Review of STEM CPL by Future Learn

School CPL can be a difficult to deliver. How do you run an event that encompasses the interests of up to 100 people, who have different views on how to improve. Well, you can’t! CPL should be a point where teachers are aware of how they need to improve and should go about independently doing so. So, this is exactly what I did.

Over the past 6 weeks, I have been engaging with a new form of teacher CPL. Assessment for Learning in STEM, via Future learn. The course was brought to my attention when reading a BBC news article on the Future learning achieving 1 million subscribers. So, I had a browse through and came across this online course. With an open mind and a want to improve in the classroom. I thought I would subscribe and participate in the program to see what I could take away and the answer is, a lot!

I am currently in my first qualified year of teaching and have spent the previous two years getting to grips with administration, responsibility, teaching as a concept, the list could go on, but I still feel as if there is loads still to learn. Yet, a shift from NQT to QT means that training and funding to support CPD drops off a cliff. Therefore when opportunities for free, easy to access CPL come along we should never let them pass us by. Yet, if I felt after 2 years that the opportunities to improve where few and far between, I wonder how someone who has been in the profession for 20 years feels? Funding, training and CPL must be a distant and disillusioned concept. So, why will this course support those who feel as if improvement is no longer accessible?

The course is free and encourages to teachers to analyse text, videos, make their own resources, critique the work of other teachers and generally become part of a discussion where your perspectives and opinions are valued. The module provides access to a CPL event that would have cost hundreds of pounds to send one person and also provide access to tutors who where in a geographically different part of the country. Has this module of education supported my development?

The six week duration provide ample amounts of time to think, reflect and improve on AFL in the class, something a 1 day training event does not. I developed my in depth questioning, practiced hinge questions (which I had never heard of) and began to understand what underpins a good hinge question. Seeing the opinions of others teachers reinforce the challenges and difficulties I had encountered reassured the direction I was taking. My practice in the classroom has changed noticeably, I am critically aware of how to use information provided by the students as well as how to remove any misconceptions or confusion they have quickly and efficiently. It is now easy to see who knows what and to what degree.

My request, make more of these and target teachers who feel disillusioned with CPL. These types of course have a lot to offer and definitely offer a new and much better platform continued improvements in the classroom. I have 1 week to go to finish the course and will definitely be signing up if there are more to follow.

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A Review of the Conservative Education Manifesto

Will the conservative manifesto be what society is looking for to address rising social inequality, squeezes on the financial strings and the rising shortfall in teacher recruitment. Unfortunately not, but there is evidence of some foundations being put into place to help ease the pressure.
So what do the conservatives see their educational manifesto delivering?
  • “Our reforms will rebuild the once-natural bonds that existed between people – of duty and responsibility – which are currently being replaced with the synthetic bonds of the state: regulation and bureaucracy.” David Cameron (1)
  • “Standards are falling, and there is a growing gap between the richest and the poorest” “The reason we have fallen behind is that schools are controlled by politicians and bureaucrats with the wrong ideas. They have undermined the power of teachers to keep order and devalued the curriculum and exam system.” (1)
  • Conservatives will provide an education only available to the well off: “safe classrooms, talented and specialist teachers, access to the best curriculum and exams, and smaller schools run by teachers who know the children’s names.” (1)
  • “We need to address the causes of poverty and inequality, not just the symptoms” (1)
A brief critical summary
The plan is for increased autonomy through the use of academies, handing power to the teachers, leaders, governors and others in the community. In doing so, the community becomes responsible and engaged in the education of their children. Alongside this the conservatives want to see more talented teachers in the class. This should raise educational standards, using PISA tests as a proxy for improvement. However, a strong emphasise on developing local engagement with schools conflicts with the governments uniformed vision of success. Is this really addressing the “causes and not the symptoms” within education? This suggests greater intervention of Ofsted within schools, to bring them into line with the international standards.
 Critique of the policies
  • Protect per pupil spending in schools – Schools will be squeezed very tightly over the next five years, with prediction of roughly a 10% cut to all educational establishments (2). The impacts of the these cuts will be felt most deeply for FE establishments and possible early years interventions. Yet, there are suggestions that pupil premium will be protected (1), to what degree we cannot be certain as of yet.
  • Early years interventions – There will be support for working families with 30 hours of free child care per week, this will reduce financial pressures on young working families. However, this does contradict recent research into addressing cognitive development in children aged 0-3 years as a solution for addressing social inequality in the long term (3).
  • Assessment Ebacc, year 7 SATs resits – All pupils will now have to study for an Ebacc qualification. This will increase the richness of the education of pupils. But, there are concerns about whether this is correct for all pupils and might remove focus core subject, subsequently seeing a drop in key skills.
  • Teacher training – Emphasis on addressing low level disruption within the classroom, to make all educational environment suitable for successful learning. Continued investment into schemes to recruit and retain the most talented teachers in education, by increasing investment into recruitment schemes as well as addressing teachers pay.  However, a disproportionate focus on talent recruit doesn’t address the problem of the number of teachers leaving the classroom is increasing meaning more lessons are now no longer taught by talented teachers. (4)
  • Academies and failing schools – Spreading of good practice by allowing good schools to expand, every failing schools is to be turned into an academy. This is good for injecting and spreading great local leadership through out the community, but this could result in forced leadership which might not be suitable for the community or students. Contradicting part of the ideology through which academies have been founded on.
How do you think these educational reforms will affect your practice? For the better or for the worse?

References:

(1) Conservative Education Manifesto, http://www.dodsmonitoring.com/downloads/misc_files/DraftEducationManifesto.pdf

(2) http://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/feb/02/conservatives-cut-school-funding-david-cameron-education-budget

(3) https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/284086/early-intervention-next-steps2.pdf

(4) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/11285171/Ofsted-warns-of-looming-teacher-recruitment-crisis.html

Education is what remains when you have forgotten everything

“Education is what remains when you have forgotten everything”person-optical-illusions-018

What do you perceive?

Perceptions on the world are dependent on how we process the information which enters through one’s senses. The analysis of this information is dependent on a predetermined subconscious response. We are not aware of how we are perceiving a scenario because this analysis is ingrained, intrenched and programmed through systematic conditioning to the world around us. Yet, this conflicts with our perspective of ourselves. It conflicts because we believe that all decisions are independent. We are aware that our conscious feels transient, or not real and it doesn’t feel as if “someone else” can influence it, because of this trait. So, if we are unaware about how we perceive the objective is it possible to ‘truly’ perceive the objective?

To truly perceive the objective suggests that every observer will be able to view the subject and remove the same inference. Therefore a person has to be told how to think, leading them to build the same conclusion as someone else. For example, didactic education means that information is pre-digested and regurgitated to students, removing true conscious engagement and only enables thinking by the means of someone else. Yet, this isn’t always the case. Art shows a physical expression of a perspective, but observers take a variety of inferences. These inferences are influenced by historical and societal experiences that influence how they perceive the objective. Therefore, our perspectives on the world are based on the experiences in our life to date. But isn’t this a false dichotomy? The very nature of development results from predetermined thinking, so thought can never be truly authentic.

It’s at this moment of realising this paradox that true conscious thinkers are able to influence how a society cultivates thinking within itself. If how we think is based on prior experiences, then are experiences should be free from the thoughts and influences of others. Therefore, we should be provided with opportunities to build our own understanding of the world, by solving our own problems, investigating our own questions and developing our own method of understanding the information that we are processing. But, there are limits to this. We cannot freely learn to walk, talk and operate in society without guidance. Therefore, during our development a balance must be struck between opportunities for free thought and guidance when learning basic grammar, we must be able to interpret the grammar through which we require to transform the world. So, what is required from education?

Education should be an environment where individuals are encourage to critically evaluate, solve problems and bring meaning to their own questions about the world and the reality which surrounds them. Assessments and exams should be a thing of the past, they are a means to quantify attainment they do not provide an opportunity to develop as an individual. Will we be able to assess students? Not quantitatively. Will we be able to quantify what our students look like? Probably not. We should see education as the qualitative development of individuals who will be able transform the world around. Through the freedom of their own thoughts students will be empowered, independent and leaders of their own world.