Last year we engaged in an exciting initiative with teachers and pupils in 8 schools around Ireland, as they brought the Bridge21 model of 21st century (21C) learning to life in their classrooms. At a time when many schools were beginning to think and talk about what Junior Cycle 2.0 might look like, our School Transformation programme 2011-12 offered principals and teachers the chance to put words into action and try out some new approaches to learning and teaching in their classrooms. Our approach allowed schools to build on what was already working well for their teachers and students, while creating the space to implement innovative ideas and alternative approaches to Junior Cycle.
A characteristic shared amongst the 8 schools was strong leadership from principals, who were extremely supportive of the Bridge21 programme throughout the year, and groups of teachers who were open to exploring changes in their classroom practice. Over the course of the year, the teachers who used the Bridge21 model in their classrooms to deliver core curriculum content emerged as real innovators. Those teachers have a lot to contribute to the change process now underway in Irish second-level schools.
In this report, written for the NCCA, we have attempted to capture the highs and lows of the learning journey that teachers and students travelled with us over the course of the year. The key findings show that while schools and teachers are still very much at the start of a much longer process of change, students are very keen to embrace collaborative, self-directed, 21st century approaches to learning. One of the key aims of the 2011-12 programme was to inform and advise the NCCA on the needs of students, teachers and principals in the ongoing programme of reform at Junior Cycle. In December, we were invited to present the findings of the report to the NCCA Council and the Junior Cycle Review Committee. We were delighted with both the positive feedback on our work and the lively discussions and Q&A sessions prompted by the findings in the report.
We believe that we now have a pool of ‘early adopters’ – students, teachers, principals and learning communities – who, through their concrete experience of Bridge21 in 2011-12, will act as role models to others who wish to fully embrace the reform agenda. We are continuing to engage with schools in the reform process and the School Transformation programme has expanded to include 12 schools in 2012-13. We’ll keep you posted on developments!