Curricular models in Scotland

I’ve just concluded a survey of curricular models adopted in Scottish schools. Academically robust it isn’t but it does seem to indicate that only about a third of schools are implementing a broad general education into S3 with many schools opting to begin courses leading to National 4 and 5 certification.

You can access the summary below.

Structures Survey summary report

Please help: Nursery/early years teachers survey

A colleague at Edinburgh University is conducting research into science and mathematics in the nursery and early years (ages 3-8) across Europe as part of a wider project to enhance creativity. It would help us greatly if there were more respondents from Scotland in the next few days.

If you are a nursery or early years practitioner please consider taking a few minutes to complete this survey:

There is an opportunity to be more involved in this project but for now, a few minutes of your time will enrich the findings by adding to the Scottish response. Thank you for your help.

Interview: games-based learning

I received an audioboo message over the weekend from Jon Gill asking me if I’d contribute to his research on games-based learning by taking part in an interview. That interview took place this evening. Jon’s reason for wanting to talk to me was to try and get the balancing perspective on games-based learning, following my review of the week boo last November in which I expressed my inability to “get” games-based learning.

We spent well over the planned 30 minutes talking around many aspects of gbl: engagement as opposed to cognitive development being one of the main points of my perspective. He seemed interested in my description of a games-based approach sans technology being used by a local primary school teacher to provide an engaging and rich context for teaching mathematics, but dragging in literacy, health and well-being, produce, enterprise along the way. This is a game loosely based upon the Facebook Farmville application, named “Parkville”, which has been very successful in primary 4 to 6.

an hour of interesting dialogue, looking forward to further developments.

SSAC Science Education Workshop

I attended a Scottish Science Advisory Council workshop led by Professor Jim Hough at Glasgow University on Tuesday evening. I arrived a few minutes late and missed the opening remarks from Professor Anne Glover, the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser. The scene was set by presentations from Professor Nigel Brown for the Universities, Dr. Allan Colquhoun for Industry, Ronna Montgomery for Schools and Dr. Elsa Ekevall for STEM-ED Scotland. Each presented a prompt using a common structure including what barriers and challenges exist from each of these perspectives around the theme of the workshop: how to enhance science education links between schools, universities and business to support the delivery of the curriculum for excellence. It was interesting to compare and contrast the different perspectives of these stakeholders through these presentations:

  • Universities
    • consider how they meet the needs of industry
    • see compartmentalisation of education (into discrete subjects) as a barrier
    • identify the need to enhance and deploy mathematical skills and competence
    • identify the need to overcome the idea (in the public perception) that science is fixed
  • Industry
    • is driven by shareholder value
    • is reliant on skills of people (“apart from the people, there’s only furniture here”)
    • adds value through skills
    • observes that innovation in schools is inversely proportional to age
    • in self-interest, is keen to have more people studying physics and mathematics
    • is supportive of education through e.g. “Rampaging Chariots” (Science Festival) and EngD/MEng
    • sees that there are too many initiatives
    • is concerned that CfE cross-curricular emphasis is a risk, from topics being absorbed into the mainstream (might they lose their inspirational flavour?)
    • identifies the demographic dip in the population of 20-year olds until 2020 as a challenge
    • is concerned about gender balance
  • Schools
    • the IoP invests around a thousand pounds per year for every physics teacher in the UK
    • Barriers: …gender imbalance (barriers to improving this being school management and guidance staff)
    • …compartmentalisation
    • …pupils are sent to university too early
    • … mathematics is a tool – skills are not transferred
    • … guidance teachers (in general) are desperately ignorant
    • … university drop-out rates
    • suggest that there is (dead) time at the end of the exams until Jun for S6 to gain work experience
    • prompt the government to “watch the curriculum” – a coherent approach is needed across the country; choices should not be too soon; curricular models should not disadvantage pupils transferring between schools
    • suggest that STEM careers are not popular
    • pupils are deterred by stereotypical images (the wacky-hair Einstein image, for example)
    • numeracy and literacy skills need significant funding and time
    • point out successes with the Baccalaureate, Glow

The thing that struck a chord with me is the common emphasis on skills. Skills are key to the success of the education system in delivering research, development, but most particularly people. Skills – or rather the lack of their development – also seem to be behind the recent “prelim disaster” across our S4 cohort and is the focus of my remediation efforts for them.

Time was against us so the planned breakout groups were consolidated into a single group discussion, led by Dr. Martin Hendry of the University of Glasgow. The discussion was charged with considering three questions: (1) what 3 things should Scotland do to enhance links between schools, universities and business to support the delivery of CfE; (2) what needs to be put in place to do this, and (3) what can Scotland learn from elsewhere?

The discussion was lively and interesting; there exist several different perspectives on where we are with CfE, which I was happy to share a perspective on. The significant key theme in the answers to these questions was the importance of skills;  also the development of teachers – CPD is not enough – the phrase professional learning was used to illustrate the need for teachers to be aware of where science and engineering is right now, and to keep that awareness up to date. Stakeholders were considered to extend the concept of “business” to include public service and the military.

There was time after the event to mingle and continue the discussion informally. I had the pleasure of discussion with a number of delegates, including Professor Andrew Long, Chair of the IoP in Scotland and Fred Young, CEO of SSERC.

The workshop was concluded with a few remarks by Professor Glover, who reminded us of Scotland’s Culture of Engineering as still being relevant and part of the positive public attitude towards scientists and engineers. Dr. Hendry summarised the responses the workshop had collectively produced to the questions put and suggested that the forum might meet again to carry forward support for policy.

3 hours of first-class development

World Café: preparation

I’ve volunteered to facilitate one of the World Café tables at the Scottish Learning Festival Teachmeet on Wednesday evening. Talking to David Noble about it, we’ve set the idea around the theme of Personal Learning Networks and how they can be used to amplify Continuing Professional Development. I was thinking in particular about this site, my online CPD log, but other, probably better, examples like Doug Belshaw‘s “Things I Learned This Week” as vehicles to sharing good practice across a wide group of people.

I’ve done some research into the World Café concept and am looking forward to seeing how it works out.

1 hour

Edonis project interview

Edonis Project

Yesterday morning, I was interviewed by David Noble as part of his research for the edonis project, which David describes in his tagline as, “an interpretive study of the social web and PLNs”, in which “PLN” is the TLA* for “personal learning network”.

David is the consummate interviewer: he offered a good deal of flexibility in the logistics and sufficient information and reassurance before the interview proper to allow me to be relaxed, focused and hopefully sufficiently forthcoming for his purposes.

The finished interview may well finish up as one of his already fascinating series of professional interviews, which he publishes via iTunes and the edonis ning. We touched upon several areas, including what my experience of online learning has been as a student and as a teacher, and online relationships, including how I have evolved my use of things like social media and other channels to meet the needs of my students.

I found answering David’s questions fruitful for me as a review of what it is that I have managed to do in the few years since I became a secondary school teacher in the Scottish State school system, and to see clearly the varying degrees of success I have had with this. I’m looking forward to hearing the editorial cut and am glad to have been able to participate in this important research project.

1 hour

* three-letter acronym

Research Proposal

Last year, I put a research proposal in to Edinburgh University looking at a number of areas related to the articulation between the Physics and Mathematics curricula. I didn’t proceed then due to financial constraints but the opportunity presented itself this year, so I  contacted the Uni and revised my proposal.

I then went to Moray House and met with my academic reference, Bob Kibble and the Ed.D. programme co-ordinator, Dr. Charles Anderson, to discuss the draft. They were robustly helpful and supportive and offered a lot of ideas to help me firm up the proposal.

Over the autumn term, I have thought very carefully about proceeding with an Ed.D. and have decided that my situation is none too secure enough to undertake such a demanding course of research and study. I have shelved the idea for the time being.

10 hours