Friday was spent being Forthright with Formby. John Turner and I worked on our first day with the Secondary and Primary schools in the in the Forthright Learning Community as they further their journey to develop independent learners and independent learning across the community.
The schools are embarking together on an ambitious, self-funded project over the next two years to develop independent learning approaches across the schools starting from the infants. The schools within the community are already successful in their own right and have a tradition of academic success. The aspiration is to be even more successful in helping students be autonomous problem solvers who take increasing responsibility for their own progress.
Over two years it is hoped that staff in the schools can work together on agreed interventions which will help transform the learners’ experience. Amongst the possibilities which were offered for consideration
Episodes such as problem solving programmes, learning to learn approaches
Events such Enquiry Week, Independence Day
Vertical tutoring challenges on big questions
Changing rewards and incentives towards independent learning behaviours
Reinforcement of essential attributes and skills
Development of common tools – such as an independent enquiry wheel with versions for all Key Stages
Shift from performing to learning orientation
Improved group work
Extended enquiry built into how we teach
More pupil choice
Lazy Teacher week!
Use of Critique method of authentic presentation and feedback
Learner passports across the Forthright Community
Independent learner profiling
Fewer lessons led by the teacher, more challenges initiated by the pupil
A Students Commission on how we should learn
Improved use of the environment with better spaces for problem solving
Prop boxes for topics
John and I were very deliberately avoiding giving a ‘strategic lead’ in favour of consensus and collective ownership and so time was spent identifying what is meant by independent learning and how we would recognise the independent learner. We asked the group of nineteen to sub-divide into three and ‘characterise the learner’ before we then went on to isolate and rank the key attributes. This allowed us to agree the following working definition –
In the Forthright Learning Community, independent learners are curious about answers to the ‘big questions.’ They are prepared to be open-minded and resilient in their pursuit. Forthright independent learners are also:
willing to be actively involved in extending their own and others’ learning
flexible in approaching challenges and in learning from setbacks
able to make connections
optimistic, and ready to make positive contributions alongside others
able to apply and extend reasoning
reflective, and in being so capable of improving their own learning
The definition will be used to help shape all of the agreed activities. Going forward the group started to define what the signature features would look like at whole school, classroom and learner level with strategies to provide clarity, coherence and consistency for each.
The Forthright definition is pleasing because it has not been sourced from an academic, imposed by an agency or produced by a cabal and because it’s owned by the schools and emerged from honest debate it’s arrived with built-in durability; in other words, its forthright for purpose
As of the start of the month I’ve taken up a part-time advisory role with Frog Trade Ltd. Frog are a Halifax based medium-sized company which specialises in developing learning systems for schools and the wider education sector
both in the UK and abroad. Within the role of Education Director i will be helping create an educational drive and focus within the company and help with product design and product implementation. The UK has many innovative software companies and Frog have always been at the forefront and so its an exciting opportunity and one which will keep me jumping from lily pad to lily pad with a little frog grin on my face.
Frog is used in more than 600 schools and academies across the UK and is recognised as a fast growing innovative company. Frog was ranked 32 in Deloitte’s UK Fast 50 Technology Awards 2011 and 174 in Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500 EMEA 2011 (Europe, Middle East and Africa)
Perhaps the thing which will keep me awake at night will be the fact that I will also be helping Frog put their innovative technologies into ten thousand Malaysian Schools. In what will be a radical transformation of learning in Malaysia, a whole nation will attempt to develop the first genuinely personalised learning approach based on the principles of assessment for learning and learning to learn. To be given a chance for your career thinking to impact directly on six million young people is thrilling.
This will be a different break for us this year. For the first time in twelve years I will not be thinking about the business, or at least i wont be thinking about Alite. After a long and successful period where we impacted positively on lots of schools, staff and students Heather and I have decided to start afresh. From January 1st Heather is pursuing her own alternative interests and I am officially re-incarnated as alistairsmithlearning and hence this new site!
Alite achieved a great deal in its 12 year history. Through our work in accelerated learning we encouraged schools to think more about understanding and developing learning and learners and less about covering the curriculum and covering ones’ backsides. Our learning to learn approach – L2 – showed how important it was for students to do more than learn to regurgitate well-rehearsed arguements and facts to pass exams.
We shook the academic tree and got educationalists arguing less about school effectiveness, total quality management and re-engineering to arguing endlessly about controversial and more worthwhile topics such as – learning styles, motivation, the brain and the place of personal attributes in learning. Alite created products – such as the ALPS Approach, L2 and PAL which worked and which left a legacy.
We also helped energise some sections of the teaching profession who, in giving up on their students, had given up on themselves. The books we wrote and co-wrote broke the mould of books for teachers! Previously they comprised theory or polemic and were correspondingly dull and worthy in both appearance and style. Following the Accelerated Learning Series a whole generation of easy to read practical ‘guides’ followed. Finally, our training programmes modelled the methods and values we espoused. They were never exactly the same; always brought an energy and more importantly were never in service of orthodoxy or the familiar line. I am standing here on the cusp of a new era – the GoveShaw era – and feel fired up to kick on once again!
As we kick on again, the next few years will be incredibly exciting . I’m looking forward to it so in preparation here’s my homework for the break!