Personalised learning in UK Secondary schools April 11, 2010Posted by Editor21C in Directions in Education, Engaging Learning Environments, Secondary Education.
Tags: curriculum, personalised learning
From Dr Susanne Gannon
Late last year Dr Robyn Gregson, Dr Susanne Gannon and Secondary Head of Program Allan Morton spent time at two extraordinary schools in northern England that are reimagining the future of secondary schooling. Both Cramlington Community High School, in Northumberland, and Darlington Education Village, near Leeds, are large schools with federated structures. Innovation infuses each of these schools right through from architecture and design to staffing and curriculum. Despite the homogenising effects of the well-established UK National Curriculum and Ofsted inspections, both Cramlington and Darlington have brought personalised learning and interdisciplinary curriculum into their distinctive approaches to 21st century learning. Cramlington has moved away from an “atomised curriculum and timetable” to problem based and applied inquiry learning in all discipline areas, aiming to blend the best of old and new. Cramlington Community High School has a Science focus and has been designated a “Leading Edge” school. Collaboration and technology infuse student learning and teachers plan through the Cramlington cycle. In year 8 content has been refocused as questions to create “transdiciplinary units” such as “Is God a mathematician?” and “What’s the ‘great’ in Great Britain mean?” Year 7 students learn metacognitive and other powerful learning strategies in the Learning to Learn program. Year 9 students complete Humanities projects and Yr 10 and 11 follow the iCitizen program. Darlington Education Village is situated in a disadvantaged urban area where low student aspirations are an ongoing issue. It is a federation of a high school, primary school and special education school and has endeavoured to bring the personalised learning approach of special education into the mainstream, particularly for students at risk. The school specialises in Arts, Technology and Vocational education. All students have opportunities for personalised learning and choice across a wide range of curriculum offerings. Students are actively involved in target setting and tracking their learning progress. In the first year of secondary school, students are with the same teacher for half their time in the subject Opening Minds which combines a variety of subjects for theme-based study. Units develop explicit skills in learning, managing information, relating to people, managing situations and citizenship. The collaboratively designed school buildings are light and open and provide innovative learning spaces that are used by the wider community for a variety of purposes outside school hours. A distributed model of leadership was important for building capacity and sustainability. It was very clear to us the processes of change at each school had been underpinned by transformative models of leadership driven by strong vision and values, sensitive to local environments and conditions, collaborative and collegial relationships and preparedness to be creative and unconventional, and to take risks where required to achieve a shared vision. Teacher quality and development are seen as crucial by both schools and a range of robust professional development and further study opportunities are provided for teachers. Both schools are accredited partners in teacher education provision.
Susanne Gannon, Course Adviser, Master of Education (Leadership), University of Western Sydney