Work with us

Work with us

 

Crossfields Institute is a growing organisation, always looking out for talented individuals to join the team. If you have an interest in integrative education, regenerative social practice or transformative learning, and the skills to make a difference, why not get in touch with us?

External Quality Assurers (EQA)

We are seeking experienced subject specialists with understanding and experience of awarding organisation quality assurance processes in the following curriculum areas:

Health and social care – nutrition and lifestyle coaching, herbalism, trauma-informed approaches to health, care and education, equine facilitated psychotherapy, integrative healthcare, osteopathy, anthroposophic skincare

Teaching and learning – higher level teaching qualifications and therapeutic education

Agriculture, horticulture and forestry – biodynamic agriculture, agroforestry, community orcharding

Child development and well-being –Steiner Waldorf, Pikler and Montessori approaches

Foundations for learning and life – integrated qualifications for school age learners at levels 2 & 3

 

Qualification Developers

We are also looking for individuals with experience of writing and developing Regulated Qualifications.

 

Application by CV and covering letter or email should be returned to lead.eqa@crossfieldsinstitute.com (External Quality Assurers) or info@crossfieldsinstitute.com (Qualification Developers).

For more information and general enquiries, contact info@crossfieldsinstitute.com

Submission deadline: Ongoing

Blog – Education for Regenerative Practice and Sustainable Development

Education for Regenerative Practice and Sustainable Development

Beki Aldam, Crossfields Learning

As we launch our Level 3 in Integrative Education, we look at why we created it, what inspired us, and what we aim to achieve 

Our approach 

The Integrative Education set of qualifications was created to inspire learners to engage with their learning, and create work they are proud to have produced. It aims to raise attainment for all learners and reduce the numbers of early school leavers. 

Crossfields Institute lead a project to explore and develop a type of learning and assessment that focuses on the use of portfolio assessment, and evidence of achievement from formal, informal and non-formal learning, designed to increase inclusion. This project was recognised and funded by Erasmus+ 2015 Key Action 2, School Education Strategic Partnership Project1, and has informed the development of these qualifications. 

More widely, this qualification was developed as a way to address concerns that education is increasingly politicised and centrally-controlled, vulnerable to the short-termism that our political system often engenders, and the ideological views of those currently in power. The Federation for Education Development’s survey also concluded that, “81% of respondents believe a long-term plan for education should be driven by a politically neutral and independent organisation.” 

This qualification was therefore developed by looking closely at the evidence behind assessment, rather than being driven by ideologies or targets, and out of a desire to engage young people in their learning with renewed enthusiasm and joy.  

The Times Education Commission concluded that, “high-stakes assessment has become the tail that wags the dog. Of course some exams are necessary, but the single-minded focus on grades has undermined the broad and balanced education that should be offered to all young people.” 

An over-reliance on summative, exam-based assessment, in order to achieve a qualification, is not serving the needs of many school-age learners. There are over 2 million children currently not in school, and 416 students are being excluded from schools every single month. 

The pressures to achieve in such a system inevitably devalue and reduce time spent on integrating other important non-formal or informal learning opportunities. A headteacher quoted in an Institute of Education (IoE) report stated, “With high stakes testing, the whole of the school’s activity is based around passing tests.” 

Those learners whose learning styles and needs do not sit well with formal learning and summative exam assessments are at greater risk of becoming disillusioned, disengaged, stressed and even disruptive. Geoff Barton, the head of the Association of School and College Leaders argues against the “baked-in” system of failure, that sees one-third of children failing their Maths and English GCSEs each year, to keep to the correct ratios: “Our education system works well for about 70 per cent of children. The trouble is if you’re one of the 30 per cent it’s a national scandal.” 

At Crossfields Institute, we aim to create qualifications that work for all students, that bring the very best out of each learner, and exclude no one from a lifelong love of learning and a sense of achievement. This is because students are not made to learn material for exams, but can instead engage with exciting and interesting projects that will inspire them. 

An integrative approach 

The Level 3 IE set of qualifications has been developed to be integrative, in recognition of the fact that life does not easily fit into siloed subjects. 

For Crossfields Institute, there are three ways that education can be described as ‘integrative’. Integrative education: 

  1. Engages the whole person – both teacher and student. They use and develop their mental, physical and emotional skills.
  2. Connects the learner and their learning to their daily life. Their own experiences become valuable in their learning; their learning is useful in their own lives, within their particular context. The student’s educational experience remains relevant for them, and continues to do so as they leave the educational setting and move out into the world. 
  3. Connects or combines both different subjects and the skills those subjects seek to develop. 

Education that is integrative will be more engaging, more enlightening, more meaningful. Students will have the chance to love what they learn and apply it wherever it is most needed in their lives. 

 

Regenerative practice and sustainable development 

The Integrative Education qualifications also focus on how to teach the next generation of learners, to live in the world in which we find ourselves. We now live in a new geological age, the Anthropocene, where humans dominate the planet’s ecology and geochemistry.  Humans have become the single most influential species on the planet, causing significant global warming and other changes to land, environment, water, organisms and the atmosphere. 

The coming years represent a vital window of time, in which humans need to drastically alter the way they interact with the world, and work towards a more sustainable way of life. 

However, the world’s transformation to sustainable development is being impeded by the very way humanity currently functions, “at the core, we are the problem. The way we’re acting in the world, and the way we solve problems, is the problem. 

As humans, we currently, “lack the inner capacity to deal with our increasingly complex environment and challenges.” However, “modern research shows that the inner abilities we now all need can be developed.” 

The Inner Development Goals are an identified list of transformative skills for sustainable development. They show us which qualities and skills we need to develop and nurture, in order to be able to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. 

That’s why this qualification includes a module that enables learners to recognise and work on their own inner development. As well as enhancing their own capabilities, it may also help them to face the challenges and anxieties that climate change and other crises bring to their lives. Based on the Inner Development Goals, the module focuses closely on what individuals can do to improve their own inner development, and take care of their mental wellbeing through challenging times. 

The content of the qualification has also been informed by the Gaia Yes curriculum, which recognises that, “integrating knowledge and skills for sustainable development into schools is crucial for the future of our planet and, more specifically, for the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and EU sustainability policies. We are handing over to the next generation a planet that must face several serious environmental problems and the convergence of multiple crises. It is important to help young people develop the knowledge, skills, values and behaviours necessary for sustainable development.” 

At this unprecedented time in history, the development of this qualification is a response to the urgent need for relevant learning, preparing young people for the ecological challenges around them. 

In addition to the urgent need to address the climate crises, society needs to resolve a crisis of skills. According to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), more than three-quarters of small UK businesses have struggled to recruit in the past 12 months, with 82% blaming a lack of candidates with the right experience, 

Young people are acutely aware of this skills deficit. Research conducted by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Accenture, and Hays10 found that almost 1 in 4 young people (aged 17-23) do not feel adequately prepared by their education for the world of work. 

This qualification includes an emphasis on key knowledge and skills that are relevant to the world we live in, including communication skills and intercultural competence; systems-based thinking and economics; action-based research skills and awareness of global perspectives. 

Moreover, the Gaia Yes programme, which inspired this qualification, clearly outlines how important it is to develop students’ sustainability “competencies, twenty-first century skills and the outcomes of their national curricula in an integrated manner…. The emphasis must shift from information to imagination and from imagination to practical application through learning from experience. These competencies are crucial in finding solutions to various serious environmental problems and crises.” 

The CBI describes young people as ‘work ready’ when they have developed their knowledge, skills and character. The IE qualifications follow the same structure, working with the head (knowledge), hands (skills) and heart (character, or attributes), to enable the next generation of thinkers, leaders and citizens to thrive. Each module contains knowledge that the students will gain, skills they will develop and attributes they will carry forward. 

Education needs to enthral, engage and bring joy to learners. The aim of the Level 3 qualification is to do just that. As the Nobel prizewinning geneticist Sir Paul Nurse, said, “A curriculum needs to excite. It needs to create citizens as well as specialists.” 

New Executive Director Recruitment

New Executive Director Recruitment

We are sad to announce that our Group CEO, Lou Doliczny will be leaving us at the end of February 2023. Lou has been with Crossfields Institute since 2014 and has contributed hugely to the organisation over that time.   She has been a strong and consistent advocate of our work, and as CEO has steered the organisation over the past 3 years through the challenges of COVID. We are immensely grateful to her, and she will not be disappearing completely, but may from time to time be involved in our projects.  Lou and her family have recently moved to Devon and she intends to spend more time on another passion of hers – sailing. The Trustees would like to thank her for her amazing service and commitment over the last few years and we wish her well.

Trustees are looking ahead to the next phase for the charity and are committed to ensuring strong leadership and maintaining good governance for Crossfields Institute.  We are keen to build on our network of affiliated organisations and continue to evolve as an organisation. Lou’s departure means that we are now seeking a new Executive Director (see job pack). If you know of anyone who is looking for a new challenge, on a part-time basis then please do let us know. We are also looking for new trustees so if you know anyone who has a passion for what we do and has experience as a trustee please do ask them to get in touch.

Blog – Education and the Climate Emergency

Education and the Climate Emergency

Beki Aldam, Crossfields Learning

Traditional education 

There are changes afoot, even in the famously lumbering beast that is the National Curriculum. After years of lobbying, Natural History, a climate-emergency related GCSE, is now available for students taking mainstream exams. However, the curriculum overall is woefully lacking, even in passing references to the climate emergency, biodiversity loss, sustainable ways of living or green futures.  

Teach the Future, a student-led campaign group, says, “Current climate education is inadequate. Students aren’t being prepared to face the effects of climate change, or taught to understand the solutions.” 

It is currently left to individual teachers to shoe-horn this content into their classroom, according to how passionately they feel about it. Dr Alison Kitson, Associate Professor of Education at the Institute of Education, argues that, “Practice varies across the UK, but in England at least, climate change and sustainability education have a relatively low profile, with efforts tending to be driven by committed individuals.”i Moreover, a recent research blog on Reading University claims that the latest government sustainability and climate strategy does not go far enough to develop skills across the education sector.  

Across the country, that means millions of students are missing out on vital knowledge about the current situation, because teachers are not able to bring enough of this into their classroom – whether it’s because they are not well enough informed, over tired and too stressed to prepare any extra resources, or they simply don’t know enough to feel confident in teaching it. Arguably, heaping the climate emergency onto teachers’ shoulders is neither fair nor guarantees an equitable exposure to climate information for learners. Almost all teachers are worried about climate change, adding to the stress they already feel from an overwhelming workload. 

Political educational issues 

In addition to the lack of robust content about the climate emergency in the national curriculum, there is also the double-issue of the current political turmoil affecting education, coupled with the lack of decisive climate action coming from politicians both in power and in opposition. 

On welcoming the new Education Secretary, the Association of School and College Lecturers commented on the number of changes to that post in recent years: “Education matters more than this. It is a vital public service. Schools and colleges deserve stable political leadership which addresses the crucial issues of inadequate funding and severe staff shortages caused by a government which has undervalued the workforce and sapped its morale.” 

If our politicians are not tackling the urgent needs of the education, and they also are not taking the necessary decisive action needed over the climate emergency, are they best placed to make decisions over how the climate emergency is presented within the curriculum? 

Skills gap 

Whatever your level of acceptance of the current state of our environment, there is widespread acknowledgement that students of today don’t have the skills to fill the jobs that will be required in the future, to ensure society can adapt to a changing environment.  

The new Natural History GCSE aims to develop students’ skills, “to help them go into a future career in the natural world through field work, such as observation, description, recording and analysis.” However, this doesn’t cover the skills required in many occupations that are becoming necessary in the ‘green transition’. 

The Environmental Audit Committee warned this time last year that, “climate change and sustainability risked being seen as a ‘tick box exercise’ in education”, and that the definition of ‘Green Jobs’ was still yet to be finalised. 

The IEMA warned of a gap of 200,000 jobs that need to be filled if the UK is going to reach its net zero targets. 

Young people and eco-anxiety 

Another important aspect of the climate emergency and education, is how the climate emergency affects students. 

Half of teachers feel ill-equipped to deal with student anxiety around climate change. The journal Nature reported that in the largest survey of its kind, where 10,000 young people from across the world were asked about climate change, over half were worried or extremely worried, and nearly half said thoughts about climate change impacted their lives every day. 

What are the positives? 

It always feels disheartening to outline exactly where we are in terms of the climate emergency. But there are inspiring organisations and groups who are doing important work to forge positive roads into the future, through education. For example, the Ministry of Eco Education is working to pool resources and ideas on climate change, from teachers already working within the current curriculum framework. Not to forget young climate activists themselves, working tirelessly across the globe to enact positive change. 

The UN points to the power of education to catalyse action and to reframe the negativity: “knowing the facts helps eliminate the fear of an issue which is frequently colored [sic] by doom and gloom in the public arena.” 

Crossfields Institute 

Crossfields Institute seeks to promote environmental responsibility wherever possible, and works to be part of the exciting movement towards a climate-responsible, regenerative education. Regenerative education is about recognising the need for a fundamental change to the way people learn. Instead of engaging with the world in either a destructive, or sustainable way, regenerative education aims to enable learners to become a hugely positive force for good for themselves, their communities and the wider world. 

The forthcoming Integrative Education Level 3, which prepares learners for employment or for undergraduate university study, is inspired and informed by several international projects and frameworks that place regenerative education at the heart of the curriculum.  

By doing this qualification, learners will engage positively with the communities around them, gaining essential action research skills and learning how to implement their research to provoke positive change. 

It aims to ensure learners are prepared for a changed and rapidly-changing world, and equipped with skills that will enable them to take a proactive role in improving the communities and societies in which they participate. 

To find out more, contact our Learning Team: dialogue@crossfieldsinstitute.com. 

Crossfields Institute also supports qualifications which address the skills gaps and provide education on important restorative practices, such as regenerative land-based practices. Find out more about our qualifications. 

 

Image credits - Jeanne Menjoulet & DeGust

Blog – Inner Development Goals

Inner Development Goals for Integrative Learning

Beki Aldam, Crossfields Learning

Where did the Inner Development Goals come from? 

In 2015, all UN member states adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. These goals represent international agreement that we have to dramatically change our ways of living, if we are to continue to inhabit Earth without destroying her irrevocably. According to who you are, those changes should occur very soon, right now, yesterday, or at some point in the future. But there is almost universal acceptance that something drastic needs to change. The UN talks of us being in “an ambitious decade” at the end of which the goals are met, in 2030. 

Why are we not steaming towards the accomplishment of these goals? For many who are concerned about it, movement towards the goals seems achingly slow, or even non-existent. The recent return of populist governments across the world has further scuppered progress and, in some cases, introduced dangerous regressions. 

Frustrations about this lack of progress began to grow soon after the goals were ratified. In early 2019 a group of academics, thinkers and leaders got together to discuss the view that what was impeding the world’s transformation to sustainable development was something about the way humanity currently functions, “at the core, we are the problem. The way we’re acting in the world, and the way we solve problems, is the problem.” [innerdevelopmentgoals.org] 

Environmental lawyer and academic Gus Speth articulated it best, when he said: “I used to think the top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse, and climate change. But I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed, and apathy.”  

This group agreed that, as humans, “we lack the inner capacity to deal with our increasingly complex environment and challenges.” Luckily though, all is not lost, because, “modern research shows that the inner abilities we now all need can be developed.” [innerdevelopmentgoals.org] 

The development of these inner abilities is the foundation of the Inner Development Goals (IDGs). 

What are the Inner Development Goals? 

The IDGs are an identified list of transformative skills for sustainable development. They show us which qualities and skills we need to develop and nurture, in order to be able to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. 

Crucially, there will be guidance on how to develop these necessary skills, which will be “open source and free for all to use”.  

Reading the full IDG report is interesting, because over a thousand people worldwide have had an input in their evolution. And there were many discussions on how they ought to be presented. Essentially, though, there was a need to make them accessible, and easy for mass communication and education. Agreement was made that 23 skills and qualities would be presented in five ‘dimensions’ or categories: 

Why do we think they are important? 

At Crossfields Institute, we have a commitment that everything we do should make the world a better place. We believe that education has the power and potential to be a force of positive change in the world. And we aim not only to care for and nurture the environments around us, but to promote environmental responsibility wherever we can. 

For us, then, the IDGs align clearly with what we wish to help our learners achieve – real, lasting, positive change in the world. 

How can they improve and enhance IE? 

The IDGs give us a framework to develop our own skills and qualifications. Many of those skills are vital to becoming effective learners. For example, developing your co-creation skills (as part of part 4. Collaborating – Social Skills) will ensure that learners are better able to work in pairs or groups to create their work. It will lead to more satisfying learning experiences; better outcomes for learners and teachers; and a higher quality of work that we can showcase as a result. Everyone benefits! 

If anything, we think Integrative Education and IDGs complement each other. Arguably, young learners are better equipped to grasp the concepts of, and improve, their skills and qualities for life, in an environment where the learning better reflects the world around them; where their thinking is already connected across different subject areas; and where they are required to work in pairs or groups as part of their everyday educational experience. 

Most importantly, the IDGs give us practical help in addressing the needs of humanity. And they help people to navigate the anxieties and uncertainties that can impede progress and impair the quality of our lives. Climate change anxiety, rising alarmingly in the younger demographic, is a very real challenge that we must support our young learners – and their teachers – through. As this article in the Lancet argues, “we owe it to children and young people to prioritise mitigation of climate change at its source, while at the same time investing in evidence-based tools to support their mental wellbeing in the face of this ongoing crisis.” 

How have we used them in our work? 

We have embedded the principles of the IDGs into our Integrative Education Level 3 qualifications. 

The IDGs work alongside research methods, independent project work, cross-cultural competencies, eco-literacy and many other complementary elements that prepare young people for the next stage in their lives, and to be active and responsible global citizens. 

How can you find out more? 

Contact the Learning Team to find out more about our Integrative Education suite of qualifications. 

Read the full IDG report to find out more about the project. 

Crossfields Institute Level 4 Award in Internal Quality Assurance: Integrative Approach

Blog – Integrative Education

Integrative Education

Beki Aldam, Crossfields Learning

What does ‘integrative education’ mean? 

The definition of ‘integrative’ is, “combining two or more things to form an effective unit or system.”  

What happens when we apply that to education and learning? It becomes a multi-faceted term that encompasses many elements of the learning process, the students and the teachers.  

The best-known version of integrative education (IE) is where the student learns in a way that combines or crosses over the boundaries between traditionally-divided subject areas. Sometimes called transdisciplinary, cross-curricular, or inter-curricular learning, students partake in learning that requires a range and combination of skills, and may include several subject areas. For example, a project making musical instruments that might combine musical, mathematic, physics, and handwork skills. 

However, it isn’t only the idea that day-to-day living is not neatly divided into subject silos, and that by fragmenting the student’s learning experience into artificial categories, the student is working in a way that isn’t reflecting the reality of the world around them.  

Education that is truly integrative also encourages an integration of intellectual, emotional, physical and social skills within the individual. It integrates the learner with the world in which we live; the societies that are fluctuating around them; and the planet that so desperately needs more understanding and support from humanity.  

Why does Crossfields Institute embrace IE? 

For Crossfields Institute, there are three ways that education can be described as ‘integrative’. For us, integrative education: 

  1. Engages the whole person – both teacher and student. They use and develop their mental, physical and emotional skills.

  2. Connects the learner and their learning to their daily life. Their own experiences become valuable in their learning; their learning is useful in their own lives, within their particular context. The student’s educational experience remains relevant for them, and continues to do so as they leave the educational setting and move out into the world. 

  3. Connects or combines both different subjects and the skills those subjects seek to develop. 

Education that is integrative will – we believe – be more engaging, more enlightening, more meaningful. Students will have the chance to love what they learn and apply it wherever it is most needed in their lives. 

The good and the great 

So, what advantages can this way of learning produce for the learner? 

Arguably, integrative education: 

  • Better prepares students for a swiftly-changing world, one that isn’t divided into subjects. 

  • Allows students to come up with better ideas and solutions, when looking at a project or problem as a whole, rather than by dividing their thinking. 

  • Encourages students to apply their skillsets in a fluid and dynamic way, rather than trying to approach something with a fixed mindset. 

More broadly, we can see that humanity is facing some serious challenges, with increasing numbers of crises threatening us at every level. Things have to change, and education is a crucial part of that. Our education systems are not currently enabling people to function happily, healthily or sustainably in the world. 

The challenges and reservations 

Although there are clear problems with education, it’s still an unnerving idea to many that everything about the current system needs to be overhauled in favour of something different, a move into the unknown. However, integrative education isn’t a new concept. Pedagogical experts have mooted, examined and proposed IE ideas for over a century (Kilpatrick’s The Project Method was published in 1918!) 

Yet, in many of the world’s mainstream education systems, IE has not been implemented in any meaningful way. There are reasons for this: 

  • Time: On a practical level, teachers often don’t have time to collaborate in a way that would make their students’ experience truly integrative. There are many gestures and nods towards IE (numeracy in your English lessons anyone?) but these do not make the educational experience truly integrative, and therefore don’t bring along its benefits. 

  • Organisation: There has to be some way to organise the educational experience. And there are advantages to structuring the students’ day so they learn a certain set of skills, and are able to focus on one thing at a time. Also, even if they did work on a multi-disciplinary project, they’d need to break that down into manageable chunks. Some argue that subject-silos are an effective way to do this. 

  • Change: Embracing IE fully requires big changes to be made. Large-scale reforms are difficult and often unpopular at first, making it an unappealing job both for educators and the politicians who may direct or enable such reforms at a national level. 

However, these challenges can be met and mitigated by the right IE system. One that allows teachers to collaborate; one that recognises the importance of specialist knowledge, but doesn’t restrict teachers and learners within subject silos; one that is organised and purposeful; one that works with education settings to support and implement the changes in a manageable way.  

Where to begin 

At Crossfields, our IE suite aims to allow all students to achieve their best and stay engaged. It’s also more inclusive than the current exam-based system, because it uses a fairer, wider range of assessment such as portfolios, presentation and performance. The courses run at both Level 2 and Level 3. Schools and organisations who adopt the IE qualifications are given support and teachers are offered training, to ensure they feel comfortable with and capable of delivering the materials.  

Find out more about the IE suite 

Learning from online learning

Learning from online learning

Dr Fergus Anderson

Covid-19 has forced a massive change in way that education happens and education providers all over the world have had to adapt fast. At Crossfields we are no exception. Our postgraduate teacher training programme (PPIE) normally has three residential intensives per year, but for the July residential we had to move everything online due to the lockdown.

We already had a lot of experience of online delivery, but doing a five-day intensive online was a whole new challenge. In this article I am going to summarise the main learning that came out of this experience with the hope that this will be of use to education providers who are struggling with similar situations.

First some general observations:

Anyone who has experience of live online teaching and learning will probably be aware that this can be a rather flat experience. Students tend to be more passive and unresponsive than in face-to-face interaction and teachers tend to counter this by filling the empty spaces with content, often with the help of Powerpoint. This can be an effective way of getting information across, but the student experience can easily be drab and uninspiring.

A further challenge has to do with the very real phenomenon of ‘Zoom fatigue’, namely, that interacting with a group of people online often seems more draining than interacting together in a classroom. So, added to the tendency towards flatness is the experience of exhaustion and burnout that can arise from the medium itself.

This may not be too much of a problem when online sessions are relatively short and happen relatively occasionally. But if online learning needs to occur in a more intensive way, such as has been the case for many education providers since the pandemic, then this can be a real problem.

What I will present below is intended primarily for further and higher education providers who, for one reason or another, are obliged to do intensive online learning for extended periods. The challenge in this case is how to make the experience as alive and stimulating as possible. Much of what I will propose will not be new, but hopefully it will help you to think creatively about what’s possible.

The first step, I would propose, is to be aware of the different modalities that online learning can include. I have experimented with five different modalities, though of course there may be more. These are:

1. Live presentation

This is the familiar ‘from the front’ presentation, either with or without slides. There may be pauses in the delivery for questions or discussion, but the basic aim and rationale for the activity is for the teacher to deliver content. Everyone is familiar with this modality so there’s no need to say more, other than perhaps to note that you can experiment with props.

For example, use a white board or flip chart to draw and write rather than Powerpoint. This can give a more organic and dynamic feel to the presentation and it also means that the face and torso of the presenter can remain visible, so the presenter can bring their enthusiasm and expressiveness to the session more effectively.

2. Recorded presentation

Traditional ‘from the front’ teaching can be inspiring. But as many Ted talks and YouTube films testify, inspiring presentations can be just as inspiring when they are recorded rather than live. The great benefit of a recorded presentation is that students can access it in their own time. They can also pause and go back over sections if necessary, or take a break.

The Zoom burnout experience that can occur in the live context does not seem to apply to the same degree here, which is a significant advantage. It is important to note that there is a distinction here between a presentation that’s made available as a recording from the beginning and a live presentation that’s then made available later as a recording.

Recorded presentation, as I mean it here, applies only to the former, i.e., it is something that’s recorded without students present, and then make available to students afterwards. The recorded presentation puts all students on the same footing whereas a recording of a live presentation differentiates between those who were actually there and those who watched the recording afterwards. A recorded presentation can also serve as a resource that can be re-used, so extra time, care and attention can be given to making it as high quality as possible.

3. Group-work or seminar

This is where students discuss content with fellow students and/or a faculty member. The discussion should be essentially student led and the aim is to engage the collective intelligence of the group to further and deepen the learning of all. The teacher/tutor should be engaged in facilitating this and not on holding forth, and that’s a quite specific skill in the online context. Breakout rooms on Zoom and other applications is a very useful tool for this as it enables small group discussion.

A typical session will oscillate between whole group discussion and small group discussion. Given the already discussed ‘passive’ nature of online learning, it can require skill on the part of the facilitator to stimulate and motivate discussion, and to crystallise and formulate what has emerged in an open and accessible way.

4. Walking conversation

Given that most online learning takes place indoors either sitting or standing in front of a screen, this modality aims to disrupt this by freeing the body and the visual gaze while also opening a subject to peer discussion. All students will have an app on their phone that enables free phone calls (WhatsApp, Messenger, etc.). The idea here is that students are paired in twos to go outdoors on a ‘walking conversation’ where they engage through conversation in some aspect of the course content.

The teacher might set questions or themes that inform the discussion, or not. What’s important to note here is the impact that walking has on conversation and the fact that the visual gaze can roam freely. For this it is important that students use headphones and also that they don’t use the video option (i.e., it’s an audio call only). Student can also be encouraged to use the sensory impressions and embodied awareness from their walk to inform and stimulate their conversation.

5. Individual reflection

The fifth and final modality is that students work individually during a live session. This can be a valuable activity in that it enables them to disconnect for a while from the slightly numbing and mesmerising presence of the screen and to engage in a reflective or reflexive way with what they actually think or feel. Doing this while the seminar screen is still on in the room (though they are not looking at it) can help to give students an awareness of the presence of others engaged in the same activity.

What makes these different activities interesting in this context is how they are combined. The aim is to combine them in such a way so as to make the learning experience as dynamic and varied as possible, so as to counter the tendency to flatness and passivity. But there is no prescribed formula. The above five modalities can be seen as a palette from which something dynamic can be created, but this will mean different things with different student groups and in different contexts.

An example of what has worked for me is to begin with a recorded presentation that students view in their own time over a three or four hour period (say over an evening and part of the next morning). They then have a walking conversation with a fellow student to discuss the recording and to identify questions and areas of interest or unclarity.

There then follows a seminar session that is facilitated by the faculty member who recorded the presentation. This gives students the possibility of discussing the presentation with the teacher but informed by the deepening that has taken place through the walking conversation. The students have tried to make sense of the content first in their own time and then discussed this with a peer before engaging with the teacher who gave the presentation.

Another example is that the teacher begins with a live presentation, then shifts to a period of individual reflection, followed by a group work seminar session. Another example is to begin with a seminar session, followed by a walking conversation, followed by a live presentation. The aim is to shift and disrupt the learning experience so that a theme can morph and develop in an organic way over time as it is encountered in different ways. The sum of these activities should amount to a gradually deepening engagement with the content. The key here is to experiment and ask for feedback from the students about what works. It’s also important not to assume that what worked for one group will work for the next group.

I hope that this has been useful. Do get in touch if you have further insights to share on this subject.

fergus@crossfieldsinstitute.com

 

In Memory of Sir Ken Robinson PhD, 1950 – 2020

In Memory of Sir Ken Robinson PhD, 1950 – 2020

Sir Ken Robinson died on the 21st of August 2020 and I want to recognise his amazing work for education in the world as well as the inspiration he brought to Crossfields Institute. In these two short videos, he sums up beautifully what should be at the centre of our educational decision-making.

This particular video may be the last public appearance he made and here, he invites us to learn from the impact of a relationship to the natural environment that caused devastation and extinction so that we can start to also change our ways of approaching learning, education and school:

In the second video, which is a short tribute, Sir Ken tells a story about human potential and how easily it is missed in a system that habitually medicates the seemingly restless children of today:

I invite you to take this opportunity to dwell with Sir Ken’s core message – I invite us to take a moment to imagine what changes we are ready for, now, as we enter a new era where some doors are closed forever and others are finally opening…

Dr Charlotte von Bülow
Founder of the Crossfields Institute Group
Director of Crossfields Europa

Relational Arts & Organic Design – an inspiring new course at Emerson College

Relational Arts & Organic Design is an immersive twelve-week course exploring the relational nature of the world in which we live through a rich programme of nature-based crafts, expressive art and observational science The programme is composed of three four-week blocks built around the themes of Enquiry, Creativity & Purpose:

  • Block 1 – Enquiry: 4 x one-week open modules
  • Block 2 – Creativity: 1 four-week open module
  • Block 3 – Purpose: 1 four-week final project

Students can take part on either a full-time or a part-time basis, choosing one or more of the open modules from the first two blocks. Please note: Block 3 (four-week final project) is only open to students who have completed either Block 1 or Block 2.

Find out more: