One thing to be celebrated: Education Scotland (where I work for the time being until February) organised a Learning Week for all staff. This, I think, is a great concept. A proramme was devised which was made up of sessions and seminars provided internally by the staff inside the organisation. There was a mixture of themes and formats, from rapid-fire ideas exchange, to getting to know you, to learning about the new model of inspection, to external speakers like John Carnachan. I was involved in 3 of these sessions. The first one involved me and my colleague Bob sharing the work we’d done on professional review and development. The second was a shared session with Carolyn Hutchison based on a research review (ch 2 of this publication) of the theory of learning, and how this can inspire practice. The intention behind this session was to start a conversation about establishing and cultivating connections between practice and research/enquiry.
In order to do this, we set up a page on Glow for people to sign up to in advance, introduce themselves, download the necessary papers, share any thinking they had already done around this issue and add interesting, relevant links. Interest in this was limited, which was no real surprise. The paper itself was I thought interesting, accessible in terms of language and freely available. Starting with a summary of the major learning theorists and their beliefs on learning, it wound up with a good look at Eric De Corte’s CSSC model of learning, that is learning is
•Constructed – we each need to make the learning our own in order to achieve understanding.
•Situated – learning is all the better if it is located in a meaningful context.
•Self-regulated – learning is an active process, it is not something that just happens to us. We each need to manage ourselves and know what to do to make it most effective, and develop the necessary skills for doing this.
•Collaborative – we learn better when we learn with other people .
The authors shared some really interesting vignettes to illustrate what this could look like in different learning contexts. All really useful, I thought. And the best thing of all for me is that Curriculum for Excellence is an ideal context for this CSSC model to work. And we also have Teaching Scotland’s Future recommendations calling for more and better partnerships between schools & universities, theory & practice. We had lots of good discussion around theory/research/inquiry and practice; the successes so far; the importance of CPD and PRD in all this; the free availability of research findings (research is too often in a glass box we can’t get into – it is driven by funding, not impact on learning); the motivation behind the apparent desire for quantitative information about achievement; the role of teacher-learning communities in all this. But…..
……two things disappointed me about this session.
First one is that most of my colleagues thought the paper was difficult to read and would most definitely be inaccessible to teachers. I (and at least one other colleague) disagreed. A potted history of the major learning theorists which was once published by TESS was offered as a handy, pocket-sized alternative. That may be a great read, but I have a problem with this. We are a graduate profession: do we need academic writing on learning to be converted into a handy tips guide in order for us to be able to read it? It wouldn’t be the first time pocket-sized versions of weightier documents were suggested as a better alternative to “the real thing” but I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling slightly patronised by this idea – that the hard data is infact, too hard for me.
Secondly, only half the people who signed up, turned up, and this was true of both sessions I planned for and co-facilitated. I think this reflects really badly on us as a so-called “learning organisation.” Learning is our business, it’s what we are paid to do; to engender, develop, support and sustain for young people in Scotland. Indeed, we “transform lifes through learning” according to our strapline. But we don’t seem to value it enough to see it as more important than all the other stuff when a week has been planned and organised to offer learning opportunities for us. Maybe it’s just not a priority. Well, in that case, I wonder what is.
The third session for me was a flu -jab. The nurse didn’t turn up. Couldn’t say I was surprised.