Five IEYC units now available!
We’re pleased to release the first five engaging, learning-focused units in the IEYC.
Collaboration with SIES – Announcement
Fieldwork Education collaborates with Smart International Education Services.
5th Annual Southeast Asia Summer School returns to Malaysia
Meeting the learning needs of KS3 – a one day conference focuses on middle years learning
IPC Summer School: “Phenomenally Successful”
Feedback from the IPC Summer School describes it as “superb”
Congratulations to Sir Robin Bosher
Former Headteacher of Looking for Learning member school receives a knighthood
How to create learning-focused displays
Good Teacher Magazine takes advice from the LfL Toolkit
Martin Skelton speaks to SecEd
Martin Skelton tells SecEd magazine his five hopes for the secondary curriculum review
What Is Learning?
What is learning? Sounds simple, but ask yourself and all your teaching colleagues the same question.
Are You A Teacher, Or A Teacher For Learning?
Good Teacher magazine explores the difference.
Getting right to the heart of learning
IS Magazine explores Looking for Learning from Fieldwork Education.
Good Teaching Doesn’t Always Equal Good Learning
Child Education magazine finds out how one school put learning first.
Why Are Some Schools Better?
Leadership or something else? Martin Skelton tells Headteacher Update about the killer issue.
What Is Learning?
Sounds simple, but ask your teaching colleagues the same question and you’re likely to get a wide range of different answers as Fairlawn Primary found out.
Aiming For a Learning-Focused School: Fairlawn Primary School Paves the Way
That’s exactly what Robin Bosher, head teacher of Fairlawn Primary School in Lewisham did with his staff two years ago. “Most of us misconstrued it as a question about teaching”, he says. “Until recently the emphasis in schools has been on teaching. It has always been assumed that if there’s good teaching, then learning will take place. Now we know that’s not the case.”
Ex-Ofsted inspector, Mike Horton, who is now headmaster at the British School of Chicago, backs up Robin’s comments. “I think that a lot of us in the profession don’t truly understand what it means when you start talking about learning,” he says and recalls an example from his inspection days: “The teacher I was inspecting had everything; he was well prepared, had lots of interactive materials, questions and answers, the lot. But when I spoke to the children after the lesson, they hadn’t been challenged at all because they’d done all the learning before. The children had enjoyed the lesson and so had the teacher, but they hadn’t learnt anything new.”
It was this realisation that a focus on learning was critical that inspired Robin Bosher to adopt a new approach for Fairlawn Primary; one that helped the whole school become learning-focused. It was a programme called Looking for Learning, developed over a six year period by Fieldwork Education, the organisation that created the International Primary Curriculum. Looking for Learning is a leadership toolkit which aims to help schools answer crucial questions such as ‘What is learning?’ and ‘What does it mean to be a learning-focused school?’ and helps schools to identify, improve and increase the learning that is taking place within their classrooms. “There’s been a complete change in 18 months as a result,” says Robin. “We’ve moved from a focus on ‘Am I teaching well?’ to ‘Are the children learning?’ and this is a whole school philosophy that every teacher has adopted.”
So how did Robin and the teachers at Fairlawn make the change with Looking for Learning? “We approached it in three ways,” says Robin. “As an audit about quality teaching and learning, as a lead for looking at key questions for monitoring learning within the classroom, and as an observation process that focuses on whole school improvement.”
Fundamental to the process was to establish a clear understanding amongst all the staff of what learning really means. “Looking for Learning provided just the right help we needed to define the different kinds of learning and to ask the right questions of children in the classroom to identify what learning was going on,” explains Robin.
Identifying Learning in the Classroom
The next step was to get the teachers into each other’s classrooms to observe and identify the learning that was going on. A major part of Looking for Learning’s observational approach includes talking to the children about their learning and knowing exactly what questions to ask to identify the learning was a crucial part of the process. “To achieve this we had to help our children understand exactly what is meant by learning too,” says Robin. “This has become a constant part of our school life in and out of the classroom. For example, we have six learning questions, each one focusing on the children’s learning and we rotate them on a week-by-week basis. These questions appear all round school so that everywhere the children go they see the same questions. For example, this week’s question is ‘Why are we learning this?’ Another question that we use is ‘How is this connected to our other learning?’ It’s helping everyone to embed that understanding of learning.”
Robin says that classroom observations have shifted in focus because of the Looking for Learning process: “Developing key monitoring and observation questions so that the observers clearly know that they are looking for the learning rather than just good teaching is very important,” he says. “Now our teachers are much more confident about classroom observations because they know what they’re being observed for. This was quite a difficult shift for them because they were used to the old observational techniques on such issues as ‘Are the children in the correct groups?’ ‘Are they behaving well?’ and ‘Do I have good resources?’ These questions all focused on good teaching practice but not on good learning. They are not the best questions for making sure that children are learning well. As teachers, we’ve had to make a distinct shift from being praised for having quiet, studious lessons to learning that it’s good if there’s collaborative learning going on which is so important for successful learning. Now everyone knows that what we’re observing for is to assess whether the children have learnt anything. The teaching elements are still there in our observation, but they’re of much less importance.”
The results of the Looking for Learning observations then became the source of group discussions for the teachers and leaders to identify and then improve the amount and the quality of learning that was going on in all of the classrooms. This process continues today.
So just how much difference has this process made to the school? “Six months after introducing Looking for Learning we had an Ofsted inspection and learning was regarded as ‘outstanding,’ says Robin. “In the space of just six months we had shifted from ‘good’ at a max, to ‘outstanding’ in many lessons. Looking for Learning definitely took us from good to great and we continue it today to maintain and, hopefully improve, on the standard of our learning. You can’t underestimate the change that it has made for us.”
The Looking for Learning classroom observations are just one of five steps in the Looking for Learning Toolkit; a cost-effective, self-help, toolkit of resources about learning designed to help leaders to enable their school to become driven by learning. The Toolkit includes 5 practical, jargon-free manuals guiding leaders every step of the way from putting the Looking for Learning process into practice, to understanding learning, to creating, leading and managing a learning-focused school supported throughout with three DVDs and an effective range of resources. In addition, the Looking for Learning Toolkit includes a membership of the Learning Network, a live, evolving website designed as a one-stop resource for finding out, discussing and learning more about learning as new developments and thinking are published. Within the Learning Network is a members-only secure, online database for recording and analysing the Looking for Learning evidence within your own school. For more information about the Looking for Learning Toolkit call Fieldwork Education at 020-5731-9696.
How to Create a Learning-Focused School
The Looking for Learning Toolkit provides school leaders with a whole range of practical ideas for creating a learning-focused school such as turning meetings into learning-focused meetings, writing learning-focused targets and creating learning-focused displays. Here are some ideas from the Looking for Learning Toolkit for creating learning-focused displays:
Use learning-focused language in your displays
Make sure you talk about ‘learning’ displays to each other and to the children. Use ‘learning’, or at least learning-related language, in all of the titles, questions, descriptions and so on that make up the display. For example, the title ‘Ancient Egyptians’ becomes ‘What we have learnt about life in Ancient Egypt’ or ‘Evidence that we are developing our skills in history’. This learning-focused language can also be applied to individual pieces of learning within the overall display. For example, a caption on an individual piece of work can change from ‘A lovely timeline from Sarah’ to ‘Sarah chose this piece of learning for the display because it shows how she is getting better at sequencing important historical events’.
Engage the learners
Make the displays interactive so that they enhance and move forward your children’s learning:
- Add questions to them, or problems to be solved.
- Refer to the displays at the start of the school day.
- Situate a ‘teaching’ part of the lesson near to a display and use it to help the children focus on the subject.
- Entice the children by a blank board along with a notice ‘Watch out for some exciting new learning coming soon to this board!’
- At the start of a new project, leave a strange but related object by a blank board and ask the children to write about it (either directly on the board or by using a post-it note). For example, what do they think this is? What do they want to learn about it? What do they already know about it?
Create a ‘Learning Wall’
For either an individual class or a whole-school department, create a display area that represents a wall – the ‘Learning Wall’. Each child has their own ‘brick’ in the wall, represented by a coloured piece of paper. At the end of a day, week or project ask the children to write or draw what they have learnt – perhaps on a post-it note. They should then put this on to their brick on the learning wall. As this activity is repeated and the children revisit their bricks over regular periods of time, the wall provides a record of the progressions in learning for themselves and others.