Category: Interdisciplinary Learning

New Developments in Interdisciplinary Planning

Interdisciplinary Learning in Falkirk Council primary schools is evolving in response to the advice received from our Chief HMIE in August 2016:

  • Group E & Os together in ways which best suit learners.
  • Prioritise literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing across the curriculum to ensure that all learners make the best possible progress.
  • Plan interdisciplinary learning (IDL) to make natural links across learning. Be aware of what is happening in other subjects and make connections.
  • Do not spend time on IDL which does not provide opportunities to apply and deepen learning or is contrived
  • When planning learning, teaching and assessment, E & Os are grouped or bundled together
  • Enable pupils to see the natural connections within their curriculum
    Focus on few, carefully selected E & Os
  • Use skills as the link to give pupils a task, problem, or big question
  • Design IDL as an opportunity for pupils to apply learning in an unfamiliar context

Yvonne McBlain has been working with teachers and senior leaders across Falkirk Children’s Services to explore how to: “not spend time on IDL which does not provide opportunities to apply and deepen learning or is contrived.”

Education Scotland CfE A Statement for Practitioners from HM Chief Inspector of Education, August 2016

In response to self-evaluation of their curricula, some senior managers and practitioners want to improve progression of learning through the IDL context of their curriculum. Specific professional learning activities are proving valuable to help shift our planning focus away from topics towards broader groups or bundles of experiences and outcome which are interdisciplinary across all levels i.e. are progressive AND are linked by the skills, knowledge or content that they progress.

Yvonne McBlain is working on a series of digital files which will explain this process in more detail. However, in the meantime, click here to view her latest Power Point presentation about interdisciplinary planning. The vital starting point for planning of discrete or interdisciplinary learning is thorough understanding of what the experience or outcome requires:

The activity opposite is an example of how 2 social studies E & Os have been analysed/highlighted in pink for knowledge and understanding, green for skills (including transferable skills) and underlining where values or attitudes are a vital part of the learning. Please note that sometimes there is overlap between  each of these.

Below you can click on a selection of interdisciplinary plans (in progress) and examine how our schools are beginning to switch their focus from short term planning of IDL topics, to longer term “Umbrella” bundles which have an overarching curricular purpose and :

  1. Link related E & Os WITHIN subjects
  2. Link related E & Os BETWEEN subjects
  3. Include opportunities for APPLICATION of literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing across learning
  4. Increase the relevance, breadth, depth and coherence of learning for pupils
  5. Integrate assessment into their planning
  6. Retain the capacity to respond to the interests/prior knowledge of their pupils – including the creation of pupil-led planning using this planning format 

(kindly donated by Fiona Anderson, HT at Head of Muir PS )

California PS – Local area study early level, first level and second level

Victoria PS – What money means early level,  first level and second level

Victoria PS – Winterprise early level, first level and second level

 

 

 

Staff at Carron Primary School develop their moderation of planning

Jenny Deacon, principal teacher, and her colleagues at Carron PS are exploring the use of “floor books” to moderate and self-evaluate their planning and assessment. Jenny is one of Falkirk Children’s Services QAMSOs (Quality Assurance and Moderation Support Officer), and is leading this development work which is spread over 8 moderation sessions in 2017-18.

Jenny facilitated professional learning for colleagues using her QAMSO training to work with them to plan how they could build moderation into their school processes. They are using a floor book format to familiarise themselves with the moderation prompts which can be seen in the photos. These prompts help teachers shape and link their planning and teaching and assessment.

Teachers in each stage agreed to gather evidence of their thinking processes using a floor book format. This is helping them to develop a shared understanding of what learning looks like at each level. Teachers will fill around 2 pages of their floor book for each significant unit of learning or group of experiences and outcomes. They decided that they wanted to have floor books for each stage, and have captured evidence of literacy, numeracy, health and wellbeing and interdisciplinary learning. Jenny shared a selection of these floor books with fellow QAMSO’s at a recent meeting, and they considered how this method could work as a means to gather or exemplify pupil achievement at each level. Yvonne McBlain met with Jenny in November 2017 to look at the interdisciplinary learning floor books. They discussed the potential for designing specific groups of interdisciplinary experiences and outcomes which could act as holistic assessment “bundles” or tools for schools across the authority to use. Both look forward to exploring this further with colleagues, so watch this space!

This work contributes to the school improvement priorities, and also to National Improvement Framework (2017) drivers – Teacher Professionalism and Assessment of Children’s Progress. Jenny and her colleagues will review the contribution of their floor books to their moderation processes as part of their school self-evaluation in May 2018.

Primary 3 at St Margaret’s PS meet their Giant!

Mrs Main and Miss Hunter, teachers of primary 3 at St Margaret’s PS have been using the storyline approach to help develop their pupils’ understanding of citizenship. They used a WOSDEC (West of Scotland Development in Education Centre) global storyline resource called The Giant of Thistle Mountain – this involves using  drama as a vehicle to tackle complicated societal issues which are interdisciplinary. This storyline links social studies, literacy and health and wellbeing E & Os as seen in the photo of the display below.

The Giant of Thistle Mountain helps even very young pupils understand concepts such as: what is a community, what is a stereotype, how it feels to be ostracised in a community, how we should behave when someone in need joins out community, what is a refugee? It offers teachers a creative way to address elements of Learning for Sustainability as a cross-cutting theme also.

On Wednesday 15th November both classes invited guests along to help them celebrate the success of their learning AND their storyline villages. The children gave a presentation summary, shared what they had learned, then showed their guests their storyline frieze and other work they had done throughout the project.

Find out more about global storylines here. We hope the pictures and the quotes below from the children give a flavour of how valuable this approach can be in developing deep and memorable learning.

“We learned that there are lots of different people in the world – they all have different skills.”

“We didn’t want the giant to feel sad – we wanted him to feel part of our community.”

“My favourite part was saying my line because I got to stand up.”  “I had two lines!”

“My favourite part is listening to the stories because I liked hearing it and love the story.”

“Keeping the giant safe …we worked out he was safe to live in Thistle Mountain.”

“Thistle Mountain, learning about the giant, getting to do the play.”

“Just now – the open afternoon…the writing through practising – I can write more now.”

 

 

St Mungo’s HS IDL Experience for New S4 Pupils

Senior managers at St Mungo’s RC High School challenged their 9 probationer teachers with the creation of an interdisciplinary learning opportunity for their 2016-17 S3 pupils.

Alison Noble, art teacher at St Mungo’s, supported these teachers with their development of ideas. They worked in 3 teams to design a project which would complement the interdisciplinary projects currently experienced by S1 and S2 pupils in the school. The school are building the formal IDL context of their curriculum to address key skills and elements of the cross-cutting themes of Creativity, Learning for Sustainability and Enterprise. They wanted this new S3 experience to target creativity, problem solving and team building skills.

Each team pitched their idea to the senior manager panel, and were further challenged by being asked to combine the best elements of all three proposals! The school also used evidence from their self-evaluation process to inform this learning experience. Pupils’ feedback from their S3 profiles highlighted a desire for more leadership skills and enterprising learning. Staff realised that these skills could easily be incorporated into the IDL experience, turning it into an effective pupil induction into S4.

On 20th and 21st June, pupils experienced the culmination of these preparations – one half of the year group taking part on each day. Pupils were given their learning intentions and success criteria for the day, and experienced a rotation of problem solving and team building activities across the curriculum. This prepared them to tackle a real life problem which linked knowledge and skills mainly in literacy and technology. They worked to a Design Brief and a deadline to make a model of what they would build on an empty piece of land close to their school. (Thank you to Richard Broadley and colleagues in Falkirk Council Planning and Development Services who gave information about vacant plots nearby.) The brief asked them to consider how they could meet the needs of local citizens and enhance lives and the environment in their  community.

An element of competition was added by providing the deadline, and a panel of judges who would choose the model and idea which best fitted the criteria and constraints of the design brief. Stephen Phee, rector, Audrey Farley and Anne-Marie Jess, depute rectors, and Yvonne McBlain, curriculum support teacher acted as judges. Pupils rose to this challenge on a number of levels, and the judges naturally found it difficult to make their selection on both days. Everyone involved was extremely impressed by pupils:

  1. working effectively with new teams to solve problems across learning
  2. using social skills to negotiate and reach agreement within teams
  3. applying technical and design skills during construction
  4. applying talking, listening and presentation skills to “sell” their solution
  5. showing their understanding of social enterprise through their carefully considered sports centres, outdoor cinemas, etc
  6. showing skills, aptitudes and other positive behaviours not previously seen in the regular curriculum
  7. presenting their solutions clearly and with emphasis on the positive social and environmental impact of their ideas

The two groups who created the winning solutions were naturally thrilled, and the probationer teachers are currently collating the pupil evaluations of this new interdisciplinary experience. Unfortunately, Alison had started her maternity leave, so Anne-Marie and Audrey were delighted to praise the ingenuity and hard work of their probationer teachers. They obviously demonstrated their own team-work, enterprise and problem solving capabilities by orchestrating the whole project from start to finish. They applied their knowledge of their own subject and of interdisciplinary learning effectively, and employed their teaching and organisational skills creatively so that pupils gained a valuable and enjoyable educational experience.

California PS Explore “Reflective” Floor Books

As part of their self-evaluation and school improvement, teachers at California Primary school have made various changes to their teaching practice over session 2016-17. They are exploring the use of floor books as tools for enhancing pupil understanding of their own learning. They began using A2 size sketch books and reflective activities in April 2017 to help their pupils talk about their learning and identify progress and next steps. Each teacher is doing this in a way which suits their class and their own preference. The picture above documents how Jill Walkinshaw asked her new class-to-be to set their goals for their next year together. She plans to refer to the pages in the floor book at relevant points during next session, and the book will be available to pupils so that they can look whenever they want a reminder of where they were in their learning at this point.

Jill was inspired by seeing the floor books used by nurseries. She has been working with her Primary 3/4 shared class of pupils to capture evidence of learning and progress – photos, learning intentions, notes about how children met their success criteria, how they feel about their learning, etc. Jill is now looking at exactly which areas of learning the floor book could be impacting on before considering how best to develop it as a reflective tool for her, and her pupils.

Lauren Peebles, primary 2 teacher, used her floor book as a focus tool for whole class reflection (along with circle time talk) on a Friday. Her class are getting used to having a slot on “Feedback Friday” to talk together about their learning, then do an individual reflective task about specific progress made. In the jotter extract below, you can see how pupils rate their learning/progress, then capture some details of what the learning was, how they got better, and what their next steps should be. So far, the children are responding well to these activities, and staff hope that these help pupils be more confident and articulate when talking about their learning.

On June 28th, Yvonne McBlain, curriculum support teacher, conducted interviews of a sample of children from each class to ascertain impact from the work done by staff over the session. She asked questions linked to the quality indicators from HGIOS 4 (1.1 Self-evaluation for self-improvement, & 1.2 Leadership of Learning). In response to questions, children enthusiastically spoke about their learning in general, and were easily able to highlight specific progress in at least one curricular area unprompted. At this stage, the children were not yet able to articulate how their floor books were helping their learning – it’s still early days though, so watch this space!

 

 

Real Life IDL at Langlees Primary School

Between 1st and 29th June 2017, primary 5 pupils at Langlees Primary School worked with their teacher Ashley Turnbull & Yvonne McBlain, curriculum support teacher, Falkirk Children’s Services to try to solve a real-life problem. Some members of the class had previously worked with Jane Jackson, curriculum support teacher & with Grounds for Learning to have part of their playground landscaped. They launched their wonderful new outdoor play area in spring 2017, but could not then use it because of their local cats!

As you can see from the photo below, the cats were using the gorgeous new sand pit as their toilet! This meant that pupils at Langlees couldn’t use their fantastic new play area. Dylan and Iona from primary 5 have written the following blog post about how the class tried to solve this  problem – Jane and staff at the school had previously tried various solutions, and wanted to offer the children themselves the chance to explore possible options.

 First we figured out what the problem was and then we had a look at the sand pit. We estimated how long the sand pit was in metres, then we made a decision about how we thought we should solve the problem. We tried to count how many cat droppings there were – about 42 we thought!

We worked in pairs to decide what we thought was the best solution – replacing the sand, making a cage, etc.

Then we made little models of what we thought might help solve the problem. We made these out of pipe cleaners and damp sand.

We also researched and found out about cat sensors and alarms. Then we researched about toxoplasmosis – this is a disease you can get from the cat poo. 4 of us did more detailed research and gave a power point presentation to the class.

Next we had a closer look at the 3 best cat alarms and the class voted for the one they felt was most effective – Alarm A. We also thought about getting a cover for the sand pit. We were worried that the cat alarm wouldn’t stop the cats from doing the toilet – it might take a while to work. So we thought we should get both to help the cat sensor to take its time to work.

We knew our estimated measurements weren’t good enough for ordering our cover. We took a metre stick and some cones outside so that we could measure the sand pit properly. We needed to know how big the sand pit was for our cover and to check how much distance the alarm sensor could cover. We took the measurements back into class and talked about a long jump cover which Mrs McBlain had found online here http://longjumprunway.co.uk/sand-pit-cover/

Then we felt we were ready to go and see our head teacher and the other adults in school who would have to help us look after our sand pit. We planned what to say to them, and chose 3 people to be the voice of the whole class. (Kai, Gregor & Amy).

On the 28/6/17 the meeting happened in the Mrs McGlynn’s office. The next day Mrs McBlain came back to hear what the outcome of the meeting was. Kai, Gregor & Aimee did a speech and told us that the outcome of the meeting was to replace the sandpit with rubber tiles.

We all showed how we felt about the outcome using our thumbs –

Up = 6                              Middle = 6                                Down = 2

Then we had a think about what we learned throughout the journey of solving our Sandpit Problem. Take a Look below


 

 

 As can be seen from the Smart doc image above, pupils felt they had progressed well with the project success criteria they set.  Ashley and Yvonne had a very brief opportunity to review the impact of this work on the pupils. They agreed that the children had risen to the challenge of working with others as part of a team – enabling the class to listen more effectively to others while they focused on the job in hand. This project linked experiences and outcomes in Health and Wellbeing, as well as developing key listening, talking and reading skills in Literacy across learning. During the project pupils had a chance to apply other skills they had learned in Technology and Numeracy.

 

 

Interdisciplinary Learning and the Cross-cutting Themes

Yvonne McBlain, curriculum support teacher, Falkirk Children’s Services, is working with colleagues from schools across our authority to build on the Interdisciplinary Learning training delivered during session 2015-16. Colleagues who took part in this training, have been invited to become part of the existing IDL networks for primary and secondary IDL . This combined group has met twice now, to identify the kind of support which would be useful to schools and establishments.

Click here and here to look at two simple pro forma which could be adapted by secondary schools wanting to track where and when their interdisciplinary learning takes place. The first document would help a school see the skills focus of their planned IDL, and to see where it addresses the other 3 contexts for learning, and the cross cutting themes. The second is a simple record of what IDL is planned for which year group – it  shows the subject links being developed. Colleagues felt that these sheets could be useful in self-evaluating, auditing, and tracking how subjects and faculties connect and deepen their pupil experience through interdisciplinary learning. Or simply act as an overview of what is happening where with each year group across the faculties. Yvonne sent these materials out to the IDL network so that colleagues could share and develop these if required.

Top of the list of next steps was an exploration of how the cross cutting themes could help us identify valuable IDL practice. We identified the cross-cutting themes as useful in building progression into interdisciplinary learning, so that the IDL practice which is developing in schools doesn’t turn into little isolated islands which don’t connect to the wider curriculum. The cross cutting themes run through the whole of the curriculum – see the diagrams throughout this post.

As their name suggests, they are built into the experiences and outcomes, and are a mandatory part of our pupils’ learning entitlement. The themes are built into the GTCS Standards, and into HGIOS 4 and HGIOELCC. Click here to see Yvonne’s collation of how IDL & the cross cutting themes are illustrated in HGIOS 4. We knew that most practitioners already addressed these themes, but wanted to raise awareness that these could also be valuable contexts for interdisciplinary learning which many teachers would already be using. The themes are:

  1. Learning for Sustainability – click here to look at the LfS Wordle which shows the many elements of this theme
  2. Creativity – there are specific creativity skills which you can learn more about by clicking here
  3. Enterprise /World of Work – click here to read how the Scottish Government supports enterprising learning

The group met on 15th March to look at ways to bundle the experiences and outcomes to create interdisciplinary learning which also addressed one of the cross-cutting themes. In preparation for this meeting, Yvonne worked her way through all of the experiences and outcomes, highlighting Learning for Sustainability E & Os in green, Creativity in yellow, and Enterprise/World of Work in blue. She felt this was a useful way to demonstrate that this isn’t additional work for staff, and to show the lines of development and progression across each level.

Click here to see Yvonne’s allocation of relevant experiences and outcomes to each of the themes – she was well aware that this needed to be looked at, and adjusted through collaborative discussion and consideration by primary teachers and secondary subject specialists. The IDL group discussed these and altered them where required but it would still benefit from further input from colleagues in schools. We realised that this document could be a useful self-evaluation/planning tool in itself, and Yvonne will upload it to the cross-cutting themes One Note document she will now build in Glow.

The IDL group then began to link and bundle the experiences and outcomes which addressed the cross-cutting themes. Click here to see the second level enterprise/sustainability bundle begun by Sarah Russell, Nethermains PS, and Kerry Brown, acting principal teacher at Sacred Heart RC PS. We were all focused on searching for groups of experiences and outcomes which would help us identify opportunities for progressive IDL – bundles which worked in every level of Curriculum for Excellence. Our thinking is that this bank of “bundles” can act as a starting point for practitioners wanting to plan robust and progressive IDL, and simultaneously progress learning in one or more of the cross cutting themes. Everyone left the meeting primed to look out for existing practice in the cross-cutting themes to help us exemplify how this context for interdisciplinary learning could look in our classrooms. We will re-group in early May to work out how to share what we have found, and to create an action plan for the ongoing development of interdisciplinary learning, and the cross-cutting themes.

Please leave any comments or ideas you have below, or contact yvonne.mcblain@falkirk.gov.uk if you have classroom practice which would help us raise awareness and develop either interdisciplinary learning and/or any of the cross cutting themes.

Grangemouth High School Develops Interdisciplinary Learning

Staff at Grangemouth High School are developing interdisciplinary learning across every faculty. Ashley Wood, depute head teacher, took part in the interdisciplinary learning training delivered during session 2015-16 by Yvonne McBlain, curriculum support teacher. He developed a strategy for progressing IDL across the school – click here to see the presentation he created to document his approach. you will note that this presentation was done before the significant aspects of learning and progression frameworks were “streamlined” into the benchmarks.

Ash then recruited “IDL Champions” from each faculty. He worked with the champions to consolidate the key messages about interdisciplinary learning, and together they created an in-service experience for the entire staff. Click here to see the presentation used by the IDL champions to structure the session.

Staff in each faculty posed questions about IDL  – click here to see the document used to answer and give guidance on these within the school. Click here to try the in-service day IDL challenge, and here to see the answers provided.

Once they had shared their presentation and the activities they had designed, the champions then supported their faculty in creating strong IDL bundles. Click here to see a recent IDL project experienced by S1 pupils, and here to see the “bundle” of experiences and outcomes identified for this collaboration between Kirsty Young in Admin/Business Education, and Amy Nicholl, Home Economics.

Each faculty has been asked to produce at least one IDL plan which can be taught in session 2017-18. Watch this space! 😊

Secondary Probationer Teacher Interdisciplinary Professional Learning

On 28th February and 1st March, Yvonne McBlain supported  probationer teachers from  Falkirk secondary schools with their exploration of interdisciplinary learning. Yvonne designed the 3 hour session as a practical and experiential engagement with the various elements of the curriculum. Click here to view the blog post which shares the power point presentation she created to refer to during the two afternoon sessions. This presentation proved useful to pop into at relevant points and enabled Yvonne to demonstrate a learner centred and responsive teaching approach. The simple learner-led planning structure which can be seen in the photo was used to help co-create the working sessions.

The “concrete preparation” or “warm up” task required NQTs to explore big questions such as:

How did you come to be a subject specialist?

Why does your subject need to be part of Scotland’s curriculum?

How does your subject contribute to the learners’ development of the 4 capacities?

Take a look at the photo below, and click here to see the creative visuals our probationer teachers used to answer these questions.

Based on the teachers’ prior knowledge of IDL, Yvonne led them through experiences which enabled them to explore:

  1. The essential skills, knowledge and attitudes that their subject experiences and outcomes provided for pupils
  2. An opportunity to become familiar with the essentials skills, etc which another subject provides for pupils
  3. A chance to explore how they could group or “bundle” their subject with key learning in literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing.
  4. An opportunity to work closely with teachers of other subjects to find valuable interdisciplinary connections through careful analysis of the experiences and outcomes. Click here and here to see the “bundles” created by both groups of practitioners.

Yvonne referred to the power point at relevant stages to make sure that probationers had key information about the structure of the curriculum – how could their subject-specific and interdisciplinary work address each of the four contexts for learning? Were they aware of the “cross-cutting themes” which run across and through Curriculum for excellence? The diagrams pictured were used to communicate this important information, and probationer teachers had time to search for experiences and outcomes which embedded elements of Learning for Sustainability, Creativity and Enterprise/World of Work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The professional learning session had to be staged and multi-layered in order to convey the many elements of the curriculum and teaching which are managed during the planning and teaching of interdisciplinary learning. The probationer teachers engaged very well with each task, demonstrating their understanding and their ability to combine experiences and outcomes which would give pupils added IDL value from their learning. Each group had the chance to consider how their third level bundle could or would progress into fourth level, and how this could relate to national qualifications. Some groups very skilfully described how they could manage this, and gave details of how they could accommodate the IDL they had planned into their existing timetables.

The impact of the session can be seen from the probationer teacher feedback below:

“Informative session with content which I can use to help me make a positive contribution to the planning and implementation of the upcoming S3 IDL programme.”

“This session provided guidance on how to plan and manage a successful IDL project that I will take forward when completing working group project to deliver an S3 IDL day. It was particularly useful to work in small peer groups to troubleshoot potential issues in planning an effective event.”

“I understand the benefits of IDL and can see the importance of recognising the transferable skills”

“The E&O’s exercise was difficult due to some subjects just naturally not fitting well together according to their experiences and outcomes”

“I have a better understanding of the differences between IDL, cross-curricular and trans-curricular experiences and can see how E&Os can be bundled, effectively and ineffectively, to create new IDL experiences”

“I will continue to emphasise more about transferable skills learned in my class with other subjects so pupils can use these skills in other subjects.”

Feedback on these sessions is still coming in, and suggests that not every probationer teacher perceived this as an active and engaging experience. However, the majority of comments make it clear that key messages about IDL as one of the 4 contexts of Curriculum for Excellence have been learned. There is an understanding that all planning should come from connections between the experiences and outcomes rather than only through a context, should be planned in collaboration with others around these connections and around opportunities to apply skills in an unfamiliar or new context.

1 + 2 Languages & the Storyline Approach

1 + 2Paula O Hare and Caroline Cane teach primary 1 at Nethermains PS in Denny. They are both developing 1 + 2 languages with their pupils – French and Spanish.  They made effective use of Storyline methodology to engage their pupils in developing their language skills. Click here to see the plan they used to structure their storyline. You can also click here to see the learning plan they created with their pupils.

Kerry Girdwood teaches primary 1 at Carron Primary School and has also been putting her languages and storyline professional learning to good use in her classroom. Click here to see the imaginative way that Kerry structured her storyline plan for her pupils. Click here, and here to see her Postcode Lottery “initiating events”. Kerry used these to guide her storyline so that pupils learned about the culture of European countries, as well as developing their language skills.

Paula, Kerry and Caroline have all used the storyline approach to “bundle” or connect learning and make it more relevant and coherent for their pupils. They integrated their teaching of languages 1 and 2 within interdisciplinary learning to make it more meaningful, active and engaging. They also made good use of professional dialogue to share and develop their teaching and learning ideas. Hopefully this blog post will continue this process and support others in their teaching of languages within relevant contexts.

Click on the links below to see some of the resources created and used by Kerry, Paula and Caroline:

Travelling to France presentation

Travelling to Spain presentation

Pupil certificates Spain and France

France/Paris presentation

Spain/Barcelona presentation

Smart board document for Madrid

Learning about volcanoes