Clive Shepherd on Engaging with Learners

Originally posted on The Learning Renaissance:

An interesting blog post from Clive Shepherd about engaging with learners effectively:


Whether you’re teaching in a classroom, developing some e-learning or producing a video, you’ll be concerned about engaging your learners. Why? Because, if learners aren’t engaged they’ll pay little attention to what you’re offering and they’re very unlikely to retain anything. You can spend a fortune trying to engage learners, but the secrets to engagement do not demand you break the bank. Here are four dos and four don’ts…

Read the full post here:Engaging your Learner | Clive On Learning

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Six Fluency Areas for 21st Century Students | ISTE

Originally posted on The Learning Renaissance:

This document from ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) features the six major fluencies (standards) students need to develop in the 21st century classroom.

It mirrors research and development work elsewhere in which competencies, fluencies or even plain skills are considered to be the currency of learning more than knowledge by itself.  Click the image below to view or download the pdf.


Source: Standards for Students | ISTE
Via ETML: The 6 Major Skills for 21st Century Students

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Mr Cameron’s Three Million Apprenticeships

Originally posted on Education, economy and society (blog comment from

During the election, Tory promises to young people never got much further than David Cameron’s election_cameron-h_3253236bpledge to create another 3 million apprenticeships during the next parliament. He provided few other details apart from outlining how the new opportunities would be at least part financed by cutting benefits for unemployed young people.

As well as promising another 3 million, the Conservative manifesto pledged to ‘roll out Degree Apprenticeships’ –by this we assume it meant more Higher Level schemes. Cameron, took advantage of pre-election media attention, launched a new Whitbread  scheme,  announcing he wanted apprenticeships to be on level-pegging with a university degree giving millions more people the dignity of work and a regular pay packet (BBC Election 2015, 09/04/15);   but the new apprenticeships were at the subsidiary Costa Coffee and  were part of a  programme, which as well as teaching how to make hot drinks, included customer service, communication…

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Sir Ken Robinson: ‘The education system is a dangerous myth’‘-education-system-a-dangerous-myth

I’m often asked the same questions: what’s going wrong in education? Why? If you could reinvent education, what would it look like? Would you have schools? Would there be different types? What would go on in them? Would everyone have to go, and how old would they have to be? Would there be tests? If you say I can make a difference in education, where do I begin?

The fundamental question is this: what is education for? People’s ideas differ sharply on this issue. Like democracy and justice, education is an example of what the philosopher Walter Bryce Gallie called an “essentially contested concept”. It means different things to different people according to their cultural values and how they view related issues such as ethnicity, -gender, poverty and social class. That doesn’t mean that we can’t discuss it or do anything about it. We just need to be clear on our terms. So before we go on, let me say a few words about learning, education, training and schools, terms which are sometimes confused.

Learning is the process of acquiring new knowledge and skills. Human beings are highly curious; from the moment they’re born, children have a voracious appetite for learning. For many, that appetite is dulled as they go through school. Keeping it alive is the key to transforming education.

Education means organised programmes of learning. The assumption is that young people need to know, understand and be able to do things that they wouldn’t if left to their own -devices. What those things are and how education should be organised to enable students to learn them are core issues.

Training is a type of education that focuses on learning specific skills. I remember earnest debates as a student about the difficulty of distinguishing between education and training. The difference was clear enough when we talked about sex education. Most parents would be happy to know their teenagers had had sex education at school; they’d probably be less happy if they’d had sex training.

By schools, I don’t mean only the conventional facilities that we are used to for children and teenagers. I mean any community of people that comes together to learn with each other. School, as I use the term here, includes home-schooling, un-schooling and informal gatherings both in person and online, from kindergarten to college and beyond. Some features of conventional schools have little to do with learning and can actively get in the way of it. The revolution we need involves rethinking how schools work and what counts as a school. It’s also about trusting in a different story about education.

Happily ever after?

We all love stories, even if they’re not true. As we grow up, one of the ways we learn about the world is through the stories we hear. Some are about our own families and friends. Some are part of the larger culture – the myths, fables and fairy tales that have captivated people for generations. In stories that are told often, the line between fact and myth can become so blurred that we mistake one for the other. This is true of a story that many people believe about education, even though it’s not real and never really was. It goes like this.

Young children go to elementary school mainly to learn the basic skills of reading, writing and mathematics. These skills are essential for them to do well in high school. If they go on to higher education and graduate with a good degree, they will find a well-paid job and the country will prosper too.

In this story, real intelligence is what you use in academic studies: children are born with different amounts of this intelligence, so some naturally do well at school and others don’t. The ones who are really intelligent go on to good universities. Those who graduate with a good university degree are guaranteed a well-paid professional job with their own office. Students who are less intelligent naturally do less well. Some may fail or drop out. Some who finish high school may not go any further in education and look for a low-income job instead. Some will go on to college but take less academic, vocational courses and get a decent service or manual job, with their own toolkit.

When it’s put so baldly, this story may seem like too much of a caricature. But when you look at what goes on in many schools, when you listen to what many parents expect of and for their children, when you consider what so many policy-makers around the world are actually doing, it seems they really believe that the current systems of education are basically sound, and that they’re not working as well as they should only -because standards have fallen. Consequently, most efforts are focused on raising standards through more competition and accountability. You may believe this story too and wonder what’s wrong with it.

This story is a dangerous myth. It is one of the main reasons why so many reform efforts do not work. On the contrary, they often compound the very problems they claim to be solving, such as the alarming drop-out rates, the levels of stress and depression – even suicide – among students and their teachers, the falling value of a university degree, the rocketing cost of getting one and the rising levels of unemployment among graduates and non-graduates alike.

Mass production

Politicians scratch their heads over these problems. Sometimes they punish schools for not making the grade. Sometimes they fund programmes to get them back on track. But the -problems persist and often get worse, because many of them are caused by the system itself.

All systems behave in ways that are particular to them. When I was in my twenties in Liverpool, I made a visit to an abattoir. (I don’t remember why. I was probably on a date.) Abattoirs are designed to kill animals. And they work. Very few escape and form survivors’ clubs. As we came to the end, we passed a door that was marked “veterinarian”. I asked the guide why the abattoir had a veterinarian – wasn’t it a bit late for that? He said that the veterinarian came in periodically to conduct random autopsies. I thought, he must have seen a pattern by now.

If you design a system to do something specific, don’t be surprised if it does it. If you run an education system based on standardisation and conformity, which suppresses individuality, imagination and creativity, don’t be surprised if that’s what it does.

There’s a difference between symptoms and causes. There are many symptoms of the current malaise in education and they won’t be relieved unless we understand the deeper problems underlying them. One is the industrial character of public education. The issue in a nutshell is this: most developed countries did not have mass systems of public education much before the mid-19th century. These systems were developed to meet the labour needs of the Industrial Revolution and they are organised on the principles of mass production. The standards movement is allegedly focused on making these systems more efficient and accountable. The problem is that these systems are inherently unsuited to the wholly different circumstances of the 21st century.

Creative Schools: revolutionizing education from the ground up by Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica is published by Allen Lane.

FE responds to election results


The Conservatives have been voted into power in an election result that saw the leaders of Labour, the Liberal Democrats and UKIP stand down from their positions.

Below is a selection of thoughts on the election results from leaders in the Further Education sector:

Martin Doel, chief executive of theAssociation of Colleges (AoC), said:

“After offering our congratulations to the new Government, our message is simple – if you want to boost this country’s economy, then the education and training provided by colleges, whether technical and professional or academic, is essential.

“We are deeply concerned that the Conservatives were the only main party not to pledge to ring-fence funding for 16 to 18-year-olds. This leaves college students extremely vulnerable to further cuts and we appeal to the Prime Minister to think again before risking the education and training opportunities of thousands of young people.

“The Conservative Party manifesto promises to increase the number of apprenticeships but we must recognise that quality is as important as quantity. Apprenticeships are also not the only way to give people the skills they need to get a job. For the country to stay competitive and cohesive, we need a wider offer to people to develop themselves and to keep learning. We simply can’t afford to put all of education and training eggs in the apprenticeship basket.

“The adult skills budget has experienced a swathe of cuts in the last few years and we’ve already warned that adult education and training in England will not exist by 2020 if the Government continues with cuts at the same rate.

“We will press the new Government to carry out a once in a generation review of education funding to make sure the budget is being fairly divided across the age ranges. Skills gaps are beginning to appear in our economy, particularly at technician level, which is where colleges must have a leading role. Colleges are vital to the country in developing a highly skilled and productive workforce but in order to fulfil this role they need the resources to do the job.”

Stewart Segal, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), said:

“AELP recognises the significance of the Conservatives’ election victory and we will work with the new government as it implements its manifesto. We welcome that employment and skills were at the centre of the government’s manifesto because there is a proven return on investment in these programmes in terms of the economy, business competitiveness and wage growth for people in sustainable employment. We also welcome the fact that government wishes to grow high quality apprenticeships and that these should be available across all levels and all ages.

“Reducing youth unemployment must remain a major priority and we look forward to discussing with the government how for example the proposals for a new Youth Allowance for unemployed 18 to 21 year olds will be linked to apprenticeships and traineeships. AELP’s own manifesto called for greater integration of employment and skills programmes and we believe that it will be a wasted opportunity if we don’t see more progress on this during the next five years.

“We will work with the government on developing major programmes for the long-term unemployed, including the Work Programme and Work Choice. We will urge ministers to drive more coherence between programmes for the unemployed, including more integrated contracting processes, success measures and provider payment methodologies.

“The inclusion of LEPs in the Conservative manifesto is an important aspect of the English devolution agenda. This needs to be integrated with national programmes such as apprenticeships, traineeships and the main welfare-to-work programme.

“Skills and employment will continue to be a driver behind a sustained economic recovery and training providers will continue to be at the forefront of that delivery.”

National qualification provider NCFE called on the new Conservative government to deliver on its FE promises and to safeguard vital adult skills funding from further cuts.

Andrew Gladstone-Heighton, policy leader at NCFE, said: “As a result of the surprising results of the General Election – with the Conservative Party claiming a majority despite all the polls and predictions to the contrary – we will now have an entirely Conservative Department for Education. While Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has held onto her seat and therefore may well continue with her role, we have to bear in mind that we could see the return of Michael Gove.

“We therefore remain concerned about the future of adult vocational education – the coalition government already enforced a 24% cut in funding and any further cuts could spell disaster for our sector. The loss of Liberal Democrat Vince Cable, who lost his Twickenham seat last night, is a particularly significant blow. He was a key ally for the sector as a champion of further education and one of the main defenders of the adult skills budget.

“The Conservatives stated prior to the election that they would be prioritising apprenticeships, traineeships and English and maths despite further overall funding cuts. We fully support their stance on apprenticeships and it’s great to see them so high on the agenda, as not everyone is suited to the traditional academic route of higher education.

“However, just supporting more apprenticeships is not enough. They might be protected within the shrinking budget pool for 19+ further education and skills, but as this is an ‘unprotected’ government department, it will be in line for greater cuts. Adult education is integral in an aging population where people are retiring later and having multiple careers within their working life, and the potential loss of courses that upskill and keep the UK’s workforce competitive is a major cause for concern. We would like to see its importance acknowledged with commitment from the new Conservative government to safeguarding funding for vocational qualifications, as opposed to focusing solely on apprenticeships.”

He added: “In addition to protecting adult skills funding, what’s important now is that some stability is established in the further education sector. We’ve seen a huge amount of change over the last five years, including the ongoing funding cuts, so it’s time now for the government to let the sector get on and do the right thing. Stability is crucial and will put us, and similar organisations, in a stronger position moving forward.”

The History and Development of Experiential Learning

Originally posted on The Learning Renaissance:

A major issue with current education in schools is that it is mostly theoretically based and does not impact on the lives of young people, often leaving them disillusioned and disengaged.

The reasons for the general sterility of the curriculum are many.

Structurally, the focus on content in the curriculum does not encourage excursions which are led by students.

Similarly, the structure of departmental-based teaching silos discourages the collaboration and time allocation for large, experientially-led projects. I find it ironic that acknowledgement that this is the case has led to many schools having an ‘enrichment’ week in which this type of learning takes place, which sort of begs the question why enrichment does not take place throughout the whole school year…?

Regulatory bodies in education tend to focus on compliance rather than investigation and, although they do not technically prevent explorative approaches, they do tend to encourage schools to play safe and…

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Career guidance in Cameron’s Britain

Originally posted on Adventures in Career Development:

cameron school

The dust has now started to settle on the election and so we need to start to work out what it all really means. As ever Russell from the Secondary CEIAG blog has been quicker off the mark with his analysis of the situation than me. But it has got me thinking. What will happen to career guidance under this Conservative government?

Eagle eyed readers of this blog might have spotted that on the whole I am not a Conservative supporter. However, it is important to recognise that in the past career guidance has flourished under Conservative Governments and that its recent history under the Coalition may not necessarily be repeated. Tony Watts argued that career guidance offers three main things to “new right” parties like the Conservatives. Firstly he discusses how guidance can be used as a form of social control, helping to foster pro-social (or from a more…

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Nicky Morgan confirmed as education secretary

picture of nicky morgan

Nicky Morgan has been reappointed education secretary as prime minister David Cameron continues with his tried and tested frontbench. 

Ms Morgan secured her seat in Loughborough early on Friday morning, extending her majority in the east midlands town from just over 3,000 votes to more than 9,000. 

The former solicitor took over from Michael Gove at the Department for Education back in July, and her peformance over the last 10 months has led to her being backed once again by Mr Cameron. 

There had been rumours circulating on social media that Mr Gove could be making an unlikely return into Sanctuary Buildings, but Ms Morgan has been deemed a safe pair of hands in Whitehall, and has gone to great lengths to reach out to the profession. 

Among the first priorities waiting for her in her inbox when she returns to office on Monday will be a decision over whether to allow the Weald of Kent Grammar School to open a statellite school 10 miles away. 

A new education bill is also expected early in this Parliament, as the Conservatives look to push through as much legislation as possible, while their opponents are still in disarray.

And the education secretary will also be keen to pick up from where she left off on the issue of teachers’ workload, which she described as an “absolute priority”. 

Speaking to TES just before the election, Ms Morgan said: “It was a really important piece of work to do and I am very proud to have done it. There are lots of little things – curriculum, data management, marking – that will not be solved overnight. But I want to make very clear that if I am back in office after 7 May, continuing to work on what people told us in the Workload Challenge is absolutely a priority for me.”

What is Behind the Flipped Classroom?

Originally posted on The Learning Renaissance:

There has been much talk of the concept of the ‘flipped classroom’ as a way forward in learning. What does this entail?

At its simplest, the flipped classroom makes students the subject and not the object of learning.

They develop their skills through what might be seen as collaborative learning, with the teacher marshalling the learning rather than the class or the organisation of information. The deployment of independent research skills dominate.

This infographic shared at ETML gives a clear overview:

Via ETML: Two Key Advantages of A Flipped Classroom

For more on the Flipped Classroom concept at ETML: Educational Technology and Mobile Learning: Flipped Classroom

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Careers Live 2015

Originally posted on Adventures in Career Development:

Back in March I gave a presentation entitled Teachers, careers advisers and employers: Who should do what and why as part of the Careers Live 2015 event in Leeds.

The folks at Aspire iGen have now turned the event into a short film. It features me and lots of other people talking about how important careers work is.


Careers Live 2015

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Conservative victory means England’s school system will look like few others in the world

Originally posted on IOE LONDON BLOG:

Chris Husbands

No-one foresaw the scale of the Conservative victory – it exceeded even the limits of the party’s own expectations. Now, a majority Conservative government comes to power – unexpectedly and with sufficient lead over a divided and, for Labour and the Liberal Democrats, demoralised opposition. What will this newly confident government mean for education in general and schools in particular?

The Conservative education manifesto was long on aspiration. It promised that England would lead the world in mathematics and science; that there would be a place in a ‘good’ primary school for every child; that every ‘failing’ or coasting school would be turned into an academy to drive up standards; that universities would remain ‘world-leading’; and that further education would ‘improve’. But translating these – rightly aspirational – goals into policies will bring some difficult challenges.

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The Most Effective Way to Take Notes in Class

Notetaking is a skill that students will take with them into their careers. Whether they are in meetings, participating in brainstorming sessions, or making annotations during reading, notes are an effective way of learning, retaining, and recalling ideas and concepts. This article talks about the three best techniques for taking notes in the classroom and how your students can benefit from them.

The Most Common Mistakes

Before we get into the techniques, let’s discuss the three big mistakes that students make when taking notes in class.

Mistake #1

Students try to write down every single thing the teacher says without actually  listening. Taking notes should be 75% listening and only 25% writing. When listening, students should constantly be working the new concepts in their head in order to solidify them. This is the best time to consider questions that they may have about ideas they do not completely understand. When writing, notes should be short, and right to the point. Each sentence should be no more than 1-5 words long. This forces students to record only the critical information.

Mistake #2

While taking notes, students do not think about the topics their teachers are saying.
It is important to take notes in order to remember ideas, but it is more important to understand the new complex ideas that are being introduced to them at a fast rate. Notes are useless if students do not understand the underlying concept.

Mistake #3

Students do not ask questions while the teacher is lecturing, when the ideas are fresh in their minds. This is so commonly said that it is almost cliche, but if students have a question, it is likely that another student has that same question. Regardless, questions show you (the teacher) that they are interested in learning, not pleasing. Students should not wait until after the lecture (if possible) to ask questions. If students wait to ask questions, they end up going through the rest of the lecture missing a piece of information.

The Three Best Note-taking Methods

Dynamic Outline


This is a fresh take on the classic outline format that many of us were taught as students. While the classic version worked fairly well for the most part, it was too constrained and boring. The new version makes use of three new tools:

1. Notation symbols, such as arrows, circles, boxes
2. Color
3. Mapping Web

These new tools allow students to stay organized and lined up, as the classic outline format was, but also allows for dynamic symbols and colors within the outline. The use of symbols and colors makes the dynamic outline more easily readable and interesting than the blocks of text. Essentially, the Dynamic Outline combines the classic outline with the Mind Mapping method discussed later in the article. The classic method is visually unappealing to go back and reference because it is essentially a block of text. This uses color and symbols to make sure that important words stand out. In addition, it replaces words with symbols to make it easier to understand.

Good: Organized format, simple
Bad: Not easy to reread

Page Split

This method is for students who like the organized format that the dynamic outline allows, but dislike the fact that it is unpleasant to go back and read once the notes are taken. The Page Split revamps the outline and makes it easier on the eyes by separating the main topics from the subtext. While this is great, it also means that there are points where students will waste paper space.


To set up the page, have your students draw a vertical line about 2.5 inches from the left margin. On the right side, notes are written down as they would be using the techniques from the dynamic outline format. The left side is what makes this particular technique useful. After notes are taken on the right side of the vertical line, students should write 1-3 word descriptions on the left side.

Why is this useful? Because when students refer back to their notes to review for exams or subsequent assignments, they are able to quickly scan their notes for keywords that pertain to the assignment, thus making recall more efficient.

Good: Visually appealing, quick recall
Bad: Inefficient use of paper space

Mind Map

Mind maps have always worked for me because I am a perfectionist. I hate the feeling of writing notes in a perfectly clean outline, only to have the teacher hop back and forth between topics, forcing me to go back and write in the margins or in a smaller font. This usually results in a messy blur.

Instead I use mind maps. While the result is ultimately much more messy than the first two techniques, it allows me to take notes on topics and subtopics in order. And when necessary, I’m able to go back and forth between topics as the teacher hops around during lecture. The most powerful aspect of mind-mapping is that it gives me the option of visually connecting ideas together via a circle and line. This makes it easy to form connections between ideas.


Usually when using this method, it’s best to start with the overall topic in the center. For example, if the topic is food, write that in the center and circle it. As the teacher begins to talk about sweets, vegetables, carbohydrates, or another food type, draw lines from the center circle to these subtopics. If there are overlapping topics, such as hamburgers (which belong to multiple food groups), then multiple lines can be connected to this subtopic. This is a great way to make visual connections between topics and keep them in your memory. That is the strength of this technique.

Good: Strong connections between topics
Bad: Messy, difficult to review

Note-Taking Tips

Now that your students have chosen a technique that fits with their style, here are some useful tips to communicate to them:

  1. Pay attention to what the teacher says and does, such as writing on the board or repeating information. This is usually important information, which means it is likely to end up on the exam.
  2. If possible, do some work before class, whether it is reading or looking at a set of math problems. This primes the brain and prepares it for class by familiarizing it to the topic.
  3. When taking notes, write in your own words. This reinforces understanding of the topic and strengthens the memory.
  4. Use a shorthand system that makes writing notes quicker. One technique is to remove all vowels from words. For example:
    • Without shorthand: Drinking water will improve your health.
    • With shorthand: Drnkng wtr wll imprv yr hlth

Doing this allows one to nearly double your note-taking speed, which means that students are better able to listen and take notes more efficiently. You can even turn texting into a type of shorthand.


Notetaking is an important skill that is useful in school as well as in many careers because it helps one remember important information. Notetaking is a very personal practice, so methods will vary from person to person depending on personality. It is important for students to own their style. The three methods above are great ways to start.

Youth unemployment now needs to be a priority YEUK calls on the Conservative government to work for young people in the UK

As David Cameron takes his place as Prime Minister for a 2nd term it is now time to ensure that the Conservative party recognise the importance of tackling youth unemployment.

David Cam

Youth unemployment simply did not see the reductions we were told to expect under the coalition, with over 743,000 young people currently NEET (not in education, employment or training), and high numbers of young people on zero hour contracts, underemployed or not accounted for.

We are all too aware of the financial and emotional costs of youth unemployment.  It is time to put some real effort into tackling this crisis. 

The work of Youth Employment UK CIC has never been more important.  We will continue to represent our members and make sure that the voice of young people is heard by the government.  We will keep the pressure on David Cameron to meet his manifesto promises and we will work closely as we did with the last government, the Ministers, departments and policy makers.

What was in the Conservatives manifesto for young people?

The following was taken from the BBC Newsbeat site who matched the party’s manifestos to the concerns of young people taken from a survey.

The term “young people” is used 20 times in the Conservative party manifesto.

  • Tax-free minimum wage for anyone working more than 30 hours a week
  • Keeping down the cost of everyday items like travel – a big deal for 33% of young voters
  • Controlling immigration – 28% of young people were worried about this
  • Improving housing affordability – a big issue for 24% of young voters
  • Improving the education system – important to 24% of young voters
    • Create three million apprenticeships and there would be no cap on university places
    • Guarantee that 16 and 17-year-olds would get a place on the National Citizen Service to learn new skills
    • University technical college for every city
  • Making the welfare system fairer – 18% of young people think this is important
  • Making sure that the benefits of economic growth are felt by all – 15%
    • Increase minimum wage
    • Personal income tax allowance would be raised to £12,500
    • No increases in VAT or National Insurance contributions
    • Pledge to create 1,000 jobs a day over the next five years

But what about the penalties? DWP sanctions, cuts to youth services and education budgets? 

The Conservative campaign has been built on a promise to continue with economic recovery, there can only be real recovery with a Youth Friendly UK.

We need to see stronger policies for youth, clear engagement with the needs and voices of young people and real action and investment to tackle youth unemployment.

Take a look at The Found Generation manifesto, which provides an excellent set of recommendations for tackling youth unemployment.

Copyright © 2015 Youth Employment UK CIC, All rights reserved. 

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