The Evolution of ‘The Big 4’

evolution big 4Over the past year or so, I’ve been very keen on the idea of developing a ‘tight but loose’ approach to teaching across my school.  By that I mean highlighting a few key pedagogical principles that are key to great teaching, but leaving teachers free to implement them as they see fit in their classrooms.  So the idea of ‘The Big 4’ was born:

big4 pic 2This has been going well.  Recently though, I’ve been thinking about ‘independence‘ and how it fits in?  Whereas questioning, feedback and challenge are a ‘means’, independence is the ‘end’.  David Didau discusses this really well here. Furthermore, we’ve been discussing the idea and importance of ‘modelling‘ a great deal at DHS –  Andy Tharby has written a great blog on this recently.  So this got me thinking about whether modelling should replace independence?  So I posed the question on twitter.

expert tweet ind quig

This was a good starting point and was then added to:

expert tweet expl ddI was then egged on a bit:

expert flow ataAs a result, I produced this – 5 key principles of expert teaching:

expert teaching

The inspiration for the ‘So that…’ was from the brilliant Zoe Elder. I included this, so as to be very clear about the purpose of each principle.  Through great explanation and modelling, students are then in a strong position to engage with deliberate practice.  This practice is then further developed by questioning, challenge and feedback.

Following a discussion with David, Andy then pointed out that as questioning is so integral, it should feed into all of them.   So mark 2 was created:

expert teaching2

So, questioning, challenge and feedback, now fed back into explanation and modelling.   This made a great deal of sense.  Dan Brinton then came up with another suggestion:

expert tweet scaffold

expert scaffold

Good point!  My thinking was that as students were practising, their learning was being scaffolded by the skilful questioning, feedback and challenge of the teacher.  But this should be made explicit.  Andy also suggested that the ‘so that…’ for questioning should read ‘So that…..students are made to think with depth, breadth & accuracy’. So mark3 was created:

expert teaching3

I thought we were getting there.  Then this:

expert tweet challengeAgain…..a good point!  Challenge and high expectations should indeed by the driver for all that we do.  So………..mark 4:

expert teaching4Challenge was now at the top, driving the explanation and modelling, that then allowed the students to engage in deliberate practice.  Their learning was then scaffolded by skilful questioning and feedback from the teacher, which may then lead into further explanation and modelling and of course, increasing the level of challenge.  I deliberately avoided putting in a cycle, as I believe more and more that teaching doesn’t work in neat cycles.  It ebbs and flows throughout the lesson – but if these principles are adhered to….it’ll be great.

Finally, one tweet from another colleague on twitter who I have a huge amount of respect for.  This confirmed that we were on the right tracks:

expert tweet sayers

There’s another reason for sharing this story.  It highlights to me how brilliant the twitter community is.  To be able to get this level of critique and feedback from colleagues all over the country (and whilst I was shopping in HMV for bargain CDs) is priceless.  Huge thanks to all of you!

Updated- 20th February 2014

Having rethought the Big 4 into 5, it also seemed sensible to update the ‘5 Minute Lesson Review‘ along the same lines.  With much talk around the demise of graded lesson observations, and observations being used more for developmental purposes, this resource is worth looking at.

This is the updated version:


Download the updated #5MinReview here.


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7 Responses to The Evolution of ‘The Big 4’

  1. Pingback: Making explanations stick | Class Teaching

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