What remote learning has taught us about: Feedback

In the second instalment of this mini-series from Durrington, we take a look at feedback. As a crucial part of classroom practice, remote learning has offered us the opportunity to reflect on the wealth of knowledge that we already have on feedback with a fresh eyes. This blog looks at feedback from two perspectives: Feedback provided by the teacher for the student, and feedback provided by the student that the teachers can use to assess their level of understanding.

What we have tried:

  • Using voice recordings such as Mote to leave individual and whole-class feedback on students’ work.
  • Providing whole-class feedback for students in the stream in Google Classroom or via recorded videos.
  • Giving individual feedback to students via typed comments.
  • Teachers gleaning feedback from students via Google quizzes.
  • Finally, teachers and students sharing feedback in a reciprocal way through live lessons, specifically by calling on students to answer questions in the ‘chat’ function or by unmuting if they have access to a microphone; intervening as students work ‘live’; or having an open style lesson where the teacher is present in a ‘live’ capacity for students to call upon if they need help.

What we have learned

  • Unlike explanation, feedback works best when it comes from the class teacher. Really effective feedback requires a fine-level, granular approach, and the work produced by students during remote learning has made this more obvious than ever. This is not saying that students require individual feedback on every piece of work, but that their individual work needs checking at critical points for the feedback to be as effective as possible for all classes.
  • The best type of feedback feeds forward. As many teaching colleagues will attest, it has been exasperating at times to get remote work submitted that is riddled by an easily-fixed mistake. In class, we are able to spot this early on and intervene. In remote learning, this has proven more challenging to do. A solution has been to be more proactive about checking students’ work at the planning and mid-way stage. This way, feedback can have an immediate impact and go some way to stopping the misunderstandings and misconceptions before they arise.
  • Technology cannot replace the teacher, but it can really help. For example, once all of the students have submitted a response, Google forms identifies commonly missed questions. This is incredibly powerful information that is easy to miss in the busy classroom even with the most well-designed quiz. These questions can then be the focus for the start of the next lesson. It takes minutes to plan but is a sure-fire way of addressing gaps or insecurities in students’ understanding.
  • Linked to above, Mote allows teachers to see how many of their recorded verbal comments have been ‘moticed’ or ‘unmoticed’ by students. Despite the research evidence telling us that feedback is often ignored by students, it is surprising (and just a teeny bit dispiriting!) to see how many students really do not take any heed of the feedback we provide and instead just focus on getting the work done.
  • Take-up Time Matters. All of us have probably by now experienced the awkward and at times anxiety-inducing scenario of asking a student to respond to a question during a live lesson and not getting anything back, at all, for what seems like eons. Then suddenly, as you are about to jump in to help, they respond. This has really emphasised the importance of allowing students thinking time after posing a question and, furthermore, how that thinking time probably needs to be at least double the length we normally provide.
  • Some students are better than we ever realised. Away from the peer pressures of the classroom, some students have really excelled. It is not not uncommon for teachers to report that a student who, before remote learning, was not a shining example of commitment is now dazzling their way through the work. Accordingly, we could argue that the feedback gathered during the last few months has perhaps started to dismantle some of the confirmation bias with which all teachers contend.

What we will keep:

  • As Dylan Wiliam explains, feedback needs to be a windscreen not a rearview mirror. Going forward, teachers need to identify and intervene with feedback at critical points before mistakes and misconceptions occur. This could mean giving feedback on plans, partially completed work or chunks of learning rather than completed pieces.
  • We need to make sure that students are not given the opportunity to ignore feedback. For example, part of retrieval quizzes or questioning could include asking students what their feedback was for a certain piece of work. Alternatively, before we accept work as complete we could insist that students use feedback to check it themselves, thus promoting self-regulation and monitoring at the same time.
  • Teaching at a screen has made it much more obvious when the same students are answering all of the questions, thus devaluing the formative assessment of the learning taking place. The buzz of the physical classroom can make this imbalance much more difficult to discern, so creating a simple monitoring strategy is key. For example, using a seating plan to tick every time you ask a student a question is an easy way to check who you called upon and make adjustments as necessary.
  • Finally, the example of students who have gone far beyond expectations during this remote period link neatly with Hattie and Timperley’s feedback model in their 2007 paper The Power of Feedback. Here, the writers advocate only providing feedback on the task, process used by the student or their self-regulation when completing the activity rather than on the student’s sense of ‘self’.

Fran Haynes

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Returning to Knowledge Organisers

As students return to school later this month, teachers and school leaders up and down the country are thinking carefully about curriculum changes and lesson strategies to use that will best support post-lockdown learning. This is no easy task, and perhaps one of the greatest challenges is that there will be huge variation in students’ experiences and knowledge when they return to our classrooms.

For some, remote teaching has been a resounding success: These students have enjoyed taking control in a low-stress environment with the kitchen fridge not far away. For others, the experience has been a long, hard and lonely slog. These students have ploughed through the work, but success equates to completion rather than quality. Finally, we have students for whom their learning very much depends on school structures, and when this support goes so does any chance of academic success.

How does this link to knowledge organisers?

Over the past few years, the curriculum teams at Durrington have put impressive effort into producing high-quality knowledge organisers for every year group. You can read more about our journey with knowledge organisers here. In a nutshell, however, for us the purpose of a knowledge organiser is to support, rather than replace, teaching practices that we know work. Primarily, this means using knowledge organisers for retrieval practice, i.e. helping students store important facts and ideas in their long-term memory ready to use when tackling complex learning tasks in their working memory. When used in this way, knowledge organisers can be an incredibly effective learning tool that helps to ensure all students have access to the knowledge that a curriculum team have agreed is essential for their subject. Accordingly, knowledge organisers also have potential to be harnessed for ‘recovery teaching’, or in other words to help mitigate the problems that could occur as a result of the disparity between students in their remote learning experience. Below are five suggestions for how this might work.

1. Identify what students know and don’t know through retrieval tasks.

This does not differ all that much from how knowledge organisers were commonly used in the classroom in the pre-Covid 19 era. In order to a) ascertain what students currently know and don’t know and b) help students to polish up any knowledge that has become rusty over the past few months, retrieval tasks such as low-stake quizzes and questioning will be key. Knowledge organisers can work perfectly for this type of task, especially if they are set out using numbered grids that can be blanked out either on paper (handy if you are moving classrooms and need a ‘do now’ task that’s not technology reliant) or on the screen ready for testing. It would be advisable to test the content of a knowledge organiser in chunks for accurate, diagnostic assessment of the exact gaps in students’ knowledge.

2. Activate prior knowledge.

As Chris Runeckles explains in this blog, paying particular attention to activating prior knowledge before introducing new information will be crucial when trying to meet the needs of a divergent group of students. It may well be the case that, for some students, the knowledge required to access the upcoming lesson simply isn’t there yet whereas for others it needs a little fine tuning. Knowledge organisers can help to make this very easy. For example, you could ask students to identify for themselves what they know and don’t know by highlighting sections of the knowledge organiser – a few pertinent questions here would be prudent to check the students are accurate in their diagnosis. Alternatively, the knowledge organiser can also work as a beneficial aide-memoire for teachers to clarify what they should prioritise in terms of checking students’ understanding before moving on to new material.

3. Scaffold work in the classroom and at home.

Not only do knowledge organisers provide a means by which curriculum teams can ensure consistency and fidelity to their agreed curriculum, but they can also save hours of work by providing different layers of support in the classroom and for homework. Once you feel confident about the gaps in individual students’ knowledge, it is very easy to direct them to specific sections of a knowledge organiser to scaffold their learning. For example, a student in MFL who has forgotten how to change regular verbs to the past tense can use a section of a knowledge organiser to remind them of these grammar rules as they work. It would be imperative, of course, to remove this scaffolding over time. Whilst the targeted differentiation offered by a teacher is irreplaceable, in the first instance of post-Covid 19 teaching where the gaps are likely to be wide-ranging in any one class, strategies like this are what will make knowledge organisers worth much more than the paper upon which they are written.

4. Explicitly teach students to self-monitor their work.

Among many of the sliver linings that have emerged from remote teaching, one of significance is that it has provided an opportunity for students to practice their self-monitoring skills. Away from the security blanket of a teacher’s presence, some students have become increasingly reliant on themselves to identify what they need to complete a task, how they should go about doing this and how to check what they have got right and wrong ready to improve their work next time. This is good news and something we want to sustain when students return to school. Knowledge organisers can provide a ready-made method for encouraging students to sustain (or begin to) take control over their learning. For example, if asking students to complete an extended piece of work such as an essay or performance, using a knowledge-organiser as a checklist before, during and after the work can be a very successful way to get students planning, monitoring and evaluating.

5. Explicitly teach vocabulary.

At Durrington, one of the ‘active ingredients’ of all knowledge organisers is that they include either tier 2 or tier 3 vocabulary that will be explicitly taught to students as part of subject lessons. Emerging evidence on the effects of Covid-19 suggest that students’ literacy skills are most likely to be negatively impacted, especially those from a disadvantaged background (see EEF report on KS1 here). Robust research evidence makes it clear that explicitly teaching vocabulary is one of our strongest ‘best bets’ for tackling the huge literacy barrier that many students face. This becomes especially important now that students have been away from the academic language of the classroom for many weeks. Thus, reminding, reteaching and resetting expectations about vocabulary use should be one of our non-negotiable teaching priorities, and knowledge organisers provide a consistent starting point across curriculum teams for this focus.

Finally, don’t forget that knowledge organisers can incorporate procedural as well as declarative knowledge, that is knowledge of how to go about completing a piece of work. Students are just as likely to need support in getting back on track with methods, systems and practices as they are with the factual nuts and bolts of a subject. It is when these fundamentals are in place that the complex learning – making connections, comparison, synthesis, pattern spotting and prediction, for example – can begin.

Fran Haynes

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Weekly Round Up – 1st March 2021

Blog of the week

The evolution of a presentation: how to maximise students attention in an online classroomAdam Robbins

This is a great blog that explores how we should use some of the key principles from cognitive science when designing slides, in order to maximise learning.  The approaches are as relevant to the physical classroom as the online classroom.


‘What remote learning has taught us about: explanation’ by Chris Runeckles

Remote learning has required us to really fine tune explanations.  What have we learnt from this and how can we use this to inform our classroom practice?

Research School Blog

Understanding Clues’ by Shaun Allison

What are some of the subtle clues we can look for to check students are understanding the work?

Other Useful Links


Subscribe to the ClassTeaching podcast:

https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/class-teaching-podcast/id1553470551 (Apple)

https://anchor.fm/james-crane39/ (Other platforms)

Episode 1 available now: Metacognitive Evaluation

Free CPD Webinar

  • Theme: Supporting High Attaining Students
  • Led by: Ben Crockett
  • Date: Tuesday 2nd March
  • Time: 3.30pm-4.00pm



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What remote learning has taught us about: explanation

Time is not what it was. It seems to stretch and contract in an unusual and confusing manner these days. However, what is plain is that we are fast approaching the rather unwelcome anniversary of when we were all first plunged into remote learning.

To mark this moment of dubious renown, we at Durrington are going to write a series of blogs connected to our six principles (challenge, explanation, modelling, practice, feedback and questioning for the uninitiated) which will aim to pull some good from this annus horribilis.

During the turmoil, we have all been forced into adapting our practice to fit the reality we have been confronted with. We certainly wouldn’t have chosen this, but within the enforced change, will be gems that are worth harvesting and keeping once schools look more like the institutions they did roughly a year ago. Some things we didn’t do before will simply be kept, and in other places we will merge the old and the new to create updated versions of practice. For example, homework is likely to look quite different going forward due to familiarity with the best remote learning platforms, while student self-regulation will be in a different, and potentially better, place than it was.

To give some shape to this, each of our six principle blogs will be split into three sections: what we have tried, what we have learned, what we will keep. This first blog will tackle explanation, the teacher’s best friend and greatest tool.

It was a source of some anxiety when remote learning started that without the nuance of the classroom our capacity to deliver effective explanations would be severely diminished. In reaction to this, much of the work we have done around making remote learning effective has been about explanation and how to manage it online. Breaking it down from what we do day-to-day, and then building it back up to work online, has certainly crystalized what is important for successful explanation.

What we have tried:

  • Recorded explanations of difficult concepts delivered as short videos.
  • Longer recorded instructional explanation videos explaining how to navigate a lesson.
  • Whole recorded lessons with explanations of concepts, combined with instructions and modelling.
  • Live explanations when teaching live lessons.
  • Using explanations provided by other teachers (some colleagues in our department, some from elsewhere such as Oak National Academy).
  • Recorded explanations as feedback where common misconceptions have been uncovered.
  • Metacognitive explanation of why tasks are being completed and what we as experts are thinking while delivering a particular skill.

What we have learned:

  • Some students prefer recorded explanations as they can pause and rewind the explanation. In a classroom explanation comes and goes. Now students can watch it until they get it.
  • We knew this already, but prior knowledge makes or breaks explanation. It is harder to ascertain prior knowledge at a distance so we have to work harder to ensure we base our explanation in common knowledge. Also, activities that reveal existing knowledge are useful to complete prior to new explanation being shared.
  • Explanations must be chunked and then chunked again. Over time our remote explanations have become shorter and shorter in length before a pause is inserted. The cognitive load implications of listening to long instructional explanations have driven this.
  • Dual coding can be a great support for explanation. Lots of pieces of technology have been purchased allowing teachers to draw as they talk to support and shape their explanation.
  • Who is the best person to explain can vary. Certainly a direct connection with our students is important so at least some of the explanation coming from the class teacher has proved beneficial in our context. However, often a colleague is excellent in a particular area so drawing on their expertise has been very useful.
  • The potential for misconceptions being embedded during explanation is always present but is amplified at a distance. Even when explanations are clear and accurate a student may misinterpret them and therefore be left with an embedded misconception. Therefore, giving students an activity that requires them to use the explanation is useful in weeding these misconceptions out.
  • Metacognitive explanation is important punctuation in ensuring remote lessons do not become a series of activities to do rather than a coherent piece of learning.

What we will keep:

  • We now have an archive of teacher explanations. Where these will ultimately be used is yet to be seen but homework and of course snow days are obvious applications!
  • There will be times when a whole cohort of students would benefit from single teacher explanation. Without the physical constraints of the classroom we have been able to use teachers to explain concepts to large numbers of students all at once. You can now imagine a remote revision session where the teacher who is best at explaining that particular concept takes responsibility for the session, rather than clusters of students being with different teachers.
  • Checking whether our explanation has hit the mark. The unfamiliarity with remote learning has forced us to question whether our explanation is being understood. The need to check for misconceptions in a structured way will be worth incorporating when we are back.
  • Doing more metacognitive explanation to unpack our thinking in front of our students.
  • Explaining the procedures and not just the concepts. We have been at pains to add clear explanation of what students need to physically have, and physically do in order to navigate our online lessons. Bringing this into our lessons will help avoid exclamations of “I don’t know what to do.”

Chris Runeckles

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Weekly Round Up – 22nd February 2021

Blog of the week

Remote Responsive Teaching’ by Harry Fletcher-Wood

In this post Harry explores how we can fit responsive teaching into the constraints of remote teaching.


Why most teacher CPD fails and what we might be able to do about it by Shaun Allison

This blog explores the research evidence around habit formation and how this might link to teacher development.

Research School Blog

It takes trust to build a team’ by Tara McVey

In this blog ELE Tara McVey explores how we build trust and why this is so essential to any team.

Other Useful Links

EXCITING NEWS: Coming soon….

If you struggle to find the time to read blogs, you’ll be able to listen to our new podcast driving to work, whilst out for a run or when doing the ironing! Watch this space for further details.

Next Twilight CPD Webinar

  • Theme: Improving Writing
  • Led by: Andy Tharby
  • Date: Tuesday 23rd February
  • Time: 3.30pm-4.00pm

Registration: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdd9_yJx8eHkGDVCXlb_9j6_-MBhSGmE66l6cMAW_To4nT4nw/viewform 


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Why most teacher CPD fails and what we might be able to do about it

As a Research School we spend a great deal of our time reading, listening and talking about effective teacher development.  This blog is an attempt to summarise the brilliant work from a number of super colleagues, that is helping to shape our thinking.  In this video Mike Hobbiss talks about the work he has been doing with Becky Allen and Sam Sims on habit formation and teacher development.  In the presentation, Mike discusses the graph below from the paper Can Professional Environments in Schools Promote Teacher Development?  (Kraft & Papay):

The graph suggests that the performance of teachers improves rapidly in the early years of their careers, but then begins to plateau from year 3/4 onwards.  None of this is surprising.  If you don’t improve in the early years of your teaching, it will become quite a miserable job!  So to bring about this improvement, novice teachers are supported to focus on specific aspects of their teaching and then receive regular feedback on how successful it is.  This feedback might come from an observer or how well the students respond to it.  Based on this feedback they will either ditch the approach or refine it.  The approaches that appear to work will then be the subject of very deliberate practice, day after day and lesson after lesson.  Eventually, over time, they will be become a habit.

The fact that these approaches novice teachers are focusing on, whether they be focused on managing behaviour or developing pedagogy, become habitual is useful in some ways.  It means they don’t have to think about them and so can focus on other things in the classroom.  This does, however, present a problem.  Habits are hard to break.  So when we try to get teachers to embed new approaches into their teaching, what we are trying to get them to do is to break some habits and form new ones, which is difficult.  Most CPD that teachers engage with will fail at this, because (a) it doesn’t target a specific approach (b) it doesn’t give focused feedback on that new approach and (c) it doesn’t provide the opportunity for the teacher to engage in deliberate practice in a sustained and focused way over time.  All too often CPD is too general and a short lived and so won’t support habit formation.

Harry Fletcher-Wood writes about this here.  He suggests that we should be rethinking the idea of effective CPD.  Harry suggests that the best way to identify effective CPD is to look for:

  • Evidence of Impact – has the programme been shown to have an impact on student attainment?
  • Evidence of mechanism – we know from psychology and behaviour science that lasting change requires the formation of new habits and then repeating an action in context

When schools get this right, it is possible to reduce the plateauing effect on teacher development:

This graph is also from the Kraft & Papay paper.  The dashed line is for teachers who work in the top 25% of schools in terms of professional culture e.g. rich CPD and effective line management.  The dotted line is for those teachers in schools in the bottom 25% of professional culture.  What this suggests is that if you work in a school with a rich professional culture, rather than plateauing, you will have a better chance of continuing to get better and better as a teacher.  This is important, because the quality of teaching matters to student attainment.  Becky Allen and Sam Sims explain this in this presentation.

The overall attainment in a school deteriorates when the measurably effective teachers leave the school.  And the attainment of pupils in schools increases when teachers who were effective in other settings arrive in the school” (Becky Allen)

So what can schools do stop the plateau and help more of their teachers to develop their practice and become more effective over time?  According to Sam Sims in this blog the answer lies with instructional coaching:

In terms of impact on student outcomes, instructional coaching has a better evidence base than any other form of CPD.”

In this blog the Ambition Institute describe instructional coaching:

“The principles of instructional coaching are linked to the principles of developing expertise in any domain through the use of deliberate practice. The first step is to identify a destination or outcome, often called the target performance.

Teachers can move from their current performance towards this target performance by practising a sequence of sub-goals with the aid of a coach. This allows them to overcome existing ingrained habits and adopt new behaviours. The input of the coach is in observing the practitioner’s current performance, setting precise sub-goals and designing practice.”

They summarise the process of instructional coaching:

  • identify, and clearly define, the target performance
  • identify the biggest gap between target and current performance
  • break this down into components which can be practised
  • design practice
  • facilitate practice in controlled conditions
  • give feedback and increase complexity of practice

This is different from other forms of coaching that schools might have tried in the past, where perhaps a coach will sit with a coachee and try to ‘draw out’ the solution through asking open questions.   With instructional coaching he coach will have a level of expertise in the area that the coachee is looking to develop.  They will identify the specific area of focus for the coachee and design a practice drill for them.  Furthermore there is an expectation that the practice will take place in controlled conditions, outside of the lesson i.e. the teacher will rehearse their explanation or questioning in front of their coach and receive feedback.  This will be repeated, until it has become embedded.

Instructional coaching appears to work, because it replicates the habit forming approach that teachers adopt in the early years of their career:

Try a new approach > get feedback > ditch or refine > practice > get feedback > refine…repeat.

This makes it a very attractive proposition for schools, in terms of embedding an effective approach to teacher development.  Like all things though, how successful it is will be dependent on how effectively it is implemented.  However, if the claims about how effective instructional coaching can be are right, it’s an endeavour that is worth our time and effort.

The ideas around habit formation and teacher development have implications for organisations who delver CPD too, such as our Research School.  Our training is delivered with this in mind:

  • As well as delivering input, a significant part of our training focuses on helping leaders to clarify the root cause of the issue they are looking to address.
  • The training is sustained over time, allowing us to build a good relationship with delegates.  So at the moment, our training programmes are made up of nine, two hour modules.
  • In between the modules, delegates are offered one to one bespoke support (via Zoom at the moment), which usually takes the form of a coaching conversation.  Delegates are supported to refine the issue further and then commit to specific actions to address it.
  • As they implement these new approaches back at their school, they are encourages to get feedback on its impact and use this to refine the approach further.

It’s an exciting time for teacher development.  Using the evidence in this way will undoubtedly help more teachers to improve over time, which will in turn impact on the attainment of more students.

Shaun Allison




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Weekly Round Up – 8th February 2021

Blog of the week

Cold Calling: the #1 strategy for inclusive classrooms – remote and in person’ by Tom Sherrington

In this blog Tom outlines why cold-calling is such a useful strategy.  He also addresses some FAQs about the approach and explores how it can be moved online.


Disciplinary literacy during remote teaching’ by Fran Haynes

Fran explains how we are supporting disciplinary literacy across year 9.  It also features some videos of some of our brilliant teachers talking about their subject.

Research School Blog

‘Metacognitive evaluation to support remote learning’ by Chris Runeckles.

Chris shares ten top tips for encouraging students to evaluate their learning during remote learning.

Other useful links

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Disciplinary Literacy During remote Teaching

The EEF’s guidance report ‘Improving Literacy in Secondary Schools’ states as its first recommendation that schools should ‘prioritise disciplinary literacy across the curriculum’. In a nutshell, disciplinary literacy entails emphasising the subject-specific ways of reading, writing, thinking and communicating that experts in a discipline understand tacitly but with which novice learners will require explicit instruction and plenty of guided practice. You can read more about the nuts and bolts of disciplinary literacy here.

Even in normal times, getting to grips with disciplinary literacy as part of day-to-day classroom teaching can be challenging. This is in no small part due to the complexity of bringing to the surface ingrained subject literacy knowledge that has become automatic to most teachers, and then breaking this down into the composite parts needed for effective teaching. However, a more concrete problem that schools may encounter when teaching disciplinary literacy is the fact that subject curricula often does not provide students with many opportunities to engage with genuine disciplinary texts. More often than not, students have a diet of texts that have been specifically designed for school use, be these text books or resources designed and created in school. There is, of course, nothing wrong with this and adapted texts certainly have a very important role to play in effective teaching and learning. Nevertheless, if students are to become inducted into disciplines that exist beyond the school gates, they need exposure to the real ways in which experts communicate in those fields.

Here at Durrington we have looked for ways to achieve this exposure to genuine disciplinary texts remotely and in a format that will engage students. Accordingly, a number of teachers have recorded videos which are being sent out to our year 9 students. In these videos, the teachers discuss an aspect of their subject that they feel particularly passionate about, and then link this to a ‘read aloud’ of a related text. The texts have been purposefully chosen to represent those which students may not usually encounter until they studied a subject at A level or beyond. The sophistication of these texts is an important part of the criteria for their inclusion in the video – the videos are not intended to be an extra resource for current lessons but something beyond the usual realm of the classroom. In addition, we wanted to enable students to experience authentic texts but needed to ensure that individual reading capabilities did not present barriers for any students, hence the reading aloud.

Selecting year 9 as the recipients of these disciplinary reading videos is also a deliberate choice. This cohort are currently in the process of choosing their option subjects for GCSE and so have a vested interest in learning more about where different subjects can take them after their school years.

The videos are wide-ranging and unique. Crucially, every teacher models not only their passion for their subject but also how the literacy practices in that subject work.  For example, SME and citizenship teacher Harriet Peach explains her interest in human rights and then reads from an Amnesty International article. Alternatively, art teacher Steve Bloomer discusses his visit to a Damien Hirst exhibition and reads a related Guardian article. By reading these texts aloud – thus demonstrating how fluency and prosody create meaning –  and then discussing why they read them and how the texts shape their thinking, the teachers make it explicit how disciplinary literacy is not a bolt-on to subject content but the very heart of the subject itself.

Here are a sample of our disciplinary reading videos:




Fran Haynes







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Weekly Round Up – 1st February 2021

Blog of the Week

Beware the false sense of security that can come with live lesson registers’ by  Christina McGhie

A super blog exploring ways in which we can check students are engaging with the lesson behind their computer screens.


‘Remote Responsive Teaching’

Shaun Allison unpicks what we mean by responsive teaching and how we can adapt to this remotely.

Research School

Remote Learning – Understanding over coverage

Jack Tavassoly-Marsh explores how we can be monitoring student understanding during remote teaching.

Other Useful Links

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Remote Responsive Teaching


The diagram above from ‘Making every lesson count‘ shows the feedback loop that happens during effective teaching.  The teacher gives feedback to students to address any learning gaps they might have.  Teachers then review how students perform on a particular task and then use this to inform the next stage of their teaching.  For example, if I’m teaching genetic crosses one lesson and it becomes clear that a number of students are not getting how to interpret the different genotypes of a particular cross, rather than just moving on to a new topic in the next lesson, I’ll spend time going through it again.  So my teaching is being responsive.  Harry Fletcher-Wood describes responsive teaching as:

  1. Setting clear goals and planning learning carefully
  2. Identifying what students have understood and where they are struggling
  3. Responding, adapting our teaching to support students to do better.

You can read more from Harry on this here.  Remote teaching presents potential challenges to making our teaching responsive.  When students are in our classrooms, we can physically see when students are struggling with their work and intervene accordingly – we would give them some verbal feedback, model how to tackle the problem etc.  These cues are missing with remote teaching.  If we are using pre-recorded videos, there is a risk that the teaching won’t be based on the performance of students in the previous lesson.  Of course this doesn’t need to be the case.  Following a recorded lesson, the work produced by the students could be reviewed and then used to inform the next recorded lesson – but this might not be the case.  In physical lessons we would ask questions and then use strategies like cold-calling and mini-whiteboards to assess the understanding of all pupils and use this to shape the next stage of teaching.

So as we refine our approach to remote teaching, we need to be considering how we can make sure we are being responsive.  Some thoughts on this:

  • The principles of cold-call questioning can be moved online.  When teaching remotely when you ask a question, one student can answer on a stream.  All other students can see this response and then potentially copy it.  So you’re not really getting an idea of how well all students understand the topic.  This can be adapted simply online by asking a question and then telling students to type the answer in the stream, but don’t press enter.  You can then pause, countdown and ask all students to press enter together.  You will then see all individual responses and get a much clearer picture about their understanding.  This could be with questions that require a text response or multiple choice questions, prepared on slides. This is a great strategy for hinge questions.
  • In physical lessons you would review student work and then perhaps spend time during the next lesson, giving the whole class feedback on common errors and misunderstandings.  This can still be done with live remote lessons, but can also be achieved with recorded lessons.  At Durrington, teachers record Loom videos giving feedback to the whole class, based on the work they submitted in the previous lesson.
  • Sharing, discussing and unpicking exemplar student work is a great way of providing students with feedback about the next steps in their learning.  This can be done during remote teaching by sharing student work during live lessons, or in a recorded lesson.  Visualisers are great for this.   The advantage of doing this in a live lesson is that you can enter into a live dialogue about the work with students, as you would in a normal lesson.
  • The Mote Chrome extension allows teachers to record and leave verbal feedback for students on the work they submit on Google classrooms.  This is a great workload win for teachers too.  This can get close to replicating the type of verbal feedback that students would get in the physical classroom.
  • Self-marking Google quizzes allow us to get useful feedback on how well students are understanding a topic.  This can then be used to shape future teaching.  In recorded lessons, we can then give students feedback on their performance, pick out common errors and model the correct approach.  In live lessons, you can see how students are responding to the quiz there and then and give them feedback accordingly.  Google forms are really useful for retrieval quizzes at the start of a lesson, but also for hinge questions.
  • Teachers build student knowledge by asking them probing questions in response to their responses.  With live remote teaching this can be done in a similar way to a physical lesson.  This is trickier when students are watching a recorded lesson, but can be achieved.  Teachers can pose a question on the video in the ‘stream’ and then ask follow on questions in the stream, based on student responses.

Teachers are incredibly adaptive.  As we all get to grips with remote teaching it’s fantastic to see how teachers are adapting what we know about effective teaching to the remote classroom.

Shaun Allison

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