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Leadership & innovation., Teaching & Learning

Contextualising Real World Learning – The Journey so far…

Question: In any classroom at any given point, can students link the skills they are learning to real life? Can they understand the relevance of the subject in a real life context?

I know there’s a lot of pressure on students, staff, and parents alike, to achieve in the Governments ‘examination machine’ however, if any student, at any given point through their Curriculum journey can link/contextualise what they are learning to real life scenarios then surly attainment and progress will be accelerated as a consequence?

This is something I’ve been considering for a while, I’ve been looking at how education can bring real life into all aspects of learning. I’m not referring to a field trip or a work experience placement in isolation, as traditionally take place in many Schools. I’m proposing an embedded learning experience, linking common threads of the real world across the whole curriculum, immersing students learning in the ability to link transferable skills to real life situations and suitable progression routes for them. I approached this as an opportunity, a chance to improve the learning outcomes of all students.

Approximately 12 months ago I formed a ‘change team’ to set about investigating solutions to answer to this question. The next consideration was who? I needed a dedicated group of staff from within the College, both teaching and non-teaching members, who felt very passionately about linking learning to real life. It’s worth noting at this point, that our College had never explored anything like this before, I needed advocates, change makers, people who would proactively look for solutions. The focus at this point was for us as a team to explore the possibilities, we met formally once every half term and we captured our ideas, I still refer to this as it resides on my office wall:

We decided to look at lessons and learning episodes in the first instance. Initially ideas centred around equipping the teacher with strategies to deliver a new dynamic to lessons and learning, but deliver what? All members of the team decided to go and trial the various ideas we generated with their respective classes.

In the simple sense, these ranged from explicit learning objectives linked to real life, lesson starters focussing on scenarios set in a real world contexts and home learning where students would be asked to case study famous/successful people who succeeded in particular subjects when they were at School. There were also some more complex examples such as employers getting involved with the planning, delivery and assessment of units of work. (See my case study blog coming very soon on this). Conference calls to magazine editors based around the country, setting students a brief with strict deadlines and also student journalists following world changing events, such as the Olympic Flame journey, reporting live on the radio and writing up their report for the local newspaper.
To summarise phase one, our key priorities arising from these early stages were:

• Producing proven examples that work – forming the basis of a teacher ‘tool kit’.
• Evaluating the success of the initial trials by asking the students their views.
• Continuing to build extensive links with the business community.
• Identifying a strategy to deploy this across every subject area within our curriculum and how?
• Investigate how we can map delivery across the curriculum and also bridge the gap between  education and the business world.
• How do we support staff in the delivery of this? And how do we quality assure it?

My next blog, phase two, will focus on answering all these key priorities, look at the strategic vision and detailed implementation of this initiative and beyond.



About garysking

Deputy Headteacher - leader of Teaching & Learning. Change maker and believer in quality first teaching.

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