OUR ABC of CfE

The DHT forum agreed that planning formats were crucial in ensuring well planned curricular areas which had purpose. However in some local authorities planning formats have been imposed on schools who feel that the ‘one size fits all’ approach is not what they’re looking for. It seemed to many that skills development planning could look quite different from the open planning models needed to develop creativity, and when planning the curriculum across the 4 contexts then the map could actually end up being really different and original in structure. The four contexts should offer a “Totality of Experiences” and planning should be carried out across the 4 areas.

  •  The ethos and life of the school as a community
  • Curriculum areas and subjects
  • Interdisciplinary projects and studies
  • Opportunities for personal achievement

We know that certain models in topic work encourage creative and critical thinking. Critical skills, interdisciplinary approaches, problem based learning, storylines, enterprise and group work models are just a few of the ways teachers may plan a creative approach. These methods encourage a large number of ideas, a wide range of ideas, and thinking, doing or seeing things differently. Anna Craft openly speaks about creative schools using concept mapping for planning – dynamic, open to a multitude of ideas and easy to change as pupil enthusiasms lead the way. Once the plan has been drafted then key words, ideas and questions are added before activities, learning intentions and success criteria are explored and a more linear approach emerges.

Creative approaches in all aspects of the curriculum were being introduced in many schools. Such models as literature circles, philosophy for children and problem solving days have been developed as well as longer sessions focussing on a particular area such as science and technology weeks or health fairs.

We also agreed that the dominant learning and teaching approaches used in a classroom determines the scope for creativity. Group work situations where pupils are involved in authentic, high quality tasks, or good quality simulations, provide the most creative ways for young people to work and learn.

However working in groups requires skills and children must be allowed to practice and understand the skills they need in order to be successful team contributors. Pupils are being encouraged to identify good practice such as consensus and then to evaluate their successes and next steps.

All present highlighted the importance of children organising events, assemblies, presentations and performances. There was also an emphasis on encouraging pupils to talk about what they have done or to present their learning in a different ways ie making a poster in 2s or 3s to tell a younger class about what you have learned. This process provides an opportunity for in depth discussion, reflection, making improvements and coherent thinking. Any presentation is the perfect medium for self and peer evaluation and revising and improving the final result.

The 4 Capacities also continue to be a focus of development. Again there was consensus that pupils need opportunities to explore and revisit their meaning and to decide what impact each statement should have on their lives. What does “Make reasoned evaluations” actually mean to the child and what should they be doing in order to achieve it.

Everyone present felt that good quality teaching and learning is not rocket science and that it only needs a little effort to recognise and develop good practice.

However, according to David Perkins, the problem is not that we have a knowledge gap – but that we have a monumental use- of- knowledge gap. This means that many educators are not using what they know about good quality teaching and learning. It needs more effort to take what we know and turn it into practice. That’s why we need to continue giving those involved in teaching, time to refine their craft so it may be effectively delivered in the classroom.

Kay Hall March 2009