipping teachers with the ability to facilitate this. However, with full teaching timetables, a growth in the amount of assessments set within schools, and the melting pot of other duties, it has become even more pertinent to find ways to make assessment and feedback not only effective, but also efficient.
Christmas is a great opportunity to take the time to be thankful for those who are part of our learning community, and to channel our festive spirit and cheer into contributing to a positive environment full of thought and goodwill. At our school, all of our members of staff (teaching and non-teaching) are invited to take part in our ‘Advent Angel’ initiative. After signing up, volunteers are secretly and randomly given the name of another member of staff who is also taking part. Our only caveat is that we aim to make sure that it is not someone with the same department or office, so colleagues across the school have the opportunity to learn something new about someone, which builds into our community ethos.
It could perhaps be tempting to fall into a trap of repetitive teaching and learning; using tried and tested strategies that we know have helped students to be successful in the past. Whilst this has its positives, and often offers reassurance, the beauty of being in this profession is the organic nature that is teaching and learning. You’ve got to love how new topics, skills and emerging student needs can create opportunities to adapt or rethink the resources or strategies that we use.
With many of the new specifications and examinations focussing on a greater volume of content, the challenge for some teachers is how to engage students and ensure deep learning. This is especially the case when curriculum time constraints play their role. One method to support deep learning, as well as engage lower ability, SEND or hard-to-reach students, can be using immersive and experiential learning experiences. This can be achieved using a variety of methods, taking into consideration practicalities and preparation time.
Standing in the street as a costumed Suffragette throwing reasoned arguments during a ‘Votes for Women’ dramatization, I remember encountering a curious mix of responses. A melting pot of confusion (understandably, it’s not often a Suffragette march passes you by in 2013), interest and awe, but also criticism; “What are you complaining about? Women have the vote! What a pointless protest.” Accurate as it may be that British women have the right to suffrage, annual events such as International Women’s Day continue to highlight that equality for women is still a very real issue that transcends political rights, cultures, religions and geographical borders, and will forever remain an invaluable part of modern education.
One thing that always interested me about History was the growing realisation that even the supposedly simplest and most straightforward facts are quite often shrouded in a mystifying narrative; a trail of sources that leaves the true story open to a range of opposing interpretations and outcomes. Whilst we may think we have answered all the questions and arrived at the correct conclusions about the sequences of events, a differing theory or discovery of a contradictory source can suddenly debunk the accepted.
As a child, I was actively encouraged to read. I’d spend evenings going to bed reading about the Mary Lennox, the isolated and closed off child sent to live in a remote manor on the desolate moors of Yorkshire, or about Carrie, the evacuee who embarks on a new adventure to Wales to escape the bombing of London. The skill of the authors hooked me into reading further about their experiences. I felt myself being transported into the fresh valleys of Wales, where Carrie would spend time weighing out rationed items in the shop, and experienced the difference in social classes in Victorian England alongside their understanding of medical ailments.
Spontaneity and risk-taking are qualities that we actively encourage students to develop when learning. It’s a meme that can be an exciting element in the classroom, and can heighten engagement. It enables students to think differently and instantly, altering pre-conceived perceptions about how to tackle a challenge and develops thinking skills. However, as one of the key influencers in the classroom, do we always practice what we preach? If we want students to be savvy in spur-of-the-moment situations, we should try to explore opportunities which dare us to do the same and model this trait.