For those of you who didn't read my first post on the mockronym SID Learning, let me start this post by telling you that it stands for Slow, Interdependent, Deep learning that l have been prioritising with my Y12 Sociology of late. The good news is that SID Learning doesn't involve you buying any videos, reading any 'how to' guides or hiring me in as a consultant. In fact there's every chance that the concept of SID Learning, born in my most recent post will die with this one. But it has proven useful to get across the notion that, as Michael Wilshaw of Ofsted has written, outstanding lessons are about the "pace of learning", not the "pace of activities".
So this is an account of the second 3 hour lesson of SID Learning that I had with my Sociology group on Wednesday of this week. The broad area of study was again the demographic trends within the United Kingdom in recent years, and the core skill being developed was again the ability to use official statistics as key empirical evidence that the students could use to evaluate and validate the sociological theories that they had spent much of the first half term learning. In this lesson the narrow focus was on patterns of migration (immigration, emigration and net migration) and the impact of these patterns on families and households, and other social structures - thereby also preparing them for other aspects of the course, education and crime, as well as wider sociological topics.
I began the lesson by asking them to place themselves on a continuum for their personal feelings about migration and its contribution as a force for good or a force for ill in contemporary Britain, with the usual provisos about respecting all opinions. Unsurprisingly most students placed themselves around the middle of the spectrum but there was sufficient differentiation of viewpoint to allow me to split the group down the middle. I then told those who were broadly positive about migration patterns that they would be the ones arguing against it and the group most negative about migration that they would be the ones arguing for it. There were two reasons for this, the first being that it would help to temper passions in discussion of a challenging subject matter (particularly given the very diverse nature of our intake) because a passionate case against immigration would be being made by someone personally in favour of it. The other reason for doing this is that it takes students out of their comfort zones and forces them to scrutinise their own views for inherent bias and possibly even change them. Sometimes excellent Sociology students can underperform because they struggle to write in a balanced way, such is the power of the subject.
https://www.dropbox.com/s/tfn83mrawkfrmmj/DV-2012-11-21-114042.m4a) if you have the time to listen.
The students coverage of a wide range of topics, their use of specific data to make points and to challenge one another, their self-regulation (most of the time - a few points were lost to unsportspersonlike behaviour, including one where they were unsportspersonlike to their own team!) to ensure all spoke, their sneaky little ways to disrupt the opposition ("sorry can you repeat that") and their absolutely passionate commitment to an argument that was the opposite of their personally held belief shine through in the recording.
The reason why this lesson was so successful for these highly talented students was because the learning was slow with one brief input from me followed by 60 minutes of planning and 40 minutes of debate. It was also successful because it was interdependent, a group task but requiring subgroup working to cover the range of data and then individual contributions to the actual debate. And it was successful because it was deep, with students picking out key information from sometimes highly complex data before linking it to their knowledge of core sociological theories whilst simultaneously pondering the counter-arguments that would come and their possible counter-counter-arguments to those. The very model of SID Learning.
Oh, and if you're wondering who won, the team arguing that recent migration patterns have been beneficial to the UK scored a two point victory. For me though, the narrowness of their success was the best indication that both teams had done some very powerful SID Learning during the course of the lesson.