In our previous blog posts on the problem with disengagement and the need for 21st century learners we outlined the reasons we need Engaging Schools. ‘Engaging Schools’ are places that support young people to become passionate, independent learners. In partnership with the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, we have delivered Learning Futures, working with forty secondary schools across England to develop innovative approaches to teaching and learning that foster engagement. In this series of blog posts we look at what it takes to be an Engaging School, what this looks like in practice. Access the rest of these blogs on the right hand side.
But what kind of a new school are we trying to create? What are the core organisational principles that Engaging Schools tend to have in common?
To create engaging learning for students you also have to create a culture of engaging learning for staff too. And that means quite radical changes to the organisational structures that govern the ways staff work and learn.
To create an Engaging School, school leaders could look to alter the traditional structures of training and courses, of expert-led activities, one-shot events, departmental meetings and staff meetings, of staff rooms, and departmental offices. These learning structures can be progressively replaced with alternative structures where learning is endemic, is viewed as a sustained collaborative enquiry towards the school’s educational mission, staff feel they share a common intellectual mission; and school is viewed as a unique in which staff learning can be applied.
Why not try some of the following examples in your school?
- Use protocols to support collaborative learning activities. Protocols can be very helpful for structuring collaborative adult learning activities. We recommend a book, The Power of Protocols16, which offers multiple examples that can be customised by schools for their own use.
- Study video extracts of real teaching in class. It is very easy now to video components of lessons, and this is a way of bringing real practice to the table in conversations with colleagues, with the subject of the video (the teacher being filmed) hosting a learning activity around the topic.
- Use in-house TeachMeet workshops. The protocols of TeachMeet are available on their site (teachmeet.pbworks.com), and describe 2 minute and 7 minute sharing marketplaces, which celebrates whatever teachers want to bring to the table to share with colleagues.
- Support Project-Based Leaning for all staff. At one of the schools in the Learning Futures programme, all staff undertake a two-day project-based learning odyssey together before the school year begins. All projects are peer-critiqued, and staff refine the most successful tools and techniques to support student projects.
- Arrange Study Visits to sites of excellence. Visits undertaken by small staff teams to other outstanding schools are extremely powerful when they are prompted by internal enquiry and development activities, and when the group undertaking the visit is empowered to take actions based on the implications of their learning.
- Create enquiry teams. One school has an afternoon each week for collaborative professional learning. All staff join an enquiry group, building knowledge and practice in a key aspect of pedagogy, and these afternoons are used as times to develop thinking about specific pedagogical challenges and opportunities.
- Invite less experienced staff members to run workshops for all staff. This communicates the value of fresh perspectives and outside knowledge, allows new staff to feel like contributors early in their time at the school and allows staff to be generous in acknowledging new peer expertise. It makes new staff immediately known.
Over the course of our research we have also found that Engaging Schools tend to have a series of core values in common. For more on this, and for more information on developing an Engaging school culture in your own school, please see our Engaging Schools Handbook, designed to support school leaders to develop school environments in which students become passionate, self-motivated learners. This text will shortly be available as a PDF on our website; please also sign up here for a free hard copy.
We're also going to be spending two days talking about the practical principles of developing an Engaging School at our flipped conferences. Attend to participate in interactive sessions that allow you to explore the elements of the handbook in depth, question our experts as to what this means for your school and meet schools who have achieved success.
To find out more call Hannah on 020 7250 8098. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org