This post follows directly from Festival of Learning Part 1. The Teachmeet. The second part of our CPD day was based on a model that we developed when I was at KEGS – reported in this post. The marketplace model was always going to be one of the ideas I imported. The basic instruction to staff was something like this: show something that you’ve been working on this year: something you think is working or something you’ve been exploring that people might find interesting. We tried to stress that this wasn’t about showing off great successes – just sharing the everyday practice we engage with all the time, warts and all.
Everyone rose to the occasion, working individually or in small groups, to put together a comprehensive array of stalls. In fact there were too many separate stations for it to be possible to engage with them all. I didn’t get round to everyone in an hour and 45 minutes. In many ways, the best part of the event was the atmosphere – professional dialogue and collegiality; a great buzz of discussion around the corridors and classrooms surrounding the library. This is the social capital that Andy Hargreaves talks about. This is how schools improve at a deep level; not by chasing targets but by working out how to improve teaching and learning in our context as a joint enterprise, working together.
To give a flavour of the event, here are some of the ideas I encountered: (I wish I could give a comprehensive run-down but I ran out of time.)
Reading scrapbooks including reading triangles that capture the essence of a book. Students also set a range of writing tasks based on their book eg to re-write a chapter as a playscript of from the perspective of a particular character. Lots of great responses.
Carnegie Award Schools Project: students encouraged to read books from the Award list as part of a wider project; teacher reported 19 out of 26 students had read at least two novels from the list in six weeks.
Lesson Study in English: three teachers have undertaken a full cycle based on the NTEN model exploring diserable difficulties in English as part of a descriptive writing process with Year 8; this included an attempt to incorporate the idea of interleaving. A highly evaluate report – with lots of questions raised to follow up in another cycle.
Poetry Dip: Students in Y11 are allocated a random poet – then asked to undertake research. Each lesson starts with a student teaching the class about their poet.
Structural Grammar for low attaining Year 8s: A process for building up from words, to phrases, clauses, sentences and paragraphs using a House analogy. Words are bricks; the rooms are paragraphs; different purposes, different features, but all contribute to the whole, following a plan.
Recall and spelling of Shakespeare characters: Low attaining students find it difficult to follow who is who in some Shakespeare texts. One teacher made recall of spellings and character relationships through mini-tests and mapping exercises in different formats, a feature of her lessons.
Vocab Archery: This technique gave students new words to learn and to use to describe images. The archery target gave points for words of increasing sophistication to incentivise students to use them in their descriptions.
Social Skills in Year 9 Learning Support: students were asked to compare responses to scenarios from different perspectives; an aggressive approach vs an assertive approach – followed by personal reflections. They could recognise themselves in the aggressive descriptions and had good discussions about trying to change their pattern of behaviour.
Graphic organisers to support writing for bilingual learners: these scaffolding sheets allow EAL students to put their ideas together coherently. They are also encouraged to write in their first language before attempting to do a task in English to get the conceptual ideas together. This has very positive benefits. Examples included Chineses and Bengali.
Pictorial prompts for autistic students are used when they find it hard to express their feelings or to ask the questions they want to. This was one of several other SEN methods being shared including group writing with some of our nurture groups.
Playing technique videos: A music teacher has been exploring whether making videos of good and bad technique on the violin can help to show students how to improve. They can be used in lessons – for non-specialist instrumentalist teachers – and we discussed creating a bank of clips online.
Assessing the processes not the outcomes in music: This approach was applied to improvisation. Students are taught the component processes – who does what in a group; how to introduce variations of different kinds and so on. The teacher found that assessing students on how well they completed each element was essential – more or less regardless of the quality of the final product. This was how they made progress.
Thinking time in Drama: This was an exploration of whether we give students enough time to think – and, also, whether we give them questions worth thinking about. The use of prepared question cards was explored – giving them a question to hold and consider in order to generate deeper response.
Students as Luvvies. The Head of Drama is exploring teaching her GCSE Drama class through the devise of treating them like an ensemble company of actors. Through this lens they consider how to rehearse, perform, engage with scripts and work collaboratively.
Using Video in Drama Assessment: This explored the role of video in assessment for drama. Peer and self assessment can be difficult in a live situation but with video play-back, the students can focus on specific skills in the performances allowing them to gain a better understanding of their areas for improvement. Staff also benefit from the videos as it helps to gauge progress more accurately.
Standards Units in Maths. A miscellany of Standards Units resources were explored. One of them had proved to be an excellent way to explore the concept of proof, using a mixture of identities and equations. Another explored the idea of scale, linking decimalised quantities and their standard form equivalent to a range of objects.
The Maths Data Tracking System was on display. The team uses detailed records of responses to tests, question by question, so that teachers and identify areas of weakness for individual students but also for a whole class. This leads to topic specific interventions with very strong results.
Tidy Book Tidy Mind: Simple but effective. The power of taking a strong line on presentation was demonstrated clearly:
Interactive Excel: A maths teacher as developed a range of interactive spreadsheets with lot of visual components to support teaching in various topics. They help to explain certain ideas with answers pre-written and interactive elements that allow variables to be changed – as in this probability example:
Hinge Questions in Science: The teacher has been using some multiple-choice hinge questions with her Y10 GCSE class. The process involves students debating the answer until they agreed – in pairs and then in larger groups. This gives time to deepen the thinking on the topic. They key to success is having well-chosen possible answers so that some are close but not quite right.
Flipagram stop-frame app. This was used in a Year 12 Chemistry class. Students had story-boarded the steps that explain electron transfer in chemical reactions and used the app to animate molecular models. This had made students think carefully about the sequence and helped them remember it later.
Using IT to make marking easier: A science teacher had developed a system that he found has saved him time in providing individualised feedback to students. This used an excel database of statements pertinent to a particular piece of work – areas of strength, areas to improve and specific tasks to perform. He then used a simple numerical entry for each student and generated a personalised mail-merged sheet for each one. Lots of teachers were really interested in this – especially where they find themselves writing the same comments over and over again in different books.
Structured Debate in Science. Having worked with our debating advocate mentioned in Part 1, this teacher had introduced a structured debate element to his teaching with a GCSE class on the topic on the ethics of IVF treatments. Students learned how to propose, oppose and rebut. The structured guidance helped them to prepare a case, anticipate the opposite case and to listen in order to rebut. They made brief notes as prompts so they had to speak from memory, not simply rely on what they’d written. The approach also had clear roles for the class audience as observers.
DIRT and Critique in Science: (Ok, this was my contribution! ) I showed some examples of using directed improvement and reflection time including simple redrafting. There are pitfalls – students will reproduce errors that aren’t corrected and can focus on neatness over content. However some of the improvements can be dramatic. I also shared a mixed experiment with peer critique; it helped students to see in detail what other students produced, to learn what the standards are, but too many comments were too superficial. I can do this better!
Typography Project in Graphics: Working on a project to design their own font, students had been given a very open brief; the high degree of freedom in the task and generated some excellent responses.
Feedback in Art: Using ideas about feedback – with some theoretical underpinning from Hattie – a teacher has explored combining teacher and peer feedback processes on a project based on the work of Frank Stella. One of the interesting conclusions was the students found the work ‘easy’ had generally produced work of a lower standard to those who had found it ‘hard’. I liked the evaluative nature of this work – eg that the feedback sheet was too complex and that sequencing of the feedback and practical work could be improved.
Integrated Learning: The Applied Art AS and BTEC Art classes co-exist, using the same teaching space. Their teacher had explored giving the same brief to both sets of students – something based on ‘Mechanical Metamorphosis’. It works in terms of the art process but also allows the flexibility for L2 BTEC students to swap to an A level route if they pass their Maths and English GCSEs.
3D Printing: We recently acquired a magnificent machine from a generous donor. Teachers and our DT Technician have just started to explore the possibilities converting Sketch-Up designs into 3D realities.
Using Literature in learning Languages: Teachers in the MFL have been exploring using literature – stories of different kinds – as a basis for learning grammar and vocabulary. This included a French Goldilocks – ‘Boucle d’Or et les Trois Ours’.
Is Drilling Worth it? This was an exploration of applying ideas from Daniel T Willingham’s book ‘Why don’t students like school?’ to teaching languages, focusing on the importance of memory. “It’s virtually impossible to become proficient at a mental task without extended practice”. The extent of drilling and practice in MFL is a key area of discussion.
Culture in MFL: Teachers have been exploring a range of resources to develop a stronger cultural awareness as well as context for language learning – festivals, food, paintings.
The Chronology Project: The History Department has initiated a school-wide chronology project. The first step is to identify the key dates and events to include. This was an invitation to contribute. And to argue! I love this.
Mental Velcro: Another Phil Diggle special. A conceptual installation…
Firstly, I should add that, amongst all of this, Martin Robinson, @surrealanarchy, was doing the rounds, talking to people about their ideas, nudging us forward with our Trivium thinking. Working with Martin has been great – the Trivium is so powerful in giving shape to discussions about pedagogy.
And then we gathered together for a wrap-up from me. This was my message:
a) That we only improve through deliberate practice. From this array of ideas, we need to make sure we’re not flitting from one new idea to another; we need to select ideas that we can work on, practice, develop, refine, deepen, deliberatetly seeking to improve.
b) That we do this better when working collaboratively. Joint practice development is the key – shared discussions in teams or in pairs – so that there are different perspectives, mutual support and challenge. This is how we improve.
The next steps are key. In the coming weeks, a small team will pull together the key elements of what we’ve shared – the key themes of literacy, feedback and the components of the Trivium are coming through strongly. This will form the basis of our Teaching and Learning policy/vision/guide for the coming year. From September we will have fortnightly two-hour CPD sessions where teachers and work in teams to take these ideas forward; today was the start of a process. And next year – we’ll do it all again! It’s a cycle.
Thanks to everyone involved. We are compiling a list of all of the inputs and I’ll add it here when we’ve finished pulling it all together.