What is a Learning Culture in your school?
Learning Cultures is the name of our company because we believe that where learning is the priority, the absolute goal and the passion that fosters excellence, positive change happens. Everything we do is driven by our own deep conviction that we must build a culture where we know all pupils can succeed, all teachers can and do deliver the highest quality pedagogy and leaders, managers and teams inspire a deep love of learning that cascades to embrace every learner from the youngest pupil to the nearly retired member of staff. Learning is at the heart of all our courses and programmes. Start your journey towards excellence with Learning Cultures. We have courses linked to Coaching, Curriculum, Teaching & Learning, Leadership & Quality and Wellbeing. We offer courses in venue, online as webinars or on demand packages. Explore how we can create a learning culture in your school or college by reading the content of this newsletter.
Ten strategies that shape excellence and continuous improvement
- Knowing the vision for continuous improvement in curriculum, pedagogy, learning, behaviour and well-being
- Creating a cohesive and sequential curriculum that builds on prior learning, is concept rich, inclusive and has depth and breadth
- Know your pupils and how they learn and create opportunities for their voice to be heard
- Developing effective teams that share the vision and build collaborative excellence and improvement
- Weaving a strategy for reading in particular and literacy more widely that transcends all subjects and other aspects of learning
- Ensuring that maths concepts learnt in maths lessons are embedded where they apply in the context of learning in other subjects
- Defining powerful strategies for transition across key stages and year groups
- Building the spaces that foster deep learning
- Designing CPD that fosters a learning culture and has an impact on whole school improvement and excellence
- Finally, but of the utmost importance having leadership that fosters a culture of trust, self-belief and challenge for all staff and learners
Knowing the vision for continuous improvement in curriculum, pedagogy, learning, behaviour and well-being
Creating a learning culture is a vision in itself. Where learning is at the heart of every decision and ambition for success across the school there is a collective belief that all pupils and staff can continuously improve and succeed in all their endeavours. The senior leadership team are pivotal in defining the school vision that embraces what the school wants to achieve, how the school wants to be seen in terms of its beliefs in relation to pupils, teachers and others and what is needed to ensure that all can achieve their full potential.
The focus on the curriculum is also an essential part of the vision and ensuring curriculum excellence, innovation and deep learning through dynamic pedagogy should be orchestrated by the senior team and be an essential goal for every teacher, subject leader and all of those who support learning and achievement.
Creating a cohesive and sequential curriculum that builds on prior learning, is concept rich, inclusive and has depth and breadth
Learning the curriculum is at the heart of determining the strategies that will deliver the highest quality of education. Curriculum is the dominant feature of the quality of education judgements in the Ofsted handbook. Section 2 of the new ISI framework focuses on the importance of curriculum and learning. However, in order to create the evidence of how well the curriculum is designed and delivered schools need to demonstrate their commitment to creating a vision and rationale that emphasises how all staff are an integral part of creating a learning culture that ensures all of the components of curriculum design are woven together to build depth, breadth and profound understanding.
Pupils learn well where they have the opportunity to build on their prior knowledge, where content is sequenced pupils deepen their learning and grow in their desire for more. Creating opportunities for recall, reflection and inter-subject and cross-curricular collaboration allows pupils to see meaning in their learning. If subject experts know and emphasise the key concepts that define each unique subject pupils can extend their knowledge and deepen their understanding. Where concepts transcend subject boundaries there are real opportunities to enrich learning and memory.
Know your pupils and how they learn and create opportunities for their voice to be heard
Knowing how pupils learn, what makes them sit up and listen and what ignites their passion or enthusiasm to find out more is the key to opening their minds to want to absorb knowledge, remember the important facts and see meaning in the many different concepts that they will encounter along their journey through school and beyond. Understanding the many factors that might impede learning will create for the teacher the awareness and understanding that leads them to find right pedagogy to inspire a learning culture.
The more pupils can have their own voice heard in the co-construction of the curriculum, their timetable for learning and the environment that they learn within the more they feel included and an integral part of the decision making process. Their involvement is about accountability and a shared desire to have a meaningful part to play in the success of their school and their involvement in how they define and achieve their goals and ambitions.
Developing effective teams that share the vision and build collaborative excellence and improvement
It is to the symbiotic relationship of those who create successful teams that schools can realise their vision and achieve a lasting learning culture. Each organisation will have teams that support curriculum delivery, the pastoral process, the essential focus on excellence in pedagogy and the well-being of all those who learn and teach.
The development of effective teams requires careful leadership, a commitment to the vision and expertise in how to ensure that the rationale and ambition for pupils, staff and others within a school can continue to be a part of continuous improvement and have the conviction and commitment to create the highest quality of education. Creating opportunities to develop professional learning communities where individuals can share their expertise, learn from each other and make positive change happen is one of the ways to ensure a learning culture is embedded successfully across every aspect of school life.
Weaving a strategy for reading in particular and literacy more widely that transcends all subjects and other aspects of learning
Maybe reading should be at the top of this list but as it is not meant to be in any particular order as each of these 10 strategies is a part of whole approach to the philosophy of excellence and continuous improvement. However, it is so true to say that reading has to be a priority for everyone who cares about learning and wants all pupils to achieve. Reading happens in every subject, it is a part of everyone’s life inside and outside school and it is our passport to lifelong learning.
Where reading is at the heart of the school vision and is an essential element of planning the curriculum in every subject, across the wider curriculum and as part of the relationship with parents and other stakeholders pupils thrive and learn deeply and with confidence. Planning must focus on how pupils learn to read, continue to develop their skills in comprehension and become adept at reading for pleasure, for purpose and for deepening subject knowledge over time.
Every subject leader and every curriculum team should work together to ensure that all pupils can access the vocabulary and the conceptual language within subjects and across the curriculum. All teachers should be able to identify those pupils who have problems with reading, with comprehension and with concentration and be able to identify what is wrong and how they can help.
Ensuring that maths concepts learnt in maths lessons are embedded where they apply in the context of learning in other subjects
Maths and numeracy are not just the domain of the maths department. Maths is everywhere, perspective and symmetry in art, scale and statistics in geography, equations, graphs and symbols in science, measurement and trigonometry in design technology to name but a few of the many opportunities teachers of subjects other than maths use maths to make sense of learning.
Where pupils can apply their learning of maths concepts across a range of subjects they consolidate their learning and evidence suggests their skills in maths improve and they begin to understand the purpose of learning some of the many concepts that otherwise seem isolated from reality. Creating opportunities for greater synergy between how maths concepts are taught, the vocabulary and the methods in a range of subjects is powerful professional development and provides for all teachers with a rich vein of learning and understanding of the power of maths to improve the potential for learning across a range of subjects.
Defining powerful strategies for transition across key stages and year groups
There is powerful evidence that pupils dip in performance at times of transition, especially when they move from primary to secondary school, where research suggests there is anything up to a 40% dip in performance of pupils from the end of year 6 to the end of year 7. Imagine turning that around so that pupils increased their potential to deepen their learning over that time. All points of transition are times of change and challenge for pupils and the more they are understood in terms of the effect on pupils’ ability to learn, retain knowledge and have feelings of belonging the more likely they are to carry on developing as successful learners.
Where it is recognised that transition affects learning and can create feelings that overwhelm strategies are implemented that build confidence, resilience and self-belief pupils are so much more likely to thrive. Where teachers work in partnership with previous key stages phases especially between key stage 2 and 3 the opportunity to build on prior learning, understand pupils’ strengths and gaps in learning and what motivates them to learn the results are outstanding.
Building the spaces that foster deep learning
Research into the science of learning, cognitive science, clearly shows that the learning environment is very important to ensuring that pupils are able to listen, to concentrate and to absorb and remember essential knowledge. Too busy and the potential for the mind to wander to take in distractions that are not related to the particular focus of the lesson or the topic. Where there are opportunities for dual-coding, using pictures as well as the written word for instance they should be carefully chosen so that both enhance the learning, where the picture is purely window dressing it is of no value to the learning.
The physical space is also very important, the colours of the walls, the corridors, the shape of a room, whether the desks are in rows or are set out for group work and light all matter and have part to play in creating the right conditions for pupils to learn well. Other environmental considerations are whether there are plants in a classroom, in the corridors and in the grounds outside. The more care and attention given to create an atmosphere that say we care about where you learn the more learning will take place.
Designing CPD that fosters a learning culture and has an impact on whole school improvement and excellence
Teachers at whatever stage they are in their career and whatever status they have gained are professionals and as such have a right to continuing professional development and learning (CPDL). Pedagogy is a craft and a skill that is nurtured through profoundly effective training and opportunities to practice and reflect. Senior leaders, middle and subject leaders, teachers and Teaching Assistants and Cover Supervisors all need opportunities to learn, to grow in their role and to share their expertise with their colleagues.
A learning culture is not just about the pupils it is about every member of staff as well. Where CPDL is an integral element of the strategic vision for whole school improvement there is a shared commitment to building the highest quality of teaching, curriculum and pupil achievement. CPDL must be an integral part of the school development plan, be highly relevant in relation to the contribution each member of staff makes to ensuring successful outcomes for all. Creating a sustainable and cost-effective CPDL strategy can be achieved using coaching at its heart. Coaching is about self-belief, self-awareness and the sharing and cascading of good practice.
Finally, but of the utmost importance having leadership that fosters a culture of trust, self-belief and challenge for all staff and learners
The CPD standards for teachers set by the DfE in 2016 state clearly that ‘professional development should be prioritised by school leadership’. Continuing professional development is an integral part of creating and sustaining a learning culture. The prevailing acronym has an L added to CPD which indicates the absolute ambition that professional development leads to learning and contributes to continuing and sustained whole school improvement. It is to the headteacher or principal and their senior teams to create the conditions, provide the resources including time and space for teachers and others to ensure evidence informed CPDL leads to excellence and improvement for all.
Where senior leaders have the confidence and presence to trust teams of professionals to engage in collaborative conversations and use evidence informed professional development to continually question the status quo there is a profound atmosphere of commitment, coherence and challenge. Where there is a focus on quality assurance and the fostering of knowledge engaged pedagogy pupils and their teachers learn together. Whether for the whole school vision and rationale, subject and curriculum excellence or phase, team or individual goal setting planning must be supported and must marry with a process of continuing professional learning. Where this is embedded it is clear to see that a culture of learning is very much in evidence.
Learning Cultures is the name of our company because we believe that where learning is the priority, the absolute goal and the passion that fosters excellence, positive change happens. Everything we do is driven by our own deep conviction that we must build a culture where we know all pupils can succeed, all teachers can and do deliver the highest quality pedagogy and leaders, managers and teams inspire a deep love of learning that cascades to embrace every learner from the youngest pupil to the nearly retired member of staff. Learning is at the heart of all our courses and programmes. Start your journey towards excellence with Learning Cultures Coaching Curriculum, Teaching & Learning Leadership & Quality Wellbeing