Opportunities

{Please scroll down to the ladder if you wish to skip the following explanation}
Link to the other aspects by clicking the appropriate letter  E  O  R  D  E  R

Often countries fill their curriculum full of facts and content which are forgotten very soon after leaving school and which most of us prefer to look up on the internet on our phone.  The time spent learning all of this material often places serious restrictions on the time available for true reflection and engagement.  The phrase “inch thin, mile wide” has often been used to describe curricula, so much has to be covered that very little is investigated in any depth.

I have intentionally called this section Opportunities and not Curriculum because, given the huge amount of content, it is vital that the school looks at ALL of the learning opportunities available and not just those taking place in lesson time.

In each of the levels of the ladder I have tried to provide suggestions both for those schools fortunate enough to enjoy high levels of curricula autonomy and for those tied to a highly restrictive curriculum.  The key is to recognise that ALL highly effective teachers provide lessons that BOTH deliver the content AND build the competencies of their learners.  The trick is not what you teach but how it is taught.

Such excellent teaching does not happen by accident.  Schools with high numbers of such excellent teachers are themselves ensuring that skills are being developed continuously within their staff both by supporting and challenging both ends of the spectrum of teaching competence.

What opportunities exist for teachers to continuously improve as learners as well?

If you are personalising your school then the following ladder will help you work out where you have reached and what the next steps could be.  In terms of REORDER this is personalising ‘How Learning Happens’

Level 1 – One size fits all – All learners follow the same course of study delivered in the same way

  • Schools have schemes of work that teachers follow.  There is limited differentiation or modification for groups.
  • Although skills such as ‘Collaboration’ may appear in documents there is no monitoring of how such skills are actually integrated into lessons
  • Learning opportunities outside of formal lessons are given low status and are prone to cuts.
Level 3 – Choice –  Teacher can modify courses and may give options to learners

  • Teachers make changes to how they design lessons based on what they feel works best
  • Learners may have some open ended projects, choice of resources or choice of approach
  • Some extra-curricular options are available for learners and success in them is recognised publically

First steps here normally involve giving learners a choice.  Choose activities that are open ended and the learners can give their answers in more than one way.  For example if you want them to do a set of maths questions you can ask them to do two questions from each section and then go back to the section they feel they need more practice in and do five more from this section.  Such minor deviations from the plan allow students to build up the decision making and creative skills they need slowly and also allows the teacher to get better at spotting where choice can be more easily and less disruptively inserted

Level 5 – Personalised ‘For’ Groups – Teachers differentiate the tasks and outcomes for learners

  • At the simplest level there may be routes within the lesson differentiated for some, most and all learners
  • Different routes may include provision for different modes of approach such as visual and kinaesthetic
  • Learners may follow ‘play lists’ of activities that are modified as they progress by the teacher or software
  • The teacher is primarily focussed on covering the curriculum and so anything outside of this is seen as additional
  • Withrawl groups and setting may be used in order to match activities to abilities and highlight groups for different attention
Level 7 – Teacher Strategy – Teacher has both content AND competency based goals for learners

  • Teacher challenges learners who describe themselves as ‘visual’ for example to develop other strategies
  • Teacher knows current level of competence of all their learners and focuses strategies on those that need them.  For example choosing collaborative routes for those with lower development of social and team work skills
  • The ‘informal curriculum’ is recognised and given status both through awards and through listing and recognising their value publically.
  • Strategies are explained in terms of pedagogy and implemented widely such as Flipped classrooms (in which content is covered at home in order to prioritise competency development in school ) and peer teaching (in which content is delivered by learners who must build skills in the process)
Level 9 – Personalised ‘By’ the learner ? – Learner has both content AND competency based goals

  • Assessment systems for progression in competencies as well as in content allow the learner to experiment with the mix of opportunities they choose each week and then evidence their success to teachers and/or mentors.
  • Teachers co-develop opportunities learners have identified they need and then engage learners in compiling the evidence that these new opportunities were effective.  Effective learners demonstrate ability to access more choice.
  • Curricula with large amounts of content may use weekly coaching meetings in which students agree targets then must organise this work and demonstrate thier coverage or may use peer teaching more strategically by tracking the skills development and assessments from peers to ensure that the content is still covered but with higher degrees of ownership
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