Scottish Teachers for a New Era (STNE) is a collaborative six-year pilot project whichseeks to prepare ‘teachers for a new era’ able to face up to the challenges of knowledgeand learning in the twenty-first century. The programme’s aims include the creation ofan extended professional culture, the broadening of learning experiences, opportunities todevelop new and personal approaches to teaching and a broader conceptualisation ofpupil gains leading to improved teacher and pupil learning. Pupil Engagement and Pupil Gains Seminar. September 2008IntroductionThe seminar reported here was conducted as part of the Scottish Teachers for a New Era initiative at theUniversity of Aberdeen. There are a number of dimensions to the STNE research and programmedevelopment. The focus of this seminar was on what we understand by pupil gains.Running in parallel with the STNE Initiative has been the development and implementation of the newpolicies such as Curriculum for Excellence built on the foundation of the four capacities: SuccessfulLearners; Confident Individuals; Responsible Citizens and Effective Contributors. While recognising thatcognitive gains are still an important part of the assessment of pupil gains, it was felt that given thechanging landscapes there was an opportunity to explore the meaning of teacher effectiveness and pupilgainsThe seminar consisted of an introduction followed by four presentations, two in the morning and two in theafternoon. Following the presentations in each of the two sessions, morning and afternoon, participantswere allocated to groups for discussion of some of the issues arising from the presentations and somequestions that they were asked to consider: What do we mean by pupil/student gains? What different dimensions can be identified to pupil gains? How much importance should we attribute to each of these? Which can we realistically expect an “effective” teacher to facilitate the development of? What opportunities and challenges does the Curriculum for Excellence present with respect to the development of the dimensions identified? How should such “gains” be identified/evaluated/measured?
Pupil Engagement and Pupil Gains Seminar.MethodSeminar PresentationsDr Donald Gray provided an introduction and outlined a theoretical framework that could be utilised whenlooking at the context of teacher effectiveness and pupil gains. This provided a foundation for furtherdiscussions during the day when questions relating to the idea of pupil gains were considered, theimportance attached to different types of “gain”, the opportunities and challenges provided by ACurriculum for Excellence with respect to pupil gains and ways in which such gains can be identified,evaluated or assessed.Professor Donald Christie et al. explored pupil gains in relation teachers’ learning. This paper argued theneed for a sophisticated conceptual model to provide an adequate framework for understanding teachers’professional learning and to that end presented the Triple-Lens Framework developed by the AERSLearners, Learning and Teaching Network. The effectiveness of CPD for teachers in terms of measurablepupil gains (both cognitive and affective) were explored in the context of a study funded by ESRC TLRP inwhich 24 Scottish primary teachers were encouraged through professional development activities andresources to foster collaborative group work in their classrooms. The views of the teachers involvedregarding what were key features of the professional development activity were analysed in relation to thetriple lens framework and implications discussed.Dr Jim Parsons provided useful insights from the Alberta Improving Schools Initiative (AISI). Jim’spresentation shared his understandings’ of the eight-year history of AISI and its influence of a system’sgrowth. The presentation focused on the historical, cultural, and educational context of AISI, the growth ofteachers as researchers, the influence of teacher growth on student assessment and learning, and how oneeducational system came to be reshaped in response. Specific topics included project management, theimpact of outside experts, the growth of teacher efficacy, and how research became part of a system’sculture. Jim attempted to draw more general educational theory from practice. He believes that pupil gainsalmost unfailingly have more to do with teacher efficacy and leadership than with the introduction ofspecific methods, programs, or assessment ideas. He also believes that understanding one part of a systemrequires better study of the entire system.In the afternoon session Alastair Wilson’s paper explored the contextual and structural issues in relation tounderstanding the concept of pupil gains. This paper drew on a range of data from a research project basedwithin a large secondary school in an area experiencing high levels of social and economic deprivation. Itdiscussed the ways in which the school understood and addressed low academic attainment among itspupils. Drawing on a specific action research project within the school the paper argued that some of theinnovation necessary for increasing pupil gains faces significant structural barriers. For this schoolincreasing pupil gains requires change that is currently difficult to realize.The final presentation was given by Kevin Stelfox, and Jennifer Morrison. This paper argued that a one-dimensional view of pupil gains is inadequate for two reasons: firstly, it fails to challenge the dominantperformance discourse; and secondly, it impacts on the professional identity of teachers by restricting it to atransmission model of teaching and learning. It suggests that there is a need to broaden out the definition ofpupil gains into a multi-dimensional model including not only subject-based cognitive gains but also socialgains within the school context. The research reported covered an exploratory study of the currentunderstanding of pupil gains by practitioners and young people within the emerging context of ACurriculum for Excellence.
Pupil Engagement and Pupil Gains Seminar.ResultsThere were a number of emergent themes that developed from the discussion that are briefly explored in thefollowing section. These themes developed from the presentations and discussions and were echoedthroughout the day. They centred on relationships, evidence and culture. Clearly these themes are interrelatedand need further research to fully investigate the role they play in relation to understanding pupil gains andconsequently how that is evidenced. • Relationships -The presentations and the discussion highlighted the need for the development of good relationships and mutual trust throughout the system. This consideration of relationships and the development of trust needed to happen at all levels, between teacher, pupil, teacher and teacher, teacher and management, between school and the community, school and university, local authority and university, between practitioner and researcher etc. • Culture - There is a need to start to generate a different type of culture in which teachers feel more empowered and able to take action, where their voices are heard and contribute on equal footing with other stakeholders. It was acknowledged that this may take some time and is linked to other aspects discussed, such as development of trust, creating space, building confidence and self-efficacy and encouraging a renewed sense of professionalism where a teacher’s voice is listened to and respected. • Evidence - With a broader notion of pupil gains, building on other initiatives such as Assessment is for Learning, and recognising the extended nature of A Curriculum for Excellence there is a need to explore and develop broader and perhaps more imaginative ways of gathering evidence. There was recognition that simple numerical measures and standardised tests in discrete cognitive areas were in themselves not sufficient and were in some respects exclusive resulting in the lack of recognition of other areas of growth, development and learning that occur in children and young people. Recognising the complexities of the learning and teaching process, and the education system in general, required close examination of the notion of evidence and what counts as evidence and greater recognition given to non-traditional forms of evidence that provide more depth and texture to specific learning contexts.
Pupil Engagement and Pupil Gains Seminar.Discussion/ConclusionAs can be seen from the themes that emerged from the seminar, the conceptualisation of pupil gains is notstraightforward and cannot be reduced to simple subject based cognitive measures. Indeed there is a need toexplore further subject based and social learning gains from the perspective of the classroom and the widerschool context. Focusing on these areas will contribute to our understanding of learning and lead to thedevelopment of alternative forms of assessment. It is also important to acknowledge that pupil gains isinextricably linked with teacher dispositions, professional learning opportunities, classroom and schoolculture, partnerships and ways of working, professional recognition, parental involvement and otheraspects. There is no simple linear relationship between a teacher education programme and the impact thatthis might have on pupils. This clearly has implications for the way research into learning and teachingtakes place, with a need for a research design that tries to take a more holistic and systemic approach tounderstanding the influences on pupil learning gains. Similarly it is important that we are very clear aboutthe kinds of attributes that are being looked for when we talk about pupil gains, and that there is a collectiveunderstanding that assessing these wider dimensions of pupil learning requires different and variedapproaches to assessment or evaluation. This may not be an easy task but there are possibilities within ACurriculum for Excellence to develop these wider dimensions of learning and assessment. This does notmean abandoning or ignoring what has been traditionally valued, i.e. cognitive subject based gains, but tobalance this with other aspects of children’s developments which reflect the values we place on educationand the kind of people we want our children to grow up to be.ReferencesGray, D. “The complexity of teacher effectiveness and pupil gains” University of AberdeenChristie, D., McKinney, S. and Welsh, M. “Pupil Gains and CPD”; on behalf of the Applied Education Research Scheme. Learners, Learning and Teaching Network Project 2 Team.Parsons, J. “Teacher effectiveness and pupil learning gains - A Canadian Perspective from the Alberta Improving Schools Initiative.” Faculty of Education, University of AlbertaWilson, A. “Realising pupil gains?” University of Strathclyde.Stelfox.K1 ., Morrison J2, “Pupil Gains’ Investigating a Contested Concept.” 1University of Aberdeen. 2 Head Teacher. Moray CouncilThe full report and presentations can be accessed at http://www.abdn.ac.uk/stne/index.php?id=24&top=5