Back in November, I wrote about some amazing professional learning that I had taken part in, questioning how innovative and flexible we are when teaching. Do we teach the way we were trained/encouraged to? Have we been mavericks and found our own style? Do the expectations we have of pupils restrict their development and achievement?
I referenced an experiment showing how fleas in a jar never jump higher than the height of the lid, even after it is removed. Do we do that to ourselves as professionals, as well as to our pupils? Do we restrict how high we/they can jump? Do we “cap” success?
In light of the CPD, I feel that since November I have consistently provided pupils with choice in learning and a variety of targets that they can choose to work towards – and which encourage them to exceed their own expectations.
However, although I think the stretch and challenge is apparent in my teaching, is the “jar” still there? Do I facilitate enough, or are the constraints and structure of curriculums/specifications too rigid to remove the boundaries of the jar completely?
I have tried to put this to the test. I was thrilled to be able to work with the leader of philosophy in addressing the scheme of work for the final term.
The content surrounds multiculturalism, and questioning how multicultural our society is. A pretty significant issue for a year 8 pupil to get their head around. The first lesson was trying to get pupils to identify “how” multicultural the UK is. However on teaching this, we both came to the conclusion that it was not a question that could be successfully addressed or “answered”.
Instead, I have suggested altering the scheme to get pupils more engaged in challenging the evidence and finding their own opinion. The nature of the year 8 pupil can often be a child trying to be mature and understand opinions they have heard, often expressing rather sensational views as a result. Therefore building on their undeveloped opinions holds great value. So lesson one is now: “Is the UK a Christian society?” – getting pupils to decide and respond using evidence and statistics. The following lessons will then include discussions about the benefits of multiculturalism and multi-faith societies before moving on to any problems that can occur.
Surely some of the most valuable learning is that of opening minds and eyes to the communities we live in and encouraging the celebration of difference and diversity – through harmony, peace, respect and tolerance. We have also planned for pupils to consider how diverse a community should be; how much integration and diversity is healthy?
What we are particularly keen to see the pupils undertake is a review of how multicultural our local community and school are. We have watched the Fixers Multiculturalism Story (see http://bit.ly/1JPGC12), which indicates how some towns and villages still very much retain an Anglo Saxon, White, Christian demographic and how pupils/students are keen to experience, understand and celebrate diversity – seeking out their own opportunities to investigate difference.
We are hoping to give pupils some freedom to express their understanding and conclusions in a whole-school display, whereby carefully considered responses are formed to the questions above. By making a huge jigsaw puzzle, each pupil can complete a piece with their reflections and aspirations for their futures. I am hopeful our final piece of work will advocate the extent to which we embrace multi-faith communities. Giving pupils choice in how to respond and show their learning means they can demonstrate their own interpretation and measurement of how proud we can be of our school/community/society. I am hopeful this will be a “jarless” learning adventure!
SecEd’s NQT diarist this year is a teacher of sociology and philosophy from a school in the South of England.