The Scheme of Work is dead. Long live Planning for Learning! In the last year there has been a shift towards ensuring that planning documents are centred around the learner and the learning process instead of what the teacher is doing as a “performer” in class. This is a hugely positive step as it reduces time being spent on bureaucratic tasks such as teachers evidencing their planning mainly so that it can be policed or audited in some way.
Planning for learning is about structuring the learning for your class and the individuals in it and sharing relevant goals and materials with them in language they can access. It is a world away from the old Schemes of Work written in educational jargon, which managers would audit partly to check teachers’ compliance with college procedures. Old world SoWs could be deeply unfriendly to learners. Planning for learning puts them at the heart of the process where they belong.
In many colleges planning for learning starts during June and July as part of preparation for the next academic year. In many cases this is done as an individual activity or at most in collaboration with a co-tutor. I would argue that there are benefits to incorporating an element of reflection as a group or a team. It is a rare chance to share practice at the level of how to plan an overview for learning and signpost new resources to include. At this point in the year, it is a good time to use these questions to reflect on plans for learning.
Reflective Questions for Planning Learning
Here are a few to explore with your colleagues, while reflecting on your Plan for Learning:
1. For learners, how clear will the links be between units/topics on the plan? How can these links be made?
2. Where are the opportunities for learners to review key ideas and vocabulary?
3. For strong learners, how is stretch and challenge going to be provided?
4. How varied is the plan, in terms of types of activity, ways of working together in class etc, so it is engaging for learners?
5. Where could the plan benefit from a few extra self-study resources?
6. Where are there natural opportunities to promote equality and diversity?
7. How specific is the plan, in terms of how language, literacy and numeracy skills will be developed? Who could help enhance those strands of the plan?
8. How does learning get checked in each unit/topic through assessment and other methods, so learners are clear on their progress?
9. Which sessions could be challenging for some learners? How can you support them?
10. How will your marking and feedback help learners to be aware of their performance and progress?
This reflective conversation can be carried out in many ways.
1. At Epping Forest College, Learning Champions met 1:1 with a peer to discuss their plan for learning, picking out relevant areas for discussion from a big list of questions. Teams spent time in July planning together and part of that process involved facilitated conversations using reflective questions, so that practice was shared and fed back into the planning process.
2. Teachers could also use reflective questions for individual thinking or for conversations with a co-tutor or other team member.
For course teams, a few reflective questions like these could also be useful:
1. Last year, which modules/units were particularly effective with learners? What can we take from that into this year’s plan?
2. Which aspects of the course did learners find challenging or not engaging? What improvements can we make in terms of materials or style of delivery?
3. Which one activity or resource do you want to share with the course team?
4. How can we improve the marking and feedback cycle, to engage learners better?
5. What would be one small but powerful change we could make to the course, to improve learner achievement?
6. How can we share resources and ideas even more effectively this year? (Moodle meta courses, Active Schemes of Work, an email distribution list, a discussion forum online, meeting up, peer observation?)
This planning process can be a great chance to share practice and hone thinking about improvements for the new group of learners. Reflective questions can be helpful in focusing discussion and identifying practical points to take forward. It would be very interesting to hear from anyone who is using this approach or tries it out soon.