Have you ever wanted to be a detective? Have you ever felt that your opinions could make a difference? Valuing children’s thoughts on their learning experiences can have a dramatic effect on the day to day workings of a school as well as the longer term strategic planning. At Dunhurst where, along with the other two Bedales Schools, the motto is ‘work of each for weal of all’ it seems absolutely natural to involve children in all parts of their education including teaching and learning.
We have ‘Learning Detectives’ at Dunhurst. A group of Year 8 and Year 6 children who meet to set weekly investigations for themselves and discuss feedback from their observations over the previous seven days. You might be surprised at the depth of their thoughts; their summaries of teaching techniques; their insightful comments about the structure of the day and their ability to compare and evaluate different experiences and draw conclusions for timetabling purposes, but at Dunhurst we teach them to discuss and share so the meetings are comfortable, informative and purposeful.
Staff come to the weekly meetings too – these are staff who enjoy being part of a Teaching and Learning Group which promotes innovation and excellence. How does it feel to work with spies in your classroom, pupils who, as part of their role of Learning Detectives, critically observe you doing your job? Staff in the Teaching and Learning Group relish this interaction and the chance to continue their own learning and professional development. Their dialogues with pupils have two-way honesty and respect at the heart of them.
What does it take to make Learning Detectives happen in a school? Give pupils a sense of community achievement and responsibility, treat them with maturity, activate their suggestions and of course, have a pile of chocolate biscuits for meeting times! But you need to look around your school first. Do you see an environment where individuals are valued, where listening is a key skill and where rapport between staff and pupils is second to none? If you do, then take the next step and get your own Learning Detectives on the case!
By Kathy Misson, Director of Teaching and Learning, Bedales Prep, Dunhurst