No way back to Kansas: The wider context of Thursday’s course

Mr Werdelin has developed a propitious educational project whose significance is as far reaching as its necessity in today’s big education debates…

- Mujadad Zaman, MPhil Educational Research Methods , PhD student candidate at the Faculty of Education, Cambridge University.

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For the benefit of attendees of Islam in RE: Religious Literacy & Controversy Through Enquiry this coming Thursday, I would like to put the session into a wider context, hinted at by presenter Mr Mujadad Zaman at June’s pilot the University of East Anglia.

Mr Zaman is currently a PhD student candidate at the Cambridge University Faculty of Education exploring the growing socio-philosophical importance of the University within the Knowledge Society.*

Mr Zaman started by pointing out that our most basic intuitions about reality are being called into questions by the merging of discourses in fields such as consciousness and quantum mechanics.

Therefore a number of high level academics have started to to re-think some traditional assumptions about the relationship between religion and and education.

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Zaman & Diboll

Tertiary negotiations; Dr Mike Diboll & Mujadad Zaman

Islam in RE, University of East Anglia, School of Education and Lifelong Learning, June 26, 2014 

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The creation of a new paradigm related to epistemology and ontology is one of extreme urgency in view of the deteriorating global situation – economic, political and environmental – which can only be identified as the last stage of post-religious western metaphysics, enframing, as discussed by Lawson at Edinburgh University.

Eager to move into a bright new secular future, scholars of the Enlightenment threw the baby out with the bath water, in the process loosing us the tools for non-nihilist higher level thinking, which were key aspects of traditional religious learning in this country.

RE-tinkering pupils’ minds – yet another “personal development” detour?

As a side note to this, I do see how this could be taken as advocating another detour from the hard presentation of subject matter of religion; and I am aware that there is a strong drive in some circles against “deepening pupils’ understanding of religious ideas” (whether or not these may contribute to personal development) as “a tangible or consistently achievable purpose for a subject.” (quoted from How RE lost its soul by David Ashton).

But as followers of this blog will be aware, I am all for hard, factual learning: Opinions without any foundation are simply whims, and I agree absolutely with this camp about the importance of religious literacy – which incidentally forms the first module of Thursday’s course. (For more on Cooperative Learning and attainment, see previous post on Stalham Academy)

However, religious literacy in a world where we can argue that not even physical objects actually exist, let alone essential religion, building one’s opinions on foundations that are made of (quantum mechanic) sand is not sound.

This goes back to Mr Martin Robinson’s “Research the question before you tell us what the answer is…” we have mentioned in a previous post, where I also in passing discuss the relationship of this issue to Mr Brine’s talk on “Realising the Potential” at the UEA.

It is precisely Mr Zaman’s point that there is a very real and valid reason why Mr Robinson and secular, humanist scholars at Oxbridge are now having a good look at the Trivium, the backbone of European religious education once more.** (Once again I want to promote his book 21c Trivium).

No way back to Kansas

Indeed, any and all attempts to retain a sense of normalcy or ‘business as usual’ or to propose solutions which rest within the failing paradigm of teaching ‘knowledge’ without understanding what knowledge is and how it is acquired must be exposed as irrelevant at best, if not irresponsibly complicit in locking coming generations into repeating our mistakes.

It is my argument that, firmly grounded in social constructivism, the structural approach to Cooperative Learning offers a unique tool to help learners cope and de-construct these paradigms while providing a simultaneous and real integration of hard learning.

On a philosophical level, CL exercises help learners reflect, at their individual levels, on issues of epistemology (“How do you know something?”) and ontology (“What is reality”) in the very practical zone of personal beliefs in the classroom as well as the impact of religion on the lives of people. Here is an exemplary question: “Organisations such as ISIS claim Islam advocates the “Islamic State”. Organisations such as Imaan says Islam advocates “Islamic homosexuality”. But if anyone can reconstruct Islam as they want, does Islam even exist?” How do you know? What does it mean to exist?

Bear in mind this is just glimpsing the tip of the iceberg. Once we start to look at real logic and rhetoric in classic theology and it’s grasp on ontology and epistemology, it’s a different kettle of fish – but necessary, as today’s schoolchildren could very well find themselves – indeed are already, perhaps? – living in a consensual hallucination of the internet, downloaded real-time directly into their nervous system. Is this a game … or reality? Not a moot point for the drone operator.

At the moment, I cannot see which subject apart from RE would be able to launch into this (I am open to suggestions, by all means). But standing on a firm intellectual foundation – for starters being able to distinguish between the necessary, impossible and possible nature of given statements – is necessary as given all 20th century paradigms are collapsing under their own weight.

As I mentioned, the above reflections only serve to form a context to the course Islam in RE, and not a reason to unduly worry your Head: participants will still benefit from the LO’s outlined in the course description. And while not as conspicuously challenging as the above, teaching religious literacy and controversy via Cooperative Learning might give an indication of what is possible, and where I hope to eventually take it in the context of UK education.

Mr Werdelin has developed a propitious educational project whose significance is as far reaching as its necessity in today’s big education debates.

Melding fluency of subject matter with an interactive pedagogy, his sensitivity to faith traditions and the challenges faced by teachers ensures its continued relevancy.

- Mujadad Zaman, MPhil Educational Research Methods , PhD student candidate at the Faculty of Education, Cambridge University.
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* ) Mujadad Zaman has had extensive teaching experience, involved in teaching and supervising for the Undergraduate Educational Tripos. Since starting the PhD, he has presented at numerous international conferences including at the universities of Cambridge, Stanford, LSE and Lancaster. Apart from his interests in education he has presented on a wide range of subjects including comparative education, philosophy of the social sciences, aesthetics, religious studies and Victorian social thought.
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Recently he has been Curriculum Coordinator for a new theological college (Cambridge Muslim College) as well as being an educational consultant and researcher for a number of national projects dealing with curriculum development. He has created, taught and evaluated an intensive international summer school, Heritage Summers (Girton College, University of Cambridge) entitled ‘Sliver Spices and Scholarship: An Introduction to Western Intellectual History’ and is currently in the process of setting up an educational support programme for students in Cambridge community.

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**) More on the the relation of the Trivium to higher level thinking, identity formation and related community building, see my  Edinburgh University presentation Student-Centred Classroom & the Self-Centred Student.”  Audio recording of the talk now available.

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Stalham Academy Head on: Cooperative Learning & the Sutton Trust on Pupil Premium

The Headteacher, Mr Andrew Howard, discusses his rationale for introducing the structural approach to Cooperative Learning at Stalham Academy after becoming aware of the research of the Sutton Trust on the effective use of pupil premium published in this year’s EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit

The EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit compares collaborative learning with a host of other approaches, including everything from after school programs over behavioral interventions to digital technology. According to the report, collaborative learning is the most cost/efficient approach, based on “extensive evidence.” (See comparison table on page 2).

This is especially true when noting that the only two approaches classified as “high impact for low cost” are Feedback, Peer tutoring and Meta-cognition and self-regulation which are seamlessly integrated into Cooperative Learning as we have discussed in numerous posts.

As the Sutton Trust’s 2014 publication EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit states:

“The impact of collaborative approaches on learning is consistently positive, but it does vary so it is important to get the detail right. Effective collaborative learning requires much more than just sitting pupils together and asking them to work together; structured approaches, with well-designed tasks lead to the greatest learning gains. (…) Approaches which promote talk and interaction between learners tend to promote the best gains” (p. 11).

Getting “the details right” with “structured approaches” and  “well-designed tasks” to “promote talk and interaction between learners” is the very description of Cooperative Learning Interaction Patterns (CLIPs) which Mr Howard refers to in this interview.

More posts will follow with reflections from Mr Howard on pupil premium and the response of teachers and pupils at Stalham Academy to Cooperative Learning.

For more information, go to full post on on Werdelin Educations engagement with Stalham Academy:

Skills and Mastery at Norfolk Academy: Attainment with CL


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Enquiry and Immersion: Full-Day Field Trip to Ihsan Mosque, November 13

Originally posted on cooperativelearning.works:

- a unique cross cultural meeting for all secondary RE students in Norfolk

I have been advocating Cooperative Learning as a tool to facilitate collaboration between schools and faith communities for some time, and have now partnered with Ihsan Mosque in Norwich to stage a unique cross cultural meeting for all secondary RE students in Norfolk, the first to take place on Thursday 13 November 2014.

For this first event, I am working closely with RE/humanities coordinators of Acle Academy to receive a number of Gifted & Talented students for this trail run. We have around 15 places available for the day’s event, available on a first come, first served basis (Contact).

Setting the stage: Religious literacy through enquiry

In the morning students will be presented with an enquiry exercise expanding their understanding of Islam in a guided student-centered session where students collaborate to understand and correlate a wide variety of unique materials. The literacy component will be integrated…

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Teaching by Auto-Cue and automatics: The final (budget) cut

Commenting on budget cuts, with usual wit and savvy, Mr Robinson offers some ideas to Lord Nash:

“The teaching force should be shorn of all its older, expensive, workers. A few of the best ones should be retained to write lesson plans. Young teachers should be given bigger classes and smaller classes should be taken by teaching assistants. Each classroom should be monitored by CCTV to allow a ‘Low Level Disruption and Discipline Enforcement SWAT’ team to intervene at the first sight of trouble…”

Adding to the many other good ideas, might I propose to hook up Gatling cannons to cameras situated at strategic exit points, triggered by facial recognition software linked to a database of known truants?

But then, as depleted uranium might pose a H&S risk, one might also save that money by giving teachers very simple classroom management tools, which could be used again and again across different subjects, materials and LPs, and yet facilitate instant, self-directed learning – and then let teachers get on with it.  As I have pretentiously quoted myself in the article on Stalham Academy “…give teachers a practical tool to effectively steer group processes in the direction they need, and everything else will follow.” 

The simple shake-n-bake nature of Cooperative Learning is precisely the reason it has been promoted widely in my home country, Denmark, since the mid-naughts and why no self-respecting provider of teaching materials would fail to tailor major sections to facilitate Cooperative Learning interaction. Almost no CPD is needed, and Cooperative Learning may be deployed the following day with equal efficiency by NQTs and highly experienced teachers alike – facilitating what they want to do in their classrooms.

Everybody could win. Something to think about.

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Enquiry and Immersion: Full-Day Field Trip to Ihsan Mosque, November 13

- a unique cross cultural meeting for all secondary RE students in Norfolk

I have been advocating Cooperative Learning as a tool to facilitate collaboration between schools and faith communities for some time, and have now partnered with Ihsan Mosque in Norwich to stage a unique cross cultural meeting for all secondary RE students in Norfolk, the first to take place on Thursday 13 November 2014.

For this first event, I am working closely with RE/humanities coordinators of Acle Academy to receive a number of Gifted & Talented students for this trail run. We have around 15 places available for the day’s event, available on a first come, first served basis (Contact).

Setting the stage: Religious literacy through enquiry

In the morning students will be presented with an enquiry exercise expanding their understanding of Islam in a guided student-centered session where students collaborate to understand and correlate a wide variety of unique materials. The literacy component will be integrated with tasks to pursue the attainment target “learning from religion.” etc.*

Not only does the exercise facilitate relevant religious literacy, but through negotiation, preconceptions are challenged and new connections are made between a host of historical, theological and contemporary political issues, including the ongoing controversy of ISIS.

Elements of this exercise have been trialed at Norwich High School for Girls’ connected curriculum week Life in the Global Village. Below are some of the responses from students:

“…never boring, different … Imaginative!”

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“…forces people to be concise [and] to participate and learn.”

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“I enjoyed working independently and under pressure … concise yet detailed, curiosity evoked.”

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“… after getting used to it, I began to interact more with the class as everybody needed your information and listened to you.”

Read more.

Minds & hearts: Immersion over information

However, this enquiry lesson, for all its higher level thinking, etc. is still information processing. Students will then have the opportunity to informally engage with Muslim community members over informal lunch in the Mosque. The food is a Morrocan/Jamacian/British fusion kitchen, served on floor from communal plates in a gender separated setting.

We believe that his format, combined with students eating and conversing with regular people, deciding if they want to share their food some with random folks coming in early for the prayer (as they will know from the previous session is basic Islamic practice, and why) is the immersion where real transformative learning will take place.

Momodou MON

Note that the trip also includes observing the noon prayer performed and a tour the mosque grounds, presented by experienced staff. The Ihsan Mosque in Chapelfield has been a part of the wider Norwich community for many years and many teachers will be familiar with its outreach programs within local schools and Mosque tours.

Please contact me directly at jakobwerdelin@werdelin.co.uk for booking and further details.

Itinerary

(may be subject to change)

  • 10-12: Islam in RE: Religious literacy through Enquiry at Centre
  • 12.00-13.00 Lunch, informally hosted by members of Muslim community.
  • 13-13.15 Students watch the noon prayer in Mosque
  • 13.15-14.00 Mosque tour
  • 14.00+ Questions and answer session

Community Building: Getting the bricks together 

On a final note, connected to this is my vision presented at Edinburgh University and June’s Islamic Education Conference in London of presenting a model for local communities, whether unique in relation to faith, ethnicity etc. to provide services and become more self-reliant through their uniqueness. Eg. in this case, the centre and the catering are run by local Muslims,  working with me to provide a unique service to the wider community. Community building is a vital life skill and showing the pupils a vital, self-reliant community is a vital piece of learning: real SMSC.

Link to Ihsan Mosque & Community site here.

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* Generally the session facilitates the best practice outlined in the documents Realising the Potential (Ofsted, 2013), Religious Education in English schools: Non‑statutory Guidance 2010 and The Norfolk Agreed Syllabus for Religious Education 2012 and incorporates elements from our upcoming CPD course on October 23.

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Islam in RE: 23 October CPD course in Norwich, Norfolk

I would like to invite teachers in RE and humanities at East Anglia schools to attend Islam in RE: Religious Literacy & Controversy Through Enquiry full day CPD course, Thursday 23rd October 2014 in Norwich at the newly refurbished Gallery Room at the Norwich Wellbeing Centre.
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Essential islam
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This course has been developed here in Norfolk and the first pilot was run at the School of Education and Lifelong Learning at the University of East Anglia in June, attended by Secondary School teachers, academic researchers and members of Norfolk SACRE and Norfolk County Council Social Services. Here PhD student Mujadad Zaman of Cambridge University introduced the classic tools of rhetoric and logic to facilitate higher level thinking in the context of classroom collaboration.
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Cooperative Learning has been a valuable learning experience, which I will use in working with teachers. It enables everyone to contribute and encourages participants to actively listen to each other and provided a way to engage in controversy within a safe social environment. The tools are very easy to use and I have particularly liked the assessment element.
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- Kevin Blogg, Norfolk County Council, Norfolk SACRE
Islam in RE, University of East Anglia, School of Education and Lifelong Learning, Norwich, June 26 2014 
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The following month, Islam in RE was presented at the Institute of Education (IoE) in London, where it was attended by national educators, especially RE coordinators, as well as community outreach specialists and academic researchers. This course is to be presented to PGCE students at the IoE this November and some seats will be available to teachers nationally (more).
Given that key elements of this course we trailed at Norwich High School for Girls and Stalham Academy‘s recent choice to engage with Cooperative Learning it is thought-provoking that Norfolk – traditionally written off for it’s educational underachievement – should be the other early adaptor for this type of 21st century skills program.
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“…this was fantastic, eye-opening and very visceral”

 – Matthew Vince, PGCE student at the University of Exeter
Islam in RE, University of East Anglia, School of Education and Lifelong Learning, Norwich, June 26 2014 

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Word-Round
Word-Round, UEA, 26 June 2014
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On both occasions Dr Mike Diboll of the IoE presented Cooperative Learning in the wider context of 21st Century Learning and its impact inside and outside the UK.
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As to the importance of this course, it facilitates

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We are open to book teachers who teach the following disciplines:

  • Religious Education/Studies
  • Humanities
  • Philosophy and Ethics
  • Sociology
  • Citizenship/SMSC

However we shall prioritise RE teachers in the booking process due to the limited places we can accommodate.

£200 per attendee from Primary and Secondary schools. Price includes lunch and refreshments. Please contact Sasha Walters by mailing courses@werdelin.co.uk to book your place.

Due to the nature of the content this course is open to the tertiary sector for networking, research and collaborative purposes; members of Ofsted, SACREs, exam boards and Department of Education shall also be represented. Anyone from the above group must secure their place immediately by mailing me directly at jakobwerdelin@werdelin.co.uk.

 

See invitation in pdf in your browser:

lille pdf

“Thanks for next year’s lesson plan”

 – D. Clarke, RE coordinator at Wayland Academy, Thetford
Islam in RE, University of East Anglia, School of Education and Lifelong Learning, Norwich, June 26 2014 

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 More on the UEA presentation.
Other related reading on the IoE event:
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Skills and Mastery at Norfolk Academy: Attainment with CL

Werdelin Education has been working closely with the head of Stalham Academy to facilitate the newly converted Academy’s vision of high attainment through engaging, high impact student-centred learning.

Cooperative Learning is often incorrectly perceived as “talking exercises” unsuitable for teaching specific procedures or rote learning.

The contrary is true: CL is highly effective in teaching facts, reading, maths and SPaG. The new Skills & Mastery CL course intentionally cuts out theoretical background and Ofsted compliant tick-box language in order to put simple, comprehensive tools into the hands of teachers looking to boost attainment with instantly applicable and assessable student-centred learning.

This reflects the fact that schools are not looking for CPD to re-wire their overall strategy and successful routines they have built up over months and years; and teachers even less so. As I have stated before we need to move beyond the buzzwords of ‘self-directed’, ‘flexible’, ‘inquiry based’,  ‘project based’  – no, give teachers a practical tool to effectively steer group processes
in the direction they need, and everything else will follow.

 

Cooperative Learning has had an immediate quantifiable impact on learning at our school

Andrew Howard, Head, Stalham Academy
Skills & Mastery CL course, 2014

 

Though nominally priced as an off-the-shelf CL course, the same versatile nature of Cooperative Learning that permits instant mix-n-match implementation in live classrooms allows the content of this CPD course to be re-ordered and refurbished with actual LO’s and teaching materials at no extra cost.

 

A most suitable image from Stalham Academy’s homepage

By the end of the full 6 hour Skills & Mastery CL course participating teachers will be able to supplement their teaching with a number of engaging group and pair work interaction patterns:

  • activating schemata in relation to topics and tasks
  • using CL to discover solutions
  • unobtrusive monitoring of learning and thinking processes to provide relevant on-the-fly teacher response
  • effective task work in pairs and teams
  • using CL to creative writing, skim, scan and intensive reading, in English and foreign languages
  • Higher Level Thinking Skills; enhancement and rote learning integration
  • homework checking
  • cross-class knowledge sharing
  • retention of  rules and facts
  • memorising and training correct application of rote procedures e.g. mathematical formula, how to use a foreign language dictionary or steps in conducting scientific experiments.

Thank you for this evening! We are all buzzing from your approach and how we can adapt to our school  re children’s learning and assessment for learning!!

Deborah Gillespie, Deputy Head, Stalham Academy
Skills & Mastery CL course, 2014

 

The course may be delivered as twilight sessions in blocks of 2 x 3 hours or 3 x 2 hours, as well as a full day at your school. All courses are preceded by a non-committal discussion about the needs of the specific school, regarding both pupil population, staff and materials. Two hour units of the course may also be bought individually.

More on CL and rote read post Facts vs. Free Thinking? a CL perspective

More about this and other CL courses at werdelin.co.uk.

NB: East Anglia RE and humanities teachers!

Note that the tailored RE course Islam in RE: Religious Literacy & Controversy Through Enquiry will be presented in Norwich Wellbeing Centre on October 23. We have completed successful pilots of this course at the University of East Anglia in June, attended by Secondary School teachers, Academic Researchers and a member of Norfolk SACRE and at the Institute of Education in London in July attended by national Educators and Academic Researchers.

Please see the formal invitation in PDF here: CPD Islam in RE Norwich 23 October

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