A really interesting account/opinion of where education is right now and it breaks my heart… I am one of those teachers who have taken a break from teaching young people directly. Not because I want to ( I love being a teacher) but because there were certain pressures to teach in a certain way, that I believe will not benefit the learner in the long term. It goes against my own teaching ethos and against why I became a teacher in the first place.

I hope to return to teaching very soon. I miss it so much… I will however, as suggested in this article, be choosing the right school and position to get back into the profession on my terms… Who knows it may even be abroad!

Love Learning....

Mike Cameron wrote a very compelling and worrying blog this week on the conditions forming a perfect storm for teacher shortages and so I’ll try not to repeat too much of what was already a comprehensive view of the situation we’re currently facing. But I’d like to add a few of my own thoughts about the implications that this government might want to consider as we face this crisis.

The headline stats show that there are 12% fewer applicants to teacher training courses this year at the same time as we see a 7% increase in pupil numbers. And while the reported figure of 40% of teachers leaving the profession before fully qualifying was overstated, the real figure is still a concern. Indeed, we are still looking at an almost unprecedented number of teachers leaving the profession within five years and many more after years of dedicated service. I myself…

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Leading ‘Real World’ Learning

Students learn more deeply when they can apply classroom gathered knowledge to (the) real world…” (Trilling & Fadel – 21st Century Skills – 2009).

THIS real world learning should be carried out in classrooms to engage, motivate, deepen understanding and to connect a young persons learning in a real world context. In fact, if learning is not linked to the real world then we, as teachers, are not providing appropriate learning opportunities for our young people. I know through experience that real world learning is one of the most important factors in a classroom. It will bring about engagement, motivation and the deeper understanding that will ultimately lead to better academic success.

Trilling & Fadel also add that “Learning is a lifelong journey, and on most journeys it is important to have a destination in mind and a reliable means of transport to get there“. Learning is a process and there are many examples, some of them I have covered in my blogs so far, others I will address another time. The key starting point is to make the journey of learning (reliable means of transport) real to life and the world around us.

I have been involved in education for 11 years and the first thing I always do as a classroom teacher, whatever the learning outcome, is to think; How can I make this real to the learners? How can I put this in a relevant context for them? Will this engage them from the start (a hook) and make them inquire (developing lifelong learning skills)?

How to link learning to the real world

An easy thing to do which any teacher could start tomorrow, is to link the learning outcomes to a career. An example could be in Maths when looking at areas or volumes. This knowledge could easily be connected with the building trade where decorators may use volume for working out how much paint would be needed to paint a room. A builder would need to be able to work out the area of a roof e.g. to work out how many tiles would be needed. What about creative writing in English being linked to famous authors such as JK Rowling or being a sports reporter/commentator when verbally presenting information on an event or other?

I have covered other examples of this type of real world learning in an earlier blog.

Reasons to link learning to the real world

Linking learning in a classroom has further benefits. It will engage the learner by giving them a real reason to have this skill or knowledge. It should not just be for a test that they will have to do! Let’s face it, for a lot of students this will automatically dis-engage them from the subject. On a side note; if learning is always based around having to learn it for the exam then I can say that take up in that subject later in life will become less likely… We all know the students who say that they are not doing this subject or that subject because it is boring! So make it interesting… As a teacher pass on that passion you have for your subject and engage the young person. Again, this can easily be done through a real world context.

Another positive side effect of a young person being engaged in learning is that they will demonstrate a positive behaviour for learning. As a teacher you will start to notice that they are now starting to ask questions (inquire) about the subject or learning outcome. Why not take this further? What about rewarding the learner for asking questions about the real world context, rather than for what they get right? I liken this to being a fisherman. You use the hook (real world context) to catch the fish (learner). Then in order to reel them in you get them to ask questions and then reward them for the question that they ask. All the time that this is happening the fisherman (teacher) is bringing the fish (learner) closer to the shore (learning outcome) through the deep waters (inquiry led deeper learning strategy). This thinking can form the basis of many lesson activities in the classroom.

This is how learners demonstrate deeper learning and it will ultimately ensure that they do not forget that learning. Learning stays in their mind because it has a purpose for them, a real reason to have it. It also creates the spark for them to want to know more.

To be able to use this strategy effectively it is important to get to know your learners. Find out something about them. It could be a future career choice, it could be something that they are interested in. Use this in the learning that takes place as a hook to catch learners every lesson. Unless you are a superhero I doubt that you will be able to match every learner’s interest or aspiration to every learning outcome. However if you try to link the real world to learning in every lesson it will come to pass that more and more learners will be hooked at various points. I actually think you will be surprised that learners will even start to develop their own hooks for the learning that you had not even thought of!

THIS is why ALL learning must be linked to the real world for deeper understanding, better knowledge recall and moreover long term academic achievement. Future blogs will concentrate on the ‘process’ of learning and how we can make learning more interesting, engaging, thought provoking, inquiry (learner) led and based on the needs of life and work in the modern world. The focus of learning must be on the process, linked to the real world and should facilitate learners to develop skills in lifelong learning. It should not be based on the initial test/exam score or young people may find themselves in the same position as this chap in the cartoon below.


SOURCE: http://www.uft.org/editorial-cartoons/what-real-world-skills-do-you-have

Leading Learning: PSHE & British Values

THIS is a lesson that I recently planned which could be adapted for a Year 8 or Year 9 mixed ability class. I adapted it from someone else so I thought it was only fair to pass my version on too.



You will see that the top link takes you to a lesson PowerPoint and the second link to a comprehensive lesson plan. Please note that this lesson is based around my concept of ‘Leading Learning’ and facilitating the learning of young people but certainly not teaching them. It is based around the principle of making the learning real to the learner. Moreover it is based around the concept of learning through thinking, interaction and communication.

I hope some people will find this useful.


Embedding Career & Skills Learning In A Primary Curriculum

THIS is a blog about a lovely experience that I have had this week when I visited a primary school who have embedded skills learning into the fabric of their school. This is a primary school who have been graded as Outstanding by OFSTED on 3 separate occasions. This same system of learning was also used within another primary school which helped them improve from the OFSTED category of ‘Special Measures’ to receive a ‘Good’ inspection grading.

They said that the reason for gaining 3 ‘Outstanding’ inspection reports is due to their drive to have their whole curriculum based around developing planning, research, teamwork, evaluation and determination (resilience) in their young people. I had the honor of being given a tour of the school and had the opportunity to speak to teachers and saw lessons taking place. I also spent the day talking to the Headteacher and Deputy Headteacher about their skills based learning vision. They firmly believe that creating a broader curriculum involving skills learning in the classroom has led to better academic results, as well as the young people having a better ability to learn independently. The children from Year 1 to Year 6 are given the opportunity work in teams and solve problems with very little input from the teachers. I saw for myself the effect this learning had on the children when I witnessed a year 3 class showing a deep understanding of justifying arguments. The children could actually justify with ease the decisions they had made regarding a discussion they had been having. For a class of Year 3 learners I thought this was very impressive!

I was given an example of how they engage the learners. Every year they have an ‘Aspirations Day’ where people come into school who have different jobs and careers. This enthuses the children to want to find out more about specific careers and this sparks further enquiry. The school will follow this up with skills learning sessions where they can do further investigation via planning, doing research or evaluating. The great thing is that some of this learning takes place through ‘play’ and taking part in games. The learners will do 6 projects in a year to show what they have learnt, the progress they have made in certain skills, and also for assessment purposes. The assessment gives the child an opportunity to be able to talk to their teachers and justify why and where they have made improvements in their skills development. They also have the opportunity to make their own choices about how they want to demonstrate their learning through reports, displays and PowerPoint among other options.

Another reason for their success is that they believe in rewarding and celebrating achievement at every opportunity. Like in all schools they have lesson objectives based on what the child will be able to do after a specific piece of learning. Sometimes this is not always achieved by every child which would be common in any school. However, this primary school also have a separate skills based objective where learners have the opportunity to show that they have achieved a separate success criteria based on their skills development. This therefore ensures that the child is always achieving success in one way or another (preferably both). This ensures that the child remains engaged through the various success criteria on offer. Marking in all books that I saw reflected the improvements that are required, or a request by the teacher for the learner to apply the learning to a different situation so embedding the development. The evidence that I saw was that the children had responded to all the comments.

This shows that skills learning is also taking place throughout the rest of the curriculum. The learners have stickers that go into their books where they can identify a skill that they have used in a particular piece of work coming from the other subjects being studied. The learners are also able to articulate how and why they used the skill, recalling thoughts and processes from several weeks earlier.

THIS is why skills learning should be a major piece in the jigsaw for the curriculum in any school. In particular this blog shows how skills learning can be implemented into a primary setting. I am looking forward to the continuation of my work with this school over the next few months and to learn more about their ‘outstanding’ skills based learning philosophy.