Learning through experience, enquiry and investigation.

Posted: June 23, 2011 in learning
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I was fortunate enough to attend the STAR Programme for Raising Boys’ Achievement summer conference in Bradford this week.

The programme which has been running all year in Bradford Secondary and Primary schools culminated in a showcasing exhibition and keynotes from Paul Ginnis and Debbie Morrison OBE (if you get an opportunity to hear Debbie speak, you must – a truly inspirational lady). The programme and the conference was run by the fantastic Lorin Campbell and Jen Plews.

I thought I’d write a post on the ideas and philosophy that was presented by Paul Ginnis , as it hit a simple yet unbelievably important message home on the way that we teach our students.

The Don! Paul Ginnis

I have also posted my tweets during the two days at the bottom of this post. Click on the links to view – thanks to @AtkiTeach @CTTEditor @twiducate @USATeducation @cdcowen @Smichael920 and @Biolady99 for the RT’s.

Paul Ginnis kept on coming back to the fact that “learning is most likely to be effective through experience, enquiry and investigation” and that constructivism is an essential and the most effective way for students to learn, this was supported by reliable research and neurological science. Throughout the presentation Paul encouraged us to take part in several activities and showed us recent case studies from schools that he works in of this philosophy in action. Below is the first opening activity that we undertook;

A murder mystery – Paul brilliantly set the scene about a suspicious murder, we were then asked to answer six questions about the murder who? how? by whom? when? where? and why? – each group of 6 were given a pack of 36 cards, we weren’t allowed to show the cards to each other but were encouraged to talk within the group about what was written on the cards. We had a ten minute deadline to write the six answers down.

At the end of the ten minutes – when groups who had got answers wrong or hadn’t finished or had six answers but weren’t certain if they were correct……guess what happened? Every delegate wanted to know if they were right, who was the murderer? Why did they do it? etc

Paul went on to say that this is human nature – we want to solve problems, we want to challenge ourselves, we want to pick our wits against things (think about young people, desperate to achieve the next level of their computer games, they are not forced to play, they are not encouraged by others to get to Level 10 – they just want to!)  An innate attribute in us all makes us want to solve problems.

The activity itself stimulated lots of different learning styles – communicating, sequencing, analysing, sifting through information, justifying, debating as well as all six PLTS, however Paul believed that after the activity and during the debriefing is where the real learning took place – we (as students) were now open to learning, as we now had the desire and urge to understand and learn…because we wanted to know if we were right, we “needed” to know the answers.

Paul referred to the fact that when we watch a new DVD we never watch the last scene first to find out what happened and then watch the rest of the film! Unfortunately according to him, and I have to agree – this happens in lessons far too much. How many Science teachers demo the experiment to show their students what should happen and then ask them to go back to their desks and complete the practical for themselves? – duh, what’s the point? – they know and have just seen how to do it, why to do it, when to do it and what happens when you do all of those three things!! (I was one of those teachers – but not anymore!!!)

“accept defeat, we can’t generate understanding from our students the way that we teach now – we need to change tact and design deep learning activities” Paul Ginnis

“Shallow learning v Deep learning – teachers measure success on how much teaching has taken place” Paul Ginnis

“There needs to be more learning than teaching – how? By reversing the order of the ‘standard’ lesson – student input/problem solving first then teacher input.  Then the learning will happen, students will be open to learning – this is the reverse teaching principal”. Paul Ginnis

The reverse teaching principal simply means creating opportunities for your students to engage in a relevant problem solving exercise first – get them to work out a puzzle, or complete a challenge or solve a problem or research pieces of text to answer quick fire questions or design a model of a concept or work out a secret code . Remember, don’t tell them how to do it, just give them 3 or 4 simple rules (timeframe, resources, group size and instructions) – and then the deep learning can take place. All students (and adults!) based on their genetic and neurological make up will now want to know if they worked out the puzzle, completed the challenge, solved the problem etc – now the ‘debriefing’ can take place, in other words the students are open to learning.

How did I feel when I reflected on the day? Annoyed. Disappointed. Angry. It’s so obvious – why haven’t I been doing this more often? – why don’t I do this all the while? (I will be completely honest and say I have done a fair bit of this and used many of the activities and strategies that Paul showed us – but now I know why it works, now I know why it’s so effective for learning)

The idea of “Learning through experience, enquiry and investigation” and the philosophy of Constructivism is something that I am now going to plan into my lessons in September – after hearing Paul Ginnis speak, I am now confident in why I will be doing it as well.

It’s also fuelled my passion for a new initiative that I am currently working on……watch this space!

Thanks for reading!!

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Comments
  1. […] To read the post he is referring to click here […]

  2. Brill blog! Mr Ginnis does have that annoying habit of making you feel at odds with yourself: brilliant & foolish; angry & relieved; confused & clear minded.

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