I am an educational thief. I have stolen the concept of ‘Loops of Learning’ from the North Somerset Learning Exchange in the way that most educational ideas are founded in the work of others and reshaped for each individual context.
As with most things implemented in schools, it started with a CPD session - an opportunity to listen to Kerry McArdle, Assistant Head at Bourneville Primary School. Amongst the many nuggets she shared, I was struck by the simplicity of the Loops idea, and how much sense it made.
Loops of Learning in its simplest terms is a cohesive way of planning, where lessons are planned with a common goal – to move pupils towards a successful presentation of understanding – the purposeful demonstration of knowledge and skills. Through every point of this, the learning journey is shared with pupils – they know how and why the sessions fit together, and know that these can be tailored to suit their needs.
As with enthusiasm around any new development in school, immediate full implementation is tempting but never the best option! Instead the case for adoption was built. The book was purchased in order to learn the full theory behind the process, and to explore a range of case studies. The reflective nature of these were excellent; short soundbites from practitioners which detailed how it worked for them, and the things they would adjust in future.
Armed with this research, the approach was trialled in one class for Literacy – an opportunity to test this out over a two week period. The benefits of this struck me straight away. Display materials gathered from each lesson clearly mapped the pupils journey towards the end point – a great start for the following lesson. I thought I was reflective, but the planning format for the loops of learning meant that I was far better at recording this and reacting in subsequent sessions.
The concept and feedback from the single trial was presented to a year group of 3 classes who were then asked to trial this way of planning. The staff enjoyed the opportunity to share the learning journey, and pupils felt valued with their own loops added - they relished understanding the purpose of their sessions. Work from this unit was fantastic, with author booklets now on display in our local public library.
Armed with research, case studies, and school experience, the concept was ready to be shared with the whole staff. An interactive CPD session was designed to develop staff understanding of the loops of learning and the opportunity to learn from the experience of colleagues within the school. Time was given for teams to plan for their first loops of learning with presentations of understanding that could be shared with the wider school community.
It is still a process that is in it's infancy – several terms on from the initial spark. Loops of Learning has been revisited in staff meetings with feedback from monitoring activities and opportunities to share successes and discuss areas for development. CPD time has been allocated for planning loops across the school; we cannot expect colleagues to change their practice without allowing the time to explore and develop. Our year teams are now moving towards their first presentations of understanding through a cohesive planning process, with increased pupil participation and better knowledge of our pupils’ learning.
This is why I am an advocate for learning from research – not through stealing anything and everything and lifting it into our schools, but through polishing those educational jems that will really work for our pupils.
For those that may be interested: