Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Messy Learning: Interview with Chris Edwards


Transformational Teacher Interview: Chris Edwards

Chris Edwards is a year 2 - Class2CE teacher at Chad Varah Primary School, Addison Drive, Lincoln, England. The school is for children in years F (4yrs old) to 6 (11yrs old) with nearly 500 children in the school. There are 2 forms (classes) per year group with approximately 30 children in each form (class). Before Chris became a teacher, he was a professional musician. During that time, he occasionally worked with children, teaching music. Chris loved it so much that he decided to become a teacher. He has now been teaching six years.

We have been asked by primary teachers how to personalize learning for young children, so we interviewed Chris how he has personalized learning for children 6 to 7 years old. 

Q. Why did you decide to personalize learning?

A. I decided to personalise learning in my classroom about a year ago.  I watched a TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson (the king of creativity) speaking about how he believes that our current education system is killing creativity. What made me think the most was when he said this: “Shakespeare was in someone’s class once, right?” And I thought wow! I have never considered who I may have in my class! I had never realised that in my class could be the next Steve Jobs, the next Prime Minister… What if there is a child in my class now who has the potential to cure cancer… When I started thinking in this way, it changed everything. It made me realise that the most important thing was ensuring that every individual child in my class, realised and reached their full potential.

To make things worse, with that in mind, when I evaluated the teaching and learning in my classroom, I realised that it was not fit for purpose. Regardless of the good observations, I couldn’t, hand on heart, say that the teaching and learning in my classroom inspired and enabled every individual to reach their full potential and develop their individual talents. So I changed it. [Read about how Chris used iPads during an evaluation hiding in his cupboard while his children researched how to bring him home from Greenland.]

I am confident that I now have a system in place that doesn’t kill creativity but rather encourages and engages children in learning. Most importantly I’m confident that we are developing an environment in which all children, supported by me (the facilitator), can begin to realise and reach their full potential.

Q. How are learners in your class changing?

A. The learners in my class are changing in a very noticeable way.  The learners in my class are no longer passive. They are engaged in their own learning and are motivated. Most importantly, they are learning to be resourceful and resilient.  Learning anything is an inherently frustrating process. How can it not be? If we knew it all already, we would not be "learning"! Therefore, having a personality that is more likely to carry on despite frustrations - that is, being academically resilient - is proving to be a huge success. In the form of the iPad, children have a multi-purpose tool that enables them to problem solve effectively. This is helping children to become resourceful and resilient.

Q. What are you going to do to different this year in your classroom?

A. Over this next academic year I will be carrying out a small scale research project. I have called this project ‘Messy Learning.' Over the course of the year, I will focus on and try to answer the following questions…
  1. Can we ensure better progress (against nation curriculum targets – movement through lit and num levels) when we engage children in personalised learning using handheld devices?
  2. Are children more likely to discover and develop their individual talents when engaged in personalised learning and are using handheld devices?
  3. Is it important that children discover and develop their individual talents or should we focus on basic skills (literacy and numbers)?


Q. How did you change your classroom?

A. I learned how to redesign my classroom from Kevin McLaughlin. Here are a few pictures of the redesign of my classroom.

Whole class view
Demonstration/Show Zone 

 Discussion Zone

 Group/Help Zone

Research/Discovery Zone

 Thinking Zone

Twitter: @ChrisEdwards83

Thank you, Chris!


1 comment:

  1. Okay, is anyone modifying this approach for the American high school?


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