Monthly Archives: June 2015

The Learning Pit – James Nottingham

I shared this video about the Learning Pit with my team last week as the professional development part of our meeting as I was very impressed with the positive responses from the teachers. I absolutely love the concept and want to promote it further within our team and the wider school.

The video generated a great deal of discussion and as a result, I am wanting to have a look at how we could implement this question everything type approach in to our final two ‘theme’ units.

Zone of Proximal Development and The Vygotskian Framework

I can hear my lecturer from the 300 level Human Development paper I took, from over a decade ago, rejoicing at the fact that I am about to write about Lev Vygotsky. Vygotsky was well before his time and had, in his day, unique ideas about the way individuals learn.

Vygotsky’s four principles around how individuals learn, known also as the Vygotskian Framework are as follows:

1 Individuals construct their knowledge.

2 Development can not be separated from its social context.

3 Learning can lead development.

4 Language plays a central role in mental development.

How is the Vygotskian Framework applied in classrooms today?

Lev Vygotsky believed 4 basic principles underlie learning. Principles that wouldn’t sound to out of place in a classroom today where educators encourage agency, autonomy, contextualised and authentic learning. Fortunately, Vygotsky taught in a classroom setting. (Wertsch, J.V, 1991). This expereience undoubtably gave Vygotsky an insight into how to connect his theories with practical application in the classroom. To better understand Vygotsky’s theories we must think about principles that underpin many educators philosophy towards teaching toady – agency, autonomy, contextualised and authentic learning.

Student Agency – Students live, learn and play in a media saturated world. Often students are told what to think, how to act by the media. As educators, surely we are wanting students to have the a clear understanding of what they know and how they can construct knowledge for themselves – moving themselves forward as learners (Briceño, E, 2013).

imgresLev Vygotsky (1896-1934)

Briceño, E (2013) Mindsets and Student Agency. Unboxed online. A Journey of Adult Learning in Schools.

Wertsch, J.V. (1991) Voices of the mind: A sociocultural approach to mediated action. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.



Teacher Inquiry

I find it interesting when speaking with colleagues about teacher inquiry that many remark that this is something that they have always done but now it has been given a new name and has been turned into eduspeak.  I wonder if this is really true?

Have teachers really been inquiring into their practice in a meaningful way in the past or have they been reflecting on their practice? What’s the difference?

I know that in the past, teachers have reflected at the end of units and have given a great amount of thought to what they would do differently if they taught that topic/curriculum area again. For me, here in lies the problem, they have been focused on one curriculum area or topic of work – not how they could better encourage better learning across all curriculums areas.

This is what I love about teacher inquiry, if one gives the area they are wanting to inquire into enough thought they can research into learning. The skills that teacher’s develop as they inquire into their own practice should be able to transferred across all curriculum areas and actually for the wider world!

Let me give you an example, so far this year I have been considering how I can give the students in my class greater agency in mathematics. While I have used the context of mathematics, this was only to stop my inquiry becoming all encompassing. However, once I have found successful ways to promote agency in the context of mathematics it is then relatively straightforward to help students apply these ideas/approaches/philosophies to other areas.

I don’t believe that this would have happened in the past. I feel that education, from a teachers perspective when reflecting on what worked or otherwise, was seen as quite compartmentalised.

Who are the winners as a result of a greater focus on teacher inquiry? The answer is simple, everyone!