Adapting schools to learning
Some schools have been adapting their practice over the last decade or so to try to accommodate the latest ideas in learning. There has been a genuine desire to improve learning outcomes (attainment standards) by better understanding the learning process itself. Study skills, Accelerated Learning, VAK, multiple intelligences, the requirement for water or fish oils, have all been promoted as ways to improve learning. More recently other approaches to improving learning, where the learner themselves is offered responsibility in the process, have been introduced into schools. These include Assessment for Learning, Philosophy for Children, Habits of Mind, Personal Learning and Thinking Skills, RSA Opening Minds and Building Learning Power. Given this raft of techniques and ideas it is little wonder that schools have become confused about the meaning, purpose and linkages between them, whether they make a difference, and how the ideas can be translated into practice.
Furthermore in aiming to improve students’ learning, many schools have worked hard to attain quality standards, such as Investors in People, that are designed to ensure that the elements of a ‘learning organisation’ form the basis on which the school develops.
The Learning Quality Standard blends the ideas of a ‘learning organisation’ with the latest ideas in the ‘how’ of learning, and aims to provide a route map for the learning journey. Using the Standard does not tie the school to a specific learning philosophy. It may be using one or a combination of learning approaches. What is important is that the learning approaches being developed are rooted in the learning sciences, and the psychology of learning.
In many quality standards the work of change is undertaken by senior or middle leaders which then impacts positively on other staff. With the Learning Quality Standard (LQS) the major work of change lies with classroom practitioners in shifting their teaching style to that of a learning coach; assisting students to become more confident, curious and independent learners. This significant shift takes time. It is estimated that working purposefully through all the LQS levels could take a school between five and eight years. So the LQF process is not a quick fix to raise examination results but rather a thoughtful culture change which expands young people’s capacity and appetite to learn, and expands the whole school’s organisational capacity to learn.
Here are just some of the views of people who have used the framework.
1) Bringing order to chaos
It made sense of my random thoughts. We have been struggling to think about what we needed to do next. We had lots of ideas but they were random and disorganised. The framework has drawn these all together. It’s the school’s plan for the future” Secondary School DH, Solihull
This is my development plan for the next five years.” Primary HT, Winchester
It gives us a very clear (but not easy) picture of the dynamic nature of learning. I know what classrooms need to be like now and we will gradually work towards this.” Primary School DH
Aha! Now I see where I am going; it all makes sense. This gives me the big picture. We have been working in a small area of this and when you are working down in the detail you lose sight of the whole. This gives me a route map for so many aspects of school life.” Secondary School DH, Birmingham
It will probably save SLT about 100 hours of thinking time. This framework has organised so many things about learning into a format that we can use with all staff.” Secondary School Assistant HT
It makes sense of so much of what we have been thinking about for a while. It’s as though our bitty incoherent thoughts have been plucked out of our heads and straightened out into something really useful.” Secondary School DH
2) Re-energising effort
We have been working with learning to learn for a little while now but it had started to fizzle out because we were unsure what to do next – how to grow it. This framework shows what we need to do – it’s the anti-freeze, giving the help we have needed/wanted.” Primary School HT
It’s really useful but the best thing is that its not a tick the box framework. It stimulates thinking rather than doing all the thinking for you. It gets you curious to find out more. We’ve had enough of being told what to do. This framework treats us like professionals. It guides you to find your own way through a long and challenging process.” Secondary School DH
It will be helpful to any school, irrespective of where they are on their journey.” Primary School DH
3) Upping the challenge
I didn’t know I was looking for this – now I’ve found it I don’t know how I could ever have functioned without it.” Primary School HT, Warwickshire
Our school wasn’t challenged by Ofsted. This framework gives us a whole new challenge – something worth working towards.” Grammar School HT
We owe the next generation more than we give them now. This framework shows us how to do that.” Academy HT
4) Flying the colours
We will use this framework to guide our journey and we will want our progress validating. Going for assessment at various milestones or staging posts will be our way of celebrating that progress.” Secondary School HT
At first I thought “We’ll just use this very useful framework by ourselves quietly. We don’t need to go for any external assessment.” But then I revised that idea. I realized that having a level in view and working towards recognition would give added impetus and purpose to our endeavours. We wanted to become that Silver Level school and we wanted to be recognized for our effort and expertise. This award gives public recognition that we are a different sort of school. We are ‘nailing our learning colours to the mast.’ Primary School HT