Our oracy initiative started with Harkness lessons in 2017: we were the first UAE British school to adopt this pedagogy and embed it across a number of departments at A Level.
Cultivating student-led discussions that require equitable contributions from students and teachers alike was innovative and creative for our context and our use of Harkness has evolved over time to integrate digital mapping, outdoor seating and self-evaluation.
We then started developing our students’ voices in Key Stage 3 to build upwards towards our Key Stage 5 Harkness lessons. Using The Oracy Framework (created by Oracy Cambridge and Voice 21), we have built a bank of original resources and innovative assessment tools to embed and develop oracy in our classrooms. The resources created by our Oracy Leads in a variety of subjects are imaginative, creative and research-led, integrating aspects of metacognition and the research tools used by Oracy Cambridge to assess talk. We have even translated The Oracy Framework into Arabic so that we can embed oracy across all lessons and shared this with Voice 21. With no readily available or accessible oracy training for teachers to use we have designed, created and recorded an online ‘Introduction to Oracy’ LearnED course for staff to self-direct their CPD by working through modules at their own pace before implementing the ideas and tasks in lessons.
Teachers have nurtured dialogic classrooms where small group discussions have fostered greater collaboration both online and face to face, and A Level students have learnt through the Harkness pedagogy, sitting around a single table alongside their teachers to engage in equitable discussion. To support this oracy initiative, we have partnered with Oracy Cambridge, trained eight Voice 21 International Oracy Leaders and established an Oracy Focus Group, comprising leads from different departments, to develop teaching, create resources and to evaluate the development and use of talk across the College. Away from lessons we have dialogic extra-curricular activities like Philosophy Club, our student leaders confer with the SLT around a table, our COBIS Debating Champions have represented the UAE, and students independently run TEDx Youth events. Our commitment to developing the voice of every child extends beyond our community too: we deliver oracy CPD in other Dubai schools and we established the Dubai Oracy Hub to connect teachers and schools across the UAE and the UK so that more teachers can develop the oracy skills of the next generation and empower them to use their voices to make a positive difference.