Learning Dispositions + Authentic Inquiry in a Primary School

What happens when you turn a curriculum topic over to 10-11 year old children,  give them freedom to choose their focus, and increasing autonomy to make their own decisions to design, create and run a showcase event? Indeed, how do staff cope with stepping back like this? If Ofsted inspectors were to walk in, how could the school evidence learning? How can you evidence the development of lifelong learning dispositions, and how does this relate to the school’s strategic concerns about the progress of different pupil groups on traditional attainment measures? What roles do social learning tools like reflective blogging have to play?

This movie provides a brief glimpse into a two year series of pilots at Bushfield School, documented in more detail in this report. It represents the convergence of both University of Bristol and Open University research and development into learning analytics that can evidence processes associated with deeper learning, especially dispositional analytics (learn more: replay talk / workshop).

(See Reports for the entire library of school case studies.)

Screen Shot 2014-04-25 at 15.43.46Small, T., Shafi, A. and Huang, S. (2014) Learning Power and Authentic Inquiry in the English Primary Curriculum: A Case Study, Report No. 12, ViTaL Development & Research Programme, University of Bristol. [pdf]

This report documents progress in a two-year action-research programme at Bushfield School, Milton Keynes, with two main purposes: firstly, to build on the School’s success in developing children’s capacity to learn; secondly, to track and measure the impact of its interventions for this purpose. The school combined the Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory (ELLI) with the Authentic Inquiry learning methodology from University of Bristol. Qualitative and quantitative data are combined to examine the impact of the pilots from the perspective of staff and pupils, comparing learning power against a range of demographic and attainment datasets, in the distinctive context of a primary school already experienced in the Building Learning Power approach.

Complexity and Pedagogy – Shanghai Workshop

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Ruth, Chris and I have just spent an extraordinary week in Shanghai in an intensive, highly ’emergent’ workshop designed to reimagine educational systems (research and practice) as complex adaptive systems.

FinderScreenSnapz004The event was hosted graciously by East China Normal University (Institute of Schooling Reform & Development), a Key Research Institute in the University of National Educational Ministry. We partnered with Prof. Li Jiacheng at ECNU as it became clear that our visions and values for systemic learning systems design are closely aligned. With further backing from University of Auckland, participants were invited from New Zealand, Australia, China and UK.

FirefoxScreenSnapz1059ECNU’s ground-breaking work is led by Prof. Ye Lan (CCTV interview), who is shaping national policy on reforming the school system to create more creative students with the qualities needed to thrive in the 21st century ‘age of complexity’. Shanghai schools leapt to fame when they topped the last PISA league tables, and part of this workshop was to examine our assumptions about what ‘good’ looks like, and how to assess educational quality for our complex times.

The workshop was expertly facilitated by Rob Kay from Incept Labs (Sydney),  who specialise in the applications of complexity science to wicked problems such as organizational change and resilience.  The Learning Emergence network is already growing as a result, and we expect a rich strand of collaborations to flow from this exciting meeting, so watch this space.

See below for more details of Prof. Ye’s influential work.

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Professor Ye Lan was born in Shanghai in December 1941.  She is currently Tenure Professor and a doctoral supervisor at East China Normal University (ECNU).  Professor Ye is also Director of the Contemporary Chinese Basic Education Development and Innovation Base under the overall “985 Project” of ECNU; Director of the New Basic Education Research Centre; Honorary Director of the Institute of Schooling Reform and Development (ISRD), ECNU, which is a key research base of the Ministry of Education in China; and Counselor of the People’s Government of Shanghai Province. She is concurrently appointed as a member of the National Educational Science Planning Leading Group.  Prof. Ye has formerly served as Convener of the Education Appraisal Panel of the 4th and 5th Academic Degrees Committee of the State Council; Vice Chairman of The Chinese Society of Education; Vice Chairman of the Shanghai Municipal Council of Social Services; Head of Education Department, Dean of the Faculty of Educational Science, founding Director of ISRD, and Vice-President at ECNU.  Prof. Ye is an eminent scholar in the following key research areas: theories of education study, theories of education research methods, contemporary basic education of China, teacher education reform etc.  Her major publications include Jiao yu gai lun (Principles of Education), Jiaoyu yanjiu fanfalun chutan (An Exploration of Education Research Methods) and Xin ji chu jiao yu lun (On New Basic Education).  She has also edited and written a number of research series, and has published over 90 research articles.  She has been responsible for various state key studies, and received many national academic awards.

Hampshire Teaching Schools Alliance: Becoming Research Teachers focused on improving Deep Learning Across Transitions

Screen Shot 2013-10-06 at 18.40.50The Hampshire Teaching Schools Alliance has formed a Networked Improvement Community with structured social arrangements which joins academic research, clinical practice and commercial expertise in sustained programmes of Design Educational Engineering and Development (Bryk et al 2010).  This is an approach to improvement which is being developed in education by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teacher Education

Pioneer Teaching School AllianceIt  offers a productive synthesis across the research-practice divide. It aims to meld the conceptual strength and methodological norms associated with traditional research  with the contextual specificity, deep clinical insight and practical orientation characteristic of action research.

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Participants in a Networked Improvement Community endorse shared, precise, measureable targets which achieve a shared purpose.  They address shared,complex problems and participate in whole systems designing processes aimed at clarifying the problem/challenge/solution space. On the basis of rich data from this process they design interventions which may lead to improvement.  These interventions are rapidly prototyped, and  participants agree to use what is learned from working toward meeting the targets, to setting new targets aimed at ever more ambitious goals. In this regard, shared measureable targets help a community stay focused on its core purpose, from the community’s perspective. They catalyze discussions among participants as to why we should attend to this rather than that. They demand about what is likely to afford more immediate progress.  They introduce discipline in priority setting as it interacts with the individualistic rhetoric of “I am interested in…”

The problem identified in the HTSA NIC is the problem of student progress in learning and achievement across key transitions.

Our shared understanding of the problem we are seeking to address is that we lack a common approach to teaching, learning and assessment across transitions. Specifically we tend to:nsitions in education. Throughout 2012/13 academic year, as well as setting in place the social arrangements, they have engaged in a systems analysis of the problem. This is presented in the first diagram below, Problem Solution Space. From here the potential solutions were identified in the second diagram: Driver Diagram.

  • create dependent learners
  • lack a shared language and repertoire of learning routines & practices
  • lack pro-active and shared rich student academic & learning assessment data
  • lack trust between teachers in different contexts
  • are influenced by anxiety about performance criteria

Our shared hypothesis:

If we focus on a common approach to developing self-directed learning and knowledge construction for students across the transitions then we will enable students to maintain progress in learning and performance because they will carry this competence into their new context, which will have key pedagogical characteristics in common with the one they have left.

Our shared purpose is: 

To design and implement approaches to teaching and learning which facilitate deep & self-directed learning in students which they carry across the transition, which is recognised and supported in the new context, and which leads to sustained progress and improved attainment.

In order to do this, our initial focus is on teacher professional learning – how we work together, harness our collective intelligence and learn across the Alliance. We work creatively within a common, disciplined framework with shared design principles.

Design Principles

(Key practices which are (i) disciplined and pervasive characteristics of our shared approach to pedagogy, (ii) evidence based and (iii) communicated to our communities in many different ways)

Developing Deep & Self-Directed Learning through

  • a shared language for learning and knowledge construction
  • a common approach to teaching as learning design
  • a common set of assessment strategies – using rich data
  • a common set of values which pervade the learning environments
  • authentic pedagogy for deep engagement

Project Methodology

A shared question  & a context specific response

#Each Project will make a unique contribution to addressing the question of what type of pedagogical practices  contribute to the development of deep and self-directed learning across the transition.

Who will we work with?

Each project team works collaboratively with a year group before and after the transition (for example year 5 and year 7)  using the rapid prototype methodology based on the Plan Do Study Act cycle.

A rapid prototype is a short, small project (24 weeks) designed and implemented by the teacher/researchers following the Plan, Do, Study, Act cycle. It addresses all or some of the project’s shared design principles but in a way which is appropriate for that particular context. It is evaluated locally – and using disciplined metrics which are agreed by the whole group. Eventually the project will harvest the learning from all the prototypes, which can be scaled up across the communities.

There will be two prototypes, one between December and March and the second between April and June. The second one is improved in the light of the evaluation of the first one.  Each project team is responsible for designing and implementing their own research project, including data collection and analysis methods and presentation of findings.  Two project workshops will provide a collaborative learning event for each cycle where each group presents their findings – what works, and key concepts.  These will be synthesised & shared for improvements in the next prototypes.

Each prototype will contribute its learning to the whole via the Evidence Hub in the form of stories of significant change, videos, etc.  Each project will have an academic critical friend from a local University. Each project will adopt the Ten Up methodology across the cohort.  From the target year group, focus on 10 students to study in depth as case studies for professional learning, whilst the whole year group benefits from the intervention.  These students could also provide case studies for students in the partner HEIs who need data and can add value.

Overall Disciplined Evaluation Framework

Each project will commit to working with the shared, disciplined evaluation framework for the whole project.  As well as contributing equally to the whole project systems designing and solutions space, they will agreed to collect and provide data which will be used to evaluate the project as a whole, over the four year lifecyle.  This whole project data is designed to measure the target outcome which is ‘student self-directed learners’ and the relationship between this outcome measure and student progress across transitions. It will also enable the project to idenfity a ‘control group’ in another teaching schools alliance elsewhere in the UK if appropriate, which is not addressing the problem of transitions in this way.

Learning to Achieve  is a handbook for teachers who want to understand more about implementing learning power.

DEED+ELLI+AI+CI = Systemic School Learning

Oasis Academy Jhon Williams LogoIntroduction

We’re excited to report the unfolding story about how we are using the groundbreaking work of Tony Bryk‘s team on  Design, Educational Engineering and Development (DEED), as a methodology for systemic school change. This is combined with the University of Bristol’s Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory (ELLI), which forms part of a process of Authentic Inquiry (AI) for students, teachers and leaders. The insights from these prototypes are then shared via a novel website, from the Open University’s Knowledge Media Institute, for harnessing Collective Intelligence (CI), called the Evidence Hub. This is  an exciting convergence, since as you are about to see, the school piloting this reports that it has catalysed a profound shift in how they think about professional development.

On 15th July 2013  the Centre for Systems Learning and Leadership at the University of Bristol held a seminar with teachers and leaders from Oasis Academy John Williams  who had identified student engagement in learning as a complex problem which they wanted to get to grips with and improve. They formed a Networked Improvement Community with colleagues from the University (NICs are a powerful concept developed by Doug Engelbart, whose work has since been applied by Tony Bryk – see below).

They told an exciting story about an experiment to engage a cohort of middle and senior teachers in their own accredited professional enquiries into student engagement through rapid prototyping: test fast – fail fast and early – learn and improve.  Each of the seven teachers gained 20 credits from the MSc in Systems Learning and Leadership through their enquiry – through collaborative seminars held in school and at the University.

Researcher’s Viewpoint

RDCRuth Deakin Crick introduced the project with an overview of the key ideas:

  • Learners are themselves a ‘complex system’
  • Deep learning (by students; teachers; leaders; organisations) is a journey from purpose to performance, which can be scaffolded by an authentic enquiry methodology
  • Aligning professional learning to organisational purpose at several levels in schools as complex living systems provides a rich architecture for improvement.

These  ideas have been drawn from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teacher Education, particularly this paper Getting Ideas into Action: Building Networked Improvement Communities in Education by Tony Bryk and colleagues. This is combined with University of Bristol’s own research into Learning Power (as quantified by ELLI) and the pedagogy and methodology of Authentic Enquiry.

Leader’s viewpoint

Screen shot 2013-07-17 at 19.15.05Rebecca Clark (Executive Principal & Regional Academies Director) provided the context for the research  in terms of the historical, social, and economic factors which shape the community’s expectations in education, and the continuing journey of change which the school is on.  She share insights gained from her own study and the project and how these may be applied, and developed further in the wider strategic setting of the family of Oasis Academies.

HARNESSING COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE

SBSSimon Buckingham Shum, Professor at the Open University and visiting fellow at Bristol, described the way in which the project is harvesting the learning from these seven enquiries and making it available not only to colleagues in their own school, but globally, through the Evidence Hub for Systems Learning and Leadership. This is a site you can explore, and we encourage you to sign up to subscribe to alerts, and begin sharing your own insights. [Evidence Hub research paper]

TEACHERS’ VIEWPOINTS

Phil  (Assistant Principal) and Richard are two teachers at the Academy who developed their own authentic enquiries. They are  at different stages in their careers and teach different subjects.  They explained how the project has changed them as teachers, as well as their practice, and has had an impact on the engagement of their students.

Phil’s Story

Screen shot 2013-07-17 at 19.21.18Phil’s talk about his enquiry about how to engage students in a top Year 8 Maths set by ‘handing over responsibility to students’ and helping them to develop their strategic awareness.

Simon then explored Phil’s story distilled on the Evidence Hub [view on Hub]:

Richard’s Story

Richard JamesRichard’s enquiry focused the development of resilience with his  to set Science class – challenging them by setting problems which were unsolvable in order to understand that confusion and failure is all part of learning.

Simon then demo’d Richard’s story distilled on the Evidence Hub [view on Hub]:

As Phil and Richard’s stories are now tied to the Evidence Hub entry for Oasis Academies, when you view the Oasis homepage, you see their work:

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This is just the beginning of the story for this Networked Improvement Community in Bristol, which will be continuing during the next academic year with the Centre for Systems Learning and Leadership.

We warmly invite you to add comments below, or join the reflective conversation on the Evidence Hub if you have issues to raise, or evidence-based claims/solutions to share.

PhD studentship at OU to study EnquiryBlogger

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PhD Studentship, Open University UK (2013-16): This PhD project builds on validated pedagogical models for learner-driven enquiry, scaffolded by blogging software and associated learning analytics, to create a reflective, social, learning journal. The research will start by analysing the data already gathered from prior research in schools, design new contexts for studying this phenomenon, and refine the analytics. Experience in qualitative and quantitative data analysis required, programming not required but an advantage.

Funding consists of stipend £40,770 (£13,590/year) plus fee bursary

Please contact Simon Buckingham Shum and Rebecca Ferguson at the OU to discuss this informally before applying.

Learn more about EnquiryBlogger