Tagged: Curriculum for Excellence

Impact of Digital Technology on Learning and Teaching #digilearnscot

This literature review was commissioned by the Scottish Government to explore how the use of digital technology for learning and teaching can support teachers, parents, children and young people in improving outcomes and achieving these ambitions.

This study is designed to help inform the development of a strategy for digital learning and teaching by providing evidence of how and why digital learning and teaching can benefit learners, teachers and schools. It also aims to identify the conditions that lead to its successful implementation and any differences between primary and secondary settings. In particular it focuses on how digital technologies can support and contribute to five specific educational priorities: raising attainment, tackling inequalities and promoting inclusion, improving transitions into employment, enhancing parental engagement, and improving the efficiency of the education system.

A literature search was undertaken, collecting nearly 1,000 items from academic, governmental and professional sources. These were reviewed to determine their thematic relevance and the strength of the evidence they presented. The most useful were then collated and assessed to:

  • Identify evidence of relationships between digital learning and teaching activities and the expected outputs, outcomes and impacts;
  • Show the relationships that exist between the digital learning and teaching activities and the outputs, outcomes and impacts for different beneficiaries (learners, parents, teachers, and the school); and
  • Identify which outcomes are immediate, medium-term and long-term.The key findings of the research are presented below, separated into the key thematic areas which were examined during the review. In the cases where studies of similar digital equipment, tools and resources have been systematically reviewed or where there is a large body of evidence from different studies which have measured change (from quantitative studies using counterfactuals and testing learners before and after), it is possible to state there is conclusive evidence. In other cases where the evidence base is weaker (mainly qualitative studies drawing on relatively small samples of learners and schools), it is only possible to state that there is indicative evidence or (where few cases) promising evidence.

More effective use of digital teaching to raise attainment happens when teachers are able to identify how digital tools and resources can be used to achieve improved learning outcomes, as well as having knowledge and understanding of the technology. This applies in all schools.

Where learners use digital learning at home as well as school for formal and non-formal learning activities these have positive effects on their attainment. This is due to the extension of their learning time. This is particularly important for secondary age learners.

There is indicative evidence that the use of digital tools and resources can help to reduce gaps in subject attainment when they are effectively implemented. There is promising evidence that the use of digital equipment and resources can help learners with additional support needs to improve their skills and competences in literacy and numeracy.

Teachers’ skills and competences in recognising how to use digital tools and resources and applying them effectively are critical to achieving positive results for learners with additional support needs or who are disdvantaged in other ways.

There is promising evidence that digital tools can, where effectively used, build skills in interactivity and collaboration, critical thinking and leadership for secondary age learners. These are considered to be vital skills by employers. There is promising evidence too that for secondary age learners, digital resources coupled with digital tools can increase knowledge and understanding of career pathways, applying for work, and working environments. These resources can make it easier for employers to provide help and support to learners.

In addition to the skills that teachers require to harness digital tools and resources to build learners’ employability skills, it is evident that they need to be prepared to develop learner-centred learning approaches. Support for learners to access digital equipment outside the classroom is also important.

There is promising evidence that using digital equipment and tools for direct communication with parents can improve learners’ and parents’ cooperation with requests from teachers about attendance, behaviour and support for learning.

Teachers are more likely to do this once they are more competent in using digital equipment and tools, and once schools use digital tools such as virtual learning environments to facilitate communication with parents.

There is promising evidence that teachers’ efficiency can be increased by using digital equipment and resources to prepare for teaching. There is similarly some qualitative evidence that digital tools and resources enable teachers to do their job better in relation to teaching, assessment and their own on-the-job learning and development.

While many studies clearly focus on specific learners in terms of age, settings (primary, secondary, special education) and domestic circumstances, none make any comparisons between the impact of digital technologies on educational priorities for different age groups. As a consequence, it has not been possible to identify any differences in the use and impact of digital technology in primary and secondary school settings. However, it is generally the case that the impacts found apply relatively equally to primary and secondary school learners.

Successful utilisation of digital technology depends not just upon sufficient access to equipment, tools and resources, but also on the availability of sufficient training, and knowledge and support networks for teachers. Providing teachers with this support will allow them to understand the benefits and applications of digital technologies and enable them to use digital technologies effectively.

Full text (sourced here): Scottish Government Publication

Excellence for All – raising attainment and mentoring

It’s a real pleasure to announce that I have been appointed as Coordinator – Excellence for All. Focussing on attainment and supporting children and young people, I will be working with a range of professionals and organisations to realise the potential of Scotland’s youth. Over the coming months, I will be writing new material and posting it here, archiving presentations and other material within my new blog page.

In the meantime, here is a snapshot which outlines the role:

Excellence for All will support and challenge those children and young people who are deemed to be the most educationally vulnerable and who may be at risk of underachieving. Data analysis and benchmarking standards are achieved at the outset and regularly monitored and tracked throughout the session, in order that an informed evaluation can be presented with clear evidence of impact.

The Strategy, which is still being drawn, will include:

  • Developing a sustainable mentoring scheme.
  • Building capacity to engage children and young people in their learning and assessment.
  • Embedding a culture of all children and young people taking responsibility for their own learning.
  • Further developing effective means to monitor and track the progress of those pupils at risk of underachieving/missing out, in order to maximise attainment and promote achievement.

Effective Transition Arrangements in Scotland

As Curriculum for Excellence continues to embed itself into the culture, structure and practices of education in Scotland, there has never been a greater need for effective transition arrangements throughout the secondary phase of the education system. As young people continue their learning journey through the broad general education (broadly 3 years to 15), the move between primary schooling to secondary is an important one, as the new curricular arrangements seek to develop successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens.

Indeed, the journey does not end here, but instead continues into the senior phase curriculum; eventually leading into post-school education, training or employment. The impact of the recession on post-16 learning opportunities has tested the current transition arrangements. The purpose of this paper is to establish how effective post-16 (and ergo post-school) transitions are throughout Scotland. The topic will focus predominately on post-school transitions, including post-16 learning within the senior phase curriculum, although there will be additional light touch exploration and discussion to establish the effectiveness of transition arrangements between the primary and secondary phases. The scope of the paper will cover integral concepts such as universal and targeted support, Getting It Right For Every Child, Health and Well-Being, 16+ Learning Choices and The Additional Support for Learning Act. The paper will explore the outcomes for particular groups of young people, for example, those who have identified Additional Support Needs, and in particular those who are Looked After at home or away from home. Focus will remain solely on mainstream and maintained schools in Scotland although there may be occasional reference to special schools or special units within a mainstream setting, where a young person studies a bespoke curriculum which is partly or exclusively designed to meet their individual needs. The paper will draw together sound conclusions based on research evidence with the possibility of identifying particular strengths in current transitions arrangements or common issues which may need to be explored further.

Do you want to be a Principal Verifier for The SQA?

A successful recruitment programme for the role of Principal Verifier has just been concluded for the new National Qualifications. To complete our team of Principal Verifiers for the new National Qualifications applications are now invited for the following verification groups, which will cover all qualification levels relevant to each subject area.

Cantonese and Mandarin
Chemistry
Dance
Engineering Science
Health and Food Technology
Music
Science

SQA recognises the pivotal role that the Principal Verifiers will play in the successful Quality Assurance of the new National Qualifications. All subject details and application information can be found at www.sqa.org.uk/cfevacancies.

Please circulate to all colleagues who may be interested in these new roles by hitting the SHARE button within this post.

Tackling Youth Unemployment – identifying young people at risk

First things first this is the last time that Ill use the word NEET (Not in Education, Training or Employment). Imagine being a 17 year old, leaving school and being labelled in the negative. It doesnt really say much for your future does it? How depressing…

Upon leaving school (regardless of age) young people enter into either a positive destination or they require support; careers information advice and guidance (IAG) to assist them through their learning journey. I use that term a lot, as I firmly believe that throughout our lives we all experience learning, regardless of setting. And yes, that does include employment.

High quality, impartial IAG is important in helping young people (and others) to make informed decisions about their pathways and future career choices. Careers IAG is a universal entitlement in Scotland – supporting all young people at any stage of career development, whether they choose to learn at school or college, or to develop their career management skills in a work-based or non-formal setting. Indeed, this is reinforced in both the Curriculum for Excellence entitlements and within the 16+ Learning Choices Policy and Practice Framework.

There is a need to re-assert the Government’s commitment to the provision of universal careers services, placing an emphasis on self-help – through developing people’s ability to manage their own career and through a multi-channelled, blended service, with face-to-face and more intensive support for those who need it most.
Most young people will access universal support from Skills Development Scotland during their school career, though others will require a more targetted approach, with early identification required so that resources can be deployed effectively. This process must start at least 12-16 months in advance of the statutory leaving age (in Scotland this is 16 years old) or whenever required by legislation as outlined in the ASL Act and Code of Practice.
An example of such assessment can be found within a risk matrix. The Risk Matrix aims to address the issue of those children and young people at risk. It highlights those most at risk by using a simple assessment technique that assigns a risk value to a number of the pupils attributes. These are configurable by each authority and when added together the resulting number is a quantitative risk assessment for that child. The status of the pupil is identified using colour coding with those most at risk coloured red. This is managed through the school/authority management information system.

The system should assist pastoral staff with the early identification of those pupils slipping towards a high risk category. Hopefully this will allow intervention at an earlier stage. The data is also shared (through the application of robust data sharing agreements) with other parties e.g. colleges of further education. This has the additional benefit of streamlining the post-school transition and is a basic principle of the 16+ Learning Choices Data Hub.

Information is automatically updated to the risk matrix on a nightly basis but can be re-imported at any time if required. Some of the criteria includes attendance; exclusions; post code; attainment; social work and other professional agency engagement; additional support needs and so on.
Of course, this isnt an exact science were talking about young people and they are the most significant variable in the known universe. By that, I mean to say that a young person may be at risk at 10am in the morning and by 2pm the level of risk has diminished, and vice versa. Criteria must never be used alone and so this must be backed-up by professional opinion ideally from a named person from within the school e.g. youth worker or pupil support teacher.

Scottish Education – The Front End vs The Back End

Following from my previous article, here are some random ramblings on Curriculum for Excellence. I’ll produce another article later this week with my concluding thoughts.

Mixed messages and a lack of clarity around the broader implications that CfE brings to education has lead to some misinterpretation. Many teachers still believe that it is all about changing the national qualifications and the assessment criteria, albeit with a splash of contemporary learning and teaching thrown in. With many stresses on the daily routine, finding time to plan and deliver a cooperative lesson or plan interdisciplinary learning across the curriculum is challenging. Yes, where relevant, appropriate and timely – this is a great way of reinforcing a particular lesson; articulating aspects of the curriculum and connecting skills so that they young person’s learning is progressive, integrated and that the experience is not easily forgotten. Unfortunately, there are a few major barriers which are preventing progress within Scottish Education.

Educational leaders, as public managers are accountable to their local authority. The majority are not taking the managed risks that are needed to break the cycle of tradition which is halting progress. This is not their fault, but is a fundamental paradox within the system itself. We have done to CfE, exactly what we wanted to avoid. Tinkering around the edges and enhancing what I call the ‘front end’ of the learning and teaching process. We’ve done an exemplary job here – but it only goes so far. The ‘back end’ of the system, the inspections, the accountability and the qualifications process which is required for university entry is stagnant and rigid. There is little flexibility and as such this transfers to the classroom.

There is a misconception that everything needs an evidence base – it must be measured recorded and evaluated. I wonder what the purpose of that process is? Is it to monitor and track the young person or is it to appease the inspector when they knock on the door? An independent General Teaching Council for Scotland is raising the standard for full and continued registration; yet there remains an inherent lack of trust between the Government, it’s executive agencies, local authorities and teachers. This is then passed down between parents and carers, pupils and teachers and places schools between a rock and a hard place. The impact of recession has not helped either – changing teacher’s terms and conditions and messing about with pensions during such a sensitive time has enlarged the expanding gulf – reinforcing the ‘them and us’ mentaility which prevents creative, innovative approaches. Not many people are willing to stick their heads above the parapet these days and we have fallen to a culture of standardising standards and writing a policy for policy making. There are many teachers who, given the chance, would do things differently if they were not bound by red tape and mis targetted accountability.

I for one, don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do have the guts to ask some questions. Why do we need an inspectorate of education? Schools go through the self-evaluation process and they are then held to account – based on evidence and statistics. I’d like to see an education system which measures the longer term outcomes of a young person, not when the leave school at the age of 16, 17 or 18 with a fistful of qualifications. To me, that means very little and it certainly does not reflect the improvements in life chances that we must focus upon. Unfortunately, it takes a brave Government to put aside the immediate story telling – required to win elections, and embed a system of education which realises the potential of a young person well after the term of office has completed. I do not like to drive statistics for the sake of telling a story. If we get it right for every child and young person, the numbers will improve as a result.

Whilst removing inspection and revitalising the statistical infrastructure which underpins Scotland Peforms and the national targets, I recognise that curriculum evaluation is important for many reasons. It provides an opportunity for identifying the strengths and weaknesses of an education system so that it can be analysed against an agreed vision and quality criteria. It also informs policy makers and stakeholders with regard to the changes/reforms needed for enhancing the quality of education inputs, processes and outcomes. Moreover, curriculum evaluation points to the capacities to be developed for enhancing the quality of curriculum design, writing and implementation. We need the ability to test, analyse and measure the learning system : adaptability, responsiveness and effectiveness to meet the changing needs of children and young people. This must be embedded into learning and teaching whilst supporting individuals through a modern approach to integrated services, incorporating education, social work and health etc. An education performance framework requires robust monitoring of both the individual and collective progress of children and young people and their achievements: measuring progress throughout the learner’s journey and recognising their outcomes upon leaving school, an episode of learning and when reaching the end of the extended school curriculum.

To this end, I propose a two tier, national framework to measure the success of the education system. This should be based on Integrated Services Performance – the lead indicators which measure across the entire portfolio of services; building capacity and promoting accountability. These should be embedded in a culture of continuous improvement and measured through community partnership planning and local government agreements, and: Organisational Performance – the supplementary indicators which measure schools, colleges and individual services, in the more traditional sense; and promote the need to be more responsive in planning and delivering the curriculum, providing young people with better educational experiences. Such a framework must remove the focus of attainment results in S4, 5 and 6 and instead look across the holistic outcomes. This means removing the current Standard Tables and Charts system and replacing it with a new senior phase benchmarking tool.

When is a school not a school?

I am currently writing an article asking the question – when is a school not a school? I have a bit of a ‘bee in my bonnet’ at present about Curriculum for Excellence – and whether the marriage to Scottish education is actually working.

I believe that a 21st Century Education means that ‘schools’ must produce scientists, musicians, scholars, engineers, trades people and artists if they are to compete in a global, economic market. At present, and this and a tradition thing, we focus too much in churning out young people with as many qualifications as possible simply to drive statistics under the auspices of improving life chances.

How does that enrich the curriculum and produce successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens? The answer is – it doesn’t and that is why we are failing our children and young people.

There are some excellent examples which demonstrate that the CfE philosophy is absolutely the best thing to happen to Scottish education – but there are also some whopping big barriers to progress. Watch this space for my next post – and I apologise in advance it reads as a bit of a rant. I need to get some things off my chest before it is too late!

Scottish Government Consultation – review of post-16 education

We all recognise that education is key to improving the life chances of our young people.  At the end of the last parliamentary session, in the Green Paper Building a Smarter Future, The Scottish Government set out a range of options for the future of Scotland’s universities. If there is to be true transformational change across the post-16 education landscape, then we must look at colleges, universities, skills and training as a whole. The operation of these sectors together, for learners, is the key to unlocking the potential of our people for their benefit and for that of our economy.

The Scottish Government has now brought forward detailed proposals for a reform programme for the whole of post-16 education in Scotland in the pre-legislative paper Putting Learners at the Centre: delivering our ambitions for post-16 Education.

The proposals are focused on:

• creating better life chances for all young people;

• better aligning outcomes with the Scottish Government’s Purpose, specifically the Government’s ambitions for jobs and growth; and

• creating a more sustainable approach to funding post-16 education.

These three fundamental drivers give rise to proposals for improved access and progression, the alignment of skills and training with jobs and growth, the support of research and ways to make study more affordable.

The paper sets out proposals for wide-ranging reform of the full range of Government-funded post-16 education in Scotland – higher education, further education and skills. In the light of the consultation on Building a Smarter Scotland, they have already discussed many of the issues facing higher education and outlined their aim to deliver a sustainable future for the sector.

This paper has drawn on the analysis of the responses to that consultation to set out more definite proposals for HE and The Scottish Government are now seeking views on how these may best be implemented.

On further education and skills the paper builds on the recently published ‘Willy Roe’ Review of vocational training and the Skills Strategy. If you are part of this landscape or simply have an interest, I urge you to read through the proposals and put your thoughts to Government.

You can access the consultation here: Putting Learners at the Centre – Delivering our Ambitions for Post-16 Education