It took me 5 attempts to pass my driving test. Learning to drive was not a happy process for me. I always thought my special awareness, hand-eye coordination and motor control was good, and yet learning to drive was self-evidently not an easy process for me!
The brain and how it learns is certainly complex, as described in ‘How we Learn’ by Benedict Carey:
“Think of the waves of information rushing [into your brain] every waking moment, the hiss of a kettle, the flicker of movement in the hall, the twinge of back pain, the tang of smoke. Then add the demands of a typical layer of multi-tasking – say, preparing a meal while monitoring a pre-schooler, periodically returning work emails, and picking up the phone to catch up with a friend … The machine that can do all of that is more than merely complex. It’s a cauldron of activity. It’s churning like a kicked beehive.”
At The Nottingham Emmanuel School, teachers and support staff are continually working hard to understand more about how children learn and to shape what happens in our classrooms according to that. We’ve committed an hour after school every week, not for meetings or administration, but to actively prepare for it together by discussing and planning great lessons. We’ve developed a common understanding of what makes great teaching – Emmanuel’s Teaching and Learning Framework – so that staff professional development and collaborative work is coherent and focused. This includes a common vocabulary, so that we can talk with students and colleagues about great learning. Teachers are conversant in how to use “spaced retrieval” activities effectively, how to share “learning goals” with students, how to build knowledge and enable the transfer for this knowledge and how to help knowledge to “stick”, long after the end of the lesson itself. This isn’t a case of reinventing the wheel – the framework draws together much well-established teaching practice, as well as some of the latest research about how our brains work. The framework isn’t a strait-jacket to compel teachers to plan and teach in regimented, one-hour cycles of learning. The Framework is an adaptable means of helping our students learn more effectively and develop independent learning habits. If you’d like to know more about our framework, please click on this link.
Most importantly for us at Emmanuel, we want both our vision for great teaching and its practical application to be rooted in our values: wisdom, hope, dignity and community. If these values aren’t the hallmarks of teaching and learning at NES, then we are treating our children purely as empty vessels to be filled with nothing more than knowledge and our school as an exam factory which deals only in qualification, not the development of character. At Emmanuel, we unashamedly want both – great learning and great values.