Although estimates of the impact of automation on the labour market vary widely, it is generally agreed that the ‘fourth industrial revolution’, and especially the advance of AI, is set to transform how we live and work. The question we wanted to address in the next in our debates series was what this means for education – particularly, for how we prepare the next generation of citizens and workers to thrive in a very different context. Will the addition of a few more classes on coding and machine learning suffice? To help us in our quest we brought together experts from the fields of education and technology: Rose Luckin, Professor of Learner Centred Design at the UCL Knowledge Lab; Gi Fernando founder and CEO of Freeformers; Professor Mark Bailey, High Master of St Paul’s School; and Baroness Sally Morgan, whose engagement with the education sector ranges across the compulsory and post-compulsory phases. (more…)
If you agree that the Primary National Curriculum for English is too complex and over-loaded with detail, try a little experiment. See what happens when you take the 2014 Music Curriculum and adapt it appropriately.
My team and I have been researching the development of children’s creativity, and I think this could represent a new vision for English in the curriculum of the future:
One of the highest forms of creativity
Increase [pupils’] self-confidence, creativity and sense of achievement
To create and compose writing on their own and with others
To understand and explore how writing is created
KS1 programme of study (more…)
Autism is commonly, if mistakenly, associated more with logical thinking than creative expression. But new research suggests we might need to rethink our views on creativity and autism.
The criteria we use to diagnose autism have long made reference to the fact that autistic imagination appears to be limited, and this trait is used as a way of detecting the condition. Yet in reality we still see many extremely creative autistic people.
This paradox led researchers at the universities of East Anglia and Stirling to study creativity and autistic traits in a large group of both autistic and non-autistic individuals. Their tests of creativity involved coming up with as many innovative uses for (more…)
Have you heard the one about the professor who did a stand-up comedy course? Well, if you haven’t before, you have now. And if you’re thinking, “why would anyone in their right mind do that?” that’s just what I was wondering after the first two weeks of my seven-week course earlier this year.
Why take on this challenge? Am I about to leave the ivory tower for a life in the comedy clubs? Anyone who saw me perform my final showcase will be overjoyed to hear that’s not my motivation. I just became increasingly concerned that when accountability stakes are high, or educational policies steer educators towards prescriptive teaching programmes, like a specific literacy approach, many teachers respond by playing it safe and relying on others to tell them what to do.
Around the world, many governments recognize that it’s essential for children graduating from school to be creative and adaptable. But, if teachers don’t have the opportunity to be creative, how can anyone expect them to light that spark in their students?
That’s why my colleagues and I started working on creative leadership with teams of school leaders. We explored and studied different ways the leaders could support their colleagues in coming up with and trying out new strategies to tackle difficult problems inside and outside the classroom. We learned that this involves taking risks, for them and for the teachers, as they were pushed out of their comfort zones. Some of the leaders and teachers resisted making changes to the way they carried out their work, finding every excuse to leave things the way they were. The risk just seemed too great.
That’s where the comedy course came in. I wanted to feel what it was like to try something totally different, something that didn’t feel “same old, same old”, that would seriously challenge me. It was really hard. Those comedians who make it all look so easy when they make us laugh actually put a huge amount of time and effort into practising and refining their jokes. My classmates (a retired police officer, an airport driver, a solicitor, a waiter, a documentary film maker, and a prison officer, among others) and I spent hours between the sessions thinking up and developing material, trying it out on willing – and sometimes less willing – friends and family members, then tweaking it or if necessary, ditching it and coming up with something new. Turning up the next week without having put in the effort just wasn’t an option if we wanted to stand up in front of our tutor and peers without feeling completely foolish. Luckily, being in this together, we quickly became a supportive group.
Experts take practising extremely seriously – all 10,000 hours of it, as Anders Ericsson reminded us. In The Expert Learner, to be published at the start of 2014, my colleague Gordon Stobart argues that we can learn many lessons from experts like Mozart, David Beckham and the Williams sisters. He argues that we should be applying this to learning in schools – both students’ learning and teachers’. Practise needs to be more purposeful, focusing on specific elements. He’s not saying that every one of them will become experts, but that learners, however old we are, can improve.
Being a better teacher, leader, parent, policy maker isn’t something that just happens. You have to be open to new ideas and try experiences that push you and challenge your thinking. And you need to practise new skills and keep refining them.
When did you last seriously challenge yourself learning something new for the benefit of children and young people? How did it feel? Did you practise it?
OK – time to confess. This is my first blog. Here I am pushing myself out of my comfort zone again, totally unsure of how you’ll react to this. I’d welcome feedback. Of course, I’ll also need to practise, and you know what they say about practise . . .
This post first appeared at http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/international_perspectives/
Primary children should develop a “love of literature through widespread reading for enjoyment”, according to the Government’s proposed new English curriculum. I couldn’t agree more. An early introduction to the wonderful range of children’s books will enrich their lives forever. Children who love to read and relish a wide range of texts are more likely to succeed at school and enjoy their time there. As the Programme of Study says: “for pupils, understanding language provides access to the whole curriculum.”
But is the proposals’ encouraging use of the words love and enjoyment mere rhetoric or does it signify a rich seam weaving its way naturally throughout the Programme of Study? Unfortunately not the latter, because at every turn pleasure, love, and meaning appear to be secondary to the mechanics of phonics, spelling and grammar.
This over-emphasis on mechanics fails to reflect advances in research and scholarship over the last 25 years. For example, we know that phonics teaching is an important part of helping children learn to read. But we also know that too much phonics of the wrong kind can have a negative effect by narrowing the curriculum and by risking a lack of attention to other important parts of learning to read. The decontextualised phonics programme set out in the Programme of Study is not the only effective way to teach phonics. Research has shown that learning about the alphabetic code is effective when set in the context of whole texts (such as stories, poems, and songs: Peterborough headteacher Christine Parker and I have shown ways to do this in our new handbook).
Grammar, too, is better learned in context, so that it supports children’s use of language — for example teaching children to craft their use of language in relation to the intended audience for their writing — rather than through learning terms such as “subordinate clause”. Have we not learned anything from 10 years of explicit grammar teaching in the National Literacy Strategy, and its failure significantly to improve primary pupils’ writing?
Importantly, any new curriculum needs to take account of the real world that 21st century children are living in and recognise the value that children’s languages, dialects and vernacular bring to the classroom. Multi-vernacularism is the daily reality for all pupils and teachers in England. In urban and rural settings pupils speak, hear, and engage with accents, dialects and multiple languages.
Linguistic misunderstanding is also seen in the absence of talk in the draft Programme of Study. Following the hard fought battles to have talk as an explicit part of the national curriculum the limp exhortations for pupils to “discuss what they are learning and to develop their wider skills in spoken language” is simply not enough. Careful re-drafting of the curriculum for language will require clear understanding of the difference between talk as part of pedagogy (e.g. dialogic teaching), and elements of pupils’ talk that can be enhanced through direct teaching.
I would argue that this Programme of Study needs a complete rewrite, guided by the following principles:
- It should be informed by a coherent interdisciplinary research perspective. Part of this requires a foundation in the daily reality of the many types of English (and other languages) children use.
- Developing pupils’ motivation for learning should be an explicit element throughout. Opportunities for pupils to choose texts to read and write is a vital part of this.
- Expressing meaning and interpreting meaning should be the driving forces of the Programme of Study. This means that comprehension and composition should come first and foremost in any relevant sections.
- The teaching of mechanics such as phonics and spelling should be closely related to comprehension and composition, not excessively decontextualised.
- The “subject” should be titled Language, not English, as it is in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, to recognise its breadth. It should also be part of a single developmental integrated curriculum from the early years through to the end of schooling.
For more on multi-vernacularism and other issues raised see Wyse, D. (Ed.) (2011). Literacy Teaching and Education: SAGE Library of Educational Thought and Practice. London: Sage.