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Draft paper for BERA Creativity SIG Symposium Creativity and the Primary Curriculum, Manchester, 2-5 September PDF

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Creative teaching and learning in Foundation Stage and Year 1: indications from observations inside and outside the classroom Part of a symposium proposed by and in memory of Dr Rosie Turner-Bisset on
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Creative teaching and learning in Foundation Stage and Year 1: indications from observations inside and outside the classroom Part of a symposium proposed by and in memory of Dr Rosie Turner-Bisset on Creativity and the Primary Curriculum Sue Waite, University of Plymouth Marie Nichols, University of Plymouth, Julie Evans, University College Plymouth: St Mark and St John, Sue Rogers, Institute of Education, London, Paper presented at the British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, University of Manchester, 2-5 September 2009 Introduction Current educational policy in the UK appears to be shifting from an emphasis on teaching to learning possibly in recognition that delivery of a curriculum cannot guarantee desired outcomes such as motivated life-long learners. The move from declarative to procedural knowledge is a fitting response to a rapidly changing society where adaptability, creativity and criticality are important skills. In connection with this realignment of priorities, two major reviews of the English national curriculum have recently taken place (Alexander 2009; Rose 2009) and have been clear in their message that greater continuity between Foundation Stage and primary education would benefit children s engagement with learning and that less attention to testing and more to the development of learning dispositions is warranted. Rose cites the INCA study on primary curriculum change in 2008 which included 10 countries and rationales given for using areas which related to: the cognitive development of learners; easing the transition from pre-primary modes of learning; curriculum integration to optimise learning; a new importance attached to crosscurricular skills/competences; and a need to simplify the curriculum and its assessment, or a need to make the curriculum more manageable. (Rose, 2009:115) For some years, there has been a requirement for Foundation Stage children to experience some of their learning outside (QCA, 2001); the Rose review also advocates the use of contexts beyond the classroom. Both reviews argue that pedagogy and assessment cannot be separated from a consideration of the curriculum. Our earlier research has pointed to how outdoor contexts affected the pedagogy of teachers, from more teacher-led to shared sustained thinking practices (Rogers and Evans, 2007) and independent learning (Waite, forthcoming). The main aim of our current Economic and Social Research Council funded research is to consider the ways in which children are given opportunities to shape their learning in outdoor environments and the role of staff, student and place in this construction over a key period of transition from Foundation Stage to Year 1. This paper then considers the ways in which outdoor contexts may facilitate more creative forms of teaching and learning over this key period in primary schooling and we contextualise our findings in the light of the recently proposed changes to the Primary curriculum (Rose, 2009) and the Cambridge Review ( Alexander and Flutter 2009; Alexander, 2009). The main focus of our paper is how place, in particular outdoor contexts, is observed to coincide with interactions 1 between staff and children in the co-construction of more creative and integrated ways of teaching and learning. Research methods Our fieldwork at this stage of our research yields cross-sectional data from one primary school. A number of qualitative methods were employed to explore children s and adult s thinking and practices. Of particular relevance to our focus on creativity in this paper were detailed observations of outdoor and some indoor learning opportunities, interviews with staff from Foundation Stage and Year 1 classes and the head teacher about outdoor learning opportunities and their intended learning outcomes. Our mixed method psychosocial approach is based on the premise that what is central is not the individual[s] or the physical and social environment, but the ongoing interaction between both (Scherl, 1986, p.2). Therefore, developing from grounded theory rooted in emergent data, our analysis incorporates a systems framework developed from Neill s (2008) proposed systems approach to the interactivity of seven theoretical domains: programme, individual, group, facilitator, activity, culture and environment. Our initial findings suggest that there are opportunities in outdoor contexts to facilitate creative forms of teaching and learning. We offer some examples from our early analysis below as a site for discussion about what may encourage and contribute to more creative pedagogies across the transition from early years with particular reference to relevant sections of the Rose and Cambridge Reviews of Primary Education. Early indications In our observations, we found about one third of time was spent outside the classroom in Foundation Stage compared to about 10% in Year 1.Using our system framework, we firstly consider how the national and local context such as the National curriculum and school level requirements impinge on the teachers and children s accessing the outdoors for their teaching and learning. Programme - National and Local Curriculum and Pedagogy The headteacher in School A was clear that wider national level pressures affected the sort of pedagogy they could engage in. I think that the current expectation and accountability through league tables for SATS is a major restricting influence on the creativity that we could engage in with children in teaching and learning. (Headteacher, School A) In further discussion it was apparent that alternative approaches would be adopted if he felt he had freedom to choose how to meet the needs of the children at the school. So if there wasn t the pressure for performance towards standards and so on, how do you think you would manage your curriculum, your use of staff and resources differently? R: I would look at, first of all, individual children s needs and there is a small minority of children who are really struggling to access the formal curriculum and I think getting them outside and stimulating their interest in what s around them is one key to unlocking access to the formal curriculum, reading, writing and numeracy in school. I would spend more time in preparation, in stimulation of their interest and helping them to see that 2 actually they need to read and be able to count rather than taking that as a thing that just saying well you ve got to. So actually getting them out and using the outdoors in that way would prove a better way for children to learn than to do things artificially but to stimulate them just with indoor environment and resources we have indoors. (Headteacher, School A) This alternative approach was one that was personalised, authentic and linked to children s interests and enjoyment in order to develop a disposition for learning i.e. much more akin to meeting some objections to the current systems highlighted in the Cambridge report, such as authenticity and relevance and demonstrating locally tailored creative approaches lauded in the Rose report. The Foundation Stage teachers mourned the passing of outdoor play as children entered Year 1. This was attributed to a lack of time and pressure to deliver the national curriculum. Yes, [outdoor learning is] a positive, definitely. They do really enjoy it and I think that s what they find hard going into year 1 because they don t have as much outside play probably because of the curriculum I think it could be more put into it but it doesn t always get put into it because they ve got more pressures with national curriculum areas which in foundation you haven t got because you can allow that freedom a bit more. (FS Teacher 1, School A) Are there any other things that get in the way? R: I think sometimes, time. If you re outdoors you might want to get by the end of the week a certain outcome, you might want to have some writing or some evidence. Sometimes, if everyone is busy you think, well can I really fit in that outdoor session; I ve got to do this writing. So I think expectations of evidence really. Time as well, time is an issue. (FS Teacher 2, School A) A Year 1 teacher also felt the pressure of time with other priorities as the national curriculum bit. Having the time to actually think well, they would quite like to do or asking the children what they would like to have out and putting that out. It tends to be whatever you can get your hands on and also the fact that other people might be using it. Whereas when you re in foundation because it is play based it s the first thing you do rather than the last thing you do. First thing you do is say well this is the topic for the week right what can we have, you list the resources and link them whereas in Year 1 you don t really get that time. (Y1 Teacher 1, School A) Although she saw some freedom within that because of local school-level attitudes and the processes of enculturation in local school norms She could not consciously remember being told the importance of outside play before she worked at the school and suddenly became aware: Oh I ve got to do lots of outside, better plan that in then. We ve got cross curriculum in the school and it s very flexible, we re not dictated to by anybody like you have to do this topic. It s very free here, so as long as you are covering those objectives and your topic is animals you can pretty much do what you like, which is nice. (Y1 Teacher 1, School A) This suggests that Rose s suggestions for areas of learning and their cross-curricular application might represent less conflict for year 1 teachers but as Alexander ( 2009: 42) points out In terms of the EYFS/primary interface, the crucial condition for progression is that the EYFS areas provide, as their name requires, a curricular foundation upon which subsequent learning can build. We believe that the framework encourages this. However, there is danger that while this progression reaches upwards, the conflict is merely postponed if subjects at KS3 place pressure 3 on the upper primary phase to prepare children for this way of working. The desired improved progression and continuity does not continue to build upon what comes before throughout the school career but the direction of change abruptly shifts so that subjects become necessary to prepare for KS3 and place requirements on provision in upper primary. Subjects as disciplines are valued in both the Rose and the Cambridge reports and the compelling rationale for areas of learning seems ignored as children get older. This seems somewhat odd given that postschooling subject-specific disciplines seem mainly to exist within the academy while interdisciplinary approaches are the norm for problem solving in the real world. Although Rose (2009) reports a positive response to the extent to which the areas of learning provide a foundation for more specialist subject teaching in secondary school in the NFER teacher survey in November 2008, the results are less conclusive than views on transition between EYFS and primary settings. As Alexander argues it is clear that in a world where pre-school education and care are increasingly the norm the argument is less about starting ages than the nature and appropriateness of provision on either side of the line, wherever it is drawn. (Alexander, 2009: 5) Yet not all staff at the school see a distinction between their own intentions and those dictated by the curriculum or between mediated and independent learning as clear cut. The Foundation Stage teachers talk instrumentally of the opportunities in the outdoors as if official guidance is sufficient justification. The heavy weight of performance related learning objectives dominates the teacher s intuitive awareness of her children s progress. R:I think we could plan in more our objectives more around our outside area but I don t think we do but I think we should probably do that a bit more. I: What would be the advantage of having..? R: Maybe it would be a bit more focussed. I think it would be a good idea to do that, definitely. I: You can see a lot of opportunities for meeting objectives. R: Yes, I think a lot of the objectives get met but whether they re not necessarily specifically planned in like that. I: Right. R: I don t know why. There s all the things that we have to make sure they ve experienced throughout the year but you just know things, I don t know if it s just from experience or working with them, I don t know you just know, don t you? I: So it s not that you ve got a checklist? R: No but that would be brilliant. I d love to have a checklist of something to go we haven t actually covered that this year in that. Sometimes we have musical instruments outside and things like that. You do, when you go through assessments, think we haven t done that for a while or we haven t done that so I wish someone would invent a checklist and then it would be easier. I: It seems you were saying you know it? R: Yes, you do really. I: So, what do you need a checklist for do you think? R: I don t know, I suppose it s just paperwork. (FS Teacher 1, School A) 4 While spontaneity is welcomed, reasons for that are explained as because it is what the children are supposed to be receiving in Foundation Stage rather than specific benefits to their learning. I think there s loads of opportunity to be spontaneous when you re outside because you can t plan for a bird to land on a tree at a certain moment or whatever. I think there s loads of spontaneity when you re outside, which is really good. That s what they re supposed to at this point in time in their school career this is the sorts of skills they re supposed to be learning about. You know, they re supposed to be learning about their environment and finding out all about themselves and things like that so that s really nice. (FS Teacher 2, School A our italics) Although this requirement is elsewhere qualified with a personal rationale I: What do you think should be the balance between that sort of thing, where you re not necessarily directing it but you re sort of influencing what happens and the balance for them to choose and have free choice? R: I think the balance for them for free choice is more than directed by the adult but I think that sometimes you can direct them because otherwise they won t know what it s like, they wouldn t have experienced it. I can think of one little boy who would just always go on the bikes and he d never come and hang the washing or hold a peg unless I went come and help me I don t know how to use it, you just make yourself look stupid. Then they re experiencing that and they might really like it and then they might choose to go and do it again or they might choose to so sometimes there is a need for it; they need a bit of directing sometimes. I: Yes. R: It s supposed to be 80% child initiated and 20% adult-directed and it probably is actually but there is a place for directing it as well. (FS Teacher 1, School A our italics) The Rose report may reinforce the beliefs that this teacher expresses in her planning explanation: We both kind of said in the first term we need to try and keep it varied and play based and not so structured being conscious of the big jump and we re kind of trying to do that now from foundation to year 1 with that intervention programme in the Summer term we bring the foundation children in because it is a big change to have that structured session whereas before perhaps I would have just gone into year 1 and thought well it s year 1, knuckle down and lessons all the way. (Y1 Teacher, School A) The school had tried to develop their curriculum about five years ago from subjects to a more thematic structure, but the head teacher had noticed difficulties for some staff to break free from a dependence on the national curriculum. Well it s beyond their experience and if you have always had a restricted diet and have only been taught how to cook a certain way and never been encouraged to experiment and have never experimented and perhaps haven t got the confidence to experiment and when we looked at restructuring our curriculum we said right let s imagine we can throw everything out. We ve got to keep elements of the national curriculum, of course, and we did a big exercise in the hall and we set out six year groups and what we would want in and everybody was quite enthusiastic but when it came down to me saying look, you don t have to do what it says, what we ve always done. Let s do our own thing, let s be creative. People initially said yes that ll be fantastic but when it came down to the practicalities of it, it was quite a scary thing for a lot of teachers who had known nothing 5 else other than national curriculum. At the time it surprised me, but it wasn t until I reflected on it that I rationalised why that might be and why therefore we didn t make the leap as I would have wanted to and some other members of staff wanted to because there was a reluctance to let go of the structure that they d been used to and, as I said, had known nothing else. (Headteacher, School A) Creative use of other contexts through Children engaging in out-of-school and outdoor education, to study landscapes, settlements and habitat that bring together valuable insights into history, geography, science and technology, mathematics and environmental sustainability from common starting points ; ( Rose, 2009: 47) is therefore by no means a straightforward modification in practice for many teachers to make. As Passy and Waite (2008) found in their research on the Excellence and Enjoyment continuing professional development materials, shifting to local determination brings different pressures for creativity in their teaching upon teachers, particularly for staff who have never known other than a very prescriptive curriculum model. Individual Personalised responses There was an evident recognition that responses of individuals to the outdoors varied. R: But I think just finding the expectation of where children need to be, they need to have so much structure in lessons or they re not going to achieve, you have to balance that in the first term with the fact that actually they re probably not quite ready for structure in that sitting and breaking it up, so that s probably one of the hardest things to get used to. But they do adapt and I think some of them in suits them and they like that structure and some of them still need that play options. (Y1 Teacher, School A) Furthermore the headteacher strongly supported this. If within the school there are children with different preferred learning strategies whether it s using environment, kinaesthetic, whatever, by keeping a broad spread of possibilities and choices and again encouraging independence like that and we re heading more and more into independent learning and we ve got a week coming up now and we re calling it Independent Learning Week and children are planning their own learning and what they want to find out and giving them the responsibility to do that. If we can provide environments, and outdoors being one of many depending on the interpretation and definition, then we can reach all the children. Now some children would rather do their academic work outside, literally just being outside is enough stimulus but it s about developing their interest and stimulating them and stimulating enjoyment in doing their work, enjoying what they do and getting something out of it no matter where is going to be a bonus. So it s another major string to our bow in helping children as well as they possibly can because that s what we re here for. (Headteacher, School A) Freedom and a shift in the balance of power were seen as contributory to that. I: What is it that makes it different do you think? R: I just think the environment being out the in open, maybe not being in the four walls of the classroom, maybe some children find that easier to access or be able t
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