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? 

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