Hardly a day goes by anymore when I don't hear or read something about personalising learning or putting pupils at the centre of their learning. If I had a Euro for every person who uses these buzzwords without having a clue as to what they mean, I'd be a wealthy lady (notice that I'm asking for Euros at this point, and not Pounds).
What I'm realising is that while a lot of people can drop the phrase 'student-centred learning' into casual conversation, not many actually know what it is or how to do it. This is for good reason; changing the traditional model of teaching and learning that we've all grown up with -- and that our parents and grandparents grew up with as well -- is not easy.
Futurelab, the Bristol-based education research institution, spent three years working with teachers in two schools to create an enquiry-based curriculum and teaching model that actually works. The project, called Enquiring Minds, was funded by Microsoft as part of the Partners in Learning initiative that Stuart and I both work on.
Researchers from Futurelab spent a great deal of time in these schools, trying out ideas, listening to teachers, and examining what worked and what didn't. What they ended up with is a set of research-based, tried and tested resources for any school or teacher wanting to try enquiry-based learning. Most recently, Futurelab has produced a set of professional development materials containing enquiry-based learning activities for teachers who want to try this approach in their classroom.
I'm not going to go into too much detail about the what/how/why of this, as all of this information can be found in the following documents in the special Enquiring Minds community on the Innovative Teachers Network.
- Why enquiry-based learning? Enquiring Minds Guide
- What did they learn? Enquiring Minds year 3 report
- How to do this in your school: Enquiring Minds Guide
- How to get started with enquiry-based learning in your classroom: Enquiring Minds CPD materials
- Where to find other teachers who are doing this and get more information: ITN Community
I've seen Enquiring Minds at work at Ashton Park school in Bristol, and have spoken to teachers and pupils who are using it. What struck me in those instances was how engaged students are when they actually have input into what they are learning. Teachers spoke of children who were never interested in school until they were able to shape their learning around something they cared about - a pet lizard, a question that intrigued them, a role model. They're still learning the same concepts and skills, but because the learning takes on a new relevance in their personal lives, pupils are more motivated than they were before.
I encourage everyone to check out the Enquiring Minds resources on the Innovative Teachers Network. The new professional development materials provide the perfect opportunity for you to try out this kind of teaching in your classroom tomorrow. Let us know what you think about it.