Over the last few months I’ve come across a range of schools that have used ideas and structures in The Learning Rainforest as a direct driver of their CPD. This has happened without input from me, beyond writing the book; it’s an approach they’ve taken themselves and then told me about afterwards. When I was writing the book, still less than two years ago, it was a distant hope that this kind of thing might happen so it’s hugely rewarding to see that become a reality.
I’ve come across a few schools that have found the three-part structure useful in shaping their ideas:
One school, Chace Community School in Enfield, has referenced the tree-structure explicitly to describe different areas of their teacher development process. They have a huge Learning Rainforest display in their staffroom and make direct reference to the Part Two strategies. Here, for example, is part of their CPD evaluation process:
Other schools have told me that they find the Mode A/ Mode B approach very helpful. It gives teachers the affirmation they need that there’s no need to pick a side in the A vs B Wars! It It provides a framework within which teachers’ can express their professional autonomy as they find a balance between the types of teaching they feel are necessary and that they value. (The 80:20 split is my split – I’m not even recommending it to anyone else; the point is to allow yourself to find the more appropriate balance for you and your subject and your class.)
Last week I was asked by a gathering of schools in Stoke to use the Learning Rainforest as a framework for an overview of current issues in curriculum thinking and evidence-informed teaching. One of the attendees, Charlotte Hawthorne, made this excellent infographic to capture the content of the day:
Finally, I attended an event at Woodmansterne School, South London, this week where teachers across all phases of their growing through-school had been working on Learning Rainforest ideas to develop their practice for the last year. It was wonderful to hear four presentations from different teachers and phases:
Kate. EYFS: The importance of high expectations, awe and wonder, building relationships that then allow teachers to challenge and push children to explore and develop; being specific about what we’re praising – verbal feedback; teaching to the top and rigour! Great to hear how these ideas can take form in an early years context.
Danielle Y1: Building knowledge using knowledge organisers with students on a geography ‘our planet’ topic; using resources for quizzing and supporting their learning – alongside role play areas (e.g. a travel agents!) a song about continents and the idea of sending postcards. I loved the multi-dimensional element to the notion of building knowledge.
Marianne KS2 (Y3): Behaviour management – instead of ‘silence’ not being silent, making it a special time for short and specific tasks. Including the teacher and TAs! I loved the use of ‘silent critters’ in a jar – creatures allergic to noise – so that when the lid was removed, it was a cue for delicious silence. Marianne reported how the children now ask for it because the like it so much.
Sierah KS3. Another take on the ‘silence is golden’ idea. Sierah talked about silent ‘Golden time’ and the structure called Silent 7 – 7 minutes of working in silence used to foster resilience and independence and students had to rely on their own resources to problem-solve and move through the learning task.
Values + Experience + Evidence = Wisdom!
I find this message resonates with teachers in all settings.
- Yes, our values matter; they shape who we are, what we believe education is for and the curriculum we provide for our students.
- Yes, experience matters; we learn by doing, from our successes and failures; we gain confidence and fluency in our craft as teachers as we practise different strategies month on month, year on year.
- Yes, evidence from multiple sources can and should influence our practice; ideas from cognitive science, from our own assessments, from observing our peers, from reading books and attending CPD events – it all contributes to our understanding of how learning works.
It’s the combination of these things that fosters the wisdom teachers need to make the best choices they can in planning and delivering the best possible education. The Learning Rainforest is a framework that helps to guide people in how to blend these elements: establishing conditions, building knowledge; exploring possibilities.
If you use the ideas in the book, please do let me know. Also, look out for a new book coming out in autumn 2019: The Learning Rainforest Fieldbook – case studies from 30 schools worldwide. It’s under construction right now, featuring a wide range of fascinating schools, with teachers, students and leaders telling their Rainforest stories.