December 15, 2021
Paul Gorman
Joanne Knight


School: Little Grove Primary

Creative Practitioner: Paul Gorman

Creative Practitioner Practice:  Creative explorer of ideas

Teacher: Joanne Knight

Year Group: Year 5/6

Curriculum Focus: HASS/technology/Civics and Citizenship/Business and Economic

(This project was delivered online with Creative Practitioner Paul Gorman, delivering a 90 minute session via Webex with the teacher and students each week for 8 weeks, along with project planning and reflecting with the teacher after the sessions.)

As adults we are supposed to know things, quite often children assume teachers in particular know everything.  This assumption has been constructed by an overuse of the transmission model of learning, i.e. knowledge passed from teacher to pupil.  The child is led to believe they are empty, and the teacher will fill them with knowledge.  This approach can erode pupil agency, autonomy, and independence.  Within our project the adults found it impossible to transmit knowledge as they knew less about the technology than the children!!  This rebalancing of the power dynamic created new spaces for children to find their voice to co-construct online learning experiences. 

The first few weeks of the project was a catalogue of failures.  The technology was new to everyone so mistakes became the norm.  The children and adults were playful with new platforms.  This invitation to ‘play’ enabled risk taking, experimenting, self-organised collaboration, peer learning and sharing, and the establishment of group working behaviours/codes of conduct.  The curriculum content of ‘design’ was being covered but the learning from the process was far richer. 

“WOW: Gotta love technology. Even when you check out programs they don't always go as you would like. I am seeing a really different side to many of the kids, how they cope with the unexpected. Me as well.”  - Teacher

The pupils' agency and autonomy grew as they realised the adults knew less than them about some of the technology.  This is the productive and risky area of digital literacy.  Does this way of working nudge us from an adult-centred model to a co-created learningscape? 

 “We began by revisiting what they thought creativity is. I made these into the display in the first photo. They had some terrific ideas. We then went to the art room where their task was to create an artwork that showcased what they thought creativity is. We had an absolute ball, lots of persistence, imagination and collaboration.” - Teacher

During one session the Creative Practitioner set the class an ‘impossible task’.  The teacher noticed their enthusiasm and excitement.  The theme of ‘impossible tasks’ started to emerge as a potential scaffold to weave design through.  The class worked in small groups to identify lots of other impossible tasks facing the world, ranging from climate change to kicking a football from one end of the pitch to the other.  They carried out research and designed products/services/campaigns to help make the impossible task more possible.

The technology supported this approach as the groups could work independently while knowing the CP was on hand to coach and mentor when needed.  Some groups needed extra support whilst others thrived on their own.  The CP was also able to offer individual feedback through each group's online folder on Onenote.  This feedback prompted and nudged the group's learning which created a participatory, bespoke, and personalised approach to their learning.

The Teacher’s Perspective

It has been a huge learning curve for me. Just letting go and having no idea what we would end up with as a final project. We may not end up with a final product and that is OK.

We have focused on the 5 Habits of Learning: imaginative, inquisitive, collaborative, persistent, disciplined. Their ability to reflect on the 5 Habits has been amazing. For the students  not being given explicit instructions, but giving them a task and leaving open how to go about it has been new. Some have loved it, and some found it scary, like me, but really interesting.

I really valued working with Paul. For me relinquishing control and letting the kids direct where they are going has been a big shift. Some of their ideas have been amazing. We got so bogged down with the content and had forgotten to value the kids' own skills in creativity, problem solving and collaboration.

There are definite IT limitations to virtual delivery. Finding a platform that works for everybody has been a challenge. We used Webex. The Department of Education doesn’t allow children to download files, the system couldn’t cope with our systems. Then we started using Onenote, but allowing Paul to have permission on it had to be organised. I’ve learnt huge amounts about IT, but it has been frustrating for the kids. We have struggled so much with IT, which modelled to the children that sometimes things do fail, and you still give it a go. It has been valuable learning.

In my head I thought we would end up making a game, then Paul came up with an impossible task. The children are developing their own inquiry questions to an impossible question and developing solutions to it.  For my class I have seen the persistence they have shown and the ability to keep questioning and keep trying to expand. In the beginning they wanted to be in this safe box. Paul has challenged them beyond their safe boxes. They are really starting to push themselves. We are doing a Geography inquiry in parallel. Their actual questioning skills have really improved. They are thinking a little bit further.

The older kids have really enjoyed working with Paul, working with him in small groups of 2s or 3s. It has been their special time with him. They have really enjoyed that part. I learnt to trust in your creative practitioner to let them guide and use their ideas. He has great ideas and interesting ways of looking at things. The ideas are not wow bang, but just a different way of unearthing the children’s thinking.

Creative lessons can be more noisy. You have to relinquish control to let them out there. Paul found it difficult to – gauging how the kids are going. That's been hard for him. The kids got good at asking the chat box to type in questions.