Deeper Learning TeachMeet at UCL Academy

What a fantastic evening I had yesterday at TeachMeet hosted at UCL Academy in Swiss Cottage. As always, there was a huge amount of ideas shared by other teachers both for the influencing of my own classroom practice and for larger nation-wide and policy level. All helped by the national banter and friendliness of other teachers. Some of the presentations were delivered over Skype, actually, including the ones run from the United States!

The ones that particularly stuck in my mind were:

  1. School in the Cloud – a room designed for students to use Skype to collaborate with other students and work specifically on projects (independent learning with little teacher supervision), as shared by George Stephenson School in Newcastle. You can read a bit more about this on the school’s website at: http://www.gshs.org.uk/news-and-events/news/school-in-the-clouds
  2. Evaluation and Evidence – presented by Oliver Quinlan with Nesta (http://www.oliverquinlan.com/blog/), talking about using evidence in classroom to inform our practice (NFER’s report on evidence in the classroom, EEF Toolkit for schools determining which interventions to use with their students (http://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/toolkit/). I particularly appreciated his notion of the fact that students who receive no intervention or help will still improve anyway, thus in order for interventions to matter, students’ achievement has to be better than average. Oliver told us of three different research project he’s conducting for Nesta at the moment: Flipped Learning [investigating the impact of an approach to Flipped Learning] (http://www.nesta.org.uk/project/digital-education/flipped-learning), The Visible Classroom [the potential of real time captioning and transcripts of lessons to support teachers’ professional development] (http://www.nesta.org.uk/project/digital-education/visible-classroom) and Remote Tutoring [looking at opportunities presented by one-to-one remote tuition] (http://www.nesta.org.uk/project/digital-education/remote-tutoring). Schools are invited to participate in the projects if interested. I am particularly interested in finding out a bit more (given time!) in the The Visible Classroom!
  3. Deeper Learning – an almost hour-long Skype conversation with two US-based educators Rob Riordan and Laura J McBain into PBL (Project-Based Learning) and how projects, linking different domains / subjects and generate greater knowledge in the process. This was followed by two of the students involved in PBL in California sharing how this works for them, what they did and how they prepare for having their work showcased in an exhibition at the end of the year. One of the students has his website with his digital portfolio, final products of the PBL and other resources at http://mrichterdp.weebly.com/. Worth a look – particularly interesting to me since my school’s approach is definitely similar: linking different domains into Themes to show the students that subjects such as Geography, Music and Arts overlap and one informs the other.
  4. REAL Projects (Innovation Unit) – Cara with Innovation Unit (http://www.innovationunit.org/real-projects) told us about REAL Projects that allow students to create lessons and activities around a single complex enquiry, and require students to produce high quality outputs with real-world application. REAL Projects are generated from students’ and teachers’ passions and interests, are designed to be valid in real world and are tested and tuned by other teachers in order to be rigorous. They involve teacher and peer critique to ensure that final products represent excellent educational value for all of them. Over the next 3 years, Innovation Unit is working in the UK with 12 schools to find out how impact such projects have. On the website just linked to above, there’s an extremely good teachers guide to Project-based learning.
  5. L4LTV – Leon is a professional film-maker, who, following the taking down of TeachersTV started L4LTV (http://tv.l4l.co.uk/), filming teachers at work and making short videos (much in the form of TeachersTV). Whilst all the TeachersTV videos are now freely available online, Leon recognizes that there is nothing currently filmed and done for teachers and he believes (and I agree) that teachers do need serious, teacher practice – based video repository to inform their learning. He can come to your school and make a film about your practice – all it takes is having at least 2 teachers for him to consider it.
  6. Lesson Study (http://lessonstudy.co.uk/) – this approach is actually somewhat similar to what my school has recently introduced. The idea here is that groups of three teachers plan their future lessons together, focus on outcomes on specific learners in such chosen lessons and observe their lessons together; however, rather than observe teaching, the focus on how the lessons work for the actual learners. Karen with the UCL Academy, who delivered the presentation, insists that this is not an approach to performance-manage anyone through lesson observations, but rather a way of seeing and planning together for specific learners and seeing what works and what doesn’t, focusing fully on the case study learners. Since the lesson is planned collaboratively, the lessons are not a responsibility of any one teacher, but all teachers involved are responsible for the outcome. The process also involves interviewing the case study learners after the lesson. All the proposed stages of this approach are presented at: http://lessonstudy.co.uk/the-lesson-study-process/

What a fascinating evening with so many ideas to take home, so many interesting readings to do and such exciting approaches to improving my learning and hopefully disseminating some amongst my colleagues!

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