Classroom Change: How the EEF’s Implementation Guide Can Support Classroom Practice

The EEF has recently published their guide to implementation entitled ‘Putting Evidence to Work’, which provides a detailed, analytical framework designed to ‘help implement any school improvement decision, whether programme or practice, whole-school or targeted approach, or internal or externally generated ideas’.

Whilst this guide might seem to be aimed primarily at school leaders, the evaluative framework it offers can be of benefit to classroom teachers who wish to implement any kind of change to their practice. Teachers are, after all, the leader of their classroom.

‘Putting Evidence to Work’: The Nuts and Bolts

The EEF guide presents its model of implementation as a cycle comprising five steps:

  1. Decide what you want to achieve.
  2. Identify possible solutions and strategies.
  3. Give the idea the best chance of success.
  4. Did it work?
  5. Secure and spread change.

All five steps are important for successful implementation, and to help achieve these steps the EEF guide offers recommendations that can be categorised into four stages.

  1. Explore

What the EEF Guide Says:

Implementation happens in stages and takes time. Furthermore, there is no typical time that an intervention takes to be fully embedded in a school system: it is not unusual to spend two to four years on an implementation process for a whole-school initiative. Additionally, schools need to treat implementation as a major priority, and also prioritise what needs to change. Ultimately, there should be fewer but more strategic choices in place.

Furthermore, it is crucial to specify a tight area of focus that is amenable to change, define the problem that you want to solve, and then determine a programme of activity based on evidence about what has and has not worked before. Keeping your school’s context in mind is important in order for the implementation to be feasible.

Suggestions for Implementing Change in Classroom Practice:

  1. Pinpoint one area of your classroom practice to implement a change.
  2. Check what the research evidence suggests might work in the context of your classroom.
  3. Ensure that your curriculum planning supports the longevity required for successful implementation of a new process or practice.

2. Prepare

What the EEF Guide Says:

The guide places significant emphasis on the need to identify the active ingredients of an implementation plan, and explains that active ingredients are the ‘well-specified features or practices that are tightly related to the underlying theory and mechanism of change for the intervention’. If the active ingredients of the plan are clearly identified, then it is more likely that the intended outcomes are achieved. These active ingredients should be shared widely and non-negotiable, but know where to be ‘tight’ and where to be ‘loose’. If there are explicit expectations regarding the active ingredients, then change will be easier to successfully embed.

Suggestions for Implementing Change in Classroom Practice::

  1. Identify the active ingredients of the new classroom practice.
  2. Consider which students will be affected by the new practice, and how.
  3.  Identify and explicitly share the non-negotiable active ingredients. For example, you may be implementing a new questioning practice, and a non-negotiable is that no student opts out of responding to a question.
  4.  Consider how you will adopt a ‘tight but loose’ approach in your classroom. For example, will you offer alternative ways of responding to questions for different students?

3. Deliver

What the EEF Guide Says:

The focus of this stage is on quality assurance and quality improvement. Data and experiences should be gathered while applying the new approach, and this information used to understand, and act on, important barriers to implementation. Leaders should seek to support staff in using the innovation in the best possible way so they can become increasingly familiar with the new practices and routines. Good coaching and mentoring practices are instrumental in this support.

Suggestions for Implementing Change in Classroom Practice:

  1. Seek out CPD support in terms of expert coaching and mentoring for your own follow-up training in the new classroom practice.
  2. Identify a series of short, medium, and long-term implementation outcome measures to monitor the new practice.
  3. Decide how and when you will use data from class monitoring to actively tailor and improve your classroom approach.

4. Sustain

 What the EEF Guide Says:

Participants in the implementation of new practices have to feel trusted to try new things and make mistakes without fear of recrimination. Consequently, creating a culture of implementation is important, and this can be achieved through supporting and acknowledging people who display attitudes and behaviours that promote good implementation of new practice.

Part of effective implementation also includes being able to sustain and scale up an innovation.

Suggestions for Implementing Change in Classroom Practice:

  1. Plan for how you will recognise and celebrate instances where students are engaging with, and benefitting from, the changed classroom practice.
  2. Plan for how you will share your implementation plan and outcomes with other teachers across your school and beyond. Also consider where you can get support from school leaders.
  3. Consider how you could scale up this approach, for example by implementing the practice with a larger cohort.

Fran Haynes.

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Using questionnaires to better understand our students’ learning

This week’s Teaching Forum looks at the work of DHS geography teacher Sam Atkins, who is experimenting with some innovative and interesting ways of identifying his GCSE students’ perceptions about learning.


Sam was interested in how he could prevent students from falling behind at the start of Year 10. He was especially interested in one group of students: those who opted to take geography GCSE despite struggling to progress in the subject in Year 9. His initial aim was to pre-empt the struggles that this group of students might face so that they would make a smoother transition to GCSE.

Sam wanted to know more about what students think about geography – specifically, their self-awareness in terms of what they know about geography (i.e. their subject knowledge) and how to do geography (i.e. their metacognitive knowledge). The findings, he hoped, would help him to improve the effectiveness of teaching and learning in the subject.

Once he started to develop his plan, he realised that he could widen his scope to the whole year group. Using a questionnaire in Google Forms, Sam surveyed 110 Year 10 students. The questionnaire contained 24 questions: 9 subject knowledge questions, 7 metacognitive knowledge questions and 6 self-reflection questions. An example of a subject knowledge question was:

How challenging have you found learning about the climate characteristics of different ecosystems? (Rate 1-5, from ‘very challenging’ to ‘not very challenging’.)

An example of a metacognitive knowledge question was:

An important skill in geography is using figures (text, photos, diagrams, maps, graphs) to support an answer. (Rate from 1-4, from ‘I am good at this’ to ‘I need to improve at this’.)

A version of the questionnaire can be found here.

What were the findings?

  • There is marginal difference between students’ perception of knowledge retention (the geography they know) and their metacognitive ability (knowing how to do): Q1-9 average response 2.7; Q10-16 average response 2.1.
  • In the early stages of embarking on Geography GCSE, 45.5% of 110 students rated themselves as performing ‘Very well’ or ‘Well’.
  • Most students remain cautious about over- or under-estimating their own levels of knowledge or metacognitive ability.
  • Click here to see the findings for each question.

How has it informed practice?

  • A clearer picture of the student landscape with regards to what knowledge they feel most/least confident in, likewise which GCSE skills they feel most secure in their ability to execute well.
  • More personalised support and even more useful feedback to support learning and common issues with lack of confidence.
  • Enhanced homework, lesson and revision session resources (see an example of the homework here).
  • Enhanced levels of communication between students and staff.

What are the next steps?

  • Year 10 focus group ‘Geography Gym’ (a small number of carefully selected students making less than expected progress at end of KS3 who are given additional support in morning workshops).
  • KS4 homework to include questions/reflections on metacognition.
  • Embedding of learning scientist revision strategies – see here – throughout lessons and homework
  • Periodic surveying of student knowledge and metacognitive ability.
  • Ensuring that students understand that there are three types of knowledge that are essential to doing well: knowing the geography; knowing the different skills and techniques available for communicating understanding; knowing which skill or technique to use at the correct time.

Takeaways for all teachers

Sam’s study reminds us that we should find every way we can to ‘get inside’ the thinking of our students. By doing this, we can find new and novel types of assessment data – alongside more conventional teacher assessments – to sharpen and enrich our understanding of where our students are and where to take them next. Canvassing our students’ thoughts also shows them how much we value their learning. However, we should not lose sight of the fact that as practitioners we are the ‘experts’ and that student responses like these are only one part of the whole.

On a practical note, Google Forms is a simple and user-friendly tool that schools can easily put to use with both staff and students.

By Andy Tharby

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Mobilising the Evidence

One of the most important roles for Research Schools such as us, is to support teachers and leaders who work in schools and colleges to mobilise the research evidence that is out there, so that it can make a positive difference to the students we teach.  At our INSET day today, five of our fabulous teachers did just this.  They shared how they have taken the evidence we have shared with them over the last couple of years and implemented it in their classrooms.

What evidence?

Over the past couple of years, rather than flitting from one topic to another during INSET days, we have tried to focus on some key themes that we believe, if embedded across the school, will have a significant impact on student learning.  They are:

So today, five of our teachers talked about how they have done this.  Here is a summary of each presentation.

Retrieval Practice – Alex Mohammed (Science)

Like many teachers, Aex has been thinking about how he can support his students with retrieving and recalling knowledge from across the whole specification, in preparation for the new terminal exams.  He also wants to support students with elaborating on their responses, by linking together ideas and thinking more deeply about what the topic they are being taught.  So Alex, has turned to the ideas of retrieval practice and elaborative interrogation.

In order to do this, Alex has thought about the questions he asks students at the start of the lesson.  In the example slide above, you can see that he starts the lesson with a variety of recall questions.  The black questions relate to what they have studied in recent lessons (this is for a Y11 group).  The red questions go back to what they studied in Y10 – Alex calls these ‘link back’ questions.  When choosing his ‘link back’ questions, Alex tries to pick questions that have a common thread.  So for example here, they are all linked to blood and the circulatory system.  This encourages students to understand the links between the topics they study, an important aspect of elaborative interrogation.

As a result of this, Alex has noticed the following:

  • Students appear to have an increased knowledge of the specification.
  • Students are becoming adept at making the links between topics
  • They are also becoming better at self-prompting, leading to more elaboration in their answers.
  • Through having a ‘How Science Works’ push within these ‘link back questions’, students are becoming more familiar with the key core skills within science and other subjects.

Knowledge Organisers & Explicit Vocabulary Instructions – Beth Clarke & Kate Haslett (History)

In history, following Fran’s input at our November INSET day on explicit vocabulary instruction, Beth and Kate set to work on implementing these ideas in history.  They came up with a very clear plan of what they wanted to do:

Explicit vocabulary instruction

  1. Identify and agree tier 2 words, using the academic word list.
  2. Identify and agree tier 3 words.
  3. Discuss ways of implementing STI (see Fran’s post in the link above) and how to share strategies at Subject Planning & development Session (SPDS)

Knowledge Organisers

  1. Review what we already have in place for units of work.
  2. Use guidelines to make decisions about future knowledge organisers for history.
  3. Discuss three ways of using knowledge organisers in lessons and when to share strategies at SPDS.

Their starting point was their existing knowledge organiser (example above).  After much discussion, they decided that this had too much content on one page and wasn’t really in a coherent format.  So they set to work on splitting this up into three topics:

Each topic now has it’s own knowledge organiser, with 10 key people/events for students to focus on.  They also used this to clarify key tier 2 terminology that was used in exam questions.  Here’s an example:

Once they had produced them, the history team then discussed a consistent way of using them.  Students are given them at the start of the topic and are encouraged to use them to produce flashcards and dual coding activities (more on this later).  They are also referred to in lessons and used as a revision tool for quick quizzes at the start of lessons, where students are expected to spell the word correctly and recall the meaning.

To develop the use of the knowledge organisers further, when students produce a piece of extended writing, in response to a question, they highlight the words/names/events they have used from the knowledge organiser.  This reinforces the importance of these words/names/events.

Beth and Kate then went on to describe other ways in which they are developing explicit vocabulary instruction:

Sentence stems

Students have to complete a sentence that has been started for them that uses the new vocabulary.  For example:

1.In Anglo-Saxon England, the burh was …

2.The housecarls in Harold’s army were …

3.The submission of the earls at Berkhamstead was …

Test Sentences

Students are given the new vocabulary in two sentences.  they have to decide which sentence is using the new vocabulary correctly.  For example:

Example 1:

1.One way in which Anglo-Saxons lost their land was through forfeiture.

2. One way in which Anglo-Saxons rebelled against Norman control was through forfeiture.

Example 2:

  1. The housecarls in Harold’s army were untrained men obtained from the land.
  2. The housecarls in Harold’s army were highly trained and professional.

Dual coding

Students are encouraged to use visuals and writing to help them remember key events.

Geographical Literacy – Sam Atkins (Geography)

Sam has been looking to tackle the following challenges in his classroom:

  • The breadth of vocabulary in KS3 students
  • the ability of students to:

–Know and understand the contextual meaning of tier 2 (geographical) words




These are important issues to tackle, as by doing so students will be able to articulate a wider range of responses and therefore produce higher quality responses.  Sam is seeking to eliminate the common response that we often hear from students:

“ I know what I want to say, I just don’t know how to say it”

Like Beth and Kate, Sam has been using test sentences:

This usually includes 10 key words for a particular topic and is used as a homework task.  the same words are then reinforced by using sentence stems:

Sam has also been trialling an approach that brings together a number of metacognitive approaches, when supporting students with interacting with a text:

As you can see from the photograph above, students a given some text about a particular topic (in this case, the North Pole) that they read and stick in the middle of a double page spread.  They then do 4 things with this text:

  • Image – they turn the information in the text into an image, supporting the idea of dual coding.
  • Summarise – they pick out and summarise the key points from the text.
  • Elaborate – in this section, the student elaborates on the points made in the text further e.g. what are the risks to the north pole ecosystem?
  • Question – do they have a question they would like to ask the author, to find out more?

What has Sam noticed since implementing these approaches?

  • Students will continue to misspell words, even when re-writing alongside the model example. Repetition is crucial.
  • Accuracy in identifying the correct test sentence, does not always translate into accuracy when completing sentence stems. Effective practice is crucial.
  • Knowing what summarise/elaborate means, does not always mean knowing how to do it effectively. Modelling is crucial.
  • Students will ask questions about a text, to which the answer is already apparent. Explanation is crucial.
  • Initial attempts at dual coding by students may result in over-elaborate diagrams. Effective feedback is crucial.

Explicit Vocabulary Teaching – Tod Brennan (English)

Tod started his presentation by telling us a story of an actor friend of his who missed out on a number of roles.  When asked during auditions to ‘be bashful’ he would break into ‘Hi Ho’ from snow white and the seven dwarves, or bash the script on the table.  Why?  Because, he simply didn’t know what the word bashful meant.  He was an intelligent individual who had done really well in life, but just hadn’t been exposed to that particular word.  How many of our students don’t understand an exam question (even though they may have the subject knowledge) or might miss out on opportunities like this in the future, simply because of a limited vocabulary?

Tod has been addressing this by explicitly teaching tier 2 vocabulary (see example above).  He has been using direct and clear explanations, using ideas and examples that the students will probably understand.

He then develops this, by testing their understanding of this new vocabulary:

As can be seen from the slide above, Tod uses a number of approaches to support this.  For example, matching the words with the correct meaning, using new vocabulary to complete a sentence and writing a synonym for the new vocabulary.  By using a variety of approaches like this, students become immersed in this new vocabulary.

What has Tod noticed since implementing these new approaches?

  • This is just the start of their journey to using these words naturally.
  • It will be a battle, many students don’t encounter these words regularly and are unlikely to encounter them again.
  • It is therefore important that I revisit these words with them, and that we do it often.
  • A plan for the whole year’s vocabulary would enable this.
  • On a personal level I will use MCQ’s to further discussions about why certain words are wrong, and tease out small differences between synonyms.


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Talking positive

As we at Durrington have become more evidence informed, so, naturally, have the posts on this blog.  However, when we choose the subjects for our weekly teaching forums we look not just for the pockets of practice where research is being brought to life, but also where a teacher is doing something brilliantly either through their own experience or intuition.  Happily there is often a cross-over between what the evidence points to and what we as teachers intuitively believe is right, and so the two marry.  Sometimes the link is less clear, but that should not discourage us from drawing from the expertise around us.  As John Tomsett so eloquently put it: “Engaging with evidence in education supplements expertise and decision making; it does not supplant it“.

MELCcarryThis week’s teaching forum is one such example where the primary focus is on the practice, not the evidence.  The inspiration for it was an observation I did of history teacher George Eastment.  George (she won’t thank me for describing her like this) is an experienced teacher, with 13 years in the classroom behind her.  She still teaches a full timetable and is a master of many things (including spreadsheets), but in particular building strong relationships with young people.

During the observation I was mesmerised by how skilfully she used positive language to bring the students in her class into a discussion and create an atmosphere of exemplary behaviour.  Within this atmosphere was a micro-climate where all (and I mean all) students in this mixed ability year 9 group felt happy to contribute ideas unburdened by worries of credibility or failure.  It was a real treat to be in the room while she wove her magic, and reminded me that so much of great teaching is rooted in what we say and how we say it.

What was most impressive was the way she dealt with behaviour with non-confrontational language.  She neatly avoided falling into the classic trap of raising the stakes unnecessarily, which can so easily be done with questions and statements such as “why are you talking?” or “I’m really losing my patience with you.”  Instead she would use language that would identify the unwanted behaviour, while convincing the student she was on their side and wanted above all to avoid them getting into trouble.  An example would be “Emma, I don’t want to stop for you, but you’re chatting and you’re forcing me to.”  There were a multitude of these through the lesson, filled with subtlety and nuance, and fundamentally built on deep knowledge of the students.  George places huge value on getting to know her students thoroughly, and aims to know the name of every student she teaches by the end of her first lesson with them.  She also uses a number of non-verbal cues with them, such as tapping the desk to get someone writing again or walking behind a student who has lost focus.

One extra layer that George has added this year is to develop students’ metacognitive abilities.  She attended our journal club on metacognition last term, which Andy Tharby wrote a blog about here.  The element she has pursued is self-reflection, and has started to use it as part of her homework routines.  Couched within her positive questioning, she started the lesson by asking the students about the elements of the homework they had found difficult and the elements they had found useful.  The responses she elicited were thoughtful and helped the students to question the purpose of the homework and how approaching it in different ways could either improve or diminish the usefulness to what they were learning in class.  By doing so she gave the homework greater value and helped the students understand that it was part of an overall process that helped them build knowledge and understanding.  Again, the success of this task was ultimately down to the knowledge of the students and the positive culture in which students felt safe to honestly air their reflections.

When teacher-student relationships are strong, student confidence and outcomes are positively affected.  This is supported by the evidence, and was the focus for some twilight training that we ran through the Research School, led by colleagues from Angmering School and St Paul’s Catholic College.  During the training delegates discussed this paper on how relationships can be cultivated and improved.  Here then is where the practice and the evidence happily marry.  The intuitive approach of an experienced teacher that building the confidence of her students is key to their development, finds basis within the work done by those looking to uncover what is most likely to work.  The message for me is clear, read the evidence of course, but don’t forget to watch and talk to teachers to find the answers.

Posted by Chris Runeckles

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Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: Why a Knowledge-Based Curriculum Could be the Future

Last November at Durrington, we dedicated some of our INSET day to thinking about knowledge organisers: what they are; why they should play a major role in teaching and learning; how to create them; and how to use them most effectively to maximise students’ learning. Since then, departments have been working collaboratively to produce and implement knowledge organisers, and this in turn has brought to light some complex questions and many hours of deliberation. In particular, the process of creating knowledge organisers has meant that teachers have had to consciously justify what knowledge should be incorporated, and inevitably what gets left out. This is proving to be no mean feat.

A golden thread through the labyrinth is offered in a recent addition to the Durrington Research School library. Knowledge and The Future School is a collection of papers written by head teachers and curriculum theorists in which they argue for the merits of a Future 3 curriculum. The Future 3 curriculum rejects the traditional Future 1 knowledge-as-a-given model associated with grammar and public schools, and often cited as a more academic route for higher-achieving students. Likewise, the Future 3 model veers away sharply from the Future 2 instrumentalist curriculum in which the knowledge taught in schools is based on learners’ interests, contexts and future employment. This approach is closely associated with vocational and thematic-based curriculums. Instead, the Future 3 model promotes a curriculum based on teaching powerful knowledge.

The principle tenet of the Future 3 curriculum is the belief that all students have an entitlement to knowledge that takes them beyond their own experience. This means that knowledge is seen as an end in itself rather than a means to solving social or economic issues. Consequently, the primary purpose of schools is to ensure that every student, irrespective of background or starting point, receive their entitlement to this knowledge. The school’s curriculum is the body of knowledge that the school has agreed it wants all of their students to acquire, and pedagogy is how teachers enable students to access that knowledge and make it meaningful. Furthermore, the knowledge that makes up a school’s curriculum must be based on the ‘best’ knowledge that we have, or what the authors term ‘powerful knowledge’.

Powerful knowledge comprises three features that make it distinct from the knowledge taught in Future 1 and Future 2 curriculums:

  1.  ‘It is distinct from the ‘common-sense’ knowledge we acquire through our everyday experience’. Common-sense knowledge develops in our daily lives, and is therefore tied to specific contexts.
  2. Powerful knowledge is ‘systematic‘ in that it is based on concepts that are related to each other in groups we call disciplines, rather than rooted in real-life experience. This is important as it means that powerful knowledge can be used to make generalisations beyond our own experience.
  3. Powerful knowledge is specialised as it is developed by experts in clearly defined subject groups who work within fields of enquiry with socially and historically fixed boundaries. This is what makes powerful knowledge reliable, but also difficult to acquire, and why we need specialised teachers to help students with the acquisition process.

A frequent opposition the Future 3 curriculum is the claim that this model further entrenches social divides by privileging a fixed canon of knowledge that supports the inequitable social structures that are already in place. However, advocates of Future 3 argue that, far from embedding social injustice, this model levels the playing field for two main reasons. Firstly, by insisting that all students learn powerful knowledge that is rooted in subject-based concepts rather than experience, those students who come to school with limited experience are not restricted in what they learn – the knowledge enables them to go beyond their starting points. Secondly, powerful knowledge is not a continuation of the fixed past: discipline specialists working in subject communities are always developing and adding to the subject knowledge, and so the content is contextually shaped but still the best knowledge to be had. Furthermore, as powerful knowledge is not dependent on experiential knowledge but theoretical concepts, there is nothing to stop any student becoming a subject specialist – an identity-forming opportunity that is particularly critical for those who come from disadvantaged homes.

Further Thoughts and Questions

Where does this leave us in terms of knowledge organisers? As ever, the research does not provide clear-cut solutions to the manifold questions that surround decisions about what to teach, and how. For now, these are just three thoughts to take away and ponder next time the knowledge organiser boxes need filling.

  1. What should be the agreed ‘powerful knowledge’ in your subject that all students are entitled to access? For the sake of parity, this should be conceptually based rather than using referents from real-life experience.
  2. How can teachers use pedagogy to enable all students to access the ‘powerful knowledge’ that appear on the knowledge organisers? Pedagogy uses the student’s own world to engage in knowledge and concepts, but pedagogy must not be conflated with curriculum – it is only when the two remain distinct that students can go beyond their own experiences.
  3. Subject specialism means that ‘powerful knowledge’ is the best of its kind. How are teachers ensuring that they are part of their subject communities, and thereby enabling their students to access the most reliable and up-to-date knowledge available in the field?

Fran Haynes


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Setting up for successful questioning

This week’s Teaching Forum focuses on how PE teacher James Crane has worked to create a classroom climate conducive to successful questioning.  During our conversation he revealed how he identified and developed three key components that work together to provide an atmosphere in which questioning works.

He has defined the three elements as preparation, culture and knowledge of your students.  While these inter-dependent elements distil his personal thinking on questioning, they also tie-in with much of the research evidence in this area.



In a relatively unusual step James limits his questioning during the teaching of new material.  His uses strategies based more in direct instruction as he develops students’ surface understanding of knowledge being studied for the first time.  This could take him up to three lessons depending on the topic and its complexity.  Then, he will spend almost an entire lesson interrogating and deepening this newly acquired knowledge largely through questioning and discussion.  James recently read the Rosenshine paper,  Principles of Instruction, and, without wishing to make an assumption, Rosenshine may advise a similar structure to this but with more regular interruptions for bouts of questioning as new knowledge is acquired.  However, this system has worked for James, in his subject, in this context.  He plans carefully for the lessons that will involve the discussion and questioning.  He priorities open questions, that particularly focus on linking ideas together.  Students will begin by writing down the tier 3 vocabulary linked to the topic on a blank sheet and finding their own connections between them.  In this way he uses the principle of elaboration (as explained by the Learning Scientists) to deepen students’ understanding of the concepts they have been learning.  The success of these lessons is based on the culture he has created.


In order for the preparation to yield successful outcomes, James has worked hard to establish a classroom culture in which all of his year 11 PE studies students feel confident to contribute.  This has been a long-term venture and has only been possible by involving the students in the process and having clear expectations.  James varies his questioning techniques using a combination of cold-calling and hands-up.  He finds both have a place in his classroom as when he wishes for particular arguments to be challenged or supported students self-selecting through hands-up can lead to a better discussion than if using purely cold-calling.  However, all students answer questions, no matter their predisposition to contributing in class.

Knowledge of your students:

James puts substantial stock in having an in-depth knowledge of the characters in his class.  He believes it is essential to know his students beyond the undoubtedly important aspects such as prior ability, disadvantage, SEN status and all the other columns we include on our seating plans and mark books.  He believes questioning works best when you know the character of your students and their strengths and weaknesses within each topic.  For example, there is one student in the class who he knows is by nature oppositional.  Therefore, he will drawn on this when he wishes to stimulate a debate.  Similarly, he ensures that he knows which topics students are most well-versed in, through the assessment he does and the feedback he gives.  This allows him to know where in the class he can go to for elaboration of a basic answer, and also where he needs to probe to help undo a misconception.  He believes in setting up his students to succeed rather than fail and will use his knowledge of the students to do so.  The question I posed was whether this may mask a lack of knowledge and understanding as students would only be asked questions that they could confidently answer.  However, James said that he questioned areas of weakness as much as strength, but used scaffolds within his questions to allow the respondent to answer.

Ultimately, James’ approach is largely based on his own intuition and experience supplemented with some initial reading and engagement with research evidence.  It is context dependent and based more on a long-term investment than strategies that can be dropped into a lesson tomorrow.  What is clear though is that for questioning to be effective we need to have a coherent strategy for how we wish to use it in our classrooms.  We need to know, when, why and how we will question, and like James’ year 11 class, our students need to be prepared to give the answers.

Posted by Chris Runeckles

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The Best of 2017

As 2017 draws to a close, we bring you the best of the blogs that have been shared on classteaching.  It’s been another great year for educational blogging, with an increasingly sharper focus on evidence-informed practice.  As a profession, we are all indebted to the hundreds of colleagues who use their own time to very generously share their own thoughts and reflections through blogging.  It really is such a rich and varied source of CPD.

So here we go, for every month we have picked one blog from the classteaching archives and one ‘blog of the week’.  Enjoy!



The value of pausing by Ben Crockett looks at how we can use pause lessons to help students embed the core knowledge that they need.

Is all practice good? by Daisy Christodoulou explores the importance of thinking about what we ask our students to practise.


In this post about homework, Chris Runeckles talks about how we have tried to make homework more purposeful at Durrington, by being explicit about what we want it to achieve.

Content, thinking and shaping by Andy Tharby provides a great way of framing our approach for our more able students.


Is it really a low stakes quiz by Tod Brennan explores how we can really ensure that when quizzing students to develop retrieval practice, we are making it low stakes fro the students.

Why formative assessment matters by Harry Fletcher-Wood discusses why the prior knowledge that students bring to our classrooms is so important and how we should use it.


‘Now that’s what I call CPD’ describes how our science department are effectively implementing our subject-specific approach to CPD this year – Subject Planning & Development Sessions.

‘Good Direct Instruction’ by Ben Newmark is a great examination of the most effective features of direct instruction.


‘Why playdough is not the best way forward when teaching geography’ by Hannah Townsend is a brilliant guest post, where Hannah reflects on the importance of not dumbing down your subject and having the highest expectations of what students can achieve.

‘Five things I wish I knew when I started teaching’ by Carl Hendrick is just fabulous.  It explores some common misconceptions about teaching and learning and is a ‘must read’.


’10 simple things to try and have a better work life balance’ by Becky Owen is a very practical blog by a very successful teacher, about how she maintains a healthy work-life balance.

‘What is not working in education (and what we can do about it)’ by Sarah Donarski gives some great advice about what we can be doing to become evidence informed as teachers.



‘Using storytelling as an explanation tool’ by Russ Shoebridge explores one of the forgotten arts of teaching – explanation – and the important role storytelling plays in explanations.  This is also marked one of the last 15 minute forums at Durrington, after a run of about six years.  They had been brilliant for building a culture of teachers talking about their teaching, but it was time for a different approach.

Mark Enser has been one of the most prolific bloggers of 2017 – and one of the best.  In this post, he reflects on how his geography team are developing assessment.


Just the one post in August – Getting off to the best start with a new class.


The new academic year kicked off with the opening of ‘The Durrington Research School’.  In this post, we set out what we want to achieve with this exciting new project.

Memory not memories by Claire Sealy was an excellent exploration of how some of the key ideas from cognitive science about supporting memory can be applied to the classroom.


More questions = fewer pointless powerpoints by Alex Mohammed was one of the first new ‘Teaching Forums’ at Durrington.  Rather than teachers having to attend 15 minute forums after school to hear about the effective practice of their colleagues, we interviewed them and wrote it up as a blog.  This meant that teachers could still hear what their colleagues had been up to in their classrooms, but at a time that suited them.

Rethinking boys engagement by Mark Roberts is a really important blog.  It dispels many of the myths around addressing boys underachievement and gets to the root of the problem.


During our INSET day Fran Haynes talked about our new literacy focus – explicit vocabulary instruction.  This blog outlines our approach.

Making his second appearance in this list, Harry Fletcher-Wood was on fine form with ‘Planning lessons using cognitive load theory’.


Making spaced practice count by Morwenna Treleven is a great example of a teacher mobilising research evidence to great effect in their own classroom.

‘Tips and tricks for spaced learning’ by Paul Kirschner and Mirjam Neelen is also a great example of how to take education research into the classroom.

A very big thank you to the staff at Durrington and the many bloggers out there, whose work has featured on, or influenced this blog.  Have a great holiday and all the very best for 2018.

In loving memory of Martyn Simmonds 1981-2017.

An excellent teacher, leader and frequent contributor to this blog.





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