Category Archives: Workshops Of Wonder


The first of our after-school ‘Workshops of Wonder’ on Magic Monday 4 was delivered by Mark Nesbitt – Assistant Curriculum Team Leader for Science, who shared his thoughts on motivation with us. Here is Mark’s summary on how we can use praise and rewards as tools to promote student achievement.

going for the summit

Reasons we use praise and rewards

Education literature on rewards and praise spans over 60 years and at times can be conflicting. Hopefully I can generalise the common positive findings from studies and make some suggestions on how you could maximise their effectiveness in your practice.

I’m going to start with a few reasons why we praise and reward students. These include:

  • As an incentive for students to complete a task
  • To praise a certain behaviour
  • To help raise expectations
  • To promote effort when carrying out an instruction
  • To motivate students to complete their work


“If you are motivated to achieve to do something you will be moved to achieve, you will be activated in achieving a certain goal” (Murphy and Alexander, 2000)

Motivation is a concept in many theories, but we all know that when a failure to succeed occurs, a lack of motivation is often blamed. In the classroom the failing student will often be seen as having “poor motivation”, whilst we all know that some parents would claim that poor student performance is because of bad teaching and that a good teacher would be able to motivate and engage their child.

I don’t have any miracle answers to that but what I can share is how we can attempt to promote intrinsic motivation through well-timed praise to motivate and engage students (Ball, 1977).

There are different types of motivation. The one we all hope to instil in our students is intrinsic motivation.  Intrinsic motivation is the idea that students will engage in tasks for the experience and sense of fulfilment in completing them in their own right.

Most educators see intrinsic motivation as an imperative concept for students to have, its seen to lead to high quality learning and is probably best characterised as a source of achieving through learning from a driving force from within as opposed to external influences (Deci & Ryan, 1985).

We all want our students to arrive fully engaged and eager to learn because they find the work interesting and fulfilling, not because they fear a sanction or will get a reward at the end of it. This is the ideal but I don’t think it is at all easy to achieve.

motivation carrot

Rewards and intrinsic motivation

After I qualified as a teacher I continued my studies in education research. One thing that I looked at was how we can use praise with students to make the biggest impact. I carried out a short study into the ways in which praise and rewards could be administered, their effect and what peoples’ findings suggested.

I looked at 188 students in year 7, with the idea being to see if I could shift student motivation from extrinsic types (the sort of behaviour that is influenced by praise, punishment, success and so on) towards intrinsic motivation.

In all cases students were asked to complete a series of questions to assess their view of their progress and attitudes towards the subject. This was coupled with an analysis of student performance in unit assessments so I could be sure they weren’t just thinking they were doing better, but were actually performing better.

Half the year group underwent Science lessons whereby praise was administered as it normally would be, whilst the other half were part of a rewards based system for around 12 weeks. The system was fairly straightforward: students had basic criteria, almost like school expectations to follow but any effort above and beyond this saw students rewarded with an “extra mile”. This was a reward in a passport that they could cash in once they had acquired a sufficient number of miles. Some staff were introduced to the benefits of timely praise and I set up a number of different classes to look at a range of effects.

The Extra Mile Just Ahead Green Road Sign Over Dramatic Clouds and Sky.

What I set up to compare were differences in:

  • Tangible and verbal rewards
  • Expected rewards and unexpected rewards
  • Single bouts of rewarding against reiteration


I found that there wasn’t much difference between groups. Effect sizes were often too small to make any solid conclusions and those that were significantly different, often involved staff absences or different content being delivered.

Where there was validity I found that:

  • Student performance was always better when they didn’t expect the reward at the end of any task, where they were completely unaware they were being rewarded
  • Verbal praise was more successful than any tangible reward

My results did correspond with a lot of other people’s findings so I wasn’t too disappointed. However, a quick literature review would tell you it’s a minefield of conflicting information so here are some summary points to share from what I have discovered.

  • Verbal praise is always a winner! If it’s meaningful and enthusiastic you can’t go wrong!
  • Don’t say “if you do this I’ll reward you” (I still do that now sometimes), try not to mention any tangible reward before a task or activity (Cameron and Pierce, 1994)
  • Tangible rewards are useful but more so when unexpected.
  • If you give tangible rewards like Vivos try to supplement them with a positive statement to help reinforce your thoughts.
  • Praise attitudes and efforts, not final products and outcomes. In places such as Scandinavia where students repeatedly outperform other global regions it’s been recorded that most praise is directed to promoting effort and attitude and not achievement. This helps students build intrinsic motivation across the curriculum as oppose to just one task in one subject area (Cameron and Pierce, 1994).
  • Reinforce praise, show students that you didn’t just praise them because you were in a good mood that day. Many behavioural psychologists claim that reinforcement is an event that increases the frequency of a certain behaviour (Cameron, Banko and Pierce, 2001).


There are no magic bullets, however, and there are occasions when verbal praise and rewarding students has no effect.  It has also been suggested that socialisation issues and the concept of “fear motivation” from peer groups can damage and significantly reduce the effects of praise and rewards. Peer culture is often scornful of academic excellence and we will need to try to overcome these attitudes by providing a safe learning environment in which all students can learn (Elliot and Dweck, 2005).

Creating movies to support revision

Director's chair

Amanda Telfer and Lou Hindmarch from our IT, Business and Health department delivered the second of our after school workshops on Magic Monday 3.

The issue

They shared how a lack of suitable revision materials for the GCSE Health and Social Care course, particularly for students towards the lower end of the ability range had been a particular issue when helping their Year 11 students prepare for their forthcoming exams.

Creating “student experts”

Amanda and Lou were keen to utilise the strengths of everyone in the class so that they could work together to support each other with their revision.  To begin with, a subject audit was carried out to ascertain the strengths and weaknesses of every student in the class.  This process allowed a number of “student experts” to be created in different areas, who would then work with other students identified by the audit as finding that particular area difficult.


Preparing resources

Each student then had to create a revision movie on an area they found difficult with the support of their “student expert”.  Students had to research, plan and create their own notes, using diagrams and images based on their particular area.  Most preferred to use their own devices to take photographs of the resources they had produced, although school cameras were provided for anyone who wanted to use one.

Making movies

As Movie Maker software is installed on every PC in school most students then used this to upload their resources and create their movies.  To support students to use Movie Maker, Amanda and Lou got students to practice five different transitions before using the software to make their own movies.  Some students also used apps like Quick Time on their mobile devices to make their own movies directly.  You can view an example of one of the movies created by clicking on the link below.

Sharing with everyone

As all of the GCSE Health and Social Care students have their own Edmodo account, all of the movies that were created were then shared on Edmodo so that they could be accessed by everyone: anytime, anywhere.  The department is also planning to upload all of the movies onto the department’s YouTube channel so that others can view and use them too.


Differentiation or delimitation?


The first of our after-school ‘Workshops of Wonder’ on Magic Monday 3 was delivered by Susie Crozier from our English department, who shared her ideas about differentiation with us.

As an English teacher Susie felt it was important to start with a definition.  Differentiation, after all, is something we do as teachers as a matter of course on a daily basis – but what does it actually mean?  The dictionary definitions she found were fairly unhelpful she felt, but for one word:



Delimitation, Susie emphasised, is the point. It’s not just about access but success.

With this in mind, we were given a challenging task to work with in our groups which might be given to students.  We then had to think about ways in which we could ensure success for all.  It wasn’t about finding ways to change or adapt the task, it was about looking at the support we might put in place to allow everyone to achieve success.  The tasks we were given weren’t important (ours was based on Bill Bryson’s ‘Notes from a Small Island’) – the point was for us to focus on the strategies that would achieve this.

The strategies we came up with were:

  • provide additional sources of support, e.g. text books, access to the internet, or help from other students in the class
  • share examples, including “live” examples that are being produced by other students – there and then – using a visualiser, webcam or photographs of work taken during the lesson
  • provide frameworks to scaffold support – verbal as well as written
  • teacher modelling and deconstruction of the steps/processes required to complete the task
  • teacher questioning pitched appropriately to prompt students and get them thinking
  • using any data provided: have you checked reading ages? Have you reviewed any SEN guidance that has been provided? Have you viewed the strategies identified in any Pastoral Support Plan provided?
  • don’t be afraid to teach those who need more support while the rest of the class work on the task
  • don’t dive in too early – struggle is good!
  • provide additional support through quality feedback which students act on during D.I.R.T. (Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time)

As you can see from our list, none of these strategies involved lots of individualised activities or multiple worksheets and there wasn’t even a hint of a ‘must’…’could’…or ‘should’…outcome in sight.  Just one ‘bar’, set high enough so as to challenge the most able of our students, with enough appropriate, tailored support to enable everyone to reach for it…

…or as we now prefer to call it delimitation, not differentiation!

Magic Monday 1

Our first Magic Monday on the 9th December was undoubtedly an overwhelming success.

MM1 invitation

Over 90% of our classroom based staff attended the Pedagogy Picnic at lunchtime (more if you don’t include those staff on lunch duty) plus we had virtually a full house at our Workshops Of Wonder after school.  When you consider that both sessions were entirely voluntary, the turnout was incredible! It was fantastic to see so many staff wanting to focus on developing their pedagogy further as well as showing their support to colleagues who presented.  A massive thank you to everyone who attended or presented, as well as to all of those who worked so hard “behind the scenes” to help organise the invitations, their delivery, the resources, the “goodie-bags”, both of the venues, the delicious catering, the I.T……….it really was a team effort.

MM1 Summary pics

Blog posts on all of the presentations and workshops from Magic Monday 1 can be accessed by clicking on the links below:

Pedagogy Picnic presentations

MM1 Ped Picnic summary pics

Workshops Of Wonder

MM1 WOW summary pics

The feedback from our first Magic Monday was overwhelmingly positive too.

MM1 feedback sheets

Staff told us they really liked:

  • the variety of presentations
  • the range of ideas / innovative ideas shared
  • the practical ideas / their relevance / the fact that ideas could be implemented straight away
  • the short / sharp nature / pace of presentations and workshops
  • the sharing of ideas that our staff have used
  • the sharing by our teachers for our teachers
  • involvement of different departments
  • the range of experience of teachers sharing ideas
  • the opportunity to work with other teachers / different departments
  • the chance to try out new ideas
  • being together / eating together / talking together
  • the provision of ready-made, adaptable resources to take away (the goodie bags!)
  • the refreshments
  • the choice of venues (our staffroom and Learning Resource Centre)
  • the atmosphere, enthusiasm, passion of presenters and having a common goal
  • the chance to think/reflect

MM1 Ped Picnic 1

For our next Magic Monday staff would love:

  • More of the same!
  • Even more ideas!
  • Even more departments involved!
  • More teachers sharing ideas
  • Another goodie-bag of resources (including chocolate!)
  • More time to discuss / share ideas / Q+A
  • More examples of impact on students / feedback from students / evidence of progress

MM1 Ped Picnic 2

As well as giving specific suggestions for topics staff would like to hear more about:

  • Feedback – especially peer assessment
  • Differentiation
  • More Kagan cooperative learning strategies
  • Using Twitter as a CPD tool
  • More about SOLO
  • More about using QR codes
  • Easy to adapt plenaries

Here’s a sneaky peak at what we’ve got planned for Magic Monday 2 on January 6th……..

MM 2 invite

  • all new ideas
  • all new presenters from Science, Maths, Humanities, Performing Arts, MFL and English – including co-presenters from different departments
  • a few minutes after each session for Q+A

We’ve had such a good response from our teachers that we’ve already got Magic Monday 3 planned to include:

  • differentiation
  • flipped learning
  • foldables – revision resources in the run up to exams
  • D.I.R.T.y feedback
  • cooperative learning with impact
  • takeaway homework
  • animoto
  • independent learning

…and that’s just for starters!

Plus after Christmas we will be running a voluntary “using twitter for CPD for beginners” session as well as giving staff the opportunity to see some of the things they’ve heard about already in action in classrooms.

It’s going to be an exciting year!

Introduction to SOLO

A fitting finale to our first Workshops Of Wonder during Magic Monday was courtesy of our Head of Science Julie Ryder.  Julie treated our staff to an introduction to the SOLO taxonomy, which she has been experimenting with this year and is particularly relevant for us at the minute, considering our current focus on sharing challenging learning intentions.

This guest blog post was written by Julie, who outlines her own learning journey as well as providing us with an introduction to SOLO.  Over to Julie…

Introduction to SOLO title slide

What is SOLO?

SOLO is a model of learning developed in the 1970s and 80s by two Australian academics: John Biggs and Kevin Collis. It is based on their research of samples of many different student learning outcomes and was first developed 10 years ago for classroom based use in New Zealand schools.

Using SOLO as a framework for teaching

My own learning journey with SOLO began with this book about maximising achievement in science. Written by Steve Martin who, amongst other awards, is a recipient of the Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Science Teaching (2010). He received this award based on the  work he does with students, inspiring them to higher levels of achievement using SOLO to set challenging learning goals.

From this book I began to look into the work of Pam Hook (author of a range of excellent books on SOLO Taxonomy).  I have communicated with Pam since beginning with SOLO especially when I needed help getting started. Pam has always found the time to reply during which time she has offered much support and many ideas for which I am very grateful.

In her own words Pam describes one of the benefits of using SOLO as follows:

“One of the things I love about the classroom based use of SOLO Taxonomy is the way in which using the model helps students understand great questions. SOLO helps students understand how to construct great questions and how to answer them.”

I have seen evidence of this myself, especially in the quality of extended answers from all of my students – no matter what their target grades or ability are. My students very much enjoy being set challenging outcomes at extended abstract level and then ascertaining the learning journey they must take in order to achieve this.

SOLO makes the learning outcome visible as it focuses on the structure of a learning outcome. Thus we can ask ourselves when setting our outcomes:  is the structure of the learning outcome a single idea, a number of ideas, ideas that are in some way connected or are we applying our knowledge and understanding of these ideas in a new way?

These next  two slides are from a presentation by  David Didau on SOLO. David’s video clip from this link shows him explaining SOLO at a Teachmeet at Clevedon. It is a great introduction to SOLO levels for the beginner.

David writes excellent blogs that are always thought-provoking and I enjoy that he challenges my thinking regularly. His blogs always makes me reflect on and question my own practice and for that I am very grateful.

In one of his blogs on why the knowledge skills debate is worth having (linked here) David reminds us that the usefulness of SOLO is entirely dependent on the knowledge students possess and that it isn’t that skills are more important than knowledge: rather that both are necessary if students are to master a subject.

SOLO taxonomy

What is SOLO?

In my classroom I find currently that SOLO provides a great framework for students to progress, where students learning becomes deeper as they move through the levels.

SOLO hexagons are a great way to introduce students to SOLO as a model of learning outcomes. They demonstrate that single ideas are good and then that by connecting them in different ways this makes them more interesting and shows more complex understanding. Taking things further and considering a range of connections in clusters can lead to greater conceptual understanding.

Using SOLO hexagons is also an excellent way to determine a student’s prior knowledge and depth of understanding before starting a new topic or activity. Using ideas “stolen/borrowed/inspired” from those who blog about SOLO has allowed me to experiment using hexagons. I have used them to begin a new learning experience, to prompt students who are “stuck”, to challenge and deepen understanding and to create new understanding by introducing hexagons with additional content.

SOLO and deep learning

(Deep Learning image from a presentation by Tait Coles)

SOLO hexagons

When using hexagons the outcome will differ according to the SOLO level, put very simply: students who are able to describe the ideas/words on individual hexagons are said to be working at a multi structural level. Students who are able to make connections between hexagons and explain why they have linked the ideas together are working at a relational level.  Students who can explore a range of ideas where three hexagons share a corner or look at a cluster of hexagons and make a generalisation about the nature of the relationship between the ideas are working at extended abstract level. (Pam Hook)

SOLO hexagons 2

Why do I think you should use it?

It is excellent for both formative and summative assessment. It makes learning challenging but visible and provides a framework for progression. It great for finding out what students know before you start and then at any point there after progress can be checked. It is easy to use when planning lessons or a scheme of work as you can scaffold the learning experiences for the outcomes (constructive alignment) at unistructural, multistructural, relational and extended abstract levels.

It supports metacognition: what am I doing? – how well is it going? – what should I do next?

Challenge can then be provided through feedback and feed forward, which could be: teacher to student, student to teacher and student to student.

The slide below shows how I developed learning outcomes for photosynthesis which moved students from shallow to deep learning.

SOLO deep learning in science

There are a growing number of people out there who are or have tried SOLO. Many are writing or have written about SOLO and are using SOLO in their everyday teaching. I highly recommend the following who have helped and inspired me on my SOLO journey:

Pam Hook

Lisa Ashes (excellent blogs on a range of topics including SOLO) “SOLO teaches pupils to make relationships between ideas and then use these to question ideas further.”

David Didau (excellent blogs that are always thought provoking)

Tait Coles (great blogs and some nice videos of a year 8 class new to SOLO) (great article from “Creative teaching and learning” p57)

Finally in the words of Biggs and Collis

SOLO Biggs & Collis quote

If you are interested in learning more about how you might use the SOLO taxonomy or would like any more information or support please don’t hesitate to contact me.


Poundland Pedagogy

Our second Magic Monday “Workshop of Wonder” was delivered by Sam Bulmer from our English department.  Sam shared with us how she is using “Poundland Pedagogy” in her lessons as well as providing us with the opportunity to think about how we might use it in our own lessons.

Poundland pedagogy title slide

Sam’s interest in this began with a book by Isabella Wallace entitled “Pimp Your Lesson

Poundland pedagogy background

Sam began by sharing some of the strategies she had been using in her own lessons, for example “Keyword Keepie Uppies“…Poundland pedagogy keyword keepie-uppies English example

…and Talk to me I’m an expert

Poundland pedagogy talk to me I'm an expert English example

Sam then went on to share some ideas for how we could use a range of everyday household objects that cost £1 or less in our lessons

Poundland pedagogy using plastic tablecloths Poundland pedagogy using string Poundland pedagogy using plastic bin liners

Finally we got the chance to have a play ourselves with some resources provided by Sam in our goodie-bags! Poundland pedagogy task

Sam has set herself a challenge to create one new teaching and learning method each week… Poundland pedagogy next steps

…maybe you would like to join her or send her your own ideas?!

Quiz Quiz Trade

Our first Magic Monday “Workshop Of Wonder” (…or “WOWs” as we’ve decided to name them) was kicked off in style by our Head of MFL, Lee Ferris.  Lee led us all through his workshop based on a Kagan cooperative learning strategy: Quiz-Quiz-Trade, which was highly interactive, very hands on and ultimately great fun for all of us involved!

Quiz quiz trade title slide

Quiz-Quiz-Trade is a strategy that encourages mutual reliance at every stage and the embedding of knowledge through the sharing of ideas verbally.  Although Lee used an MFL specific example, the strategy works in any context.

Stage 1: introduce the necessary knowledge

We needed to know the correct terminology for liking and disliking, which Lee reinforced by asking us to repeat aloud, whilst using the appropriate thumb signals.

Quiz quiz trade j'adore

Quiz quiz trade j'aime Quiz quiz trade je n'aime pas Quiz quiz trade je deteste

The same process was repeated for our “likes” and “dislikes” prior to Lee questioning us to check our learning.

Quiz quiz trade images likes & dislikes

Stage 2: provide any additional support required prior to the Quiz-Quiz-Trade stage

A vocabulary list was provided.

Quiz quiz trade mes preferences

This was to ensure we could record our information correctly on our Quiz Quiz Trade share cards.

Quiz Quiz Trade share cards

The Quiz-Quiz-Trade share card template can be downloaded by clicking on the link above

Stage 3: explain the Quiz-Quiz-Trade rules (generic for any subject)

Quiz quiz trade rules

Stage 4: Quiz-Quiz-Trade

We read our sentence out loud in French, which our partner translated into English.

If we made a mistake we were allowed one generic clue e.g. “I said…….(repeat)”

Once we had carried this out correctly individually, we swapped roles and repeated.

Once both ourselves and our partners had carried this out correctly, we swapped cards, moved away with our hands in the air to identify we were looking for a new partner.

The Quiz-Quiz-Trade process was then repeated a number of times, allowing us to listen to and practise speaking a much wider range of vocabulary than we would have done without using it.

Not only this but the process was quick, highly engaging and great fun!

If you would like to know more about Quiz-Quiz-Trade or require any support implementing this strategy Lee would be more than happy to help.