Thinking About Teaching

In a previous post (Thinking About Curriculum) we shared how at Durrington we are thinking about curriculum, aligned with teaching and assessment. The curriculum outlines the key knowledge that students need to learn over their time with us in order to be successful. Effective teaching leads to students acquiring, retaining and applying this curriculum knowledge in the classroom and beyond.  This post outlines how we think about and discuss great teaching at Durrington and why we are confident that it is a sensible approach.

Learning happens when students connect new content to what they already know. To achieve this, we think teaching must involve:

  • Challenge so that students have high expectations of what they can achieve.
  • Explanation so that they acquire new knowledge.
  • Modelling so that students know how to apply their knowledge (including explicit modelling of metacognitive strategies and the thinking processes of adults).
  • Questioning so that students are made to think hard with breadth, depth and accuracy.
  • Feedback so that students further develop their knowledge.
  • Purposeful practice so that students think deeply and eventually achieve fluency.
  • Positive classroom climates and relationships.
  • Students are taught how to store and retrieve knowledge using learning strategies such as retrieval practice and spaced practice.

(‘Making Every Lesson Count’ by Allison & Tharby)

How do we achieve this?

  • Through a ‘tight but loose’ approach so that the six principles above are contextualised to the subject and the profile of the students.
  • Through an explicit instruction approach that includes specific practices such as reviewing previous learning, providing models for students, retrieval practice, planning in adequate time for students’ deliberate practice, ensuring appropriate challenge for all students and the effective scaffolding of this challenge.
  • By teachers asking both lower and higher cognitive questions to embed and develop knowledge.
  • By teachers modelling and explaining metacognitive processes by making excellence explicit, demonstrating the thinking processes of experts, and breaking down and solving problems. This will support the development of students’ planning, self-monitoring and self-evaluation skills.
  • Through written and verbal feedback, which should be an element of every lesson – as outlined in each department feedback policy.
  • By teaching metacognitive strategies explicitly.
  • Teachers teach tier two and tier three vocabulary explicitly through sentence stems, test sentences, images and other explicit instruction strategies.
  • Through collaborative subject-based CPD (SPDS) that maintain a consistent focus on developing pedagogical subject knowledge. These sessions should focus on how to effectively teach the curriculum over the next fortnight.
  • By creating and maintaining a productive classroom climate through positive interactions with students and adhering to the school behaviour policy. The most effective way of motivating students is to enable meaningful achievement.
  • Through the explicit instruction of cognitive science strategies including retrieval practice, spaced practice, dual coding, interleaving, concrete examples and elaboration.

Why do we trust this approach?

These six pedagogical principles are all rooted in robust research evidence.  With this in mind, we think this gives us the best chance of our teaching being successful.  Let’s take a look at the some of the research that has informed this approach.

  1. Rosenshine’sPrinciples of Instruction‘ talks about all six principles:

2. The Sutton Trust ‘What Makes Great Teaching‘ Review also describes many of the six principles:

3.  In ‘The Science of Learning‘ by Deans for Impact, they discuss the importance of explanation, practice and feedback:

4.  In ‘Strengthening the student toolbox: study strategies to boost learningJohn Dunlosky discusses the importance of distributed practice and interleaved practice.  Practice testing  and elaborative questioning are also aspects of questioning in the classroom.

5.  And finally Clark, Kirschner and Sweller, make a strong case for fully guided instruction, which comprises explanation, practice and feedback:


So we have discussed the importance of curriculum and teaching, in this and previous posts.  Next time we’ll talk about assessment.

If you are interested in working with members of the Durrington Research School team in your school on this, or any other aspect of evidence informed practice, use this form to get in touch.

Posted by Shaun Allison

This entry was posted in General Teaching. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s