Tag Archive | Advocating Creativity

What I learnt at the 10th Festival of Education

This was my 5th time at the festival but this year I spoke at the festival about the importance of learning relationships and our learning needs when we are in the learning zone. What I was reminded of, and what I have always believed is that ….

Teachers need to remain learners

And this is why….

I don’t mean the compliant type of learner who takes on new initiatives, learning ideas or theories and adds them to their teaching repertoire just because they are asked to.  I mean the type of learners who challenges the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ as well as the ‘how’. The type of learner who sees learning as a problem-solving activity for to do so shows they are already looking for ways to improve learning.  They are the type of teacher who is observant, reflective, see opportunities, is collegiate, supportive and open.

The second reason teachers need to remain learners is firstly the dynamic of learning and how this impacts our view of self, our confidence and our energy. To place yourself in learning situation, to move out of your comfort zone requires confidence but it is where the magic happens. It is where you discover something new about yourself and add to your view of the world and those in it. The second reason is you get to visit the emotions, experience the anxiety, and celebrate the successes and failures of learning. You get to be reminded what your students go through each and every day and this is a valuable reminder of the type of learning relationship you need to build with your students.

Compliance then in both teaching and learning could be regarded as a disability and not an advantage. Think about that as you as a teacher seek compliance from your students. Accept the challenges that come your way from learners and as a teacher learn to use these to your advantage. There is no such thing from a learner as a “red herring” questions for they are an insight into how they are thinking and an expression of a learning need.

Teachers are heroes!

This is my version of “The Hero’s Journey”, I have adapted it for teaching and learning, for learning is a journey often involving challenges and teachers are heroes. “The hero myth pattern studies were popularized by Joseph Campbell, who was influenced by Carl Jung’s view of myth. In his 1949 work The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell described the basic narrative pattern” (1) and we can recognise these in such things as Disney adventures today. See if you can recognise it in your own teaching and learning.

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hero’s_journey

#EducatingNorthants

I like it when a plan comes together, even if it’s not one of mine!

I came to Northampton to take up a post as head of faculty at Trinity school in 1990 when education in the town was split 3 ways, lower, middle and upper.  What struck me moving from Lincolnshire was how close the schools were and how much co-operation there was across schools and phases. This was supported by an excellent teacher’s centre, an ICT support centre and LEA advisors. There were black clouds on the horizon though in the way of Ofsted inspections, league tables and the resulting competition and a changing National Curriculum as schools wrestled with the burden of demands it placed on time and resources.  Enter the “dark ages”, who would have predicted academy chains, a University of Northampton or a teacher recruitment and retention crisis?

Jump forward nearly 20 years and the University of Northampton is now in the town, education is split 2 ways and there are such things as academies, MAT’s, the EBacc  and once again the energy and passion and above all, ownership for education by those who teach in Northampton has emerged. Hurray and well done to those who has the vision and tenacity to make #EducatingNorthants that was both a) an event that was well supported and owned by the teachers and b) a success.  I am so glad I was there to see it, it has been some time coming.

I no longer teach, instead I share my 40 years of experience of teaching and learning, leadership and management through my writing, coaching, workshops and consultation.  So perhaps I may offer a slightly different perspective on the day to many who were there.

The venue, the UON is new and ‘modern’ in all senses of the educational world and proved to be up to the job of hosting 600 teachers providing entertainment, refreshments and excellent resources. I have to say it lacked a little ‘soul’ though, perhaps it will come in time.

The excellent programme kicked off with a welcome and a chance to hear from the organisers whose vision and determination had brought about the day. The tension and excitement was palatable, it was going to be an exceptional day. Talking to those who I met and became re acquainted with there was anticipation and expectation, something has to come from this day other than a temporary high.  I was reassured that although I had not taught for nearly 8 years I still understood the core challenges and that little had really changed in day to day teaching except the landscape in which it played out. Let’s not underestimate the significant impact the landscape and the ‘political engineers’ who have formed it has had on teaching, but I found many examples of those who had begun to take ownership of it and who had ideas on how to master it. Creativity is important to me, I see teaching and learning as a problem-solving activity, and there was much creativity in evidence throughout the day.

I was able to continue my journey as a learner like many who attended this day and felt uplifted as a result. Change may not be here, but the winds are blowing, and they are rising from a breeze to hopefully a storm.

How will we measure the success of the day though and how will we continue the ‘conversation’ as some have put it? Perhaps we should take a spoonful of our own medicine each day and show creativity, a growth mindset, resilience and above all create the learning environment that embraces all those in our care first and satisfies some arbitrary target last.

I will conclude with what I have discovered to be the key to engagement in any activity, process or organisation and which I believe sits behind the success of #EducatingNorthants. The graphic below gives you an overview of the concept and it’s easy to remember just “Please be Child Friendly”, PBCF. You can of course take this as “Please be Colleague Friendly” too.

When people have a voice and representation and can communicate openly with each other it empowers them.

Believing in something that is shared with others and through common language or aims it gives us a sense of belonging.

By being given a choice we can express our needs and learn to understand responsibility and consequence.

Fun translates into energy and passion for the things we believe in, for the things we believe are attainable and of value to us.

PBCF was at the heart of the success at #educatingNorthants and if maintained will be what ultimately transforms teaching and learning in Northamptonshire.

Kevin Hewitson

Director at Advocating Creativity in Education

Northampton

Published 8th April 2019

Lesson Planning 101

 

challenge magic

It may appear simple to say that there has to be a beginning, middle and end but is important that we do not miss any of these stages and they must be in balance.

I have known lessons where the beginning went on too long, or where there is not enough time for the students to engage or immerse themselves in the learning or there was not enough time at the end of the lesson to conclude it in a meaningful way. Get it right and lessons are meaningful, full of learning and there is a great teacher/learner relationship. Get it wrong and lessons are often characterised by boredom or conflict and challenge.

The risk of poor lesson planning

I have experienced lesson planning pro-forma that seek to address these issues but become so prescriptive that they do not allow for the natural dynamics of a lesson and risk creating the same outcome they are trying to avoid.

There is a simple but effective way to ensure lesson planning creates the type of lesson we would ideally like in our teaching and that is to plan a lesson as a learner and not as a teacher.

Think about how, as a learner, you would like the lesson structured and the pace or balance of the lesson. As a learner, you would like time to become familiar with the learning challenge, time to explore or practice and to establish your understanding and then to have an opportunity to consolidate the learning or perhaps ask questions to further your understanding. These stages should characterise the beginning, middle and end of a lesson. The ‘mindful’ teacher addresses these needs in their planning and delivery.

Power Belonging Choice and Fun in lesson planning

Planning lessons around subject material is only one aspect of the planning, we need to consider the learner needs too. I define these needs as power, belonging, choice and fun and suggest we ignore them at our peril. Within a calm learning environment, a teacher needs to lead, to guide their students not to push them or over-regulate their behaviour and we can do this if we meet their learning needs. In doing so we can create effective learning relationships and improve learning outcomes.

The beginning, middle and end

Meeting learning needs (power, belonging, choice and fun) is important at the start, during and at the end of all lessons. Addressing them in our planning will help us create the engagement we are looking for as well as creating effective relationships. A relationship that allows for that dynamic of being able to respond to the unexpected teaching and learning challenges in a meaningful way without disrupting the lesson flow. We may on such occasions leave the subject content planning path but by doing so we will better support our learners because we are meeting their needs.

The start of a lesson should include how we are going to meet the need for belonging. Perhaps the greeting and arrival are ideal opportunities to do so. Offering guided choice and listening to the ‘student voice’ can be included too during the lesson. Linking fun to achievement is our greatest challenge and we must include opportunities to celebrate learning at the end.

“Please be child friendly”

My way of remembering learning needs is simple and apt. “Please Be Child Friendly” when planning and teaching. The graphic is also something you can print off and keep at hand.

A different way of looking at teaching and learning

PBCF is part of an approach to teaching I refer to as “Learning Intelligence”, or “LQ” for short, and looks at how the learner and teacher can manage the learning environment to promote better learning and improve learning relationships. If you are interested in LQ or just PBCF then get in touch I am more than happy to talk you through how, with only small changes, the approach can make a significant impact on teaching and learning.

LQ+PBCF latest

LQ and a Learning Mindset

Part 1

Our beliefs, values and experience amongst other things impact how successful we are when we undertake tasks. How we behave when involved in activities is also influenced by similar things but perhaps also our nature or disposition. Some people are regarded as naturally positive, a ‘glass half full’ attitude to life whilst others may be regarded as suspicious, conservative, inflexible etc.

Put together a number of people with a ‘leader’ (in education terms think ‘teacher’) and those individual dispositions will determine behaviours which in turn will influence both the process and outcome of any commonly undertaken task or activity. There will be views on the ‘right way’ or ’best way’ to do something and people will adopt ‘positions’. This is something recognised by Edward deBono in his book on a method of thinking, the  “Six Thinking Hats” [i] In my work to bring a tangible consciousness to LQ I continue to explore the wider landscape on thinking, this is one such exploration.

Six Hat Thinking

Edward deBono makes some interesting claims for his approach based on a perceptive observation about thinking which as a learner and teacher I can relate to. He suggests “The main difficulty of thinking is confusion” and that “emotions, information, logic, hope and creativity, all crowd in on us”. As it is with using the six thinking hats so it is in the adoption of a learning mindset through the LQ approach. “He or she becomes able to separate emotions from logic, creativity from information and so on

He goes on to say that “Within the Six Hats method, the intelligence, experience and knowledge of all the members of a group are fully used.”

There are parallels here too with LQ.

With the mindsets of LQ an individual’s intelligence, experience and knowledge are used effectively along with the awareness of emotions such thinking promotes.

Further, he says that in the same way “it is totally absurd that a person should hold back information or a point of view because revealing it would weaken his or her argument” I believe it is absurd for a learner to hold back a question for fear it would make them look stupid.

In exploring the nature of thinking associated with each of the six along with the benefits this approach brings I have become aware of how a similar approach, that of adopting learning mindsets, a direction of thinking when faced with a learning challenge can improve our learning.

In the next part of this article I will describe the six different hats and begin to show how we can develop similar mindsets so that as the thinking of a group can be enhanced, so can the learning of an individual.

[i]  Edward deBono. 2000:  Six Thinking Hats.  Penguin Books

In Search of a GCSE ‘Pass’

 

This is an article to celebrate the success of a student and of further success for a teaching approach defined by the concept of Learning Intelligence or LQ. Read on.

It was very late in the last academic year (2016-2017), in March actually, when I was asked if I could work with a Y11 student. The subject this time was maths and the target a ‘pass’ at GCSE (a grade C or as of 2017, a grade 4). School predictions and targets suggested this was a significant challenge, especially given the short timescale and me meeting the student only once a week for an hour.  This was an opportunity for demonstrating my approach centred on my concept of Learning Intelligence (LQ) and learning needs (PBCF).

I can report that we were successful, “We” because this was a learning partnership and this is what my student had to say

“I just wanted to let you know that I got my GCSE results today and I got a 4 in maths which is the pass mark and what I have never achieved before. I am super happy and it means I have a confirmed place at college but I couldn’t of done it without your help and strategies to help me get through the exam… .”

So what had we done to achieve such a welcome result?

Essentially the approach is to see learning as a problem-solving activity, this helps in negating the emotional link to failure and personal self-doubt. Once this is accepted the limiting subject perceptions become secondary to the learning challenge and we can get on with finding ways of solving the learning problem, of managing our learning environment to meet our learning needs.

Please Be Child Friendly

Any teacher will know you need a willing student but also one who is confident and has a degree of self-belief. The student also needs to trust their teacher and have a learning relationship with them. Achieving this is my first step and uses the learning needs approach I have developed of PBCF.

PBCF” stands for Power, Belonging, Choice and Fun and each element needs to be in place first before learning challenges can be set.

So, even with very little time available to me, this was my priority and strategies were used to first establish a sense of belonging, of me knowing enough about the learner in order to understand who they are and where they are and create a partnership. It is also important that the student knows something about their teacher, the sort of things that build in them hope and confidence.

This was then followed by power, effectively this means listening. It means giving the student a voice and recognising their emotional state in terms of learning. Anyone who feels powerless is unlikely to engage in any challenge. This stage is vital in understanding the barriers to learning that the student holds.

Offering a choice as to how we were going to tackle the challenge together is an essential part of the strategy and supports the first two. This in practical terms means creating both a coaching and mentoring environment.

Finally, our learning relationship had to have a sense of fun but more importantly tying this to achievement, we needed to celebrate our successes and find fun in learning.

I also encouraged my student to take the concept of PBCF with them into the school environment and use it when faced with learning challenges. The benefit of this approach is that of improving their awareness of the impact of not having learning needs met on their ability to learn. This helps significantly especially when we have an over compliant student who does not express their learning needs well in the school environment or a teacher who is not ‘listening’.

Solving the learning problem

Finding ways of overcoming the learning challenges, of solving the problem,  is the second part of the strategy and involves developing the four aspects of LQ. I define these as:

  • learning Skills,
  • Attitudes,
  • Attributes and
  • Behaviours

The advantages of seeing learning as a problem-solving activity are highlighted when we employ LQ.

Let’s consider an electrician as an example of a problem-solving approach. In repairing or rewiring a house in addition to the necessary knowledge we would expect him, or her, to:

  1. have a developed set of skills associated with the task,
  2. have the ‘right’ attitude, to do a good job and to not give up and walk away
  3. demonstrate attributes such as flexibility or creativity in completing the task
  4. behave in such a way as to be both professional and polite.

A deficiency in any of these aspects on the part of the electrician will limit their ability to solve the problem. So it is with learning but if we do not integrate LQ into learning within the school context, and instead focus on subjects, students see themselves as unable to learn a subject rather than lacking any of the elements of LQ to solve the learning problem.

My work with my student focused in a very short space of time in assessing their LQ and working to develop those elements that were necessary for them to solve a learning problem themselves. It does not just have to be maths either, any subject or topic of learning can be tackled in the same way. Often I find that once a student sees learning in this way they quickly adapt and their self-belief as a learner blossoms as does their confidence.

Can you scale up this approach?

My nearly 40 years of teaching experience says yes you can. The approach I have outlined was used in a developing literacy and coaching model successfully used by an independent tutoring service. The issue of scaling up 1:1 coaching successes with larger groups was considered by Bloom in his 2 Sigma question. The problem in achieving this most often results from sticking with the original teacher/learner mindset and approach. Changing an approach is simple, in fact it is probably the easiest and least costly change you can make in teaching and learning. It will certainly have the biggest return.

What about maths

On a subject-specific note, that of maths, since it is one of the least favoured subjects amongst adults and children alike, I strongly advise that we need to treat it like a language if we want students to become confident in tackling the learning problems it presents.

Think for a moment how much time we use written and spoken language each day compared to maths. Much of our day is taking up with talking, reading or listening. We even use language when thinking so it is no wonder we are conversant in it.  How much of your day is spent on the four basic mathematical functions, those of adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing?  One of my strategies with any student I work within the area of maths is to increase this time significantly by asking them to play number games with their family and by looking around them for number patterns and associations in everyday life and when out and about. Try it and you will soon see the difference.

See for yourself and take the LQ, PBCF challenge

If you are interested in PBCF and LQ and how it can help your students, your own children or teaching then get in touch. I can arrange 1:1 sessions with parents, teachers and all the way through to group work and whole school CPD either here in the UK or indeed anywhere I am asked thanks to technology.

You can contact me here: kevin@ace-d.co.uk

Wishing you success in your learning challenges

Why Creativity?

quote-albert-einstein-creativity-is-contagious-pass-it-on-254503

Is creativity important, and specifically is it so in teaching and learning?

My short answer,  “Yes”.

I would argue that without creativity there is the danger of not challenging what we do and why we do it. Possibly to go blindly along with what we are told without question for we have no drive, no vision of how things could be different, no need even, to do anything different. Without creativity in our lives, we risk seeing the world only as a series of things we are directed to achieve in the way we are shown to achieve them.  Should we forgo challenge and accept obedience? This may be fine when we want or need compliance[i] but do we want compliant learners or those who challenge us to explain or justify what it is we want them to learn?

What’s this thing called, love? (it’s all in the punctuation!)

It would appear that how to define creativity is a bit of a problem. My evidence for this is the number of texts that have set out to do just that, to put creativity into a box, to define it.  A good review of the thinking on creativity is by Arthur J Cropley in “Creativity in education & learning a guide for teachers and educators”[ii] .  It is one of those books I have to force myself to read lightly, to almost skim read, at first for there is so much to think about on each and every page.  I would describe his work as a comprehensive review of almost every work on creativity up to that point.  There are a staggering 17 pages of references to support his review and thinking.

In his book Cropley declared  “Creativity is understood here as production of novelty”.  You have to start somewhere! I cannot imagine the world where things remain the same, always.  I like to think of creativity as an act of doing something differently. Either in the process or the outcome or even the approach can be different it does not matter, what matters is there was some purposeful thought or action that preceded it or that was involved that was different to how it was before. Looking at things in a different way, from a different perspective, and perhaps discovering new insights or ways of doing something.

The act of being creative is important to me. I find it is a driver, a force, an energy that pushes you to do things. I know when the opportunity to be creative is being withheld a form of stress builds within me. I have seen the same effect in others too. Without the opportunity to be creative in whatever we do or to have an outlet for our creativity people suffer. It does not matter how creativity is expressed only that it is allowed. For me, this may be through innovation, humour or in any form of problem-solving or making.  I believe that by being creative, it helps in seeing the world and its challenges as a problem or series of problems to solve. Possibly and more importantly, as problems that can be solved.

Problem-solving or being creative is my approach to teaching and learning too.  It is why I formed Advocating Creativity (also “4c3d”*); it is my way of promoting creativity in education as well as being creative myself. Creativity is not just as a subject but a way of thinking, a way to improve learning.  Creativity is a way of changing “can’t do” to “how to do”. A way of doing what is needed and not just what is asked for. I see creativity as a way of making things happen rather than waiting for them to happen. Being creative also means taking an element of both control and responsibility for whatever it is we are involved in, this is because we will affect the outcome in some way.

Why I believe education systems are particularly poor at being creative is twofold. The first is because the process of becoming a teacher and of gaining mastery can inhibit creativity. Teachers need to master their subject, they need to know it so well they can explain it to others and guide them through knowledge to understanding. Teachers need to set challenges and assess progress all of which requires mastery. Teachers are not novices; they are practised masters.  Traditionally teachers are not solving a problem when they teach but instead delivering a solution. Importantly it is a solution they have derived from their learning. Further, they are familiar with the material way beyond novice and may forgo in their teaching what may now appear to be a trivial and unimportant element. Cropley puts it this way  “Working in same area over a long period of time leads to high levels of familiarity within the field but blunts acuteness of the vision or inhibits openness to the spark of inspiration.

The second reason we may see limited or no creativity in the process of teaching and learning is the focus on reaching targets.  To be more precise the single focus on reaching a target that prevents us doing something different. Doing only that which is already being or has been done (despite success or the lack of it) to achieve the target is a real problem.

Being creative means we could be taking a risk by doing something different in a risk aversion environment. A target driven focus often means doing things an approved or recognised way. We can quickly get bogged down in our thinking with doing things the “approved” way rather than exploring different approaches. In doing things differently, there is also the risk to the teacher of returning to the novice stage once again, to revert to being a learner.  I think I saw this most in the 1980’sand 1990’s with the development of IT in schools. At the time many teachers had been taught without such a resource and struggled to include its use in their lessons or to adapt their lessons to make good use of it. Many were fearful of the technology because they felt like novices once again. Having learners know more than you do is frightening for some teachers, at least it was!

I would argue that an emphasis on “success” rather than learning results in the system being driven towards a “ready solution” focused mindset. This is one where any “recognised” theory (seen as having an academic backing or reputed to have worked in the past) or approach that offers a solution to improving learning is more often than not readily adopted. This is especially the case if the theory has a research or academic pedigree. It is my experience that theories with such a pedigree will outweigh practical experience every time. Creativity from practitioners, from teachers, rarely gets a look-in if there is an “expert” spouting a solution.

Adopting a creative approach to learning is tremendously powerful if you see learning as a problem-solving activity.  Once you adopt this approach to learning and a creative mindset, then many more pieces of the learning jigsaw begin to fit together.   We find by adopting a problem-solving approach a landscape occurs in which theories can be seen for what they are, attempts to explain how learning takes place.

More accurately by adopting a creative problem-solving approach we see the ways in which we attempt to explain why some people learn some things easier, better or even quicker than others. The danger is when we mandate or replicate ways without applying a degree of creativity in supporting a process of adopting the practice as opposed to just adoption. Adoption only is a form of pseudo-creativity for it is not a problem-solving approach but one of solving a problem.

We can try to adopt what some other institution or organisation does to solve what we perceive as the same issue only to find it does not work. In such circumstances, the lack of creativity in adapting the approach means it fails, but worse still it is not the approach that is blamed but more often those who implement it. People are asked to work harder and are monitored closely and more frequently to discover where the failing lies.  What they are not doing is considering the unique nature of their situation and adapting the approach to suit. I have seen the stress and damage this creates in an organisation first hand, and it is to be avoided at all costs!

So why is creativity important in teaching and learning? Here are a few of my suggestions.

  • It is because it causes us to look at processes and practices in an objective way and challenge them.
  • It asks us to consider our unique situations and how we can best achieve our aims within them.
  • It encourages us to think outside of the box, to take risks but confirms our sense of ownership and responsibility.
  • It helps us see what works and why and what to avoid doing what does not no matter what the pressures are.
  • It is a way of getting things done, to break the cycle of doing what has always been the practice before without considering the value.
  • It helps us lose our fear of being wrong.
  • It creates and sustains the energy of learning, of discovery and of challenge.

 

**”4c3d” is leetspeak for “ace-d”. I had to get creative as ace-d had already been taken on Twitter and WordPress!

Image acknowledged: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/productivity/life-lessons-from-albert-einstein.html

[i] For more on compliace and to answer the question “Is Compliance a learning disability?” see: http://wp.me/p2LphS-kd

[ii] Creativity in Education & Learning: A Guide for Teachers and Educators, A. J. Cropley

Psychology Press, 2001

Why Learning Intelligence?

The original article was published at “The Staffroom”

why learning inteligence

To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle”    George Orwell

Sometimes the obvious is on our doorstep, often ignored and rarely noticed.  So it is with my experience as a teacher and in the development of the concept of Learning Intelligence, or “LQ”.

After a career of nearly 4 decades in teaching I have taken an opportunity to step out of the classroom on a daily basis and take the time to reflect and research. It is a chance to read all those authors and study their ideas and theories with the benefit of experience.  If education is guilty of anything it is the jumping on an idea and wanting it to solve all the problems surrounding teaching and learning. The list of theories and game changing concepts in teaching is significant and probably an indication of the fundamental importance of needing to “get it right”. Do we need another theory or concept, that of Learning Intelligence or LQ[i]? I think we do and this is why. Let’s face it, it has to be better than “back to basics”, the “3R’s” or the PISA[ii] ranking stick we are often beaten with.

Imagine something so big that no matter which way you look, up/down, left/right, it almost blocks your view.  It is a colossal structure and its surface is a multitude of fine intricate patterns and textures coloured in every imaginable shade and tone. It is impossible to see it all at once and the best you can do is to look at one small area at a time. As an outsider you have no idea how it functions or really how it does what it does. It is too big to study all of it in any one lifetime. So people focus on just one small part and try to predict how the rest of it works based on the discoveries they make, no matter how small or controversial.  We call these people “researchers”.

Those who want to control or master it are not those that study it but they do make claims about what must be done to improve it.  As each new discovery is published new practices that sweep away the old are introduced. We call these people “administrators”.

Then there are those that work in it, know only what works and what does not work and follow their instincts. They have little time for studying it as they are too busy “doing it” but they must take on each new practice as if it will solve every problem and make whatever this huge thing is efficient. We call these people “teachers”.

This has been my experience in education, but after a career which included some challenging situations, I have had the benefit of almost 5 years to study what the researchers have come up with and piece together with the aid of experience something of the big picture.

I have not the space here to list all the theories or ideas I have been subjected to or tried to make work. Nor to list the authors and speakers I have listened to.  One thing I have been able to do though is to trace some of the ideas back in time and explored their roots through the lens of experience. It has proved enlightening.  For most I have found a grain of truth, an element that when blended with others does indeed work.

The outcome is simple, it occurred to me we may be going about teaching back to front and the evidence is there right in front of our noses.  This is the background to my concept of LQ so let me explain what it is.

Let’s start with a couple of propositions. Learning is a personal journey, whatever we see or experience each of us may take something different from it. The education system tries to standardise learning and assessment. This process involves both curriculum content and teaching but more significantly assessment.  Unfortunately assessment has come to mean only qualifications or standards. This is despite the work by Dylan Williams and Paul Black [iii] who promoted the importance of assessment for learning.

With this “engine” driving education it is easy to see how the process of teaching and learning is susceptible to a somewhat mechanistic approach. Use this tool to fix this problem, use this method to achieve this goal. The learner is only required to conform to the policies, practices and ambitions of the system, to be compliant, in order to be successful.  This standardisation though brings with it responsibility, that of having the right tool, policy or method.  If anything is wrong with these then we risk limiting individual achievement for the sake of compliance[iv]. I asked Sir Ken Robinson if compliance was a learning disability within the education systems we have. His reply was whilst it may not be a disability it is a disadvantage.

As a result of this approach we hit a buffer, we are brought to a halt, when it is found that not all learners are the same, or more to the point given the same input the outcomes are not the same for all learners.  We have seen this outcome explained by saying students having “abilities” or “aptitudes” in certain subjects or being referred to as “Gifted and Talented”, in short labelling learners.  These labels set expectations and the mechanism could grind on with the variable outcome now explained in terms of the raw material or the people who operate it

There was another shudder in the machine when it was suggested that we had what were referred to as “learning styles” or “multiple intelligences” [v]and that if we learnt in a way that satisfied these then standards would rise[vi].  The machine that is education duly took responsibility for changing practices, it could do no other.  When this did not “work” we looked for other reasons for why some learners are more successful than others.  Maybe it is not the machine that is at “fault” perhaps learners don’t have a “growth mind set[vii]” or display sufficient “grit” to do well.

I would claim that education is at fault for taking responsibility for learning and by trying to control the learning environment to suit every type of learner, although given the circumstances I have suggested it could do no other. The responsibility to raise standards weighs heavily and so ultimately becomes the only focus for teaching and learning[viii]. Anything that is not already credited with raising standards or is not the outcome of research or a product of legislation is seen as too risky to attempt. It will probably continue down this route too unless something changes and I suggest LQ is that change.

So what makes LQ unique or different? Well firstly it see the education system as an environment, one that with the right skills, attitudes, attributes and behaviours we can manage in a way that allows us to meet our learning needs. I need you to read that again, it’s what’s has been right under our nose all along.  Instead of the learner being the passenger we teach them to be the driver able to understand and navigate their own learning. This is not “learning to learn” , it’s about understanding and managing learning.

LQ is a construct; a form of narrative that brings all the pieces, ideas, and theories of the jigsaw together in a meaningful way, it’s the 3D viewer that allows us to explore the colossal structure that is education.  LQ is something we need to develop in learners if they are to manage any learning environment they encounter. LQ  will allow us to create lifelong learners. As Albert Toffler[ix] warns “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. ”

LQ round

There is much more to LQ than I can discuss here and to date I have published well over 50 articles on the various aspects of LQ both from the perspective of education, the teacher and the learner. You can find them all on my blog at https://4c3d.wordpress.com/  You can also find out about my work as an author, consultant, coach and speaker at www.ace-d.co.uk

Should you wish to find out about how LQ can make a significant difference to you then please e-mail me at kevin@ace-d.co.uk and we will start a conversation!

[i] If you want to skip the rest of this article and  don’t suggest you do, and go to the heart of LQ go here:

http://wp.me/p2LphS-3p

 

[ii] The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a triennial international survey which aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students. https://www.oecd.org/pisa/home/

[iii] INSIDE THE BLACK BOX: Raising Standards Through Classroom Assessment Jan 1990

[iv] For a discussion about the impact of compliance on learning see the article “Is Compliance a Learning Disability” at http://wp.me/p2LphS-kd

 

 

[v] See Howard Gardner regarding Multiple Intelligences  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Gardner

[vi] See Barbara Prashnig’s article on this subject “Debating Learning Styles” http://www.creativelearningcentre.com/downloads/Debating%20LS.pdf

[vii] See Carol Dweck Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential

[viii] To explore the “Responsibility Ratio” see “The Return to School” article at: http://wp.me/p2LphS-kk

[ix] https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3030.Alvin_Toffler

 

 

The original article was published at “The Staffroom” visit:

Why Learning Intelligence? By Kevin Hewitson

Scaffolding learning – a different perspective?

scaffolding2

As teachers we break a subject down into components or elements of knowledge and understanding, into learning steps if you like. We then find the “best” way to deliver these steps in a way learners will, with a measured degree of effort, assimilate.  This process is influenced by our knowledge and understanding of pedagogy and our relationship with the learners. In short we “scaffold” learning.  Fairly straightforward but have you thought about it from a learner’s perspective?  No? – Well read on!

Using what we know to learn what we don’t know

I have come to believe that we learn by building on what we know. This to me is a sort of mental map of my knowledge and understanding, knowing and learning (yes there is a difference, see this article: http://wp.me/p2LphS-ba). The bigger and more detailed the map the more confident we are and easier we find learning something new. For example it has been shown that speaking more than one language helps in learning a new language. I have a way of visualising this process of building on what I already know and call it “anchoring”. I look to make sense of what it is I am trying to learn or understand by referencing it with what I already know or understand what I have already learnt. I make links between what I already know and what I need to learn.

brain-map-transmitters1

Anchoring essentially involves problem solving, an important aspect of Learning Intelligence, LQ (download a leaflet here: about-lq-with-lq-graphic). This is how this approach works and how a teacher can use it effectively in their lessons.

From the learner’s perspective

1) As the topic or subject is introduced we have to look and listen for words or phrases we already recognise.

2) We cannot assume they mean the same thing in this scenario as they do in others so we need to seek clarification and check meaning and relevance.

3) We take enough time to reflect on how what we know fits in with what we are learning. This also involves asking questions to check the links are valid.

4) Next is a sort of consolidation phase, where we explore a little further trying to see where what we know already and what we are trying to learn may take us.

5) This leads to as a sort of prediction phase where the links are established and we are ready to embark on a new learning journey.  We can make educated guesses or predictions if given certain pieces of information.

So learning starts by seeing learning as a problem to solve and a period of analysis and reflection.

From the teacher’s perspective

1) Ask yourself what students need to know or understand in order to make a start on this topic and prepare questions you can ask to check before starting the topic.

2) Don’t assume understanding. Often the same words or phrases can be learnt without understanding. Build in a check and reflection phase during the topic introduction.  Acknowledge and praise where students show understanding or can make links with relevant knowledge.

3) Create an opportunity for students to identify what they already know and how it can be useful in the learning process.

4) Introduce risk taking in the learning process. Encourage students to make assumptions or predictions about the new topic. Here are some questions that can be used to initiate this process. “Knowing what we know already what might happen if…?” “How do you think this might link to…?” You are actually leading up to “Let’s find out”

5) Don’t underestimate how much effort this takes on the part of the learner.  Allow for structured mental breaks and reflection periods. Build in activities that create opportunity for pair or small group work and class feedback sessions.

The proof is in the pudding

I have tried this out on myself in learning about path-finding algorithms used in game programming and after 50 minutes I was in need of a mental break despite being very interested.  I went through all the steps I suggest a student goes through here. During the process I was not passive, there is no good sitting there and hoping you are on the same page as the teacher. Learning intelligence, LQ, is about managing your learning environment and that means interacting with it.

There are two other observations to make about this approach. Firstly I was able to contribute much sooner than if I had just listened. I was in an active learner state earlier. This is important if we as learners are going to maximise opportunities for learning. For teachers it means a greater rate of progress.

Secondly I have a deeper understanding of the topic in a much shorter period of time and anchors that can be used to recall the learning links later. These anchors can be thought of the start of trail of “bread crumbs” marking our thought and learning associations. In case of reviewing or revisiting what we have learnt, and possibly forgotten, we can pick up the trail again starting from an established anchor point.  By following the same trail we reach the same understanding but importantly we can do this independently using our internal prompts. A simplified example is knowing that 12 x 12 is 144 so when asked what 24 x 12 is we can start at  12 x 12 and quickly recognise we are talking about twice as much.

I would be interested if you  scaffold your teaching or learning in this way too.

 

 

An Even Better Way

arrow-with-the-words-hit-your-target-is-pulled-back-on-the-bow-and-is-aimed-at-a-red-bulls-eye-ta

Schools are pushing students at this time of year to make or exceed their target grades. A great deal goes on both during school, after school and during holidays to finish coursework or to revise topics. Revision strategies most commonly ask students to go over ground they have already covered, often in the same way with the same teachers and approach. What if there was a better way to reach those targets grades?

If we take a sporting analogy for a moment we can see that there is more to performance than learning how to do something and practicing it.  Athletes have to believe in their ability to succeed and without this mental state it matters little how often they practice or train. What if our students did not believe in their ability and what if we did little to change that state of mind? Would it matter how much revision or practice they did if at heart they did not believe they would succeed?

In 2016 Roy Leighton was involved with a school in Leicester in changing mind-sets of a group of Y11 students. They were using a ‘better way’ to help students achieve and it does not involve revision in any school subject but it will pay off across all of them. In fact it will have a lifelong pay off for the students because they will believe in themselves.

I had the opportunity to accompany Roy on a visit to the school to meet with some of the students during the Easter Holiday and to see the better way in action.  The better way is actually called the “Butterfly Model” and it is something Roy has been developing and refining very successfully.  I have known Roy for some time and our work has a number of common elements including enabling learners to manage their own learning and to understand the emotional impact on our ability to learn. Roy once said to me: “We are holding different ends of the same stick” and I take this as a both a compliment and encouragement for developing my work on Learning Intelligence seeing how big the stick is that he is holding.  

BM1
I recommend you check out his work on personal transformation here:  http://www.royleighton.com/the-butterfly-model1.html

What gets students engaged and motivated?

From my own experience and work on getting Y11 ‘down to it’ I know that getting them motivated is the essential. I have identified four key elements that are necessary to getting people to engage and hence motivated. The first is PBCF.

PBCF “Please Be Child Friendly” is a way of remembering the four elements shown in my graphic below. I would challenge you to find anything in which you are actively engaged that does not involve these four components.

The second aspect is LQ and shares the same roots as Roy’s stick! It’s about a mindset and them enabling and supporting the engagement of learners by developing the Skills, Attitudes, Attributes and Behaviours that form the enabling aspect of LQ. You can read more about LQ, starting with an introduction here at LQ Introduction

LQ and PBCFLQ round

Back to the school and students who voluntarily came in during the holiday to meet with Roy and carry on with the programme. This was his 4th visit and there are others to come along with “hangouts”, text messages and online resources that are part of the programme. This may sound like an advert for the Butterfly model but hey if you see something that works you should share it – right!

The session focused on being the person you want to be, making the changes you need to make and recognising the powerful emotions that influence our self-beliefs as learners.  “Getting from here, to where you want to be”. Not your typical exam boosting session but one that is as essential as any in achieving success, just ask any athlete.

As students reflected on the last session and what they decided they wanted to keep, develop and let go you could see their energy rise ready for the challenges this session would provide. A significant difference to getting students to go over work they have already struggled with again which does little to alter their “learning map”, what they believe they can and cannot learn.

Looking at ourselves and recognising our strengths and our weaknesses is difficult, acknowledging these and then deciding what to do about it even harder, but hardest of all is actually doing something about it.  I saw students fully engaged in this journey, facing up to the challenges and changing their beliefs about themselves as learners and having fun while they did so.

With the pressures schools face and not forgetting how these find their way to the teachers it is refreshing to see a school take a different approach, a better way, to achieving success. Some may even say a “braver way” and in many respects I would have to agree. Doing what is the norm, even if it does not always work, is less risky than doing something that is right when it is not recognised. The students who attended this session are in many ways pioneers and deserve recognition. I am sure they will show others there is a better way and I look forward to hearing of their success.

Want to explore the PBCF and LQ intervention and how it can help your students?

emailGet in touch with me via e-mail here:

How PARENTS can support learning at home

Desk web size

A time of exams and a time of testing

Here in the UK we are rapidly moving towards the Y11 and Y13 examination or key stage 2 testing phase in our schools.  These are significant transition points in education and carry with them considerable pressures. Get it right and learners have life choices, get it wrong and we are “picking up the pieces” in a number of ways.

How can parents help their children during this time?

The question I want to look at in this article is “What can parents do to support their children at such times as these?” It is a summary of the workshop I offer to schools and parent groups. I also want to provide strategies that can help both the parent and the child deal with the upcoming challenges by way of a PARENT acronym.

The issue of homework

Whilst examinations and tests are points of high involvement and stress for parents there is the issue of homework too.  Homework tends to increase prior to periods of testing and is often seen as synonymous with revision.  Much of what I say here applies to the daily issue of homework, especially if we aim to foster lifelong learning and don’t want the morning ritual in many homes that starts with the question “Have you got your homework?” and ends with both parents and children being stressed.

Let’s start by looking at things from the learner’s perspective.

They will have had mock examinations or practice tests by now and be rehearsed in the practices that are involved in taking them. They will be trying to reach expectations or maintain progress towards them. For some it may be an expectation too far, they may already be beginning to fold under the pressure. Even if they have done well so far there is the pressure to do it for real when the time comes.  Revision and homework don’t have to be lone activities, you being in the same room can be a form of support. Without a strategy and without support we are expecting a great deal from our children.

The learning environment

Remember we are all different and where you like to study is not the same as your child’s.  There are a number of myths around where study should take place but the common one is on your own and in a quite place. Think for a moment, at a time of stress and anxiety do you relish the idea of being sent to your room, to be isolated? Few of us do. I even moved my own home office into the “flow” of the home rather than be isolated from the energy that is part of family life. Remember we look forward to things we enjoy and put off the things we don’t! Working at the kitchen table, lounging on the sofa or on the bed, indoors or outdoors . With bright light or dim light, with music or without. These are all acceptable places and ways to study.  The key though is to be organised.

Remembering the ways to help

Here is an acronym or mnemonic (I am not sure which you would call it) that can help PARENTs be supportive of learners and I am going to use it to outline the strategies parents can use to effectively engage with their children. A more detailed workshop can be provided for a group of parents or you can request a copy of “The Parents Guide to Study” from the link at the end of this article. The basic approach is to be “gently” involved, think of your role as being more of a “guide” than a task master or time keeper.

The meaning of the acronym PARENT is to:

Participate, Ask questions, Reflect, Encourage, Negotiate, Time

What each letter means

Participate – Find out what is going on. Know the dates and key times of all examinations or tests. Provide a reason and relevance for doing their best (not rewards). Work at using peer groups to provide support and not distractions. Understand what learning needs and preferences your child has (for example some like the quiet and others like a busy background). Homework does not have to be alone work either.

Ask questions – but do not interrogate – AVOID using “Why?” , it makes us defensive (try it, ask somebody why they are doing whatever it is they are doing and see what response you get). Find out what topics are being studied and see what you know about them.  You can ask about how they remember best or what new things have you learnt. You can ask your children to explain things to you (pretend if you do know or understand that you do not). Ask how they think they can improve. Use positive emotional triggers – “How did you feel when you did well at….?”

Reflectfind or make opportunities for your children to reflect, recap, internalise, or explain. Short periods work best and if you can make them spontaneous so much the better. Remember mistakes are part of the learning process. Work at building self-esteem, it’s going to take a battering!

Encourageit’s important you stay positive and purposeful and not to let negativity build. Focus on getting better and not just results. Show how much you believe effort leads to success and set a good example. Praise only when praise is due and make it specific.

Negotiateit’s about goal setting and creating win/win situations. AVOID bribery. Talk about consequences and be consistent. Remember choice is a powerful motivator but not if it is free choice.

Time – our lives are influenced by every second. A break or leisure activity are as important as studying if managed properly. They can keep us fresh and can break negative moods. Plan ahead to try to minimise anxiety and stress where you can. Rehearse what will happen at key times so they are part of the process and as ‘normal’ or familiar as they can be.

The PARENT Poster

To make it easier to remember the parent role I have designed a poster that you can put on a wall, cupboard door or any place you find yourself passing by regularly.

PARENT acronym web version

As a PARENT learn to stand back

Although PARENTS is also a useful acronym I have left the “s” out of the acronym as it stands for “stand back“. Learning to stand back is probably the hardest thing for a parent to do.   Let them make mistakes, it’s part of learning. Your job is not to do it for them. I know this can be nail biting and frustrating but better to learn the lessons of life early. I have worked with college/university students who are in a terrible state because they have not developed the skills to cope on their own or do not know how to handle failure.

Well that is how to be a PARENT at a time of examination or testing and during homework  time. I hope you found it useful.

Using the PARENT poster.

I am happy for you to download and use the graphic in this article but please acknowledge the copyright.  The poster in high resolution pdf format is available via a request sent to info@ace-d.co.uk, just put Parent Poster in the subject box.

If you are a school and want a license to print as many posters as you wish, starting at £25 a year, get in touch at info@ace-d.co.uk and I will send you the details

Buy Now

PS – Possible book for parents

I am considering extending this article into a guide for parents “The Parents Guide to Supporting Home Study”. If this is something you would like to see then please let me know  (via twitter @4c3d  or e-mail)and I will put pen to paper!

Leadership Reflections

leadership reflections

I have been led by others and I have led others. I have studied leadership and I have experienced good and poor leadership. I have worked for leaders and worked with leaders.  As a leader I have made mistakes and learnt from them and I have learnt from the mistakes made by other leaders. This article is about what I have discovered about leadership (in a nutshell).

Google leadership and you get definitions, styles, skills, theories, books & courses.  There are probably T shirts and I know Edward de Bono came up with a set of coloured hats.  What can I hope to add to what has already been written? Well this is a more a practical reflection on leadership, experiences of leadership if you like triggered by a #SLTchat session on leadership. It is also specific to education.  You may not think education leadership is any different to any other form of leadership but I believe it is. Yes there are similarities but the process of becoming a leader and of being a leader is somewhat different.  So instead of an article about being a leader or leadership, of which Google suggests there are millions, this is more about working with leaders, being led by good and poor leaders, true leaders and simulacrums.

Firstly all teachers are leaders, they lead the learning of their pupils. This relationship is no different to the relationship between any leader and those they lead.  The maxim of “lead by example” is often forgotten by teachers, they forget what it is like to be a learner. This makes them poor leaders and poor teachers.  Poor leaders because leaders should never stop learning from those they lead. Poor teachers because forgetting the anxiety of learning, the need to belong, of having to face choices and needing a voice will limit your ability to build learning relationships.

Secondly the route to school leadership is based on teaching less. Doing less of the things you love doing, things that brought you into teaching in the first place. An ex head teacher shared what drove her to be a school leader; it was “the sphere of influence” factor. The more responsible the position the greater the sphere of influence you have. There is certainly passion and belief attached to this drive but perhaps also ego and they make for difficult things to balance in leadership roles.

As a teacher you have influence on the pupils you teach, as head of department this extends to the teachers in your department and as a leader of a school the pupils and teachers in your school. Some would argue you have an influence in the community too.  Others are driven by other motives, those of ambition, status, responsibility, notoriety. It often strikes me as strange though that we draw these people from a pool of talent that came to teaching to teach and many may be poorly suited to school leadership although they pursue such ambitions. Perhaps that is one reason for so many leadership books, courses, and even qualifications. There is more about suitability for leadership in my next observation.

The third observation I will make concerning leadership in teaching is about the nature of teachers and I know there are exceptions but bear with me. I have a theory that we explore careers that reflect the environments we favour, that we feel comfortable in, have the talent for, or are thrilled by. Fate may decide that is not where we end up but that is another story. If we take the case of teaching then I would argue that those who are successful in school, and who enjoy school and benefit from the rewards of being compliant (a requirement for success as a pupil in school) will tend towards seeking out careers with a similar environment. Teaching is one such career. The result is, since teachers were compliant students, a compliant teaching workforce. This has its benefits but when we consider many of the leaders we hold in high regard, those who have been successful, are mavericks, non-conformists, even rebels it begs the question about the suitability of compliant leaders when it comes to doing what is right rather than what is required. There is certainly a case for “horses for courses” and at times any organisation requires different styles or types of leadership however this is another example of how leadership differs in schools.

Education is exposed to political will, ideas and pressures.  Schools are not autonomous and be it a board of governors, an academy chain, local authority or any other body that is responsible for the school they ultimately set policy.  Where that influence extends to inspection, standards, and regulation (as in the Government) a particular set of powers are employed to direct what happens in schools. Many leaders in schools (at all levels) may disagree with policy but few will be obstreperous. A few will find creative ways around the direction and quietly do what is right other than what is required. Ultimately though, unless successful, there is no reward for challenging policy or being anything other than compliant. This creates its own set of problems for leaders in schools, how to operate a sphere of influence in line with their own experience, philosophy, and ideology when it is in conflict with a government directed policy. It is also responsible for setting up a certain style of leadership, one that is to do more with “enforcing and regulating” than engaging and enabling.

My final observation is possibly less specific to education and it is that there are two types of leaders. I am not talking about styles of leadership, anyone can adopt a style or at least try. I am suggesting that there are those for whom leadership comes naturally and those who aspire to leadership but who lack the understanding and drive to truly understand what leadership is about.  Knowing which one you are working with is essential for your own wellbeing. I believe you can tell which one you have by observing and noting certain behaviours.  The first type of leader is the true leader and the second is a simulacrum, an imitation that looks like the true leader but gives themselves away in the following manner. I have tried to layout in the table below what their approach is and what happens to individuals and teams when being led by each type of leader.

True leader

Simulacrum Leader

Engages and consults before making a decision. Narrow and selected consultation before making a decision. Often vulnerable to pressure from individuals.
Makes decisions in a timely manner and describes rational. Decisions are often delayed and changed without providing a rational.
Carries out actions with minimum delay but ensures resources are available with acknowledgement of consequences. Actions are instigated without considering incidental consequences. A lack of planning or co-ordination evident.
Accepts when an error is made and willing to re visit decisions openly and without seeking to blame. Evaluation of events provides useful insights that are acted upon. May blame others and events when things go wrong. Reluctant to re visit decision more likely to adopt another course of action without evaluation.
Views evidence objectively and without ego Tends towards subjectivity with possible bias based on self.
What you see is what you get. Although diplomatic also open and honest. You are never sure of the reaction you will get.
They build trust fostering the ethic of working with or for them. Those being led tend towards being sceptical, they begin wondering what is behind the actions or decisions.

A poster I designed to emphasise these points under “Good” and “Poor” leadership actions, something to print or pin on your wall, is available to buy and download. The links are at the bottom of this article.

If you have the option to work for a leader then look for the signs of a simulacrum before you decide. If you have no option but to work with or for a leader then “forewarned is forearmed”!

So there you have it, a practical look at leadership in education.  As for my own approach to leadership it is best summed up by the way of a poster I designed based on the mnemonic “ENABLE”. I see this as the most apt verb to describe the actions of a successful leader. “Leaders enable” has a certain ring to it I think too!

What each letter of ENABLE stands for:

  • E is for Engage – with those they are leading
  • N is for Nurture – both the team and future leaders
  • A is for Articulate – a vision, the challenges and the way forward clearly and convincingly
  • B is for Bridge – the gap between people, ideas and strategies in order to move forward
  • L is for listen and lead with empathy and understanding
  • E is for Encourage – all to participate, to challenge and to take risks

My thanks to @lenabellina for giving me the idea of turning my thoughts into posters. Each one is now available to download and print as high resolution files for a small fee. Just send an e-mail to info@ace-d.co.uk with Leaders Enable in the subject and I will do the rest. 

 
leadership posters

Leaders ENABLE high resolution poster file at £3

What Leaders do high resolution poster file at £3

Get Motivated

Concept image of a signpost with motivational directions.

Get motivated – 6 things to do to make sure you get and remain motivated

So you have an essay to write, a research paper to prepare or whatever.  The trouble is you have the time and the resources but not the will to do it. You are putting it off, procrastinating.

Why and what can you do about it?

The first problem is there is tomorrow, or the next day to do it. Well that is what you tell yourself. Nothing feels urgent, there is plenty of time left to get it done so its gets left undone. It will get done later.

Relax

The second problem is that you forget about it. Well your conscious mind does but not the subconscious.  Since you set no specific timetable to start and finish by there is no urgency and your mind gets busy with the day to day stuff. It is only when you relax you remembered and then you feel tired so a) you panic or b) you decide to put off starting until later (there is that “later” again).

 

Young beautiful business woman panic

 

Pain and worry are both draining, they sap our energy and we feel drained and mentally tired and thinking becomes harder. Why am I telling you this? Well a task sitting in the subconscious is like pain and like worry, it drains us of energy.  Once you have a task to do it is taking up mental resources, its sitting there draining your energy. The longer you leave it the less energy you have to do it. The only way you get started in these situations is when the adrenalin kicks in and gives you that energy boost. So as soon as you panic you get the energy to make a start.  The problem we have here is that an adrenaline hit does nothing for our perceptive thinking. You are in “fight or flight” mode and not think and reflect mode.

Next to come are the excuses.

You need to balance the lack of progress in order to feel okay about not starting so you make excuses. Excuses include promises to yourself too. Excuses and promises mean nothing in terms of getting started or completing a task. They achieve nothing in themselves and often are not fulfilled. Enough said about excuses and promises, you are fooling no one, and that includes yourself!  Stop making excuses.

There is too much to do, you are too busy already. Sorry but this is an excuse in disguise and you are fooling no one but yourself.  You have enough time but you are using it unwisely. You are allowing small tasks and the tasks you enjoy doing to eat up your time. You need to get strict with yourself and plan better.

Leaving things to the last minute, or beyond if you consider the quality of your work, is not good for you. It is self-inflicted pain and anguish. A set of emotions that never result in a positive feeling once you have finished. Instead there is a combination of relief for getting it done and anger with yourself for not starting sooner and doing a better job. This is probably the main reason why you leave things until the last minute too. Let me explain.

Feeling good about something is a reward to yourself. Remember doing something well and how proud you felt. Remember the praise you got when you achieved something significant.  We like rewards and rewards spurs us on to try harder or to do well.  By leaving things to the last minute, by delaying starting, you are robbing yourself of the reward. Without a reward all you are left with are the negative emotions and an experience that does little to inspire you next time.

So that is why and how we put things off.

What can you do about it?

1

For a start, set your own deadline and do not go with the “hand in” or “hand over” date.  Take control of the situation and do not dance to somebody else’s tune. They have no idea what else you have to do, want to do or wish to do. They do not offer to organise your time and only to expect you to use your time to complete the task they set.

Next, and it’s the most important part, set out your rewards for when you complete the task for the date you have set yourself. If you can meditate on them, visualise them happening. Make them real in your mind, feel the emotions that go with getting things done not only in time but in plenty of time. The reward is a powerful motivator but it must be a realistic reward. No setting unrealistic rewards, they do not motivate you.

Get realistic about your use of time. If something is a two hour task then spend little more than the two hours on it. If you spend more than 2 hours you are taking time away from something else.  You risk running out of time and we know where that leads.

Then, and only then, when you have achieved the task take the time and make the effort to reward yourself.  When you are doing so take a moment to reflect on how you would feel and what position you would be in if you were still rushing to get things finished. Contrast those emotions with how you feel having achieved your task as you set out to do.  Embedding the positive emotions in your memory will help you become motivated next time.

So to sum up then:

  1. Allocate a realistic and appropriate amount of time to a task and stick to it.
  2. Set your own “complete by” date ahead of the hand in or hand over dates.
  3. Plan realistically and stick to it. Make no excuses.
  4. Establish you rewards for completing on time.
  5. Take a moment to visualise and feel the positive emotions associated with your rewards before you start.
  6. When you have completed on time reward yourself and take the time to embed the good feelings into memory. Rewards must be meaningful and achievable.

 

By the way if you are struggling with time management then here is a link to a series of articles that solve that problem too.

man holding back time

Part 4: The one and only learning theory that counts is …

Part 4.  The impact of the no one learning environment cont.

blame

A blame culture, the ultimate outcome of the “one way”.

Earlier I explored the impact of the one way not working. I described how in my experience it leads to the tightening of monitoring and checking systems,  inflexible frameworks and the limiting of creativity (or in some cases finding “creative” ways around inflexibility).  Now we turn to whose fault is it the one way is not working.

If the one way to learn, the prescribed approach, is not working then it is the fault of someone. Who is that “someone”? At the start there are always a lot of things to point the finger at, after time though the number dwindles. That someone was the Local Education Authority, trendy (lazy) teachers, progressive teaching methods, low aspirations, parents, disruptive students etc. Now it is either the leadership of the school or the teacher or a lack of effort on the part of the learner (also the fault of the teacher). In such cases it is easy to get into a cycle of finger pointing or a blame culture.

We in the UK are definitely into a blame culture and as we move further and further into it the language used by government gives this away. We hear things like “we are introducing a new check”, “pupils at risk of falling behind” , “target those areas” and “children aren’t being given a fair shot to succeed”. More the language of war you would think (the outcome of desperation?) than education perhaps.  Then there is the “takeover” manoeuvre (there is that war analogy again!), the one where those who were “in charge” or responsible are no longer trusted and a new regime is installed. In the UK it is academy trusts who take over “failing schools” but these are also failing (as we would expect if the one way does not work!). It’s certainly a dilemma for any government that persists on the one way path. I suppose with so much invested in the one way, both personally, as well as politically, it is hard if not impossible to even consider another way let alone more than one way.

What we do know is the learning environment created by the pursuit at all costs of the one way is very toxic for those involved in leadership, teaching, and learning.  Finding a way to deal with this environment is the key to improving teaching and learning. We know that through regulation and inspection leadership and teachers have their hands tied so this leaves the learner.  A simple analogy that describes how we may proceed in dealing with a toxic environment that is not going to change is living somewhere really cold and wanting to be warm. You can ask for sunnier days, less snow and ice each year or longer summers and shorter winters until you are blue in the face (ignoring climate change). You are asking for the unlikely if not impossible. The more successful way is to acclimatise yourself to the environment and seek ways of managing it in order to get what you want – to be warm. So you learn what clothes to wear and how to wear them, you practice ways of getting and keeping warm and after a while you are warm, despite the environment.

If we take the same approach in teaching and learning then it’s not about changing the learning environment to meet the needs of the learner it’s about equipping the learner to manage the learning environment to meet their learning needs.  This is important not only because of the one way  problem but because we do not learn just in schools or managed environments. We have the opportunity to learn in a number of different environments. For example at home, in work, during leisure and in a social setting are all potential learning environments.  My experience is that some learners do not do well in one school environment but thrive in another, some do not do well in any formal education environment but thrive when on work placements, and some excel in leisure pursuits but do less well in school. They are the same person but achieve differently in different environments. If we wanted evidence that we need to equip learners with the skills, attitudes, attributes, and behaviours (SAAB) to manage their learning environment then we need look no further than these examples. Where their SAAB matches the environment they flourish, where it does not they struggle.

My claim is that in these situations the learner possesses the appropriate SAAB profile for the environment in which they thrive but not the profile for those where they struggle. It occurs to me that we need to broaden or develop the SAAB profile of the learner such that they can thrive in any learning environment. We need to work with the learner to explore their learning needs and how this impacts on their learning beliefs.  To build in the learner the ability to see a difficulty to learn not as a personal weakness but as a result of the environment they are in and not having the SAAB to mange it effectively.

Links to earlier parts are:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

diagram of LQ and SAAB

Part 1: The one and only learning theory that counts is …

yours

How we see ourselves as a learner has a significant impact on the “what” and the “how” when we are in a learning mode. But how accurate are our self-perceptions when it comes to learning and how do we build them?

In part one I will suggest that our self-perceptions as a learner are formed as a result of the idea that there is one way we all learn.  In further parts  I will describe the impact of this notion on learners as well s explore the impact on the learning environment as we try to find the one way to teach and to learn.

Unfortunately as we experience school we are not encouraged to develop our view of ourselves as learners. We are given labels and expected to live up or down to them. This all stems from one false “truth”. Let’s explore this “truth”.

Education theory has a demon it cannot shake off and the outcome of this is that we are constantly being directed towards a “better way”.  We seek to find a better way to learn, a better way to teach and a better structure on which to base our education system. This emphasis on the “better way” suggests there is one, and only one, way. This is why we see theories come into fashion and then go out again only to be re-discovered when the latest one has failed to “do it for everyone”. Those with influence on policy and practice also carry with them their favourite which they are reluctant to accept may not suit everyone.  In the UK we have seen, and continue to see, education formed in the image of some individual or persuasive group who believe their way is the right way.

The real truth is that there is no one way. No one way at any moment in the challenge of learning. No one way to teach. No one design on which to build an education system that will meet the needs of everyone. This is hard to accept. Even harder to consider when you want to standardise things. Impossible if you want to monitor or predict outcomes.

The sad thing is that so long as we look for one way to learn, to teach and structure education we fail to see the benefits of those ways that work for some of us, some of the time. It’s like holding a bunch of keys and trying them, one at a time, in a lock that does not have a single key to open it. We pick up a key, try it and then throw it to the floor and try another. When we run out of keys we pick them up off the floor and continue to try them one at a time again.  When you have more than one person jostling to try their key in the lock then we see the real dangers of this approach. Power and influence are brought to bear to get to the front. Any other key holder is attacked in order to diminish their chance of trying their key in the lock. They would be just getting in the way anyway and delaying us opening the door to the “better way” wouldn’t they!

See this site for a list of learning theories. Then ask yourself how many are still “popular”, how many have been “attacked” and why some still have supporters despite being attacked. http://www.learning-theories.com/

There are no one set of circumstances, no single way to teach, no one system of education that will produce a “better way”.  The way that counts is the way that works for you.

To discover what works best for you requires you to be allowed to explore learning and evaluate the “how” for yourself.  You need to be exposed to different learning strategies and shown that what we see or regard as “ability” may be influenced by more than one thing.  We need to avoid labels.

Warning – this may produce “challenging behaviours” in a system that believes in and promotes “one way”.

What I am proposing is not revolutionary in terms of new theories but it is in terms of approaches to learning. Well it appears to be to me and I have been in the education profession for nearly four decades! The fact that we have not yet changed our approach to education that we persist along the “one way” path suggests one of two things.  Firstly there is a vested interest in this process that it serves some purpose we have yet to discover. Secondly our egos are bigger than our view of education.  If there is a third reason then please let me know.

multiple padlocked-gate

What I am proposing is based on the idea that there is no “one way”, no “best way” to learn, that the lock on the door of learning needs multiple keys to open it. It may even be that the lock changes from time to time too making it necessary to look for a different combination of keys. This is the concept that sits behind my idea of “Learning Intelligence”, or “LQ” for short.

More about LQ in part two.

Part 2

LQ and PBCF

The Final Part of: What if everything we thought about learning was wrong?

foundations

In the final part of this article I will suggest that it is time to re-evaluate the foundations of teaching and learning and describe what I believe are the true foundations of any education system we should seek to build on to ensure learning remains at the heart of what we do.

clean-slate-board

It is time to go back to basics of teaching and learning, not those of the 3 R’s, or of rote learning, of the industrial revolution or that of the information technology revolution but instead the basics of relationships and trust in education. It is time to rethink our pedagogy. A time to wipe the slate clean and rethink things from the beginning and not keep adding things that we think will or should “work”.  It is not a case of what can be done but rather a case of what should be done with the tools education has at its disposal to promote teaching and learning.

Imagine starting again knowing what we know now about how education has evolved and been influenced by the revolutions that have occurred over the last 150 years. I hope you will have decided that the foundation of any education system must include building relationships between the teacher and the learner. Apart from three other key elements all the other “stuff” is just, well stuff. It comes and goes according to, for the want of a better word, “fashion.”

teacher and class

Some time ago I wrote about understanding learning needs. This led to an e-book based on both reflection on my time as a teacher and research. As I read studies and ideas about teaching and learning, old and new, time and time again I came across references to the importance of the relationships between the teacher and the learner. Thinking about my own time in the classroom when things went well I had a good relationship with my classes and when things went badly or were stressful for me it was because these relationships had not yet formed. A target driven system that distances the teacher from the learner  is not what learning is about. 

pbcf4

Building relationships and maintaining them is not always easy and is often more complicated than we think. Perhaps the divorce rate confirms this! I have boiled it down to four key learning needs that require being satisfied most of the time if we are to build learning relationships. The graphic below describes the four learning needs. It would be my approach to include these in any foundations. The acronym Please Be Child Friendly offers a suitable reminder of the aim as well as providing a memory key for the four learning needs. Ignoring learning needs is not what builds engagement and is not what learning is about.

Teaching and Learning Responibility diag v2

I have also developed a “learning responsibility ratio” graphic. The graphic aims to show how the dynamics of the learning relationship should change over time. It highlights how the learning relationship may also come under strain at times, especially during a transition point.  At the start the biggest responsibility lies with the teacher in learning about their students, planning the curriculum and developing resources. At this point the learner has only a small responsibility, that of “paying attention”. Later as time passes the ratio of responsibility should transfer from the teacher to the learner. There are points where there is some element of reclaiming responsibility but these need to be part of the learning journey.  If there are too many occasions where the teacher reclaims responsibility the downward trend of the line, the responsibility transfer, is slowed and may never reach a satisfactory stage. The result of such an action means the learner remains dependent on the teacher and takes little responsibility for learning. In a high stakes system it is all too easy for the teacher, who is often most “accountable” to reclaim responsibility in order to maintain control of the learning. Incorporating the dynamics of learning relationships is also a key element in the foundation of an education system. Making or allowing the teacher alone accountable for learning is not what learning is about.

hero's journey adapted for learning

The third block in the foundation is the continued professional development of the teacher. It is important that the teacher models learning to their students. This has two effects. Firstly it will demonstrate that learning requires effort. As the teacher shares the emotional challenges of learning as well as the practical aspects they can show how taking on a learning challenge can be both daunting and rewarding. Secondly it grounds the teacher in the learning experience. This is important because in building successful learning relationships there needs to be both empathy and understanding of the student perspective.  Roy Leighton’s work on the Butterfly Model and specifically the Learning Line demonstrates this aspect of learning. Another example of the trials and challenges of learning can be seen in the Hero’s journey once it is adapted to learning. Ignoring the learning journey and expecting a standardised approach and progress is not what learning is about. lQ graphic 6

The fourth block is a natural requirement of the learning transition. It is no good expecting the learner to take responsibility for and manage their own learning unless they are prepared for and supported in doing so. This last element is one that appears obvious but we do so little in education in this area. We need to directly develop the skills, attitudes, attributes, and behaviours that support the learner in managing their own learning environment to meet their learning needs. The term I have used to describe this is “Learning Intelligence” or LQ. Failure to develop in learners an understanding of how they can manage their learning environment to meet their learning needs is not what learning is about.

Education learning foundation

So there we have it, the four corner stones of the foundation of any education system we care to develop based on learning. I would claim that if we remain true to these foundations then we can adapt and adopt all that is good and useful in teaching and learning from whatever source. We are in effect  guided by the foundations in selecting only those that adhere to the principles and therefore sustain them.  I would claim that such a foundation is both agile and secure. It is able to respond to changes in curriculum, forms of delivery and use whatever technology is appropriate to support teaching and learning.

Want to see any of the first 4 posts?

Part 1: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong? http://wp.me/p2LphS-nz

We need to go back to the start, to look at teaching and learning from the beginning to find out if we have lost our way.

Part 2: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong? http://wp.me/p2LphS-nD

How far back can we go with teaching and learning?

Part 3: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong? http://wp.me/p2LphS-nJ

We go back and explore the simplest of learning models to see if we can re-establish secure foundations on which to build.

Part 4: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong? http://wp.me/p2LphS-nZ

What are the influences of the industrial and technological revolutions on education?

Part 3: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong?

2585609947_41943f8ab5_Okinawa Soba

So far I have suggested that we have lost sight of the foundations of teaching and learning. That the practices of science, those of ‘theories’ and ‘testing’ have come to dominate educational thinking and that some of the aspects of the art of teaching have been lost. I have also suggested that we go back and explore the simplest of learning models to see if we can re establish secure foundations on which to build.

So let’s take that simplest of learning models for a moment and let me suggest how it will look

  • I show you how to do something.
  • You watch me, ask questions and imitate.
  • I observe and evaluate what you do and provide feedback.
  • There is recognition of competence and progress reflected in the instruction and tasks.
  • You take note of my comments and try to improve, to become better, to master, to learn and perhaps ultimately understand.
  • I take note of your reactions and try to improve my instruction/guidance
  • We build a relationship and trust each other to do our best as either teacher or student although such roles are not always clearly defined. Often the teacher learns as much from the student as the student learns from the teacher.

2 sigma

This is in effect a model of the apprenticeship.  Problems may arise with this model as we try to scale things up, as we go from 1:1 to 1: many.   Bloom identified this as the “2 sigma problem” when he published his article “The Search for Methods of Group Instruction as effective as 1:1 Tutoring” in 1984 (1).  There are claims being made for being able to personalise learning through “adaptive learning” software in the context of “gamification of learning” . A TEDx talk by Ben Betts exploring the issue of the 2-sigma problem and gamification can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqLiLH6Sjnw

Whatever we do there are issues of quality, consistency, standards and resources as well as cost in whatever model we choose.

We can imagine 10 or 20 students and one teacher, and we may even imagine 60 students and one teacher. It is easy to see how a different model, successful in its own right and particular situation, can be looked to solve other problems.  The Victorians looked to mechanisation and standardisation, the process we refer to as industrialisation, and we are looking at the new technologies as we explore the latest revolution but as we scale things up one element of the simple model is diluted. Can you guess which one it is?

I believe as we scale up, as we increase the pupil teacher ratio, with our current approach we lose the intimacy element that is part of building the relationship between the teacher and the student. As yet, with current models, the teacher has not been able to provide the level of 1:1 observation and therefore focused and often immediate feedback that may be part of the foundation of the teaching and learning process.

This need to build relationships and trust in order to achieve effective teaching and learning systems may be the basic principle or foundation that we have lost as we have increasingly sought  to put things right in education.

By looking to the use of principles and practices from other models, perhaps first those of the industrial revolution and latterly the information technology revolution, have we moved away from the foundations of teaching and learning. The question is “Can we get them back in some effective form?

In the next part of this article I will look at the influences I believe both the industrial and information technology revolution have had, and continue to have, on education.

Part 4: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong?  http://wp.me/p2LphS-nZ

What are the influences of the industrial and technological revolutions on education?

Final Part: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong? http://wp.me/p2LphS-pv

The four foundations of learning and what learning is not

 

[i] http://web.mit.edu/5.95/readings/bloom-two-sigma.pdf

Image credit: Okinawa Soba http://www.flickr.com/photos/24443965@N08/2585609947/sizes/o/

Part 2: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong?

In the last part of this article I argued for the need to re-examine the foundations of teaching and learning and to establish if the foundations of what we do and why we do it are still part of today’s educations systems. In short are they relevant? In this, the second part, I ask the question “How far back can we go with teaching and learning?”

campfire homo erectus

Well I would argue that there must have been a time when somebody knew something somebody else did not. Something they discovered for themselves, something that gave them an evolutionary advantage  and perhaps wanted to share with those they lived with.  The making of fire may just have been that one thing or that a stone can act as a club. Although it is rather romantic to imagine such a scenario it does conjure up the first possible teaching and learning scenario.  It does also point to a few possible long lost principles of education too. That:

  • learning through need is a great motivational aspect of learning
  • we learn better when we co-operate with each other,
  • sharing ideas develops new ideas and improves existing ones,
  • failing is just part of the learning journey and should not define who we are (try, try and try again) and
  • trust is a significant aspect of the learning relationship

Long before teaching was a recognised profession and education was a nation’s currency in world rankings there was a time when people learnt things from one another or by reflecting on experiences. Since this simple model we have sought to turn learning into a science and in doing so brought the principles, practices, evaluative and proof tools of science to bear on the process.  I believe some aspects of the art of learning have been sacrificed as we have moved away from the simple model of teaching and learning and adopted a more scientific approach of theories and testing.

As the sciences have  evolved we have attempted to build models of learning that influence how we teach. These models go on to set or influence education policy and practices. Some of these models have been discredited and some build up a strong following as they appear to provide insights into how we can teach better and improve the process of learning.  Whatever appears to work in any part of the educational landscape is explored in order to find elements we can transplant and improve the health of our own education systems.  The idea of science making the process of learning clear continues.  We have seen the rise of neuroscience as we look for ways in which people learn and have employed MRI scanning to map the brain functions.

But what would we do if we had only the simple model of learning and everything else that we believe in how we learn was wrong?  So what if there is:

  • no right brain/left brain functions,
  • no learning styles,
  • no benefit to rote learning or
  • no set of basics or subjects on which we build further learning,
  • no best time of the day to learn

or any of the other ideas or theories we have about how we learn best.

What would we do? What policies and practices would we adopt if there was only the simplest of learning models?

In the next part of this article I will propose the principles and practices of a simple learning model.

Part 3: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong? http://wp.me/p2LphS-nJ

We go back and explore the simplest of learning models to see if we can re-establish secure foundations on which to build.

Part 4: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong?  http://wp.me/p2LphS-nZ

What are the influences of the industrial and technological revolutions on education?

Final Part: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong? http://wp.me/p2LphS-pv

The four foundations of learning and what learning is not

Graphic from: http://socialesiesae.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/prehistory.html

What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong?

final examination

Well we have been wrong about things before!

People argued that the world was flat and even now people have different views about the earth revolving around the sun (just go on line and Goggle it!). It is easy to build on shaky foundations if you believe in those foundations. There may come a time when you have to find ways of discounting new discoveries in order to maintain your original beliefs too. You may even re-interpret things in order to fit in with what you believe to be true and attack or try to convince those who do not believe as you do. It may be a human condition that we act this way.

Whatever foundation we build on there is the potential, as we rise so far from them, that we no longer even recognise them for what they were and what they were based on. We become slaves to tradition, to the “basics”, to doing more of what we have always done. Going back to the start is often a cathartic way of trying to determine what is, and what is not, “right” of what actually works and what does not rather than what is.   I believe there is a saying attributed to Albert Einstein that goes along the lines of “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I suggest that to expect that in doing what others have done for different reasons or needs than those of your own will bring about what you need is misguided at least and insanity at worst.

Dismantling existing practices or held beliefs in order to establish their validity or truth can reveal some of our shaky foundations and give us the freedoms to rebuild and establish more informed pathways or beliefs. The caveat though is only if we are open, unbiased, and honest with ourselves and we are willing to assess the process and not just the outcomes.

I believe there are many things about education that we presently believe that we have wrong. Or perhaps there are many things in education that we do that are driven by the wrong motives and beliefs.  We need to go back to the start, to look at teaching and learning from the beginning to find out if we have lost our way.

The next part of this article will ask how far we can go back in teaching and learning.

Part 2: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong? http://wp.me/p2LphS-nD

How far back can we go with teaching and learning?

Part 3: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong? http://wp.me/p2LphS-nJ

We go back and explore the simplest of learning models to see if we can re-establish secure foundations on which to build.

Part 4: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong?  http://wp.me/p2LphS-nZ

What are the influences of the industrial and technological revolutions on education?

Final Part: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong? http://wp.me/p2LphS-pv

The four foundations of learning and what learning is not

What is in a name and how important is it that people know your name?

baby’s-name

What is in a name and how important is it that people know your name?

What does your name say about you?

We are all given one but have you ever stopped to think how you would find your way in the world or how others would find you without one! In fact there a lot more questions about your name once you stop to think about it.

  • Do you like your name?
  • Does your name reflect who you really are?
  • Do you think people treat you a certain way when they meet you for the first time possibly because of your name?
  • Does your name help or hinder you as you make your way in the world?
  • Would you, or have you ever thought of, changing your name?
  • If you decided to change your name what would it be?
  • Do people call you by your given name or have you a nickname they prefer to use?

So now you may be thinking about your name a little more and if it is Kevin, like mine, then you may be happily reflecting on the “fact” that Kevin means  “handsome”.

You may be asking where am I going with all this name stuff? Well let me get to my point.

In 2011 I had achieved  33 years of being a successful teacher and a few more after that outside of the school environment exploring and working in the “real world”. Having a little more time at hand I started to reflect on my learning experiences. It occurred to me that successful learning and teaching was based on a set of skills, attributes, attitudes, and behaviours. The more I have prodded and probed this notion the more secure I am in my belief but I digress, more of that later. I truly believed then, as I do now, that I have something unique to say about learning and teaching and decided I needed to tell the world about it because as far as I could find out no one else had put the various bits together in the way I had. To me it is both blindingly simple and obvious at the same time, not complicated at all. A sort of eureka moment you would call it.

I needed a way to spread the word and let others know of this simple truth about how to make learning easier, be a great teacher and have successful schools.

In 2011 I decided to set up a company, a website, blog and Twitter account and tell the world about what I have discovered. In order to do so I needed a name for the company. Something that said what I was about and was easy to remember and search on the web so people could find me easily. This is where I was probably too clever for my own good because I have come to realise how important a name is and I may have got mine wrong. Let me explain.

I realised that if we did more of what we have been doing in education, especially in the UK, then we would get more of what we have now. To summarise: stressed teachers, stressed students, a waste of talent, mediocre results, more of a focus on meeting a target than being the best we can be, a lack of creativity or individual expression, too much change and a lot more negatives along the way. I realised we needed to do something different and that we needed to be creative in the way we did it. I still have the same aspirations for students, schools, and education as those who set targets or standards to aim for I just think there is a better way of going about achieving it, one that does not carry with it all the negative aspects we are seeing now. I wanted my company name to reflect this more creative approach and to emphasise the possibilities of being the best as a result of adopting it. There was also the need to be unique on the World Wide Web, a challenge in itself.

The name I chose, “ace-d” ,takes the “a” from advocating, the “c” from creative  and “e-d” from an abbreviation of education and stands for advocating a creative approach to education. The word “aced” is also an idiom for doing very well.

Did you get all that or have I been too clever for my own good?

So “ace-d” was born along with a “leet speek” version for the blog and Twitter called “4c3d” (the 4 replacing the “a” and  3 as a backward “e”. I had to use this approach because “aced” had already been taken as a Twitter and blog name and since creativity is a core principle of ace-d it seemed appropriate to find a creative solution.

Then there is the “ace” connotation of the name and its meaning in general use. We do not have to tear down walls to bring about positive change in teaching and learning, to ace it (too clever again?). As Ellen Langer has pointed out in her theory on mindfulness, we just need to be creative and approach things differently. A one degree change in your course when sailing can bring a different shore into view. Going around an obstacle is just as effective as going through it and there are plenty of obstacles in education!

So why do I think I got the name wrong? Well because it is now 4 years since I set up ace-d and although some people have found me and some of those have become colleagues, some have become listeners and some have asked questions I feel I have only been able to directly help a handful of individuals and schools. That is far less than I know that can benefit from ace-d’s approach and that is what makes me think I got it wrong. If people are looking for help would they find it, would they find ace-d? Try Googling “ ace-d LQ”  and let me know if you found me.

Advocating Creativity Ltd is the formal company name for ace-d and I offer an independent advisory service for those seeking significant and sustainable improvements in learning and teaching. This is primarily achieved by adopting a concept developed by me based on experience and research and called Learning Quotient, LQ for short, or Learning Intelligence. LQ is about developing a set of skills, attributes, attitudes and behaviours shown to significantly impact learning and teaching. You will find elements of Dweck, Hattie, Glasser and many more embedded in the concept of LQ. LQ is about an approach to learning that is both simple and powerful but one that as we chase targets and standards I fear we may move further away from.

You can download a leaflet about LQ here: About LQ with LQ graphic. You can also view a presentation about LQ to a TeachMeet at Northampton University here.

If you are a teacher, leader, or a learner and would like to find out more about how ace-d and LQ can help you I would be pleased to hear from you, now you know the name of course.

You can contact me at kevin@ace-d.co.uk

Links to website

Link to Twitter

The Highway Code: A Metaphor for Learning

In discussing the importance of self-belief in learning I have described the learner’s beliefs about what they can and cannot learn as a “learning map“. A suitable metaphor for the way learners see the learning landscape built by them as a result of their experiences, emotional responses and successes or failures. Each time a new learning challenge is presented out comes the learning map and decisions made about how possible the learning journey is. How we view this map, our mindset, also influences the decisions we make about learning challenges. If we take this metaphor a little further we can use a form of the Highway Code,  a Learning Highway Code, to describe a set behaviours we may exhibit. This is what I have done using either a “Limiting” or “Empowering” mindset in interpreting the signs we may establish on our learning map.

 

Highway Code Metaphor Chart

 

You can see the full chart with five signs that give orders and seven that are warning signs here: ace-d learning highway code graphic

You may consider using this idea in your classroom to show the advantage of a empowering behavioral response, a growth mindset, as opposed to a limiting or fixed mindset one.  Perhaps  you could get the learners to write their own descriptions. If you do I would love to see them.

Whilst I can not lay claim to the highway code I do hope you will recognise the idea of a learning map and the Learning Highway Code as being one from Advocating Creativity.

The Learning Highway Code is part of the concept Learning Intelligence or LQ. You can read the first article about LQ here: LQ Introduction 

Comments always welcome.

 

 

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