Debate: to use or not to use


This post looks at one area of my development as a teacher. Mostly it looks at my development as a learner within a school, I just happen to be the luck one who gets to call themselves a teacher! I have been following Kevin McLaughlin ( or @kvnmcl) on twitter for some time and am inspired by his free thinking approach to teaching and learning. One approach really caught my attention in December 2011 was his piece of Personalised Learning spaces. This will be the focus of this post


I am a recently qualified teacher and love my job. When I was training I always took pride in how organised I was. Whenever there was an observation I always got a 1 (Outstanding) for preparation and organisation. I achieved this by making sure I always had enough work for the children to complete within their independent time. I planned rigorously and always had worksheet that where differentiated appropriately and then always had extension for those who finished early. I remember spending countless hours preparing these worksheet and at the time it seemed the best way of teaching. This skill I took into my first job and continued in my NQT year.

What now

For the autumn term things went well I was observed and got a Satisfactory so was happy. Although things were going well something was upsetting me, why did this take so long? I was spending all weekend and every evening planning or finding worksheets, then I would spend half an hour in the reprographic room photocopying the worksheets.  I carried on through the year and came to a happy medium where I used worksheet but only when I really thought I needed to. This continued to Christmas 2011 when I first read about Personalising learning ( In this article it states this:

If you go into a classroom at the beginning of a lesson you will more than likely find the learners facing the teacher at the front of the room. The lesson will start and 15 minutes* later the class will have been given the go ahead to do their work. If the teacher teaches in this way for every lesson during the school day, the learners will be listening for at least 1 hour or put it another way, learners in such classrooms spend just over 8 days of a school year listening to lesson introductions. That’s for a teacher who manages to make their lesson introductions succinct. Listening time increases to almost 11 days for a 20 minute intro and an agonising 13.5 days for a 25 minute intro. Teachers this needs to change.   

The change

So I got thinking.

I knew I had to do an introduction. I personally don’t think my children with their range of abilities and behaviour issue would cope with so much autonomy, although I knew now would be the time to give some independence back to the children. So I thought. What can I do? What can I change within my teaching? There was an area of my teaching that was shouting change!

My worksheet dependency!!

So I made that step and I have limited the amount of worksheet to nearly none. I still have sheet in the classroom, but these all have prompts on them or word-banks, instructions or assorted item to act as a reminder. I no longer have sheet that the children work from. Sheets are used as scaffolds for learning. I have to admit the impact has meant that children have an extra 20-30 minutes a day learning and I have an extra 20-30 minutes where I am not talking at the children. It has provided more time for individual learning and more time for me to get to know what actually makes these children tick!!

The warning

Personalised Learning does come with a warning

Personalising Learning is not something you can pick up and start in your own class tomorrow. You need to take into account most if not all of the following.

  • It takes a lot of thought and effort
  • It takes time to build up a clear picture of every learner in your class and where they are in their own learning
  • It takes courage to stand back as a teacher and let the learning happen of its own accord
  • It requires a vision and belief that it will work
  • It needs careful planning but still allow for change at a moments notice
  • It needs the voice of the learner to be listened to to steer the direction of the learning
  • It needs you to rethink your classroom layout
  • It needs you to rethink your approach to teaching and learning

For more reading and information look at the follow article on Kevin’s blog

Finally, I am so happy and inspired by this I will be talking about it at TM Nottingham in May 2012.


2 thoughts on “Debate: to use or not to use

  1. As the instigator in this I feel privileged that you have responded so positively and actively to my posts about using Personalising Learning in my own classroom. I started using parts of the approach during the last term of 2010-2011 academic year and was surprised at how well the learners took to it and improved their own learning in the process. During this year I introduced short bursts of personalised learning activities and finally during term2 I used it as my main approach to learning in my class. It takes time and it needs commitment. The use of personalised learning has been a complete success for my class, they have enjoyed it immensely and prefer it to the 3 step teaching model used by the vast majority of teachers.
    I see that you have started by getting rid of ‘the worksheet’ approach. That’s a big step as for many teachers worksheets have become almost a drug, they need them otherwise they can’t teach.

    I’ll look forward to hearing about how this ‘kicking the habit’ improves learning in your classroom as I’m certain it will.

    1. Thank you for your comment.

      As you say this is a long journey and one that will be hard work. Trying to break what is seen as the norm will be difficult. Like you i look forward to reading about how your class develops as you continue on this journey

      Thanks Again


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