ACT Toolkit Project Seminar 1 Report

17th March 2020 via Collaborate Ultra webinar

Welcome: Nataša Pantić, Daisy Abbott and programme team

The purpose of today’s seminar was to situate the project within a global perspective.  As the project develops over the coming months, we will consider how schools and teachers respond to these global agenda issues.  It was emphasised that this is a collaborative process and the key questions underpinning all of the project activity are ‘what will work for practitioners?’ and ‘what are practitioners’ needs?’  The Toolkit is to be designed for use in schools and so practitioner input is vital in ensuring that we get the design right and that it is fit for purpose.  The Toolkit will be designed to support change in schools, whether these be large or small.  It is an exciting project to be part of, as we don’t yet know what the game which will be designed during the workshops will look like. 

Due to the current pandemic, the workshops will be postponed until we can meet in person, as these are not suitable for an online environment. 

Challenges facing the future of education – a global perspective: Tracey Burns

Tracey considered five thematic chapters which were the trends shaping education in 2019: globalisation, democracy, security, ageing, modern cultures.

In terms of globalisation, the world is moving and changing at a rapid rate.  The question that this raises is whether our teaches are prepared to teach an increasingly diverse range of students?  A question for now, rather than in five years time.

When considering democracy, there has been a decline over time in voting in almost all countries.  We need to ask what education means for democracy.  How are we teaching about democracy and making it relevant for children, how do we include the voices of all, and ensure that democracy is sited within being part of a community? 

Inequality, and thus a lack of security, has increased across all OECD countries in the last 30 years.  Are children able to get a quality education?  Is education really a great equaliser?    We need to teach values, sustainability, respect for and understanding of science.  Given the current global situation with the pandemic, and the general increase in natural disasters, what do we do when school is interrupted? 

When we think about ageing, globally most of the years spent in retirement have increased, and most of these are in good health.  There is an increasing interest in lifelong learning.  As an education system, are we equipped to respond to this?  How do we involve elders in children’s education e.g. grandparents reading in school, mentoring of vulnerable youngsters.  We need to also be mindful of the increasingly digital world which is happening across all age groups.

Modern Cultures are contributing to a different marketplace, and the digitised marketplace for freelancers has increased hugely in the 10 years to 2016.  Do our children have the skills to participate in that digital world?  Are we making use of the opportunities that this provides?  There is a worrisome trend towards passive use of technologies, tending to be consistent with whether someone is advantaged or disadvantaged.  We also need to think about parental involvement in children’s education.  How do we get a balance between encouraging partnership and co-creation, and teacher autonomy?

Q&A discussion

It’s important to develop social and emotional skills online as well as in day to day interactions.  We need to embrace the technology but still emphasise the social and emotional importance of having these skills.  There needs to be a balance between the two.

Several participants agreed that the issues raised are ones which resonate in their Scottish context.  The lack of access to digital resources is a challenge, and skills-based learning is crucial.  CYP need the life skills to be able to succeed in the workplace.

Schools and teachers as agents of change for SDGs: Nataša Pantić

In Scotland, sustainability is a core focus and the responsibility of all schools, for example it is integrated throughout the GTCS suite of Standards.  How is learning for sustainability embedded through all areas of curriculum content?  A whole school and community approach is needed, but this needs to be able to fit around and with other competing priorities.  When we consider learning for sustainability, there are three key areas: global citizenship, education for sustainable development, and outdoor learning.  How can we, through this project, support teachers to be agents of change?  Schools have an important role to play in moving national goals and priorities forward. 

Discussion: ACT Toolkit – Aims and Development

The toolkit needs to have global relevance, also what might happen if a policy doesn’t make sense to teachers?  Where is the time for teachers to do everything that is expected of them?  We can facilitate this process through the toolkit and activity theory model, recognising that some teachers will need more help and support, also that some will require facilitation for taking this forward more than others.  We should be aware of other tools and mapping existing resources will be a vital task within the project.    

The toolkit is for school leaders but must be relevant to schoolteachers.  Both perspectives need to feed into the design process in the workshops, so that we capture the relevance and get it right.  There is a role here in the toolkit being able to support teacher agency and empowerment.

Opportunities for research-informed school development: Barbara Dzieciatko

Barbara discussed how her research can support the developing toolkit through looking at communities of practice.  She is looking at the emergence of communities, where practitioners work collaboratively for learners’ success.  A question that she is investigating is, what do these communities of practice look like?  How might we recognise them? 

We should think about the three aspects from Wenger’s model: domain, community, practice.  It’s important for school leaders to allow for teachers to develop communities of practice within their schools, and also across school communities.  Barbara’s research is looking at networks of interactions, for example knowledge exchange and the context and outcome of interactions.  How do we address the pressure of time for educators, and how do we encourage schools and their leaders to include time for collaborative working?

Concluding remarks and next steps

All present were thanked for their attendance and participation.  The project website was flagged up, and participants encouraged to follow the project through this and the Twitter feed. 

We concluded by returning to the opening slide, which captures the ethos of the project and intended toolkit.  We want to do small things in small places, and by working together to have lots of small things happening, we can build momentum to make bigger, and ultimately, global, changes for good.

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