Professional learning

Espacios Increíbles

"I have enjoyed the project because it has developed my creativity as well as teamworking skills. This experience has made me reflect upon my subject choice and reconsider my options of picking National 5 Spanish, Higher Spanish etc for next year."

- S3 learner and participant in Espacios Increíbles 2019

A new model for Professional Learning was published by Education Scotland in September 2018. SCILT sought to embrace this model by leading a number of Professional Learning Partnerships in session 2018-19; this includes the interdisciplinary cross-sector project, Espacios Increíbles, which is the focus of this case study.

Authorities: Glasgow City, North Ayrshire, West Dunbartonshire

Case Study Focus: Inter-authority Moderation/Project based learning in the languages classroom

Establishments:         

  • Clydebank High School
  • St. Matthew’s Academy
  • St.Margaret Mary’s Secondary 
  • St. Peter the Apostle
  • St.Thomas Aquinas

Learners’ stage/s: S3

With a core priority of supporting high quality language learning and teaching in line with national priorities, in session 2018-19 SCILT looked to develop new partnerships where teachers could work collaboratively to enhance learners’ experiences in the Broad General Education. 

Much of the work that has been led by SCILT to support the secondary curriculum links into the national policies, Developing Young Workforce and the National Improvement Framework; with a focus on developing partnerships with businesses to support the message that languages are a key skill for life and work. 

To build on this work in session 2018-19, SCILT began to investigate further education pathways where young people could continue to develop their language skills in university programmes that are not exclusively language based. Through investigations, it was interesting to discover that the Department of Architecture at the University of Strathclyde were creating a number of mobility opportunities for students to study and work in Spanish-speaking countries through Erasmus. It was on this basis that SCILT approached the Head of Department to discuss a possible collaboration; from this discussion a new partnership was formed. 

“Interdisciplinary studies, based upon groupings of experiences and outcomes from within and across curriculum areas, can provide relevant, challenging and enjoyable learning experiences and stimulating contexts to meet the varied needs of children and young people.” (p21, Building the Curriculum 3)

In the spirit of Curriculum for Excellence, the next step was to consider how to develop a collaborative project that would bring together two distinct curriculum areas in a relevant and meaningful context for learners. However, before we could take this forward we had to identify our partner schools.

The Partner Schools 

The five schools who participated in this professional learning partnership were from three authorities, Glasgow City, West Dunbartonshire and North Ayrshire Council.

Glasgow City

  • St Margaret Mary’s Secondary (School roll: 420)
  • St Thomas Aquinas Secondary (School roll: 936)

North Ayrshire

  • St Matthew’s Academy (School roll: 1245)

West Dunbartonshire

  • Clydebank High School (School roll: 1225)
  • St Peter the Apostle (School roll: 1429)

Schools were selected from challenge authorities as we wanted to support the Scottish Government agenda of closing the attainment gap. This also linked into the University strategic plan which seeks to provide access to university to people from the widest possible range of backgrounds. Therefore, as part of this experience, a group of pupils from each school would attend a final event at the university to celebrate the work they had completed in class. For most of the learners participating it would be the first time they had experienced a university environment and therefore an invaluable one as they aspire to the next stage in their secondary education. 

All five of the participating schools deliver Spanish as the L2 thus ‘Experiences and Outcomes’ for the planning of teaching, learning and assessment for this project were selected at level 4. To ensure we achieved the aims of this pilot project, it was important that we set an optimum number of pupils, so each school chose two classes from their S3 cohort to participate, with the exception of St. Margaret Mary’s Secondary, who with a school roll of 420, selected one. 

Concept

Discussions with the Course Director for the Department of Architecture on how we might engage young people in a Spanish-Architecture project led to the idea that we build our project challenge around a well-known TV programme. With its memorable title and popularity, Amazing Spaces, presented by George Clarke, gave birth to our project, Espacios Increíbles.

Rationale 

The rationale for the project was closely linked to the priorities within the National Improvement Framework with a particular focus on improvement in employability skills and closing the attainment gap through wider achievement. Through their participation in this project, we wanted learners to make the potential connection between the skills they develop in the languages classroom and the world of work. Moreover the project sought to highlight the opportunities to our young people that exist to build on language skills in further education pathways, which are not exclusively language based. 

With such a range of stakeholders, it was important that we set clear, measurable outcomes in our action plan to ensure that all would feel the benefit from their participation in this project.

View the project action plan

Language

The language of focus for this partnership was Spanish as the Department of Architecture maintain links with a number of South American countries with whom they run exchange programmes, namely Chile and Bolivia. The opportunity also exists for students to study an elective in Spanish whilst undertaking their degree in Architecture. This provided an extremely positive example to the young people participating in this project on how languages at university can be learned alongside other disciplines and not just discretely. Moreover it highlighted the opportunities for student mobility at the university and how learning a language enhances the experience of working and living in another country.

Learning as collaborative

The development of this project was completed through a Professional Learning Partnership led by SCILT; partners included the Department of Architecture at the University of Strathclyde and five secondary schools across three authorities. The focus for this partnership was on assessment and moderation. By using Education Scotland’s Moderation Cycle as the planning tool, to shape and develop the project, a natural opportunity was provided for the teachers involved to engage with the cycle. Their involvement in this project aimed to deepen their knowledge and understanding of its use and thus allow them to share their professional learning and lead others in effective moderation practice.

This process began by selecting appropriate Experiences and Outcomes from languages, technologies and health and wellbeing which are referenced in the Espacios Increíbles resource pack on the SCILT website. Formative assessment practices were included throughout the various stages of the project and what learners produced was measured using the benchmarks; these are captured in the criteria for judges.

Partnership working 

Between August 2018 and the launch of the project in February 2019 two meetings were led by SCILT which all partners attended. These were meetings to discuss the project concept and to consider how we might work together effectively to create resources for taking forward the project in schools. 

The focus for the first meeting was to consider how we would use the moderation cycle to support our planning of the project. Teachers were led through each stage of the cycle which provided the structure upon which we would create and develop the project. Thus the planning of learning, teaching and assessment was built on Level 4 Experiences and Outcomes as outlined in the second stage of the cycle. The second meeting provided an opportunity for the teachers involved to review the lessons and resources developed and to moderate these against the national benchmarks. To support the process, moderation templates were created using the benchmarks. These have been uploaded onto the SCILT website and can be found together with all of the resources from the project. Through their engagement in developing these resources teachers, enhanced their understanding of the expectations at Level 4 for reading and listening. To ensure learners were at the heart of every stage of the cycle, check points were included throughout the project to capture the pupil voice. 

The Launch

The project was launched on 21 February 2019 in all five schools; this was to highlight and strengthen the work of the partnership as the teachers involved simultaneously delivered the project in schools to their learners. To promote it further, the Course Director from the Department of Architecture and a representative from SCILT visited all five schools to set out the challenge to participating pupils. A twitter campaign was also used to celebrate the partnership with the hashtags #getgeorgetothefinal #espaciosincreíbles. It is hoped in year two that schools who engage with this project will continue to use these hashtags. 

Implementation

The first resources used were listening and reading packs which were based on the two countries, Bolivia and Chile. The purpose of this was twofold; it was to give the pupils an initial insight into the countries they would be investigating as part of their research and also to expose them to grammar and vocabulary that they could use and recycle in their final presentations. On completion of the reading and listening pack, schools then began leading learners through the stages written into the project booklet. The first activity within the booklet focused on skills that pupils would use across the two curricular areas to design their ‘Espacio Increíble’. The skills were written in the target language and at the start of each lesson pupils would identify which skills would be relevant to the work they were completing that day. Design and Technology teachers were given time within allocated language periods to lead the design aspect of the project. When pupils had completed their designs and finished their presentations they delivered these in class to their peers; to promote audience engagement all pupils were given a template to evaluate group designs and presentations. 

The final 

The final event took place at the University of Strathclyde. From each school a winning team was selected to present their design in Spanish to an audience of 150 pupils from the participating schools. There were two judging a panels; a professional judging panel and a peer judging panel. The event was led by undergraduate student from both the Architecture and Spanish department. The pupils were immersed in Spanish as students led the event in the target language with a quiz throughout to check understanding of each presentation. As part of the event, the Architecture students delivered two presentations on their experiences of living and studying in Bolivia and Chile. Feedback from those who attended the event was extremely positive.

  • I enjoyed this project because it was good to try something we don’t normally do. It was challenging but working as group helped a lot. The project also helped us learn about why it would be a good idea to speak different languages in the future.
  • I enjoyed doing this project. I learned about different jobs where Spanish can be used. Also I liked working as a group, developing new skills and learning new things from new people. 
  • I have enjoyed the project because it has developed my creativity as well as teamworking skills. This experience has made me reflect upon my subject choice and reconsider my options of picking National 5 Spanish, Higher Spanish etc for next year.

In session 2019/20 all schools who choose to deliver this project as part of their curriculum will have the opportunity to submit entries to SCILT to allow their pupils to participate in this final event at the university. 

Impact

Challenges

For many of the teachers involved in the project, there was a fear of moving away from the planned curriculum. However, through their involvement in this project, learners were able to work collaboratively to create and respond to an authentic and relevant context which  allowed them to develop key skills of problem solving, communication and creativity. The resources developed to support the delivery of the project were, as previously cited, in line with national benchmarks which ensured pupils both deepened and enhanced their subject knowledge thus preparing them for the senior phase. 

Working across two curriculum areas created logistical challenges to the delivery of the project. Consequently, it was decided that it would only be delivered during time allocated to language departments. To overcome the challenge of cover, language teachers covered classes in Design and Technology Departments when the design aspect of the project was being delivered to their classes. 

Next Steps

  • To strengthen the input from Design and Technology by giving additional time to the design aspect of the project 
  • The project Espacios Increíbles will be opened up nationally for all schools to participate; lessons and resources are available on the SCILT website 
  • In session 2019/20 SCILT will develop new projects in partnership with other university departments and authorities that will further promote language pathways in further education that are not exclusively language based
University of Strathclyde Education Scotland British Council Scotland The Scottish Government
SCILT - Scotlands National centre for Languages