Future excellence in learning depends on greater collaboration between leading edge schools and education researchers, according to a report published next week by the think tank Demos on behalf of the Learning Working Group . Teachers are adopting new approaches to help students learn more effectively and some of these methods are better than others. Moreover there is room for developing yet better methods if practical developments in schools and the most promising advances in cognitive science could be brought together to ensure speedy and trustworthy new ways of ensuring that students learn more effectively.
The report About Learning, which was commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills, proposes the establishment of a Commission on Learning, with its own small permanent staff and budget. It would be tasked with improving the exchange of ideas between schools and cognitive scientists, and driving forward collaboration between the two communities. The report identifies independence in learning as one of the key areas where greater collaboration between education scientists and practitioners is required to promote excellence and raise standards.
“It’s time to learn from history,” says David Hargreaves , chairman of the Learning Working Group and Fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge. “There’s much talent and commitment among teachers and researchers to improving learning and learning to learn. At present, there’s no way of ensuring collaboration between leading edge practice in schools and new ideas being developed in the research community. Greater collaboration between the two communities is needed to drive the national agenda of raising standards and personalising learning.”
“A Commission on Learning is needed to ensure that the development of new ideas and their practical application in the classroom is accelerated. This would benefit the daily lives of teachers and learners, and the government’s own agenda of raising standards.”
The Commission would help raise standards in education by improving the exchange of knowledge and experience between education researchers and practitioners. It would be responsible for identifying outstanding practice in schools and colleges, and the most promising developments in the research community, in learning, independence in learning and learning to learn – “a family of learning practice that enhances students’ capacity to learn.” It would also be tasked with issuing a state of the art summary of knowledge about learning and learning to learn, which would be updated every three years.
The report makes a number of other recommendations, including:
- OfSTED should help establish explicit criteria by which good practice in learning to learn is identified and evaluated
- An Investors in Learning award, based on the successful Investors in People scheme, could come to play a powerful role in driving the ongoing process of continuously defining and redefining what is meant by the effective school
- Language about learning needs to be developed and evolved. Researchers, teachers and other stakeholders in education need to have a shared way of talking about learning, ensuring that good practice in education is made accessible to all
- More development and research (D&R) funds should be invested in educational practices that develop students as effective learners and especially as people with the capacity to become independent learners. Moreover, schools and colleges already engaged in relevant D&R such as the Campaign for Learning or Networked Learning Communities should become the sites for the next stage in a more systematic D&R programme
Notes to editors
1. About learning: Report of the Learning Working Group is published by Demos on Tuesday 18 January 2004. The report is available for free download from www.demos.co.uk or can be ordered from Central Books on 020 8986 5488.
2. The Learning Working Group was established in June 2004 by the Department for Education and Skills to consider the issue of learning. The project was managed by Demos.
3. The group comprised seven members:
a. three head teachers - Jackie Beere, head teacher, Campion School, Northamptonshire; Maggie Swindells, head teacher, Gorsey Bank Primary School, Cheshire; Derek Wise, head teacher, Cramlington Community High School, Northumberland
b. three cognitive scientists - Charles Desforges, Emeritus Professor of Education, University of Exeter; Usha Goswami, Professor of Education and Director, Centre for Neuroscience in Education, University of Cambridge; David Wood, Director of Learning Sciences, University of Nottingham
c. a chairman - David Hargreaves, Fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge.
4. The Learning Working Group’s Terms of Reference were:
a. to explore the development of a working vocabulary for practitioners and policymakers around the concept of learning or pupils of school age, taking account of the latest advances in research and in practice.
b. to clarify the concept of learning to learn, and to:
i. elucidate the link to learning in a more general sense;
ii. explore its components and associated ideas and practices;
iii. advise on how the evidence might be evaluated;
iv. suggest how demonstrating progression in this area might be developed;
v. advise on how good practice in this field might be judged and identified.
c. to advise on the implications of the above for the policy and the practice of personalised learning.
d. to consult, as appropriate, with relevant individuals, groups and organisations on these tasks.