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PurposedPSI May 2, 2011

Posted by IaninSheffield in Musings.
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I’ve enjoyed reading the 500words campaign posts immensely. I even contributed to the 3×5 images. I discussed the topic over a pint whilst on holiday away with friends (some teachers, some not) and even floated the notion with a blog post in the school ICT ‘newsletter.’ And yesterday I attended the first Purposed Summit at Sheffield.

I was fortunate to enjoy some passionate speakers, stimulating discussion and innovative ideas, but … I’m still not sure I’ve quite got it. I understand the need for a discussion of the purpose of education and I celebrate raising the issue … but I don’t quite yet understand to what end? If I follow correctly, it’s to influence policy makers i.e. the government, or perhaps more correctly given the timescale of the campaign, the aspirant government. But at the risk of becoming repetitive … to what end? Is it simply to raise the level of political educational debate beyond the tired rhetoric of performance, curriculum and examinations and re-examine what education can and should be about? Or is it to go beyond the debate, suggesting possible alternate futures?

(Thanks to Kevin McLaughlin for helping me begin to come to terms with it all in this short clip which became available subsequent to me composing this post.)

I’m not a great wordsmith. I couldn’t have written a 500 word post with even a fraction the eloquence that the 60+ contributors managed. When I thought about preparing a 3×3 presentation for PurposedPSI, I really struggled to find a focus with which to answer the question – ‘What is the purpose of education.’ In the end I wondered instead about what the campaign is up against and what might act in its favour, making these notions concrete using a force-field analysis. With purposed, we seem to be at a turning point and that made me think of Janus, the Roman God of transitions or new beginnings, often symbolically represented with two heads, one looking to the past and one to the future … which seemed quite apposite! So what are the factors which will act against or provide support for, a debate on the purpose of education? Or what is the purpose of education versus what should the purpose of education be?

Change in educationSo we have a system with an inordinate preoccupation with examination results – what prominent item do we see in school newsletters, on school websites, on noticeboards, discussed in assemblies, displayed in classrooms and on corridors. What do the majority of parents first look at when considering a secondary school … if they have a choice! This is continued with accountability by and competition in league tables – schools are compared with schools, subjects with other subjects and teachers with teachers. Is there any wonder it’s at the forefront of anyone’s mind? To what end? Are students now leaving school better equipped to deal with the world they emerge into? The National Curriculum – yes students should have a core entitlement … but did they nor have that before its introduction? OK it was the exam boards who largely determined what students studied rather than the government, but surely there was greater individual choice in what subjects to pursue? With an increase in the number of single parent families and an increase in the number of families with two parents who both work, school’s role as a child-minder has become even more significant – wonder how many parents would benefit from a reduction in the length of school holidays? All but the smallest, isolated rural schools are organised to suit the needs of groups, whether it’s the whole population, year groups, subject cohorts, classes or forms … but aren’t organised around the needs of individuals.

Looking to the future are possibilities; opportunities which offer potential. Education needn’t be just about what’s inside the school security fence, five days a week between 8.30 and 4.30. Is it right for all individuals until 16 or 18 or 21? Why shouldn’t it be flexible and accessible for students when they want (need?) it during the day and throughout their lives? Can’t we begin to exploit our connectedness and access to resources to better adapt provision to learner needs?

You doubtless disagree with the length of the arrows indicating the notional importance of each factor related to others. I’m certain you’ll also have factors I didn’t think of or feel the ones I’ve included are irrelevant. But what about the overall picture? As it stands, this analysis suggests that moving forward is going to tough; the sum of the factors acting to the left outweighing those acting to the right. So which can we influence by reducing or increasing their effect? What do you think?

purpos/ed book May 1, 2011

Posted by IaninSheffield in Inspiration, Resources.
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purpos/ed book

purpos/ed book

Being given a copy of the purpos/ed book at the #PurposedPSI event yesterday was a nice gesture and a most welcome surprise.

Great to have all the wonderful posts from all contributors to 500 words in one easily accessible place. In addition to thanking Doug and Andy for this smart idea, thanks go to Chris Ratcliffe at Scholastic for funding the production.

Whilst it would be nice to keep the book and refer back to the posts from time to time (a bit quicker than trawling back through all the individual posts), I’m wondering whether I can make my copy work a bit harder?

Think I’m going to be putting mine in the staffroom and pointing staff at it. Perhaps those who’d never think of reading a blog post might have a mooch as they’re munching through their bean salad. Maybe I can even entice them into giving some feedback or making a comment; who knows, they might even let me record it and post it online! Small steps Ian. Small steps.

Follow up:

purpos/ed book in staffroomAnd here it is

I’m going to be needing another copy just for me now. Maybe you’d like to do something similar? If so, there are more details how you can set about ordering yours here.

#PurposedPSI Barcamp – Student Voice May 1, 2011

Posted by IaninSheffield in CPD, Inspiration.
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Initiated and facilitated by Peter, the group session centred on how the student voice could contribute to the #purposed debate. An eclectic mix included colleagues representing primary, secondary, independent and maintained schools, together with colleagues from business, enabled the discussion to range far and wide.

Recognising the importance of securing student input into the debate, we quickly acknowledged the possibility that undertaking this exercise might prove rather inimidating for many teachers and/or schools. Students are likely to be forthright and perhaps unguarded in what they say and the outcomes might prove uncomfortable for some. One forum through which student opinion might be enlisted is Facebook and whilst its popularity and ubiquity (at least in older students) might seem appealing, the possibility of releasing a genie gave further cause for concern and this would need to be a route taken only with the greatest care.

Clare shared a simple way she solicited student opinions, asking each of her classes to provide their answers during a lesson plenary. This was done using sticky notes which she kindly brought along and we were privileged to have the chance to read. (Hopefully she’ll get the chance to share these responses more widely later!)

Student responses to #purposed from @dailydenouement

The discussion also ranged beyond student voice to parents and that a shift in mindset might be necessary before many would even begin to consider this a topic open for debate. Many have very fixed (and perhaps narrow?) views concerning the purpose of education; lifting the lid may benefit most from initiating local initiatives within local communities.

Concern was expressed that this might be perceived as one more opportunity for a tokenistic approach to enabling student voice, yet this clearly depends on the way it is approached. The range and depth of the responses Clare’s students provided shows they clearly have opinions; we just need to find ways to allow them to express that in open and meaningful ways.

Discussion courtesy of: