Teaching brilliance through benchmarks

This week’s teaching forum shines a light on how the art and design department at Durrington have used the brilliance of past GCSE students to inform the teaching and learning of their current cohorts.  In simple terms it is about taking the very best examples, displaying them beautifully and then using them to direct students towards similarly excellent work.

Best of Best DHS (1)

Director of art and design Gail Christie started out with a vision to create a mini-art college feel within the department.  This included exhibition style displays of the very best student work, regularly changed and organised in a thematic way.  Over the last 10 years this has developed to become a central part of the department’s approach to teaching.

The area is now zoned according to the different elements students need to produce at GCSE.  At the start of each unit of work, art and design teachers take their students out of the classroom and into the central atrium area where the work is displayed.  Through explanation and careful questioning students are then taken through the process of how the students achieved the brilliant drawings, painting and sculptures that are being discussed.  The focus is on unpicking each element in fine detail, allowing students to see the building blocks required to produce the highest possible quality.

There are multiple benefits to this approach.  Firstly there is the high expectations it creates.  Students are immersed in excellence as soon as they enter the department and so cannot help but recognise where the bar is set.  Secondly the mystery of how the often abstract goals set at the start of a topic can be reached is removed.  Students can see clearly both the end point and the steps to get there.  Lastly teachers can refine their own practice by constantly building on the success of previous students, little is forgotten through this approach allowing tweaks and improvements to be made.

The success of this approach can be measured through the incredible outcomes the department has, achieving 100% A*-C year on year.  Clearly the subject lends itself to this way of working, but no doubt other subjects can learn from this approach to using benchmarks to benefit not just the creators but also those that follow them.

Posted by Chris Runeckles

 

Advertisements
Posted in Teaching Forums | Leave a comment

What will the Durrington Research School do for you?

We are incredibly excited to have been designated as a Research School this year, as a part of the Research Schools Network.  We will share what we know about putting research into practice and will support local primary and secondary schools and colleges in making better use of the huge quantity of research evidence available – in a pragmatic and sustainable way.  So, who are we and what will we do?

The Durrington Research School Team

What are we going to do to support schools?

  • Post regular news and updates about our work and articles about evidence-informed teaching  on our website.
  • Keep followers up to date through our twitter account.
  • A monthly ‘Research Network Bulletin’ which will be emailed to network schools.  Sign up for this here.
  • Host two conferences to be held at Durrington High School:
    • ResearchEd – Saturday 28th April.
    • Research Meet – Tuesday 13th June (based on the ‘TeachMeet’ model, but based on evidence-informed teaching).
  • Host half-termly network meetings for network school research leads and T&L/CPD leaders to:
    • share information about Research School and other locality training and events;
    • share effective practice in terms of leading on teaching and learning/CPD/research;
    • plan the future direction of the Research School network.

(Meetings will be held on 9 Oct, 4 Dec, 18 Jan, 15 Mar, 17 May, 26 June.)

  • Offer an email helpline that will support network schools in finding the most useful evidence – research@durring.com.
  • Host twilight workshops led by local teachers and leaders. These will focus on how local schools are using research evidence to improve teaching and student outcomes.

  • We will offer a range of training programmes for our network of schools.  Each three day training programme will be focused on key issues that are relevant to  schools within our network and will have the following structure:

  •   The three training programmes for 2017-18 are outlined below:
  1. Using the EEF Toolkit to address disadvantage in coastal areas
  • What are the issues faced by coastal schools that result in low aspiration and underachievement? What evidence does the EEF toolkit provide to support schools with addressing these issues? How can schools mobilise this evidence to improve the effectiveness of teaching and intervention for underachieving students?

Further details and booking here.

2. Improving memory for success in terminal GCSE courses

  • Which teaching methods have been shown to improve memory recall? How can better course and curriculum planning improve the depth and scope of student knowledge? What are the most effective revision strategies to teach our students?

Further details and booking here.

3. Evidence-informed principles that will improve teaching

  • What does the evidence say are the main features of great teaching? How can teachers use this evidence to improve their impact in the classroom? How can we mobilise this evidence into a cohesive teaching and learning/CPD strategy across a whole school?

Further details and booking here.

  • We will offer follow- up support for schools who attend these training programmes, through school visits.

 

  • As well as the programmes above, we will also offer schools a range of bespoke training opportunities – such as INSET days, staff training and one-to-one support work. Contact us to discuss your requirements and we will plan the programme with you.

  • We will support schools within our network to apply for Innovation Evaluation Grants.  Teachers within the network of schools can apply for one of these grants, with the support of our Research School, to develop innovative teaching and learning approaches they are implementing in their classroom or school.  We will support schools with their applications, through these Innovation Evaluation Grant Workshops.

Posted in CPD Events, General Teaching | Tagged | Leave a comment

59 Things to do and think about to make you a really good teacher

Last week I talked to trainee teachers from the South Downs SCITT about things they should do or think about to become a really good teacher – based on the wisdom of great teachers and research evidence.  It’s not an exhaustive list…but I think they’re all pretty important.

Here are the slides I used:

Posted in General Teaching | 1 Comment

Supporting memory for terminal exams

At the end of last term we reviewed our CPD provision at Durrington by asking staff to complete a questionnaire.  When it came to 15 minute forums, the majority of staff said that due to other commitments they struggled to attend as many of these as they would like; however, the vast majority of staff enjoyed reading about them on here, in the comfort of their own armchair.  With this in mind, we are going to approach them slightly differently this year.  When we spot or hear about effective practice, instead of asking that teacher to lead a 15 minute forum on the topic, one of the T&L team will talk to that teacher about what they do and then write it up as a blog on here – the 15 minute forum has evolved into a teaching forum!

The first teaching forum was with our Director of science, Steph Temple.  In recent years, science GCSEs  comprised modular exams and coursework.  Whilst this required students to remember information, this significantly increased with the move to terminal exams.  As science is a content heavy subject, students have a huge amount of knowledge to memorise and recall.  This has required some adjustments to how science teachers teach – which Steph has implemented brilliantly with her team.  They have thought very carefully about how they can  implement the evidence from cognitive science, such as  spaced practice and retrieval practice strategies, to support memory.

Retrieval Practice – a while after initially learning about something, being required to bring it to mind again.  In order for this to be effective, you need to forget about it a little.

Spaced Practice – where learning a topic is broken up into a number of shorter sessions, over a longer period of time.

Here are some of the changes they have made:

  • Y11 mock exams did not just cover Y11 work, with a few ‘token’ questions on Y10.  Students also sat separate, full length exams on Y10 work.
  • Knowledge ticklists for Y10 units were stuck into their Y11 exercise books, alongside ticklists for Y11 units.  This enabled students to see the links between Y11 and Y10 work and kept them referring back to Y10 work.
  • All Y11 homework assignments now contain a significant section of Y10 exam questions that aren’t related to the work they are doing in Y11.
  • The Y11 scheme of work contains links to Y10 topics prompting teachers to recap Y10 content during Y11. For example, when teaching cell division in Y11, teachers use this as an opportunity to revisit cell structure from Y10.
  • At the start of Y11 lessons, students do low stakes quizzes on content they covered last week, last month and last year,
  • Subject Planning & Development Sessions (SPDS) are used as an opportunity for teachers to discuss and share effective practice around these approaches.
  • Y11 students were given specific packs of Y10 and Y11 questions to work through and focus on throughout the year.  The department carefully planned and adhered to a half-termly lesson schedule that ensured that there was sufficient time to make best use of these revision materials.
  • Students have been encouraged to represent the information they are learning in different visual formats (dual coding). For example, in diagrams and mind maps to complement verbal explanations.  They have also used mnemonics to help remember large chunks of information.
  • Teachers explain to the students why they are using strategies such as dual coding and retrieval practice and the benefits they have to learning.

Has this worked?

Early signs suggest that this is having a positive impact on helping students to remember the vast amounts of knowledge required in the science curriculum.  Core GCSE science results (Y10 work) sat by Y11 students improved significantly this summer – they were 25% above national average (despite the cohort being at national average on entry).

Next steps?

  • Making sure these strategies are embedded and consistently implemented across the science team.
  • Sharing these approaches with parents so that they can support at home.
  • Continuing to develop new question banks and resources for the new course during SPDS.
  • Using google forms to audit staff subject knowledge before SPDS and then using this to plan the subject knowledge development focus for staff.

Advice for teachers/ leaders wanting to do something similar?

  • It has to be led and driven by the Curriculum Leader throughout the year. It is not a quick fix.
  • Lessons need to be planned out every half term to ensure enough time for purposeful revision.
  • Department meetings need to be carefully planned to embed and develop these approaches.

Training


If this is an area that interests you and you would like to find out more, the Durrington Research School is leading a training programme – Improving memory for success in GCSE terminal exams.  Further details and booking information are available here.

 

Further reading

What will improve a student’s memory – Daniel Willingham

Putting students on the path to learning – Richard Clark, Paul Kirschner & John Sweller

The critical role of retrieval practice in long term retention – Henry Roediger and Andrew Butler

Strengthening the student tool box – John Dunlosky

On the potential limitations of spacing and retrieval practice in the classroom – Carolina Kuepper-Tetzel

Posted by Shaun Allison

 

Posted in Teaching Forums | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Getting off to the best start with a new class

Whether you are an NQT or an experienced teacher, standing in front of a new class, or thinking about doing so, for the first time is always a bit daunting.  The first few weeks with a new class are so important, and can set the tone for the rest of the year.  So with September looming, here are some practical tips, to help you get off to the best possible start with your new classes, over the coming weeks.

  1. Have a seating plan – this is the most important weapon we have in our armoury and you ignore it at your peril.  Keep it simple to start with, for example alphabetical, but don’t be afraid to review it and change it, if issues arise.  Lessons are not social events – if teenagers are allowed to sit next to their friends, they will be more interested in chatting than working.  This is not conducive to effective learning.
  2. Learn their names – again, another vital tool. Not only does this introduce a more civil ethos in your classroom by showing students that you value them as people, but it also allows you to manage behaviour in a more targeted way e.g. ‘John, please turn around and focus on the task’.  John knows immediately that you mean him!
  3. Know your students – whilst every year is a new start, it is useful to find out as much about your students as possible.   Talk to teachers who have taught them before – what are they good at?  What do they struggle with?  Any potential behavioural issues to be aware of?  What was the quality of their work presentation like last year?  Align this with prior data – what have they achieved well in?  Where have they underachieved?  Any specific topics?  Why was this?  By doing this, you know their starting point and what you need to do in order to help them achieve in the future.
  4. Be explicit about your classroom routines – don’t take this for granted.  Tell and show them how you classroom works.  Classroom routines are so important and need to be explicitly shared with students.  Do you want them to line up or come straight in?  Where will their books be?  Explain how you want them to set their work out e.g. underline headings and date etc.  Tell them that there will always be a task for them to do as soon as they get in the classroom and the sort of thing this will entail.  You expect silence for the register.  When they are working on a task, you will tell them if they are working silently, or if some discussion is allowed.  How do you expect classroom discussions to run? Do you want hands up to questions? etc etc.
  5. Share and demonstrate your expectations immediately – right from the start, show them that you have the highest expectations in terms of their behaviour, work, punctuality, effort and achievement.  So, start the first lesson quickly, with a piece of challenging work – for three reasons.  Firstly, it will demonstrate to them your passion and confidence in your subject.  This will make them feel secure and hopefully become infectious.  Secondly, it will give them the opportunity to struggle and produce a piece of work that they can be proud of – something that can be a reference point for the rest of the year – ‘Look, this is what you can do, when you really focus’.  Andy calls this a ‘benchmark of brilliance’.  Our Director of Art & Design, Gail Christie, does this brilliantly every September, by showing her new Y10 class the best sketchbooks from the newly departed Y11 – read more about this here.  Finally, by getting on to challenging piece of work quickly, you are giving the message to students ‘this is what we do in here – work hard’.  During the first few lessons, scrutinise their presentation and work closely.  If it is not up to standard, give them feedback about how to improve it.  This is vital, as it helps them to understand your standards – and that you won’t accept sub-standard work.  Our Director of Science, Steph Temple, expects all teachers in her team to show all new classes a powerpoint that sets out the standard of presentation expected – see here.  Similarly, be explicit about the standards of behaviour expected in your class e.g. ‘When me or anyone else is talking to the whole class during a lesson, we are respectful and listen.  When we are working independently on a task, we are silent.  When I set homework, it will always be handed in on the due date.  You will get to my lesson on time and settle to work immediately’.  As well as talking explicitly about the behaviour you expect, also be very clear about the sanctions that will be coming their way, if they don’t meet these expectations.
  6. Address poor behaviour immediately – having been explicit about your behaviour expectations and the sanctions for non-compliance, as soon as anyone gets it wrong, deal with it and follow it up immediately.  Whether this be a quiet word with them to get them re-focused, or following school systems, such as calling duty staff or setting a detention.  Always apply the school rules consistently and always follow up issues afterwards.  Furthermore, don’t be afraid of talking to/involving other people e.g. their form tutor, your Head of Department or their Pastoral Leader.   If you don’t, you are giving  very clear message that next time they can get away with it – and they will give it a go!  Alongside this, home contact is another great tool that we have – so us it.  Maths teacher John Mulhern talks about how he uses it here.
  7. Be organised – show them that you mean business!  So, in that first lesson be at the door waiting for them; have all the resources ready for that lesson all ready to go;  have their new exercise books out on their desks;  have your seating plan ready to go; set them homework and make it very clear what you expect from them (and linking back to No.6, if they don’t do it – follow this up immediately); give them the roadmap of where they are going e.g. ‘We will be studying this unit for 5 weeks and then you will be having your first assessment.  This assessment will consist of…….This assessment will be used to……. Following that we will be studying’.  Again, this gives them confidence in you as teacher and will make them feel secure.
  8. Share your belief in them, with them – show them that you care about how they do, by telling them that if they follow your expectations and work with you, there is no reason why they can’t achieve the highest possible grades – and that you really believe this.  However, the emphasis is on them to work hard in order to achieve this.  At this point, it’s often good to tell them some success stories of your previous students. This shows that what you are telling them works.
  9. Talk to them about why it matters – use that first lesson to share your passion for your subject with the students – and then of course continue in this way every lesson.  Talk to them about why it matters – why the knowledge base your subject will give them matters e.g. even if they are not going to pursue a career in science, studying science will allow them to make well informed and considered judgements around a wide range of topics.  Also, what skills will they develop through studying your subject?  Finally, what are the possible career paths that your subject can lead to?  Long term goals matter.  Don’t dilute your subject to try to make it fun or sexy (e.g. Shakespeare by emojis) – let the brilliance and awe of your subject speak for itself, through your passion for it.
  10. In summary, think about ethos, logos and pathosethos is the way we establish ourselves and the way we build a connection with our audience. Logos is the way we influence others through reason and logic. And pathos is the way we provoke and anticipate the emotions of our audience.  Andy writes about this here.

Have a great 2017-18

Further reading: Time to reflect

Shaun Allison

Chris Runeckles

Fran Haynes

Andy Tharby

 

 

 

 

Posted in General Teaching | Tagged , | 1 Comment

2016-17 Reasons to be cheerful

Well that’s 2016-17 pretty much done – and what a year it has been.  Tough at times and very tough at others, but because we work in such an amazing team at Durrington, we get through and get stronger.  This post is a celebration – some of the reasons to be cheerful and excited about 2017-18.

Subject Planning & Development Sessions

Over the years we have tried a number of different CPD activities at Durrington (see here). Little did I know that the most effective form of CPD, was also the simplest – Subject Planning & Development Sessions, affectionately know as SPuDS.  Started this year, they are fortnightly meetings of subject teams, where they discuss ‘what are we teaching over the next fortnight and how do we teach it well?’   They have been successful for a number of reasons:

  • They are subject specific.
  • They are sustained.
  • They relate directly to what teachers are teaching at that time.

When they are done well, they are really effective.  This blog describes how our Director of science Steph Temple leads these with her team.  In a recent staff survey (75 respondents) 92% of staff said that they had made a difference to their teaching, with 60% claiming this was a significant difference.  Here are some of the comments staff made about these sessions:

“Sessions have been very focused and relevant on upcoming topics/activities/areas of staff weakness. Sessions have been shorter at times but much more T&L focused. All staff should take something away from every meeting that they will be able to put into practice over the upcoming weeks.”

“More emphasis on co-planning and a focus on how to specifically challenge different targeted groups.”

“Regular meetings ensure we can look ahead. Subject specific and year group focussed; particularly with regard to the new GCSE specification and discussing changes that have been made since its initial teaching last year.

“Allowed more time to think about planning and delivery.”

“More teaching and learning based as opposed to day to day admin.”

“Due to the frequent nature of these sessions they have had a tighter focus and felt very purposeful.”

“More purposeful because you feel that you are learning relevant material that is applicable to lessons.”

I am convinced that this is the best form of CPD we have done in years.  The challenge for next year will be to make them consistently strong and effective across all teams.

The ‘Making every lesson count’ family has grown

In 2015 when Andy Tharby and I wrote ‘Making every lesson count’ we couldn’t have imagined how successful it was going to be.   It has surpassed all of our expectations and we are so grateful to everybody who has bought it, enjoyed it and said nice things about it.  This year, it has been amazing to see the MELC family grow even further – with the publication of the English version by Andy, the science one by me and of course the brilliant primary one by the amazing Jo and Mel – and of course all illustrated by the very talented Jason Ramasami.  Huge thanks must go to David Bowman and everybody at Crown House publishing for their belief and support with this project.

The good news is that three further subject books are expected for 2018.  Watch this space!

Becoming a Research School

Over the last few years at Durrington, we have become more and more committed to developing an evidence informed approach to our teaching.  We have stripped away the gimmicks that have plagued teaching for years, and used the wisdom of great teachers and research evidence to support a ‘tight but loose’ approach to teaching (more here).

Being designated as a Research School for September 2017, was fantastic news for us as it will allow us to continue to develop this work further.  The Durrington Research School will act as a regional hub for the Research Schools Network.  We will share what we know about putting research into practice, and support schools to make better use of evidence to inform their teaching and learning, so that they really make a difference in the classroom.

We will do this through three strands:

Communication

We will use our Research School website , a monthly newsletter, email contact, conferences, workshops and twitter to communicate the most recent news about evidence informed practice to our network of schools.

Training

We will offer a range of training programmes for our network of schools to take part in.  These training programmes will be focused on key issues that are relevant to the issues that are faced by schools within our network.  Further details on this will follow shortly.

Innovation

We will support schools within our network to apply for Innovation Evaluation Grants.  Teachers within the network of schools can apply for one of these grants, with the support of our Research School, to develop innovative teaching and learning approaches they are implementing in their classroom or school

The Educational Twittersphere

What a remarkable place!  It can sometimes be dark and infuriating, often very amusing but more often than not, incredibly useful.  A very big thank you to all those educators who continue to tweet and blog.  You are so important, because you continue to make us all think, reflect and challenge ourselves.  Furthermore – you change policy at a national level.  I’m pretty convinced that many of the positive changes that have happened  at OFSTED and the DfE, have happened because of the tireless voices of some bloggers.  There is still more to be done – so keep those voices going!

You only have to look at the incredible ‘Blog of the week’ archive to see this.

A huge thank you to all of the amazing teachers out there who continue to do an incredible job.  Have a brilliant and restful summer.

Posted in General Teaching | Leave a comment

Using storytelling as an explanation tool

pic1

In today’s 15 minute forum, English teacher Russ Shoebridge talked about the power of storytelling and how it can be used to support explanation.

*

Russ began by reflecting on how students seem to listen to stories differently, and how stories seem to elicit a certain type of silence. He then described a familiar scenario: it’s the end of the day and you are halfway through giving a list of instructions, when you notice that the class are losing concentration. A story can save you in this all-too-familiar situation. It can hook attention and help the class to enjoy the moment. As human beings, it seems that we have an intrinsic familiarity with stories.

So, if stories help our students to listen more attentively, are they more likely to remember the content as a result?

In terms of the six pedagogical principles we use at our school, storytelling forms a vital component of explanation:

pic2

Theoretical Underpinning

Russ then shared three theories that support the use of storytelling in the classroom:

  1. Rhetoric – the art of speaking effectively and persuasively
  2. Mnemonics – a learning technique that aids retention in the memory
  3. Teacher Immediacy – the perceived ‘closeness’ between listener and speaker

The last of these, teacher immediacy, was first coined by psychologist Albert Mehrabian in 1969. It can be defined as the perceived ‘closeness’ between listener and speaker and has been linked to effective teaching (Gorham, 1988). Researchers have identified the importance of the following verbal immediacy traits:

‘….the use of praise for student efforts, humor, self disclosure, willingness to engage students in conversation, and overall openness and willingness to meet and interact with students.’ (Edwards & Edwards, 2001; Gorham, 1988).

By using ourselves as an example, stories allow for self-disclosure. Russ stressed the importance of self-deprecation and shared how he will often start the new term with a story, either to bring the class together or to introduce a learning point. For example, Russ started this academic year by telling the tale of how he had been ripped off by an unscrupulous plumber.

Examples

Finally, Russ shared three ways that he uses storytelling in his day-to-day classroom teaching:

Stories to hook students or immerse students in the content.

pic3 owen

Before his class read Wilfred Owen’s war poetry, Russ will introduce the WW1 context through the tragic story of Owen’s life:

“I’d like to tell you about Wilfred Owen and this story epitomises the tragedy that was the pointless loss of innocent lives during World War One.

Now Wilfred Owen was a patriot who was passionate about defending his country. Maybe you would be the same. Maybe we’d all be the same in the face of war.

Now, Owen didn’t join the war until 1915…and the first year for him seemed to be…new and exciting!

Then, in January, 1917… Wilfred Owen had his first experience of the front line… and it would never be the same again.”

After just a year on the front line, he had suffered concussion, he’d been gassed, he’d been evacuated with shell shock.

At this time, from the front line, he began to produce a series of his more famous poems, one of which we’re going to read later on in the lesson today…

Some people believe that Wilfred Owen didn’t actually face any rifle fire until one week before the end of the war.

On 11th November, 1918, the day that the war ended, as the bells were ringing out for peace in Wilfred Owen’s home village in Shropshire, his parents received the telegram to inform them that their son, seven days ago, had been shot and killed on the bank  of a river in Northern France…”

Story telling is an art form in itself. These tips can help you to structure a story effectively:

  • Tell them you’re going to tell them a story.
  • Involve them in the story.
  • Have a narrative/plot
  • Include emotive and powerful information
  • Relate it to the lesson
  • Make sure you have a powerful ending.

Stories to illustrate an abstract concept. 

 

All English teachers know that students struggle with the difference between it’s and its. This is mainly because they do not realise that its is a possessive pronoun like hers, his, ours and yours, whereas it’s is a contracted form of it is. Russ uses the story of a barbeque he once attended to help students to remember. He remembers seeing a pristine stainless steel barbecue, his friend’s pride and joy, gleaming in the sun. It even had its own personalised engraving. On closer inspection, however, he noticed a glaring error in the inscription:

HOT LIKE IT’S OWNER

This memorable mistake is then used as a mnemonic to lead into the lesson and to help students to remember this tricky concept.

Stories to illustrate something about the teaching / learning (metacognition)

Stories are also a means of making metacognitive prompts more memorable. You can experiment with the following:

  1. Stories of previous classes/students who attempted the activity/piece of               work/drill in P.E/drama performance
  2. Success stories/cautionary tales.
  3. Anecdotes about ourselves in the learning situation.
  4. Anecdotes about the planning/marking/preparing the lesson.

 

To remind his students to use adjectives with subtlety, Russ tells his class about a friend who had sent him the first 40 pages of a sci-fi novel he had written. Russ was shocked to find that every noun was described by at least 3 adjectives. For example: “the dusty, dark, grey carpark was filled with fast, dark, expensive cars.” In short, the book was utterly unreadable!

In summary:

 

  • Students seem to ‘listen’ in a different way to stories. There is an intrinsic familiarity and enjoyment of them.
  • Storytelling is a device with clear links to other theoretical frameworks: rhetoric, mnemonics, and immediacy.
  • Stories can be used to ‘hook’ students or immerse them in a new topic.
  • Stories can be used to illustrate something abstract/unfamiliar with visual examples/analogies
  • Stories can open up metacognitive dialogue.

 

Posted in General Teaching | 1 Comment