12th March 2019 - Understanding How To Learn

Understanding How To Learn is the latest (Routledge 2019) cognitive psychology contribution to education with an aim to strengthen the lines of communication between researchers, teachers and pupils.

Our learning takes place via mental processes that we do not know how to measure directly, therefore the researchers are left with observations of behaviours, which are possible to measure, from which they infer the mental processes to try to explain how we learn.

The authors claim that when it comes to education, we tend less to seek experts/other professionals’ advice and instead rely on our intuitions – teachers, parents and pupils – about what is best for learning. This publication is an attempt to break a distrust of information that comes from scientific approaches and seriously consider what cognitive psychology or neuroscience have to offer education.

Part 2 of the book is devoted to basics of human cognitive processes with the chapters on attention and memory particularly resonant of the classroom experience. Attention is recognised as cognitive process that is hard to define but essential for learning to occur. Touching on Lavie’s Load Theory, the authors discuss the correlation of mind wandering with reading comprehension.

Reading about human memory, we discover that it is reconstructive in nature as opposed to a storage of information to retrieve from. Many of popular beliefs about memory like the length of short memory (it is actually a very brief period lasting between 15-30 seconds) are refuted and scientific evidence is presented in dual coding: words and visuals in line with a recommended-to-teachers strategy for effective learning.

Finally, the authors clearly specify tips for effective teaching and learning for teachers, pupils and parents, reinforcing at the same time this fundamental triad for successful education.

Kasia Fejcher-Akhtar recommends Understanding How We Learn, A Visual Guide by Yana Weinstein and Megan Sumaracki with Oliver Caviglioli

20th August 2018 - Brain Fanatics

Neuroscience research has gained in momentum over the last few years, resulting in many findings that educationalists cannot ignore, especially those working in special needs.

Some publications (articles and books) are written by experts in different fields, though all the knowledge presented stems from the fascination with the brain that we, due to developing technology, are able to learn about more and more. For teachers, discovering potential for improving pupils’ learning, and becoming more effective practitioners, is a major attraction. And the motivation to churn through publications sometimes – by default - we learn about ourselves too!

I am, therefore, announcing our inter - schools Virtual Brain Book Club. If you’d like to join in informal conversations, book exchanges, jokes and anything to do with the brain, speak to one of the founders and members of the club.

Stephen, Angela, Amy, Kasia, Jonathan, Kamil (associate member)
(please contact Kasia Fejcher-Akhtar for more information)

Blog Posts... Summer 2018

25th June 2018

Therapeutic and Educational Interaction with Animals

St Luke’s School has been leading in the therapeutic and educational use of animals and there are some very encouraging results of positive impact that the interaction between animals and pupils have on pupils well-being and motivation to learn.

A leading practitioner in this area of interest, Matt Colley, took part in an event organised by Middlesex University which aimed to explore the therapeutic uses of animals. Armed with tangible evidence gathered in the classroom, Matt expressed the school’s interest to continue with this field of work and hopefully to forge collaboration with the University’s Child Health lecturer, Jenny Phillips. Jenny is currently carrying out research to investigate the therapeutic use of animals for stressed students sitting exams and its potential impact on results.

According to one of our teachers, Hayley Brooks-Lampard, animals have revolutionised and inspired teaching and learning within her group. A hand reared budgie became an effective teaching resource and a non-human, kind friend for pupils and adults in her class.

This is how it happened.

We began weighing budgies; documenting, comparing weight and discussing potential reasons why the weight may have varied from the week before. This was invaluable to the pupils‘ understanding of weight as they had little practical concept of weighing other than food. It was also fantastic for reasoning and problem solving as the pupils learned how we could support budgies in their growth and development. Having seen the effect this way of teaching had on pupils’ progress, we invited the budgies back into the classroom when they were old enough to eat solid food. This changed the classroom environment almost immediately. Some pupils who were usually terrified of animals, especially flying birds, developed into confident animal handlers. Two pupils in particular have overcome their fears and now have Aero on their shoulders. The budgies stayed for two terms and over that period of time, the calmness and focus in the room had dramatically improved.

For one pupil, who suffered from mental health issues and often expressed negative thoughts that there was no purpose in living, the budgies’ arrival proved to be a massive attitude changing occurrence. Encouraging this particular pupil to do any kind of work was, to say the least, a daily struggle of problem solving to help him make progress. Since Aero has come in, the adults have not once heard him say anything remotely negative. He has transformed into a happy, comical, caring individual who rarely leaves Aero’s side.

Animal therapy brings substantial educational and personal benefits to pupils with complex needs as the above case study evidences. The school is in a good place to continue developing staff knowledge and application and to weave this kind of therapeutic intervention into daily practice to improve outcomes for pupils in line with their needs and developmental stage.

Kasia Fejcher-Akhtar

12th April 2018

ASD: Findings Solutions To Help Your Child

A pragmatic, parental response to his child’s behavioural difficulties results in a charming book – a simple guide that provides effective strategies for supporting successful communication with ASD children.

In Make Your Own Picture Stories for Kids with ASD, Attwood provides parents and professionals with a step by step process for constructing social stories to prepare children for changes in their daily lives. This slim book is a powerful tool for developing communication skills when written decoding, aural comprehension and socio-emotional understanding form barriers for verbal communication.

Anchored in the reality of this one family, this book is reflective of a strategy being successfully utilised by others facing similar challenges. It is a testament to the power of solution-driven engagement with the real-life challenges that parents face on an ongoing basis and the positive impact that this can have on young people and their families.

Kasia Fejcher-Akhtar and Amy Tallantire

12th April 2018

(Research by Anne E Cunningham and Keith E Stanovicz)

“Reading has cognitive consequences that extend beyond its immediate task of lifting meaning from a particular passage” reads the opening sentence of What Reading Does for the Mind - an article based on research undertaken into the impact of the volume of reading on shaping the mind. The paper shares with readers many of the findings that led to the conclusion that reading a lot makes us ‘smarter’.

The researchers analysed the three different categories of language:
  • written (as difficult as scientific articles and as simple as preschool books)
  • words spoken on television shows
  • adult speech in different context varying in formality

  • They examined a standard word frequency count proving that most speech is lexically impoverished when compared to written language. Therefore, for vocabulary growth and, as the rest of this article reveals, for growth in verbal skills and declarative knowledge, avid reading is paramount.

    This study recommends reading from as early as possible as “this very act can help children to compensate for modest levels of cognitive ability by building their vocabulary and general knowledge.”

    It remains for us professionals and parents at home to develop in children habit of reading for educational and developmental benefits and, I add to this list, for pleasure and interest.

    To read this fascinating piece of research click on this link.

    Anne E Cunningham is visiting associate professor in cognition and development in the graduate school of education at the University of California, Berkeley.

    Kasia Fejcher-Akhtar

    Blog Posts... Spring 2018

    8th February 2018

    Three members of staff attended a Flagship lecture at Hertfordshire University delivered by Ros Blackburn, a spokesperson for people with autism. As a school, we have been awarded free access to regularly offered Flagship lectures on the subject of education through our well established and mutually beneficial partnership.

    A witty and highly enjoyable address by Ros highlighted differences between neuro-typical and autistic people in the areas of communication and social interaction. She stressed that teaching conventional speaking to those with ASD is more important than reliance on PECS and Makaton. However, these alternative and augmentative communication systems do support the development of communication.

    In autism, language and communication are two separate entities. Language is only the use of words, whereas communication encompasses functional and sociable exchanges of ideas and feelings. People with ASD need to be motivated to engage in talking for the purpose of communication, there is no sense of accomplishment when small talk feels like social onslaught to them.

    Ros told us that social skills are rules that can be learned and autistic people don’t necessarily want to be sociable, they want to be socially accepted. She described Autistic Spectrum Disorder as a social instinct deficit.

    We have taken on board her highly compelling advice to enhance our practice and to remember when teaching ASD pupils that:
    · If it is obvious to you – you still need to state it
    · Do things with them, don’t do it for them
    · They can only know what they are taught, told and shown
    · Broaden their knowledge and experience – moving away from fixed interests
    · Observe what they do and ask yourself why. When you get it wrong, autistic people will let you know
    · The ASD person may not want the attention of being praised in a social setting and this could make them reluctant to speak in a group situation (it may feel to them like social scalding)

    Never make autism the excuse but help the person overcome the problems caused by it.

    Reflection after Logical and Illogical, Information and Insight into Autism by Ros Blackburn

    Anu, Angela and Kasia

    Blog Posts... Autumn 2017

    13th November 2017

    Angela Fox – MA Art Therapy
    Angela engaged in therapeutic work within the setting to acquire skills in art therapy that deliver positive change in pupils’ emotional wellbeing. Her critical analysis of the passage from this extract explains some of the ideas that underpin her practice.

    Alex Chaplin – MA in Education
    The title of Alex’s dissertation was 'The Potential of the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS): Supporting the Development of Writing in Non-Verbal Children' and was the culmination of a Masters’ degree undertaken alongside full-time work at the Collett School.

    11th September 2017

    Research in learning profiles of premature babies reveals that these children are often present with complex needs and permutation of disabilities. As these pupils are declared to be “wired differently”, they learn differently too thus requiring teachers to teach differently, and the schools’ leadership to search for effective new ways to expand the existing portfolio of practice.

    The debate supported by a neuroscience review of the current state of educational provision for prematurely born children calls for a greater understanding of their unique challenges and their origins to influence positively potential teaching styles and interventions.

    The challenges for schools, mainstream and special, are to remove barriers for learning (something not often practiced in the UK) suggesting the benefits of deferred or delayed school entry as many prematurely born children (and SEN pupils, I would like to add) are not developmentally ready to follow a school’s daily routine: to sit for a period of time, to be attentive and learn as part of a larger group.

    The Collett School’s solution to remove some of these barriers to learning is to bring home to school by adapting a fluid teaching style throughout the day and transforming the physical environment so that it oozes with homely features and exudes a feeling of home, security and coziness.

    This response has been inspired by 'Born Too Soon' by Barry Carpenter and Jo Egerton

    Current R&D Research

    Current R&D programmes and courses ongoing by members of St Luke's School staff, which draw on theoretical and practice-based studies that inform teaching and learning in school.

    You can also access our here.

    National Professional Qualification in Executive Leadership (NPQEL)
    Stephen Hoult-Allen (T)

    National Professional Qualification in Senior Leadership (NPQSL)
    Kasia Fejcher-Akhtar (T)

    Our Latest Research Newsletters