Why Cooperative Learning? What it will do for you and what you don’t need to do…

This video deals with some of the knee-jerk reactions to “student-centred learning” as being unmanageable, ineffective and demanding for teachers. (From the introduction to “Islam in RE: Religious Literacy & Controversy through Enquiry” 17 March 2014 in Norwich).
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Jakob Werdelin - Why Cooperative Learning
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Structural Cooperative Learning consists of students in small hand-picked teams or pairs working in fixed Cooperative Learning interaction patterns (or CLIPs) selected and timed by teachers to achieve very specific aims – while affording students endless variation and excitement through the changing materials and tasks. 

While equally highly efficient and engaging for rote learning, Cooperative Learning is excellent for approaching complex, controversial and/or toxic subjects.

The full-day CPD course Islam in RE: Religious Literacy & Controversy Through Enquiry  has been developed to demonstrate how this might be done, and is in many ways the dialectic opposite of the attainment-focused Skills & Mastery now being delivered to a number of Norfolk schools.
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Attendees of both courses instantly recognise how the same CLIPs are deployed in different subject with different aims, proving Cooperative Learning is instantly applicable to all materials across all subjects and integrates with any other didactic method. This is one of the main reasons for its cost-effectiveness in relation to training investment.
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In the words of Emma Smithson, who attended Skills & Mastery in at Stalham, “I can go back an share the new CLIPs with my already converted school. I can’t see any challenges at all.” Videos with Stalham staff and management found here.  For further references to the Sutton Trust at Cooperative Learning & the Sutton Trust on Pupil Premium.
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The first pilot of this course was run at the School of Education and Lifelong Learning at the University of East Anglia in June 2014, attended by Secondary School teachers, academic researchers and members of Norfolk SACRE and Norfolk County Council Social Services.
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“Fascinated by CL as a driver for improved progress and SMSC.

Keen to try approach with my class.

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- Alex Bowles, KS2 leader, Tuckswood Primary
Islam in RE, Islam Awareness Week special event, Norwich, March 17 2015
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“HUGE potential to raise engagement.

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- Kimberly Clarke, Norwich Primary Academy
Islam in RE, Islam Awareness Week special event, Norwich, March 17 2015
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“Healing Fractures II – Beyond Birmingham?” – video introduction

The first video from the educators’ workshop Healing Fractures II – Beyond Birmingham? during Islam Awareness Week 2015 now online.

http://videos.werdelin.co.uk/#!album-5-3

Opens video in new window.

Also see Cooperative Learning & the Knowledge Café format: student-centred enquiry for adults

“Healing Fractures II” video library here. Also see more on the Mona Siddiqui anecdote:

Learning Wisely – Living Virtuously: From the mountain to the valley

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A post on the day’s outline to come up later. Get notifications of related posts on twitter.

The workshop enquired into various themes, including:

  • systemic issues and the purpose of ‘modern’ education in secular post-modernity
  • community building boundaries; Birmingham, et al.
  • the new role of religion and Religious Education:  SMSC, PHSE, Citizenship & British values
  • student-centred paradigms; renegotiated power relationships or egotism?
  • social constructivism as a democratic skill set; British values as an example
  • beyond now; P4C, the Trivium and the Islamic connection in English educational history
  • Islam and Muslim alternative education; problem for whom or solution to what?
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eCL#4: Questions about Islam; a ready-to-use 37-card set

Of general interest to any RE teacher in KS2+ dealing with Islam, and especially to attendees at the CPD course Islam in RE: Religious Literacy & Controversy Through Enquiry and the Ihsan Mosque Enquiry & Immersion field trips, now finally available to primary schools after the Islam Awareness Week pilot. 

The latest edition of cooperativelearning.works newsletter,  eCL,  is a 37 card class set of Questions about Islam designed to activate schemata and generate subject interest when teaching  Islam in RE. Also useful throughout and after a lesson or series of lessons to check understanding in relation to assessment and next steps.

The questions cover a range of areas relating to specific LOs such as religious rules and festivals; others facilitate thinking about oneself, life and religion in general. The set may be used in any way, but was originally designed for the Cooperative Learning Interaction Pattern called Catch-1-Partner.

Catch-1-Partner gets the most timid students engaged as pupils mingle and answer questions from various partners; excellent for sharing thoughts and ideas, or to retain or explain knowledge and thinking.

Download the Catch-1-Partner : Questions about Islam card set from the resource page.

Also see Catch1Partner instruction video on Potential realised? Celebrating Ofsted Report’s 1st Birthday…

Enquiry & Immersion

Interested in Enquiry & Immersion field trips? Prices and booking for primary & secondary at schools.outreach@muslimsofnorwich.org.uk

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Cooperative Learning & the Knowledge Café format: student-centred enquiry for adults

Last week saw a select group of educationalists and researchers from disparate backgrounds engaging the burning conundrum of education, community building, religion, identity, attainment and social cohesion in multicultural Britain.

The workshop enquired into various themes, including:

  • systemic issues and the purpose of ‘modern’ education in secular post-modernity
  • community building boundaries; Birmingham, et al.
  • the new role of religion and Religious Education:  SMSC, PHSE, Citizenship & British values
  • student-centred paradigms; renegotiated power relationships or egotism?
  • social constructivism as a democratic skill set; British values as an example
  • beyond now; P4C, the Trivium and the Islamic connection in English educational history
  • Islam and Muslim alternative education; problem for whom or solution to what?

The Knowledge Café format: student-centred enquiry

In a traditional Knowledge Café, participants break into small groups to discuss one or more central questions, ending with an open class summary.

The aim of fusing this very open format with the tight control of structural Cooperative Learning, Healing Fractures II was to afford a sharper and more focused enquiry, which would integrate personal encounters, practical tasks and subject knowledge with debating, negotiation and collaboration.

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M. Vince, RE teacher, discusses the use of Cooperative Learning in "Healing Fractures II"

VIDEO: M. Vince, RE teacher, discusses the use of Cooperative Learning in “Healing Fractures II”

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Participants working with each other across boundaries of faiths, professions and politics to collaboratively discover possible future roles for education. As to the importance of these issues, a vicious circle –  isolation to secure religious/cultural values versus government demands to conform – is pushing marginalised communities beyond breaking point, feeding extremism at both ends of the spectrum.

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“I found the insight of the Muslim headteacher particularly helpful when she said it was essentially about belonging….”

– Garry Swinton, Chaplain of The Grey Coat Hospital and Westminster City School.

In presenting Healing Fractures, we wished to demonstrate that British Muslims educators are willing and able to act as a unique and valuable resource in this debate.

Ensuing posts will provide more videos, reflections and a detailed breakdown of the workshop.


Related posts:

Learning Wisely – Living Virtuously: From the mountain to the valley - High-level cohesion, pulling values from the vacuum, or simply “Why Tertiary should pick up on child-centred learning”.

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P4C? No, P4U! – Mr Lawson on enframing.

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What comes out of the Birmingham “Trojan Horse”? - Critical thinking to go.
Empowering communities through Student-Centred Learning - The Palestinians seem to get it…

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Transcript of “The Student- Centred Classroom & The Self-Centred Student…” – Paper presented at the BRAIS  inaugural conference, Edinburgh University, 11 April 2014.
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Critical thinking & community empowerment: coming soon to a staff room near you?

An MTA training event “Muslim Teachers of the Future” yesterday raised the level, urgency and sheer importance of investigative sessions such as Healing Fractures II.

Odd thing to write under a heading which includes the word “Critical thinking”, but if Sunday’s event is anything to go by, I want to start by quite uncritically recommending  Muslim Teacher’s Association‘s training days at the Institute of Education:

Where else do £10 normally let you listen to, and discuss directly with, a leader of an global interfaith charity, several international educational consultants in school and B2B curriculum development, seasoned innovators in diversity and minority issues, a politician, innovative curriculum developers, heads, teachers, researchers from a variety of ethnic, religious and professional backgrounds? In many ways, everyone present was of a level, experience and heartfelt engagement that made me wish they had all been present at Healing Fractures last Monday – and did I mention all tables had flowers and that lunch was included?

Rosemary Campbell Stephens: “Colour blind or just plain blind?”

Rosemary Campbell-Stevens needs no further introduction: She did not refer to any “minorities” in her presentation; it actually took me a while to work out who she was referring to by “global majority.” White European, are you? You constitute a microscopic minority, mate. It’s just a question of the frame.

Speaking of frames: First Ms Campbell-Stephens had a go at the concept of “colour blindness”, normally seen as a positive. Key points here: “What sense does it make for Government to be colour blind in Birmingham? Didn’t the various authors of various reports notice those people were Asians? Or did they just feel who these people were was irrelevant?”

Begs the questions posed by Hallaq’s seminal work “Islamic State” about the benefits of localised versions of the Sharia in traditional Islamic societies – which reflected the culture and temperament of the environment, whether Andalusia or China – over and above a one-size-fits all remote-controlled State law-machinery of the Enlightenment programme: Especially now that dismantling of Local Authority has effectively removed one of the final key areas where various local groups could challenge state narratives about issues such as race, culture, poverty.

“Colour blindness” is the tip of the iceberg. The latest media gags of “racism no longer being an issue in Britain” by a certain politician covers a more subtle issue raised by Ms Campbell-Stephens: What does it even matter that blacks, or Asians, or any other UK minority group breaks the glass ceiling, if they are unable to renovate the roof? What power do you wield if you can occupy a space, but not change it? The phrase she used was to “exhale in the workplace.” That means not feeling compelled to get rid of dreadlocks, or “ethnic” earrings, or the scarf in the office, but to come in and make a meaningful change with what and who you are, exactly as a “white British” person would, for the benefit of everyone. These examples came out in the discussion, by the way.

Yet here are the teachers, duly teaching the British value of democracy…

Ed Walsh: “Need words in science, too”
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You’d think that a model outstanding science lesson by Ed Walsh would be a break from the endless negotiations of meaning;  finally something solid,  tangible,  indisputable!  Not so.
In two rounds we were presented with tightly managed social construction to facilitate thinking,  reflection and precise, concise scientific thinking through language!
These sessions warrant their own posts. In relation to my previous posts on Mr Peal’s lunges at student-centred learning, given Mr Walsh has 15+ years in teaching, it seems less clear why we should pay any attention to a book written by a thirty-years-old w. 2 years of experience, published by a right-wing think tank.
When it all comes together
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In the above, we have driven home the point that reality is up for grabs, and posited that creating reality, not “getting” it from someone else, is not only a vital skill in any democratic society, but is also the best way to teach outstanding lessons. In relation to the comment on Peal’s book above, I stand by his point that poor, undirected “lazy teacher” social constructivism is not an option. My claim is simply that using classroom management tools such as Cooperative Learning will put this type of high-powered, outstanding teaching into the hands of even unqualified teachers.
Question: may politics and science conceivably be taught using the same lesson plan? Just a question.
More on this event and its connection to the themes of Healing Fractures II in following posts. Other topics presentations by Mr Amjal Masroor, Maimonides Interfaith Foundation and Connect2Colour (which, incidentally, is NOT about race) and the proposition that Sir Michael is actually an alright guy (I apologise in advance for poking fun at him in a previous article). Follow on @werdelin_CL.
MTA: More information at their revamped site.

An interesting related example is Matthew Vince’s research on Muslim teachers navigating Islam in RE state-school curriculum, found here.


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All in the (Islamic Awareness) Week’s work

Next week will see a breakdown of each of the these educational events for the benefit of attendees and third parties.

In summary:

Monday 16 March: Healing Fractures II” Educators’ Workshop 

Beyond Birmingham? Through shared insights of seasoned Muslim alternative educators, RE teachers, researchers and representatives from statutory bodies, this full-day ‘knowledge café’ aimed to let Muslim and non-Muslims collaboratively re-discover a possible future role of schools in relation to identity and community. Everybody present but Ofsted and DfE.

Thank for this and a most thought-provoking

and well-organised day.” 

-Isabel Farrelly, Equality and Diversity Officer, Norfolk

HF2

Where is Sir Michael when you need him?

Tuesday 17 March: Islam in RE: Religious Literacy & Controversy Through Enquiry full day CPD

on religious literacy, guided enquiry into controversial topics and related issues of SMSC, PSHE, and Citizenship. Attendees: Charlie Hebdo reflections,  lesson plan in pdf and sample materials are found here: Charlie’s Angels or Sympathy for the Devils? 

“I have truly enjoyed this approach and it has reminded me of why I enjoy enquiry based learning. It was great to be challenged at an adult level, not to be talked down to as a child.”

- Cecilia Basnett, Bignold Primary

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Wednesday 18 & Thursday 19 March: “Enquiry and Immersion”

Full-Day Field Trip to Ihsan Mosque presents these new trips developed for primary schools.

Best quote:

“I’d give my life’s savings to eat here every day”

- Year 6 Pupil, 18 March, 2015.

Though very different events, all shared a common theme for me. How much does one control as facilitator, and how does one become one with the flow?  Stay tuned on twitter.

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Learning Wisely – Living Virtuously: From the mountain to the valley

High-level cohesion, pulling values from the vacuum, or simply “Why Tertiary should pick up on child-centred learning”.

Yesterday Mona Siddiqui, professor of Islamic and Interreligious Studies at Edinburgh University, presented her talk Learning Wisely, Living Virtuously: the challenge of Modern Education at the Thomas Paine Study Center, University of East Anglia. A big thank you to the Keswick trust for making this event available at no cost.

Those familiar with Professor Siddiqui’s BBC4 programmes will recognise many of the themes. It thrilled me that she opened with the issue of teaching values in a society without authoritative meta-narratives. This lead to a critique of the atomisation of education, its focus on the quantifiable over qualitative, as well as the narcissistic self-feeding-frenzy of contemporary consumer culture, which never stops to ask the question “Why?”

Treading carefully, Professor Siddiqui even managed to subtly juxtapose this lack of critical questioning with modernity’s all-pervading question-everything anti-authoritarian ethos, which today makes any discussion of solutions from a religious perspective difficult, if not impossible.

But distrust of authority, however, goes far beyond religion; She described a session where the question “What are your values?” had drawn blank stares from a lecture hall of university students. After coping with this novel concept, it finally transpired that they got their values not from their parents or teachers, but from their peers.

All in all, the Professor echoed my own reflections on this blog, tying together cultivation of values, engagement in deep and meaningful relationships, and the support this would offer community building and cohesion.

Given the title of the talk and the Professor’s engagement, intelligence and scholarship, I was genuinely interested in her ideas about how to translate this into a classroom experience – getting the sage down into the valley, so to speak. Therefore, in the following Q&A, I asked how such demanding human skills (including “humility, respect for hard work, thankfulness”) were to be taught in this context of narcissism, void of narrative and common reference points beyond the latest viral fad.

Alas, the answer here stayed on high ground, circling around the importance of adult role models, balancing the individual vs. community and semantics of values and morals when positioned to children. All highly intelligent and insightful, but nebulous nonetheless. After a few tries, I let it go.

This is in no way a critique of Professor Siddiqui, rather a realisation that she is as much a victim of the atomisation of the education system as the students. It is just not embedded day-to-day practice for researchers and philosophers to sit down with teachers and heads to operationalise ideal education, in spite of  teachers actually having a lot of quite amazing solutions, but no theoretical framework with which to describe them and develop them.

Caught in the revolving doors?

In reality, the most enlightening part of the evening took place later: Before I had even  risen from my seat, I was whirled up in conversation with a 22-year-old MA student at the UEA and a local Primary teacher in her 50s. Between myself and these two women, one in the spring and one at in autumn of life, choice, consequence, internalisation of learning, caring control versus freedom to fail, experience, art, expressiveness, identity; it all ignited.

On the way out, outlining my own work in relation to these  topics, I had only to say the word Cooperative Learning, and the MA student burst out with “Oh, I’d love to have some of that. That’s exactly what we need at university!”

It just so happened that a gatekeeping member of UEA staff stood only eight feet away, and I jokingly suggested she present her ideas to someone who actually had the power to do something, which I suppose is frightfully Scandinavian of me. Unfortunately, said academic needed to escort Professor Siddiqui from the centre, so this opportunity to cross-fertilize between a live student, a decision-maker, two practitioners and a government level philosopher was lost in a revolving door.

With staff and guests gone, the three of us continued the chat in the empty hall of the Thomas Paine Centre, doing what in Danish is referred to as “redde verden”; i.e. “saving the world” – vernacular for solving universal problems over a cuppa.

The hip bone’s connected to …

I realised in all this the underlying importance of  the educators’ workshop Healing Fractures II: Aside from hopefully inspiring and enlightening all participants on the subject, I wish to find a model in which stakeholders in any area may meet in something that is at once a chit-chat cafe and a ground-breaking, result-oriented down-to-business meeting – both of the highest caliber.

I was very generously offered a proper panel speech by one of the participants, Dr Lee Jarvis, who could easily have filled the Thomas Paine Center by himself. It was very tempting for a host of reasons, but in the end, I feel the format of panel-question/answer is not the answer here, even by a Senior Lecturer in International Security or a Professor in Islamic and Interreligious Studies:

Healing Fractures II is first and foremost about looking at information and information processing in another way and harnessing the power of didactic strategies to let a wide variation of stakeholders construct and funnel knowledge through highly complex networks – and secondly to capture that processing as clear, effective, next-action steps. The atomised take on knowledge is not an option in the 21st century.

And it is about equality, it is about exploring with genuine interest (facilitated by the format of Cooperative Learning) other people’s reflections, negotiating meanings and reality-checking ideas. And, in that, perhaps discovering that while we may think ourselves mountains of knowledge, we may be someone else’s valley floor. Whether this is wisdom is hard to say, but I remember when I was taught the Islamic sciences at the hand of a traditional Moroccan teacher: “Knowledge always flows downwards.” 

Professor Siddiqui’s most important statement came as an afterthought, reflecting on our questions at the very end of the Q&A:

“…I don’t know how we can get out of this,

except to re-analyse the purpose of education.”

First thing to do on a Monday morning, 16 March 2015, in the beautiful rooms of the Norwich Wellbeing Centre.

Lucy's man

“OK – Wow, I really am lost.”

This small clay figure is the handy-work of said primary school teacher,

scanned from her business card.

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Related posts:

P4C? No, P4U! – Mr Lawson on enframing.
What comes out of the Birmingham “Trojan Horse”? - Critical thinking to go.
Empowering communities through Student-Centred Learning - The Palestinians seem to get it…
Transcript of “The Student- Centred Classroom & The Self-Centred Student…” – Paper presented at the BRAIS  inaugural conference, Edinburgh University, 11 April 2014.
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Get notifications of related posts on twitter.
werdelin.co.uk is the business end of cooperativelearning.works.

Disclaimer: This material represents my own focus and understanding and may not accurately reflect the intentions of the speaker.

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Filed under Cooperative Learning, Didactic methodologies, Discovery, events, Multiculturalism, P4C, Philosophy for Children, Research, social skills