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25 July 2017


Building criticality and a strong evidence base in to the new Curriculum for Wales
 
One of the key Curriculum Design principles set out in Successful Futures is to ensure that the new Curriculum should be evidence-based:-
 
drawing on the best of existing practice within Wales and from elsewhere, and on sound research” (Page 14, Successful Futures)
 
We were also conscious that Successful Futures marks a departure away from traditionally prescriptive orders of the National Curriculum and with the greater flexibility that this will afford schools, there will be a much firmer emphasis on school-based curriculum development.
 

A curriculum does not happen until it is translated from the principles outlined in policy into practice, and this can only be achieved in schools. This requires teachers to understand the principles set out in policy, and it requires teachers to develop practices that are fit for purposes; otherwise, the danger of superficial enactment of the new curriculum is very real.” (Priestley and Drew, 2016)

To support our pioneer schools in developing a framework to support them in ensuring that they are able to engage with research, learn some of the skills of school-based curriculum making and apply this in practice, the EAS engaged with Professor Mark Priestley and Dr. Valerie Drew from the University of Stirling. Mark has significant expertise in curriculum design and is a member of the Welsh Government’s Curriculum and Assessment Panel. Valerie has significant experience in developing accredited professional learning experiences for teachers and leaders in schools.
 
The centre-piece of their work with EAS has been to support our practitioners in engaging with Critical Collaborative Professional Enquiry, with a strong emphasis on school-based curriculum development. This model that has been utilised by schools in some Scottish schools and their experiences can be reflected upon by reading the following article, written by Mark and Valerie: -
 
http://dspace.stir.ac.uk/handle/1893/24179#.WW-urGWfeOo
 
The CCPE model, with its focus on critical engagement should ensure that our pioneer schools are able to have a framework on which to draw as they further continue their work in AoLE groups.
 
What is Critical Collaborative Professional Enquiry?
 
The CCPE process starts with a conceptual phase during which practitioners are encouraged to:-
 
Engaging with purposes
Exploration of the big questions of the curriculum: the four purposes and principles of Successful Futures; educational values, the big question ‘what are schools for?’
 
Engaging with practices
Identification of fit for purpose practices: what will such practices look like in terms of knowledge/content, pedagogy, assessment and provision.
 
Engaging in contextual audit
Consideration of current practices and of barriers to and drivers of change: what are barriers and drivers to what we wish to do, and how do we address them?
 
The CCPE then has three key phases:-
 
1)    Focusing - During the first phase participants identify an area of interest, intrigue or concern drawn from the overlapping elements of content, pedagogy, assessment and provision to develop as the focus of their enquiry. This involves engaging critically with ideas in academic reading and research to devise a conceptual framework to inform the enquiry and develop a plan to interrupt and change existing practices.
 
2)    Interrupting - In the second phase of CCPE participants work collaboratively to interrupt existing practices though enacting the plan devised in phase one. During this period the participants engage in systematic generation of empirical data to evidence potential impact on process and outcomes.
 
3)    sense-making - The CCPE culminates in the sense-making phase as participants work together to critically analyse data and interpret evidence to evaluate the impact of their work on outcomes for children, young people and those involved in carrying out the enquiry. At this stage the participants may modify their conceptual framework in light of their analysis as they prepare to disseminate their findings to others across the education community.
 
The CCPE model is shown below:-
 
CCPE-Model.png
 
Reproduced from “Successful Futures, successful curriculum development; developing the new curriculum in your school” (Priestley and Drew, 2016 - paper commissioned by EAS)

On the 16th/17th June the University of Stirling hosted the third European Conference on Curriculum Studies. Valerie invited the EAS Regional Strategic Lead (James Kent) to present alongside two Curriculum Pioneers, Kelly Forrest-McKay from Ystruth Primary School and Rajvi Glasbrook-Griffiths from Glan Usk Primary School.   
 
The symposium was entitled: -
 
“Working in partnership to translate education policies into practices: policy actors’ perspectives of a partnership project in School-based Curriculum Development through Critical Collaborative Professional Enquiry (CCPE).”  
 
Why did EAS engage with the University of Stirling?
 
In the opening section of the symposium, James reflected on the reasons why EAS decided to engage with Valerie and Mark. The key reasons are summarised in the table below:-

CCPE-Table.jpg 

Valerie then explained to the delegates how the CCPE process worked (as described above).
 
In the final two sections of the symposium, Kelly and Rajvi described their CCPE work and the broader benefits to the school.
 
Kelly’s CCPE title was in what ways can changing pedagogical practice improve children’s perseverance when faced with challenges?
 
As Kelly explains in her own words:-
 

“The focus question for our enquiry was formed with whole staff engagement, using the structure outlined in the CCPE sessions, staff questionnaires and review of our PASS surveys. It was agreed although overall deemed good, our children's disposition to learning and the view of themselves as learners was an area for us to explore and develop. As a whole staff, historically we have worked collaboratively at variable levels, however the critical element of engaging with research was not always explored by all staff, primarily previously resting with senior leaders. Participation in the enquiry has resulted in all staff, including LSA involvement in critical reading. The approach has instilled a firm foundation and appreciation for the need to build capacity and empower all staff through a comprehensive, equitable, reflective approach.
 
The Well Being team were engaged in the initial research, which was summarised and reviewed by all staff to inform our enquiry. Using designated staff meeting time, it was decided to develop a 'Language for Learning' progressive frame. We began forming this, using suitable elements of the existing strategies we had explored, such as: growth mindset, building learning power and mindfulness. This progressive frame, which is currently still in progress, will be specifically tailored to meet the autonomous needs of our children and will continue to be developed beyond the six week planned interruption phase of the enquiry.
 
 To cite further examples of findings from the research, consideration was given to the appropriateness of mindfulness for our younger children. Using our Thrive developmental milestones knowledge and linking this to our research, we determined children who were not ready to move from concrete learning to abstract thinking may not be ready to engage with mindfulness in its entirety. Although recognised some elements of mindfulness would be appropriate, the visualisation could be better suited to those children who were operating at a cognitive level. In view of these examples of how research has informed our practice, certain emphasis has been placed on the importance of engaging with research in the future, establishing the need to be critical and reflective before hastily putting practical plans into place. 
 
The CCPE has further promoted a deeper understanding of the main principles of curriculum design by providing a practical framework of how to engage with policy; moving from a basic knowledge of key principles to a richer understanding. The ‘sense making’ element has enhanced existing collaborative practice, deepening the shared purpose for the enquiry. Staff have commented they feel more engaged, valued and appreciate that their opinions are being heard and taken into account to shape an autonomous curriculum, meeting the specific needs of our children.”

Rajvi’s CCPE title is how will the teaching of reading skills with a metacognitive approach impact upon pupil progress? Rajvi reflects on this work below:-

Glan Usk's involvement in the University of Stirling CCPE workshops was beneficial to us as a school on several fronts.
 
The input from Professor Mark Priestley and Dr Valerie Drew opened up a theoretical approach to curriculum design. In our role as Pioneer Schools for both curriculum and professional learning, this allowed us to feed much of this research, reading and understanding, back into our Strand 2 work. Much of the thinking from this informed our discussions about curriculum reform as a leadership team, and formed the basis of staff training and development.
 
The CCPE as a model is an ideal microcosmic way to trial and evaluate the impact of innovative, research based interruptions to practice. At a nano-level, it endows staff with an active role within the broader policy process, makes requisite the research based 'focusing' and, in doing so, sets in initial process the shift towards teachers as informed and engaged agents of change.
 
For the purpose of our CCPE, we drew on research from DT Willingham and Gail Lovette (2014) making links between metacognitive strategies and progress in reading. We used this to trial a specific interruption to guided group reading for a sample of pupils in Years 2, 3 and 5, evaluating impact against a questioning frame used to give a measure of progress before, at mid-pint and after the 8 week intervention. Nearly all pupils in the sample groups made progress. Subsequently, we will be using this metacognitive approach to the teaching of reading skills in all three year groups to all pupils in September 2017-18.
 
Further to this, we have arranged all our teachers into Learning Triads for 2017-18. Each triad will be carrying out a Health and Wellbeing focused CCPE over the course of the year, following the stages of focusing, interrupting, sense making, with view to feeding into the school's role as a Health and Wellbeing curriculum pioneer work. This work is part of all teachers' performance management target for next year and its impact will feed into the School Improvement Plan review.
 
The CCPE model is a powerful one for our Pioneer Schools since it provides a framework for critical engagement with policy (in this case Successful Futures and pioneers’ ongoing AoLE work), with access to research, readings and reflection tasks. Crucially, however, it also provides a clear practical focus to their ‘interruption of practice’, when some of the changes that are being suggested by policy-makers can be enacted at a classroom level and effectively evaluated to establish impact.
 
We’ll be blogging in more detail about the CCPE work in the new academic year, once the schools involved in the programme have had the opportunity to reflect and fully evaluate their enquiries.
 
Notes:-

Kelly Forrest-McKay is Pastoral and Pioneer Lead (SMT) at Ystruth Primary School in Blaenau Gwent.
 
Rajvi Glasbrook-Griffiths is Assistant Headteacher at Glan Usk Primary School in Newport
 
References:-
 
Successful Futures, successful curriculum development; developing the new
curriculum in your school Professor Mark Priestley and Dr Valerie Drew, University of Stirling (Paper commissioned by EAS, 2016).


Blog Authors



James Kent
Area Lead,
Wider Curriculum
and Pioneer Schools



Mike Cameron
Area Lead,
Professional Learning &
Regional Induction
co-ordinator
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