100 things 1% better

On Friday at our DMAT Leadership Conference, Humphrey Walters talked to us about his experience of working with winning teams – you can read more about it here.  One of the points he made is that winning teams don’t make single big changes.  Instead they look where all the fine margins of potential improvement might be and make these changes, across the team.  This is something we have been looking at here at Durrington.

In September we launched our ‘Disciplined Inquiry’ approach to appraisal.  We wanted all teachers to think about a small improvement they could make to their practice and really focus on developing that, over the course of this year.  Alongside this, we have been discussing how we can develop formative assessment and have shaped this around Dylan William’s five key strategies:


Chris Runeckles has written about how these five strategies can be mobilised in the classroom here.

So, the first part of our INSET day today was a celebration of the brilliant way in which so many of our teachers are embracing this approach and taking control of their own professional development.

Formative Assessment

Chris Runeckles kicked off this part of the session by clarifying the key point of formative assessment.  Activities such as quizzing, questioning and feedback are great, however, they only become formative if the teacher changes something about their teaching or the curriculum, as a result of what these activities tell them. He then shared some examples from our staff that he saw on a recent ‘bright spots’ walk around the school:

  • Kelly Heane in English, was using the ‘I, we, You’ modelling technique with her Y11 students.   She had established from her marking certain areas of weakness in a section of the paper and was scaffolding independent practice in this area.
  • Kathy Hughes in maths was using a starter with a mix of different activities.  She was then circulating and giving feedback based on misconceptions and errors from students.
  • Becky Owen in science was using  using homework as a means of formative assessment.  Students were self-assessing their responses but Becky highlighted their incorrect as well as correct answers, and used this as an opportunity to correct misconceptions and deepen understanding.
  • Beth Clarke in history used homework involving an exam question formatively, with whole-class feedback based on common mistakes and misconceptions, to supplement summative grades.
  • Hannah Townsend in geography was relentless with her use of elaborative questioning to really make students think deeply about their knowledge of plate tectonics.  This was great example of ‘the reward for a good answer is an even more difficult question’.
  • Cyrus Dean in music used questioning for formative assessment of tier 3 vocab. He was asking a question, waiting to see how many hands went up and then choosing someone to ask.  As a result, the whole class had to do the thinking and Cyrus could reframe his teaching if very few students appeared to understand the question.

Inquiry Questions

Following this ‘bright spots’ focused on formative assessment, four colleagues shared how they have been developing their teaching, based on the ‘Inquiry Question‘ they set themselves in September.

  • Kate Blight has been focusing on developing her explicit vocabulary instruction in maths.  She has chosen this focus due to the change in format of many of the GCSE maths questions – they now contain far more tier 2/3 languages that students must understand if they are going to access the question.  She has approached this by developing knowledge organisers and encouraging students to use these in a variety of ways e.g. recalling the definition; giving them the definition and then they have to remember the word.  She also now encourages students to underline specific words e.g. regular polygon in a questiondiscuss what ‘regular’ means in this context and then annotate this word for future reference.  As a result, Kate has noticed that her students are happier to attempt longer worded questions and are scoring more marks in these questions.  She is now also a convert to the usefulness of knowledge organisers and the idea that literacy is not something that is just the responsibility of English teachers.
  • John Mulhern has been thinking about his Y10 maths class, which contains a high number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.   A number of these students lack confidence and are not performing well.  So, John’s focus has been very simple.  He has increased the volume and variety (low demand and high demand) of questions that he asks these students – and does not allow them to ‘opt-out’ of answering. He also uses elaborative interrogation, to further develop their thinking.  As a result he is noticing that these students are growing in confidence and are now far less reticent about responding to questions in lessons.  He is looking forward to their next assessment, to see if their grades will increase as a result of this new level of thinking, that is being generated by his questioning.
  • Ryan De Gruchy has been working with his colleagues in PE to improve the reliability of KS3 assessments.  He decided to focus on this because he was beginning to feel that the subject knowledge of the PE teachers was influencing the accuracy of the assessment judgements being made. Ryan has been using the fortnightly ‘Subject Planning & Development Sessions’ (SPDS) to tackle this issue.  Firstly, subject knowledge sessions have been put in place to ensure that subject knowledge is strong, outside of your specialism e.g. dance, football, netball etc.  Secondly, KS3 groups were videoed and then watched at SPDS to standardise judgements.  This has generated a great deal of useful discussion amongst PE teachers who, as a result, are now far more confident about the formative assessment in their own teaching.
  • Rob Suckling from geography has been looking at the impact of explicit teaching metacognitive processes to his Y10 class, with a particular focus on low performing middle attaining boys.  Rob has employed a variety of strategies to support this e.g. modelling the metacognitive process in lessons (breakdown the question; plan the answer; half-way pause; reflect – did you answer the question?); homeworks that require students to document their thought process when tackling a question; Socratic questioning to deepen thinking.  Rob has already noticed an improvement in the written responses of these students and there have been promising signs of improvement in their assessment scores.

It was incredibly heartening to hear colleagues talk about their practice in such an open and professional way.  This was exactly what we wanted this ‘disciplined inquiry‘ approach to look like, when we launched it in September – teachers identifying an area of their practice that they wanted to improve; using the research evidence to plan a ‘best bets’ approach; purposefully practising this approach in their classrooms; thinking of some way of evaluating the impact.

If every teacher reflects upon and develops their teaching in such a focused and professional way, what a huge impact this will potentially have across our whole team of teachers!

Posted by Shaun Allison

This entry was posted in CPD Events, General Teaching and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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