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


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