Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Research for Learning (RfL) - Part 2

This was the CPD course that I won at #TMLondonBus and was of great excitement for me as its the kind of course I would never normally get the opportunity to attend. Due to 'rarely cover', the majority of CPD courses at my school can only be exam board courses. However as this prize was non-transferable, I got to go!

Read Part 1 first <here>

3) Collaborative Learning
Collaborative or cooperative learning features in both Hattie and the EEF's research. I've always found this has mixed results, and keeping all students working and on task can be hard... there are often dominant individuals and those that see it as a way of escaping doing work!

We looked at some strategies that I have already tried (and re-tried since) in my class. Allocating different tasks, separating information and so on can all work, but need careful planning. For me, it has to have a better outcome than working individually, or be looking at developing specific skills. Too often it doesn't. 

My Y7 class have recently been working in groups on a wiki (see <here>) and so were all 'experts' in one religion. They then wrote 5 questions and answers based on their area of expertise, which they all had to memorise. Students then went around the classroom with a 25 question and answer sheet and needed to get it filled in. This resulted in them working collaboratively to gain some information about the religions that they hadn't studied. It was just simple, factual knowledge, however for those sharing their area of expertise it reinforced their own learning and helped them grow in confidence to talk about what they had been learning.

4) Peer Tutoring
Again something I've had mixed results with in the past. We used different sections of the room, breaking down questions, teaching one another and moving around the room. For me, the clear thing here was actually the ability of the teacher to break down the questions clearly and in a graduated way.

I often use 'experts' in my classrooms (particularly with Y7), which is something I got criticised for from OFSTED (see <here>). It has made me realise that I need to perhaps think a little more carefully and critically about how I use them to have greater impact. I also should try it with older students, they just tend to be a little more self conscious about being the expert! However if everyone has specific, allocated roles, it may work better. Careful planning again the key here.

5) Digital Technology
This could literally mean anything. When highlighted by the EEF, it is referring to tablets (iPads etc) apparently. Hattie doesn't make any note of this.

The key thing here, which is nothing new to me, is that if it simply used as a ‘glorified toy’or a substitute for laptop, it has no impact. However when focus is on pedagogy they do have an impact… if a tablet is creating challenge, engagement, enabling and demonstrating progress, or giving feedback (the big four considerations). It requires careful thinking about the Apps or websites used.

There was a discussion about funding and finance and that actually many schools could (and do) implement BYOD [Bring Your Own Device]. I have done this on numerous occasions, asking students to use Socractive, making videos or just simple research; they basically have a computer in their pockets!

The two apps that were looked at were Aurasma (augmented reality - digital content linked to physical content) and Educreations (Take photo, record video, mark, upload). Augmented reality is very cool and fun, it grabs attention. However I'm still not overly convinced on it's ability to enhance education. Yes it creates engagement, but equally I'm not sure I want students walking around school using their mobile phones on display boards. Educreation as a tool for marking is again engaging, but ultimately hugely time consuming when I have a heavy workload in this area already.

There is a big place for embracing technology in education, but as an RE teacher, I'm not quite sure how it is best used yet. This said, I do get my students, blogging, creating wikis, engaging via Twitter... None of this has cost me, or the school, a penny to date. The cost versus impact is a debate that will continue to run.

6) Metacognition
This is 2nd on Sutton Trust, 'knowing about knowing', and often cited in current education research talk.

We focused on Mind Maps and looked about 'how we learnt' the story of Leonardo Da Vinci, and detailed our method:
  • Phase 1 - Listen to short story and create a mind map with pictures only [numbers allowed] (code)
  • Phase 2 - Retell partner story (decode)
  • Phase 3 - Add some key phrases
  • Phrase 4 - Listen and correct (check)
  • Phase 5 - Organise -> Look at each paragraph and look at topics: skills, early life etc
My students are not fans of Mind Maps. There is a tendency for some girls to get overly obsessed with neatness and as a result, don't like to make them as they get messy! However we then looked at different types of diagrams and I must admit, I gravitate towards one or two styles when it may be better to use alternative models when presenting ideas:

Meta-cognition and associated ideas such as 'Learning To Learn', study skills and so on are very important but rarely do they get taught well. It again gives me something to think carefully about in my provision of Citizenship/PHSE programme next year as Head of Year 10.

Self-evaluation and self-regulation are important, but how do we teach this to our students and is it best done discreetly as part of good teaching, or in separate lessons? This section was more a start point to reflection rather than a simple answer.

7) Feedback
We began by doing the 'house drawing task', where criteria was given afterwards. This is always a powerful exercise and reminder of why we need to make criteria explicit and why it helps with feedback!

There are four types of marking:

  • Specific
  • Non Specific
  • Positive
  • Non Positve

This leads us to Feedback (specific positive) and ‘Feedforward’ (specific negative). However I admit that I also use non-specific positive when marking KS3 and KS4 to motivate and encourage. It is not possible to mark everything in detail... but I do believe that comments and stamps which give a simple reinforcement of hard work and effort so still have a place.

However everything needs criteria in order to give specific feedback... are they explicit or implicit? Does the teacher know what it is? Does student know what it is?

All types of feedback has positive and negative:

Teacher written feedback
It's personal, formative and expert BUT is it just one improvement? It's time consuming! Do they respond to it? Does it have impact?

Teacher feedback with technology (also includes stickers, comment banks)
It's formative, expert and time saving BUT does it have impact? Is there a perception that its not personalised?

Teacher with coding (includes colours/letter/numbers) 
It's formative, expert and time saving BUT does it have impact? Is there a perception that its not personalised?

Teacher marks one and gives whole class feedback using technology
It's formative, expert guidance, time saving and reusable BUT do you access to the technology? How about children (and parents) that object to their work being 'picked on'? Engagement?

Teacher verbally marks, pupil gives feedback (Verbal feedback stamp, student writes advice by stamp)
Dialogue takes place and has impact, it's formative, expert and time saving BUT there is a perception that the teacher is not doing their job? There may still be errors? Is it suitable for all ages and abilities? Is it time consuming to do for the class?

Peer marking (against the criteria)
It's formative, expert and time saving BUT what are perceptions of the students and parents? What about errors? Is it suitable for all ages and abilities?

Dylan Williams was cited at this point, in saying that 'all marking is a waste of time if no impact, dialogue, response or conversation' (could be a paraphrase here!). This could be as simple as getting students to write exactly what they are going to do to improve on feedback, and time needs to be given to do that (currently known as DIRT time - Directed Improvement and Reflection Time).

There was also the possibly of bringing research into the classroom... Can we do a RCT (randomised controlled trial)? Two similar classes within the school, with all other factors limited, one with an active intervention... what would the results be>

To conclude our session on Feedback we watched this:

Feedback and marking were highlighted as a school in both our Section 5 and Section 48 inspections. As a department, we spend a lot of time marking, but is something we are in the process of reviewing. How can we ensure greater progress? How can we help our students to improve further? How can we better use our time? Again, this didn't give all the answers, but certainly a start point for further thinking. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the Research for Learning (RfL) course and would highly recommend it. Rarely do courses provide hands on Teaching and Learning days that are cross-phase and cross-curricular. Rarely do you walk back into school having had time out to reflect, and come back with new ideas and enthusiasm. People sometimes criticise the EEF and Hattie, but at this point in time, what else do we have as teachers? It's certainly a start point. No-one does know your students like you do, but can we really ask people to take the teaching profession seriously if we are the modern day equivalent of Quacks? RfL is Drangonfly's brand of the DfE's Evidence Based Teaching (EBT)... my question, do we need to brand it as new form of pedagogy or is it simply the only way forward to ensure a robust professionalism that is informed and based on sound research? 

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Research for Learning (RfL) - Part 1

Image courtesy of Dragonfly Training

This was the CPD course that I won at #TMLondonBus and was of great excitement for me as its the kind of course I would never normally get the opportunity to attend. Due to 'rarely cover', the majority of CPD courses at my school can only be exam board courses. However as this prize was non-transferable, I got to go!

Research in education is big, it is hard to ignore the impact of conferences such ResearchEd, Ben Goldace's work with the DfE, 'Building Evidence Into Education' as well as the impact of John Hattie's Visible Learning and The Sutton Trust/Education Endowment Foundation's Toolkit.

This course was a teaching and learning day that focused on what was labelled 'The Magnificent 7'. These are the seven most powerful ‘impactful’ interventions to improve learning based on Hattie and the EEF Toolkit combined.

The background to this is that there has been a shift from the 1970's uninformed free practice, to a National Curriculum in 1998 that introduced uninformed prescription, before in 1997 there began informed prescription. Potentially (and hopefully!) there will now be a move to a future of informed professionalsim.

Watch the course promo video

The Magnificent 7

Image courtesy of Paperblog

The terminology was not lost on me, as a big Western fan. The film's tagline, "They fought like seven hundred" indicating their effectiveness and impact. The Magnificent 7 here were:

1) Piagetian Programs
2) Direct Instruction
3) Collaborative Learning
4) Peer Tutoring
5) Digital Technology
6) Metacognition
7) Feedback

1) Piagetian Programs
Hattie put this at 2/138 so it is worth investigating! SOLO taxonomy was touted as being a bridge between Piaget and practice/pedagogy. It gives a clear hierarchy of learning, including differentiation and can help inform lesson objectives.

Higher Res <here>

For the majority of lessons, it was suggested you need one multi-structural and one relational verb in the objective. Additionally this will help differentiate lesson objectives:
  • Multi-Structural - All
  • Relational - Most
  • Extended Extract - Some

These SOLO terms are from a taxonomy that is lesser used than Bloom's, but as many are now suggesting that as they are linked to Piaget, it is quite possible better. The teacher sees what level they are at, and then actively pushes it on. Students recognise the associated shape and realise they need to move forward:

See <here> for more on this

To try the relational stage we used hexagons in a short exercise. This is the point from where students make progress in bringing together ideas... where they explain and analyse. Justifying the positioning of the hexagons allows this thinking to take place.

This has encouraged me to think about using SOLO in my lessons. I know Sam Betts has been using in A-Level RE and I will revisit some of his resources. We worked together on a grid (see <here>) for students to map their progress and he added SOLO logos. I took them off as I hadn't used this approach before but now think I may readd! A friend of mine, Andy Knill, is passionate about SOLO and runs the GlobalSOLO network which may also be of use.

I think it may also work very well as a consolidation, revision technique. It's important the students know the facts, but often it is then joining them up (relational) and hypothesize (extended abstract). I also don't think this is necessarily changing my teaching, but thinking with greater clarity about where I am headed and how I can help my students realise that too. For any topic, ideally they would get to the 'extended abstract' stage... and if they simply stayed at the prestructual we'd all be in trouble!

2) Direct Instruction
This was called 'the meat and potatoes', or the basis of most of our lessons! The 7 steps to this are as follows:

Step 1 - Decide Topic & Objective
Step 2 - Provide Input (Video/Text)
Step 3 - Give 3 bullet points of what happened on mini-white boards - pupils reflect/respond to the objective on the white board - the teacher gets feedback from this
Step 4 - Decision (based on the feedback) - 3 options -> push on, identify some that need extra support or reteach
Step 5 - Decide a task to meet that objective directly - e.g. write a paragraph with success criteria (see below)
Step 6 - Marking - Teacher, pupil to pupil
Step 7 - Practise, practise, practise - input -> success criteria -> paragraph -> mark -> feedback -> repeat/practise!

Possible criteria for a quality paragraph

A- Punctuation - capitals, full stops etc.
B- 1 complete idea
C- Necessary detail - Who/What/When/Where
D- Discourse markers i.e. ‘furthermore’
E- Topic sentence

This was a really handy reminder of the basics and what they need to be. It's also 4/138 from Hattie, and if done well can produce regular, good solid lessons. It is important to factor in Step 4 (the most important step I think) and be flexible within lessons. I know I am going to ensure more success criteria are given even for shorter class-based activities and not just assessments.

Part 2: <here>

Find out more:

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

"Every Kid Needs A Champion" - Asking 'Why?'

Image courtesy of The Independent

So often at a TeachMeet event, there is a little moment that sticks with you. Mine last night, at the second TeachMeet that I've organised (<link>), came from Mr Beezy (@TheReal_MrBeezy). He stressed the importance of asking 'Why?'. It is an important reminder to all of us to step back and ask the question 'why' when we look at our teaching... "Why is student X not behaving?", "Why is student Y not making progress?", "Why is student Z falling asleep in my lesson?". Too often we focus on the behaviour and not what is behind it.

I guess part of this is due to my new role as Pastoral Development Coordinator (PDC) for Year 10. Obviously teaching always involves pastoral care, but from September I will be at the frontline for 125 fourteen year old girls embarking on their GCSEs ensuring all their many needs are met. I'll need to be asking 'why' a great deal.

It reminded me of a TED talk that I hadn't watched in ages by the late Rita Pierson, "Every Kid Needs A Champion". She begins with a quote from a teacher she used work with:

A colleague said to me one time, "They don't pay me to like the kids. They pay me to teach a lesson.The kids should learn it. I should teach it. They should learn it. Case closed."

Well, I ([Pierson] said to her, "You know, kids don't learn from people they don't like."

This does pose problems. Many of us have seen colleagues try too hard to be liked. Ultimately, we are here to teach and to educate. Sometimes that means we have to do things that mean our students will not like us. They may even hate us!

However, as we listen on to Rita Pierson it becomes clear that this is not the end of the story, and actually her view is not an over simplistic one. They will understand when we say no, put them in detention and show them tough love. They will understand because in the lead up to this point, we have developed a relationship with them so that they know that everything we do is to help them achieve. They may be angry with us in the short term, but when they calm down and 'get over it' our relationship will remain strong.

Will you like all your children? Of course not... You won't like them all, and the tough ones show up for a reason. It's the connection. It's the relationships. And while you won't like them all, the key is, they can never, ever know it. So teachers become great actors and great actresses, and we come to work when we don't feel like it, and we're listening to policy that doesn't make sense, and we teach anyway. We teach anyway, because that's what we do.

Teaching and learning should bring joy. How powerful would our world be if we had kids who were not afraid to take risks, who were not afraid to think, and who had a champion? Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.

For me, asking 'why' can help us be a champion to our students. How can we believe in them, support them, understand them if we don't ask why?

Read the full transcript <here>
Watch the full video <here> - and I highly recommend you do!