This week’s teaching forum was with science teacher Becky Owen. Becky has been reflecting on how she and other members of the science team have been using content checklists with students with, a view to:
- Improving student awareness of their own leaning and revision.
- Improving student understanding of the content knowledge that is needed.
- Ensuring content coverage by staff.
Students are given a checklist for every topic in science, in key stage 3 and 4, to stick in their exercise book. Here is an extract from a GCSE physics checklist:
In the EEF Toolkit, metacognition is classed as high impact and low cost, based on robust evidence, in terms of having a positive impact on student attainment:
“Meta-cognition and self-regulation approaches (sometimes known as ‘learning to learn’ approaches) aim to help learners think about their own learning more explicitly. This is usually by teaching pupils specific strategies to set goals, and monitor and evaluate their own academic development. Self-regulation means managing one’s own motivation towards learning. The intention is often to give pupils a repertoire of strategies to choose from during learning activities.”
Source: EEF Toolkit
It is clear to see how these checklists would serve to support this. Becky described how the science team use them in a variety of ways:
- Every lesson to review the content they have covered, what is coming next and how far through the unit they are. Becky tells them which sections of the checklist they will be covering that lesson – and over the series of lessons. As well as being useful for students, this also makes Becky focus on very specific teaching points:
Something else Becky has noticed about this, is that her students are taking much greater ownership over their learning. They will look at the checklist, spot any gaps and say things like ‘have we missed out T4 and T5 Miss, or are we doing that later?‘
- The relevant section of the checklist is added to the end of homework sheets and assessments, so that students can make a note of which sections they don’t perform well in – to help focus their revision:
- They can be added to written feedback ‘Remember to include what the wasted energy was (T13)’. Students can then highlight this target on their checklist as something to focus their revision on.
- Y11 students are also given a Y10 checklist, so that they can ‘check-off’ when they cover Y10 work during revision, quizzing in lessons or homeworks.
- As a check for the teacher, to help them plan and ensure that they are covering the curriculum and at the right level of detail.
- They can be used to frame quizzes to support retrieval practice – as most of them are pretty much phrased as questions anyway.
What difference has this made?
“I have a better understanding of individual students’ specific areas of weaknesses. For example with my year 10 triple class I know there are still some students who are struggling with a particular target. I identified the targets following their assessment, prepared a DIRT lesson based on those key targets and then set practice questions to test their understanding after the DIRT lesson. Having marked these practice questions most students are now getting these calculations correct, however there are 5 students that still haven’t understood the concept. I can now use that to get them to come to a booster session on the skill for example.
I am more confident that I have covered all the content. The new GCSE science specification is content heavy and it is easy to miss bits out when trying to fit it all in – and teaching it for the first time. I use the ticklists for each class and tick off targets once I have taught them. I also highlight areas I feel I haven’t taught well and need to cover again.”
What are your next steps in terms of developing this approach?
“I want to ensure the physics ticklist follows a suitable order to teach, in order to help with teacher planning.
I also want to improve student use of the ticklist during their personal revision by producing short revision guides/sheets using small sections of the ticklist to support students with chunking their revision into manageable sections, so they can easily interleave their revision.
I am starting to use the ticklists to make quick questions (& answers) for students to use alongside the ticklists, to use as low stakes quizzes to support retrieval practice.”
What advice would you give to teachers who are looking to use this idea?
“Start by using the specification to identify the key knowledge or skills that students need in order to be successful in your subject.
Identify particular knowledge/skills that maybe just for higher tier/7+ targets etc
Start using them regularly so that students (and you) become used to them and make sure you teach the students how to use them. Students won’t look at it or use if you don’t show them and tell them why it’s important.
Keep using it, the more you use it the more normal it becomes and students then start using them in their own ways for revision.”
This is a great example of teachers mobilising the research evidence (in this case around metacognition) in a practical and sustainable way. Becky is convinced that these checklists have had a significant impact on her teaching and the learning of her students. To summarise:
- They help to ensure that lessons are focused on specific teaching points.
- It helps workload – as they support efficient planning, quizzing and feedback.
- They help students become more autonomous with their learning, by encouraging them to monitor and evaluate their own progress.
Posted by Shaun Allison