Student X’s story and a Vision of Teaching and Learning

For a while I’ve been wanting to collate the core ideas from my recent reading into a vision for Teaching and Learning for my Faculty. I think I’ve achieved it!

Pic A

From an A2(!) notes sheet I recently filled with reflections on important next steps, the word that comes up time and again is knowledge, and my aim is to ensure our Faculty embeds that more effectively over time.

The books and following people have all helped along the way in shaking the foundations of what I understand about teaching and learning, transforming my views, and I would highly recommend either following them on Twitter, and reading their fantastic blogs/books. Carl Hendrick Daniel Willingham Lyndsey Caldwell Katie Ashford Dawn Cox Mark Roberts Tom Sherrington Sarah Barker Mr Pink Shaun Allison Andy Tharby David Didau Chris Curtis

I recently presented to the Faculty my vision, and I started by sharing a narrative that one of my Yr 11 students had written. Frankly, it was appalling. She’s about to sit her English exams where one task is Narrative writing. She’s going to fail and she shouldn’t do.

She’s got a SPLD, there’s lower than normal attendance, but she’s a sparky girl verbally, and I presented the case that we could have done more for this girl who should be leaving school with a C (4/5?!) in English.

Basically, we could/should have done more to embed the skills she needed to succeed by utilising more of the kind of activities Science tells us help students learn most effectively: repetition, skills drills, mixed practice, re-drafting time, quizzing, recaps.

If this stuff below had been embedded in her long term memory by Year 11, it would be automatic when she is writing – as automatic as driving a car is to us.Pic B

For the whole Powerpoint, click here

I don’t know yet how it’s all going to look but I’m excited to work with my team on the details.

Here are my guiding focuses as we start to plan:

Knowledge Organisers: Deciding what we want ALL students to know by the end of each year. Make this explicit. Consider how to differentiate this effectively.

Repeated Practice:
  The path to expertise.  1) For fluency-to embed in long term memory. We also need to rectify embedded bad practice which will take much repetition! 2) Deliberate practice – to draft, take feedback, improve, take more feedback, re-draft and find ways to celebrate excellence in the refined end product.

Offering a balance of creative aspects that engage curiosity/interest, WITH the other side:Repetition, skills drills,  recap activities etc  – and being unashamed, unapologetic, and open with students about this side -sharing with them our vision of how people learn best:  – these activities help make knowledge automatic and embedded in LT memory over time, freeing up working memory. Knowledge provides the foundations we need to progress onwards to creative and critical thinking successfully.

Targets work: Sufficient time to reflect on, and respond to specific targets set, not only evidencing improvement, but metacognitive awareness of these targets through opportunities to explain to others the processes followed in improving.

Quizzing within, and at end of each module – closed qns, qns with cues, multiple choice, etc, and then interleaved recap tests to embed knowledge during the year – systematic, dates planned.

Stronger focus on the basics – Grammar, Spelling, Vocabulary, Terminology – systems in place – skills drills, etc. Let’s be unapologetic about this traditional grounding. Many students are ‘word poor’ – Let’s address this. Many students in Yr 11 don’t know what a simile is. Let’s address this so it’s as automatic as 2+2=4.

Silent work – Creating opportunities for this more in lessons removes the social pressure and innate reluctance to think. ‘Teenagers have a heightened sense of self’ and will always prioritise a word or smile to their friends over thinking. This is natural. Let’s help them out by removing this obstacle and using silence a bit more. Collaborative group work is fundamentally flawed in aiding effective learning to take place.
Modelling – Critical we share exemplar work at every turn. Live modelling, modelling of students’ work, improve on low level models, and most importantly model the processes followed to achieve effective work and overcoming obstacles along the way.

Challenge – Make it a struggle, make it tough, not what they can do. Strike the balance though. Cognitive Load theory awareness – the most important thing teachers should know about. Don’t overburden working memory but if tasks are challenging but achievable, then dopamine is released. The buzz of overcoming a problem just beyond comfort zone is immense for students.

Consistency – Working together to refine important aspects of our provision, achieving greater consistency in messages and explanations of key areas from teachers over Yrs 7-11. Complete teacher autonomy is not always effective in achieving the best practice.

Flexibility/Slow approach – Setting up Year overviews that have scope to be flexible, and teachers don’t feel the need to rush through content. If something needs to be re-taught/ consolidated for 3 extra lessons, do it.

Role of Homework (and Starters?) – Recaps/Targets work/ Embedding knowledge only?


Hope it’s of interest. Thanks for reading.



  1. teachingbattleground · May 8, 2017

    Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.


  2. Pingback: Educational Reader’s Digest | Friday 5th May – Friday 12th May – Douglas Wise

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