Note: The following is a guest blog entry from Alec Patton, Researcher and Project Coordinator. Reach him via Twitter at @alecpatton

Miguel has invited me to guest-blog because the Learning Futures project, in England, has just published a report (co-written by me and David Price) called The Engaging School: principles and practices.

Learning Futures is based on the premise that engagement is a precondition for learning: if students aren’t engaged in school, they won’t learn – or rather, they will learn a set of skills that allow them superficially to satisfy the demands of schooling, and focus instead on whatever it is that does interest them.

So, we started out by asking ‘how do we get secondary-school students to engage with school?’, and we set about finding answers with a team of schools across England, each of whom ran an experimental project using methods like enquiry-based learning, co-construction, and mentoring.

As the schools’ projects developed, we realised that ‘How do we get students to engage?’ was the wrong question. The question we needed to ask was ‘How do schools engage – not just with students, but with parents, the wider community, universities, and other schools around the world?’

The answers the schools provided to this question have been inspiring: secondary school students have been leading a climbing expedition (p. 15 in ‘The Engaging School’), studying the effect of CCTV on young people in a shopping mall (p. 17), successfully lobbying the local council for funds to refurbish a youth club (p. 32), and carrying out research that is now being used by the UK Olympic sailing team (p. 18).

Even more importantly, students are changing the way that learning takes place within their schools by teaching each other (p. 22), designing their own courses (p. 28), and interviewing teachers and learners from around the world about the most powerful models for teaching and learning (p. 30).

These projects were all initiated by the students themselves – in fact, a key finding of the report is that young people want to be more involved with their schools, not less – but that they want to do so as partners in learning, not as consumers of learning.

At the heart of the ‘The Engaging School’ is a vision for school as a ‘learning commons’, connected to the community, fuelled by enquiry, and driven by a sense of shared purpose.

If this intrigues, inspires, or indeed infuriates you, you can read the report here – and if you want to get involved in Learning Futures, sign up to join our community of interest here (click ‘sign up for updates’ in the top right-hand corner).

You can also read what the schools are saying about their projects on their blog

About Alec Patton

Alec is working with The Innovation Unit as a researcher and project coordinator, primarily focused on Learning Futures, which is developing ways of increasing secondary school pupil engagement with a group of partner schools throughout the country.

Alec has previously worked on a range of research projects in education and the arts since receiving a PhD from the University of Sheffield. He has co-curated an exhibition on post-war British Theatre at the British Library, run a project called Teaching the Talk that gave undergraduates the opportunity to conduct oral-history interviews as part of the University of Sheffield/British Library Theatre Archive project. He has also worked on the Learning, Research and Teaching (LRT) project, which is developing new ways of integrating research and teaching in Higher Education. Alec has also conducted research into parliamentary practice for Tom Steinberg, head of MySociety.  

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure