Rob Gratton

Son of a Miner, with Trotskyite leanings (which perhaps explains the origins of my preference for Vygotsky, Bakhtin, CHAT and Critical Realism) and a Walthamstow resident via Birmingham, York and Norwich.

Read Undergrad History at UEA, specialising in autocracies of Eastern Europe post 1855, and stayed on to complete a History PGCE under the formative Terry Hayden. Following a rural-commuter NQT year in Suffolk I relocated to London “for the challenge” and took up a role as Curriculum Lead for History in a North London Catholic School. After a year of tribulations I crossed the road to begin work as a Head of History in a comprehensive boys school, and remained in the ever evolving post for 8 years.

Once settled I sought to enhance my skills as a teacher and leader and help innovate both the department and school. It was during these years I received my qualification in Coaching, became an examination assessor for Edexcel and OCR, created a responsive approach to research informed CPD within the school, advised schools in Norway and Mauritius on implementing AFL, and travelled first to South Africa to advise on approaches to performance management and teaching styles within a township school and secondly to Finland, where over a period of three years I helped set up Collaborative Group Learning approaches to learning in the teaching of English as a foreign language.

I extended my expertise through the MA in Guiding Effective Learning at the Institute of Education, exploring theory and practice associated with learning socially within History. This led to my development and trial, over two years, of Collaborative Group Learning. The positive impact of this research informed pedagogy resulted in its expansion first into the practices of the History department and then into the teaching of RE, Geography, English and Mathematics. It’s success led to my work with teachers in Turku Finland to implement the principles as part of their well established teaching and learning culture.

In the winter of 2011 I was fortunate to gain the opportunity to take a post which enabled me to contribute to the establishment of a new sponsored secondary Academy within the borough of Camden. As an Assistant Principal with responsibilities for the Humanities and Culture Faculty, developing Digital Pedagogy, developing the distinctive curriculum model and above all helping to implement and sustain Collaborative Group Learning as a school wide structure and pedagogy my portfolio began and remains broad and exciting. Over the next two and a half years I worked closely with a wide range of people and organisations including Whole Education, Facebook, The Innovation Unit, SSAT and The a Education Foundation on developing and enculturing:

a connected and collaborative curriculum; a collaborative group learning pedagogy;

a post levels assessment framework;

approaches to facilitating and assessing the attributes of a lifelong-Lifewide learner (character); and

a range of school wide systems aimed at embedding the Academy ethos and its primary goal of enabling high standards of progress and attainment for all learners.

Throughout I have continued to teach History, developing a conceptual, connected and collaborative approach to the design and delivery of learning experiences.  Most exciting has been the ability to co-create learning experiences with other disciplines, recognising that the ‘real world’ can not be sub divided into distinct subjects and single context specific skills.

Shortly after joining the Academy I began my Doctoral studies working towards a Phd; awarded by UCL Institute of Education. The overarching theme of this Phd is Collaborative Group Learning, with a particular focus upon learner experience and the causal factors shaping learner beliefs and behaviours which hinder or enhance the experience of learning within a collaborative learning group (a socialised learning construct). The working title of this research is The ‘Reality’ of learning as, with and because of a collaborative learning group.

My Doctoral work afforded me opportunities to deliver MA sessions at the IOE, mentor IOE Masters students, and speak at a number of conferences including the Oppi Festival of Education in Helsinki. I have recently begun a working relationship with the Education department of the city of Västerås, Sweden, and am looking forward to a long and fruitful relationship with the city.

I have become increasingly influenced by Critical Realism. In particular the interpretations and application of this philosophy by Margaret Archer, Andrew Sawyer and David Scott. Within these pages I intend to share my understanding of this philosophy and how I am trialling its application to reorient Third Generation Activity Theory and Systems, developed by Yorjo Engestrom, and to design and trial a methodology appropriate to contemporary child-student centric research which prioritises the voice of these individuals.

In my final year of study I have sought to begin this blog in order to share with and collaborate with interested parties on the themes of my research, collaborative learning, and upon aspects of my experiences as a teacher of History and Assistant Principal in a pioneering and innovative Academy.

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