It is a question of time

Before staring this post it would be worth explaining the absence of any post last week.

I was with some of our sixth form students at the astonishing Malvern College, taking part in an OCR revision day for PE. My ex-teacher, John Honeybourne (when I was at Stoke Sixth Form College) has been Chief Examiner for A Level PE for some years now. It is always nice to see him at this annual event. He still teaches the kids like he taught us. Funny, dynamic, animated. He knows his stuff for sure and puts it across well.

malv

Just like our classroom block

3 things struck me during the day:

1. It’s quite straightforward when you know your stuff and are well rehearsed to deliver a plausible and effective revision session or lesson. Ascertaining long term memory retention and learning is harder. No doubt that somebody as effusive as ‘The Chief’ will impact on attention and focus during the one hour, quick fire overview of the course. In fact the biggest benefit to the students is the ‘confirmation’ of the knowledge needed by the chap who writes the questions. It builds confidence knowing that they are on the right lines already.

2. The need for proper planning time where teachers can sit, talk and act to make their job easier and at the same time more effective. I sat with an ex trainee at Droitwich who is now Head of PE in Evesham. Even though he only lives half a mile from me I usually see him in a Tesco aisle, usually in a rush and usually with kids in tow after a busy day at work. But today we could sit, compare resources, plan together and bounce ideas off each other. In the morning session we swapped some useful thoughts and in the afternoon we created a whole section of the course in ‘flash card’ format on Brainscape, the big daddy of the online flash card world.

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3. The idea that Mr Gove would like state schools to be indistinguishable from private schools. Now of course our aspirations should be as high, all teachers should want the best for every kid they teach. The students I took have big plans and dreams and are working hard to achieve them. Indeed they are fully capable of going toe to toe with their polished counterparts from the wealthy families who can invest so heavily in their children. As our lot entered the beautiful grounds of Malvern College the slight unfairness of opportunity and provision became apparent to all of them, and to me again. One said when walking through the grounds past other children “I feel like I’m being judged by a 12 year old”. To be fair, apart from the the multi million pound sports centre complete with Conference Centre, Indoor Pool, 8 court sports hall, Fitness Suite and a Starbucks (the real thing too and coffee was free for staff – I was a bit jumpy by the time we tucked into a sumptuous Coq au Vin) there wasn’t much difference to the average state comp! It is not the spaces, we have some of those, it is the fixtures and fittings and polish and shine of the place. It all says “my daddy could own your daddy if he so wished”. And apart from the history, the alumni, the lawns manicured to perfection and the first team cricket pitch complete with electronic scoreboard and grand pavilion, it is the sheer grandiose and opulence that must count for something in the minds of its people. Creating awe and inspiration might be a little easier when the trappings of ‘old wealth’ are all around.

We have cricket too I hear you say. Indeed we do. I remember coming for a tour of our school in May 1995 and saw the brand new (budget level) cricket nets. By the time I started in September they had been burned to the ground. We couldn’t afford the insurance excess to replace them.

If Mr Gove wants equality of opportunity for all children it is a noble thought but in reality it is a bit of a nonsense that we all deal with. 10% of fees going to state schools in the town would be a good start towards equality. But then, when you think about it money doesn’t make good teaching, or good students, it just makes them a bit ‘posher.’ Good teaching is about good teachers and motivated kids and to be really effective at what we do as teachers we need TIME.

And it is on this issue of TIME that our discussion culminated on Friday but it was not where we started. We started by looking at feedback and what makes effective feedback. We glanced through a thoughtful series of blog posts by the excellent @LearningSpy where he identified the 3 main reasons that we would ever wish to give feedback. Here is part 1 which will link to the other posts. The words in italics below are taken from part 1 of the series:

To provide clarity – most mistakes are made because pupils are unclear on precisely what they should be doing. Providing feedback that points out misconceptions and provides clarification is an essential first step. If we don’t get this right all else is for naught.
To get pupils to increase effort – this is the hoary old chestnut at the heart of every success. Try harder is usually of huge benefit. Getting pupils understand what they should be doing is hard enough, but motivating them to actually do it is the master skill.
To get pupils to increase aspiration – There’s certainly some merit in overlearning concepts and practising to the point that errors are eliminated, but feedback may not be necessary to achieve this. But once a goal has been met or exceeded, pupils need to aim for something more challenging. No challenge means no mistakes and no mistakes means that feedback is unlikely to be useful.

@LearningSpy followed this up in part 2 (Clarity) and 3 (Motivation) and is yet to write part 4 (Aspiration) with a couple of flowcharts identifying the type of process we could go through with students to really get the best out of feedback when providing feedback to improve clarity:

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and how we might go about improving motivation:

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You would have to read the blogs to see where these flow charts have evolved from. They owe much to the work of Dylan Wiliam (Assessment for Learning ‘guru’) and Carol Dweck (Author of ‘Mindset: How you can fulfil your potential)

After reading these posts it was yet again confirmed what is so obvious to us all. High quality assessment and feedback make an enormous difference. Karen noted that the sixth form feedback suggested that what they find most powerful in their learning is some ‘1to1’ time with their teacher discussing their learning. We know this, we would love to do it but our TIME is limited and we have to get through the courses. On top of feedback we have to engage students (which takes TIME to plan well), mark books, set homework and more importantly teach the kids the basics, usually more than once because they blo**dy forget it.

Now, it is clear that no one is going to give us TIME. There are not more than 24 hours in the day, and we only have the children for an hour or two at most (unless you are a Maths or English teacher in the current climate). We only have 4 years and don’t have boarders, saturday school or any of the other slots of time that could be used well. The TIME is finite and what seems appallingly obvious to me is that we have to use it better.

Consider this scenario. It may never have happened to you, it certainly has to me:

– You plan a wicked lesson. Wicked as in ‘cool’ and not ‘cruel’ although I have sometimes wanted to plan a few of those too. You have explained the theory content as well as you can, the resources have been decent, the behaviour calm and considered. All in all you have thought it has gone well. In addition you have built in some time (not enough as there was so much to do) to explain a high quality homework that gets students to explore their understanding and to practise some extended writing, maybe a 20 mark question, maybe an essay, maybe a summary of what they consider poignant literature on the subject. Due to squeezing the explanation of HW in, when the students leave you are not sure that they know exactly what you want and need them to do away from your supervision and guidance.

– The following week a few kids arrive who haven’t done the work. Those who have either misunderstood what was required and did something else that they thought maybe of use or got the context so completely and utterly wrong that both your time and their’s was wasted. Not just wasted but actually made your job even harder in the next lesson as there were so many misconceptions flying about, not to mention frustrations, tangents and roads so wrong that they ended up in a different country. You feel like you are back to square one. The biggest problem was that you only found this out after you sat for painful hour upon hour marking the darned work, getting more and more despondent each time you read what they had written. You felt you had to mark in detail so as to show ‘outstanding’ feedback even though you know it a mathematical impossibility to do this all the time. As you whiled away the hours in pain you could have been planning a better lesson ready for the next time you had a precious hour to spend with the students.

– The next lesson, when the students got their marks and your frustrations were set upon them their motivation took a hit. They had tried hard, just at the wrong thing. You had been too vague, they had received the wrong end of the stick, You were only too happy to set a high level challenge (just not the right level of challenge). Because you were cross with the students (or maybe yourself) they might not even like you anymore – teenagers are fickle.

– What certainly did not happen was that the students had not learned what you had wanted them to. Your master plan had fallen apart and you weren’t exactly sure where. In the longer term the mock results showed that not a great deal had been committed to memory – the only true measure of learning. Yes they had worked hard, yes they had been engaged and challenged, yes you felt that you were teaching well because they got stuck at home (where they need to learn to be independent) and above all their parents would see that you can set homework fit for a University student which is, of course, where they want their kids to be. You therefore must be a good teacher. But, but, but….. after a couple of weeks, they hadn’t learned anything of any substance that would get them any marks. Oops.

I think this type of scenario, which is always born out of wanting to do the best for students was what made me think about TIME and how I could create more of it where it really mattered. To be able to give the time in the lessons to feedback, to dedicated improvement time, to recapping, revisiting, testing, talking about meaning, researching, looking at example and exemplar, having a one to one discussion with every student, to setting appropriate challenge etc etc etc something has to give. To create time in the lessons is the only way as it is not going to happen otherwise. So how do we create time?

Well, personally, I worked out that a good proportion of time was spent explaining fairly straightforward concepts that were essential to understanding and progress in the lesson. When I measured with a stopwatch I found it was 20 minutes plus in every lesson. This was a THIRD of my teaching time. The thing is these definitions of key words, brief explanations and such like were straightforward enough in the first instance to be learned away from the classroom – without me piping away at the front trusting that people would take it all in like great big learning sponges. However, because most classes contain boys and girls, some of whom quite like each other, or genuinely really don’t, I found that my explanations often fell on deaf ears anyway. Some kids were clearly pretending to listen whilst eyeballing, flirting or just becoming distracted and if they had missed the first bit they were lost already and couldn’t catch up so they would then distract others……..you know how it goes. At least I knew, I had been 17 once and believe me, the teacher was not the first thing on my mind unless of course…you know. Teaching to lots of teenagers is hard because of this……they don’t really care what you are saying unless it is about them or too them. I was wasting time, every lesson, every day. Hours and hours and hours.

So I spent hours and hours (but not hours and hours and hours) building up resources that could be used time and time again. Each time I build my own resource it is there forever, well maybe not forever but at least until I think about how I can improve them. Resources such as Brainscape or GCSEpod or My-GCSE-Science or MyMaths are obvious short cuts and to not use them is bonkers to me. They create TIME. More TIME for discussion, debate. More TIME for brief tests to ascertain how much key information could be recalled and more TIME for feedback because it is feedback that counts and feedback that works. The students really don’t care how much I know unless it helps them with what they know. Most teachers like the sound of their own voice and they like to show off, its a human instinct and it protects us from what we find much harder to do. It makes us feel good, especially when we can hold court at the front of the room, displaying our knowledge to a group of lesser beings, mere fledglings in the knowledge gathering world. We know best, we are teachers.

There are times when direct instruction from the teacher is absolutely critical especially when progress in the level of understanding requires our specialist input. Just not all the time. Because if you do it all the time, something is inevitably missing.

So is this the method of TIME creation?

1. Plan ahead – what are you doing next week? Use the last 10 minutes (not 5) to make sure every student know what you want them to KNOW BEFORE they enter the room next week. Keep it simple so as to ensure ALL students can access it. There could be more ‘available’ for those who want to extend themselves but the bare minimum MUST be accessible to all. Make sure that everyone knows exactly what they need to do before they leave the room. Let them know that you will be happy when they return having done it and be really disappointed if they haven’t.

2. Give the students the resources they need to be able to know and understand the basics (such as definitions of the key terms) that you will look at next time. These could be electronic but could also be fact sheets, lists, key words, glossaries.

3. Test them (its quicker than marking) via Q and A, mini tests, mini whiteboard scribbling, multi-choice etc. The students can play a huge and important role in this testing and ascertaining understanding role. If they haven’t done the work, punish them, give negative points, be angry, be upset (don’t actually cry), explain that you are now wasting time which is their time. Praise ALL those who have shown good effort in your ‘away from the class’ task.

4. Spend the rest of the time teaching the more tricky concepts, applying the basics, providing feedback, encouraging debate and discussion, posing arguments etc etc. You can use this time for marking too, especially if it focussed, looking at books, discussing particular pieces of work with students. See the earlier flowcharts from @LearningSpy if you want to make sure students take ownership of their learning.

In the melting pot we wondered how new some of the information that we throw at kids is. Picture a lesson and it is a new topic. Have the kids EVER even heard the terms that you explain to them? How often have they heard it. To what extent do they understand? How are you going to teach based on this information? If they haven’t seen it or heard it before it will be almost impossible for them to learn it first time.

As Dan Willingham states ‘We learn things in the context of things we already know’. If students ARRIVED at your lesson already knowing a few basics, whatever you ask them to learn will be more acceptable to their brains. Otherwise it just might be rejected as too challenging even though you, the teacher, think it should be easy to remember.

Worth thinking about?

DCH

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the rich get richer and the poor get poorer…

….could this catchphrase be replicated with the quest for knowledge or for exam success?

Maybe. A bike ride home often gets me thinking. I shall post this info into the melting pot blog but some may not read it. You might not read this either but it’s a bit too big for the portal notice board.

The new curriculum certainly requires us to focus on knowledge accumulation and what is clear is that children who know lots of things learn new things more quickly. A student who has a wealth of knowledge to draw on and to compare with, will pick up and associate new information as if they were ‘born to learn’. They seem to quickly master new material and think more effectively. What is actually happening is that the new information being presented during the course of the lesson, (which resides in and around short term memory) hunts for previously learned information to ‘associate’ with. This blog post explains this in more detail http://feedly.com/k/HRzwvy . Those with no cash in the bank so to speak can’t make the association and soon that new information drifts away. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. How we deposit a little early cash in the bank account of the poor learners to get them started is, in my mind, about the most important thing we can do if we are ever going to raise the performance of the ‘struggling third’ by the time they get to year 11.

Many of the staff in the meeting tonight suggested that making sure that regular testing and memory checks were going to be an area for their work moving forward. This explains why that is a very good idea http://feedly.com/e/PZRlaJjn. As the curriculum changes to emphasise what students actually know and can consequently apply to questions a fair distance whence that information was first seen. In some cases more than 18months previous. Given that the initial ‘typical’ forgetting curve is about 4 days, we have a big challenge ahead. Here is a link that describes how a knowledge based English scheme (no PE unfortunately!!!) might look http://feedly.com/e/R2lHrdqK and another about how we might go about assessing a ‘unit’ of knowledge http://feedly.com/e/bF6t6AdR in order to refine it. Another about key questions we should probably be asking ourselves http://feedly.com/e/OF22DXfi. This http://feedly.com/e/GKqaZwPh succinctly debates the knowledge v skills question.

From a personal point of view my summer task, now my portal site is ready, is to build an assessment resource library to ascertain exactly where students are at any given point. Progression in my course from next year will be mastery rather than Half-termly based. This blog post makes so much sense and explains why http://feedly.com/e/iYFH0Ecr

During the meeting the need for ‘reading around the subject’ was also seen as a key thing for students to do. Could the same be applied to us as teachers? Should we model this practice to our students and regularly read around our subject of choice, teaching?

With advent of the blog and people who reduce and kindly repackage the vast amount of information available to us this has become a varied, more bite sized and genuinely interesting part of what should be an expectation of ourselves. As most who have ‘delved’ say, twitter and edu blogs are about the best source of cpd out there. And it’s all free. You will never be able to read even 1% of what is available. You just pick what you like and drop what you don’t. To deal with our new challenge and more importantly to give all our students a chance in this more ‘stretching’ environment we need to be even more on the ball. We can never read enough but is our own reading and research one of the answers? What’s good for the goose…..

There are fantastic books out there for deeper enthusiasts some of which I have pointed you towards previously. This link should give you a list to keep you going http://feedly.com/e/EmSODL9-

For those who prefer to listen or watch try these for starters

from Mr Willingham which will probably change what you thought before watching it http://youtu.be/B_bTwbWytdU (learning styles don’t exist)

http://youtu.be/JiTz2i4VHFw a quick summary of the work of Kahneman which might explain why we sometimes avoid thinking – ‘cos it’s hard !!!

My last suggestion which I have made at least once, ok maybe more than once, is to buy, read and re-read Willingham. It’s on sale on Amazon 🙂

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Why-Dont-Students-Like-School/dp/047059196X/ref=pd_sim_b_5?ie=UTF8&refRID=1M8X093JEG6NAF4Y2QFM

Dan x

Memories are made of this

 

It seems quite clear. Teaching has changed for good, again. No longer can we rely on drip feeding the right bits of information just before a piece of coursework is due, knowing that once complete the detail shall be lost to the mind of our students forever. Of all the things we are supposed to do, the government have suggested that kids need to remember stuff!! Amongst the nonsense and the rhetoric, they have a point. Why bother teaching if the content isn’t remembered? After all, if memory does not store the new information, learning has not taken place.
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So, how do we cope when the 70% course work and multiple exam attempts have been fairly quickly eradicated from our day to day safety nets? How do we know what students know and how do we then teach them?

David Ausabel stated that the most important factor is to “ascertain what the students already know and then teach them accordingly”.

This week’s melting pot started with the sterling efforts of Charlie who was missing a good chunk of his face. He clearly only came back on Friday so that his wife would let him go to watch Stoke City the following day (who won 3-1 by the way!!) and by speaking at the melting pot he was justifying the purchase of a post match cheesy oatcake as his mouth would be proven to work again. Silly dog.

Charlie outlined his approach to ‘mastery’ assessment and how by using high quality assessment he can make sure that each student is working on a task that best reflects where they are in learning. Mastery assessment essentially lays out the things that students need to be able to do to succeed in each topic and unit of the course. Only when they complete the ‘mastery target’ can they effectively move on and ‘pass’. Of course if students can demonstrate each target they can move forward quickly. Creating the resources to allow this to happen is where the time and effort are needed as it would be rare that students are, except for day one, at the same point.

Mastery assessment allows some students to fly, others to catch up at their pace and although some way from his 20 year old ‘well learned’ method of ‘stand and deliver’ Charlie knows he is doing better by the students who come into his class. They are not bound by what Charlie wants to/has to teach as they can access the entire curriculum online. A number of successful early entries evidence the benefits. It is a work of many hours toil and graft, dedication and commitment. Charlie’s demo also quickly begged our question. 

Would ‘we’ able to do this? 

Natalie, who as Head of Languages has created a similar ‘multi-resource’ approach to lessons in a previous school said that the gains were very clear but after a time it became frustrating as some students did not maintain their own motivation and access the resources in the way that she hoped.

Some ‘melting potters’ felt that bright kids would gain and lower ability would struggle and we each had our own anecdotal evidence to support this viewpoint. This may, however, be true of every teaching method and Charlie agreed that the groups do ‘spread out’ quickly in terms of their achievement and knowledge gains. The benefits of a mastery system though allow both rigour and more effective support. Students ‘have’ to demonstrate understanding and knowledge before moving on. High flyers can be simply pointed further and further on and support can be targeted to those who need it.

There is of course an initial investment of time to create decent resources but maybe more importantly a culture change needed where teachers ‘release’ resources and loosen their control. This can feel most discomforting. 

  • Students coming to my lesson knowing what I am about to talk about?
  • But I like them all knowing nothing, it makes it easier as it is I who has the knowledge!
  • How am I supposed to teach when they all know different amounts?
  • What if they have questions I can’t answer?

All fair statements and questions. As is this:

Do our current teaching and assessment systems allow us to really know where a student is and then move him/her on at the appropriate pace so that they can achieve at their speed not ours?

Here are the thoughts of another blogger regarding mastery assessment .

Conversation turned to the type of knowledge that students could gain on their own ready to use it in lessons. Maybe where we need to focus effort and attention is on the building blocks of knowledge. The spellings, the key terms, the definitions. All subjects success requires them and these discrete bits of knowledge lend themselves to simplicity in terms of what we want students to do at home. “Learn these definitions by next week, there will be a quick test to see how you have done.” Simple, maybe obvious but boy oh boy, effective. 

Daniel Willingham states that “We learn things in the context of things we already know.” Each fact and piece of knowledge that is committed to memory will improve future learning. A student who knows 10 things/facts/words will always and forever more outperform a students who only knows 8 or 7 or 3. The ‘gap’, be it social or cultural or economic is there because some students learn lots of things early in their lives and some do not. Simples. One of our tasks is to close that gap.

There are many sources of knowledge that students can access. We can’t cross fingers, hope or expect that the opportunities for access will be taken. We have to force the issue a little. Small, frequent tests, tasks and assignments to assess mastery could change the knowledge of our students, permanently. The problem is obvious. Changes to our ‘meat and drink’ does not lie well. Many of us our on automatic pilot and we like to cruise. Its a normal human response. We had a look at this video that shows how quickly and seamlessly we can employ our ‘fast’ thinking and do what comes automatically. The video is based on the work of Daniel Kahneman, a nobel prize winner for his work on thinking in the world of economics.

  • Why would we think when we can just do what we did yesterday?
  • Thinking is tough and carrying on as normal isn’t.
  • I know what works and what doesn’t.
  • The kids behave in my class, they ‘must be learning.’

As teachers, busy teachers, we often set in ways that are hard to change, but not impossible. As teachers we always tell the kids, or at least I would hope we do that effort and belief is so important and that we can always improve. Trying to figure out how to adapt and refine our teaching to improve learning is a challenging task and of course one that is easy to avoid and give up on. In my opinion we have to structure our lessons, our schemes of work and our assessment around things that have the process of learning at heart. Whilst ‘melting’, we discussed the clear problem that students study a topic, forget it, ‘do some revision’ a year or more later, forget it again and then sit an exam. Why do they forget? Because you would too. Because each time they see the information it is essentially new, decided by the teacher that it will be ‘taught’ as part of normal lessons or as part of the ‘revision’ programme. One study that I don’t have the link to (sorry) found that students managed one activity brilliantly well in many lessons. Pretending to listen!

Great teaching does one thing very well. It gets students to really think about the content that needs to be remembered. As Willingham tells us ‘Memory is the residue of thought’. Revisiting this information afterwards just makes that ‘thinking connection’ more explicit, clear and retrievable. Technology can help, especially to provide opportunity for this crucial REPETITION – the father of memory and what better way to add another dose of meaning than a little test? Not the high stakes SATS, GCSE end of your life type test but the class based, diagnostic tool that tells learners and their teacher how things are going. The test need not even be written or even be a test in the true sense of the word. It doesn’t have to count towards anything except learning and knowing what you don’t know and feeling good about what you do. We discussed the merit of multi choice providing the options were close and that ‘thinking’ had to take place to select the correct answer. There are a million technological solutions to this type of test and most mean no marking as such. Wouldn’t that be nice, especially when the test would show the common misconceptions of your class, giving you the food to serve up in your next learning feast.

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Next week we are going to delve into the world of behaviour. It won’t be straightforward.

Click here to read a bit further reflection around teaching and trying to improve memory retention. The blogger is an English teacher and the questions he poses to himself are ones you may also have of your own practice.
 
Dan x

9 Go Thinking – lets get the party started!

In the beginning there were nine. Kim, Rebecca, Andy, Mike, Paul, Karen, Jon, Dan and Charlie. No demands, no deadlines, no pressure. Just a chance to chat and think. Think about teaching and how we can be better at it. We covered a reasonable range of ‘day job’ foci from Work related learning to Biology, from History to PE. Our time ‘in the job’ ranged from two years to…ahem..twenty something.  There were heads of department, pastoral and curriculum leaders, a Heads of House and of course the common factor amongst us all – we are all teachers.

We started off by writing on Charlie’s magic wall.

ImageEach of us listed the 5 things that we felt we most important in teaching. They ranged from the more obvious (for good reason) such as feedback to the less, such as autonomy and even astronomy (you had to be there). We also, akin to an AA meeting confessed to our weakest area from our list and therefore prompt a possible area for our own development. That is why we are here. We want to get better, become more efficient and have greater impact. We, it seems, are fairly interested in learning.

The Sun was shining outside and this week, like most weeks had been a long one. Friday afternoon pub stop was tempting but no, we would discuss and debate for one hour and one hour only. The sun doesn’t shine that often and we have homes to go to. At this point it is important to recognise that Fridays don’t suit all and apologies for that, but with fixtures, meetings, detentions and other commitments the opportunities were slim, well to be fair they were Friday. That said, it didn’t really feel like work although of course if we were council staff, machine operatives or bankers there would be overtime claims and bonus expectations. For us it is the smile on fac………ok, we are just a little sad, dedicated, determined, who knows. Anyway let me show you what we did.

1. We looked at Charlie’s magic wall in his paper cluttered kingdom and we tried to reduce our graffiti to just 5 key areas of teaching which would form the framework and focus of our TFI Friday meetings. These are they:

  • Behaviour and relationships for learning
  • Questioning and feedback
  • Planning, differentiation and meeting needs
  • Delivery, instruction and engagement
  • Assessment, progress and outcomes

There may be some things that aren’t there such as literacy and numeracy which of course are crucial. We just felt that the 5 above were relevant in every lesson, with every child, all the time. The overlap and links between each area are endless and will be a valued tangent that will often hop along.

Progress in learning

Solo Taxonomy (our version using key exam words to indicate achievement level)

Andy then kicked us off with the work he and the ICT department have being doing to link our ‘solo’ poster to a year 8 assessment ‘rubric’ (grid) across an entire year of work. They have managed to produce it on one page and after having shared with parents and students has provided a focal point for assessment. They have labelled the ‘5 level’ assessment framework ‘GradU8’ and have linked it to the ‘Pass, Merit and Distinction’ criteria that many ICT subjects are using. The key terms from the ‘school classroom poster’ version have been linked to the topics/tasks that year 8 cover during the year. We liked it and even the scientists amongst us (with a potentially far more complicated and detailed curriculum) quickly recognised its possibilities in the absence of levels.

“The work is of course in creating an assessment that is fit for purpose” – Andy.
Click to enlarge.

After nods of approval and weighing up whether our depts could do it, we discussed the merit of the rubric in identifying when a student was gaining knowledge and then being able to apply that knowledge. Mike gave a great example of cell structure knowledge helping a learner to label, list and then explain each feature of a cell. Then being able to compare it to other cells and their functions. Final being able to predict the role it may have in the system that the cell inhabits. The progress of learning becomes quite transparent and very easy to scaffold for the learner. There is scope for a revisit to this area.

The handouts Andy provided certainly opened up interesting conversation which went quite rapidly from where we were to genetics, brain development, talent versus environment and the curiosity levels of the critical thinking class. I am not sure we all agreed with each other, but that would be such a let down if we did. At end I gave out an overview of the learning principles covered in our assemblies. All staff have received this by email and I will add to it…once I’ve prepared the assemblies to come!!

As a taster to that assembly have a look at this from Daniel Willingham where he breaks down the notion of ‘learning styles’, much to the dismay of those who have earned plenty through the innacuracy of their suggestions.

Next week Charlie is kicking off with a 5 minute intro to ‘Mastery’. This link provided by the ever thoughtful @learningspy will provide a quick background to Mastery. This link is a more detailed literature review for the pedant in us.

Weisbier….no better taste on a Friday

I arrived home, had dinner with the kids, put them to bed and cracked open Dad’s beer. It tasted even sweeter as work faded away, a day in the sun repeated on my face and poker with Izod became just a day away. Then Jon sent me this and got me going again. Out came the laptop and blog number 1 is complete.

The best ingredients in our ‘Melting Pot’ are each other. Too many cooks won’t spoil our broth, we’ll just open up P13. Join us. Dan x