Every week in order to support the happiness and learning of our students and staff, I prioritise as much of my time as possible around visiting lessons. It is one of the most rewarding aspects of being Principal. One feature of learning we focus on here at JB is how we display it within our classrooms.
Learning displays are very important to us in that we recognise how they can communicate what we value in learning, they can contribute to our learning culture and they give the message that learning matters. On the flip side there is some evidence supporting the idea that displays can distract students from learning such as proposed here by the superb Ollie Lovell. Our teachers are very aware of this and so our displays are purposeful. They are very useful reference points for students within our cross curricular units. They promote and allow students to reflect upon and make connections within their learning across a unit.
Most importantly they encourage an appreciation within our students for the process of learning rather than solely the end product.
Here at JB we use a curriculum planning approach called understanding by design or backward design. This was a concept developed by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. A ‘traditional’ approach to lesson design involves content being identified, along with a sequence of lessons and finally an assessment. In a backward design approach, what students should know and be able to do is identified firstly, followed by deciding what assessment will best measure that learning. Only then is the sequence of lessons identified. There is a great blog post from Jennifer Gonzalez explaining this here.
The benefits of the backward design approach are so evident when I visit classrooms here at Alice Smith. Our students are very focused on their learning, they feel a strong sense of purpose and they enjoy what they are learning. Our teachers feel a strong sense of ownership over their curriculum, they are very passionate about its content and they simply love teaching it. Every lesson and moment within a unit matters, learning is maximised and teachers along with students possess an infectious passion and drive for learning.
Currently we have some brilliant units of learning taking place including ‘The Highway Man’ in Year 6, ‘Why does it always rain on me?’ in Year 5, and ‘Adventure Awaits’ in Year 4. I am looking forward to observing the students as they learn over the coming weeks.