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Compelling learning experiences

Having recently moved house I am now unpacking more of my office boxes and have been going back in time reviewing documents from QCA. One such document that I have come across I felt has some relevance to the new Education Inspection Framework and the 'quality of education'.


Compelling learning experiences: bringing learning to life

A compelling learning experience is a real and relevant context for learning through which young people recognise for themselves the importance of learning to their lives, both now and in the future.

Learning becomes compelling when young people take an active engagement with and responsibility for their own learning, increasing the impact and potential for future development.

A compelling learning experience:

· Gives learners a sense of autonomy, including the chance to think critically, make decisions, take responsibility and manage risks

· Offers opportunities for cooperation and collaboration

· Broadens horizons and raises aspirations, offering contexts that challenge learners and encourage them to step outside their comfort zone

· Is real and relevant, connecting learning at school to the world beyond the classroom

· Has a clear sense of audience and purpose

· Provides contexts that draw together several aspects of learning: connecting different subject disciplines, focusing on a specific subject, or linking learning through cross-curricular dimensions or the development of personal, learning and thinking skills

· Has clear learning outcomes relating to what learners need to know and understand, the skills they will acquire and the areas of personal development.

Compelling learning should be built around three curriculum questions:

What are we trying to achieve?

How will we organise the learning?

How will we know when we are achieving our aims?

What are we trying to achieve?

The first step is to be clear about the learning outcomes you want to achieve through any compelling learning experience. These could be identified through discussions with staff and learners. Keep the following questions in mind during your planning:

What do your learners need to know, understand and be able to do as a result of this learning experience?

What skills and personal qualities do you want them to develop?

How does this learning experience build on previous learning?

How will it contribute to future learning?

Another starting point is to look at the locality of your school to design learning experiences that are real and relevant – such as participation in a local regeneration or sustainability project, a local art group or a business or STEM project.

National and international events/competitions such as the World Skills Show or major sporting events provide opportunities for compelling learning experiences, as do partnerships with other schools across MATS or in different countries.

These rich learning experiences should increase opportunities for learners to: plan an event and take responsibility, show leadership, work alongside experts or members of the wider community, work in teams and fulfil the curriculum aims.

How do we organise the learning?

Once you are clear about what you want to achieve, establish the types of experiences which could bring about those outcomes.

Integrating compelling learning experiences into your curriculum should involve:

· Matching time allocation to learning need (for example short, frequent and regular for skill development; longer periods of time for deeper and more immersive learning)

· Getting the right people involved (for example using experts from within and outside of your school community to help bring learning to life)

· Putting learning in the right setting (for example planning learning opportunities in and outside of the classroom, working in partnership with schools and learners in other countries)

· Choosing the right approaches to teaching and learning (for example getting the balance between instructional and active approaches)

· Setting clear quality criteria (for example, ‘We will know this learning experience has been successful if our learners …..’)

· Recognising where good connections can be made with other aspects of the curriculum (either in other subjects, cross-curricular dimensions or personal, learning and thinking skills).

How will we know when we are achieving our aims?

You will only be able to evaluate the impact of a compelling learning experience if you have been clear about both expectations and learning outcomes from the start.

To evaluate the impact effectively, you will need to establish what knowledge and skills learners already possess. During the experience, observe and collect evidence of success, from a wide range of sources appropriate to the context. Learners are one of the most valuable sources of information, both in relation to themselves and others. Be systematic in identifying the sort of evidence you would expect to see if the learning is achieving what it set out to do. This should be qualitative as well as quantitative, if appropriate.

At the end of the experience, ask all those involved to share their views, remembering to focus your questions on the learning outcomes.

Finally, consider how your findings will inform future experiences to make a positive difference to future teaching and learning. (taken from QCA 2008)

A career related learning programme is A sequence of learning activities that covers:

1. Content

2. Differentiation

3. Career Guidance Theory

4. Teaching methods

5. Assessment and accreditation (if appropriate)

6. Timing of activities

7. Curriculum location

8. Monitoring, review & evaluation

Andrews and Hooley (The Careers Leader Handbook pg 24) suggest that your programme should be

universal, progressive, student centred and outcome focused.

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