Views & Opinion Getting the most out of

a university open day Comment by CAROL PARILLON, founder of FindOpenDays

Open days are an excellent way for you to get acquainted with potential universities and colleges you may end up studying at, so read on to find out how you can make the most out of this time. First things first, make your selection of

universities that you’d like to attend depending on the courses you wish to take. Bear in mind that the nearest educational establishment to you may not be the best option for exactly what you’re looking for, even though it may be close to the family home, or where your friends are going. It is a three or four year course and has the

potential to set you up for life in your chosen career – you need to think with your head as well as your heart. You can use search tools to find open days near you, and once you

have a few in mind ensure that the dates don’t clash for each of them. You can search by location, by course and by type of degree. Some open days far away at the other end of the country may mean you need

to opt for an overnight stay so book that in advance once you’re settled on the college open days for you. This will give you the wider picture of the location you’ll be studying in, what it’s like for shopping, bars, restaurants, nightlife, theatre and music venues, as well as all of the libraries and other complexes designed to boost your student life. Next, make sure you get to your open day as early as possible, so it

gives you the chance to not only explore the university, but the local area where you’ll be spending a large amount of your time too. You can make the most from your open day by ensuring that you sit in on course lectures, speak to the faculty members, and even see what facilities the university is offering when it comes to your hobbies and sports. There may also be a number of talks on offer covering everything from finance to accommodation, so be sure to plan your day taking those into consideration too as they will give much needed

advice. The whole of your course should be laid out and it should also be

clear in your mind about what each section will entail. A one-to-one with the department head or even the lecturers gives you the opportunity to unpack what is expected of you on the course, and also what the course will give you in return. Make a list of questions to ask if you think you’re likely to forget some important aspect. Remember that you are paying a large amount of money for this course, so you are well within your rights to ask any and all questions that you like, on the open day and in follow up correspondence too. Finally, it’s important to have fun at your open day and feel relaxed.

This, along with a solid plan of what you intend to do there, is going to help you make the most of the day because if you’re going there with a closed mind and on a fault-finding mission, you could very quickly talk yourself out of somewhere which is a really great fit for you.

What is education for?

Comment by FELICIA JACKSON, Chair of the Learn2Think Foundation

There is a growing groundswell of support for a return to the days of direct instruction. The success of the Singapore method, especially in STEM subjects, has raised the question of whether or not children benefit more from a directed process, focused on repetition and structure. What we need to understand is what we

want to achieve with education. Do we want to tick boxes, ensure the next generation has

STEM skills, or even ensure that the next generations of employees are fit for employment? The challenge is that the world has changed, and continues to rapidly do so, in many ways. The challenge is ensuring that the skills and mind-sets of the next

generation are fit for purpose. There is no question that strong abilities in STEM subjects is a huge benefit, both to employees and employers, and necessary for future societal and economic development. Today however there is also a growing need for soft skills - the skills that companies want are the ability to face and manage change, to address complex problems (from programming challenges to strategic evolution) with innovative solutions. Today’s children are used to being able to find answers to questions

immediately. Access to digital data means that factual questions can be answered immediately. Many employers are looking for flexible minds with the ability to identify necessary questions to even understand the


challenges faced. This is the skill of knowing what to ask and being able to look in new places for solutions – not necessarily a mindset that is encouraged by direct instruction. So the question really becomes, what is education for and how do different approaches result in different outcomes. Ofsted has recently admitted that with the recent academisation of

the curriculum, it had become over reliant on performance data, meaning that examination and box ticking could be said to be the ruling framework for education. This is especially problematic at primary level, as performance measures are so narrow. It may seem that primary aged children are too young to be

developing critical thinking skills. Yet critical cognitive skills can be developed hand in hand with growth in emotional and social awareness. By embedding agency through questioning skills into the curriculum we can help support our children into becoming creative, independent and compassionate thinkers. Is there room, however, for inquiring minds in the direct instruction

classroom? The latest neuro-science research shows us that student- generated questioning plays a fascinating and fundamental role in the learning brain, as it forces us to: • Ensure sensory input is registered – gains our attention • Link to prior knowledge • Actively process new information • Create and reinforce learning pathways in the brain Fads come and go in teaching, what is certain is that teachers need to

be given the flexibility to evolve to meet their cohort’s ever-changing needs. Each teacher ought to have the remit to play to his or her strengths as an educator. Encouraging great quality questioning skills from an early age is an

effective way of ensuring student engagement across both the learning and teaching methodology spectrum.

June 2019

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