For the last four years I’ve been trying to develop the process of co-construction as an approach to teaching. After initial explorations in RE, I applied the approach to teaching my IGCSE Physics class over the last two years. At the same time, my colleague Mark has been trying out the system with some of his classes and I’ve learned a lot from how he does things too. See here for a collection of posts.
So, with plenty of lessons learned, I am about to embark on a new co-construction process. This year I will be teaching a Year 9 class. We begin our science IGCSE courses in Year 9 where students are taught in their tutor-groups in three specialist areas, before being re-grouped into smaller classes in Year 10. According to the Scheme of Work, I have a number of IGCSE units to cover in Physics and Chemistry and have two hours per week to do it across the year.
I want to adopt a ‘full-on’ co-construction process where students contribute as much as possible to planning and delivering lessons, to the assessment of the work and to giving feedback. There are 28 students in the class, so I need to ensure there are sufficient opportunities for them all to make a real contribution.
There are set tests that all Year 9s have to take and I will be able to use these to benchmark my students’ progress against the whole cohort. We also have to complete the prescribed content as a minimum, so that, in Year 10, all students are starting from more or less the same place.
So, this the plan of action:
I’ll explain the process to the students and look at the scheme of work overview. I won’t give them the details, just the topics. We will then discuss a sensible order of topics and the logistics of using two lessons per week.
We will then seek out any ‘wish list’ items from the class. Are there any topics that they have a burning desire to study this year? (I asked them to think about this before the summer holidays.) The class can then decide whether to include them and where we’ll place them on the timeline.
Next, we will establish a number of teams. At this stage I envisage eight teams or three or four students:
- I want one group to be the Core Planning Team. A group that monitors our overall progress, keeps us on track, administers the process of recording assessments and helps to liaise with the other teams from week to week. They will also plan cover lessons if I am ever absent.
- I want another group to be the IT Team. This group will set up and run a class blog, recording the content of the lessons we cover, posting resources and links and keeping a log of the homework that is set. They will need to decide an appropriate platform for doing this. New this year all KEGS students have school email accounts and I want them to help set up group settings for me so I can communicate with them all in between lessons.
- The other six groups will be Teaching Teams. We will allocate topics to each of them in advance and map out a rough timeline for the year so they know when they are taking charge.
The next step is to set out the parameters of the planning and delivery process:
Roughly speaking, each team will have a flow of 8-10 lessons to plan across 5-6 weeks. They will need to meet with me as we go along, to map out the details. So, working with me, I will expect each team to do the following:
- Produce an over-arching plan for their units, showing the lesson overview. This should indicate lessons where they will lead on giving teaching input; major front-bench demonstrations they will perform; lessons that I will lead; practical lessons for the class and any longer investigations that form part of the learning.
- Plan at least three of their key lessons in detail. This will include a fully structured lesson plan and should include the key learning objectives, the classwork and homework tasks and the key mode of assessment. It will also include a list of equipment that can serve as a requisition for the technicians and include a rough timeline for each lesson.
- Arrange a meeting with the Chemistry and/or Physics technicians to discuss their requirements. It is a solemn rule that students must to this themselves. When it is their lesson, I will not plan a back-up; they must take full responsibility.
The Core Planning Team and IT Team will have a separate set of tasks and, in all probability, will need to devote more time to this than the others. I have not used this approach before so it remains to be seen how effective it is. We can adjust as we go through the year.
The remaining lessons will be planned more organically as we go along, taking account of student responses, giving time for feedback on homework as so on. It is hard to plan the exact sequence in advance so we need to be flexible.
I will experiment with the process of giving the whole class a couple of lessons of planning time in advance, using computer rooms. This will allow me to inject some more rigour in the planning process and will help everyone to get started, even if their lessons come much later in the year. We will discuss various approaches to teaching and learning and establish firm expectations about the minimal use of powerpoint presentations. They need to spend time learning about their topic areas and preparing good questions, with model answers. That is the key to this working.
So, that’s the plan. I’ll let you know how it goes.