You can have both!

13 November 2018

I strongly believe that it does not have to be a case of process versus product in education.  So many teachers say they know it should be about experiences and the learning process but the senior leadership team want results, outcomes, data!

You can have both. You can provide a rich, experiential, joyful education for children that ensures that they achieve their best outcomes. It’s not one or the other.

In her blog about continuous provision on Alistair Bryce-Clegg’s website Jo from St John’s C of E Primary explains clearly how she has worked with her team to provide both!
Yes,there is top down pressure. Yes, many tests exist and there’s no change on the horizon. However, I firmly believe it is our duty as educators to facilitate real learning.

The outcomes of children’s learning journeys should not be the product that the adult has pre planned. Of course teachers need to know their aims and objectives and share these with their children. They must make children’s learning explicit so that all involved in the process understand what they are doing and what they can aspire to learn and achieve. But to teach to the end product or test is simply too narrow and blinkered. By doing this and narrowing the experience we limit children’s learning and as a result we limit their outcomes. Learning should be limitless, surprising, challenging, individual and driven by the child with the support of facilitating adults.

IMG_5617Children inspired a superhero den outside that provided a wealth of child initiated writing experiences

Adults need to know where they are heading but also be brave enough to allow children to surprise them. When planning a guided writing session of course the teacher must plan the objective for the lesson and share with the children the skills they are developing and practising. What the adult does not need to do is prescribe what the children must write about. In a rich, inspiring learning environment, where children are part of the process and inspire the ideas, children have plenty to say and will not struggle with what they’d like to write. Pie Corbett talks about children having a bank of stories and experiences that they know so well they are not stuck when it comes to what they want to write and they can then work on the process and skills involved in writing it.

In my setting all adults have backed off the treadmill of getting children through activities. Adults now spend time listening to children and facilitating their next steps through a rich, engaging, open ended environment. I can honestly say we have been on a journey of enlightenment! Children are happy, adults are happy and the learning is sticky. By that I mean that children remember their experiences.



Children engaging with ‘stonework play’ within the continuous provision.


Through objective led planning all adults know what the child can do and what their next steps might be. Over the course of a busy, play filled week the children work on their next steps in a variety of contexts within the continuous provision. Sometimes these learning opportunities come from peer to peer interactions, sometimes from being with an adult and sometimes from the learning environment itself (continuous provision). Adults skilfully choose whether to be an observer or whether to interact in the play. When interacting they may model a skill for a child, scaffold a child through a process or simply enjoy the moment. We have been inspired by Greg Bottrill’s recent book ‘Can I go and play now?’. He talks about progress being an adult expectation that has to be measured and that we expect to be linear, year by year, term by term. We know that children develop at different rates and that our current measures do not allow teachers to record children’s progress adequately. Just take a look at the vast span within the exemplification document for writing. It seems glaringly obvious that if the adults want to measure progress and outcomes the measurement system should reflect all children’s achievements and progress steps, but that’s a whole other debate!

What I know to be true is that to facilitate exciting, purposeful learning you need children’s engagement. Experience and a wealth of research has shown us that child led play never fails to engage. It may not be easy because despite popular belief play is not easy for everyone. You only have to see adults behaving like meerkats as they take on a supervising role rather than playing in the outdoor area ( and we’ve all done it!) to know that playing is not easy and facilitating purposeful, developmentally appropriate play takes great skill. As Dr Helen Bilton said recently ” it is rocket science!” In fact it is neuroscience.


 Making marvellous mixtures in our mud kitchen led to talk about recipes and children choosing to write their own recipes or asking an adult to scribe.

Dr David Weikart’s research showed that ‘children’s language performance decreases in proportion to the amount of time spent in forced group academic activities. They increase in proportion to the amount of time spent in free choice and expressive activities.’
It’s surely time to say goodbye to the carousel of adult directed activities and instead take a giant leap into the world of child centred play. It is after all our most powerful tool for engagement and learning.

Be bold, be brave and let children have both a rich learning process and fantastic outcomes. You can have both!

One thought on “You can have both!

  1. engage2action says:

    I really love the term ‘sticky learning’, experiences far outweigh standard learning models in terms of genuine outcomes. Engage2Action is fully on-board with enriched learning outcomes through business / real world engagement, where we promote experience learning, having fun whilst also broadening the viewpoint of the world of work for the children.


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