This post is simply an anchor under which you can post further comments reflecting on the last two days, without having to get a user account etc.
What an amazing two days…my head is spinning and brimming. I hope that we can capture all the data and everyone’s enquiries and ask Shaofu and Qing to do some secondary data analysis over August…..thank you everyone for an amazing learning experience.
Assessment has been on mind my mind for two reasons;
1. As a non-teacher I am unsure how/if enquiry-based learning following the 8-step object based process can be tailored to meet the requirements of the standard curriculum – maths/english GCSE etc where content is key.
2. As a participant I was aware that (even in the artificial context of our experiment) the assessment criteria were of little importance to me. Now of course this may be because I knew i was not there to get a ‘qualification’ of any kind, and that the assessment was simply a test run for us as practitioners to experience etc but I wonder if it was something to do with the personal nature of the enquiry. My enquiry was inherently important to me, making the external assessment less so.
Anyway, I have lots more thoughts and will share as they begin to clarify.
Interesting point about assessment from Kayte. I actually think that the 8 Steps will create really rich evidence for subject staff in schools to plunder for assessing individual learners against National Curriculum requirements. And especially if the learning journey is captured via an online “exhibition” tool such as enquiry blogger. This realisation came to me a few months back when I was walking around our school hall on Exhibition Day for the Yr7 “Disasters” project. There were amazing displays, including “How to do CPR” with three learners and a CPR dummie they had borrowed from a First Aid training organisation and “Volcano”, which had five learners in lab coats simulating a lava flow with a Modrock volcano and some household chemicals. The parents were all over these displays and the Fire Brigade rescue expert, whose presentation on his work in Haiti had been part of the launch of the project, was impressed. Not everything was excellent (this was an authentic exhibition of students’ learning, not a mixture of their work and our last-minute window-dressing intervention) but the volume of learning was immense. I was aware of the transient nature of the whole thing and a massive opportunity missed for all those KS3 staff eager to cover “the content” . There was this incredible bazaar of coverage which all KS3 staff could have wandered around, grabbing evidence left right and centre for their assessment recording. But it would mean all staff off timetable and this was unworkable. But with the enquiryblogger it would all be there, captured, detailed and archived. How we might assess for learning, well yes a more complex matter altogether . But right now in schools, there is no compulsion from the DfE to do this so we can take our time (and need to!) evolving a learning assessment process which is clear and meaningful, yet avoids suffocating the very learning it seeks to capture. It will need to be a subtle art indeed to measure meaningfully within all the multifarious manifestations of learning whilst at the same time being lucid and credible enough to the wider world. But what can we not do! If we can create the knowledge we did within the group in such a short time frame, then we have the collective wit to crack this one all day long. We should start by looking at those criteria again within this blog.
And some reflection of my own. I became increasingly aware of a disengagement from my Holly enquiry from about an hour or two in on the first day. Although the first step was a bolt of lightening for me personally (a visual memory so strong and yet buried for decades) and the holly leaf itself so intriguing (I found out quite quickly in the laptop room that it is poisonous to humans; traditional winter fodder for cattle and sheep; a brilliant metaphor for Resilience given its role in ancient mid-winter festivals which have evolved into Christmas; and the basis for an emetic called “the black drink” used by Native Americans in some ceremonies, I could not devote energy to pursuing the steps when such an incredibly important issue had arisen for me with regard to Step 1. To make the point yet again, I saw that this most fundamental of steps, which it was vital for learners to authentically engage with, had the potential to prove tricky ground. It is vital that the young people I am going to invite into this space enter it aware of the potential value of honest disclosure of significant details of their inner world to fellow learners, but also knowingly so that whilst they will hopefully out of their comfort zone and into a learning zone, they should not find themselves floundering in a panic zone having over-shared experiences and then struggled to deal with the aftermath, real or imagined. Now as we are a learning community in that classroom, it is not solely my responsibility to know about and manage this: as a pedagogue, it is my responsibility to highlight this area of learning and carve some paths into it, so that everyone in the group can be part of learning about this area of emotional intelligence and devising how we might manage it for ourselves as a community. Deming says that everyone in the system should be put to work improving and evolving the quality of what goes on. And so, with this imperative before me, I diverted the rest of my energies to trying to construct, as my “presentation”, something which would capture the problem of sharing safely with others about the deeply personal associations which form the basis of the decision-making in Step 1 in a form which would work in that room in Rochdale when this discussion will open with 27 13yr-olds in September. And so I wasn’t really presenting about the 8 steps to my good colleagues in Bristol: I was only half there really. And I’m embarrassed about this on one hand given the deep and powerful authenticity of others’ presentations (Lamp-posts, Walls, Water, Death, Place-Marking, Trees, Dragonflies, Engineering with Water, Sand …. all their own microcosms of powerful ideas, learning, expression of self and social significance), but at the same time, the absolute imperative of informing that other learning community of younger learners in Rochdale, yet to establish full ownership of themselves and their journeys, over-rode everything. It had too and it has too. And so whilst the Holly leaf which I brought home I hope to have set in resin within a day or two as keepsake of my special time in Bristol, the mission is to ensure that the massive latent social value of the 8 Step process is exploited wherever possible. The 8 Steps’ profound power is in its ultimate positioning of the individual at a point equidistant between the furious energies of their private visions and the collective reality of a world of others’ and their well-being. It has the potential to create a potent connectedness, welded to the individual and then leading to others, a bridge to the world and other knowledge and an escape from the latent prison of the self. Our next step as those who were there for those two intense days marked so prophetically by a monsoon at their close (just check out the prominence of the references we made to “water” in those Wordles!) is to position our experiences half-way between that time and other communities then. So good job we have this blog for starters.
Keep up the fight.
And…..we also could do with revisiting the discussion of whether the 8 Steps are really sequential steps, or something else. It was obvious that everyone had moved quite freely between the steps in their thinking for much of the time, however I think that the baby would be well out with the bath water if we did not fix Step 1 as the first process. But is there a better metaphor which would reflect the inter-relatedness of much of the learning ? Shaofu’s image of ancient water distribution through a settlement might point in the right direction: a river is diverged into smaller streams to spread out and run through the houses before converging again at the other side of the settlement. If the smaller streams got to inter-link with each other also then this would be even better. I’ve tried to find a fan-out-into-a-matrix-and-fan-in-again image (preferably taken from from the air) of a settlement or irrigation system which might reflect the process and provide us with a geographical term or even place name which might help us describe it. I’m sure someone else can do better with this or some other line of thought…
One for Qing here. Reminds me of your presentation!
My thoughts may be a bit scattered here, but i wanted to respond. (The numbers are an attempt at ordering thoughts rather than being in anyway significant!)
1. I agree that the object as stage 1 has to be stage 1. The rest of the steps feel more flexible, but there (I think) should be a convergence, divergence, convergence type shape to the model.
2. I wonder if, in the questioning stage it is made explicit that enquirers should ask their own questions and seek those from others. this would feed the learning relationships power, and also give some space for structured sharing of the reasons why the chosen object ‘spoke’ in the way it did to the individual. This could serve to contain the more powerful/personal aspects to the enquiry.
3. I still don’t get how enquiry-based learning could be used within a GCSE qualification. But then, I don’t actually know anything about teaching GCSE qualifications.
4. thanks for sharing about your disengagement – I felt it too, I didn’t want to engage with the steps at the pace we were going (which was artificially fast) but actually wanted to luxuriate in that first step for longer. There are questions for us as facilitators of learning around pace I think. In our enquiry project last year we built in a lot of free time, and a few non-negotiable presentations of ideas – this focused the mind but gave relative freedom.
5. I think there needs to be guidance on how to decide which question to go with. I have used a technique called ‘the mincer’ for my work with creative partnerships which helps to drill down to the core issues and inserts some tension. I will look out the document and post it here when I find it. Whichever way it works I would like to explore techniques for decision making within the process as I think they will be needed.
Bang on with the suggestion that learners should be directed to collect questions from others during “Questioning” I reckon. Nice one!
Eagerly await “The Mincer” also: great name, which suggests putting ideas under real pressure. This has got to be valuable in our endeavour to communicate exactly the kind of EBL we are seeking to further evolve, ie. not some project which ends up in lost half-terms copying and pasting images of cars and horses.
And maybe a bit of disengagement was the price of the distance necessary to reflect on the 8 Step process itself, rather than a totally immersive experience. Cuts both ways I suppose.
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