Why Don’t Students Like School?

ata why

ata why quote

The 15 Minute Forum tonight was led by Andy Tharby.  Andy has recently read Daniel Willingham’s book ‘Why Don’t Students Like School?‘ and was sharing some of the ideas from it.

The book makes a strong case for a more traditional approach to teaching, underpinned by an understanding of how the brain works.  Despite the fact that in the last 25 years we have made huge advances in terms of understanding how the brain works, many aspects of perceived ‘good’ teaching methods, don’t appear to have taken this on board.  In the book, Willingham covers 9 cognitive principles.  In the forum tonight, Andy focused on one:

People are naturally curious, but we are not naturally good thinkers; unless the cognitive conditions are right, we will avoid thinking.

There are four main ideas around this principle:

  • “Thinking is slow, effortful and uncertain”

Thinking takes time and so learning can only happen over time.  It takes a great deal of effort and determination and will involve ‘getting it wrong’ a great deal.  To start with, it will be clunky, involve a number of mistakes and take a great deal of effort.

  • “We rely on our memories”

Because of this, we are designed to avoid thinking and instead rely on what we have stored in our long term memory.  This allows us to access this information and therefore respond without much thought.

  • “We find ‘successful’ thinking pleasurable”

When we ‘think’ and ‘solve’ a problem – it appears to be a pleasurable experience.

  • “For problems to be solved, the thinker needs adequate information from the environment, room in working memory, and the required facts and procedures in long term memory.”

This can be explained by a simple diagram:

ata why diag1

If we are going to solve a problem we need to receive information about it from our environment, through our senses e.g. we’ll see things, hear things, feel things etc.  This ‘stuff’ that’s around you, that you are aware of will be stored in your ‘working memory’.  The ‘long term memory’ is the huge amount of factual knowledge that is stored, which will have come through your working memory.  We’re not always aware of this long term memory, until we need it – when it then comes into our working memory.  Thinking happens when you combine what’s in your environment, with what’s in your long term memory – and this processing happens in your working memory.

The problem is, we are limited with what our working memory can cope with – we can probably only cope with 5-9 things in our working memory at once.  In the book, Willingham explains this using the following problem:

ata why diag2This is relatively difficult to solve, as it involves us keeping a lot of information in our working memory.  We were then shown another problem from the book:

ata why diag3This stumped even more people!  However, the problem is the same, as the previous problem.  The people are like the pegs in the first problem and the tasks are like the rings.  What makes it seem more difficult is the way it is presented – there is far more to store in the working memory.  The picture of the pegs and hoops in the first problem provides us with a mental image of what has been done – so aids the working memory.  This isn’t available in the second problem, making it more difficult.

What are the implications for teaching?

  1. Ensure there are ‘problems’ to be solved when planning lessons and that it is not just a long string of teacher explanations, with little opportunity for students to solve problems. ‘Problems’ are “cognitive work that poses moderate challenge”.
  2. Remember that students have cognitive limits. Save problems for another time if the background knowledge is not there.
  3. Make sure you do not overload working memory. Slow the pace and use cues in the environment e.g notes and images on the board.  This prevents students from having to keep too much in their working memory
  4. Plan lessons around questions to be solved…and that can be solved by the students.  So frame your questions with the right level of difficulty to engage students and respect their cognitive limitations.
  5. Teach basic concepts before ‘puzzling’ students. That way they can solve the problem.  The ‘National Strategy’ classic 3 part lesson was not great at this.  For example, in science lessons we would often start the lesson with a whizz bang practical that would leave students open-eyed.  We would then ask them to explain it.  Which of course they wouldn’t be able to do, because they didn’t have the basic knowledge.
  6. Ensure that weaker students are not over-challenged – if they are, they will struggle not to switch off.  This is a fine balancing act – not dumbing down too much and lowering our expectations, but at the same time not overloading them cognitively.
  7. Plan shifts into lessons to regain attention.  When their attention is beginning to ‘drift’ do something different in the lesson – change activities.  This will generally regain the focus.  This is not to be confused with ridiculously ‘over-pacey’ lessons, that give students no opportunity to be successful with problems.

The forum gave us much to reflect on, in terms of how these cognitive processes should shape and inform our teaching.  It also generated some discussion about the myth of learning styles, summed up brilliantly here by Willingham:



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Growing our mindset


This time last year I read Dweck’s ‘Mindset’.  Since then we’ve done quite a lot of work at DHS to develop and embed a growth mindset with our students  - especially during the last term.  We are trying to ensure that it runs through everything we do – as only then will it become an intrinsic part of our school culture.  It can’t be a one-off.  This article attempts to describe how we are trying to do this through our teaching, assessment and feedback.

The following video clip of Professor Dweck gives a great overview of growth mindset:

Why Mindset?

As a school, we are successful.  We get great outcomes for our students – but we are always looking to get better.  A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to hear Humphrey Walters speak at a conference.  He described this graph:

humphrey waltersThe message was simple.  Successful individuals or institutions will continue to grow and improve up to a point – but will then plateau.  At this point, they need to do something different, in order to continue to grow and succeed.  For me, the ‘different’ bit for us as a school, was a clear and concerted focus on developing a growth mindset.

Why growth mindset?  Our students are brilliant, but like many schools, we still hear the following responses from some of our students when they get stuck:

gm students say

I’m convinced that developing a growth mindset could be the thing to unstick many of them!

I’m indebted to John Tomsett for getting me started on how to embed a culture of growth mindset across the school.  John was speaking at a conference I attended and I was fortunate to grab an hour with him in the bar, to pick his brains on how he has approached growth mindset at his school.  John was very generous with his time and resources.  One of the things he shared, was a questionnaire that he used with his students, to ascertain their mindset:

gm questions

gm questions2

John has blogged about this here – where you can also download this questionnaire and other associated resources.

We used the questionnaire at school with all students, who were then given a score from 1-6 based on their responses – 1 being fixed mindset and 6 growth mindset.  At an INSET day, we then discussed the results and focused on a few case study students, to illustrate the qualities and attributes of different ‘mindset’ students.

gm studentaSo student A was well known to the staff.  A bright boy who has the potential to do well.  However, when he gets stuck, he’ll down tools and stay stuck.  He won’t seek assistance or try any harder – he’ll just stay stuck.  He had a fixed mindset score of 2.5 and was only achieving his potential in 57% of his subjects in his mocks.


Student C was also well known to staff.  She’s a C grade student, but is exceeding that in all of her subjects – according to her mock grades.  She works incredibly hard, sticks with it when she finds things hard, seeks clarification and support from her peers and teachers when she needs it – and wants to get better and better.  Not surprisingly, she has a high mindset score – 5.5.


Student E was an interesting student to look at.  He was very disappointed with his Tracking Point 4 projection (October) for history.  He discussed this with his tutor and told her that it was his fault and that he had to work harder to address it.  He did just this and by Tracking Point 5 (January – post mocks) had converted the D into a B.  This approach matched his mindset score of 5.4 – a growth mindset.

growth-mindsetWhilst this is only three students, there were many other similar examples – where the mindset score matched how students were achieving and their approach to learning.  The exercise of matching mindset scores to real students was really useful – as it made the mindset attributes come to life.  This made me realise there was something in the whole mindset thing and that it was definitely worth pursing.  So we have.

Developing a growth mindset

Growth Mindset appeals to teachers because it makes sense – it’s about hard work, sticking with it and not giving up.  As Tom Bennett describes:


So what have we done to try and embed this into our school culture?

The INSET day discussion, described above, was a great starting point.  I then shared this information with all students, through assemblies over a fortnight period.  The powerpoint I used can be viewed here.

The one factor that has most influence over students in a school is how they are taught.  So if we wanted to develop their mindset, we had to think about how we taught them.  We don’t have a teaching & learning policy, but we do have a set of principles that drive our teaching – keeping it ‘tight but loose’.  These were reviewed and updated last term, to ensure that they align with the growth mindset approach.  How this happened is documented here – this resulted in the following flow diagram, that sums up the key pedagogical principles of expert teaching:

expert pub

The overarching principle here was the idea of ‘challenge for all’.  If we really want to develop a growth mindset and get students to raise their aspirations, we had to raise our expectations of all students.  By doing this, they get used to the struggle of learning, and learn to overcome obstacles – and so become grittier. Angela Duckworth describes the importance of grit here:

We also need to ensure that we support them with meeting these expectations – through excellent explanations, modelling, questioning, feedback and the opportunity to practise – lots. Our teachers have responded brilliantly to this – there are a growing number of examples around the school of high expectations and excellence being shared.  More here.

Alongside this, I share a range of teaching techniques, that will help develop a growth mindset, on this page.  A great example of this is illustrated here by Dweck talking about the power of ‘yet’:

Andy Tharby has also made a great contribution, in the shape of excellent blog posts, such as this one on ‘gallery critique‘.  This has been shared with staff and tried out across a range of subjects.

We also reviewed our ‘marking policy’.  This was timely as it gave us the opportunity to develop quality feedback across the school – a key aspect of the ‘growth mindset’ approach.  So our marking policy, became a feedback policy.

dhsfeedback1The starting point for this was a group of interested staff coming up with a set of principles to guide the policy – using John Hattie and The Sutton Trust as a starting point.  We wanted to move away from a policy that just focused on ‘red pen’, towards a policy that valued and acknowledged a wide range of feedback.  This is what we came up with:

dhsfeedback2These principles are now being put into action.  However, each department has been given the freedom to determine how effective feedback will be implemented in their subject.  We’ve moved away from a rigid, one size fits all approach to feedback – it’s about what works well for different subjects, but still meets these guiding principles.  So each subject outlines this in their own section of the feedback policy:


Assessment without levels, also provides us with another opportunity to develop mindset. Again we started with a set of principles:


From this each subject area looks at their units of work for KS3 and decides the standards of excellence they would expect, in terms of knowledge and skills.  We are not focusing on assessing everything, just the key knowledge and skills that subject specialists know are important to master, in order to be successful at GCSE.  This can then be summarised as below:


This is then broken down into thresholds below excellence – the idea being that that through effective feedback and support, students will move through the thresholds and aspire towards excellence. We’re not setting a ceiling on achievement, but setting a standard of excellence – in the knowledge and skills that we think are important.  So we are raising aspirations and being selective about the knowledge and skills that we assess.

growthThe development of a growth mindset has become an exciting and interesting journey – that has taken on a life of it’s own across the school.  We even seem to have developed a new strap line as a result of it – ‘Going beyond our best’.

The journey continues.




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Teaching with Pam

pam penguinIf Penguin are looking to publish a classic about teaching, they should consider the one above.  Pam McCulloch is a science teacher who has worked at Durrington High School since 1978.  Last year, Pam retired from full time teaching, but still works with us doing some one to one support work.  When you look back at how Pam’s classes achieved over the years, the results are simply stunning.  Year after year, her classes consistently achieved way above what was expected of them.  Very few teachers come close to this level of excellence over a few years – and certainly not over decades.  So with this in mind, I wanted to sit down with Pam and ask her how she did it – what was the secret of her success?  The following article is a summary of the main points Pam made during our discussion.

speech bubbles

  • It’s very important to remember that children get one shot at education – so we’ve got to make it count for them.  If we don’t, nobody else will.
  • I was born, educated and grew up in Glasgow, in a very poor community – it was hard.  So education was everything.  It gave you options in life.  This informed my approach to teaching – I had no choice but to make them succeed. I would tell my students - you’re here to learn, you’re going to learn and this is how we’re going to do it. And that was that – it was non-negotiable!  Hard work and effort is everything – nothing is just going to fall into your lap!
  • Young people are lovely – be nice and pleasant to them, but always remember you’re the professional and you’re in charge – and they will do what you ask them.  So there always needs to be a line.  It’s for this reason that I always thought it was very important to dress professionally. You’ve got to look the part!
  • Know your subject.  If you’re going to make the content you are teaching interesting, add breadth and depth and push them to learn deeply, you’ve got to have a great subject knowledge yourself.  This is really important.  So stay on top of your subject by reading around it all the time.
  • Don’t take any nonsense from them.  They are there to learn, so if they’re misbehaving, address it immediately and sort it out. Everybody must feel comfortable and able to learn – they can’t if people are fooling around.  I always greeted them with a smile…..but would always use a wee bit of menace when necessary! On the first day of the new school year, when they would line up outside my classroom for the first time, I would always notice a little grimace on their face.  I always thought that was a good thing, because they knew I was going to make them work hard.
  • Have sky high expectations of them.  I always told them I expected nothing less than A* grade work from them.  I would never lower my expectations – that was the standard and they had to work hard and put the effort in to get to that level.  We are doing them a disservice by pandering to them and accepting low standards.  So if they didn’t answer a question well and told me I was picking on them, my response would be ‘Yes, that’s right dear, because you can do so much better’.  If they were overjoyed at getting a grade B, my response would be ‘Yes dear, though it’s not really good enough and I’m a little disappointed, because you can do better’.  This is more important than anything else – students will always live up to our expectations of them, be them high or low. I would frequently teach GCSE students at AS level standard.

pam wisdom

  • They must become resilient.  So when they get stuck, tell them they can do it.  Pick out what they can do, stress this with them and then build on it – until eventually they can do, what they thought they couldn’t.  Then remind them that they thought they couldn’t do it!
  • Know your students inside out.  Read how they are feeling and respond accordingly.  Know when to push them and when to offer a bit of support.  Find out what they are interested in and talk to them about this outside of the lesson – show an interest in their lives.  This enables you to make a connection with them.  Look at their work every lesson and talk to them about their work, questioning them to push them further.  If they’re not pulling their weight and their classwork is not perfect, pull them up on it and make them do it again….better.
  • Language is very important, especially in my subject science, where they are exposed to a great deal of new academic terms.  But I would never dumb down the language.  Instead I would always use rigorous academic language and insist that they would too. They won’t thank you if they use the wrong terms and lose marks in the exams because of it!
  • Practice is key.  We would do lots and lots of exam questions.  So when they then came to their actual exams, it was a piece of cake! When doing exam questions we would – recap the knowledge; do the question; go through the answers – focusing on the key terminology and how the answer needs to be constructed.  If they didn’t get it, I would tell them ‘Don’t worry, you will’.  But don’t let them stay stuck. Work through it with them to show them how, then let them do another one on their own.  They love it when they see that they can actually do it.  Always make sure they do their corrections – insist on it.  Getting it wrong is fine, but they need to learn how to get it right!
  • Homework – set it regularly and expect them to do it.  Your part of the deal though is then to mark it and show an interest in what they do.  We have a duty to respond to their efforts.  Don’t accept sloppy work though.  If they handed in substandard homework I would say – ‘That’s not worth me marking, so do it again and then hand it again when you’ve put the effort in.  Don’t give me work like that again’.
  • If they are going to learn new knowledge, they need to keep repeating it.  So I would start every lesson with 20 questions.  They were short and to the point and went back over knowledge from previous lessons – not just the previous one.  This gets the content embedded.  It’s not fun and showy, but it works! I would also do the same with homework.  Not just set them work based on that lesson, but sometimes on what they did a few weeks ago.  If we don’t do this, it just drifts away.
  • Get them organised.  Worksheets etc weren’t just left loose in their book – they were stored in a nice folder.  Similarly their classwork had to be well organised – dates, titles etc all underlined…with a ruler.  Diagrams with a pencil and writing in pen.  Nothing else would do.  They must have pride in their work.
  • Give what they are learning about a context.  I would often get professionals e.g. industrial biochemists, university research scientists etc, in to speak to them.   This gave the learning a meaning and breadth.  It also raised their aspirations. It showed them where science can take them.

Finally I asked Pam if she thought we had got it right, with focusing on the following aspects of teaching.  She replied – ‘Looks about spot on to me dear‘.  That’s good enough for me!

expert pub

 Thanks Pam for an inspiring hour!

 If you liked this, you might like reading about Mr Clarke.

If you have had the privilege to work with/ be taught by Pam, please share your thoughts on her brilliance by leaving a comment.

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Flipped Learning

flippedThe 15 Minute Forum last night was led by Learning Innovator, Jody Chan.  During the session, Jody shared what flipped learning is and how she has been using it in her classroom.

Essentially, flipped learning involves students accessing some of the instructional aspects of the learning at home, via video links etc, instead of during the lesson.  This then allows the teacher to focus on assessing their knowledge, challenging their misconceptions and deepening their learning during the lesson, by building on the foundation knowledge they have acquired at home.

The following video explains the approach:

So, the teacher will need to find an instructional video and then set it for the students to watch at home.  If it’s to be successful, the teacher needs to ensure that they watch the video beforehand and then carefully plan some questions for the students to do the next lesson.  The questions need to be carefully though through.  They will need to:

  • Ensure that they elicit whether the students have picked up the key knowledge;
  • Identify any misconceptions;
  • Deepen the learning, beyond surface knowledge.

How do you know they’ve done it?  Students need to bring in notes that they’ve made from watching the video.  This is another advantage of this approach – it develops the lost skill of note taking.  Although this will need to be modelled with them beforehand, if they are to be effective.  If they don’t do it they are sanctioned in the same way they would be if they didn’t do a ‘traditional’ homework. Another student can then be asked to explain the key concepts to them.

There are a number of different sources of instructional video:

A good approach is to give 2 or 3 videos on a topic for students to watch, for variety and breadth.  The instruction doesn’t have to come from watching a video.  There are a number of other ways that this can be done:


It’s important to understand that students need to be trained to do this well – they’re not always great at change.  So you have to accept that the first few times it may not go to plan, but stick with it, as it’s worth it.  It’s also important to stress that it should never be a complete replacement for instruction from the teacher – as of course, this is what teaching is about!  It is however, a great alternative to use from time to time, to develop important skills with students.

A few final points:

  • It’s great for generating discussion.  Often students will find alternative sites to get further information and then bring these ideas to the lesson.
  • It gives the teacher the opportunity to pick up on and address misconceptions, but……
  • Think about and plan your questions carefully – so as you pick up misconceptions.  There is a risk from this kind of instruction that if left unchecked, misconceptions could become embedded.
  • One things that it has done is given students the confidence to ask and answer questions – especially ones who have been reticent about doing so in the past.  when asked why, they say it’s because they know some of the stuff, before they come to the lesson – so they feel more confident.
  • It can be a really useful way of (a) introducing a new topic and (b) consolidating learning over a topic.



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Airfix Get It Wrong

airfix-spitfire_2475669bAs a young boy, I used to love Airfix models.  The box with the picture on the front of the fantastic end product. The glue. The paints. Then all the other bits and pieces you had to gather – the craft knife, the sandpaper etc.  It was a labour of love – but one that you knew was going to be worth it.  Obviously I didn’t know it at the time, but it would be fair to say that this hobby was probably developing my growth mindset.

I knew that I was going to have to persevere with it.  Starting a new Airfix kit was an act of love and required a commitment in terms of my time (much to the annoyance of my family as I took over the dining table for days on end).  This was no instant gratification with an Airfix kit – but that was fine.  It was worth it.

As an ‘Airfixer’ you had to have resilience.  Things would go wrong.  You’d lose a bit and then have to spend hours hunting for it.  Something wouldn’t fit, so you’d have to carefully use your craft knife to shave off plastic until it did.  You’d glue something, somewhere where it didn’t belong, so you’d have to remove it and then carefully clear away the surplus glue.  There would be lots of setbacks, but you’d learn from them and make sure you didn’t repeat the errors you made with the spitfire, with the Messerschmitt.  But that was fine – it was worth it.

You knew all about striving for excellence.  The photo on the box was the standard you were aiming.  So you would study it forensically and make sure you replicated it.  You would also discuss excellence with other Airfixer friends – ask them what they had done to get that paint job just right?  What did they think of yours?  Was it as good as Gary’s?  (Gary was the ‘King of Airfix’ – we all aspired to him).  Where exactly did that sticker go?  What was the paint pattern on the wing like?  If you didn’t get it right, you would paint that bit again….and again, until you got it right.  But that was fine – it was worth it.

We understood the importance of public critique.  When you’d go round to your mate’s house, you’d often have to duck as you went into their bedroom to save yourself from bashing your head on the Airfix planes – hanging proudly from the ceiling on cotton. We would then go to town on offering feedback.  Which one we liked….and why.  Which one was rubbish….and why.  But that was fine – it was worth it.

We also understood the need for effort and practice if we were going to master the Airfix models.  There was no other way to get as good as Gary.  You simply had to finish one, then get another and make it even better – learning from the mistakes of the last one. You also knew that the next one had to be more challenging, if you were going to get better. More pieces, more transfers, bigger and a far more complex paint job.  No-one else was going to make you a ‘Master Airfixer’.  It was down to you.  But that was fine – it was worth it.

Imagine my dismay this morning when I saw this picture on my Twitter time line, of the new Airfix range:

airfix quick

No glue! No paint! Just build.  Disaster.

They may as well put this on their box:

  • No need for perseverance.
  • No need for resilience.
  • No need to strive for excellence.
  • No need for public critique.
  • No need for effort and practice.
  • No need to challenge yourself.

There are parallels here with what’s happened in education over the last couple of decades I think. A previous post on how Mr Clarke taught in the 80s confirmed this.  He made the learning hard, stressed the importance of effort and perseverance, made sure you challenged yourself and gave you the opportunity to do lots of practice.  He also insisted on excellence – nothing less would do.  He didn’t see him himself as an entertainer – there were no gimmicks.  Just focused teaching and lots of hard work.  It’s a shame that we’ve lost a bit of focus on these key aspects of teaching

So, if Airfix aren’t doing it for us, we need to ensure that we are in our classrooms.  That through our teaching, we are developing these qualities in students, by adopting a growth mindset approach to our teaching .  We owe it to them, if they are really going to develop as deep learners.  If we don’t, we’re failing them.

Airfix…..shame on you!

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AfL – What Really Works?

formative dog

The 15 Minute Forum tonight was led by one of our Learning Innovators, PE teacher Stuart Axten.  Over the course of the year, Stuart has been introducing a variety of new ‘AfL’ techniques to his department.  They try a new one every fortnight and then assess it’s effectiveness – in terms of ease of use and impact on learning.  There has been much discussion on twitter and blogs recently about AfL – is it really useful? Is it just a gimmick? Does it actually help or impede learning?  Stuart is developing a pretty clear picture about this, having tried out a range of techniques – yes, some of them are gimmicky and not terribly high impact, but then some of them are just……good teaching.

Stuart started us off by watching Ron Berger and his now legendary ‘Austin’s Butterfly’ video:

Stuart then went on to say that to him, this video clip sums up what counts.  Having high expectations of students and then using critique methods to help students improve and strive for excellence.  Call it AfL or just good teaching.  It’s the thing that makes the difference to learning.

He then went on to describe two of the strategies the PE department have tried out, that appear to have made the biggest difference to student learning.

Independent Development Task

  •  Students must work in groups to create practices or drills that demonstrate the skill against the level criteria on the board – the steps to success.
  • Give them set number of equipment, rules, conditions or time limit.
  • Students demonstrate how the skill looks as a level 4/5/6 and 7.
  • Other groups feedback whether they think the group have successfully demonstrated the skill to that level and allow them to progress to next stage. They write the initials of the students on the board, once they have met that level.
  • Groups can suggest adaptations or progressions to help for next level – a group critique.
  • Students are encouraged to be highly specific with their critique.


  • The picture above shows how their ‘steps to success’ are recorded on the white board.
  • The teacher needs to moderate the assessments the students are making – don’t just rely on their peer assessments.
  • Question students on why they have awarded a particular level.
  • This activity has served as a good motivator.  The students like the idea of the ‘steps to success’ – and this would work equally well without numerical levels.


The Student Plenary

Great learning happens when:

  • Questioning varies to stretch the individual learner.
  • Questioning is open and dynamic and encourages students to listen and respond to each other and so promotes a collective increase in understanding.
  • Individual learners understand what is to be learned and why.

These principles have been used in the development of the student plenary:

  • Let the whole class know at the start of the lesson that someone will be leading a plenary back to the rest of the class.
  • Pick the plenary student at the end – so keeping them all on their toes during the lesson.
  • Plenary student demonstrates the skill that you have been teaching during the lesson. Insist on excellence here.
  • At each point they ask a random student why each teaching point adds to the success of the skill e.g. “Why must my weight be on my back foot in preparation for the smash?”
  • Student can build in deeper level questioning by asking how the skill contributes to effectiveness in matches/games e.g.  “What impact will the drop shot have in game situations?”…..  “What is the purpose of the long serve?”… “Why/How will this increase your opportunity to outwit your opponent?”
  • Students can put hand up and add any points the plenary student missed or ask questions about the skill to draw out purposes/ skill developments or tactical uses at the end.
  • Teacher can add final comments if needed.


  • Students can give incorrect information on purpose and students have to correct when they think the wrong answer has been given.
  • Students can explain the impact of the teaching point without saying it and let ‘audience’ guess what teaching point they are explaining.
  • Plenaries given in multiple groups with multiple plenary students.

Purpose of student plenaries

  • Engages all pupils as anyone may be asked a question about the skill.
  • Encourages students to ask and answer own questions – and often students come up with great questions.
  • Helps teachers gauge how well students understood the lesson – so informs planning for future learning.
  • Can stretch pupil knowledge through deeper questioning.
  • Develops reflective thinking of the task.
  • Develops confidence and leadership roles in front of peers.
  • Create a sense of achievement.




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Towards a Growth Mindset in Science & Maths

mindset1Two of our Learning Innovators from science and maths, Becky Owen and Shane Borrett, have been using their project to develop a growth mindset with their students.  As a school, we are interested in simple, effective and sustainable ways in which we can do this.  These are two great examples.

Excellence Gallery

Science GM

In science, Becky has been looking at ways she can develop the following attributes with her students:

  • Embracing challenge
  • Maximising effort
  • Persisting when stuck
  • Responding to feedback

All four are key to developing a growth mindset and aspiring to excellence.  To support this work, Becky has set up a ‘Science Excellence Gallery’ in the corridor.  Students that exhibit particular strengths in the qualities mentioned above, have their work displayed on the board as shown in the diagram and are also awarded such prestigious titles as ‘Challenge Cruncher‘!  The work is also annotated by Becky, to explain what each individual student did that was so impressive e.g. redrafted their work following feedback, stuck with a really difficult exam question etc.

Work will be added to the board over time.  It is hoped that the board will:

  • Reward these students for their efforts by celebrating their work.
  • Raise awareness of the importance of these growth mindset attributes to students.
  • Link the fact that these attributes result in excellence.
  • Encourage all students to aspire to excellence.

Excellence Portfolios

maths ex portIn maths, Shane has been working on raising the expectations of his students – particularly a group of low ability, Y10 students.  One of the things he has been focusing on is to instil a sense of pride in their work, especially when they persist with a difficult task or problem.  But rather than just reward them in the usual way, he wants the reward to be the work and effort itself – so growing an ‘Ethic of Excellence’.

He is going to do this by getting each student to put together their own ‘Portfolio of Excellence’. This will be put together over time by the students and consist of examples of their day to day work, that they found hard, but persisted with and then completed – and of course, the expectation will be that the presentation of the work will be perfect.

This work will then be shared with their peers, parents at consultation evenings and staff – including presenting their work at the end of the year to the SLT.

surferBoth of these projects have great potential.  I love the way they both celebrate hard work and persistence – as well as setting the standard of excellence for others to follow.

An ‘Ethic of Excellence’ continues to grow at DHS!


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