Saturday, 26 January 2013
An outstanding lesson is... "Miss that was good today, can we do it again?"
An outstanding lesson... asks why.
An outstanding lesson is... empowering
An outstanding lesson... moves beyond levels.
An outstanding lesson... sees mistakes as opportunities to learn
An outstanding lesson... delights in the journey not just the destination.
An outstanding lesson is... "After yesterday I went and found this out- can you
have a look?"
An outstanding lesson is... spontaneous heated debate among students about the correct method to solve an equation.
An outstanding lesson is..."Sir, Mohammed explained how to do that question to me- can you give him a Vivo?"
An outstanding lesson is... GCSE pupils creating something on the A- level syllabus on their own initiative, unawares, as a response to a fellow pupi'ls question.
An outstanding lesson is.... "Sir, I've prepared a lesson for today after that thing we did the other week. Can I teach it tomorrow?"
An outstanding lesson... allows students to cut their own keys to their own lock.
An outstanding lesson is... a lesson where the teacher doesn't say a single word for an hour but the students all move forward in their understanding.
An outstanding lesson is... a series of what ifs?
An outstanding lesson... always follows the learning but it may not follow the plan.
An outstanding lesson is... so much more that a check list.
This post was inspired by the "Love is..." series that used to be in our Sunday paper when I was a child.
Tuesday, 22 January 2013
Up until last Monday our four Outstanding Pedagogy Project INSET Days since June 2012 had all been fabulous in terms of content and had been extremely favourably reviewed by our wonderful staff, but they had lacked two vital ingredients that I think make a truly exceptional INSET Day: an element of choice for those on the receiving end and the corollary of wider engagement of in-school expertise in the delivery of the day's sessions.
And so it was that when I sat down with my Pedagogy Leader colleagues Aarti Sharma, Rebecca Howard (@MissHowardCHS) and Joe Freeman (@biomadhatter) to plan the details of the day late in November that there were only two elements of the day that I felt were non-negotiable. The first of these was the theme of 'Evaluation' (more on this below) and the second was that we ran enough sessions during the course of the day to enable our teachers to have a significant amount of choice about what it was that they went to see and hear and experience. They were, as Joe has said to me in the past, on it like tonic (No? Me neither!).
Having spent INSET time on the Accelerated Learning Cycle, on key classroom techniques for learning, upon collaborative planning and upon coaching for both pedagogy and leadership we had agreed that this last major planned INSET day would be on the topic of in-class evaluation. Earlier this year, and following two years of Masters study into assessment practices, I launched our school's "Evaluation, Appraisal and Assessment Policy". The three-pronged title of the policy was related to an underestimated document produced by the then Department for Children, Schools and Families on Assessment for Learning that identified three core timings of assessment: the day-to-day, the periodic and the transitional. My belief in writing the policy was that the focus in our classrooms had become too level or grade oriented and that there was a loss of focus on the qualitative nature of day-to-day assessment.
For this reason the policy includes the statement "we believe that the primary mode for helping students to improve their understanding and, as a consequence, their performance against national expectations, is day-to-day teacher, peer and self-evaluation".
Further to this the policy (which spans only two sides of a bright green sheet of paper) lists seven elements of what our priorities are for in-class evaluation of student performance. These are written in a form of preferences, and are:
- Qualitative information about achievement is more powerful than quantitative data
- Open-ended tasks offer better learning opportunities than closed-ended ones
- Collaborative working enables students to develop better than individual working
- Teacher observation of learning is more effective for students than teacher marking
- Instand feedback and feed-forward is more engaging than retrospective evaluation
- Self-discovery, through exploratory learning is more powerful than teacher-led learning
- Interdependent interactions stimulate learning better than independent thinking
The policy then warns against a 'false dichotomy' approach and says "while we value those features of teacher evaluation shown on the right hand side of each statement, we place more value on the features shown on the left hand side". For this reason we decided that our INSET Day on in-class evaluation should be practitioner-led (always the case these days at Canons) and about all those left hand side statements. Presented on the morning of the INSET they looked like this.
At that first meeting with the three Ped Leaders, having established the focus on evaluation and the principle of choice I left it up to them to identify how we would go about doing it. They decided that what they really wanted to do was throw it open to as many people as possible and create a series of four workshops with six choices: a total of 24 sessions for our teaching staff of 68. They like a challenge do our Ped Leaders!!
And so began the period of arm-twisting. Within a matter of a couple of weeks they had informed then discussed then persuaded then nagged then bribed then whatever else they could think of to get takers. We were helped by the fact that a number of our Heads of Departments wanted time with their teams in the afternoon and so we limited the workshop slots to three, meaning only 18 sessions were needed, but it was still some effort. Their main persuasive technique was to reassure staff that they weren't looking for something out of the ordinary in terms of either content or delivery style. Instead what they wanted was for the teachers involved in delivery to show what they do and in the way they do it: proper practitioner-led stuff.
Along the way we also decided that we wanted some mini-TeachMeets on the day, with 5 minute micro-presentations to complement the 45 minute workshop slots. We hoped we might get enough for one of these sessions but ended up with two (mainly because the Peds 'let people off' a longer session if they were willing to do a TeachMeet slot instead!!).
And so the running order for the workshop sessions ended up looking like this:
In all, including the TeachMeets, there were 19 members of staff (almost a third of our teachers) leading sessions to demonstrate their in-class evaluation strategies and techniques: from Punk Learning to Trajan's Column and from SOLO (at beginner and advanced levels) to CRESS feedback and from a Culture of Critique to Green Pen Policy. The contributions came from across the curriculum, across the range of experience and across the leadership spectrum and were all coordinated by three young teachers who had contributed to some of our previous INSETs but had never before led the organisation of one.
At the end of the day we asked staff to fill out two post it notes with What Went Wells and Even Better Ifs. Having had fabulous feedback from our previous three INSETs this was the bit that had me more than a little nervous. You see, when you cast the net wider in order to have more contributors to INSET in order to generate meaningful choice then you also have to let go: you have to sacrifice the certainty of tight quality control mechanisms and instead place your utter trust in the professionalism of your colleagues, all 19 of them.
When I saw the EBI flipchart sheet fill up my heart sank but I made myself (and my Ped Leader colleagues) look at the jam-packed WWW flipchart sheet first. What I saw there was amazing. Less sparkly than the praise for our previous INSET Days (although still sparkly enough) this praise was richer and deeper and altogether more satisfying. Twelve of the nineteen contributors were mentioned positively by name, eleven respondents mentioned the Punk Learning sessions and eight mentioned the TeachMeets as a positive part of the day.
On a more qualitative note, powerful phrases such as the day being a "chance to see excellent practitioners showing what they're good at" and being filled with "more hands on activity rather than listening to information" were extremely rewarding. Teachers repeatedly talked about the "variety" of workshops and the "thought-provoking" nature of them, with one colleague being particularly positive in saying "I would have liked another day to attend more sessions". The positive feedback fills two pages of a narrow-margined Word document and is a delight to read in terms if both immediate impact and phrases full of future intention such as "I felt that I had picked up bits of good practice that were marginal gains for my practice" and "some ideas that the English Department can definitely adapt".
Eventually I plucked up the confidence to turn to the EBIs. I needn't have been worried as fifteen of them were about departments being given more time "to put new ideas into practice" or "to develop the good ideas from today". This could hardly be called criticism and of the eighteen developmental comments not asking for more departmental time, seven were asking for more workshops or longer workshop sessions. Two others were asking for the materials for all the sessions to be made available and two others asking for outside speakers tonbe involved in the INSET. Only four of the comments were specifically negative about an aspect of the day. The old adage of not pleasing all the people all the time rings true, but this was as good as I've ever seen in terms of feedback for such a wide-ranging INSET Day.
So well done to the Ped Leader trio for their triumphant INSET Day. And well done too to the almost score of teachers who certainly hit the back of the net with their contributions to a fantastic piece of peer-led professional development.
Monday, 21 January 2013
Trajan's Column with Staff:
In the most recent INSET I delivered a session on Trajan's Column to a group of teachers. Their task was to recreate, in 20minutes, the play of Romeo & Juliet going up the column using a summary of the play (parts cut up like a card sort), key quotations and images. They also had to create an object to go on top. One member of staff quickly took charge, reading out the 1 set of instructions and starting a discussion of what tasks to tackle first. The group then split into 2 smaller groups with the females working on the play summary and quotations while the male teachers worked creatively and practically to create an object to go on top.
During the course of the activity the male group worked together and quite quickly had discussed and decided what they were going to create. The female group spent a lot more time discussing the events, re-reading instructions and making sure that they were on task. It was interesting to witness the discussions that occurred, watching questions being asked to seek clarification and affirmation that people were on the right track. Instead of sticking the summary parts and quotations onto to the column itself and reducing the lengthy summaries to key words and phrases, the group decided to create a paper chain of information, interlinking the summary and quotes together. The final object included two houses with daggers stuck to the top - an interpretation on the quote 'a plague o' both your houses.'
In discussion afterwards, the group discussed how the activity could be used as an evaluative tool at the end of a scheme but could similarly be used to introduce a topic. It was acknowledged that the males had perhaps 'opted out' slightly in that they did not come into contact with the summary details or quotes and this is something which would have to be considered in a classroom setting, perhaps by having smaller elements to the whole task which could be delegated or by removing the 'object' element altogether. Despite this, the discussion was rich and teachers were animated in talking about how the activity could be amended and tailored for their own subjects. One idea was to split the class into two groups and have two columns to allow more students to have more involvement.
Hence the next time I did Trajan's Column, it looked something like this....
Trajan's Column - An Inspector Calls
Today, with two different year 11 classes, I set about starting revision on An Inspector Calls for their Literature Exam. Having read the play last year I wanted a way to refresh their memories on the details of the play without tedious re-reading or research. I re-arranged the classroom before the lesson with tables in two separate groups and chairs all around. As the students came in I instructed them to sit with others that they felt they would work best with. In the morning lesson (a C/D borderline class), I ended up with a group of girls and a group of boys while the afternoon class (top set) was a lot more mixed. To start the lesson off I used some excellent audio files from TES of all three acts. The class listened and made notes in a study guide on the key events and details of the play.
Once finished with listening to the act summaries I introduced the main activity. The plastic poles were placed in the middle of the two groups with instructions on the top. Resources were left at the front of the room on desks for groups to collect as they needed. In the morning lesson, the two groups approached the task very differently. Both groups started off working together to organise the parts of the play. In the boys group, two separated quite quickly after this to set about making an object while the others started sticking paper to the pole and finding appropriate quotations to use. In contrast, the girls worked consistently together till very near the end. Only with 5minutes to go did 2 girls start cutting out objects for the top whilst the others set about making finishing touches using images and quotations. The end result was very different. When a colleague (@lLeahMirandaM) popped in to take a look she commented that the girls column was a lot more structured whilst the boys was more creative (see below for their interpretation of Inspector Goole, Nike trainers included!).
The afternoon class worked in a very similar way with groups discussing and delegating the tasks; some working on the summary, others on quotations and the rest on making objects and decorating material. As the class is a lot bigger the groups managed to complete the activity much quicker, in around 20minutes. Again their columns looked a lot different and in some ways I think the morning class took more pride in their work, the top set favouring speed over aesthetics. But the point is that it doesn't really matter what the columns look like. In both lessons the whole class had been involved in an interactive activity for an extended period of time where they were able to work together to create something that they could be proud of. They had to use their own notes from the first part of the lesson to reorganise the summary and the activity actually worked as a consolidation exercise. I definitely think that having two groups as opposed to one encouraged a higher level of participation from pupils and they were able to contribute a lot more, an idea which came from the INSET day.
The feedback I got from both classes was positive. They said that they enjoyed doing something more interactive and felt that creating something was a much better way of revising a text. The top set felt that the lesson was a nice way back into the text, especially after all the revision and essay writing that they'd been doing recently in preparation for their poetry exam - it wasn't even something I had considered when I was planning.
I truly believe that this acticity is fantastic for encouraging interdependent learning. I didn't answer one question in the time the pupils were working becuase they collaborated together to find answers, solve problems and ensure that they had completed all the instructions on the task sheet. This is defnitely an activity that I will be doing again and one that I believe can work well in any subject.
On Saturday I presented this activity at Pedagoo London. After much thought and deliberation I decided on the topic of fairy tales. I condensed Propp's morphology of a fairy tale into 14 key elements and provided these mixed up. In addition I chose 'Jack and the Beanstalk' by Roald Dahl and provided the 14 stanzas to the groups (also mixed up). The tasks were as follows:
- Re-arrange the structure of a fairy tale in the correct order.
- Re-arrange the fairy tale in the correct order.
- Re-create the fairy tale going up the column starting at the bottom using text, images and/or objects.
- Display the structure of the fairy tale down one side and if you can match these with the corresponding sections of the fairy tale. (This was a challenge as the fairy tale had violated the structure in many ways!)
- On the top create an object which represents the information displayed around the column.
In 15 minutes both groups had created completely different columns and had interpreted the instructions differently. The first group had attempted to match the structure to the story whilst the second group had focussed on the story only. Furthermore, the second group highlighted an issue with language and asked why if the fairy tale was going up then why would the structure go down. Although they eventually understood what I had meant, it shows how even the most basic of instructions can be interpreted in different ways. Afterwards, we discussed why it didn't matter that the structure couldn't be matched to the tale and how it could be used as a springboard to explore fairy tales and their structures in more detail. I also highlighted how this activity is probably best used at the beginning of a topic as a way in or as a revision tool.
For me, the session was great because all members of the group got involved and contributed their ideas in some way or another. Perhaps they didn't learn much content but for the purpose of the session my focus was to show how the activity could be used in the classroom and how it could engage large groups, something which I'd like to think I was successful in showing. This activity is so adaptable and so easy to set up. For one group, toilet roll holders were transformed into a beanstalk with leaves while in the other they made a bath filled with gold coins - it doesn't take much to get the imagination going!
I'd like to hope that this session has encouraged other teachers to use activities like this in their own pedagogy and am pleased that I was able to share this at such a great event!
Wednesday, 9 January 2013
|Identifying Marginal Learning Gains|
Teachers were asked to take ten minutes to consider the ten disaggregated areas of the Ofsted outstanding criteria and consider what aspects of their own classroom practice they were proud of and that would constitute a potential Marginal Learning Gain to other teachers. They were asked to "sweat the small stuff" and "look after the pennies to save the pounds", concentrating on the 1% gains that would be relatively easy for colleagues to take on.
|Good ideas from our own classrooms|
|Literacy, oracy and numeracy highlighted|
|Reducing lists to Top Ten MLG tips|
|Very much a labour of love|
|Intro & contents of our MLG booklet|
As well as using the artwork of our school brochure we decided to lace the booklet with images related to cycling, Team Sky and Team GB to retain the theme that had dominated during the presentation and to reinforce the notion of excellence (or greatness) that is at the heart of what we are doing. Using shutterstock for selecting these images ensured that we were copyright-safe.
|MLG booklet printed the same day!!|
|MLG Wheel for Self-Evaluation|
This post is a direct follow up to my last one which ended with my colleague AP giving me some feedback that I'd requested about a lesson that she'd popped into. I wanted to share with you how our email interactions have shaped some of what I've been trying with my classes regarding interdependence.
For background, AP is a mainscale English teacher who has is in her 2nd year of teaching. I am a currently a senior leader who also Head of Maths and have been teaching for around 8 years. The content of the following emails is only edited for spelling and I have AP's permission to use them.
Sent: 11 December 2012 11:20
Subject: further adventures re pupil interdependence
This time much more maths focus.
Sent: 11 December 2012 11:28
Subject: RE: further adventures re pupil interdependence
This sounds fantastic – I can’t believe you only gave them 4mins to complete the task and they actually did it!
I’m currently trying to think of how I can do the Trajan’s column activity with my year 8 class but until then you can keep hold of the pole J - yesterday I had 10 sheets of A3 paper stuck on the windows and walls and had the pupils carouselling around writing quotes and themes from poems. Now, their filled sheets have been photocopied into a revision booklet – so simple, no planning and they did all the work!
Sent: 11 December 2012 11:32
Subject: RE: further adventures re pupil interdependence
Sent: 11 December 2012 11:39
Subject: RE: further adventures re pupil interdependence
Sent: 11 December 2012 11:50
Subject: RE: further adventures re pupil interdependence
Sent: 11 December 2012 17:01
Subject: RE: further adventures re pupil interdependence
Sent: 13 December 2012 14:47
Subject: Re: further adventures re pupil interdependence + TLC
Sent: 14 December 2012 15:59
Subject: RE: further adventures re pupil interdependence + TLC
Monday, 7 January 2013
I head up the Applied Learning TLC and thought it would be a good opportunity to distill some thoughts on here of what it means and why it's important.
So what are the aims of the year in the Applied Learning TLC? Well all TLCs are running in a similar format. It's all about Joint Practice Development (JPD). We want to make sure as much good practice is transferred between teachers as possible. After receiving training in how to coach each other (thanks @ieshasmall) we utilised this new skillset to break into "coaching triads", allowing staff to focus on where they want to head with their pedagogy and how to get there.
So what is applied learning? BASICALLY: applied learning is a style of learning which equips and prepares people for life, learning and employment. As a product of the modern GCSE system myself, I find myself only now understanding how to learn. I found GCSEs challenging but excelled in them in terms of grades, then A Level came along with the requirement to self direct my learning and think about my subject synoptically. In retrospect I now know my failures at A Level were completely down to my inability to link my ideas together. I wasn't being challenged to deepen my thinking and was simply memorising facts and processes. It is this hindsight that makes things like SOLO taxonomy and @Totallywired77's Punk Learning so attractive to me. They truly prepare our students for lifelong learning. It would bring me no end of pleasure to think students in the future will look back on their time under my tutelage and feel I taught them more than just science and bad puns.
Applied learning is a very broad focus (is that an oxymoron?) but I want to direct my TLC towards Punk Learning which incorporates project based learning, student set objectives, creativity and life enhancing skills, all scaffolded by SOLO's excellent structure of progression to constantly challenge.
I supplied my TLC group with the following manifesto to get them thinking about applied learning. I can't remember how much of it was taken from another source, apologies if it was from you, please get in touch so I can give you credit.
- links learning to the real world making it more relevant to students and giving a greater sense of purpose to what they are doing.
- places equal emphasis on knowledge, understanding and skills.
- gives students increasing opportunities to use and apply their learning so that they can see their learning in action and extend and develop it still further.
- requires students to be more active in their learning so that they are partners in the learning process rather than passengers or spectators – there is strong evidence that learning is much more powerful and lasting when this is happening.
- places greater emphasis on ‘deep learning’ that builds on, and makes connections with, students’ prior learning and experiences, as opposed to the simplistic rote recall of facts and what has been called ‘shallow learning’.
- requires students to increasingly take responsibility for their own learning, planning and organising progressively more challenging tasks and extended activities, so they are better prepared for future learning and life.
- supports students to reflect upon and develop their learning skills so that they become increasingly more effective as learners and better equipped for the future.