Teaching Talk – Growing Kindness

In a very special edition of Teaching Talk, Jason Ramasami talks to Vic Goddard and other staff and students at Passmores Academy about the incredible work that their school charity does.

Now more than ever, we need to be encouraging a culture of kindness towards each other.

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What is self-efficacy and how can we help our students to get more of it?

“If you think you can, you probably can.  If you think you can’t, well that self limiting and self-fulfilling belief might well stop you doing something you’re perfectly capable of doing.”

Albert Bandura

Last week I was fortunate enough to be asked to talk at the Osiris Teaching & Learning conference, with Andy Tharby about our book, ‘Making every lesson count’.   I also had the opportunity to listen to some educational heavyweights such as John Hattie, David Didau and Alex Quigley.  David has written about John’s talk here.

During his presentation, Alex was talking about the idea of ‘self-efficacy’.  This is the optimistic self-belief in our competence or chances of successfully accomplishing a task and producing a favourable outcome – more commonly known as confidence perhaps.  This is an attractive idea, and links to this quote from Dr Lee Elliot Major:

“One of the most inspiring things truly great teachers and schools do is instil in children the ‘have a go’ confidence that their more privileged peers naturally pick up for their supportive, middle class homes”

This is not too far away from Dweck’s idea of growth mindset.  Unfortunately,  the idea of growth mindset has become mutated and misinterpreted into an overly simplistic message,  something along the lines of ‘anyone can do anything’.  This is not the case.  For example, I’ve accepted that  I’m unlikely to play football in the Premier League!  With self-efficacy, we can refocus this message and talk about the moral obligation we have as teachers, to help all students believe that their starting point in life doesn’t have to limit them.  Instead, with the right support, encouragement, level of expectation and great teaching, they can grow in confidence and achieve beyond their expectations.  Through confidence comes aspiration.  Imagine if we could make more students in our schools feel like that?

So what can we do about it?  Stanford psychologist, Albert Bandura, provides us with a framework that helps us to start thinking about how we can help our students to get more self-efficacy:

Let’s explore each of these, one at a time and then think about how we can use each one, to attempt to grow the self-efficacy of the students we teach

1. Performance outcomes

The first source of self-efficacy is through how we have performed in tasks previously.  Experiencing success, for example in mastering a task or controlling an environment, will build self- belief in that area whereas a failure will undermine that efficacy belief. To have a resilient sense of self-efficacy requires experience in overcoming obstacles and experiencing success, through effort and perseverance.

Implications for teachers and schools:

  • Provide opportunities for all students to experience success – irrespective of their academic starting point e.g. praise them for getting to grips with a challenging idea, tackling a tricky problem or making an improvement in a test score.

  • Build resilience – try to ensure that all students are kept in the struggle zone and support them through this.  This means ensuring that our curriculum is sufficiently challenging and that students are made to think hard in lessons.

2. Physiological Feedback

The mental and physiological state our students are in will influence how they judge their self-efficacy. Depression, for example, can dampen confidence in their capabilities. Stress, anxiety or tension are interpreted as signs of vulnerability to poor performance whereas positive emotions can boost our confidence in our skills.

Implications for teachers and schools:

  • Know the periods in the school year when students are likely to experience stress and anxiety and support them through this.  For example, as well as leading assemblies for Y11 leading up to their exams about how to revise, we also do one about managing their well being.
  • Provide trained counsellors and other professionals to support students with this.

3. Verbal Persuasion

Influential people in the lives of students, such as parents and teachers, can strengthen their beliefs that they have what it takes to succeed. Being persuaded that we possess the capabilities to master certain activities means that we are more likely to put in the effort and sustain it when problems arise.

Implications for teachers and schools:

  • When giving feedback to students, make it very clear what is was they did that enabled them to be successful – and what specifically they need to do in order to improve further.
  • Share exemplar work of students who have worked hard and shown effort and commitment.  Talk about the work, but also talk about the qualities that these students exhibited – then link this to the feedback that you give other students later on.
  • Talk to students about why it matters and so widen their aspirations e.g. ‘if you do really well in GCSE science, this will give you access to science A levels and then on to medical school to become a doctor’.

4. Vicarious Experiences

This comes from our observation of people around us, especially people we consider as role models. So, students seeing their peers succeeding by their sustained effort raises their belief that they too could master the activities needed for success in that area.

Implications for teachers and schools:

  • Praise students specifically for their effort and commitment – and why it matters.
  • Use seating plans to enable students who are low in confidence to work alongside their peers who have greater confidence.
  • Encourage these successful students to share and talk about their work.
  • Share and celebrate excellent work – we do this through our gallery:

  • Leaders – think about your setting policy.  If you are putting groups of students together who are low attaining and low in confidence, who do they look towards as their role models?

At Durrington, we are thinking about how we build self-efficacy through our teaching and curriculum, student self concept and school/peer culture.  Andy Tharby has written about this here.  This will be the focus of our work over the coming years.

Posted by Shaun Allison




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Teaching Talk – Memory App

In this episode of Teaching Talk, Jason Ramasami talks to science teacher Phoebe Bence about how she has been using an App to improve the memory of her students.

Phoebe Bence – Memory App from Jason Ramasami on Vimeo.

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Tonight’s 15 minute forum was led by Director of English Kate Bloomfield.   Kate is not only a fantastic teacher and Head of English, but also an expert juggler!  Kate explained how the experiences of the novice juggler, exemplify the learning process – and so give us much to reflect on as teachers, to inform our own teaching.  It was a very hands on session – with Kate teaching a drama studio full of adults how to juggle for the first time, from a single ball, to two balls and then three balls!  Part 2 is next week!

The key points stressed by Kate follow and show very clearly how learning anything is supported by our 6 pedagogical principles.

A skill that looks difficult; many people believe they will not be able to learn it. Mindset is key: “I can’t do this yet.” (challenge)

Big picture overview first – then broken down into stages. Master 1 ball; master 2 balls; master 3 balls. (modelling, explanation, scaffolding)

Step by step, and little and often (5 minute chunks done regularly – muscle memory works similarly to the forgetting curve) (scaffolding, feedback)

Mistakes – mistakes – lots of them! They are part of learning. Dropping the ball is learning – as long as you pick it up and try again. Failure is when you drop the ball (make a mistake) and give up. (challenge)

Bad habits – particularly those which become entrenched – are difficult to eliminate, but not impossible. (explanation, modelling, feedback)

‘Short cuts’ tend to lead to dead ends! (explanation, challenge, feedback)

Further debunks the myth of being a visual OR auditory OR kinaesthetic learner. This is a multi-sensory process. We learn by seeing, listening AND doing. (3 routes into the brain are better than 1!) (deliberate practice)

Saying things out loud while you are learning and reviewing can really help. (deliberate practice)

Paired work can help – particularly in diagnosing errors. (A coaching buddy) (questioning, feedback)

It’s useful to have ‘common pitfalls’ pointed out and made explicit. (explanation, modelling, feedback)

Explicit teaching is important, but equally important is the individual practice you put in outside of this. (deliberate practice)

Rates of learning vary across ALL students! Don’t judge yourself by someone else’s rate of progress. Every time you practise, you are a step nearer to mastery. (challenge, mindset, deliberate practice)

Threshold breakthroughs are important to recognise and celebrate (and remember for the next time you are struggling) (scaffolding, feedback, challenge)

Learning never stops! Once you learn a basic 3 ball cascade, test yourself on how many times you can do this. Once this is mastered, a whole new world is opened up: 4 balls, 5 balls, hoops, clubs, tricks, paired juggling, bounce juggling…..! (challenge)

For me – the most significant pedagogical aspects of this are in the areas of MINDSET and SCAFFOLDING. Perhaps this is why, for me, the scaffolding, sequencing, staging process of learning is so important. When I think of the lessons I have observed which have impressed me most, they have been ones where the learning process has been broken down and sequenced carefully to enable complicated concepts to be approached and conquered by students. When this bedrock is in place, learning takes off.

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Teaching Talk – Pause Lessons

In this episode of teaching talk, Jason Ramasami talks to maths teachers Morwenna Treleven & Frankie Pimentel about the importance of pausing and repetition.

Treleven and Pimentel – Pause Lessons from Jason Ramasami on Vimeo.

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Teaching Talk – Choosing to talk with Andy Tharby

In this episode of Teaching Talk, Jason Ramasami talks to Andy Tharby  about the importance of teachers talking about their practice – and the dangers of talking about ‘best practice’.

Andy Tharby – Choosing to Talk from Jason Ramasami on Vimeo.

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Why Modelling?

Tonight’s 15 minute forum was led by our Director of Science, Steph Temple.  Steph started the session by apologising for her powerpoint and saying that she wasn’t much of a powerpoint person…which probably explains why she was leading this session!

Modelling is one of our 6 pedagogical principles, but as Steph explained brilliantly in her session, they do not work in isolation.  They are very much interlinked.  So whilst modelling is important in terms of showing students how to apply the knowledge and skills that they have been taught, it also very much interwoven with explanation and questioning.  When we are explaining things, especially in science, we model our thinking to help students understand these complex ideas, whilst questioning them to gauge their understanding.

So, why do we model?

So that students know what to do with the knowledge and skills.

For example…

  1. How to construct an essay, exam answer, conclusion to an experiment etc.
  2. How to do  calculations

So that students have a deeper understanding of the knowledge you are imparting to them.

By modelling what you and they are thinking –they remember it

When are we best at modelling?

  • When you know your subject If you don’t fully understand the subject how can you then explain and model ideas, and expect your students to develop a deep understanding?  You won’t.  You will simply end up teaching at a very superficial level and won’t be able to really extend their thinking or pre-empt any misconceptions.
  • When you know the specification and exam question structure/type inside out  – this then allows you to model the thinking required to understand the content at the required level.
  • When you have practised over and over again go powerpoint free and practise how you are going to model what you want the students to understand, using just your boardmarker and whiteboard.  This will enable you to find out any sticky bits and perfect your modelling.

Do you think about how you use your board?

  • Do you write too much?
  • Do you regret rubbing bits off that are then sometimes useful for the next part of the explanation?
  • Poorly organised?  Sometimes using tables, maps and diagrams instead of lots of text can really help to simplify what you are trying to explain.
  • Do you tell them exactly what you are doing and question them as you are doing it?

Steph then went on to describe two different methods of procedural modelling – modelling to students how to work out empirical formula.   Firstly, the method that a number of inexperienced teachers or teachers who are lacking confidence about the subject matter use, simply putting a prepared worked example up on the board:

The problem with this approach is that it misses the narrative behind the steps – and you’re not actually modelling – you are just showing a finished product.  So it’s at this point that Steph turns her projector off and gets her pen out:

Each step of the solution was modelled – through discussion and questioning…what’s the first step?  Why do you think I did it like that? What’s the next step?  What mistakes do you think people often make here?  You might also make a mistake in the process, and that is fine as you can model to students how to correct it.  By approaching it like this, you are modelling the process and your thinking.

Steph then went on to talk about modelling the thinking behind constructing and understanding graphs, such as the ones above.  Again, the problem with just presenting students with the finished product like these, is that you miss the thinking and the processes behind putting them together, which will hinder their understanding of them. It’s far more effective to build them up a step at a time, explaining and unpicking each stage as you go:

By building it a step at a time, you can also ensure that students are secure with the key knowledge e.g. that energy is supplied to break bonds and released when new bonds are made. Once this is secure, you can continue to build the graphs and explain that whether a reaction is endothermic or exothermic depends on the net difference between these two. Once you have done this, you can reveal the actual graphs and discuss how your diagram aligns with the finished product.

How can we support the development of modelling?

At Durrington, subject teams meet once a fortnight for a ‘Subject Planning & Development Session‘.  During these sessions, the teams talk about what they will be teaching over the next fortnight, and how to teach it well.  The science department uses this as an opportunity to share how they model particular topics, as shown by the agenda for their forthcoming session on Monday:

You can read more about how science do these sessions here and here Steph talk about her session here:

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