What is STE(A)M?
Learning through play: pedagogy, challenges and ideas
The importance of play in learning, its relevance in schools and ideas on how to use imaginative inquiry in the classroom--a live chat held recently in England.
Do children learn best when they're having fun? Photograph: Alamy
Play's use in education beyond early years, however, is a much more contentious issue.
In a blog about using imaginative inquiry in the classroom, advanced skills teacher and lecturer Tim Taylor argued that children learn best when they're playing.
He writes: "Children learn best when they are engaged in their learning, when it matters to them, when it's contextualized in meaningful ways and when they have a sense of ownership and agency. The best learning I've been involved in has not been 'delivered' to a class, but built, over time, in collaboration with students. Explored, examined and argued over."
Taylor advocates the 'mantle of the expert' approach which encourages students to learn using creative drama.
But could this approach also be adapted for secondary education? Or should there be a point when learning stops being a game? In a blog about the primary sector's creative curriculum, assistant headteacher Adam Webster claimed that innovative approaches to teaching is one of the most effective ways to motivate students and secondary schools should look to primaries for inspiration.
However, there is a growing number of teachers who believe that play has little or no place in the classroom. An open thread which explored whether a formal, linear thinking national curriculum was stifling children's passion for studying revealed some readers believed effective learning was not determined by how 'fun' lessons are.
Take Braminski, who said: "While students in the far east will be getting at academic education, our children will be learning how to use their products. This ridiculous idea that all education must be fun only will create a population of users rather than creators.
You make money creating, not using. And as technology continues to progress, you need to be academically challenged in order to understand what is happening. Under the schemes many of the teaching profession want, we would produce a population that could use such as an iPhone, but never actually create one."
So is play, as Albert Einstein believed, the highest form of research? Or is its role in education limited to just primary and early years education? Does the 'fun' end when we graduate to grown-up school? And are creative and imaginative teaching methods now under threat from Gove's linear, exam-focused reforms?
THE CHAT PANEL:
Judith Reay, head of the Sue Hedley Nursery School, Hebburn, South Tyneside
Judith has 16 years experience, specialising in teaching three to seven-year-olds. She is a foundation stage phase leader, has an MA in early years education and uses the High Scope approach to learning. High Scope emphasises active participatory learning, as well as adult and child interaction in play and problem solving. The Sue Hedley Nursery is the High Scope classroom demonstration centre for the UK.
Sian Carter, English lead practitioner at The Mountbatten School in Hampshire
Sian's passion is finding ways to encourage students to learn using risk taking teaching methods and high engagement strategies. She has blogged for the Guardian Teacher Network on using dance and music to teach English. She recently set up a school blog to share her ideas with other teachers.
Tim Taylor, AST working in Norwich
Tim is a visiting lecturer at Newcastle University and a teaching and learning consultant for mantle of the expert. He edits and writes for mantleoftheexpert.com and imaginative-inquiry.co.uk.
Jeremy Dean, English teacher working in Spain
Jeremy moved to Spain from the UK six years ago to teach in an 'immersion' school, teaching Spanish primary children in English. The language barrier has forced him to use play, games and other creative methods to help his pupils learn core subjects including maths, science and history. He blogs about his lessons here.
Teresa Cremin, professor of education at the Open University
Teresa works for the Open University's Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology. She has just finished a research project on children telling their own tales and playfully re-enacting them. She has also researched creative pedagogical practice and teachers as creative practitioners, as well as children developing their creativity and capacity to possibly think their way forwards through engaging in imaginative open ended contexts in subjects such as science, maths and literacy. She is currently part of an EU project called 'creative little scientists', much of which focuses on learning through play.
Don Ledingham, education blogger and director of education and children's services for Midlothian Council
Don's extensive career in education ranged from class teacher, to university lecturer, to secondary school head. His particular research interest is in relation to the use of metaphor, which he has used to develop the 'seven sides of educational leadership' theory. He has written a monthly column for the Times educational supplement Scotland since 2007 and has maintained an online learning blog since 2005.
Sally Wheeler, science AST at The Mountbatten School in Hampshire
Sally has worked as a lead practitioner in applied sciences for both the SSAT and at her current school before becoming an AST in 2011. Her key interests include the development of inquiry across the key stages, working closely with feeder primary schools to develop a consistent approach in the way in which inquiry is delivered, supporting both the transition and progression of students. She has recently set up a school teaching and learning blog to share best practice and encourage teachers to try new things.