My job requires me to spend a considerable amount of time in the classrooms of my colleagues. Last week I saw this Post-It note stuck to the computer screen of one my colleagues. This made me feel happy for a number of reasons. As this weekend has seen a number of great posts with ‘five things’ included in the title (Carl Hendrick, James Theobald, Greg Ashman & David Didau) I thought I would pick five things I liked about this Post-It.
- By reminding themselves to link back to topics they have taught in previous lessons through verbal questioning, or the written questions the students have to complete in this lesson, this teacher is demonstrating a good understanding of the importance of retrieval practice. The ‘Learning Scientists’ offer a great explanation of what we mean by retrieval practice here:
“Retrieval practice involves recreating something you’ve learned in the past from your memory, and thinking about it right now. In other words, a while after you’ve learned something by reading it in a book or hearing it in a class or from a teacher, you need to bring it to mind (or “retrieve” it). The word after is really important; you need to forget the information at least a little in order for retrieval to be effective! You don’t want to just immediately recite what you see in the book or what the teacher told you, but rather you want to bring the information to mind on your own, once it starts to get a little more difficult to remember what you studied.”
2. We know from the likes of Daniel Willingham that ‘we learn in the context of what we already know‘. In ‘Making every lesson count’ we encourage teachers to use this in their explanations, by tethering their explanations to what students already know. This Post-It is reminding the teacher to do just that – link back to what the students already know about the topic. For example in science, ‘tell me what you already know about how the particles are arranged in a solid, liquid and a gas’. The responses that you get from students, will allow you to unpick misconceptions and build upon what they already know.
3. The graphic above is from the excellent publication ‘Practice with Purpose’ by the Deans for Impact. Essentially, it discusses a model of teacher CPD where teachers engage in deliberate practice, to improve their teaching. An important part of this is to intensify the focus on a specific aspect of their teaching that they are trying to improve.
“Deliberate practice requires a
significant level of focus; the
practice involves conscious
effort on the part of the novice
in order to improve.”
This is really important advice, especially for new teachers. All too often when trying to improve their teaching, they skip from one aspect of teaching to another – but end up never really doing a good job of anything, because their effort is too diluted. This teacher is making a concerted effort to focus on one thing – linking back in their teaching. A great example of purposeful practice.
4. Very simply, it’s great to see teachers taking responsibility for their own CPD. This doesn’t have to require going on a course or attending a lengthy meeting, it’s just about reminding yourself to focus on your own ongoing improvement as a teacher. This teacher is an NQT, so I know that she will also get excellent feedback on her efforts from her mentor – an essential part of the process, as identified in the ‘Deans for Impact’ document above. If you’re not an NQT though, who do you get your feedback from? A question worth considering.
5. At Durrington, we have a ‘tight but loose’ approach to teaching. Our teachers are expected to implement the six principles above, but in a way that suits them, their subject and the students they are teaching. One of the advantages of this approach, is that it gives us a common language across the school when we are talking about what great teaching looks like. This seems to be working with this teacher, who is thinking about how she implements the principles of explanation and practice in her classroom.