On Thursday 4th October 2012 Canons High School welcomed Alistair Smith (or @alatalite to give him his correct twitter handle) to deliver the keynote speech at our second of five connected whole-staff INSET days. The purpose of this programme is to help the school gear up our Outstanding Pedagogy Project (@CanonsOPP) as we move - hopefully inexorably - towards an outstanding judgment for teaching and learning in the eyes of Ofsted that will validate the strengths we know the school, our staff and students possess. The theme of this particular session was the 'why' of outstanding pedagogy: the raison d'être of CanonsOPP and hopefully, the end of the start of the project.
Anyway, I digress. I wanted to outline the nugget that set me off thinking and it was this. Alistair talked about a "coherent architecture for learning". I knew that this was coming, as he had been in the school a week before to talk with members of SLT and our Pedagogy Leaders about what we wanted from him in his talk. The one word that we thought was most important was the word 'coherent'; the sense that staff, students and their parents would see the links between learning across their different classrooms, subjects and teachers. But as I was listening to Alistair speak I realised that it was the rest of the phrase that struck me most: "an architecture for learning". I became fully aware that we have been engaged in a creative activity in its broadest sense, and that the end result of the process could be either a structure "built on sand" or one designed to last as a result of its solid foundations. We could be creating something to provide "shelter from the storm" for learners or a leaky and breezy shed of a structure. We have it within our collective powers to design a "hideous carbuncle" of a building or a thing of beauty to be admired by its inhabitants and neighbours in equal measure.In other words that the Canons Pedagogy that we have been working on for three years now is about to leave the world of drafting board, design template and blueprint in order to become a real thing, and that Alistair was here to help us "turn the first sod" or, as the first day of the construction of a new edifice is commonly called, to help us achieve something "groundbreaking". Our aim, through our work as co-architects, has been to create something that is strong, is fit for purpose and is beautiful.
I have no doubt that this has been one of the least obviously outward-facing blogposts on Canons Broadside, but as our "coherent architecture for learning" has finally fully left the drawing board I wonder whether or not it has a relevance beyond our own four walls. We have no belief that the Canons Pedagogy can act as a blueprint for other schools (unlike the DfE we appreciate that physical and metaphysical architecture needs to be context-specific), but our journey through the stages of the design and building process may well be of interest to others, for our failures as much as for our successes. The challenge I would make of any non-Canons teachers and school leaders reading this is "what does your coherent architecture for learning look like?" And if you can't answer that question maybe, just maybe, it is time for you to go back to the drawing board and begin the process of finding out.