Effective CPD – Subject Planning and Development Sessions in Maths

Last year at Durrington we introduced a new approach to CPD – Subject Planning & Development Sessions.  The idea behind them is very straightforward – once a fortnight subject teams meet and discuss, what are we teaching over the next fortnight and how do we teach it well?  We have adopted this approach because:

  • It’s CPD within the context of the subject – modelling something effectively in PE is not the same as modelling something in science.
  • It’s within the context of what they are teaching now – the work that is done in that sessions, will directly impact the teaching that takes place in lessons over the next fortnight.
  • It encourages teachers to talk about their teaching and learn from others, especially when it comes to thinking about student misconceptions, mistakes and challenge.
  • It’s not a one off event – the work that is done in each session, will be further developed in the next session in a fortnight, and then again in another two weeks and so on.
  • It reduces workload – rather than everybody having to struggle together to plan the same sequence of lessons, why not plan it and share resources together?

How do departments use this time effectively?  Here’s an example from last year in science.  Tonight, maths exemplified this approach to CPD perfectly:

  • The GCSE papers from this summer have been analysed and fractions have been identified as an area of weakness.
  • Fractions are scheduled to be taught over the next fortnight to Y8, 9 and 10 – so this is an area of focus.
  • Fraction questions from the 2017 GCSE paper were collated – alongside the percentage of students that gained full marks in each question.  This allowed the team to identify the specific types of questions where students performed poorly.
  • The team then had to answer these exam questions in groups.
  • Following this, they had to discuss in pairs how they would then teach this effectively, with a focus on addressing the mistakes that students had made.
  • Whilst they were doing this, Curriculum Leader Kate Blight circulated and prompted her colleagues to think about misconceptions and common errors that students made – and how they could overcome this, through their teaching.
  • The group then came back together and shared the strategies they had discussed.
  • This then resulted in a bank of agreed effective strategies for teaching fractions e.g. using bar modelling to support students with visualising the question.

It’s easy to see how this CPD session will directly impact the teaching in maths over the next fortnight.  This is not the case with a great deal of CPD that happens in schools.

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Bright Spots: high ability

 

This week Shaun Allison and I walked around the school and visited several lessons focusing on the teaching of high ability students.  We dropped into English, maths and science top sets, observing the teaching and learning strategies that were being employed.  Most teaching at Durrington is delivered to mixed ability classes, however we do still have top sets in our core subjects.  The EEF toolkit provides evidence that for the highest attaining students, being taught together can be beneficial, although for all other students mixed ability teaching is most effective.  As a school we are still grappling with how to get the very best from our H and H* students, and the aim of this bright spots blog is to highlight some excellent examples of how this can be done.

Head of science Steph Temple was completing a walking talking mock with her Y11 class.  Her teaching showed several of the hallmarks of metacognition (the subject of a recent blog on our Research School site which can be found here) as she guided the students through annotations of exam questions.  Key to this was revealing her own thought processes as she encountered the question and checking understanding across the class by punctuating what she was saying with regular questions.  Initial questions also contained prompts for elaboration, a key skill in helping high ability students deepen their understanding.

Also in science Martin Reene was teaching Y8 students about plant reproduction.  One aspect of this lesson that was clear from the outset was the high expectations Martin set for the class.  He referred several times to the material being covered being of GCSE standard and how adept the class were at dealing with it.  He supported this through his explanation, ensuring he did not shy away from tier 3 vocabulary or the complexity of the processes he was explaining.  He was also not afraid of allowing this teacher talk to continue for an extended period of time, knowing that with this class the students stayed with him through this and as a results were more likely to be thinking about what he was saying.

The final science teacher we saw was Ian Canavan, who like Steph was teaching a Y11 class.  Ian was using a concrete example of a torch to explain energy transfer, thereby strengthening student understanding of this abstract concept.  As with all classes we visited, evident in this lesson was the attentiveness of all the students in the class and their commitment to what they were asked to do.

There was only one top set English lesson being taught, on this occasion by Bridget Norman.  The Y11 students were responding to written feedback and completing revisions and improvements to their work.  The teacher feedback was exceptionally precise and detailed, giving students clear formative comments that they could act upon during the lesson.  Each target was linked to a specific instruction as to the literary technique they could employ to improve their writing.  The mark of success of this activity was the output of the students, with those questioned showing a sophisticated understanding of what they were being asked to do.  Bridget was clearly playing on the ability profile of the class to set the challenge high as to what she expected in terms of the second draft.

Finally we visited maths, first dropping in to Julie House and her Y9 class.  This class were engaged in completing a GCSE exam paper, again demonstrating a culture of high expectations.  What was notable here was that the class contained a number of students who, in other contexts, had failed to meet expectations on behaviour and attitude.  However, in the culture of Julie’s classroom they were given licence to inhabit a more focused and academic version of themselves.  This could be a further advantage of top set teaching.

In Kathy Hughes’ Y9 class we witnessed another common characteristic of the best high ability teaching: accurate and useful peer feedback.  Peer feedback can be counter-productive in that the teacher loses control of the feedback being given, meaning it can be wrong and inconsistent.  In this particular lesson the students were questioning each other and helping their peers reach the correct answers by sharing their thoughts and workings on difficult problems.  Again this is a result of culture, and when properly managed and nurtured can lift the atmosphere of the class and drive their learning.

Overall, their was much to consider after this bright spots walk, not least the value of teaching high ability students separately.  This does not have to lead to strict setting of seven sets.  It could mean one top set with six groups with a mixed ability profile.  Ultimately we are committed in general terms to mixed ability, but for some subjects it seems top sets may still have a place.

Posted by: Chris Runeckles

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Using student checklists to support metacognition

This week’s teaching forum was with science teacher Becky Owen.  Becky has been reflecting on how she and other members of the science team have been using content checklists with students with, a view to:

  • Improving student awareness of their own leaning and revision.
  • Improving student understanding of the content knowledge that is needed.
  • Ensuring content coverage by staff.

Students are given a checklist for every topic in science, in key stage 3 and 4, to stick in their exercise book.  Here is an extract from a GCSE physics checklist:

In the EEF Toolkit, metacognition is classed as high impact and low cost, based on robust evidence, in terms of having a positive impact on student attainment:

“Meta-cognition and self-regulation approaches (sometimes known as ‘learning to learn’ approaches) aim to help learners think about their own learning more explicitly. This is usually by teaching pupils specific strategies to set goals, and monitor and evaluate their own academic development. Self-regulation means managing one’s own motivation towards learning. The intention is often to give pupils a repertoire of strategies to choose from during learning activities.”

Source: EEF Toolkit

It is clear to see how these checklists would serve to support this.  Becky described how the science team use them in a variety of ways:

  • Every lesson to review the content they have covered, what is coming next and how far through the unit they are.  Becky tells them which sections of the checklist they will be covering that lesson – and over the series of lessons.  As well as being useful for students, this also makes Becky focus on very specific teaching points:

row17lesson

row17revision

Something else Becky has noticed about this, is that her students are taking much greater ownership over their learning.  They will look at the checklist, spot any gaps and say things like ‘have we missed out T4 and T5 Miss, or are we doing that later?

  • The relevant section of the checklist is added to the end of homework sheets and assessments, so that students can make a note of which sections they don’t perform well in – to help focus their revision:

row17hw

  • They can be added to written feedback ‘Remember to include what the wasted energy was (T13)’.  Students can then highlight this target on their checklist as something to focus their revision on.
  • Y11 students are also given a Y10 checklist, so that they can ‘check-off’ when they cover Y10 work during revision, quizzing in lessons or homeworks.
  • As a check for the teacher, to help them plan and ensure that they are covering the curriculum and at the right level of detail.
  • They can be used to frame quizzes to support retrieval practice – as most of them are pretty much phrased as questions anyway.

What difference has this made?

Becky says:

“I have a better understanding of individual students’ specific areas of weaknesses.  For example with my year 10 triple class I know there are still some students who are struggling with a particular target. I identified the targets following their assessment, prepared a DIRT lesson based on those key targets and then set practice questions to test their understanding after the DIRT lesson. Having marked these practice questions most students are now getting these calculations correct, however there are 5 students that still haven’t understood the concept. I can now use that to get them to come to a booster session on the skill for example.

I am more confident that I have covered all the content. The new GCSE science specification is content heavy and it is easy to miss bits out when trying to fit it all in – and teaching it for the first time.   I use the ticklists for each class and tick off targets once I have taught them. I also highlight areas I feel I haven’t taught well and need to cover again.”

What are your next steps in terms of developing this approach?

“I want to ensure the physics ticklist follows a suitable order to teach, in order to help with teacher planning.

I also want to improve student use of the ticklist during their personal revision by producing short revision guides/sheets using small sections of the ticklist to support students with chunking their revision into manageable sections,  so they can easily interleave their revision.

I am starting to use the ticklists to make quick questions (& answers) for students to use alongside the ticklists, to use as low stakes quizzes to support retrieval practice.”

What advice would you give to teachers who are looking to use this idea?

“Start by using the specification to identify the key knowledge or skills that students need in order to be successful in your subject.

Identify particular knowledge/skills that maybe just for higher tier/7+ targets etc

Start using them regularly  so that students (and you) become used to them and make sure you teach the students how to use them. Students won’t look at it or use if you don’t show them and tell them why it’s important.

Keep using it, the more you use it the more normal it becomes and students then start using them in their own ways for revision.”

This is a great example of teachers mobilising the research evidence (in this case around metacognition) in a practical and sustainable way.  Becky is convinced that these checklists have had a significant impact on her teaching and the learning of her students.  To summarise:

  • They help to ensure that lessons are focused on specific teaching points.
  • It helps workload – as they support efficient planning, quizzing and feedback.
  • They help students become more autonomous with their learning, by encouraging them to monitor and evaluate their own progress.

Posted by Shaun Allison

 

 

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Bright Spots: 9th November 2017

Today Fran Haynes and I walked around the school and visited a number of lessons.  It was great to see so much effective practice, that we will summarise in the ‘bright spots’ post.  We think it’s important to talk about this as effective practice and not best practice.  Is there a difference?  Yes we think there is.

Best practice suggests that this is the only way to do it, by all teachers in all subjects and with all students.  Of course this is not going to be the case.  Effective practice on the other hand,  suggests a teaching strategy that is likely to work in that particular context – for that teacher, in that subject and with those students – based on what the evidence suggests.  We can look at this effective practice and consider how or if it could be used usefully in our own classroom.

So what did we see?

In Computing, Ailish Hannan was teaching Y7 computing.  Students were producing a leaflet about safeguarding and staying safe.  From feedback they had received in previous lessons, students had a good understanding of the success criteria e.g. using the same font, including the key information in the right place etc.  Furthermore, they could explain why this was important.  They were then using this to frame their work.

Over in geography, Sam Atkins was teaching Y7 about 6 figure grid references.  Having explained this to the class, one student came up to the board and was modelling to the class how to do this.  What was particularly impressive, was the way in which Sam was questioning the boy who was modelling to his peers, to encourage him to articulate his thought processes (metacognition) e.g. ‘Why have you divided that box into ten?  Are you sure that is 2?’

Moving up the school, in art Y11 were preparing for their exam.  Our Head of art Gail Christie was giving very specific and personalised feedback to individual students by modelling particular techniques.   As Gail modelled to the student how to paint a face, she was explaining the various techniques she was using and why e.g. starting with the background; using solid lines with a thin brush to show structure; blocking with a large brush; asking the student to look at how she was holding the brush; asking the student to spot the direction that she was moving the brush and how.  A fantastic example of the power of verbal feedback.

There was another example of great and personalised feedback in PE with James Crane.  James was teaching basketball to Y9 and he had a very able player in his class, who plays at a good level outside of school.  In order to challenge him, James had to analyse his performance closely and give him very specific feedback about his performance.  He approached this by explaining and modelling to the student ‘aggressive run ins’ he wanted him to make towards the basket and precisely when to jump.  He then watched to see how the student performed with this, and then gave him further feedback.  The lesson here?  In order to give good, challenging feedback to students, we need to know them well.

In maths, John Mulhern was challenging his Y10 students with some very powerful use of retrieval practice. Students were completing a starter task in which they had to remember mathematical techniques learned in Year 9 in order to answer a set of questions. One of John’s students said that the lesson was ‘a little tricky’, indicating how well the content was pitched for this group of students: challenging but accessible at the same time, whilst making them all ‘think hard’. Similarly, in science Bex Owen was asking her Y7 students about food groups at the start of the lesson before going on to teach a different topic. Bex also used the retrieval questions to test students’ ability to use Tier Three vocabulary accurately. This is a perfect example of how literacy is integral and useful across the curriculum.

Along the corridor, Kate Blight was also teaching y10 maths. In this lesson, Kate was using very effective modelling at the board to work through a mathematical problem with the whole class, whilst also using precise questions to gauge students’ deeper understanding of the processes involved in completing the task accurately. In addition, Kate demonstrated an excellent example of how to support higher-level vocabulary use through her friendly insistence that a student improve their verbal response by using ‘multiply’ rather than ‘times’.

Michael Kyle was providing great challenge with his y7 science class through a fantastic whole-class discussion on the specialisation of cells. Students were using Tier Three language such as mitochondria with confidence and accuracy, and were pushed through follow-up questions that developed their thinking. What was impressive about this lesson was how Michael created challenge through his use of KS4 content, which he explained and used to frame questions that developed students’ scientific knowledge and understanding.

Finally, in English Russ Shoebridge was delivering a focused lesson in which he talked y11 students through a GCSE writing question. The students had practised the question type several times before, so students were realising the benefits of deliberate practice. In this particular lesson, Russ was supporting students by giving clear time limits for specific parts of the response process. This will result in the class having a much better understanding of the process involved in extended writing as well as the content knowledge required.

This was an enjoyable hour in which we saw many examples of effective practice across subject areas, demonstrating once again the wealth of knowledge and expertise that our students experience every day.

 

 

 

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Working effectively with disadvantaged children

3D Man trying to climb wall

The focus of this week’s Teaching Forum is working effectively with disadvantaged children. I spoke to maths teacher Sam Down – an assistant head with responsibility for raising the achievement of disadvantaged children – about how to go about this successfully.

Sam’s whole-school approach contains three strands: quality feedback; explicit vocabulary instruction; and metacognition and self-regulation strategies.

Quality feedback. Evidence from a range of sources (see the EEF Toolkit, for instance) suggests that feedback is a high-impact, low cost intervention. However, it is important to stress that not all feedback is good feedback. Sam stresses that purposeful feedback should be formative, specific and timely, and that effective feedback policies must be flexible – in other words, the methods of giving and receiving feedback must fit the needs of the subject and the students rather than the needs of an unbending whole-school policy. It is especially important to think of feedback as a two-way process. It is not all about giving; it is about receiving too. We gain instant feedback on our teaching from listening to our students thinking and reading their work – which should then inform our decision-making about our next actions.

Explicit vocabulary instruction. Sam referred to Isabel Beck’s three-tier vocabulary taxonomy:

  • Tier 1 words are basic words that young people will pick up through ordinary conversation: book, clock, run and table, for instance.
  • Tier 2 words are unlikely to be encountered regularly in ordinary speech but can be found in academic texts, broadsheet newspapers or challenging literary fiction. Examples include coincidence, absurd and industrious.
  • Tier 3 words tend to be limited to specific subject disciplines – examples from English, for instance, include anaphora, protagonist and tragedy.

Sam explained how many – but not all – socially disadvantaged students get very little exposure to Tier 2 vocabulary at home, especially if they are not readers. Unfortunately, as Daniel Rigney (2010) pointed out, while the word rich get richer, the word poor get poorer. Sam also pointed towards the work of New Zealand academic Averil Coxhead, who has created a list of high incidence academic words. These are Tier 2 words that are frequently found in academic writing – like factor, bond and distribute. While these words often cross over subject domains, they can be the cause of a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding – a bond in chemistry is very different from a bond in economics for example. By teaching these words explicitly and in a range of contexts, we can begin to bridge the word gap.

Metacognition and self-regulation. Metacognition (often defined as ‘thinking about thinking’) and self-regulation approaches have consistently been shown to have high levels of impact on learning – often leading to significant progress, especially for low achieving and older students. Students need to actively monitor the strategies that they are choosing to employ. During thinking and writing processes, these include goal setting, monitoring, self-assessing and evaluation.

I was particularly keen to hear how Sam puts these principles into practice in his own maths lessons:

Feedback:

  • Sam sits disadvantaged students near the front of the classroom so that it is easier to monitor their work and give timely feedback. Sam has noticed improved book work from these students since the start of September.
  • These students have also been made aware that they are a special focus group. Crucially, however, they have not been informed that this is due to their disadvantaged status.
  • Sam always marks the homework of disadvantaged students first – this way they get his freshest feedback.

Explicit vocabulary instruction:

  • Sam expects students to use key mathematical terms – i.e. Tier 3 vocabulary – during class discussions. If a student uses the word ‘times’ rather than ‘multiply’, he will ask: “What’s the key word?”
  • When teaching a new Tier 2 word with a meaning that ‘overlaps’ into other subjects, such as factor, Sam will always introduce it by making it clear that its meaning changes depending on the context and by explicitly stating: “In maths, this means …”

Metacognition and self-regulation:

  • Students receive regular DIRT (dedicated improvement and reflection time) sessions when Sam gives feedback on homework tasks. These sessions are designed to give students a chance to think about and evaluate where they have gone wrong and where they need to go next.
  • In Key Stage 4, Sam asks students to create flashcards every week and a half. Not only does this allow students to revise and reflect upon what they have learnt over a series of lessons, but the cards are retained for later revision. Sam often asks the useful question: “Is that going to help you in a month’s time?” Very often teachers will make the mistake of expecting students to already know how to revise; by modelling and scaffolding these processes, Sam provides valuable support to those students whose parents and carers are unable or unwilling to provide extra guidance at home.

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It is particularly encouraging to hear that classroom practice lies at the heart of Sam’s approach. There are many social factors that cause and influence the underachievement of disadvantaged students, and many of these cannot easily be solved by schools and teachers. However, as Sam shows, simple and sustainable changes to classroom practice are within our locus of control and they can make a genuine difference. Many thanks for reading.

Andy Tharby

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80-20 – paring down the knowledge

In the autumn of 2016 with the English Literature exam looming large on the horizon, English teacher Tod Brennan decided to alter both the curriculum he was delivering and the manner he was teaching it.  In this week’s teaching forum Tod shared how he used the ideas behind the Pareto principle in order to inform these changes and bring about a dramatic turnaround in results.

Image result for 80-20

The Pareto principle was first written about in Italy in the late 19th century and it takes its name from that first pioneer, Vilfredo Pareto.  However, it was made famous by management consultant Joseph M. Juran and became known as “the law of the vital few”.  Tod discovered it through the work of Tim Ferriss who has written about a number of methods of reducing what we do to the most essential components.

The basic idea is that 20% of what happens in a business, an economy, even a curriculum yields 80% of the results.  Therefore if you can identify this 20% and focus your energies there, then the overall result is disproportionally improved.  This has been applied to educational theory before, and is something Doug Lemov wrote about in his book Practice Perfect.  Lemov asserted that we should spend our time practicing the 20% of things that produce the 80% of results rather than trying to practice everything.  By doing so we would help our students master the truly vital elements of our subjects.

This resonated with Tod as he was finding students with a narrower section of knowledge (with which they were confident) could consistently produce answers of a higher quality than those with broader but perhaps less secure knowledge.  The inference he made was that the 80-20 effect was in evidence here, and if he could harness that then it would benefit all his students.  With this in mind Tod set about identifying the 20% within the English Literature curriculum.  He reduced the number of quotes he was working with on a particular text from 20 to 8 and the number of purposes associated with each playwright from 12 to 3.  This process continued until he produced knowledge organisers that became the foundation for his teaching.  He made these judgements both from his own experience but also based on those pieces of knowledge that were most adaptable and flexible.  In terms of quotes this would be those that could be used to demonstrate the widest variety of literary techniques or fit with the greatest number of themes within the novel.  He also taught interpretations of these quotes as knowledge rather than drawing them out from his students.  A section of the end result for “An Inspector Calls” is shown below:

Tod

He made sure the students knew these quotes back-to-front and inside-out, to the point where he admits they grew weary of them.  However, he said what he asked himself when making the choices was: “If a student joined my class tomorrow with no knowledge, what would I most want them to know before the exam.”  From there he put substantial time and effort into producing these resources, weighing each choice on its relative merits.

One beneficial, and according to Tod, unconscious consequence of this resource and the way he taught with it, was to deepen understanding through elaboration.  This is one of the six principles for effective learning written about by the Learning Scientists and has been shown to help students grasp concepts more completely.  Tod’s intervention achieves this by looking at the same piece of knowledge (i.e. a quote) from multiple angles, thereby creating connections between themes, techniques and interpretations.

This approach is not without controversy and despite not being an English teacher myself, I am aware that there is a debate about whether English Literature is essentially a knowledge-based subject or not.  One element here that might feed into this debate would be that Tod’s approach requires interpretations to be taught prescriptively rather than left for the students to develop.  However the correlation between Tod changing his approach and the outcomes for this class is clear, with the class improving by roughly 30% on the 4+ measure (comparing previous achievement in assessments with final exam results) and ultimately, as a mixed ability group, achieving 11% above national average at 4+.  While the number of variables means the improvement cannot be solely attributed to Tod’s intervention, something undoubtedly changed for these students.

As we all wrestle with increasing content and stuff our newly created knowledge organisers full to bursting with information, it may be worth reflecting on the 80-20 principle and how we can pare that knowledge down to that which is most useful, most flexible and is most likely to help our students succeed.

Produced by Chris Runeckles

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Good Teachers Talk: Better Teachers Listen

Listening

Working in an educational context with the worthwhile aim of reducing gaps between students from differing social backgrounds is a daunting task. Classrooms are inevitably sites of power asymmetry, and not just between the pupils. Although it can be awkward to confront, the social disparity between teachers and pupils is sometimes a tangible and influential factor in schools that needs sensitive, yet robust, handling.

Discourse

Gee describes Discourses (with a capital ‘D’) as ‘social practices’ that involve ‘words, actions, values and beliefs’ that members of particular social groups adopt in order to assert their roles and therefore identities. According to Gee, we are apprenticed into our primary discourses early in life through scaffolded support from people who have already mastered the discourse, usually our families. We are also apprenticed into a secondary discourse as part of our socialisation outside of our early homes and peer groups through social institutions, such as schools.

So what does this have to do with the gaps in our classrooms?

It all comes down to the concept of privilege.  Gee explains that certain discourses are privileged over others because they are the systems used to confer control of social goods such as money or cultural authority, and thus bestow the members of that discourse with greater power and elevated status in society. Significantly, schools (and academia as a whole) privilege a particular secondary discourse in the same way, and this is often incorporated into the primary discourse of particular children, traditionally from middle-class homes. As a consequence, these pupils encounter less conflict with the dominant discourse at school compared to pupils from homes where this secondary discourse is not integrated into the primary discourse. Gee argues that classrooms where this disparity is not recognised will ‘simply privilege those students who have begun the acquisition process at home, engaging those students in a teaching/learning process while the others simply fail.’

What Can Teachers Do?

Gee’s theories about the social influence of discourse seem to point to the notion that it is not just the pupils’ use of language that is critical for success, but also that of the teacher. Accordingly, below are four suggestions for practice outlining how teachers can try to overcome the potential discourse disparities in their classrooms. These are by no means absolute, and are perhaps better understood as gateways opening some exploratory paths into this complex social maze.

1. Don’t ‘dumb down’.

Explicit vocabulary instruction and not shying away from more sophisticated, conceptual language is key to overcoming this inequality. Methods for explicit vocabulary instruction are explored by Andy Tharby here and John Tomsett here.

2. Model the rules of the discourse.

Explicit modelling of the discourse in its own right is fundamental, and this must come from the teacher. Pupils need to experience the social practice they are aiming to achieve as modelled by a master – especially those students who are acquiring this as a new secondary discourse. For example, before pairing students together to discuss a set problem or question, the teacher can demonstrate the type of talk and interaction expected through pairing up with a willing student or other adult and acting out the discussion in front of the class. During the discussion, it is essential that the teacher explicitly points out the conventions (words and behaviour) that are in play, such as turn-taking or giving justification for a response.  Neil Mercer’s ground rules for exploratory talk provide excellent criteria for identifying the conventions required for successful classroom discourse.

3. Work on a spectrum between speaker and listener.

One of the main tensions at the heart of this practice is that in inducting all pupils into an arbitrarily privileged secondary discourse the teacher is supporting a hierarchy in which some voices are silenced. This clearly has wide political ramifications, the scope of which warrants extensive further consideration. However, one way in which teachers can begin to tackle this conflict is to consciously alternate their role from teacher-as-talker to teacher-as-listener. This entails sometimes handing over the expectation of talking to the pupils (after the modelling described in Suggestion 2 above), and stepping back from being a constant authoritative expert. One way of achieving this identify shift is to come unprepared to a lesson! For example, working on a poem in English that neither the pupils nor the teacher have read before. In doing so, pupils begin to see that their identities can fluctuate from learner to contributor, thus giving them the confidence to enact this discourse themselves in the classroom and beyond.

 4. Make it meta.

The EEF toolkit signposts metacognition as having a significant positive impact on pupils’ learning, especially those from more disadvantaged backgrounds. Similarly, in order to empower all pupils to confidently access privileged discourses and to be aware of their status as users of this discourse, teachers need to support pupils’ thinking about how they are engaging with the conventions. One method of achieving this is to use Mercer’s ground rules for exploratory talk as a success criteria. This involves explicit modelling of the ground rules in the first instance, followed by frequent referral to the rules in order for students to reflect on their learning experiences and set targets. This metacognitive process can help pupils to explore beyond what they have learned,  to how they achieved this new understanding.

Further Reading 

Alexander, R, Towards Dialogic Teaching: Rethinking Classroom Talk, 2008.

Gee, J. P, The Social Mind: Language, Ideology and Social Practice, 1992.

Sutherland, J, Developing Exploratory Talk and Thinking in Secondary English Lessons: Theoretical and Pedagogical Implications, 2010.

Posted by Fran Haynes

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