Implementing Key Skills St. Mark`s CS

Embedding Key Skills
in our school
Irene Stone
St Marks Community School
How did it start?
• April 2012 – Network School, consensus amongst staff
• Junior Cycle Committee Set up – At least one teacher
from each department volunteered
• May 2012 – First committee meeting at lunchtime;
– Link Person selected
– Framework discussed
• Decided which area we would focus on for Sept 2012.
• Collaborative decision - Key Skills, in particular we
would focus on “Working With Others” initially.
Subject Department Meetings
• Committee members fed
back information from
committee meeting to their
subject colleagues.
• Everyone was encouraged
to familiarise themselves
with framework document
and “Working With Others”
• Planning Folders to include
Framework doc, Key Skills
Toolkits etc.
• Junior Cycle reform to be on
the agenda for all
Department meetings
(Croke Park time)
Staff Information Sessions..
• Early May 2012 – Croke Park (CP) hour used to
inform staff about..
– Junior Cycle Framework
– Junior Cycle Committee
– Where to find all the resources
CPD - Key Skills Day
• Late May 2012- Staff day; morning with
Denise Kelly, NCCA on Key Skills
• Modelled the “Working with Others” key skill
• All staff given hardcopy of “Working with
Others” toolkit. (draft)
How were staff motivated initially?
• Devoted Croke Park time to JC reform
• Slowly familiarised staff with content and
changes taking one key skill at a time
• Teacher from each department involved in
• Constant reminders “we are doing a lot of this
already” and “present system not working”
1st Term – 2012/13
• Croke Park (CP) Hour – information session; reminder
to staff and updates.
• Committee Meeting at lunchtime
• 5 CP hours dedicated to Restorative Practice, good
grounding for Key Skills development especially
“Working with Others”
• 3 CP hours for implementing the key skill “Working
with Others” in subject department groups.
• Rationale for working groups: working relationships
already established (not threatening), subject specific
materials developed (ready for use)
“For next week, each teacher aim to work on developing one
activity (or one that is happening already) relating to the key skill
“Working with Others”. Decide to work with one or two classes
(1st or 2nd years). You can find ideas under the resources section
on Junior Cycle website.”
Sharing ideas - Examples used by
teachers in maths department:
Next session…
• Sharing Experiences amongst ourselves
• Edmodo group set up…
• Also useful as a place for filing resources in the
• Students encouraged to reflect on new
teaching methodologies that were happening
in the classroom.
• Their responses were motivating for staff.
Student Reflection Sheet
Give a brief description of how you participated
in class today…
The main thing I learned is....
I liked/didn’t like this way of learning because....
The skills I developed were...
Students reflect on Edmodo…
Feedback from teachers
• “I am still awaiting all the reflection sheets back but
the ones I have seen have been helpful for my own
focus on what needs to be done before June”
English teacher
• “Working with others – teachers regularly use group
work and pair work in class. Strategies such as think,
pair and share are regularly employed and have proven
very effective for learning within the classroom.
Teachers have also used the jigsaw method of learning
and noted that students enjoyed this way of learning –
reflection sheets were distributed after the lessons”
History teacher
• “Working collaboratively has gone brilliantly. Joining
classes together –excellent. Learning and discovering
ideas from other teachers.”
Maths teacher
• “It feels like we are doing our dip again”
Science teacher
• “Initial reaction was good. Level of responsibility
taken on by individuals and departments is very
good. School is very open to change and its given a
lot of teachers a new impetus in their day to day
work. General staff response has been quite
enthusiastic but some may feel like the process has
stalled in terms of the next target”
History teacher
The need to move on.. 2nd Term
• January 2013 – General consensus amongst
committee members was the need to move on.
• Feedback from staff was that enough time had
been spent on “Working with Others” and
• Feb 2013 – “Managing Myself”
• 4 Croke Park Sessions
• This time we worked in mixed groups, still in
• Rationale for working groups: SPHE teacher in
each group, sharing ideas from different groups,
• Other staff members “led” some sessions
Teachers working in groups..
• Warm up first
• Identify which elements of the key skill
“Managing Myself” we are working on already.
Using placemats.
• Each group to identify one aspect of “Managing
Myself” to work on for the following week.
• Report back and share.
Identify which elements of the key skill
“Managing Myself” we are working on already
Identify one aspect of “Managing Myself”
to work on for the following week….
Elements of Key Skill “Managing Myself”
“Tree Idea”
With tutor groups one goal a week to
be put up on the tree
“Setting and Achieving Personal Goals”
"Knowing myself"
"Being able to reflect on my learning".
Smiley Faces
“Individualise” what
we are doing this
week after our
collective 'tree'
approach last time.
Traffic Lights
Getting students to
assess each other
Traffic Light System;
objectives at start of
class and selfreflection
We are each going to try and come up with a
methodology to highlight 'Being able to reflect
on my own learning'.
"Knowing myself"
"Being able to reflect on my learning".
Examples of “Managing Myself”
from around school..
Art teacher came
up with idea of
students hanging
their “goals” on a
tree as part of
Managing Myself
History teacher
adapted idea
by using a
“Traffic Lights”
I got frames in IKEA for
about a €1.00 each with
one side red and one side
green, … students can turn
around to red if they do
not understand what they
are meant to be doing.
..has worked really well
especially with the quieter
students who might not
like to put up their hand in
front of everyone.
KWL in Maths
Managing Myself
Knowing Myself
Managing Myself
Setting and achieving personal goals
Managing Myself
Being able to reflect on my own
KWL in Business Studies
Working With Others
Being Creative
Managing Information
and Thinking
History Projects
Being Creative
Managing Myself
Managing Information and
Apart from meetings
what else has helped?
Noticeboards in staffroom
Key Skills Posters… in classrooms…
On desks…
In corridors…
“Knock-on effect” of
working on Key Skills..
• Embedding other key skills.
• Teachers already looking at changing assessment;
use of rubrics/ poster & project work / AFL and
continuous assessment.
• Work on Key Skills complements other whole
school initiatives, e.g. Literacy (Keywords focus,
students reflections), effective use of journals
• Developing best practices for continuous
assessment/self evaluation from students which
support School Self Evaluation.
• The renewed focus amongst staff members on
teaching and learning has created great energy!
• Other initiatives, e.g. Numeracy/Literacy/ School
Self Evaluation. They seemed to be separate
initially but now we see that they are interlinked.
Challenge was to get staff to see connection.
• Demand for CP time.
• Adopting new practices in an environment where
the assessment remains unchanged/Exam
pressure. (However teachers are beginning to see
benefits of explicit work on Key Skills)
• Altering teaching style and changing learning
mind-set of students from traditional methods.
In summary..
• Why Key Skills? – “what does the research say?”
The validity of the key skills approach, European
context (
• Introduce key skills slowly.
• Allow teachers to work with their preferred
choice of class initially.
• Set up a “Junior Cycle Committee”
• Set up a VLE (e.g. Edmodo or Moodle) to allow
staff to communicate ideas with one another.
• Create awareness around school e.g. posters
around school and in classrooms, “live”
noticeboard in staffroom.
• During CP hours, the activities model the key
skills e.g. group work, activity based learning,
• Subject planning: Key Skills Toolkits in every
planning folder. Encourage staff to keep
records of reflections of methodologies.
• Distribute student reflection sheets, their
responses are often surprisingly encouraging.
• School Self Evaluation/ Assessment changes
in future – This all ties in!

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