About PEEL

About PEEL

What does PEEL stand for?

 

The Project for Enhancing Effective Learning (PEEL) was founded in 1985 by a group of teachers and academics who shared concerns about the prevalence of passive, unreflective, dependent student learning, even in apparently successful lessons.  They set out to research classroom approaches that would stimulate and support student learning that was more informed, purposeful, intellectually active, independent and metacognitive. The project was unfunded and not a result of any system or institution-level initiative. PEEL teachers agreed to meet on a regular basis, in their own time, to share and analyse experiences, ideas and new practices.

The original project was intended to run for two years at one (secondary) school, however the process of collaborative action-research, the developments of so many new ideas for practice and the changes in classroom environment all proved very rewarding for the teachers. Consequently, at the end of the initial two years, the teachers refused to let the project end and a year later it began to spread to other schools in Australia and then in other countries. This spread was driven by teachers in those schools who had similar concerns about learning, as well as  the lack of opportunities in a normal school day for collaborative reflection, and who wished to set up PEEL groups of their own. While the initial spread was in secondary schools, it became just as prevalent  in primary/elementary schools. In 2020 35 years after the original project, PEEL is no longer active but the resources developed over 35 years are still available.

PEEL operated as a network of autonomous groups of teachers who took on a role of interdependent innovators. Coherence was provided by the shared concerns about passive, dependent learning and by structures that allow teachers to learn from and share new wisdom with teachers in other schools as well as a few academic friends. These structures have enabled the production of books, the journal PEEL SEEDS, (where teachers wrote about their practice) conferences, PEEL collective meetings, a range of short courses and in-service activities and of course
PEEL in Practice (a large database of teaching practice).

The list of Teacher Concerns,  summarise the sorts of concerns that were held by teachers who got involved in PEEL.  The eight groups of Teaching Procedures that were built up over the life of the project, reflect the areas where the teachers have been active in developing and extending new teaching practices.  The twelve Principles of Teaching for Quality Learning  list the critical features of the teaching that PEEL teachers were reporting as being consistently successful in achieving what they felt to be quality learning behaviours in their students.

10 Journeys of change

The Sharing Pedagogical Purposes group contained primary and secondary teachers who explored over 8 years, how to take metacognition further than had previously been the case by developing year-long strategic agendas for classroom change. As we unpacked what the teachers had been reporting we identified 10 highly interconnected journeys of change that collectively frame a year – long learning agenda. The table using the ten journeys to elaborate what metacognition can mean provides an overview of the journeys and what they mean for two aspects of metacognition – knowledge about good learning and control of learning.

The article Using the journeys to scaffold what you do in the classroom briefly discusses some relationships between the journeys and begins to address an issue that PEEL has been confronted with for a number of years – how can our resources be used to meet the needs of a wide range of teachers, not all of whom want to engage in extensive research into their classroom practice. An example of one of the Journeys can be found in the Try this Idea section on the What’s New page. The resource PEEL in Practice has more about journeys and provides links to many articles written by practicing teachers where they describe their progress along the journeys.

How did PEEL work?

PEEL operated as a network of autonomous and voluntary groups of teachers who took on a role of interdependent innovators. The teachers agreed to meet regularly to reflect on their practice, and to provide mutual support and stimulation for the processes of teacher and student change. Coherence was provided by the shared concerns about passive, dependent learning and by the publications of the project and by structures that allowed teachers to learn from and share new wisdom with teachers in other schools as well as a few academic friends. In more recent years PEEL provides resources for teachers developed over a 35 year period.

PEEL Resources

PEEL groups and individual teachers  continually generated new wisdom about learning, teaching and change, but their unfunded and voluntary nature meant that, without PEEL Publishing, most, if not all of this wisdom would remain in the individual groups and schools. PEEL Publishing operated as part of the project with the role of documenting and sharing the insights, experiences and ideas that emerge from the groups  and individual teachers. PEEL in Practice, a database of ideas that currently contains over 1700 articles is the only resource now available. We continue to add new articles to this database when they are written in initiatives consistent with the goals of PEEL

PEEL has shown that, if appropriately stimulated and supported, teachers can make substantial contributions to the knowledge base of education.

What does it look like?

The list of Teacher Concerns, that are a search category on PEEL in Practice, summarises the sorts of concerns that are held by teachers who get involved in PEEL and who are likely to find the resources valuable today. The eight groups of Teaching Procedures that have been built up over the life of the project, reflect the areas where the teachers have been active in developing and extending new teaching practices.  The twelve Principles of Teaching for Quality Learning describe critical features of the teaching that PEEL teachers report as being consistently successful in achieving the goals of the project.

What are the results?

PEEL showed that very substantial classroom change is possible. Outcomes include a huge repertoire of teaching procedures designed to promote effective learning; findings about the nature of student change, and teacher change; and findings about the nature of collaborative professional development in schools and between the school and tertiary sectors. Schools and teachers reported substantial changes to teaching practice and to the classroom environment. Teachers consistently reported much higher levels of student interest and engagement as well as learning that is more informed, purposeful, intellectually active and independent. Over the the 30 years of PEEL, teachers aimed to promote what are termed  Good Learning Behaviours  in their students. They have also identified a number of Poor Learning Tendencies exhibited by many students and developed procedures (see PEEL in Practice) to reduce these behaviours.

A Literary Sociogram

“A Literary Sociogram”

Grade 1 students explain a Literary Sociogram to a visitor

“Grade 1 students explain a Literary Sociogram to a visitor”

Distinguishing PEEL from other initiatives.

When PEEL began there was little talk about how students approached learning, let alone about metacognition.  35 years later, these ideas have become much more mainstream and there have been many initiatives with goals consistent with those of PEEL.  The PEEL collective reflected on whether and how PEEL was different to these other initiatives, most of which involved some kind of Program – with clear steps to follow.  We decided that PEEL was different and did have some unique things to offer.  After quite a bit of discussion and analysis of past writings, we distilled six statements that distinguish PEEL from other initiatives that have similar goals in terms of student learning.

The PEEL approach involves teachers moving towards:

      • Having a strategic, long-term learning agenda focusing on multiple aspects of quality learning and metacognition.
      • Making consistent, persistent and purposeful use of teaching procedures, appropriate teaching behaviours and the Principles of Teaching for Quality Learning.
      • Trusting students and sharing responsibilities and intellectual control with students.
      • Problematizing and purposefully interrogating and developing their practice. Becoming more metacognitive about their teaching and developing new dimensions of sense-making.
      • Being supportive and being supported by others in a process of collaborative action research.

A school can support a PEEL approach if it:

      • Positions teachers as generators of new knowledge and in control of their professional learning and development.

These are now elaborated below.

Having a strategic, long-term learning agenda focusing on multiple aspects of quality learning and metacognition

Making consistent, persistent and purposeful use of teaching procedures, appropriate teaching behaviours and the Principles of Teaching for Quality Learning.

Early in PEEL, teachers learnt that, to achieve any worthwhile development in student learning, they could not do PEEL  one day and not the next. They needed to be consistent in their approaches and persistent in achieving change. For several reasons however, one cannot use the same procedure or lesson type every day  fluid, interpretive discussions where the teacher is delaying judgement as students clarify, articulate and argue for their ideas are very valuable, but more structured activities are equally essential. The twelve Principles of Teaching for Quality Learning provide a strategic framework for allowing for a wide variety of tactics that are consistent in intent. One can, for example, consistently and persistently promote students reacting to and using each others’ ideas (Principle 6), but do this in a range of ways.

Trusting students and sharing responsibilities and intellectual control with students.

Problematizing and purposefully interrogating and developing your practice. Becoming more metacognitive about your teaching and developing new dimensions of sense- making.

Supportive and being supported by others in a process of collaborative action research.

Positions teachers as generators of new knowledge and in control of their professional learning and development.