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Off-the-wall approach in Midlothian

LETTING CHILDREN decide what they want to learn increases their motivation levels. That is the clear message from accounts by teachers who have used the Learning Wall, a method being tried out in Midlothian schools.

The approach encourages children to brainstorm to find out what they know in social studies subjects, and let the teacher know what else they would like to learn. The "wall" is a poster used to share and display what has been learnt.

The Midlothian schools' learning walls are being used in an Assessment is for Learning pilot involving one nursery teacher, seven primary and three secondary geography teachers. "The idea is to get children much more involved," says Emily Reynolds, the Assessment is for Learning officer for Midlothian Council. She came up with the idea after researching an American technique - KWL (know, want, learn) - which she believed could be combined with formative assessment.

The nursery teacher involved is Chris Saddler, head of Strathesk Nursery, who built on work already done in Angus Council's nurseries. Her pupils worked on a learning wall about Scotland, and the dialogue between children and teachers had, she said, become "more meaningful" for both.

Pauline McKay, a teacher at Hawthornden Primary, found the work "collaborative" from the start, while its fast pace saw some children reporting that they were "so, so tired". But they were more motivated.

Fiona Owen, a geography teacher at Lasswade High, used a learning wall for a project called "Our Restless Earth". Results had improved in terms of summative assessment: "The motivation was second to none and has helped me build a good relationship with this class."

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