Enquiring Minds Year 3 report: Schools, knowledge and educational change

At the heart of the Enquiring Minds project is the idea that students bring with them to school important ideas, experiences, interests and concerns that should provide the raw material for learning. In other words, the project worked with a notion of student-centredness that sits uneasily with dominant notions that teachers are there to guide students through a series of tasks and assessments.

It is widely argued that the UK is in the process of becoming a ‘knowledge economy’, and that this has implications for what is taught in schools. Education always reflects the values and beliefs of society and individuals, and these need to be at the forefront of any attempts to bring about educational change.

There remain important unresolved questions about what types of knowledge should be taught in schools, and there is a need for a more explicit debate about the nature of the school curriculum. Enquiring Minds allowed teachers and students to explore the question of what makes for a meaningful curriculum. Research on the project has indicated how different types of knowledge, including the academic and the popular, can be brought to the fore in the classroom and made the focus of student-initiated activities.

Teachers are invariably at the forefront of any plans to implement educational change. Current models of teacher professionalism risk suggesting that teachers are to deliver a body of knowledge and skills. In contrast, teachers in the Enquiring Minds project were involved in a curriculum experiment that required them to develop and use a wider set of professional qualities that recognise the social and cultural lives of their students. This placed demands on individual teachers who were also working within schools where there is a pressure to deliver results.

This report provides evidence of students’ responses to the project, suggesting that they are welcoming of the opportunity to have more say about what and how they learn. They report feeling motivated by teachers’ interest and enthusiasm for their own ideas, and we have observed how classroom routines in Enquiring Minds have been punctuated by dialogue and discussion between teachers and students.