The third Learning Futures engagement pamphlet Drawing on two years of work with over forty schools, this pamphlet is the third publication from the Learning Futures programme.  Here we examine what schools need to do in order to increase the authentic engagement of their students, and present findings that argue that schools themselves need to become more engaged – as learning communities, in learning outside school, in partnership with local communities and parents – if they are to see deeper engagement in their students.

I’m the lead researcher on this project and some of the key design principles are set out below:

Building on what we learned from year one, we can now identify several design principles which inform Learning Futures pedagogies.  These aren’t rules and they don’t form a blue print – they are design principles. We like to work with the jazz metaphor for organisational and professional learning  – here are some key harmonies and melodies which make the music distinctive, but each time a group plays, they produce something original and unique which reflects the context.  All of the principles operate at three levels: the organisation as a whole, teacher practices and student experiences.  A school is a complex adaptive system, where these principles are interdependent and together generate more than the sum of the individual parts.  It’s down to each school to draw on their own wisdom and experience in how they co-generate their own learning at each of the three levels.

School level design principles

The main school level Learning Futures themes have been refined into:

  • School as basecamp
  • Enquiry-based learning
  • School as learning commons
  • Extended learning relationships

Design principles for learning facilitators

A Language for learning: a rich language for learning through which we can talk about ourselves as learners and develop and own our own learning story.

Authenticity: the personal involvement of the learner in selecting a focus for their enquiry which has meaning and relevance to them in their lives beyond the classroom.

Active engagement: the production of discourse, products or performances that have relevance to learners beyond school and require more active engagement than simply repetition, retrieval of information and memorisation of facts or rules.

Enquiry: the co-construction of knowledge through disciplined enquiry which involves building on a prior knowledge base, striving for in-depth understanding and expressing findings through elaborated communication.

Coaching and Mentoring: learning relationships which are facilitative and empower the learner to take responsibility for their own learning over time.

Authentic assessment: both formative and summative which moves seamlessly between the personal and the public and is meaningful and real to the learner, their subject matter and their community.

Design principles for assessing student learning experiences

Core elements of the student experience that seem to enable students to do enquiry well include:

  • Self reflection and ownership of a learning identity and personal learning power
  • Structured choice of object or topic for learning
  • Generation of a range of information types through experiencing, observing, describing, questioning and uncovering stories
  • Knowledge mapping
  • Knowledge construction through higher order creative and critical thinking
  • Connecting with existing funds of knowledge
  • Negotiation and planning of externally agreed assessment criteria
  • Authentic assessment  events – public, presentation or exhibition

Design principles for  Coaching for Learning:

  • Encourage  authentic language for learning
  • Invite stories of the self as learner for identity formation and reflection
  • Use metaphor and image to access personal knowledge
  • Use the seven dimensions of learning power to scaffold enquiry
  • ‘Talk aloud’  to model  and co-construct new knowledge

The new Learning Futures pamphlet presents the big picture while the Learning Futures Evaluation Report 2010 unpacks more details. Both are now available on the learning futures website. This paper will also be a focus for the Professional Collaborative Enquiry masters unit offered at the University of Bristol in January.