Working with “Learning Futures” on authentic enquiry

Learning Futures is a national initiative to foster, evaluate and share secondary school innovation, around four priorities which they see as central to the future shape of learning in schools (but we’re interested in its relevance to post-secondary learning as well…):

Extended Learning Relationships: The 21st century heralds the possibility of a system redesign that can genuinely respond to the needs of learners and the demands for anytime/anywhere learning, collaborative and independent learning, and personalised learning.

Enquiry-Based Learning: Enquiry-based learning is a key component of the Learning Futures model. Its premise is that how students learn is as important as what they learn, because learning is a skill they can carry with them for their entire lives.

School as ‘Learning Commons’: During the first year of Learning Futures, students have begun using school as a ‘base camp’ for enquiries that take them into the community, thereby expanding their learning relationships. At the same time, the number of people with a shared interest in the life of the school is growing and relationships within school are becoming less hierarchical.

School as ‘Base Camp’: A genuine 21st century school should be a base camp rather than a single destination – a place where students meet to explore learning opportunities that take them into their communities, onto the web, and to local businesses and employers. It should also be a hub that creates connections with families, and with learning partners beyond school.

Now in its second year, LF is expanding its mission by commissioning the development of free/open source tools to make the project’s findings accessible to a global audience. LF are funding the Hypermedia Discourse team, at The Open University’s Knowledge Media Institute (KMi) to develop EnquiryBlogger, a project I’m co-leading with OU colleague Rebecca Ferguson, and Ruth Deakin Crick at Univ. Bristol. This is extending the leading WordPress blogging platform with plugins which tune it for enquiry-based learning, by embedding visual reflection and analytics tools based on Univ. Bristol’s ELLI framework for learning dispositions [1][resources], Ruth Deakin Crick’s work on authentic enquiry [2], and the  pedagogical principles emerging from the LF programme.

This project runs from Nov 2010 – June 2011. It includes the piloting of one or more of KMi’s knowledge/argument mapping tools, since these provide representational scaffolding for key learning and thinking capabilities that LF seeks to foster.

I’ve just spent two days in Manchester with the LF management team, representatives from participating schools, plus folks from the newly launched Studio Schools Trust, introducing them to:

  • EnquiryBlogger v0.1, completed after a 20-day development sprint last month (acknowledgements to Geoff Austin for superb programming!)
  • Compendium 2.0, a much more mature tool for mapping issues, arguments and ideas, under development at the OU since 2002 (funded most recently by the Hewlett Foundation, and before that UK Research Councils).

Here are our slides introducing EnquiryBlogger (PPT/PDF):

I created three Compendium maps over the event, which illustrate quite different forms of visualization to externalise and socialise personal cognition.

Example template map to scaffold reflection during an enquiry

Firstly, part of the project’s goal is to explore how KMi’s knowledge mapping software tools can work in tandem with EnquiryBlogger. As shown in the slides, I put together this example to provoke some reflection.

Mapping the pedagogical rationale behind an enquiry process

Secondly, Mark Lovatt from Cramlington Learning Village ran a hands-on enquiry session, in which we used the CLV enquiry wheel as a procedural scaffold to design an enquiry project. I mapped my team’s deliberations and emerging plan for the project, including the pedagogical rationale behind each step. Then I (very quickly) dropped in CLV wheel icons to show where it seemed to fit. Interestingly, there seem to be two clusters of CLV icons, which mirror an early review point, and then a more in depth review following deeper enquiry.

Below is the map I walked through in the presentation of our team’s design.

Mapping teachers’ collaborative deliberation and decisions during the design of an enquiry project

Thirdly, it was great to have Nusrat Faizullah and Zarlasht Walaimzai from Studio Schools, introducing us to the core ideas behind their approach to enquiry-based learning. In this breakout group, I used Compendium as the digital equivalent of organising lots of sticky notes on the wall, but structuring them as Issues/Ideas/Pros/Cons.

I also created some tags corresponding to Studio Schools’ learning and thinking capabilities, which you can see on the left of the screenshot. This demonstrated how we’d use the tagging interface in Compendium to track coverage of all relevant capabilities, as well as curriculum areas:

It was a rapid prototype knocked up on the fly, to indicate how we might develop the approach more systematically into sets of templates and tags to scaffold a team engaged in collaborative design of an enquiry project, but it seemed to work as an object to think with, and I look forward to exploring its potential further, since several people were enthusiastic. (Can Compendium be used to engage young people, not just adults planning activities for them? Yes!… [3] and informal examples 1/2/3)

Overall, this was a fantastic two days: spending time with some of the most forward thinking school practitioners and innovators in the country was a privilege, and we’re now planning New Year’s EnquiryBlogger pilots in LF schools.

[1] Deakin Crick, R., Broadfoot, P. and Claxton, G. (2004). Developing an Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory: The ELLI Project. Assessment in Education, 11, (3), pp. 247-272.

[2] Deakin Crick, R. (2009). Inquiry-based learning: reconciling the personal with the public in a democratic and archaeological pedagogy. Curriculum Journal, 20, (1), pp. 73-92.

[3] Okada, A. and Buckingham Shum, S. (2008). Evidence-Based Dialogue Maps as a Research Tool to Investigate the Quality of School Pupils’ Scientific Argumentation. International Journal of Research and Method in Education, 31(3), pp. 291–315 (Special Issue: Coffin, C. and O’Halloran, K.A, (Eds.) Researching Argumentation in Educational Contexts: New Methods, New Directions). [blog]

One Response to “Working with “Learning Futures” on authentic enquiry”

  1. […] back from a workshop trialling our WordPress plugins for EnquiryBlogger, a tool we’re developing for Learning Futures. We had a mixed group of Learning Futures teachers, other teachers and workplace learning […]

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