After seven years working at the intersection of education and social innovation, landing a job with Edge in 2020 felt like winning the lottery! As Strategy and Partnerships Manager for Edge Future Learning (EFL) it’s my role to capture innovative learning approaches from around the world and help scale these powerful practices here in the UK.
Edge Future Learning took its early inspiration from pioneering schools like XP School in Doncaster, High Tech High in San Diego, and the Academies of Nashville in Tennessee. Motivated by these and other trailblazers, we’ve since distilled three key ingredients that all schools and colleges can use to transform their pedagogies: Project Based Learning, Real World Learning and Community Connected Learning.
Over the past four years, in conjunction with the North East LEP, Edge has been piloting these innovative approaches at schools and colleges in the North East of England. While I joined the team after the initial pilots, I am thrilled to be playing a vital role in expanding EFL’s work across the UK.
On 23 June, we officially launched Edge Future Learning at the annual XPosé Conference in partnership with XP Trust. This timely event brought together key members of the Edge Future Learning team. This included myself, Olly Newton (Executive Director), Helen Beardmore (Education Delivery Manager), Cherakee Bradley (Employer Engagement Delivery Manager) and Edge associate, Lynne Rogers, a leading researcher from the UCL Institute of Education.
Lynne began with an important presentation outlining the evidence base underpinning EFL’s model. We then heard more from each of our team members.
Project Based Learning
Having long worked in secondary education, Helen has been guiding EFL’s Project Based Learning (PBL) initiatives. Helen offered a brief overview of PBL, including key definitions and core components. She explained that projects are driven by a guiding question, often involve an initial immersion event, and generally focus on a real world problem. The students will then produce a final product which they share with the local community. Crucially, projects involve careful scaffolding by teachers to ensure they fit with the national curriculum, while also offering students the freedom to engage more deeply with the topic.
To offer more insight into how PBL works in practice, Helen hosted a breakout session with some of our partners. She welcomed Paula Philpott (Head of Learning Academy) and Aurla McLoughlin (Head of School for Performing and Creative Arts, Hairdressing and Beauty) from South Eastern Regional College in Northern Ireland. From across the pond, Tina Schuster (Director of Innovation and Pedagogy) and Kāli Frederick (Professional Learning Coordinator) from San Diego’s High Tech High shared concrete examples of student-led projects.
Real World Learning
Next up, Cherakee, with her extensive background in careers and training, took us through Real World Learning (RWL). This involves providing both students and teachers with opportunities to connect their knowledge to the real world. To achieve this, the curriculum is intentionally designed to offer contextualised experiences, often through careers and development activities like student internships, apprenticeships, and teacher externships.
Cherakee’s breakout welcomed a broad panel of speakers who have applied Real World Learning in different contexts. This included Cassie Cramer (Real World Learning Programme Manager) from School 21; Beverly Jones (Joint CEO) and Dawn Buzzard (Further Education and Skills Consultant) from the Career Colleges Trust; Judith Quinn (Vice Principal, Curriculum and Achievement) and Nenagh Clark (Quality, Teaching, Learning and Assessment Manager) from Sunderland College.
Community Connected Learning
Finally, Community Connected Learning (CCL) – my area of expertise! CCL is a form of experiential learning that involves students working together to address societal challenges. The aim of Community Connected Learning is to deepen young people’s understanding of, and connection to the world around them, while learning how to change it for the better, both in and out of the classroom. In this respect, Community Connected Learning is a framework that draws on a rich tradition of place-based education, youth social action, and global citizenship.
Youth voice is key to this thread of our work, so my breakout session welcomed young changemakers Jaiden Corfield (Ashoka and Rekindle), Aliyah York (Pupil Power) and Megan Thoms (Schools of Tomorrow). Each shared their personal experiences of Community Connected Learning, why it has been so important for them, and how it has shaped their relationship to their communities and society at large.
The promise of Edge Future Learning’s model is that each element can be adapted to fit any educational context and support a new way of teaching and learning no matter where schools are on their journey. Whether that means completely reworking how things are done, or – more often – making incremental changes, Edge offers appropriate training and resources for schools, colleges, and employers.
We also have an inspiring network of partners and ambassadors – EFL Leaders and Partners – whose vision and work is complementary to ours. I look forward to continuing to harness the wisdom of this network so that anyone can access the recipe to make learning more engaging for students and relevant to the twenty-first century.
There’s no doubt that this summer marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter in Edge’s work. As EFL rolls out nationwide, I’m sure I speak for the whole team when I say that I can’t wait to see where this work leads us next!