Developing Independent Learners

Like many others, this year has felt like an uphill struggle at times with my year 11 .. even though some students were enthusiastic and willing to put the effort in, a large chunk were quite happy to let me do all of the work!

To be honest, I think that this cohort of students were less motivated than in previous years (I certainly don’t remember it being like this before) but I was determined that this would be the last year that this happened… and so the GCSE ‘bootcamp’ started with my year 10 students!

For the first time I introduced the students to the coursework a lot earlier and set them a mock project rather than the longer series of skills workshops that I had usually spread over the first term up to Christmas. This allowed the students to get to grips with the assessment objectives and to fully understand how the projects were structured from an early stage. The main coursework project for GCSE textiles usually uses literature as a starting point. In previous years we have used ‘Alice in Wonderland’, this year we are moving onto ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ This encourages the students not only to read but to ‘see’ things in the text that can have the potential for development into textile outcomes.


In order to fully prepare students for the main event, the mini coursework project used ‘Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone’. This provided a rich variety of visual themes for students to work with (as well as a good excuse to visit Warner Brothers Studios for some primary recording!) Most importantly though, the mini coursework project which spanned about 12 weeks from start to finish, allowed students to fully appreciate the expectations of work quality for their Unit 1.

The students produced some lovely outcomes from the Harry Potter project and were able to apply a lot of the skills and techniques that they were introduced to in their initial few weeks of the course. The group really became a supportive network for each other and they all gradually got used to the concept of sharing ideas and group tutorials (none of them like these to start with and wouldn’t speak to each other!)


The most pleasing outcome from the project from a teaching perspective was the reflections produced at the end of the process. After the students were graded and provided feedback on their work against the assessment objectives they were asked to create a set of targets to support them in improving the quality of their work as they moved onto their ‘real’ coursework project. I had initially thought that they would create them individually and keep ideas to themselves.. so I was very surprised when they naturally all sat around the large table and started sharing ideas, mind mapping what they each thought and ultimatley created a shared list of ideas for the task! clearly the brainwashing was starting to work and they had all also developed an understanding of the beneift of the group support network/group tutorial approach that I had been trying to get them to feel comfortable with for the last 12 weeks.

harry potter outcomes


The student generated targets were:

  • They needed to be braver with their choices of materials (whether it is for recording form sources or for actual sample development.)
  • That they needed to present their research in more depth with a wider variety of inspiring visual information.
  • That they needed to think carefully about their annotations – fully explaining how they can develop things further rather than just stating ‘what’ it is.
  • That they needed to push ideas further and develop samples towards their final outcomes with consideration of all of their research sources.
  • That they needed to allow time for refinements before making their final outcomes.


The whole process of year 10 this year has provided a learning journey for everyone, not only the students, but also me. I now understand that it is possible to have a truly independent GCSE group, they just need to be pushed in the right direction and be included in the bigger picture from the start. The students now typically start every Monday lesson with a group critique and discuss their work with each other updating on research/samples added as they make progress through the Romeo and Juliet project. They are very aware of the need to support each other rather than to rely on me for their input. The most lovely thing about this whole process has been the way that the year 10 students have started to find ideas for each other – if they are researching at home, they often come to lessons with photocopies or weblinks for others in the group too for their starting points in addition to their own.

GCSE Tube map learning journey

To further support the students in their learning journey (and to also satisfy my slight obsession with tube maps) I have developed their GCSE learning journey into a tube map. All students have a copy of this clipped into the cover of their sketchbooks for them to track their own progress and to keep them focussed for the course. Another happy perk of this resource is that it made it a lot easier to communicate student progress at parents evening too – parents even went home with their own copy for the fridge! .. there is also a set of complimenting tracking documents with oyster card logos etc. the students think I’m totally bonkers but they seem to appreciate my crazy approach to planning and quite tragic excitement everytime I’ve made some other other resources for them that match the theme.

The bootcamp would appear to have been a success – at least for now. I only hope that the students continue to support and develop each other as they progress into year 11…. it will be exciting to see the variety of outcomes that they come up with for their Romeo and Juliet project, there are certainly some fab ideas being explored at the moment!

Mrs Arty-Textiles



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