Sunday, 21 October 2012

ITP Session 3: Assessment

As part of my post-session task from session 2, I observed a starter of an English lesson and a full geography lesson. Firstly, I'd like to say that I truly believe that observing lessons is a great way to spend a non-contact period. Secondly, I'd like to thank those people (who do not read my blog, I expect, as I expect few do) for allowing me access to their classrooms. I'll allow anyone and everyone to come into my classroom, but I won't alter what I'm doing. What I do day to day is what I do, and even if OfSTED come in, I'll continue to do the same.
In the English lesson I only observed the starter. The task was to observe full lessons, but who has the time?! The starter was obviously something the teacher had had on the go for a while as pupils had been paired up and asked to prepare a short presentation on the difference between two similar words. We saw two groups deliver theirs (on the words 'already' and 'all ready', and on the words 'illusion' and 'allusion'). I noted that the activity satisfied some elements of 'DR. ICE' by challenging (teaching someone else...) and the way that the activities engaged their peers (a moving around the room quiz and a very well-made video resource). I thought about the use of this in mathematics, but came to the final idea that this would be useful in revision only and would require too much work on behalf of pupil experts to deliver a session on something they're already competent with at a time where they should be spending time working on improving their understanding of other areas.
I observed the full geography lesson in which the class were representing their findings of an environmental survey in bar charts. The teacher referred to their graphs as 'A star graph' instead of 'a bar graph' and revisited this in her plenary. The two As stood for 'axes', S for 'scale on the y-axis', T for 'title' and R for something else (I forget, sorry). She had pupils peer mark and write the letters down on a mini-whiteboard when they'd met that criteria and those pupils who had succeeded at the task had 'A STAR' written down their mini-whiteboard. I liked this quite a lot and would hope to use something like this at some point.

On with this week's session...

1. Exploring Assessment
We began with a simple task. 'Draw a house'. I drew the house in which I currently live and we marked each other's work in pairs. One colleague took the 'house' part a bit far and drew a lighthouse, and my marking involved statements such as 'No Sky+?', 'This fence will need replacing soon' and (my favourite) 'This is a bit of a fantasy!' next to the sun. I think both would be valuable resources if doing this activity with a class as a humourous way in and a way to highlight that this is not how peer-marking is expected to be done.
We discussed the task and decided that the way to mark it would be to provide success criteria, but why provide students with a task without indicating how they are going to succeed at it? We repeated the task with criteria and marked against this, deciding that success criteria is a must for students to succeed in the exam system in which we currently teach.

The next task was around four assessment questions: "When do students need success criteria?", "Why do students need success criteria?", "What might the success criteria columns (in the task) represent?" and "Is success criteria for the benefit of students or staff?"

We then took off into two groups on each side of a double-sided whiteboard to discuss different types of assessment: Assessment of learning and assessment for learning. The discussions ended with the comparison of 'AoL' being a 'post-mortem'-style of assessment whereas 'AfL' was more of a 'health check'. We also decided that some activities (such as past exam papers) can be classed as both if they are used in different ways.

We completed this session by defining what Assessment of Learning and Assessment for Learning is as well as completing our self-audits.

2. Lesson Observations
We went into three different lessons to observe the use of AfL and fed back in the session after break. We saw a lot of AfL happening, none of which I found overly ground breaking, but did like the use of 'The Steps to Success' in a maths lesson rather than 'All/Most/Some objectives'. The lowest step with the lowest level objective is coloured pink, bronze, silver and gold with the objective level increasing through the colours. I thought this was an excellent way to show progress through a lesson. It also reignited my wishes for a document camera for my classroom.

3. Discussion
There was more discussion time allowed for feeding back observations and findings from the post-session task.

4. Post-session Task
This session's task is tight on time, and is simply to prepare a planning log and action plan for priorities on working on assessment within lessons. The action plan is to identify three objectives for improving the use of assessment in lessons, the action that will allow this to happen and the success criteria for deciding whether the action plan has proved to be successful. A space for reflection is also to be added to allow for a later reflection.

The third session takes place tomorrow (22nd October).

Saturday, 13 October 2012

ITP Session 2: Starters and Plenaries

Our school group met on Monday to prepare our starter activity. We decided to focus on the riots of summer 2011 and community cohesion. We made a worksheet for each of four pictures (the young boy being mugged, a woman jumping from a building, tea being poured into cups on a police officer's riot shield and an army of people holding sweeping brushes) for four groups asking the groups to describe (what the picture was), reflect (on how it made them feel), speculate (on why this might have happened and what comes from it) and to write a newspaper headline. After creating these worksheets, the power went out, so I had to remake them Tuesday morning (which was very annoying). The activity was well received and I found the second session much more useful than I had found the first.

1. Quick Recap of Session 1
We were straight into it this week and were asked to write down 1 thing that we'd taken from last week into our practice over the last week. I've been reflecting more on my practice, whereas others had given more time for student reflection in lessons and others had gained in confidence. We were asked to share these with a couple of people around the room, and once done, were asked to share someone else's answer. I felt that this was a rather good way of getting student (the role that we essentially take) answers and ensuring that the students would be discussing with one another.

2. Starters and Plenaries
This was the major part of the day and discussed what an effective starter (or plenary - two starter groups, two plenary groups) was. My group were given the plenary cards, an element of my teaching that I am aware requires development and discussed our findings with the starter group on the table next to us. The cards that were prompts for discussion were along the lines of 'Does an effective plenary have to be delivered to the entire class?' or 'Does a starter necessarily have to lead in to the lesson being taught?'.

My thoughts were that a plenary isn't necessarily delivered within the same lesson - I always begin the next lesson with a starter linked to our previous lesson to consolidate learning and I believe that this is more beneficial to the students having had at least a day to allow the concepts to settle. I'm quite happy with the way that I begin my lessons (learning objective and starter on the interactive whiteboard as kids enter so they can begin upon entry) but I must develop my use of plenaries.

I wrote a few notes:
Make use of plenaries and mini-plenaries - if we're progressing through topics, ensure that we recap as we continue through and make sure that time is made for a plenary at the end of a lesson.
Secure time for plenaries - I've toyed with the idea of setting an alarm on my phone for 9:50, 10:50, 12:10, 13:10 and 14:50 so I always have ten minutes at the end of a lesson, but I am yet to go through with this. Maybe this week.
'How have you learnt it?' - we seem to focus on what pupils have learnt a lot, but rarely on how they've learnt it.
Set individual objectives - an idea I thought would be very useful in revision lessons in the lead up to exams. Provide each pupil with a sticky note and have them write a lesson objective for themselves on the piece of paper. This can be differentiated by each student who will write 'I will... (definitely do this)', 'I should... (get this done too)' and 'I might... (get on to this if I get through the other two'.

After discussing this we were asked to write, on a sticky note, one of four things: a question, a good idea, a concern or some new learning. I put my latter note (the individual objectives) up as my 'good idea'.

3. Improving Teacher Audit
We then filled in our audit booklet, which (for me) indicated a great need to develop a bank of plenaries to allow for consolidation before pupils leave the room.

4. Lesson Observations
Our lesson observations this week were two 30-minute observations in our groups of three. We were sent to an English literature lesson for the first half and an RE lesson for the second. The focus built on last week's 'engagement' and 'challenge' by adding 'starters and plenaries' and 'assessment'.
The English lesson was with top set year 11. A starter was on the board as the pupils entered and they discussed as they stood behind their chairs waiting for the lesson to begin. The teacher got their attention and after one answer from a pupil revealed that she was correct. I was impressed by the pupils discussing this as they waited, but felt that this could be even better if (EBI, a thing we use on the programme) if more discussion was allowed to get other pupils' ideas (even if the first answer was the one we were after). I applied this to a year 7 lesson this week and gave the pupil with the right answer a full-class round of applause when we revealed. The lesson itself was the pupils acting out 'The Crucible'. I believe there were many groups in the class and they took it in turns to act out a scene (this meant that they were thinking of how they might do it while the other groups were acting it out, and also meant that they had to keep up by reading along). The teacher ended this section of the lesson with a good discussion of what just happened in the play. The second half of the lesson was to watch a film version.
The second lesson we observed was an RE lesson with (what I believe was) a mixed ability year 9 class. I picked a lot up from this session and wrote a lot down. In terms of engagement there was a lot of short times given for tasks and in terms of challenge there was the introduction of GCSE-type questions. Pupils were assessing themselves at all points throughout the lesson and the teacher used mini-plenaries excellently ('Pass the parcel' style discussion with the speaker holding an object that is thrown around the room, a quick revisit to the lesson objectives after moving on and the use of mini-whiteboards for pupils to quickly feed back. At the end of the lesson she used the document camera on her desk to show a pupil's work on the board and had him talk us through it, had the pupils (all at once) recap the five major points of the lesson, walking around taking in their answers and went back to the 'pass the parcel'/'hot potato' activity where pupils were to share one thing they'd learnt or one question they had.

The observations encouraged me to reflect on whether I could use a document camera, whether I should rearrange my classroom to accommodate more group work, to give pupils 30 seconds of reflection time before asking for answers and for pupils to check their answers with those from other groups (and to discuss why the other groups' might be wrong/right).

I also picked up that I could probably do more with checking my form's planners by looking at the displays on the walls.

5. First Session's Post Session Task Delivery
As the next part of our session the starter activities for a citizenship lesson were delivered. There were a variety of them, ranging from a discussion over smart phone applications and how students and parents might use them to contact school, community cohesion and the impact different events have, what defines 'being British' and different forms of abuse, focusing on Lance Armstrong and Jimmy Savile.

From this session I picked up the use of movement around the classroom for PHSCE sessions ('Yes', 'Maybe', 'No'... find someone to discuss with... does that change your mind?).

We assessed each session using the DR. ICE acronym, discussing where deepening thinking might be improvement, where the learning was modelled, and so on and so forth.

6. Post-session Task
This session's task is to observe two good lessons (in pairs or more to allow for discussion) in the school prior to next Thursday's session with a focus on 'engagement', 'challenge', 'starters', 'plenaries' and 'assessment'. I'll have to do this on Monday and Tuesday in two of my 3 non-contacts.

The third session takes place on Thursday (18th October).

Monday, 1 October 2012

ITP Session 1: Introduction to Teaching and Learning

 The Improving Teacher Programme is not a course. It is a programme. That was made very clear. It's not a flash-in-the-pan course that means nothing to people, it's a programme that is intended to improve the participants ability to reflect and improve upon their teaching.

The programme is written by Olevi ( and because of the nature of copyright claims many things have different names (a 'learning walk' is called a 'ward walk' for instance), but don't let that fool you. It was trialled in London and Greater Manchester and, because the feedback has been very positive, is now being rolled out nationwide. This, I believe, is one of the first to have happened outside of Manchester or London.

This particularly course is run at an outstanding school in Yorkshire and is deliberately low-tech and stripped down, so that we're working at the heart of teaching and not with all of the flashy gadgets. This will be the first part of a collection of reflective posts aimed at allowing me to progress through the course to the best of my ability, as well as preparing myself for delivering any sessions that might lead on from my involvement in this programme. I'm hoping that you can take things from it too.

1. Introduction
We were introduced to the leaders for the programme and put into groups based on where our name tag has been placed. In these groups we were given the first task.

2. What is effective teaching and learning?
The first task was to answer the question 'What does a good teacher look like?'. The usual buzzwords were flung around, but the first thing that everyone went to was their appearance before asking things like 'What does a good teacher do?' or 'What makes a good teacher?'.

Prior to the second task, we were introduced to the backbone of the course (or so I gathered) described as 'Dr. Ice'. This consists of:
Deepening Thinking
Role-modelling Learning
Impact on Progress
Challenging Expectations
Engaging in Learning

In our four groups we were asked to discuss what we thought each of the above meant (we left Engaging in Learning out). The following pictures show what the group came to:

My biggest bits that I picked up on are:
Deepening Thinking - give time for discussion (which I am currently working on with year 9)
Role-modelling Learning - avoiding negativity (which I am very much trying to work on!), being a lifelong learner and sharing experiences (of which I am very good at - I'm constantly banging on about golf!), clear classroom routines (which I definitely need to develop beyond the usual 'pick your book up, make a start, margins, date, LO and starter...)
Impact on Progress - interesting and innovative lessons (which I am working on by using the 3 Acts things on offer by various people and thinking up my own activities), rewards and sanctions (which I probably should do more, but I get carried away teaching!).
Challenging Expectations - giving the same level of enthusiasm at all levels of ability (which I am happy to say I do), variety of presentation (I consider this on my drive to school and would be happy to accept my lessons do need more variety, more group work and more independent enquiry).

3. Expectations and Concerns
In this part of the session we were asked to write down expectations of the ITP and concerns regarding this too. The majority of the expectations centred around the hope that this would improve people's teaching, whereas the majority of concerns centred around the time required to implement what might come. This is a concern of mine, but I am happy to allow this to run and get into it before seeing how much time it takes and whether the time is worth the output.

4. Improving Understanding
This part was cut short because of time constraints, but focused on a game called 'Educational Taboo'. Take a card from the pile and explain what the word means without using the word, which went well in our group of three.

5. Ward Round
As I previously said, a 'learning walk' to you and I is called a 'ward round' in this programme as 'learning walks' are a copyrighted term and cannot be used in a programme that is sold on. This, as is probably expected, saw the groups head into 4 different lessons to observe with the focus of 'Engagement', 'Challenge' and 'Learning'. I saw many things that I include in my own practice but would like to draw on a few notes I made:

If you're going to tell a pupil you'll go back to them, make sure you do. (Engagement)
Putting a level on a piece of work is all well and good, but please make sure the level is accurate. I am wondering, however, if this was used to promote confidence in lower ability pupils who now believe they can work at level 7. (Challenge)
I was quite a fan of the English lesson's starter (I assume) which asked pupils to take the words 'The Tulip Touch' and write as many words with four or more letters they can write from the letters in the title. The higher ability pupils can be stretched and the lower ability pupils can find challenge too. (Challenge)
Explain why you're doing something and how the lesson will run. (Learning)
Consolidate understanding in groups by switching members and say that everyone has to 'Teach them or learn something from them'. Follow this up by questioning the groups/movers. (Learning)
Model your discussions prior to setting pupils off. What could you say? What might you hear? What questions might you ask? (Learning)

We then fed back to our group and into a whole group discussion. One thing that I picked up from here is use of the word 'SNOT' to be used like '3B4Me' (Self, Neighbour, Other, Teacher), reducing the workload of the teacher with pupils answering those small problems.

6. Improving Teacher Audit
To prepare us for completing our audit for Challenge and Engagement, we completed two tasks. The first of which was a two-way table with column headers of 'Do it' and 'Don't do it' and row headers of 'Easy to Achieve' and 'Difficult to Achieve' where we assigned phrases to one of the four boxes. 'Pupils in my class are engaged by the task after I explain the task clearly' was one, and I forget the rest. This one sparked a small discussion as I feel that much of this is down to the pupil as an individual rather than myself as a teacher, as those who are disinterested will not be engaged if they do not want to be.

The second short task was a quick 'Key Phrases Activity' - given a phrase, explain its educational meaning, explain how it benefits your pupils and give a specific example. This was one of mine:
'Challenge' - 'To extend the learning of and understanding a pupil holds by setting tasks above their current level to promote progress', 'pupils progress at an increased rate in terms of their understanding and develop confidence', 'a task involving a cuboidal post box and the cost of an artist covering the box with second class stamps as a protest at the state of the postal service'.

These were a build up to a self-audit about how we deal with 'Engaging in Learning' and 'Challenging Learning' in our classrooms.
My self-audit highlighted a need for me to learn how to engage the disengaged by using different strategies, as well as to develop a larger bank of resources to cater to different learning styles (Engaging in Learning) and a need for me to challenge all pupils when inadequate work in completed in a lesson (Challenging Learning).

7. Post-session Task
Every session ends with a brief introduction to our 'homework'. This sessions is to prepare an eight minute long starter activity for a core subject or citizenship lesson that will both engage and challenge OUR thinking. These tasks will be judged on their challenge and engagement. We are due to meet about this later this week.

The second session takes place a week on Thursday (11th October).