An unusual Tuesday Afternoon

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My colleague Jan Polack and I spent an unusual afternoon recently…….Intrigued? I’ll tell you more!

We spent the afternoon with 14 young people from Lord Lawson of Beamish Academy in Birtley discussing what makes effective learning. My guess is this doesn’t happen too often and it was a real privilege to observe. Young people explaining to school leaders, governors and partner schools what effective learning looks like, particularly as their position on this topic was grounded on findings from an academic research project.

As part of their research the group visited the XP School in Doncaster to seek the views of students from outside of their school, it also provided an opportunity to broaden their perspective by investigating effective learning in another setting.

The eloquent and enthusiastic group provided evidence to support their views as well as coming up with recommendations as to what changes needed to be made in order to enhance effective learning within their school.

The main findings from the two “squads” of researchers was that pupils learned most effectively:

– when they had an opportunity to discuss their learning with others

– when they undertook practical work

– when they approached learning in a wide range of ways

– when teachers used a variety of teaching approaches and plenty of practical work

– when teachers used praise and specific feedback

These responses matched well with what had already been investigated by a working party of teachers in the school. The authentic young people’s views are now feeding into the development of teaching and learning policy and practice at the school.

These findings came about as the result of the group taking part in the UFA Young Researchers and Evaluators programme, as part of this programme they received three days of training which looked at:

  • The development of a research question
  • The language of research and evaluation
  • The ethics of evaluation
  • Presentation and communication skills
  • Critique and coaching

The training provided the group with the confidence to take part in a meaningful discussion about learning. However in order for the training to have real value the senior leadership team of Lord Lawson of Beamish had to give their backing to ensure this was an authentic leadership opportunity. Something which we at UFA consider to be vital as in our view genuine leadership opportunities can enhance and magnify learning.

Mark Lovatt Principal of Lord Lawson of Beamish Academy said of the experience:

“Working with UFA on the Young Researchers and Evaluators programme has been an exciting and innovative project for the young people and the school to be part of,”

“At Lord Lawson we’re committed to developing student voice and this project has been a great way of the young people involved researching with their peers what makes a positive, effective learning environment and what their role is in their own learning.

“We are looking forward to working with them to look at how we take those findings and action them in the school.”

Alex Rayner, Vice Principal who co-ordinated the programme in school:

“This has been a great programme to be part of because the results and insights it brings come directly from the students at the school, sharing open and honest views with staff and their peers,”

“It is student voice in action which has been a real eye opener for me and depending on the findings could change the way school delivers teaching.

“Plus the programme demonstrates how the Young Researcher and Evaluator programme can impact on young people’s engagement, learning and character development as well as being a valuable opportunity for staff development.”

Catriona Viede, Assistant Principal with responsibility for teaching and learning offered encouragement and support throughout the training which meant the young people knew their work had real kudos across the school.

The schools approach is definitely towards the very top of Harts Ladder of Participation, something we at UFA are always keen to support.

The group have now presented their findings to the Senior Leadership Team, Governors and will share their judgements with peers shortly. Giving young people the opportunity to shape their education is surely the best way to engage them in the joy of learning.

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