Opening up the Learning Experience
The projects, thematic posters and workshops which I develop all aim for the same goal: to stimulate teachers and children to think about learning and the world around them in a richer, more elaborated, integrated and personally satisfying way. So much of the world around us is taken for granted, receding into the background or becoming invisible when it is actually full of interesting stories, mysteries, ideas and patterns. Using big themes like 'Visual Art', 'Travel', 'Food for the World' and 'Stories we Tell', I develop thematic posters for school projects in the form of visual overviews, presenting key questions and activities which guide teachers and students to create a wider learning space, opening up more dimensions in their experience of the topics and encouraging deeper understanding as well as more creative and reflective attitudes to learning.
The Teaching Approach
Providing schools and teachers with added awareness through workshops, as well as the materials to stimulate a deep level approach to learning, helps both teachers and children to focus on understanding ideas rather than being satisfied with superficial or rote learning. Deepening the teaching approach in this way often results in increased motivation on the part of both teachers and children, as they all more knowingly adopt the attitudes of active learners in what then more clearly becomes a shared learning community. Teachers often remark on the transformation they themselves experience, as well as noticing the increased engagement and enjoyment of the children.
Learning and Connecting
Learners are stimulated to seek connections and associations, often becoming quite immersed and personally engaged in the learning process. They form inferences and conclusions, develop their own ideas in relation to the topics presented and must learn to check their own understanding as that develops. Is it accurate? Is it complete? What is missing? How does this topic or idea relate to other areas? The child learns to reflect on what is learned and also on how things are learned so that metacognitive skills are also part of the growing competencies. A growth mindset and developing self regulation skills are essential aspects of the deep level approach to learning.
My aim is for children to develop these attitudes in school in order to gain more satisfaction and enjoyment from learning, as well as to reach better levels of understanding, which in turn serve as a stronger foundation for further learning. Most importantly their motivation is greater because of the interest, connectivity, appeal and relevance of the projects, and the positive effects of the innovative visual-overview method of presenting topics.
Meeting the Needs of Gifted Children
The main goal is to awaken children's appreciation of the structure and variation in the world around them. The approach aims to develop interest and an open mind towards all that can be studied, observed, discussed, investigated, understood and valued. I have had a lot of experience working with gifted children in schools, many of whom have delighted me with their extraordinary abilities. Unfortunately schools are too often frustrating and disappointing places for these children and one of my main aims is to provide schools with materials and teaching approaches so that their gifted pupils can also flourish, whether they are in separate classes or part of regular mixed-ability groups.