Well, it was slightly further afield for me last week as I travelled to Sheffield for a two day ‘train the trainer’ event with the Geographical Association (GA).
The Department for Education (DfE) recently announced that the GA had been successful in its bid under the Teaching and Leadership Innovation Fund (TLIF). Such project funding will enable the GA (with their partner, the Association for Science Education – ASE) to provide free, ‘plan-do-review’ CPD to 1000 primary and secondary teachers between autumn 2018 and the end of March 2020 (with the possibility of extending the provision for up to two further years). The training focus is knowledge application, the critical use of data and construction of evidenced arguments, with the aim of building teacher confidence and capability in using specialist pedagogies in geography and science. The CPD will be delivered through teacher networks, with the recruitment target being 300 schools, largely those in DfE ‘priority areas’.
Back in September, Julie Beattie wrote to me, on behalf of Alan Kinder, the Chief Executive of the GA, to see if I would like, and be able, to contribute towards this new project, as part of the GA’s project team. Following a two day intensive training course, it was anticipated that I would become a ‘national expert CPD trainer’, working alongside local school practitioners to develop critical pedagogies for teachers.
And, it was a pretty intensive training event! We began mid-afternoon on the Friday with a formal welcome and introductions. Following an overview of the TILF programme, we were given an ‘introduction to critical thinking and problem solving’, which looked at ‘becoming better at thinking’, exploring perspectives and evidence and applying critical questions. We finished around 7.30 pm, in time for a hot and cold buffet meal at Cosmo; sampling foods from different places around the world seemed the perfect way to entertain a group of avid geographers (and scientists)! This also provided an opportunity for plenty of informal geography-related talk and a spot of networking.
It was a very early start on the Saturday as there was so much content to get through during the day. The first session focused on ‘making better sense of information’, including evaluating evidence and exploring and applying evidence to make arguments. We then looked at ‘becoming a more open thinker’, considering controversial issues in the curriculum and teachers’ roles, as well as employing strategies to think critically about them.
After lunch, time was allotted to preparation for school-based project activity. This touched upon aspects, such as the purpose and shape of classroom application; managing school-based activity and organising and leading the programme – the practical matters. Later, we looked at ‘structuring thinking in the curriculum’, exploring structures to support students’ critical thinking, in addition to considering structuring into school practice.
An insightful, inspiring, highly interactive and hugely worthwhile two days, although my brain was aching by the end of it!
I am really looking forward to launching this initiative and working with schools within the south west and Midlands over the next few months. Do re-visit my personal blog to find out how things are progressing.