Learning for all…We All Learn Differently

First published in the June 2015 edition of UKEdMagazine

Learning for all…we all learn differently…

Every day when I am in the classroom my challenge is to find a way to communicate skills, facts, strategies with my pupils so that they can learn and progress. Nothing unusual there, learning styles came and went, pedagogies wane and rise, government ministers pass on their ideas on their preferred styles to beat other nations test scores in international rankings.

So what do I try?


I have forgotten more things than most as my career goes on. I find it intriguing and slightly unbelievable that I have stood in front of 11-16 year olds for the last 27 years. Have I found the “perfect strategy”? No, but then I do not teach a one-size pupil that never changes, who always favours the same method of learning.

In the last two years I have invested lots of time in the use of solo taxonomy (see more details at bit.ly/uked15jun02), I like the ease with which I can use the terminology and concept to demonstrate how to develop answers in a language that is easy to access for any age, group or subject. I am so convinced I led the development of a global network of teachers to share ideas. I have recently passed that on to Pam Hook the solo guru from New Zealand. The Twitter account @globalsolo continues through Pam so I can focus on my current role.

I use differentiated tasks and outcomes through the solo language mentioned above, I have conversations where I challenge my learners to identify and tell me what the next step is rather than I spoon feed the answers.

Teachmeets have seen me extol the virtues of teacher networking be it on Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Blogging, Teachmeets, and of course, UKEdChat. We are in a golden age where educators are open to the idea of sharing and collaborating – get on board – it really is worth it!

Many teachers feel nervous about using Social media. Use it professionally if you feel comfortable with it. Personally, I think you would be mad to pass up the opportunity, but I admit to being biased. Colleagues who do not feel comfortable should be encouraged to learn their own way, just like we do for our pupils / students.

My revision lessons for GCSE are active. I feel that energy and passion are important. I recently presented one such energised session titled Teaching physical geography through interpretive dance. If I can use a song, action, mini drama, dance that makes something memorable, then I shall – yes it can be a little embarrassing, but it works. I am still reminded about the waterfall recession dance I taught over 5 years ago by ex-pupils who are now graduates who still remember it.

During revision sessions I believe I am a resource for my pupils. I am there to be interrogated, searched, challenged to find those little gaps in their understanding which takes them into the exam with confidence and a knowledge that they know how the exam structure can work to their benefit. As the countdown continues, so to does their confidence.

Currently, I am using learning outdoors as a vehicle to develop all of our Key Stage 3 geography classes as we discover, explore, conserve and share our school grounds as part of the John Muir Trust Award scheme. We are developing fieldwork skills for GCSE fieldwork in the future, we are observing our surroundings and discovering things that have been hidden in plain sight. By the end of term, 485 pupils will be aware of the proposed plans for a National Park City for Greater London where I teach. We have raised awareness, we have tapped into current affairs and the media.

What is my teaching about? It is all about the fact that, as my pupils, we are all lifelong learners. The learning never stops, we can all pick up points from each other. If after a year with me as their teacher a pupil enjoys learning, is open to at least listening to others before drawing their own conclusions, preferable – substantiated, then I have succeeded. But I will continue to learn in any case. Where are you on your learning journey?

You can freely read this article also in the online edition of the UKEdMagazine by clicking here.

Andy Knill is Head of Geography at The Albany School, Hornchurch, Havering. Find him online at mishmashlearning.wordpress.com and globalsolo.wordpress.com and on Twitter at @aknill.

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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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