Promoting active English learning

Key Stage 3 is an important phase in any young person’s education; it is when they will develop their skills in important areas ready for examinations and controlled assessments they will take during Key Stage 4 as part of their GCSEs.

A worrying development for educators is that Ofsted has identified serious weaknesses in Key Stage 3 learning; the findings are publicised in a report ‘Key Stage 3: the wasted years? (September 2015).

ASDAN has just released a new English Short Course which could be used to address some of the key issues highlighted within the report and suit the needs of general English and literacy development within teaching.

I have picked out some of the key points from Ofsted’s report and then suggested how the English Short Course could be used in addressing them.

(Schools need to…) "Have literacy and numeracy strategies that ensure that pupils build on their prior attainment in Key Stage 2 in these crucial areas.”

The transition from Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 3 can be a difficult one for young people. Short Course challenges offer a personalised way of learning and developing literacy techniques. An example of this can be found in module 3, which focuses on reading and writing styles. Challenge 3 gives young people the opportunity to keep a personal diary over one week. The learners are then challenged to write each entry in a different style, building on literacy skills developed in Key Stage 2.

"Slow progress made in English and mathematics and the lack of challenge for the most able pupils.”

An extended section B challenge from module 5, in which the learning is centered on writing for a purpose, requires the learner firstly to present a balanced written account of a current and controversial subject. The main challenge then comes when the learner has to examine each side of the argument in detail and provide their own opinions in conclusion. This requires the use of higher order thinking skills as identified in Bloom’s taxonomy.

"Homework is not consistently providing the opportunities for pupils to consolidate or extend their learning in Key Stage 3.”

The English Short Course provides ample opportunity to extend a young person’s learning at home. An example of this can be seen in module 1, which is centred on developing communication skills. The extension of their learning empowers young people to think about how people communicate using social media. How do people communicate on different platforms? How is communication structured differently? What different communication skills are required?

All of ASDAN’s Short Courses offer the opportunity for learners to take part in active and experiential learning. Another Short Course which would allow learners to follow a pathway for active and experiential learning around numeracy development is the Mathematics Short Course.

Author: Gareth Lewis, Former ASDAN National Development Co-ordinator

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