October 2018 Blog
I heard an interesting talk this week in London about how important it is that as educationalists, we plan for how our students access the learning in our classrooms, acquire the material and knowledge necessary and apply what they have learnt in different contexts. These 3 key aspects of learning should be a day to day practice at Crookhorn but there is always a need to reflect on how well we do these parts of our practice, and whether or not we are guilty at times of slipping into the assumption that they are always done well.
How do your students access the learning in the lessons you deliver? We often make the wrong assumption that all our students are accessing the learning as we are the ones standing at the front and regaling them with our knowledge. This is a dangerous assumption! When we do the regular feedback and marking walks, it is evident in the classrooms where the teacher does a lot of talking from the front, that there is little in the way of quality knowledge in the exercise books. The question is then simple; how do these students prepare for the examinations with little access to the knowledge that they need to revise from?
We recently had a ‘Blink’ from the Deputy Head from Court Moor School, who had the specific brief to look at the quality of teaching and learning in our classrooms. He fed back that when the students were actively engaged with a task and they were accessing the learning in a more independent way, he could see real engagement and progress. When he saw the ‘stand and deliver’ style of teaching, with students sitting and listening to a teacher for a period of time, he could not see the same engagement and progress. Not only that, but the students were clearly disengaged and the behaviour was starting to ‘bubble’.
As we move towards the November mocks, I want you to forensically plan the homework or revision that will help the Year 11s to be successful in these exams. Are you factoring in how they have access to the knowledge and skill they will be expected to demonstrate? This is not just about giving them a revision book, this is about being very clear about what the students need to be relearning to enable success in your subject. Are you making sure they are taking home with them their exercise books so they can revise independently? I have recently looked in some exercise books and read through some of the student’s work/assessment/revision notes. If the standard of these notes is not good enough, are they really going to be able to revise? I have also come to realise that for some of us, we don’t make sure the assessments they do throughout the year are either stuck in their book or given to the students. If an assessment is done correctly, with great feedback and obvious learning from a student, surely this is an important part of their revision.
We all know the middle/low attaining, disadvantaged boy whose notes and books will not help him revise well, and then we are disappointed when they do badly in their exams. Perhaps you could take some photos of some really good notes/mindmaps/flashcards and put them on its learning for all the class to use if their own notes don’t help them. Perhaps we can set some GCSE Pods with follow up questions to aid learning? Some of our teachers are thinking outside the box a bit and using visualisers or videos of themselves to record good revision tasks and add them to ‘its learning’. We need to consider that not all the students are the same and not have a ‘one size fits all’ approach to how they should revise.
I have recently emailed Heads of Subject to check in with them about what homework is being set in their subject, as I wanted to know that homework and revision was being done in a precise and forensic way to really aid learning, rather than just asking students to just revise or set an ineffective task driven time filler. We as a College have invested heavily in our online learning support package, with ‘its learning’ and GCSE Pod two fantastic ways to support teachers in getting more students to access their materials. How as a teacher are you using these platforms? Are you putting your lessons on ‘its learning’ if students miss a lesson? Are you setting suitable and appropriate GCSE pods that are either supporting current learning or setting up future learning? If you need help with either GCSE Pod or ‘its learning’, please come and see Adam or myself and we will happily support you.
If we are making learning more accessible, we need to make sure students are acquiring the learning. Aside from testing them in assessments or mocks, how do you know that students are making progress in your classes, and thus acquiring the learning? Have you really embraced the strategies that we have been promoting in coaching and using them on regular basis? A simple check for understanding strategies really should tell you where the students are up to with their acquisition of learning, and then what needs to be done to support and challenge students further. When you open up your exercise books, can you see that students have made progress and how can you see this? What are the obvious weaknesses from the class as a whole or from certain individuals once you have looked in the books or checked their understanding in class and what are you going to do next? This is where our planning and MTP’s are so important, as it’s live planning and specific to your students, not just carrying on and doing the same old lessons with the same old PowerPoints because that’s what’s it says on the SOW.
The final aspect is how students can show they can apply the learning in different contexts. How do we let the students show they can apply the learning, and how do we plan for this application. How do we check that they can do it and then move them forward? One of the most important ways that we can check they have understood is through the planning and implementation of key questions. In the planning stage, teachers should carefully consider what questions will unpick what students have actually learnt and then allow them to show that they have made progress towards the learning outcomes. In our CPT on a Tuesday afternoon, consider the key questions first when planning out your next MTP, as this should be the basis of how you can see if students’ progress in your lessons.
As usual, please ask any questions or let me know any thoughts about the blog and I hope the questions I have posted helps you reflect on your own practice in the classroom.