Pupils find 'learning wall' is a useful building block

9th January 2009 at 00:00

Shawlands Academy has made a break from Emperor Hadrian, Berlin and Pink Floyd. They all cemented the idea of a wall as a symbol of division and repression, whereas the Glasgow school's structure enshrines unity and shared purpose.

Its "learning wall" is a deliberately striking sight - a mass of pink, red and purple bricks that towers six metres high in the school's main corridor. "I think it's the look of it that's impressed people most - we had the art department involved and it's very attractive," says geography teacher Susan Clarke, who was one of the drivers behind the idea.

The school hopes it will consign to history the idea that subject departments work in isolation. All departments are included: the wall shows the connections between them, while support departments sit underneath as "foundations".

Separate large green sections on the topic of the biosphere for geography and biology, for example, establish an immediate visual link between the subjects.

Teachers can also see what colleagues in other departments are working on, helping to share good practice and ensure no duplication of effort.

Questionnaires were distributed to all departments, with the results put onto colour-coded A4 "bricks", each representing work done in a subject at a particular level. The bricks also show Assessment is for Learning techniques and thinking skills activities, as staff agreed that both should feature prominently on the wall.

Above the main wall are examples of work created through metacognitive learning, or thinking about thinking. An accompanying PowerPoint presentation on the school website shows every Assessment is for Learning technique and thinking skills activity being used in the school, providing definitions and real classroom examples.

The wall, which was inspired by a similar project at Edinburgh's St George's School for Girls, featured on Learning and Teaching Scotland's website, is mainly used by teachers, but it is hoped that it will in time become widely used by pupils.

Those making subject choices, for example, can see at a glance what different options would entail.

Pupils making the transition from primary school may also benefit. Ms Clarke says secondary school would seem less intimidating if the wall showed P7 pupils there was no gulf between S1 classes and what they were learning at primary school.

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