Commissioning in education

Using the notion of commissioning in education is one of the main research agendas in our educational technology subgroup. However, commissioning is a very general term that is used in a variety of ways. Below, I will try to explain what I mean when I say commissioning in education and especially as it applies to the general commissioning platform that we are working on.

In the North East, as well as in most other regions, there is a wealth of intellectual, social, and physical resources that are under-utilized, and in some cases not utilized at all, despite their great potential to contribute to improving the learning experience and social capital of students. A number of initiatives have been made by individuals or organizations to link schools and businesses, public sector, and non-profit organisations, but these are done on a small scale and require a significant amount of coordination. These initiatives have usually proved to be very successful, with benefits to all the partners involved, but due to the amount of effort required to coordinate them, they remain small initiatives lasting only for a limited period of time. Our goal is to build a platform that can play a major role in building school-community partnerships with minimum manual coordination to ensure scalability and sustainability. It is an ambitious goal with many challenges, but that’s what makes it interesting and worthy of being a major research project.

Accordingly, the platform needs to support the following main features:

  • Allow anybody, including students, parents or local businesses, to propose a campaign, learning resource or data collection.
  • Provide tools and channels to help in promoting this idea with the aim of collecting enough endorsements to validate the need and support for any proposal.
  • Once enough support has been gathered, the platform must provide the mechanisms to prepare the required resources. This stage will vary largely depending on the proposed idea.

The main roles identified here are those of the idea proposer, supporters, contributors, and users/beneficiaries. Any person or organisation can play any of these roles. That is, while a local organisation can commission a school to carry out a certain project-based learning activity that has an educational benefit, the school, or even the students themselves, can commission the community members to contribute resources or collect data for them to use in school projects. The platform must therefore allow for a reciprocal relationship between the schools and their communities.

A commissioning platform in practice

Here is an example scenario of how the commissioning platform can be used:

A village shop owner wants to increase awareness about the benefits of shopping from the local village shop versus larger city supermarkets. The owner proposes the idea on the platform with the aim of commissioning students of the village school to lead an awareness campaign on the benefits of using local shops.

The idea gains support from other shop owners and some parents, and a geography teacher at the local school learns about the project.

The project moves to the design phase. The shop owners, with the help of the teacher, shape this idea into a project-based learning activity with clear learning goals. They agree on some key points to address, a time scale, and possible outcomes, such as flyers and an awareness video.

This ends up being a well-defined project-based learning activity that ticks a number of learning objectives around economy, society, environment, effects, and change; one that other teachers can use for their local areas as well.

Whilst carrying out the project, the students decide to start their own commissioning activity where they commission the local community to record short videos on mobile phones and provide data for the students to use to produce their flyers and awareness video.

For more information please contact Ahmed Kharrufa.

Author: Ahmed Kharrufa

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