Students should be both seen and heard

14 October 2008

Students should be both seen and heardFindings from the first three years of Futurelab’s Enquiring Minds programme, which is supported by Microsoft, reveal that students working in partnership with their teachers and playing a part in designing their own curriculum are more confident, engaged and positive about school.

Published this week, the report draws upon the detailed study of two schools implementing the programme, observation of over 200 hours of Enquiring Minds lessons and interviews with over 70 students and teachers. Providing an insight into the challenges, obstacles and opportunities experienced by the schools running the programme, the research is a valuable accompaniment to the practical guidebook which enables teachers to implement Enquiring Minds in their own schools.

At the heart of the report is the reaction of teachers and students to a new curriculum model that offers students and teachers more choice and greater flexibility around how to learn - creating a picture of what personalisation can actually mean in practice.

With Enquiring Minds, students and teachers take joint ownership for learning. This report shows how fostering stronger relationships between teachers and students can have a positive impact on education. Through the programme, lessons were shaped and based upon learners’ own experiences, abilities and knowledge. Teachers were supported to engage in dialogue with students to determine what and how they learn. The report reveals that, as a result, students viewed school as more meaningful and connected to them.

The project also challenges the current value of assessment in schools. Pupils on the programme engaged in regular and constructive conversations with their teachers about their work and progress. They reported more confidence and motivation using this approach than being presented with assessment results and marked written work.

The message from the project is clear: creating a collaborative classroom where students and teachers work together to develop relevant learning experiences can result in students that are more interested and excited by learning. The challenge however, lies in supporting teachers to achieve this.

Ben Williamson, Senior Researcher at Futurelab, commented: "Children need to view school as something that is intimately related to their everyday lives. Personalised learning should be about constructive conversations between students and teachers. To do this we need to recognise more effectively who children are and what they are doing, both outside and inside school. Then we need to bring this knowledge into the classroom."

Currently Enquiring Minds is being developed and adopted in schools nationwide, using support materials that are available on www.enquiringminds.org.uk, including the Enquiring Minds guidebook and videos from schools involved in the programme. For further support in adopting an Enquiring Minds approach school, go to Microsoft’s Innovative Teachers Network (uk.innovativeteachers.com). The Enquiring Minds report, Schools, Knowledge and Educational Change is also available to download free from the Enquiring Minds website.

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