BLP Focus: using Imagination in the Classroom

Teachers at Goffs are always renewing their efforts to research and develop engaging, exciting and effective ways of learning in their classrooms. Moreover, they endeavour to create lessons that incorporate recent research of how the brain learns in order to further develop the BLP skills that students need for an increasingly complex world.

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Imaginative inquiry is key facilitator here and is one of our core BLP skills at Goffs. Of course, teachers use it in many different ways in different areas of the curriculum and over differing periods of time. One of the key benefits of applying imagination skills in class is the flexibility it allows in planning lessons that cover different learning styles and multiple intelligences.

You can get an example of how effective imagination skills are used in the classroom from Daisy Dewson’s favourite lessons. These examples are from RS and History:

“My favourite lesson is the RS lesson we had when we talked about Heaven and Hell. We talked about whether they exist or not, about what they’d be like if they did exist and about why we thought they do or don’t exist. I liked it because it was interesting and fun, and also because there was a lot of talking and giving opinions and we all got our say about whether or not there was some sort of life after death. 

In year seven we also re-enacted the Battle of Hastings in a history lesson. Over half term we all had to make a weapon for homework. I made a helmet and an axe. In the next history lesson we had to bring them in and we went to the sports hall. We were split into two sides: William’s army, the Normans, and Harold’s army, the English. We had previously had a lesson on the Battle of Hastings, so we knew what happened.  After we’d been sorted into two armies and each side had a king, we went into battle. It was really fun and we all learnt a lot from it because things are much easier to remember when you are put in the situation or re-enact them. Also it was exciting because we did a lot of running around and play fighting with our weapons.”

In RS we also incorporate ‘imagination skills’ into some assessments. Below are examples of Daisy’s “Religion – Do we have a choice?” assessment. The students task was to design their own ceremony to mark joining a religion or a coming of age ceremony that can be compared and contrasted to the religious ‘rites of passage’ ceremonies, such as baptism, Bar Mitzvah and Confirmation. Most students opt for a coming of age ceremony based on a community or group they feel they belong to (or would like to belong to). The assessment allows for students to both imagine the community as well as be creative in its construction. For example, Daisy produced a joining ceremony for a Doctor Who fan club (one that takes itself very seriously), which allowed for all kinds of imaginative joining rituals, commitments and shared values. The ceremony was then compared to the more established religions. Although this may seem a little silly, it does get the students to consider the comprehensive nature of the actual religious ceremonies studied and how much choice we have in joining them.

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Some may argue that these types of assessment are not academically rigorous or challenging enough, but RS teachers are looking for a specific explanative criteria (based on levels) to be met. Using imagination allows students to be creative, apply their knowledge to new situations and further their understanding of topics taught.

Fancy a career change? What about teaching?

Many teachers enter the profession after working in other occupations and pursuing different careers. Often, these ‘career changers’ can bring important skills into both the classroom and schools. If this is something that has ever crossed your mind, please consider the below. The article considers the two main post-graduate routes into teaching: School Direct, which is based in schools, and the traditional university based PGCE.

Article first published in the Guardian on Monday 19 January 2015. Written by Andrew Jones.

Over the last few years, the government has encouraged schools to take more control of teacher training, as part of their plan to move towards school-centred initial teacher training (Scitt) rather than the more traditional routes provided by universities and higher education institutions.

There are now two main graduate routes into teaching: the School Direct path, focused on being paid to train within schools; and the traditional Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), which is based at universities. Although some School Direct fee-paying courses can lead to a PGCE, in general providers distinguish the two as “School Direct” and “university based PGCE routes”. In this article ‘PGCE’ will refer to the route based at university and with two placements during the year of study.

The thinking behind the move towards schools administering teacher training is that they can provide more practical, hands-on preparation overseen by experienced teachers – rather than university lecturers, who may be more removed from everyday school life.

However, the reality is more complex than this. As a lead practitioner, I’ve been co-ordinating the School Direct programme at my school this year. While it has real benefits over the PGCE route, there are also additional challenges particularly around affordability, application procedures and the all-important in-school experience.

An obvious benefit is that School Direct trainees are employed as unqualified teachers and can be paid. Salaries start from around £15,000 and go higher depending on experience.

Many PGCE students have to take out additional student loans, however. I am still paying off mine after nine years because I took extra to cover my PGCE too. And bursaries are available for some PGCE courses, but often limited to certain subjects.

In terms of the application process, both School Direct and PGCE candidates need to pass the skills tests (in numeracy and literacy), have at least a C at GCSE in English and Maths and a good degree (we specify a 2.1 or 2.2 with experience). In addition, the School Direct salaried route also requires three years’ paid work experience in any occupation. This can deter people straight out of university or career changers who may have to take a pay cut.

Once a candidate fulfils all the basic criteria, with School Direct there’s more leeway for schools to appoint a trainee of their choice. Although applications are made via Ucas, schools shortlist, conduct interviews and assess the experience and skills of candidates in relation to the needs of the school. With a PGCE, there’s a more general interview process and school placements may be made after the candidate is accepted by a university.

The most important element for new recruits is the school experience itself – and this is where the two courses differ more widely. One of the benefits of School Direct is the immediate immersion in school life. Unlike a PGCE course, where you often start with lectures before going out on shorter placements, School Direct allows trainees to participate as active members of the community from the off . Working from the of September through to July allows trainees to build lasting relationships with students and colleagues.

Despite being thrown in at the deep end, trainees are gradually introduced to teaching through an initial period of observations before starting a timetable of six hours a week and finishing with 18 hours a week. There is also a second placement lasting up to six weeks and a day each week spent at the school’s higher education partner – often a local university.

PGCE courses tend to offer two placements lasting up to two thirds of the course between them. This means you gain experience in schools and will move from a placement if it is not entirely suited to you; School Direct trainees are stuck unless they resign and leave the programme. You also have more time at university, which means more time for studying and reflecting on your progress as well as spending far more valuable time with peers in a similar situation.

I valued my time away from school as a PGCE trainee and made some lasting friendships with colleagues beyond my own place of work. I also liked the academic focus of being university based and appreciated the gradual immersion into the classroom. But those who just want to get on with the practice of teaching might prefer the School Direct route, especially if you have the confidence to jump in at the deep end and/or experience of working schools. Both routes lead to qualified teacher status and are followed by a probation year and cover the same key standards.

Goofs School Direct vacancies can be found here: http://www.goffs.herts.sch.uk/information/schooldirect.shtml