New research programme aims to change the way children learn

28 June 2005

Students involved in the Enquiring Minds research project Futurelab and Microsoft Ltd today announced detailed plans for their three year Enquiring Minds research programme, which will investigate how children can be effective in shaping their own learning.

The programme aims to develop new models of learning which redress the balance between 'knowing what' and 'knowing how' by allowing children to act as researchers and innovators while working closely with teachers to evaluate and improve their skills in these areas. It will develop activities and resources for children and teachers that enable young people to act not simply as the recipients of knowledge, but as its creators. This, in turn, will help to equip them with essential skills required for learning in the 21st century.

Key industry figures and partners from Government organisations such as the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) and Becta, along with Futurelab and Microsoft, gathered at the Design Museum in London to listen to outline plans and to discuss the implications of this ambitious project.

Existing education systems are coming up against increased challenges from young people, many of whom are becoming more disengaged with current teaching approaches and feel that their education is irrelevant to their everyday lives and future careers. The programme emphasises how education should be responsive to the needs of the individual and be able to maximise the variety of digital tools available, in order to ensure that young people are fully engaged in their own learning.

Through a series of research groups, school pilot schemes and analysis over a three year period the programme aims to develop:

Annika Small, Managing Director, Futurelab: "This is a challenging project which offers an exciting opportunity to develop a new way of thinking about children as owners of their own learning. We hope it will help to create a new relationship between children and teachers, and also give children a say on what they feel is important for them throughout their education."

Research focus

A young people's research group will be formed to identify and evaluate problems and issues in their communities and schools, inform the direction of the project and collaborate on its research and evaluation. Two focus schools have been selected to help develop and support the aims of the programme and young person's research group. They will be involved in the trialling and evaluation of existing and new digital tools to help turn the programme vision into a reality within the education system.

Chris Gardner, Head Teacher at Ashton Park School in Bristol, said: "It is important to see learners taking responsibility for their own learning process and achievement. This should begin in the classroom and be taken all the way through their working life. We are excited about being a part of this project and look forward to working with the children, teachers and project advisors to develop a new way of personalising the education system."

A selection of representatives from supporting Government agencies, including the DfES, the Scottish Qualifications Assessment (SQA) and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) have been invited to advise the programme and trial the tools and resources.

A second phase of research and trials in a wider selection of schools will take place following these initial tests. There is still some time for schools to apply to take part in this research and if any are interested they should contact Futurelab.

David Burrows, Director of Education, Microsoft Ltd, said, "Microsoft and Futurelab share a vision of students as creators of their own knowledge, supported by educators. We are very excited at the opportunity to work with such a visionary organisation to develop new models of learning, enabled by technology, that will fully engage children by putting them at the centre of their learning. This partnership is one of four agreements we have made this year under our Partners in Learning programme."

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