Friday, 22 November 2013

The New Pedagogy

On Monday, I was very lucky to attend, along with some other Bradbury staff, a lecture given by Professor Michael Fullan. Fullan is recognised as a worldwide authority on educational reform, he is a prolific, award winning author whose thoughts and ideas have been influential on the direction of educational policy around the world. It was wonderful to listen to him speak but mostly it was great to have my own thinking around what we do in our school challenged.

Prof. Fullan wrote a commentary recently entitled "The New Pedagogy: Students and Teachers as Learning Partners" (

While there are many interesting points that he raises, one that caught my attention is the notion of students and teachers as 'learning partners'. This is quite a radical departure of the traditional view of teachers, who are seen as the deliverer of knowledge and information to a passive, waiting group of students. This was certainly the view of teachers when I went to school, and possibly when you went also!

Certainly, the move towards an inquiry approach has changed this perception to some degree. When I interview for new teachers, what I hear from many, is that they see themselves as 'facilitators of learning' helping students to reach understandings themselves, to discover and apply their learning through a 'guide on the side' approach from the teacher.

This sounds perfect, until you consider Hattie's research, which I have written about in other posts, which found that this approach had only a .17 effect on learning- .40 and above being significant. But... with the teacher as the activator, or partner in learning, the effect size was .60!

This is challenging because some of the pedagogical approaches he lists as being part of the facilitator model: individualised instruction, problem based learning, for example, are practices that we believe make a difference, here at Bradbury.

At the same time, some of the 'activator' practices are also well embedded pedagogical approaches here as well: feedback, frequent checks on effects of learning, meta-cognition.

So the challenge for me as instructional leader is to be thoughtful about what we do here, to reflect critically on our practices, to ensure that I am current in my thinking and to change that which is outdated or no longer relevant.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Do we really kill creativity?

Creativity is a really interesting concept. It is one that I personally think we need to encourage and develop in our children in order for them to have the skills for their future. Sir Ken Robinson, in his 2006 Ted Talk asserts that creativity is, "as important as literacy and should be treated with the same status". Wow! In his opinion, however, schools do more than ignore or discourage creativity... they kill it! What a damning statement for all educators!

So what is creativity and how do we teach it? Personally, I don't think it is something we teach like we do reading or mathematics. I believe it is an attitude, a way of thinking and of seeing the world without the constraints of 'what is'. We allow for it in our classrooms and in our interactions with our students. We need to encourage their pursuit of the improbable.

But how do we do this? Education Scotland offer the following as suggestions:
  • Provide regular opportunities for hands-on experimentation, problem solving, discussion and collaborative work.
  • Actively encourage pupils to question, make connections, envisaging what might be possible and exploring ideas.
  • Use failure or setbacks as opportunities to learn.
  • Facilitate open discussion of the problems pupils are facing and how they can solve them.
  • Ask open-ended questions such as ‘What if…?’ and ‘How might you…?’
  • Ensure that assessment procedures reflect and reward creativity, enterprise and innovation.

I think we do pretty well with most of these at Bradbury, although point three is an interesting one that I would like to see more thought around...after all, it took Edison 10,000 tries (apparently) to create the light bulb. Thank goodness he saw failure as an opportunity for further thought and exploration and didn't stop after failure #3!

I often hear people say that they are not creative because they can't draw. Sorry, but this is a misconception! Some years ago, I took a year out of my job to complete the first year of a fine arts degree and so went to art school. I loved every minute of it and one thing I learned is what an exact process constructing a drawing is. It is not necessarily about being 'creative', drawing is an exact procedure that is about changing the way you see things, observing the world around you and using strategies like mathematically measuring proportion to get your drawing or painting to look right.

'We can't be creative unless we are prepared to be confused" is a great quote by Margaret Wheatly that I noted recently. Perhaps  creativity comes in when you know enough to break the rules? I'm not sure, but I do know that how good at drawing you are is not a measure of creativity! I have a friend who is a very successful artist (Anna Plattern). I once commented to her on how creative she is, but her reply was one of disagreement, after all, she said, "I only paint what I see".

So, for me, creativity is a mindset, a way of seeing the world in a different light where new things are possible and worth thinking about and exploring. It is a skill I think our children need to possess to function in their future and I do not want Bradbury to be a school guilty of killing it- I shudder at the thought!

Below are some photos of great creative thinking occurring in Bradbury recently.One is from a maths lesson, one is from a language lesson and two are from an art lesson with our Artist in Residence, Eleanor McCall.