An Action Research project by Matthew Yandell (P.E.)
My action research focus, ‘The use and impact of Learning Maps’, was chosen following a visit to a local secondary school.
I was inspired by the school’s use of Learning Maps as a way to promote consistency and engagement within the school community.
I felt their approach to learning and innovative teaching methods were a model for St Bernadette’s to take inspiration from and add to the work already being undertaken at to develop ‘consistent’ and ‘excellent’ practice across the school.
‘Effective planning and lesson design is the starting point for quality first teaching and learning. In schools that excel in this, it is viewed as a series of decisions which build a planned series of learning episodes. The choice of appropriate learning objectives is supported using the Primary or Secondary Frameworks or subject specifications.’
Personalised Learning – A Practical Guide (Department for Children, Schools and Families).
A Learning Map focuses on key aspects of a unit of work (normally a termly focus area). This is then broken down into termly maps for each year group, in each faculty. Each map has the same key areas on it which helps teachers, pupils and parents understand learning objectives and ensures consistency in teaching and learning across faculties.
The key areas of each learning Map are:
– 3/4 Driving Questions (which are used to challenge pupils’ understanding)
– 6/7 Blocks of learning (which would be the key foci for the topic)
– 6 Essential areas of understanding (6 things that you would like pupils to know by the end of the topic)
– 10 key words for the topic
The main driver behind the introduction ‘Learning Maps’ was to establish consistency of practice and expectations within each faculty.
I saw an opportunity for us to introduce this approach in order to promote our consistency and engagement between teachers, faculties, pupils and parents. Our school typicality has improved greatly over the past few years and the quality of lessons has improved with it. I feel this is partly down to consistent practices and expectations of both staff and pupils.
Within the PE department we have a clear and consistent introduction /starter to our lessons and all pupils understand that regardless of which teacher is teaching them, the lesson starter will always follow the same format. This consistent practice contributed significantly towards the PE faculty being graded as ‘Outstanding’ in our most recent review. By implementing Learning Maps in addition to our current practices, we will I believe, provide pupils with a consistent resource to use at the beginning of each lesson to enhance their learning.
Another benefit of using subject specific Learning Maps is the way in which it can engage parents. The easy to follow information helps parents to understand each individual subject’s curriculum aims for each term. This can then be used to enhance the learning experience at home as parents have the opportunity to become involved in understanding and supporting their child’s learning.
Learning maps have the potential to further strengthen bell work/starter activities and develop independent learning further.
“Teaching and learning is most effective where teachers are enthusiastic and knowledgeable and have the confidence to stand back and encourage pupils to become independent learners”
The Children’s Plan.
I discussed this idea at one of our ‘Raising Achievement’ meetings with the Second in Learning from each faculty. They felt the idea and concept was good, and that the consistent approach would benefit our learners. They also felt that with the changes to the curriculum and levelling in school, this new approach could benefit learners understanding of the courses they are studying.
There were questions raised about how to accurately plot a learning map for a whole term’s learning episodes. It was felt that a tailored format to create uniformity across the school would be beneficial.
Staff from the Raising Achievement Team plotted examples for their individual subject areas. They found the process simple and easy to do.
This idea was also shared during a staff inset day. Feedback from staff was incredibly positive. In particular, from learning support staff, who felt that it would add a consistent approach to their small group interventions and would be a great way of keeping parents informed of focus areas.
Here are some examples of the Learning Maps produced:
Figure 1. Humanities Learning Map
Figure 2. Mathematics Learning Map
Figure 3. Physical Education Learning Map
I trialed this with pupils in PE lessons in Term 4. As it was a practical lesson I used the maps in the form of a handout. The response from pupils was good, in particular, when they used the Learning Maps to highlight areas of progress with other pupils and to reinforce peer to peer questioning. It also provided a common baseline of key topic specific vocabulary, thus improving pupils’ literacy and subject knowledge. Pupils in PE already use assessment ladders routinely and are aware of how to use them. The Learning Maps build on this experience. The learning maps targeting curriculum objectives and ideas really helped pupils to see progression in the subject area.
I feel that Learning Maps are an opportunity to further develop consistent practice across the school. They could also be used as a valuable tool to further engage parents.
Recommendations for implementing Learning Maps
- Introduce Learning Maps on a rolling basis with Year 7 being developed in the first year, followed by Year 8 in the second and so on.
- Form a working party. A member of each faculty would take responsibility for developing the Learning Maps on a termly basis. The key information could then be added to a template, so they can be produced by reprographics.
- The school would need to ensure that Learning Maps are accessible to pupils and parents outside of school.
- An introductory campaign to help promote this tool with pupils, staff and parents.
- Linking the Learning Maps to established typicality measures and other whole school initiatives such as our Excellence initiative.
Personalised Learning – A Practical Guide (Department for Children, Schools and Families). http://www.teachernet.gov.uk/publications
‘The Children’s Plan’ https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-childrens-plan
Featured image: ‘Technology, classroom’ by LTDimages on Pixabay. Licensed under CC0 Public Domain