Monday, 15 July 2013

Part III - Hattie, what might he say is a great learning plan

Part III will, I hope, cover the remaining parts of what Hattie might have as a great learning plan.

This is part III. It might be worth reading parts I and II before reading this.

Pupils use peer feedback during the activity

This one is interesting. Clearly we can learn from other learners. How did you get that answer, mate? We have all asked someone who seems to be getting on better than we are how to do something. It is clearly not the same as copying and cheating but it is about a different perspective. Insights that others have gained can be legitimately shared.

For students to gain from such shared processes they need to be focused on understanding the learning rather than too strongly focused on the end answer. This is a cultural thing and will need to have had time spent developing this attitude in our learners.

Perhaps we also need to train other pupils so that they can best support their peers. What might that training look like? How would we get a student who knows to reveal what another needs to learn rather than just give the answer each time? Or is it fine for them to just give the answer? Hattie says if a child is struggling with how to do a maths problem we should just give them the answer so they can the focus on the process of solving. Perhaps, if we assess by making the learning (process) visible, children will learn that they don’t get credit for answers alone. They have to show us the process they used.

Lots to think about, it seems.

Teacher feedback to pupils while they are attempting the activity

Kind of obvious, this one. Carol Dweck tells us to do the feedback in a growth mindset way. Praise the process and the things children have direct control of rather than ability or cleverness. To be effective the feedback needs to be specific and timely. As close as possible to the activity, in time.

The activity also needs to be appropriately challenging. Hattie points out that receiving feedback on a simple task, 1+1 = ?, is pointless. You only learn, he says, from feedback on truly challenging tasks.

Teacher gains feedback from how well they are succeeding. Feedback TO the teacher is very high on Hattie’s list.

When you stop to look at a child’s work you need to be asking yourself two questions. How well are they, the children, doing? And how well have you done, as a teacher, in teaching them?

You are using their activity as an experiment to test how well you have done your teacher job. The idea of a teacher as an evaluator is placed high on Hattie’s list of very desirable teacher qualities. To do this effectively the teacher will have to plan for activities that make the learning visible and adopt a researcher based mindset. Looking for evidence to show how well that which is to be learned has, actually, been taught.

Pupils practice/do the activity, taking account of the feedback

Pupils need to do the activity for real. To actually be challenged by the complexity of the real task and to use the feedback of peers and the teacher that has already been gained. I think one would have to be careful to ensure that this part really did lead to more learning. It will not be good enough to repeat the preparation work done earlier. I think the relationship between this part and the earlier pupil work will be dependent on the precise learning to be achieved.

Pupils seek feedback on their performance

The challenging word, here, for teachers is to have developed a culture where seeking feedback is the norm. We can always expect teachers to give feedback but for learners to actively seek feedback will be new in many classrooms. Perhaps we need to identify the exciting bits of the learning where learners would really want to know how they had done and what to improve. That would truly be an outstanding learning culture.

Pupils are eager to do the activity again

“Please Sir, may I do those difficult sums again?”

Does not seem too likely or too productive. But, “Please Sir may I do more hard sums”, would be great. How would we have to create learning experiences so that was an outcome?


I wonder what a learning planning document would look like if it were following the Hattie model?

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Part II of - Hattie - What does he suggest is a good learning plan?

Be a good idea to read part I before you read this part. But who am I to tell you what to do?  8-)

Teacher clearly explains the thing(s) to be learned

This is a part of the learning process that some of us had lost sight of. In our rush to do the exciting things, the things that engage pupils we have not remembered that they need to know some stuff. They need to know what they need to know so that we can THEN do the exciting things. We have had students practising before they have been given the knowledge that they need to use in their practices.

Sure, pupils can learn knowledge from books, YouTube or any other medium that ‘tells’ them but the teacher is usually the best placed to do this. The teacher knows which bits of knowledge they need, in what order, with what emphasis etc. I will confess that most of my assemblies as a head teacher were based on one theme - sit down, be quiet and listen to your teacher. I also told my children that getting clever was easy. They just had to know more. The clever person next to them was only clever because they had learned more stuff. Actually, being clever is not much more than that. The first part of our job as a teacher is to tell pupils what they need to know. There are lots of ways to tell but tell and tell clearly is critical so that they get the knowledge sorted as well as possible.

Teacher clarity comes very high on Hattie’s effect sizes list.

Let me add. I am fine with all sorts of different teacher delivery. I will credit the more engaging ways of ‘telling’ as much as the less dramatic. What is vital is that the children are told enough to allow them to then think at a higher level.

Stop the rush to higher order and to deeper until the shallow and low order knowledge has been secured. Why do we have such pejorative names for the knowledge based elements of the curriculum? Someone invent a name for the process, knowledge acquisition and recall, please. A nice, exciting name.

Teacher models what the the learning looks like

You know when someone explains something to you but you don’t quite get it? You ask then for an example. Then you understand - or understand enough.

That is what modelling does. The teacher shows you what it looks like. Or shows you a video of what it looks like. You begin to see more deeply what you have just been told. You also get a view of what quality looks like. You begin to understand how to do it. It being the learning, the skill etc. That’s what modelling does for a learner.

Hattie talks about a child who is not able to do a maths problem. “Just give them the answer”, exhorts Hattie, “Then they can focus on the process!” We are after them understanding how to do something not just what the answer is. We have, in my opinion, become too entranced with the mystery and magic of not simply and clearly revealing methods to children. We think that by making them work harder and struggle that they will learn better. We do want them to work hard but we need to be doing that when they mostly know how to do it. If they have the skills then they will then gain the insights that turn them into high quality, engaged learners.

“Just show them” still rings in my ears from the Hattie videos, “Just show them.”

Pupils try the activity, not totally successfully

It is not the intention of this part of the learning that children will not be successful. It is that we should expect them to make mistakes with some parts as well as get some bits right. It is during this stage that true learning will occur. Provided we have the right tasks, set at the right level of challenge, and we provide opportunities for peer interaction. BUT, especially important is to have great teacher feedback to the child.

Don’t set up activities that require children to discover any really significant new information. Information that has not been given to them in the teacher explanation and modelling parts of this learning. Make sure they are able to explore and challenge their emerging knowledge. Make sure you design the tasks well but somewhat openly so that there is also the possibility for students to clearly display their learning, and mislearning (is that a word? It should be) to the teacher.

Part III when I get so itchy I just have to write some more.

Part III will, I hope, cover the remaining parts of what Hattie might have as a great learning plan.

Hattie - What does he suggest is good learning?

Having watched the Prof John Hattie videos on his effect sizes research a few times, now, I decided to try and write down what he sees as the best way to deliver learning. He does not talk about a lesson plan but more about a learning plan. What would the learning process look like in a Hattie learning experience?

Teacher creates very clear learning intentions
This stage will happen before the lesson and is the key to quality planning. Be very clear about what the pupils will learn, before identifying what they will be doing. Also plan what you, the teacher, will be doing during the lesson.
Teacher creates clear success criteria
These allow students and the teacher to see what quality looks like in the learning. Great success criteria will lead to a great lesson.
Teacher clearly explains the thing(s) to be learned
Tell them what they need to know. A simple but, for some reason, contentious part of any learning. the big picture will help but the details need to be given clearly at this stage.
Teacher models what the the learning looks like
Show students what the learning looks like. Model an example.
Pupils try the activity, not totally successfully
Let pupils try the activity. They will probably be quite tentative in their exploration of the work. Some will do well while others may find it more difficult to get right.
Pupils use peer feedback during the activity
Organise the work so there is plenty of opportunity to talk to and check out how to do the task with other learners. Focus on the process as well as getting an answer.
Teacher feedback to pupils while they are attempting the activity
The activities need to be designed so that pupil misconceptions are clearly evident to the teacher, so they can be corrected.
Teacher gains feedback from how well they are succeeding. Feedback TO the teacher is very high on Hattie’s list.
The teacher as an evaluator of learning. This does mean we need to design activities so that the learning is visible. So that we can see what and how they are learning and how well they are understanding the learning.
Pupils practice/do the activity, taking account of the feedback
Pupils should not work on activities that provide enough challenge to move their learning forward.
Pupils seek feedback on their performance
The can use the success criteria to check how well they are doing.
Pupils are eager to do the activity again
To do even better they needed more and, critically, better practice.

Teacher creates very clear learning intentions

if I have worked with you as a teacher then you will know that I am not greatly in favour of the current practice of sharing learning objectives with pupils. I am not against sharing, of pupils knowing where the learning is going, nor am I against learning objectives. It is the concatenation of these two ideas. This leads, in my opinion, to a dumbing down of what Hattie sees as a critical part of the design of great learning.

Teacher must be crystal clear about the learning they want their pupils to do. They must know what knowledge and skills (no, not THAT debate again) the students will leave with. To describe that properly and fully will require teachers to describe, in technical learning language, so complex ideas. It is clearly not possible to write that up as the learning objective. The language is too complex and the sentences too long. Learning objectives are the device that teachers must use to define the learning and, perhaps, discuss the intended learning with other teachers. (I include learning assistants in this. Your learning assistant will only be properly effective in supporting learning if they can understand the learning objectives in the professional language you use.)

I and,  it seems, Hattie prefer learning intentions. Quite simply these state what pupils will be able to do, understand and/or know. A simple list. But one that is perfectly accessible for pupils. You could have the stems

by the end of the lesson you will


be able to...


permanently printed onto your board and you just fill in the gaps. It also means that the learning intentions will be in the same place for each lesson. Pupils will know where to look for them. They should be looking for them and using them during the lesson.

Teacher creates clear success criteria

How well am I doing, Sir?

It should be possible to point this pupil, this excellent learning pupil, to the place where the success criteria are displayed and allow them to make the judgement. Sometimes success criteria can be written on the board but other times they will need to be a little more expansive and it would be good to use a rubric. Rubrics do not need to be complex, multi-column tables. If a simple one will do, use that.

I am not keen at all on constructions such as All Most Some. they, like the sharing of learning objectives, can dumb down the learning expectations. Success criteria can be used to ‘road map’ the processes pupils will go through on their ‘learning journey’ The metaphor is useful because it has ‘sign posts’ etc that match well with checking learning. It is less useful if it is used to define a learning route too tightly. We do not really know what will motivate a student to persevere. Which tasks they will find more engaging. Which tasks trigger their previously stored memories, prior knowledge. It is important to allow for enough variety so that we can be reasonably sure pupils will learn well and that we can make that learning visible and evidence it.

Ok. I’ll post this and do some more later.

To come

  • Clear explanations by the teacher
  • Modelling by the teacher

Saturday, 6 July 2013

About Asking Questions in Class

Asking questions, orally, in class and then expecting an oral response is a very common technique teachers use in classrooms across the world. In most classrooms, every day there will be a teacher asking and a child answering.

It is surprising how little some teachers have thought about the purposes of getting children to answer questions in this almost ubiquitous activity. Why do we ask questions? I had better ask, for what reasons do we ask questions as some of the teachers I have worked with will know my views on ‘why’ questions.

Here are some reasons for the activity labelled Q&A:

to see what children remember

to see what children can recall - recall and remember are NOT the same thing

to get children to repeat a fact so other children can hear the right answer

to see what they know - a common teacher response

to listen for any misconceptions

to see what they do not know

to see what they know but do not know how to phrase

and so on.

A strong focus on the children. Naturally, one might think. Questions are for teachers to check knowledge and understanding.

Other reasons, sometimes there are called higher order questions, are to see if students can reason, rather than to check recall. Too see if a student can put two known facts together to come to a conclusion. Or to see if a fact is understood in a different context. I am sure you can think of questions that would meet these needs.

It is generally harder to ask, orally, higher order questions than, supposedly, lower order questions. Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives provide such a low to high categorisation. In one version of Bloom’s recall, understanding and application are categorised as low order and analysis, synthesis and evaluation are high order. If I do not let you use a question stem, ‘why’, it is more challenging for you to think of how to ask a higher order question. I might deny you the use of ‘why’ questions so that you do have to think harder and, hopefully, more clearly about the purpose of your questions. I will define ‘why’ as a lazy teacher’s method of questioning, and I do not mean in the Jim Smith manner.

I want to ask the question, what is the fundamental reasons for asking children questions? There are two, I believe.

One is to get children to think. Recall is a form of thinking so Bloom’s lowest level is covered.

The second reason is so that teachers can get a view on how well they have taught the child. Making their thinking visible. These two fundamentals may require teachers to consider their question planning a little more. I say question planning as I do believe that, unless you are a very experienced teacher, you need to carefully plan question clusters. Sets of questions that explore in some depth what children know and can do with the knowledge they are meant to have. Questions that check how well you have taught them so you can, perhaps, teach them again, in a different way so that they do truly learn.

There is more. Children asking questions; cluster questions; hinge questions. But later for that. Time for tea, isn’t it?

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Year 7 French Lesson using OTP Techniques by Holly Bedford

Year 7 French Lesson using OTP Techniques
Following 3 sessions on our OTP course, I decided to use several of the techniques we had discussed whilst teaching my Y7 French group. The group are middle to high ability.
The objective of the lesson was to learn 10 pieces of vocab to discuss sports and activities and then to apply previous class knowledge to create a speaking grid combining the new vocab.
I used a vrai/ faux system, as shown to our OTP group by our colleagues at Katherine Lady Berkley. The students all had a vrai/faux card as well as a little sheet as shown below. I introduced the vocab in statements saying’ Les √©checs means snap’ and ‘le basket means basketball’. The students hadn’t met this vocabulary before so had to guess, and then had to note down their answers to refer back to later. 
I then asked the students to look at the pictures of the vocab in their textbooks and discuss the meanings with their partners, looking at cognates, near-cognates and picture clues. Following this, I said new vocab in English, and the class had to shout out the French translation. We then went over the pronunciation.
For the next step, I gave out blank orange cards and gave the students 5 minutes to create vocab cards with the 10 new words – French on one side and a simple picture on the other.
The students then used these cards to test each other.
After they had finished this, I told the students to consider the orange cards as the backbone to a speaking grid. I then asked them to consider what they could use from previous class work to build a speech around the orange cards. I asked them to discuss this with their partners and then did ‘no hands questioning’ feedback to get ideas of what they could include. I then drew this on the board using yellow cards as my extra links.

Students were then given brief but concise instructions to create a speaking grid using the 10 new pieces of vocabulary on the orange cards and to add any extra speech they may need on the yellow cards. They were told that each grid needed to clearly signpost the speech and that they needed to aim for a 4A in terms of content (students know that this means using reasons and opinions, connectives and extra detail).
Immediately, several hands went up, but I pointed to the sign on the board and told the students it was ‘independent thinking time’ and that I would answer any questions in 5 minutes.

Whilst the students started to make their grids, I observed the class from a distance, occasionally asking questions such as ‘is that clear?’ ‘What could you add to improve this?’ ‘Can you see a spelling  mistake?’

After 5 minutes, I asked if there were any questions. From the 10 or so hands which had shot up at the beginning of the activity, only 1 student needed some guidance and this was on a spelling – I therefore referred him to the dictionary.
I found that students, who would usually really struggle, were coping extremely well and were referring back to previous work in their exercise books. I also found that the students were setting themselves suitable challenges by deciding whether to use their orange cards the vocabulary or picture side up.
Whilst observing the groups, I also took pictures of good examples of the speaking grids with my iPad and then emailed them to myself. I then stopped the students again to look at the examples on the board and questioned them on WWW.HTI.

Afterwards, the students had a few more minutes to make their final grid and stick it into their books. They then had to say their speech to their partners. Using a random name picker, 2 students were selected to also say their speech to the class and got feedback with www.hti.
Finally, as the plenary, we repeated the vrai/faux exercise and the students recorded their progress on learning their new vocab over the course of the lesson.

I was very pleased with the learning in the lesson – all students knew the 10 pieces of vocab by the end and also had applied previous knowledge to create their speaking grids. I was also impressed by how well the students worked independently and how they set their own level of challenge by deciding whether to use the vocab or picture side of their cards.