Subject Pedagogy Development Session 1: Effort Matters

effortinset1We had an INSET day today, and held the first of our ‘Subject Pedagogy Development Sessions’  The idea behind these sessions is to put our CPD, back into a subject context – so the theme for today was effort.  Following a general introduction from Andy Tharby and myself, subject teams then went away and discussed the implications of this with their teams.  You can read more about this approach to CPD here.

We started by thinking about this quote from Dweck.  The idea of growth mindset has been misinterpreted somewhat, to such an extent that some people believe it is simply about being positive at all costs and encouraging students to believe they can achieve anything. This is misleading and not really what mindset is about at all.  Dweck talks about this, in this article – which is well worth a read.  It’s better to think of mindset in terms of effort – if we apply ourselves and put in the right sort of effort, we can all get that bit better.  The challenge is making sort it’s the right sort of effort!

“Practice makes perfect”

But does it?  If a student applies themselves diligently and spends lots of time practising simultaneous equations, but using the wrong technique, they will get it wrong.  As a result, this misconception will becoming embedded and be difficult to undo.

“Practice makes permanent”

This is closer to the truth.  So with this in mind, we need to ensure that the practice students are doing, is focused on the right things.

“Perfect practice makes perfect”

So actually, this is what we are aiming for.


We have re-written our effort rubric as a school, with the am of supporting both staff and students to refocus on what we actually mean by effort – you can read more about this here.  However, the focus of today was to look at effort within the context of our own subjects.  The picture above highlights the many different activities our students do during a day, each one requiring them to apply themselves in slightly different way e.g. how a student self-checks their work in English, will be very different to how they do so in PE.

It’s also worth exploring what effort is not necessarily measured by:

  • The quality of the end product the student produces – a high attaining student could put minimum effort into a piece of work that looks pretty impressive.  However, a weaker student could put a huge amount of effort into a piece of work that doesn’t look quite as good.
  • The child’s personality – the quiet, nice and apparently hard working student, could be getting by with putting in the minimum amount of effort.
  • The child’s willingness to listen, behave well and complete the work – whilst these are of course desireable traits, they don’t necessarily mean that the student is putting maximum effort into their work.

So, by thinking about what we mean by effort, we can also consider how we can approach this within our own teaching, to ensure that students are applying themselves fully.  It can also provide them with the strategies, to avoid them feeling like this in lessons:

We then turned our attention to some of the key features of exemplary effort.  Subject teams then went away to discuss how these could be interpreted in their subject.


effoertinset2We want students to take pride and care in their work, but are we always clear with them what we mean by this?  We need to ensure that there is clarity, in terms of our expectations with this e.g. underline headings with a ruler, use a pencil for diagrams, write in blue/black ink etc.

coxThe above tweet from Brian Cox reinforces the importance of taking pride and care in your work!

In Science, they discussed supporting this by going back to basics and start of lesson routines e.g. get your book, ruler and highlighter ready (spares available in labs) and make a start on the ‘Do Now’ activity immediately.


How can we create a culture in our classrooms that struggle is OK?  Do we give them clear advice and guidance about what to do when they re struggling?  In maths (a very successful subject in our school) students are always given a worked example to refer back to you.  A number of teachers are now also asking students to ‘write the grade you want to achieve on the front of your book‘ – not to be confused with a formulated target grade – which we have abandoned in KS4 now.

Art and Design Technology will be continuing to build their ‘portfolios of excellence’ to inspire students to produce work of a similar high standard.  They will also use this to discuss how the students that produced the work overcame setbacks.

effortinset3Whilst we understand the importance of students responding to our feedback – whether that be verbal feedback, written ‘live marking’ or via a DIRT activity, we also need to be encouraging students to seek feedback themselves, rather than waiting for us to give it.

The PE department were discussing the importance of encouraging students who respond to their feedback  and then fail, but stick with it – as opposed to then reverting back to the less effective method.  They are also keen to use more examples of video clips of world class sportsmen/women, to deconstruct what they do.

The humanities team are going to incorporate more comments about effort, when feeding back to students and history in particular are going to roll out the ‘History Student’s Creed’ across the team – a small sheet that highlights how all students should maintain their books.


Self-checking is critical – as this is the point when students are effectively giving themselves feedback.  Again though, we need to provide them with the tools to do this effectively.  So, rather than just asking them to proof-read, show them a strategy that would help them to do this effectively e.g. read down each line, using a ruler to keep your place.  English are going to take this a stage further and get class sets of ‘self-checking checklists’ produced, in a shape of a ruler, that will then be laminated and used for this purpose.  Maths will be asking their students to check theta they are including all steps in their calculations, and that these are written out in full.


We need to provide opportunities in our lessons for students to think about and ask good questions, and think about the most effective time to do this, depending on the subject e.g. after a performance in a drama lesson, or following a discussion about a source picture in history.  Alongside this, we need to encourage students to do this, by praising them when they ask a good question – and explaining why it’s such a good question.  Strategies like ‘think, pair, share’ would also support students in terms of thinking of good questions.

MFL were discussing how they were going to give students the tools, via help sheets/posters, to ask good questions in the target language.


Whilst we will use rewards and sanctions to (attempt to) motivate students, the best type of motivation is intrinsic – instilling a real desire to learn.  Performing arts are going to be using iPads more frequently to record performances and then use this to deconstruct what they are doing.  This will be done over time, so students can see the improvements they are making.

The Computing team were looking at how students could use research form outside school on coding, to enhance their own work in lessons – specific examples could then be shared with their peers.


At the end of the session, each curriculum area was asked to produce two documents:

  • What does exemplary student effort look like in your subject? (6 key features).  This will be shared and discussed with students.
  • As a subject team, what 3 things could the whole team commit to doing, to improve effort?  This will be reviewed at the next meeting.

A great day – with lots of really useful discussion.  It reinforced the fact that putting CPD back into the context of subjects is definitely the way to go.

We look forward to the next session in January.













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4 Responses to Subject Pedagogy Development Session 1: Effort Matters

  1. Pingback: Subject Pedagogy Development Session 1: Effort Matters | dragonfly training

  2. Bridget OBrian says:

    Quite a few typos but good ideas here. Thank you,

    Bridget O’Brian

  3. Pingback: Think Hard | Class Teaching

  4. Pingback: That was 2015… | Class Teaching

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