From inspirational talks to practical tips, how they can make all the difference

14th May 2010 at 01:00
Many teachers are not ready for Curriculum for Excellence, but we asked a selection what type of professional development they have received

Dawn Laing, Early years worker, Gargieston Primary, East Ayrshire

A lot of our continuing professional development (CPD) is in-house, looking at Building the Curriculum documents as a team and reflecting on them. We've also been visiting other nurseries to share good practice and bring back ideas.

All that has made us familiar with the new learning outcomes, which are included in the tracking we now do for each child. That helps us to develop the new personal learning plans. The nursery always was hands-on, but we're now making it more active and multi-sensory.

We had a focus on literacy last year, and they got someone in to speak to us about the learning outcomes, from nursery to secondary, and how to make literacy more active. The learning outcomes are quite general, so our principal teacher then produced a document that matches each one in literacy and maths with different activities, such as writing in the sand and using paint or pencils.

I'm studying for a degree in early childhood practice, so I'm getting a lot on Curriculum for Excellence as part of the course. For CPD in the future, I think we would all like a bit more guidance on the documents.

Joanne Hitchen, P4 teacher, Carmondean Primary, West Lothian

I wasn't sure what was expected with Curriculum for Excellence until Learning and Teaching Scotland came to talk to us a couple of years ago. I remember being excited afterwards, because it was giving us more freedom to explore and do things with the children we would not have had time for in 5-14.

We have also had Linda Keith from Strathclyde University, who did a whole day on active learning. That was fabulous. It was primarily for maths but there was so much that could be used in other areas. It was about letting children lead their learning, build on existing knowledge, say where it would go next - about not always going rigidly through a programme.

I've been trying to take that child-led and preparing-them-for-real-life philosophy into all subjects. So I now laminate my shop receipts and bring them in for activities. I give them cinema listings and they have to organise their time.

Outdoor learning is a big part of Curriculum for Excellence and I would like to learn how to get the kids out and doing more. Our school has organised CPD on that for next session, and I'm really looking forward to it.

Fiona Currie, P6 teacher, St Mirin's Primary, Glasgow

Glasgow City Council provides us with a lot of resources on interdisci- plinary topics in Curriculum for Excellence, and someone came in to guide us through those. So for each topic you get thinking routines, tools for learning and links for the children. It was very practical and helped you see what was different in the new curriculum.

One big difference is that the cross-curricular work has to be pitched at the right level and advance the learning - and not added on, as it sometimes used to be.

The other big turnaround is that the onus used to be on the teacher to present information. Now we give the children a thinking routine and a starting point, and they go away and find out about it themselves. There's a thinking routine called "I see. I think. I wonder" where you show them a picture and they work as a group on what they see in it. They discuss what it's about and think up questions. Then they do the research and present it to the class.

It is a whole new way of working. Very often the kids come back to you and you think, "I didn't even know that was possible."

Geoff Jenkins, Principal teacher of mathematics, Stranraer Academy, Dumfries and Galloway

We have had people out from the Scottish Qualifications Authority talking to us about assessment. It's clearly a process that will evolve. It isn't a "big bang" and I'm not uncomfortable with that. A lot of it will be tapping into the needs of students and getting feedback from them. That's got to be good.

I taught in England for 20 years before moving to Dumfries and Galloway. There are some differences in the content of the curriculum, but the overall approach nowadays is quite similar.

The main area of concern is numeracy across the curriculum. We've had some CPD on that, mainly aimed at primary schools, but it was also valuable to me as a secondary principal teacher.

Making numeracy the responsibility of the maths department was a big change. A lot of teachers in other departments are happier now - and so are we. It means someone who has the confidence to do it will have control and an overview of what's going on across the school.

It is an area, though, where there's still some concern. So more CPD on numeracy across the curriculum - and on collecting evidence for it - would be very useful.

Elizabeth McArthur, Principal teacher of religious and moral education, Strathaven Academy, South Lanarkshire

We had a great course organised by Learning and Teaching Scotland and HMIE. They talked to us about flexibility in the new curriculum and I came away inspired. I had always felt we could do more for our pupils than 5-14 offered.

They told us we should be looking at what was relevant for our kids, and that is what we've been trying to do. Strathaven has a strong Fair Trade connection and a weaving history. So we've been bringing that rich, cultural heritage in a cross-curricular way into the classroom.

I like that the new curriculum is less prescriptive, because you can be more creative and it's more interesting for the pupils.

We're still in the early days, but we're taking it in many directions, such as partnerships with the Glasgow Gospel Choir and Malawi.

It goes back to that CPD we had, which was memorable. Richard Holloway (former chair of the Scottish Arts Council) came to talk to us. It inspired a lot of teachers and the kids have blossomed since it was put it into practice.

As told to Douglas Blane.

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