Task 3K – Where are you now?

As expected when I was considering what practitioner enquiry meant to me earlier on in this programme, at this stage, I find myself with more questions and wonderings than I started with. I began with the question, ‘In what way does the format of ‘loose parts play’ need to change to provide progression of creativity and problem solving skills at P1, P4, P7?’. I have trialled three different ways of organising ‘loose parts play’ and have been able to get the opportunity to discuss this with the children involved. The three different organisation methods were complete free play, guided play from a class teacher and a set challenge/task. My prediction had been that the younger children would respond better to the free play as this fitted with their style of curriculum more, that the guided play would suit the middle school and set tasks would be preferred by the upper school. My findings were interesting and the results of the analysis of these findings has got my challenging my whole perspective of the delivery/use of ‘loose parts play’. The P7 pupils enjoyed the guided play most but thought that they probably learnt the most from the set task. I now question whether this feedback was because of their set idea of what learning looks like and whether they think it needs to have a correct end result to be learning. The P1 group found the free play very challenging and needed more guidance and help. The preferred the task when it had a clear outcome from the teacher leading it. However, I wonder whether this was because of the loose parts they were given and whether these lend themselves more to engineering/design play rather than role play that the pupils are more familiar with. The P4 group loved all the types of play but preferred guided and task play more than free play. I am still to look more in depth at the specific comments made by the pupils and also the observation sheets that I used to track the skill development opportunities during the play. The immediate action I have taken from these results is to hold of launching the ‘loose parts play’ into playgrounds at play time and instead am working with teachers to use guided tasks and set tasks during class time as a way of introducing this style of play to the children.

Update 3

Excited that I have finally got out and used the Loose Parts with the children! Have had various sessions with the P1, P4 and P7 pupils with free play, guided play and set tasks. My hypothesis was that free play would suit the P1s better, guided play would be better for the P4s and the P7s would need set tasks for them to achieve best. Although yet to analyse my observations and interview responses fully, I know that this hypothesis has not been proven correct. I have also learnt that getting the children involved in the planning process of how we can use Loose Parts in the school has been really helpful for developing ideas. They have agreed with me on some ideas but have developed or changed others to suit their needs or likes and dislikes more. I found the discussion with children so valuable for where I am in this journey and look forward to sharing the results.

Update 2

At the point of my last update I was gathering resources to use as Loose Parts. We are now at the point where donations have been coming in to school and I have worked with our Sustainable Squad who are supporting this project to split the resources between our storage sheds within different playgrounds. To help with consistency of my enquiry, we have given the same Loose Parts to all areas however, I expect this to change as we discover what were better resources for certain stages. I have put together my observation sheet and semi-structured interview questions. Both are pictured below. I used elements of creativity and problem solving skills to help break down these skills further to support the observation notes. I don’t want my notes to be restricted by these elements though so will also make general notes and observations so my results are forced into categories. Although we still need more resources, we have enough for me to start my observation and groups so I am looking forward to seeing how the children explore the Loose Parts.

           

Semi-Structured Interview Questions

Free Play

What did you like about that?

What did you have to think about when you were doing that?

Was anything tricky?

How did you deal with the things that were tricky?

Guided Play

What did you like about that?

What did you have to think about when you were doing that?

Was anything tricky?

How did you deal with the things that were tricky?

Tasked Play

What did you like about that?

What did you have to think about when you were doing that?

Was anything tricky?

How did you deal with the things that were tricky?

Overall

Which task did you enjoy best and why?

What would you like to do more of?

Which one do you think you could learn the most from?

 

My Loose Parts Play Enquiry – Update 1

My enquiry approach has been slightly delayed by my gathering of resources. As a school we are currently gathering donations of loose parts equipment which I intend to use to carry out my enquiry. This means that so far most of my enquiry has focused on literature.

A really useful reading that I have used to enhance my thinking has been the British Council document called ‘Unlocking a World of Potential: Core skills for learning, work and society’. This document has encouraged me to reflect on the importance of knowledge and skills as an intertwining core of education. Highlighting relevant skills in today’s world it looks at where these skills may develop in the future and why it is vital we equip pupils with these skills. From this document, I have questioned whether skills are something that should be taught, or learnt from within. My enquiring approach should help me to consider this question in more detail. If skills are learnt from within then there might not be a need for a visible progression but if they are to be taught then it is vital that a concrete progression is created.

The Education Scotland ‘Learning for Sustainability Self-evaluation and improvement framework’ has been a good tool for pulling my ideas back to why we are developing this area and how it should look when done well. Keeping this focus has given me grounding for the reasons behind my enquiry approach.

North Lanarkshire’s publication ‘This place is like a building site’ has given a good example of what loose parts play can look like when established. This has resulted in me examining more case studies through the Education Scotland website. This reading has cemented my opinion surrounding the benefits of loose parts play but still leaves me questioning more about how it differs depending on age, stage and experience.

My Plan

  • FOCUS: Using ‘loose parts play’ to develop problem solving and creativity across the primary school.

 

  • QUESTION: In what way does the format of ‘loose parts play’ need to change to provide progression of creativity and problem solving skills at P1, P4, P7?

 

  • WHO: 6 pupils at age stage, P1, P4, P7. The children will be of mixed ability and gender.

 

  • WHAT: I am going to use 3 different methods of ‘loose parts play’ at each stage to examine which methods provide the most appropriate challenge and chance to develop problem solving and creativity skills at that particular stage. I will provide opportunities for each group to experience a session of exploratory ‘loose parts play’, guided ‘loose parts play’, and set timed tasks using ‘loose parts play’. The materials provided for each stage and session will be the same to ensure the possible variables are reduced. I will analyse the evidence from these sessions to comment on the appropriateness of each method in order to provide suitable challenge for each stage

 

  • WHY:  As part of the school improvement plan I am rolling out ‘loose parts play’ opportunities across the school to develop skills for learning, life and work. I want to do this in a purposeful and challenging way for all pupils. I need to learn more about how to differentiate the use of ‘loose parts play’ in order to achieve challenging experiences for all involved to develop sustainable creativity and problem solving skills. The British Teaching Council explains that knowledge and skills at intertwined but this means that too often the skills that come with the knowledge are simply delivered by a teacher. This means that the environment for developing these skills are not challenging enough and therefore the skills are not fully developed at a sustainable level. Education Scotland states that problem solving and creativity are going to be vital skills for the future as technology will change society dramatically over the next 50 years. Therefore it is essential that when pupils develop the skills of creativity and problem solving it must be in a manner which is sustainable for learning, life and work.
  • EVIDENCE: I plan to use 2 forms of evidence to examine this qualitative research. I will create an observation grid that will be used for all sessions and stages to note down significant observation that are made into categories. I will also use semi-structured interviews with the groups of children to gather their views on the level of challenge at each session. These semi-structured interviews will not be identical to enable me to ask questions to suit the ages of the children.

 

  • WHEN:I need to spend the first fortnight collecting to resources for the ‘loose parts play’. I will then schedule the sessions over the following month and gather evidence at the same time. I will spend the next fortnight anaylsing and evaluating the evidence and collating results.

My Question

FOCUS:

My focus is going to be on developing sustainable skills for school, life and work in a Primary 7 class.

QUESTION:

To what extent does Loose Parts Play provide opportunity for Primary 7 pupils to develop creativity and problem solving skills for learning, life and work?

How I will evidence what happens

My enquiring approach aims to look at the development of certain core skills for learning, life and work through loose parts play. Whilst this is an area I am interested in and know I will learn from, I have found it really challenging to think about how I will evidence this in a useful, accurate and feasible way. It will be difficult to provide concrete, quantitative evidence from this form of enquiring approach however I still want my qualitative data to be easy to interpret and not too abstract or questionable.

I will be working with my class of Primary 7 pupils and want to evidence their development of certain skills. I think the skills I will focus on are related to solving the problems of the future which we are not yet aware of. I think too often we teach to suit the current problems in society and forget to look to the future and potential problems which may arise. To solve unknown problems of the future, pupils need critical thinking, creativity and problem solving skills. To measure the development of these skills I want to monitor pupil reflections of their development within a reflective journal as well as noting observations of these pupils myself. By combining the data from these two pieces of evidence I hope to be able to track whether or not the activities have developed these skills further.

Any advice on how to take this further would be much appreciated as this is still quite vague in my head.

What’s already known about my possible enquiring approach?

Last year I undertook an online course with the British Council and Edinburgh University that began to develop my thinking around Learning for Sustainability. This year I am leading the school improvement plan focus on Learning for Sustainability. I have done quite a bit of reading around theory and policy in this area in Scotland and further afield and have seen multiple themes arising which have created ‘my itch’. One of the key themes that arises within the literature surrounding Learning for Sustainability is the need to shift from a knowledge based method of Learning for Sustainability to a skills based method. Moray House’s Learning for Sustainability: Issues for Education Election Briefing (2016) emphasises the need to focus on skills as well as knowledge, values and attitudes. It is thought that by equipping pupils with flexible and sustainable knowledge, skills and values, they will be prepared for work and life in a future that cannot be fully predicted. The British Council document, Unlocking a World of Potential: Core skills for learning, work and society, breaks down some of the core skills that can be achieved through Learning for Sustainability and explores why they are important and how they might be achieved. It was through considering the importance of skill development that I came to the decision of focusing on techniques to develop these skills. As part of the SIP focus that I’m leading, I’m introducing Loose Parts Play across the school. Simon Nicholson’s Theory of Loose Parts explains that our structured environments for learning reduce the potential for flexible skills to be developed. With this in mind, I have decided to look at how Loose Parts Play can help to develop sustainable skills for life, learning and work.

‘My itch and what I might do about it’

Initially, during Task 2C, I had shared this diagram to highlight my understanding of Learning for Sustainability.

I had initially thought that I might focus on Outdoor Learning and integrating this into the curriculum as opposed to seeing it as an add on. Whilst I still think this has purpose and will endevour to develop this within my practice, my thinking has now developed to a further point of focus for my enquiry.

I recently shared my learning by leading a CAT session for colleagues on Learning for Sustainability and in my preparation for this came across this TedTalks Video that summed up my way of thinking perfectly. Whilst considering the task at the beginning of this video I reflected on the purpose of education and this linked me to the four capacities in Curriculum for Excellence and how they support the overall purpose of education. The four capacities sit at the heart of CfE and equally LfS link with these and support education from the core to provide our learners with the skills they need for a sustainable future.

In order to achieve LfS at the heart of the curriculum there needs to be a shift in mindset from seeing Sustainability as simple switching the light out and recycling some scrap paper. It needs to be ‘lived’ and pupils need to develop sustainable skills for life that can apply to jobs and problems in the future which currently don’t exist. I aim to focus my enquiry on creating a sustainable mindset for pupils to enable them to live in a way to attempt to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and beyond. This will link the Children’s Rights in the Sustainable Goals to their responsibilities in achieving them and look at how this develops their skills for life.

My Process for Enquiry




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