Tag Archives: Dan Brinton

Organising instruction & study: 7 recommendations to improve student learning

This blog is a summary of a Practice Guide by Pashler et al. from 2007, which sets out to provide teachers with specific strategies for instruction and study.

I came across it in a roundabout way via this paper by Dunlosky et al cited in the “What makes great teaching? Review of the underpinning research” by Rob Coe et al.

The central tenet of this particular Practice Guide is that learning depends on memory, which can in turn be strengthened by concrete strategies. These strategies help students to master new knowledge and skills, without forgetting what they have learned.

A note on Practice Guides

The Health Care professions have been using practice guides for some time now to communicate evidence-based advice to medical practitioners.

The recommendations contained within Practice Guides are intended to be:

  • Actionable by practitioners
  • Coherent in their approach
  • Explicitly connected to the level of supporting evidence

Levels of evidence are determined by the types of studies used to draw conclusions, ranging from stronger levels of evidence that come from RCTs, with more moderate levels of evidence coming from non-randomised studies, down to lower levels of evidence that are drawn from the opinions of respected authorities.

Practice Guides are not systematic reviews or meta-analyses that have been subject to detailed literature surveys. Instead they rely more on their authors’ expertise to identify the most important research relative to the recommendations made, in order to characterise its meaning and provide specific, actionable steps. The recommendations contained in this Practice Guide have been agreed by the authors concerned and subjected to independent peer review.

Recommendations


1: Space learning over time – moderate level of evidence

spacing

Most of the research in this area has been focused on the acquisition of facts and remembering definitions of terms. To improve retention, students should be exposed to material at least twice, with a delay of weeks to months between exposures. Short delays of less than about 5% of the time between exposure and testing should be avoided. In other words, if you want students to remember material for a test in 6 months time, avoid re-exposure within less than a week or two. “Overshooting” the delay is better than reviewing too soon.

Teaching strategies:

  • Regular, in-class review of previously covered material.
  • Inclusion of previously covered material in homework assignments.
  • Mid-term and final testing that includes cumulative material.

2: Interleave worked examples with problem solving exercises – moderate level of evidence

interleaving

Experiments and some classroom studies have shown that students learn more when switching between studying examples of worked-out solutions to problems and solving similar problems independently. In the studies cited, alternating and interleaving was more successful than giving students only problems to solve, or a block of worked examples followed by a block of problems to solve. Increasing the amount of variability between successive examples and problems was also beneficial. The scaffolding provided by the worked examples should gradually be removed with time by “fading” more and more stages of the worked examples into problems.

Teaching strategies:

  • Provide a worked example for every other problem, e.g. for 10 questions, make questions 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 worked examples.
  • Model the solution to a problem with the class, and then ask students to solve the next problem independently (just one!)
  • Ask some students to present their solutions, while others explain the steps (a worked example in its own right) followed by another problem to solve independently.

3: Combine graphics with verbal descriptions – moderate level of evidence

visual representationsAdding visual representations, e.g. graphs, diagrams or other graphic formats to text descriptions can lead to better learning than just using text. Any accompanying text should be positioned as close as possible to the relevant section of the diagram. This can be further improved with the use of verbal descriptions to accompany visual representations, which allow for both elements to be scrutinised simultaneously.

Teaching strategies:

  • Provide visual representations to support the explanation of processes or concepts.
  • Highlight the relevant parts of the visual representation while describing processes or concepts.
  • Using simplified diagrams that show the relevant parts, rather than more complex representations is sometimes more beneficial.
  • Share multiple visual representations, e.g. pictures, models, real objects etc. to illustrate how a single concept can be depicted in different ways.

4: Connect and integrate abstract and concrete representations of concepts – moderate level of evidence

abstract concreteHere, the research seems to suggest that teaching concepts using only concrete representations supports initial understanding but doesn’t support transfer to novel, but relevant contexts. Whereas, using only abstract representations initially can take longer to develop initial understanding, this greater initial difficulty is compensated for via improved application to different situations.

One proposal suggested to utilise the benefits of both is “concreteness fading” with initial concrete examples being gradually and systematically replaced by more abstract representations. Another is to explicitly identify and draw students’ attention to the relationship between the concrete and abstract components in representations of the same concept.

Teaching strategies:

  • Show the same idea in multiple forms to show that deep structure is constant despite surface changes.
  • Connect abstract ideas to relevant concrete representations and situations.
  • Highlight relevant features across both abstract and concrete representations.
  • Avoid using the same type of example repeatedly, i.e. examples all from one area, e.g. “sports”
  • Avoid knowledge becoming “inert” by allowing time to draw connections between multiple, interleaved examples that vary in their concreteness or abstractness.
  • Anchor new ideas in stories or scenarios that are familiar and interesting.

5a: Use pre-questions to introduce a topic – low level of evidence

Pre-questions are thought to activate prior knowledge and focus students’ attention on the material to be learned.

Despite recommending it as way to improve student learning, the panel deemed the level of evidence for quizzing to be low, as most of the research had been completed with college students, or based on laboratory experiments carried out on reading from written text, rather than tested as a component of regular classroom instruction.

The research does seem to suggest, however, that when pre-questions are used to preview the content of assigned material, there will likely be gains in learning of the pre-questioned material, providing students don’t read selectively based on the content of the pre-questions used.

Teaching strategies:

  • Direct students’ attention to important facts and concepts by using pre-questions to introduce new topics.
  • Prepare several pre-questions that students can attempt immediately on entering the lesson as part of the “do now”

quiz

5b: Use quizzes to re-expose students to information – strong level of evidence

The act of practising recalling information from memory enhances learning, reduces the rate of forgetting and cements information to memory.

Laboratory experiments across a wide range of materials and ages have repeatedly demonstrated that testing promotes remembering of material on a later test, and is almost always more powerful than spending additional time studying material.

Teaching strategies:

  • Take every opportunity to prompt students to retrieve information.
  • Use closed book quizzes after teaching material, prior to final testing.
  • Ensure corrective feedback is provided following testing to ensure errors don’t remain.
  • Use websites, e.g. http://www.quia.com to share or create quizzes.

6a: Teach students how to use delayed judgement of learning techniques to identify concepts that need further study – low level of evidence

delayThe evidence in support of this recommendation comes mainly from experimental research in the laboratory, rather than in the classroom.

Without training, most learners cannot accurately assess what they know and what they don’t, and typically overestimate how well material has been mastered – “the illusion of knowing.” Knowing what you have and haven’t mastered accurately, is therefore essential in identifying what you still need to spend time studying, which in turn increases the likelihood of performing better when tested.

The “cue-only delayed judgement of learning procedure” is thought to be a key technique for breaking this illusion, which works as follows:

  1. Students should test their mastery of material after a meaningful delay.
  2. Students should only have access to “the cue” and not the answer when testing whether they know concepts or not, i.e. multiple choice questions should not be used for this purpose.
  3. Students should judge how likely they are to get the answer right, as well as answering the question.

A similar technique, the “delayed keyword technique” supports students to judge how well they have retained material they have read after a delay, for example a section of a textbook or a chapter of a book, by asking them to generate keywords or sentences that summarise the main points.

Teaching strategies:

  • Pre-prepare 10 questions (for example) that capture the core content to be learned.
  • Give the students the questions one at a time, asking them to use a scale of 1 to 100 to judge how likely they feel they would be able to answer the question correctly tomorrow
  • Ask students to review the material, use a text or ask the teacher to find out and record the answer to any question they did not score as 100.
  • Use repeatedly over the course of the year, teaching students how to use this technique independently.
  • Teach students to use the “delayed keyword technique” to generate four key terms and definitions following assigned reading out of class, followed by re-reading if they are unable to do this.

6b: Use tests and quizzes to identify content that needs to be learned – low level of evidence

The evidence in support of this recommendation comes mainly from experimental research of college students and laboratory tests, rather than in the classroom.

As previously stated: Inaccurate judgements by learners of what they have and haven’t learned well can mean subsequent study is focused on the wrong items.

Quizzing is thought to help students identify which items are not well learned, as does re-reading material when a test is interspersed between readings.

Teaching strategies:

  • Closed book quizzes following presentation of material.
  • Very short “spot check” quizzes covering material from the previous night or prior classwork.

7: Help students build explanations by asking and answering deep questions – strong level of evidence

deep endThe evidence base includes over a dozen experimental studies each, in both school and college settings, plus a large number of laboratory experiments.

Shallow knowledge is concerned with basic facts or skills, whereas deep knowledge is when learners are able argue with reason and logic, explore relationships between facts or concepts or answer “why?”

Interventions that specifically train students how to ask deep level questions while studying new material, e.g. classroom discussion, provision of exemplar materials and modelling how to ask and answer questions, have been shown to improve the rate and depth of student questions, as well as their comprehension of the material.

Teaching strategies:

  • Identify and prepare deep level questions that require deep level responses.
  • Ask questions that challenge students’ prior beliefs and assumptions.
  • Model the process of asking and answering deep questions.
  • Model and encourage students to “think aloud”.
  • Encourage students to respond to explanations by their peers.
  • Allow plenty of time to answer deep level questions.

The IES Practice Guide: Organizing Instruction and Study to Improve Student Learning by Pashler et al (2007) is available here.

 

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10 Research Based Principles of Instruction for Teachers

I recently read an American Educator article from 2012 by Barak Rosenshine that set out 10 principles of instruction informed by research, with subsequent suggestions for implementing them in the classroom. It was also one of the articles cited in the “What makes great teaching? Review of the underpinning research” by Rob Coe et al and provided further elaboration on one of their six components of great teaching thought to have strong evidence of impact on student outcomes, i.e. quality of instruction.

Here’s my summary of the key messages from each of the 10 principles.

1: Begin with a short review of prior learning

Time-for-Review

Students in experimental classes where daily review was used had higher achievement scores. A 5-8 minute review of prior learning was said to strengthen connections between material learned and improve recall so that it became effortless and automatic, thus freeing up working memory.

Daily review could include, for example:

  • Homework
  • Previous material
  • Key vocabulary
  • Problems where there were errors
  • Further practise of knowledge, concepts and skills

2: Present new material in small amounts or steps

problem-solving-steps

Working memory is small and can only cope with small chunks at a time. Too much information presented at once overloads it and can confuse students, who won’t be able to process it. Sufficient time needs to be allocated to processes that will allow students to work with confidence independently. More effective teachers in the study dealt with the limitation of working memory by presenting only small amounts of new material at a time.

3: Ask a large number of questions and check the responses of all students

lots-questions

Questions allow students to practise new material and connect new material to prior learning. They also help teachers to determine how well material has been learned and whether additional teaching is required. The most effective teachers asked students to explain the process they used and how they answered the question, as well as answering the question posed.

Strategies suggested for checking the responses of all students included asking students to:

  • Tell their answers to a partner
  • Write a short summary and share it with a partner
  • Write their answers on a mini-white board or similar, followed by “show me”
  • Raise their hands if they know the answer or agree with someone else

4: Provide models

chemical modelStudents require cognitive support to reduce the cognitive load on their working memory and help them to solve problems faster. Examples include:

  • Providing clearly laid out, step-by-step worked examples
  • Identifying and explaining the underlying principles of each step
  • Modelling the use of prompts
  • Working together with students on tasks
  • Providing partially completed problems

5: Guide student practice

guidanceNew material will quickly be forgotten without sufficient rehearsal. Rehearsal helps students to access information quickly and easily when required. Additional time needs to be spent by students summarising, rephrasing or elaborating on new material so that it can become:

  • Stored in long-term memory
  • Easily retrieved
  • Used for new learning and problem solving

The quality of storage relies on:

  • Student engagement with the material
  • Providing feedback to the students to correct errors and ensure misconceptions aren’t stored

The rehearsal process can be facilitated and enhanced by:

  • Questioning students
  • Asking students to summarise the main points
  • Supervising students during practice

In one study, the more successful teachers spent more time guiding practice, for example by working through initial problems at the board whilst explaining the reasons for each step or asking students to work out problems at the board and discuss their procedures. This also served as a way of providing multiple models for students to allow them to be better prepared for independent work.

6: Check for student understanding

thinking aloud

More effective teachers frequently checked for understanding. Checking for understanding identifies whether students are developing misconceptions as well as providing some of the processing required to move new learning into long-term memory.

The purpose of checking is twofold:

  1. Answering questions might cause students to elaborate and strengthen connections to prior learning in their long term-memory
  2. The answers provided by students alert the teacher to parts of the material that may need reteaching

A number of strategies can be used to check for understanding, e.g:

  • Questioning
  • Asking students to think aloud as they work
  • Asking students to defend a position to others

7: Obtain a high success rate

80percentWhen students learn new material, they construct meaning in their long-term memory. Errors can be made though, as they attempt to be logical in areas where their background knowledge may still be weak. It was suggested that the optimal success rate for fostering student achievement is approximately 80%. Furthermore, it was said that achieving a success rate of 80% showed that students were learning the material, whilst being suitably challenged. High success rates during guided practice led to higher success rates during independent work. If practice did not have a high success rate, there was a chance that errors were being practised and learned, which then become difficult to overcome. The development of misconceptions can be limited by breaking material down into small steps, providing guided practice and checking for understanding.

8: Provide scaffolds for difficult tasks

Building site scaffoldingScaffolds are temporary supports that help students to learn difficult tasks, which are gradually withdrawn with increasing competence. The use of scaffolds and models, aided by a master, helps students to serve their “cognitive apprenticeship” and learn strategies that allow them to become independent.

Scaffolds include:

  • Thinking aloud by the teacher to reveal the thought processes of an expert and provide mental labels during problem solving
  • Providing poor examples to correct, as well as expert models
  • Tools such as cue cards or checklists
  • Prompts such as “Who?” “Why?” and “How? that enable students to ask questions as they work
  • Box prompts to categorise and elaborate on the main ideas
  • A model of the completed task for students to compare their own work to

9: Require and monitor independent practice

practiceIndependent practice follows guided practice and involves students working alone and practising new material. Sufficient practice is necessary for students to become fluent and automatic. This avoids overcrowding working memory, and enables more attention to be devoted to comprehension and application.

Independent practice should involve the same material as guided practice, or with only slight variation. The research showed that optimal teacher-student contact time during supervision was 30 seconds or less, with longer explanations being required an indication that students were practising errors.

10: Engage students in weekly and monthly review

calendar reviewAs students rehearse and review information, connections between ideas in long-term memory are strengthened. The more information is reviewed, the stronger these connections become. This also makes it easier to learn new information, as prior knowledge becomes more readily available for use. It also frees up space in working memory, as knowledge is organised into larger, better-connected patterns.

Practical suggestions for implementation include:

  • Review the previous week’s work at the beginning of the following week
  • Review the previous month’s work at the beginning of every fourth week
  • Test following a review
  • Weekly quizzes

The full report by Barak Rosenshine: Principles of Instruction – Research based strategies that all teachers should know is available here.

Building an Excellence & Growth Culture

I was delighted when Shaun Allison asked me to write a case study about our work in school to be included in a new book he is writing with Andy Tharby. Shaun’s Class Teaching blog was the original inspiration for the Belmont Teach blog and Andy’s thoughtful and insightful blog posts have been must-reads since we both started blogging around the same time over a year ago. Our similar philosophies led to Shaun, myself and a few other edu-bloggers setting up the Excellence and Growth Schools’ Network last year as well as sharing ideas on a range of concepts – most significantly perhaps around curriculum design and assessment. Since meeting at the Growing Mindsets convention last year, Shaun and I are like old pals now and can be relied on to clog up each other’s timelines with recipes, pictures of single malt and the lyrics of indie bands circa 1989! Here’s my contribution to the book, although the final edit could look a lot different once Andy has put it under an English teacher’s microscope……………………….

Key influences

Much of our recent work in school has been strongly influenced by Chief Program Officer for Expeditionary Learning, Ron Berger’s publications “An Ethic of Excellence” and “Leaders of Their Own Learning” as well as Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, Dr Carol S Dweck’s books “Self Theories” and “Mindset”. Untitled drawing (1) All of our staff – teaching staff, support staff and governors – have been given wide access and exposure to this work in school. We have multiple copies of these books in our Teaching and Learning Library, which top our loan statistics by some margin. All of our Learning Hub Leaders have a personal copy, as well as those who had elected to read them in their Edu-Book Club as part of their Personal Professional Development programme. This is supported by a compendium of blogs and videos we have compiled and continue to update on excellence and mindset.

Learning Hubs

To further ensure we develop an Ethic of Excellence and Growth Mindset amongst our learning community, all members of our teaching staff work in a choice of one of five Learning Hubs as part of their Personal Professional Development programme.

Learning Hubs logo 2014

Our Learning Hubs operate along the lines of Dylan Wiliam’s “TLCs: Teacher Learning Communities” model, with each hub, comprising approximately 8-12 staff meeting for 2 hours once every Half Term, with the following aims: Challenge

  • To embed a culture of ‘growth mindset’ across our learning community in order to raise aspirations and expectations of what students can achieve.
  • To ensure high levels of challenge for all students in every lesson, every day.

e-Learning

  • To use e-Learning to embed a culture of ‘growth mindset’ by empowering students, staff and parents to become engaged, confident, independent, resilient, information-literate users of e-Learning.
  • To develop personalised e-Learning resources for staff (teaching/pedagogy), students (learning) and parents (to support learning process as active participants).

Feedback and Critique

  • To consider the nature, timing and engagement of our students with feedback and critique.
  • To develop feedback and critique systems that ensure increased clarity, effort and aspiration amongst our students, supporting a culture of ‘growth mindset’.

Literacy

  • To consider how the language of subject specialisms can be explicitly taught by all teachers and supported by parents through a range of strategies.
  • To develop students’ chances of academic success by insisting that academic language is used in the classroom, and at home when talking to parents about school work.

Questioning

  • To develop deep and probing questioning for teaching/memory that elicits students to think hard supporting a culture of ‘growth mindset’ and questioning for assessment that informs teaching, e.g. hinge questions, multiple choice quizzing etc.

Mindset across the curriculum

Our Mindset work forms not only part of our pastoral programme, but is also supported by subject areas in lessons around five key themes:

  • Motivation & Inspiration
  • Aspiration
  • Resilience
  • Self esteem
  • Mindset

All students complete a learning journal during tutor time as part of this work.

A golden opportunity

The abolition of levels at Key Stage 3 provided us with an ideal opportunity to create not just a new assessment system, but an entire curriculum based on the principles of Excellence and Growth. Central to this was the idea that everyone is capable of excellence. gold The curriculum we have created is a curriculum we value. A curriculum designed to focus on fewer things in greater depth, rather than being “inch deep and mile wide”. To achieve this we have invested in regular blocks of time for our staff so that they can work together in teams to design subject specific curriculum and assessment.

Key components

Each subject started by establishing their organising concepts, or “big ideas”, which required a review of the entire National Curriculum from Key Stages 1 to 4. Knowing the prior learning of our students enabled us to accelerate from it and ensure high challenge from the outset. It also allowed us to introduce GCSE knowledge and skills in year 7 and go “beyond” the typical confines for the year or Key Stage. We’ve also been very careful to pay attention to what cognitive science tells us about learning and memory, embracing the work of UCLA Psychologist Professor Robert Bjork. As a consequence organising concepts are spaced and interleaved in order to try and build greater storage and retrieval strength. In doing this, we hope to be able to challenge our students further, by increasing their knowledge base and recall to free up working memory to allow them to think hard about, and assimilate new information. Assessment is then focused on mastery of fundamental concepts, ideas, knowledge and skills by designing rubrics containing learning targets for each unit ranging from “establishing” at a basic understanding through to the highest thresholds of “excellence” and “beyond”. As part of our commitment to excellence and growth, we believe that futures aren’t fixed and that all students have the potential for excellence and can improve by:

  • working hard and putting in their very best effort
  • acting on feedback from their teachers
  • becoming leaders of their own learning

As part of this commitment, all students are given access and the opportunity to demonstrate their learning right up to the “beyond” threshold. As well as specifying information about lesson resources, homework and assessment opportunities, each unit also contains a link to previous interleaved sequences, as well as deep and probing questions, which are designed in advance to encourage students to think hard about new information. As Professor of Psychology Daniel Willingham says: “memory is the residue of thought” or as Durham University Professor Robert Coe puts it: “learning happens when people have to think hard.”

Assessment, Recording and Reporting

In a similar fashion, our Assessment, Recording and Reporting of student progress has been revised to incorporate our philosophy of excellence and growth. MidYIS testing on entry is used to identify any potential that may have been missed previously. Progress is reported relative to starting points in simple terms as “excellent”, “good” or “not yet” – incorporating the language of growth. The bar is set high, so that meeting your baseline threshold represents good progress from the starting point in each unit. In a similar way, our revised descriptors for effort encourage excellence and growth. For effort to be classed as excellent, for example, a student must:

  • Consistently strive for excellence
  • Take ownership of their own learning
  • Be highly organised and self disciplined
  • Show initiative and responsibility
  • Show real determination in pursuit of goals
  • Demonstrate resilience when things get hard
  • Continuously seek, reflect and act on all feedback
  • Actively participate and contribute for the benefit of all

This year, in our efforts to help our students become leaders of their own learning, we have replaced our traditional annual report with a series of student led conferences in each subject area, which give students an opportunity to share their work and talk about their progress with parents and teachers by reflecting on and articulating what they have learned.

R.E.A.L. projects and realsmart

Recently, we’ve been working with realsmart to try to support this process even further by giving our students the opportunity to submit evidence of meeting learning targets to their cloud based learning portfolios. Any evidence submitted can then be used as a starting point to discuss progress at their student led conferences. We’ve also started working with Cara Littlefield, a Project Based Learning coach from High Tech High in San Diego through the Innovation Unit to develop R.E.A.L. Projects whose three key principles support our philosophy of excellence and growth, i.e:

  1. All students are capable of excellence regardless of prior attainment, needs or background
  2. Student work should matter
  3. Schools and classrooms are communities of learners

Through this work our staff and students are being trained to build a culture of peer feedback, critique and multiple drafting through the use of models of excellence. These skills are further developed during our whole school Project Week in the Summer Term, which involves public exhibition of high quality student work. Our Ethic of Excellence gallery, which sits in the heart of our school also complements this by displaying beautiful student work nominated by individual subjects. IMG_0031 IMG_0033 IMG_0034

Twitter: powerful professional development

Slide1

I’ve had a personal Twitter account for a while now and used it mainly as a means of getting my daily dose of information on sports, news, bike stuff, politics and updates from the various hostelries and coffee shops I frequent when in the Lake District.

In October last year I made an “(In)decent proposal” to our staff that used a book as a hook and composed my first ever tweet in a professional capacity to Ross Morrison-McGill aka @TeacherToolkit using the @BelmontTeach account I’d set up for work purposes.

Tweet1

Tweet2

I was pleasantly surprised to receive not just a response, but also encouragement for what we were trying to achieve in school, retweets and even an #FF later!  With almost 50000 followers (100x more than me!) I can’t even begin to imagine how many notifications he must get every day – so thanks Ross – it was all the incentive I needed!

Fast forward….

Less than 6 months later I’m sat here writing the 21st post for a blog that is fast approaching 10000 views.  Three of them have views in the thousands with lots more in the hundreds.  Reading through all the comments and replies we have had about them other people seem to quite like them too!  I’m still struggling to get my head round just how far and wide our blog has travelled, with views from all over the world, including the United States, Canada, South America, Australia, New Zealand, the Russian Federation, Africa, Asia, the Far East and most of Europe.  Not only that, but we now have a growing army of “homegrown” bloggers whose blogs have been enjoyed by many too.

Much of this we owe to that little blue bird named Twitter.

From these first tentative dipping of toes into the waters of the Twittersphere we’ve gone from trying many of the great ideas that have been shared, to sharing a fair few of our own – some of which have graced T+L noticeboards or similar in other schools.

We’ve gone from reading books that have been recommended by fellow tweeters to interacting with their authors as well as setting up our own T+L library.

We’ve gone from tweeting with colleagues in other schools to visiting them in their schools to see great practice first hand and then using this to inform our own practice in school.

We’ve participated in online TeachTweets that have encouraged and inspired us to try new ideas and start our own TeachMeets as well present at other schools across the North East.

We’ve participated in webinars with a range of educationists, attended National conferences at their schools and forged closer links with our local university to engage with educational research.

Thanks to colleagues on Twitter, we have been encouraged, supported and hopefully, been able to give a little back to others too.

The ripple effect….

True to “The 10 Stages of Twitter” shared by @syded06 many of our staff have been demonstrating clear stage 8 behaviour lately by waxing lyrical and spreading the word about Twitter to other colleagues in school.

Following feedback from our staff recently it became clear that those not currently signed up to Twitter wanted to hear more about it, so we decided to kick off Magic Monday 3 with a session on “Twitter: powerful professional development”.  Not one to look gift horses in the mouth and with a chance to tick stage 10 off the list I decided to ask my PLN for help.  As you can see, I didn’t have to wait very long…

Slide2

First up, I used @MrOCallaghanEdu’s blog “The network is more powerful than the node” to introduce the concept of Twitter.

Slide3

I then compared traditional CPD with using Twitter for CPD using @TeamTait’s blog “To tweet or not to tweet”

Slide4

To illustrate this further, I looked back through the last 7 days of my timeline and shared “my week on Twitter”, which was a fairly typical one during which I…

  • shared a wide range of resources, blogs, articles and links with a wide range of colleagues in our school, as well as from other schools.
  • had various conversations with a range of colleagues in our school, in other schools and from other organisations
  • obtained some bargain reading material (to add to the paper copy we already have in our T+L library)

Slide5

…although the icing on the cake had to be this offer from Mr “Teach Like a Champion” Doug Lemov (I’ll hold you to that when you are in England this year Doug!)

Beer with Doug!

We then took a look “live” at my timeline to show how, by careful tailoring and following, you could be accessing a constant stream of useful material (without the beans!).  I also had this example ready to share below.

Slide6

I then returned to @MrOCallaghanEdu’s blog to share his advice on getting started and how simple it is to create an account….

Slide7

…before going on to show how to build and tailor your PLN by choosing who to follow using a Mashable resource shared by @blamehound in a fantastic storify she had put together.

Slide8

A good starting point is to find out who else tweets for professional purposes in your own school if you’re not already aware, as it can be a quick and easy way of sharing resources, ideas and good practice in school.  We’ve got quite a few as you can see – all well worth a follow if you don’t already!

Slide9

@TweetingAcademy have also created lists of tweeters by subject for those looking for ideas in specific subjects or categories which is really useful.

Slide10

#FF Follow Friday’s are another good source of inspiration, where tweeters will recommend other tweeters to follow.  This usually happens on a Friday, as the name suggests, however, I’ve seen #FF recommendations being tweeted out on a Saturday (for the stragglers or forgetful) or late on Thursday evening (for the keen ones who like to get in first!)

Slide11

To finish with, I offered a final bit of guidance for those considering signing up as to some of the key terms and actions they can perform and what they mean, as well as a link to an alphabetical list of hashtags created by @TeachingTricks

Slide12

Thanks

A huge thanks to John Tait, Nicola Fitzpatrick, Mr O’Callaghan, Mark Anderson and The Tweeting Academy for helping me to create this presentation for our staff by sharing resources and links with me.  A great example of what Twitter is all about.

It goes without saying that should you wish to use or adapt any of my slides for your own purposes, feel free to do so.  Please make sure you credit any of the other tweeters whose resources I’ve used appropriately though, observing any conditions of sharing where they exist.

Welcoming the hurricane

Slide1At the beginning of this academic year, I made an “(in)decent proposal” to our staff, which led to us creating a shared vision together.

This week – as part of our Magic Monday 2 – I shared our progress in turning this vision into a reality, some of the reasons it was so important we achieve this, as well as looking at what more we might look to achieve in the coming months.

To begin with I returned to one of the key questions I had asked us to think about right at the start, which was:

“Why might a school want to focus on developing teaching and learning?”

The response, which you can see below, won’t come as any big surprise to anyone and is also supported by the research summarised by Dylan Wiliam during his Keynote presentations at the 2012 SSAT National Conference and the 2013 Wellington College of Education Festival (slides available from our resources page here)

slide2

In short:

  • Choice of school is not as important as the classrooms you are in
  • Improved teacher quality = Improved student achievement
  • Students learn more in a shorter space of time with the best teachers
  • Students from disadvantaged backgrounds learn at the same rate with the best teachers

Becoming an “expert”

I then shared the steps my football-mad son goes through when trying to perfect the free-kicks he takes for his club on a Saturday morning (with thanks to Shaun Allison for the inspiration for this example)

Slide3

…and the fact that if he is to ever stand a chance of taking them professionally for his beloved Sunderland AFC then he will need to have engaged in deliberate practice for up to 10,000 hours, which could equate to up to 10 years.  In other words up to 10 years to become 10/10.

Why is this important?

Research has also shown that as teachers our performance and its impact on learning increases rapidly in our first few years of teaching, after which it tends to slow down and stop once we have mastered the basics.

Slide4

When we first start teaching we need to get better quickly in order to survive in the challenging environment that is the classroom.  We achieve this by constantly trialling new ideas, seeking feedback on their success or failure, reflecting ourselves on what worked or didn’t and why before making slight adjustments and trying again.  In other words, we engage in deliberate practice.

Slide5

With expert status requiring us to work in this way for up to 10 years, most of us will still have some way to go on our journey to becoming “10 in 10”.

 Love the one you’re with

During our initial meeting at the beginning of the year we heard how many of us were already engaged in acts of deliberate practice in the form of:

  • Trying out new teaching methods and resources
  • Reading educational books
  • Attending Teach Meets
  • Engaging with fellow teachers and educators, including via Twitter
  • Blogging

Slide6

We realised that the potential within our own school to support all of us to become expert was great – we just needed to get better at working together to achieve this.

Vision to reality

In order to support this process we identified a number of initial aims that form part of a long term commitment to developing our pedagogy as follows:

Slide7

Where are we now?

  • Our first Magic Monday before Christmas (which you can read all about here) was a runaway success and the feedback was glowing in its praise of our colleagues, the ideas and resources they shared as well as the positive, supportive atmosphere.
  • Our “Belmont Teach: directory of excellence” is now well established and growing by the day, with over 3000+ views since its creation in November, as well as being recognised by other schools and teachers who have made links to it or its specific contents as examples of good practice.
  • More staff than ever have attended or have signed up to attend external Teach Meets in their own time after school.
  • A few are now sharing their ideas to a wider audience by presenting at Teach Meets in other schools, with a few more ‘in the pipeline’.
  • Nearly half of our teaching staff are travelling down to Leeds to attend the Northern Rocks 2014 education conference this year (…on a Saturday!)
  • Over half are using Twitter in a professional capacity to develop a Personal Learning Network.
  • More are reading about, talking about and implementing ideas from educational books they are reading
  • Over 10% are now blogging their ideas, thoughts, reflections or just what’s happening via their personal or departmental blogs.
  • More are talking to, working with and supporting each other to try new ideas or develop their practice – including with colleagues in other schools.

Slide8

How does it all fit together?

By being more ‘outward facing’ and reflecting upon and developing our own practice more, we’ve seen no shortage of staff wanting to share ideas they are using in their classrooms with other staff on Magic Mondays.  Presentations and Workshops for Magic Monday 3 in March have been decided already and preparations will soon commence for the final two this academic year.

This in turn has fuelled and will continue to fuel the growth of our “Belmont Teach: directory of excellence”.  As well as being a ‘one-stop-shop’ this is also starting to become a stimulus for collaborative working, which we hope to develop further to include Joint Practice Development in classrooms.

Slide9

My final thoughts were inspired by the writing of one of our recommended bloggers Alex Quigley – who has written extensively on Teacher Improvement and Coaching – with thanks.

Welcoming the hurricane

According to the work of Edward Lorenz a very small change at one end of a system can cause significant changes to occur at the other end.  This was later popularised as the theoretical example of a hurricane’s formation being dependent on whether or not a distant butterfly had flapped its wings several weeks earlier.  The flapping wing represents a small change in the initial condition of the system which causes a chain of events that culminates in the large scale alteration of events.

Slide10

As more and more of us continue to make these small, deliberate changes to our practice, the closer we get to our goal of becoming “10 in 10” and the more we look forward to welcoming the hurricane!

hurricane

One final thought courtesy of Bruce Lee…

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Better learning intentions

sailing-ship-sunset

“Imagine oneself on a ship sailing across an unknown sea, to an unknown destination……very quickly, the daily life on board ship becomes all important…..the daily chores, the demands, the inspections become the reality, not the voyage, nor the destination.”

(Mary Alice White’s view from the students’ desk from Dylan Wiliam’s: Embedded Formative Assessment)

Why focus on learning intentions?

A ‘no-brainer’ right?  Learning intentions when used well help both us and our students to see the destination and chart the voyage.  Great learning intentions can provide challenge, foster grit and determination, develop higher order thinking through good modelling and scaffolding and encourage us all to aim for excellence.

under the microscope

But how many of us have really put our learning intentions under the microscope lately to analyse their quality and effectiveness?  How much of our time and effort is spent framing them or developing success criteria that promotes opportunities for all students to achieve excellence?  As Wiliam says:

“this is why good teaching is so extraordinarily difficult….it is hard…..because it has to be designed backwards”

A brief history of learning intentions according to……me

I started teaching in 1995 nearly 20 years ago.  I have thought long and hard about this and can still remember vividly the first time I began sharing learning objectives.  In 2002 the Government launched the Key Stage 3 National Strategy for Science.  At the time I was Head of KS3 Science which inevitably resulted in my working with our Local Authority Consultant as part of this initiative.  It was she who first pointed out to me that our department should really be sharing objectives with our students.  There wasn’t any great discussion about the reasons as I recall – simply that our lessons would be better if we shared them.  So off we all went “bolting-on” objectives to our existing lessons – job done!

It wasn’t until not long after this, as a Head of Department, when working with another LA Consultant on “AfL unit 3 – Developing objective led lessons” that the penny began to finally drop and I began thinking more carefully about objectives, using them to plan lessons and series of lessons rather than creating them post-script.  Through this publication I was introduced to the work of Bloom and his taxonomy of learning and it was around this time that I first read Black and Wiliam’s groundbreaking work on formative assessment “Inside the Black Box” and subsequent publications by the King’s College London Assessment Reform Group.

From there, through my subsequent involvement with the National 8 Schools AfL project in 2005/6 via a brief stint as an LA consultant myself, I got a lot more opportunity to reflect on their importance and their use became central to my teaching.  By this time I had been teaching for 10 years.  Was I late to the party or had it yet to really start?

late to the party

Since then the way I’ve chosen to frame my learning intentions have seen more changes than Lady Gaga’s wardrobe and it has been interesting to look back as far as 2005, thanks to various memory sticks I have miraculously managed not to lose.  Unfortunately I can find no physical record of any I wrote prior to this on that revolutionary piece of kit that replaced the chalkboard – the rolling whiteboard!

Here are a few of my own examples from the last 9 years to give you a flavour of what I mean:

Reactivity of metals_lesson obs 2008 WALT 2007 WALT WILF 2007 learning intentions grid simpsons learning intentions SOLO learning intentions 2 SOLO learning intentions 1 WAGOLL1b WAGOLL 2

Opportunity knocks

This year, in order to further develop teaching & learning across our school we have chosen to focus our efforts on two areas:

1)      Better learning intentions

2)      Better feedback & response

The two main reasons for this were:

1)      Our evaluation of teaching and learning during the Summer Term identified both of these key features of better assessment as pivotal differences between ‘the best’ teaching & learning and ‘the rest’.

2)      Their known high influence on the achievement of students.

It also presented us with a great opportunity to look again at why learning intentions are important and how we can make them even better.  A simple act of deliberate practice for us all.

opportunity knocks

Where to start?

We began the year by developing a shared understanding of what we meant by objectives, outcomes and success criteria.  We did this by collecting and sharing exemplar learning intentions from different departments via an e-portfolio before following this up with discussions in departments during the course of the Autumn Term.  Towards the end of term departments shared their best examples of learning intentions and success criteria for inclusion in our e-portfolio.

What did this tell us?

  • That the routine sharing of quality learning intentions is becoming more consistent, especially the use of the terms objective, outcomes, success criteria & WAGOLL (What A Good One Looks Like)
  • That there is still some variation between the ‘best’ and the ‘rest’ in terms of

–          length and complexity

–          descriptions of tasks rather than learning as a result of them

–          degree of challenge

–          sharing of quality success criteria / WAGOLL

So what now?

For us it’s time to get out the microscope and to begin to examine in detail ‘what makes learning intentions tick’ in order to analyse how we can make ours even better.

watch ticks

Important features of learning intentions

In his book “Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning” John Hattie identifies a number of important features of learning intentions from his extensive analysis of the research, i.e they should be:

  • Clear to students
  • Lead to a shared understanding of learning goals
  • Transparent – show how tasks relate to learning intentions
  • Inclusive of all students
  • Appropriately Challenging
  • Referred to – to help students chart their “journey”
  • Build in mechanisms for knowing that learning has been achieved

The 5 essential components

Hattie goes on to outline five essential components related to learning intentions and success criteria as follows:

  • Challenge

Related to prior knowledge and learning

Relative to a student’s current performance and understanding

Not unattainable – students must be able to see a pathway to challenging goals

Create positive tension –error is welcomed and encouraged

  • Commitment

Greater commitment from students = greater performance

More powerful when related to challenging tasks

  • Confidence

Supported by scaffolding along the learning journey

Helps build resilience amongst students to tackle challenging goals

  • High expectations

Support the development of students having high, appropriately challenging expectations of themselves

The most powerful influence on enhancing achievement (d=1.44)

  • Conceptual understanding

Move understanding from the surface level to deep and conceptual levels

The importance of language

As Dylan Wiliam points out, there is no shortage of advice for teachers on how to construct learning intentions and success criteria, although he does go on to encourage us to think about our use of language when framing them.  Using student-friendly language might help to engage students initially, however at some point students will still have to become familiar with key terms, phrases and language that define our subject disciplines.  “A sense of audience” can be simplified and broken down initially, however we still want our students to know what is meant by the term.

The role of context

Shirley Clarke advocates separating the learning intention from the context in order to achieve a greater “degree of transfer” of learning to other areas.  Too much detail can be seen as counterproductive – the clearer you are about what you want, the more likely you are to get it, but the less likely it is to mean anything!

She uses this example based on banana production:

“To understand the impact of banana production on banana producers”

-can assess the students on what they know.

“To understand the impact of production on producers in the developing world” (using banana production as the context for learning)

-allows us to assess students on their ability to transfer their learning to e.g. sugar production.

Further exemplification of this from Clarke can be found below.

Confused_clarified_context

Making the non-observable → observable

Bloom’s taxonomy will be familiar to many of us who have used it when planning our lessons.  Of his 3 domains of learning, it is the cognitive domain we usually use when framing our learning intentions.

As you will have seen from the examples I shared above, in the past I have used (and advocated the use of) Bloom’s taxonomy, however, I was interested to discover recently that the taxonomy was developed initially from a proposal by a committee of college examiners who collated curriculum objectives from their own institutions and sorted them, rather than being based on research of student learning.

Bloom & Krathwohl’s original work identified a number of cognitive levels we function at, from the most basic “knowledge” to the more sophisticated “evaluation”.

Bloom & Revised Bloom

In 2001, the taxonomy was revised and the nouns replaced with verbs, such as “remember”…”understand“…etc. and at first glance the sophistication appears to have been switched at the higher levels of cognitive function, with “evaluation” and “synthesis” changing order.

Despite often being represented as a pyramid or a set of increasing steps, it is possible for students to operate at a number of levels at the same time.  It might therefore be better to model the taxonomy as follows:

Modelling Blooms

The empirical evidence for the switch seems to be a mystery, although research has since shown that students remember more when they have learned to handle a topic at the higher levels of the taxonomy.

Returning to Hattie’s important features that learning intentions should be clear, transparent and provide us with a way of ascertaining whether learning has been achieved, how easy is it to observe whether a student “understands”?  More helpful verbs are needed to help students understand how to demonstrate their mastery at a particular level and to make the “non-observable → “observable”.  We usually frame learning intentions using these “observable verbs”.

Making non observable observable

One of the criticisms of Bloom’s however, is very evident in the table above – where you can see how the same verb can be used across multiple cognitive dimensions.  “Identify” highlighted in yellow is a good example of this.  Furthermore, when searching for the taxonomy you will find variations in the way each of the verbs are used, which can be off-putting for teachers and confusing for students.

Hattie also highlights the importance of getting the balance right between surface, deep and conceptual learning – either in the short term or across a series of lessons.  He advocates the SOLO taxonomy as a powerful model for understanding these three levels, which I started using myself last year.  Unlike Bloom’s SOLO is a theory of teaching and learning based on research of how students learn, rather than a theory of knowledge.  Many of us are already familiar with the SOLO (Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes) levels devised by Biggs & Collis to describe increasingly complex levels of thinking that can be observed.  If you aren’t already familiar with the SOLO taxonomy, our Head of Science Julie Ryder has written a great ‘Introduction to SOLO’ which is accessible here and has also blogged about her personal learning journey with SOLO available here.

SOLO levels

Through constructive alignment, a deliberate alliance is then made between the learning activities we plan and the learning outcomes we expect.  Constructive alignment is a conscious effort to provide students with clearly specified goals, well designed and appropriate learning activities and well designed assessment criteria to enable quality feedback.

It helps us to:

  • “Unpack” a particular objective
  • Align learning goals, activities and assessment criteria
  • Scaffold learning intentions & success criteria
  • Ensure that outcomes match objectives

constructive alignment 1

Put simply, constructive alignment requires our perceptions of assessment to match with those of our students.  Again, you can see below how verb use is central to this process.

constructive alignment 2

Here is an example of how verbs are used in the SOLO taxonomy to support constructive alignment.  Notice that unlike Bloom’s, there is consistent verb use at each cognitive level.

SOLO taxonomy & constructive alignment

The case for routine sharing of success criteria

Success criteria are crucial in helping to develop a shared understanding of what “excellence” looks like.  They enable us and our students to hold a shared concept of quality as well as enabling continuous ‘quality control’ of ‘products’ during production.

Ensuring that all students know what quality work looks like has a profound impact on achievement gaps.  Wiliam outlines the research of White & Frederiksen in illustrating the power of students understanding what they are meant to be doing as follows.

success criteria research

Here the reflective assessment group were introduced to the 9 assessment criteria that would be used to evaluate their work.  Students were asked to assess their own performance against the criteria as part of an ongoing process.  Peers also gave feedback using the criteria.

The control group on the other hand discussed their likes and dislikes of the topic they were studying once per week.   Both groups had similar prior achievement in literacy and numeracy.  Both groups studied the same science modules.

As you can see, the gains for the group exposed to success criteria are obvious.  Notice the benefits for lower achievers are even greater.

Developing quality success criteria

Developing quality success criteria means challenging students to develop quality rather than just completing tasks.

The two examples from Hattie below illustrate this difference well.

Hattie success criteria example

When thinking and subsequently writing about this I kept finding myself drawing comparisons to fellow blogger Andy Tharby’s ‘sentence escalator’ idea.  To paraphrase him “great success criteria are never finished”.  The more we focus on ‘escalating’ the success criteria, the closer we get to achieving excellence.

Choice of rubric

A rubric is basically an assessment tool that contains the assessment or marking criteria.

Task-specific rubrics include all the criteria for a particular task (like the example from Hattie shared previously) whereas generic rubrics contain non-specific guidance.  When we use task-specific rubrics with students one of the advantages is that they know exactly what to include, however, in doing so we could limit the transferability of learning to new areas referred to earlier.  For this reason task-specific rubrics work well for summative assessment.  The fact that a new rubric has to be constructed for each task also supports the case for the use of generic rubrics on a day to day basis.

SOLO rubrics

Unlike Bloom’s, SOLO verbs can be used to ask a question at one level of cognitive complexity while at the same time providing an opportunity for students to demonstrate their learning at multiple levels of the taxonomy.  For me it helps to think about SOLO verbs being able to be used in 3D as opposed to Bloom’s 2D use.

In SOLO Taxonomy: A Guide for Schools – Planning for differentiation, Hook & Mills show how SOLO assessment rubrics can be used to achieve this.  In the case shown below, you can see how when asked to “describe” – a verb used at the multistructural SOLO level – students can still demonstrate their learning at all levels of the SOLO taxonomy.

SOLO rubric

Co-construction

Co-construction is simply the process of ‘building together’.  By developing success criteria with students we increase the likelihood of them taking ownership of the criteria and applying them in the context of their own work.  By allowing students to help create rubrics, we help them to construct understanding for themselves.

Beyond rubrics – models of excellence

As it has done for countless others, the work of Ron Berger has transformed the way I think about and approach my own work, first and foremost as a teacher, but also as a school leader.  In his book “An Ethic of Excellence” Berger outlines “work of excellence” and argues that lists and rubrics are important, but aren’t enough in their own right, as they don’t leave a picture…a vision…an inspiration.  He urges us to admire models, to find inspiration in them and to figure out together what makes the work strong.  Rather than viewing this as simply copying what already exists, Berger refers to this as “tribute work” – borrowing from the best and building on it.  In doing so we create a vision of the goal measured against the best.

The use of student work has been shown to be a powerful mechanism for securing engagement with the success criteria and supporting student understanding of them.  Rather than talking in the abstract about what might make a piece of work good Berger encourages us to critique real examples.  Students tend to be better at spotting weakness in work produced by others and this could be as simple as asking students to rank and rate examples of work produced previously by other students in terms of quality, giving reasons for their choices.

In his book, Wiliam also shares a good example of how an MFL teacher supports her students to understand what a good French accent sounds like.  The teacher organised students into groups, in which each member of the group read the same passage of French aloud after which the group decided which member had the best accent.  The best French accent from each group was then heard followed by a teacher-led, whole class discussion to decide the strengths and weaknesses of each accent.

But why stop there?  As Berger points out, why not critique the work of real writers, scientists, artists…etc?

One final thought…

What better way to support the development of a culture of excellence within our own school than to “begin at the beginning” by focussing ourselves not just on producing “better learning intentions”…but producing learning intentions that are truly “excellent”.

Dan