Student Leaders

Learning Detectives – a student voice project

In The Beginning

Learning Detectives were begun in 2006, and were originally planned as a collaborative project on learning, with Penair School students regularly meeting up with their partner Learning Detectives from the Roseland College. We wanted to investigate how students saw their learning and how they could have a say in their learning. The idea was to appoint Learning Detectives from Year 8, who after receiving training, would investigate learning through gathering evidence in lessons, and present their findings to the staff.

The focus right from the start was the learners in the classroom, and what triggered learning to occur.

Getting started

In the first year we planned and presented the idea of “Learning Detectives” to Year 8. In every year since, the current detectives have presented to an assembly to ask the next year group to apply.

Once the applications are in, the students create a shortlist, conduct the interviews and appoint approximately eight to ten new Learning Detectives. Parents are consulted and sign an agreement form.

The training

We hold a full day’s training for the Learning Detectives to look at how learners learn, how talk can be helpful or unhelpful and what should be looked for in a lesson. The day focuses on looking for effective learning.

The students design their own evidence gathering sheets, and set protocols for what they should do before, during and after evidence gathering sessions.

Gathering evidence

The Detectives observe lessons in their pairs. Their evidence gathering sheets track either the activities in the lesson or observed the learning behaviours. They also only ever look for positives… and never make judgements on what could be improved. Following the lesson, the two Learning Detectives have time to discuss their findings using a response sheet. Finally, the team meet together to discuss their findings and how to share them.

What next?

The Learning Detectives then decide what they want to do with their evidence. In some years they have published booklets, leaflets or a sheet for teachers to stick in their planners. They have presented their findings to the staff at a full staff meeting each year and also sometimes to the governors of the school. They have created and led lessons for younger students about how to be even better learners, and each year  have been asked to support the training of trainee teachers through  running training sessions or leading group discussion sessions about how to help learners.

What have we researched?

Each year we focus on a different question. Examples include:

What is the impact of the Learning Detectives?

There is significant impact of the work of the Learning Detectives at several levels…

  • Firstly the teaching staff who have been involved and those who have heard the feedback from the students, who have made changes to their pedagogy (their method and practice of teaching) because the children find this is what helps them learn. Feedback has indicated a significant response to the strategies presented as supporting successful learning, and even the most hardened staff have been willing to adapt because it is the children requesting change.
  • Secondly the other students in the school who hear the feedback at the end of the evidence gathering lessons or have been recipients of the lessons delivered by the Learning Detectives, have a deeper understanding of learning, and a greater sense of responsibility for not only their own learning, but to support other learners as well.
  • Thirdly the Learning Detectives themselves who really understand and unpick learning in ways we had not imagined. They discuss with sophistication their understanding of themselves as learners, and the personal skills and qualities their work has developed. They have developed a whole new skills set and a different way of looking at their own learning. They often go on to become senior prefects and school councillors and appreciate both leadership opportunities and responsibility.
  • Fourthly the wider community: We produced a DVD explaining the process and work of Learning Detectives, which was sent to schools making enquiries from many places across the UK and even in Australia and New Zealand! As teachers we have presented their work at both regional and national conferences, resulting in us travelling far afield to train and set up Learning Detectives in many areas of the UK as well as in our local secondary and primary schools. The Learning Detectives frequently are invited to speak to visitors, provide a “students’-eye” view on learning for trainee teacher professional studies, and have even trained primary, secondary and ITT  trainees and teachers at a wide range of events.
  • And finally our work has been published in journals and newspapers, and in a DCSF publication, “The Extra Mile report” as well as featuring in Diana Pardon’s book “Towards Successful Learning”.

What happens when to the students when they finish as Learning Detectives?

At the end of Year 8 the students are asked if they wish to continue into Year 9. Usually about half of the detectives choose to do so and continue to be part of the next team. At the end of year 9 they take on the title of “Learning Consultant”. They frequently meet and speak to visitors, and are attached to departments to advise on learning. Student voice has become a key focus of every aspect in the life of the school.

For more information on the Student Learning Detectives please view our rules and a recent article by a few of our leaders that was published in the local press below.