Teacher Inquiry Groups: Memory

Today was an INSET day at Durrington and as a part of this, we had the second of our ‘Teacher Inquiry Group’ (TIG)  meetings.  In September 2018 we began the implementation of ‘Inquiry Questions’ at Durrington. The idea was for teachers to identify an aspect of their classroom practice that they wanted to develop, through the appraisal process, frame this into an inquiry question and then engage in purposeful practice throughout the year to address this question.

These inquiry questions are framed around our teacher threshold concepts:

  • Metacognition
  • Memory
  • Formative Asssessment
  • Vocabulary
  • Cognitive Load Theory

Here are some examples of some inquiry questions:

What impact does interrogative questioning delivered during the course of the year have on deeper understanding of key concepts to improve attainment for my KS4 classes?

What impact does deliberate teaching of and retrieval practice of Tier 2 and 3 vocabulary delivered over a year have on quality of exam responses (4-6 mark questions) for middle ability girls in my KS4 classes?

What impact does breaking down questions using meta-cognitive techniques delivered over 1 year have on GCSE results for my Year 11 M ability students?

Our objectives for this were:

  • for teachers to take ownership of their CPD through identifying an aspect of their practice to develop;
  • for teachers to engage with the research evidence around their chosen theme;
  • to improve the outcomes of our students through embedding a more evidence informed approach to teaching;

At the TIG meetings, teachers who have an inquiry question based on the same teacher threshold concept meet up and discuss how their work is going.  They also discuss some of the research evidence linked to this aspect of learning.  I was leading the group who are thinking about memory.

As a recap, we started with this really useful graphic that summarises a model of learning from Oliver Caviglioli.  This graphic does a brilliant job of capturing some of the key elements of learning – cognitive load theory; the transfer from working memory to long term memory and back again; schema building; the importance of retrievalTom Sherrington has done a superb job of exploring this model here – well worth a read.

We then went on to discuss the next challenge for evidence-informed practice – mobilisation.  We know what the research evidence from very controlled trials says about many aspects of teaching and learning, but how do these apply to busy classrooms and how can teachers mobilise these approaches with the highest impact?  To support this discussion we read Rob Coe’s recent EEF blog ‘Does research on retrieval practice translate into classroom practice?

In this blog, Rob raises three possible reasons why the mobilisation of the research evidence around retrieval practice might go wrong:

  1. Teachers might generate retrieval questions that focus solely on factual recall (these questions are easier to generate) rather than requiring any higher-order thinking.
  2. Questions might be too easy and boost confidence without providing real challenge, which is likely to be a key ingredient for generating the kind of learning hoped for.
  3. Teachers might allocate too much time to the quizzes, effectively losing the time they need to cover new material.

What was really impressive was that many of the teachers in my group, who have been really focusing on retrieval practice within their own teaching, had been coming to similar conclusions and were adjusting their practice accordingly.

  • Chris Davis (geography) – Chris had been using factual recall for his retrieval quizzes e.g. ‘name….‘  Students were doing very well on these quizzes, but Chris has realised that because they were too easy, it wasn’t really supporting memory.  So students were feeling really good about themselves, but the quizzing wasn’t supporting learning in the way that it should, as it required very little thinking.  To change this, Chris now uses more challenging questions for his retrieval quizzes e.g. ‘Compare….’, ‘Explain why….‘  This aligns really well with the first two points that Rob makes.
  • Claire Taylor (computing) – Claire talked about how she has been using the online platform ‘Quizizz‘ for retrieval quizzing.   Claire preferred this to other similar platforms, because it randomised the questions for all students within a topic (so minimising the opportunity for discussing the answers and using someone else’s long term memory instead of your own!)  It also doesn’t use any annoying background music – so reducing cognitive load!
  • Annie Hewett & Kathy Hughes (maths) – Annie & Kathy were addressing a similar problem.  Often when coming up with questions for their retrieval quizzes at the start of lessons, they would either pick topics that they did recently or topics they enjoyed teaching.  This wasn’t really supporting the idea of spaced practice.  To address this, they now use ‘MathsBox‘.  This generates a completely random selection of questions from a variety of topics, that Annie and Kathy use for retrieval at the start of their lessons.  As the questions are random, they can be on anything, so this is really useful for supporting spaced practice.  They then use how the students perform in these questions formatively, to plan future lessons.
  • Tom Pickford (PE) – Tom and the rest of the PE team have been using a variety of strategies at the start of lessons to encourage retrieval e.g. quizzing, blank knowledge organisers, exam questions.  After reviewing this, Tom realised that whilst this may be serving a purpose in terms of retrieval practice, it wasn’t really being used formatively i.e. teachers just continued teaching whatever they had planned to teach.  In response to this, PE teachers have paused teaching any new content and are now using the time to reteach the topics where students had gaps in their knowledge.
  • Sam Atkins (Geography) – Sam has been using Cornell note taking with his Y9 class to support retrieval.   Whilst Sam remains committed to the idea of this approach, he has found that the process can eat into too much time in the lesson for some students, reducing the time available for delivering the content.  For example, students wanting to write too many questions in the margins or too many key words and then spending too much time writing the summary at the end – which is often not always that useful, in terms of retrieval.  As a result, Sam has slimmed this right down.  He doesn’t do the summary box every lesson now, but instead does it every few lessons.  Most importantly though, he now prioritises the questions – making sure that there are fewer questions, but they are based on the key learning points and with more challenging command words e.g. ‘compare…’, ‘explain…’ and ‘evaluate….’ rather than recall questions such as ‘name…’, ‘state…’

This was a great session.  It was fantastic to hear teachers thinking really deeply about the research and their own teaching – and how they can make small but significant adjustments to their teaching, to make it even more effective.

It convinced me even more  that this model of CPD – evidence-informed, targeted, collaborative and sustained – is definitely the right way to go.

Shaun Allison is Head of School Improvement at Durrington Multi-Academy Trust. He is also Director of Research School for Durrington Research School and will be delivering training on ‘Evidence informed approach to curriculum, teaching and assessment’, ‘Making Every Lesson Count’ and ‘An evidence informed approach to improving science teaching’.





Posted in General Teaching | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Some Reflections on Questioning

Questioning is the bread and butter of teaching. But it’s really hard to get right, and is something I think about every lesson – I have a constant barrage of thoughts going on in the back of my head whilst I am standing at the front of the classroom:

“remember to give wait time”

“ask the question, then say the name, not the other way round”

“don’t allow them to say that they don’t know, remember to come back to them”

“don’t always pick the ones with hands up”

“am I asking for formative assessment purposes, or behaviour management purposes?”

“insist on good explanations”

“ask higher order questions”

And so on. Over the years that I have been teaching I have been praised for my questioning during lessons, which was flattering at the time but thinking back now I am sure I still have a long way to go. I even remember one lesson observation with an A Level class where the feedback was “you didn’t tell them anything, it was great!” which I am concerned about now – would it have been more efficient if I had taught them the new material rather than relying on them discovering the advanced trigonometric identities for themselves? Did discovering by themselves lead to more misconceptions along the way? Did I really support the slower graspers or was my lesson just a success with the high flyers? I think I must have spent the entire lesson just asking “why?” which might have looked great to the non-specialist who was observing me at the time but I am not sure I would teach the topic the same way again now. There are a wealth of great resources on questioning out there including the strategies in Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion 2.0. These have all made me change my practise in various ways in recent years, but here I will concentrate on three aspects which have made me think and that I am currently trying to keep uppermost in my mind.

  1. Asking the right questions: concentrating on the Key Concept

I think it is relatively easy to ask questions in Maths. Even when going through a long example there are bits on the way that the students can answer, mostly connected with the arithmetic involved. It can look good from the outside, like the students are doing all the work and they are not being told any of the answers. However, after reading many books, blogs and articles and also through my work on teaching for mastery and cognitive load theory, I now feel this is not generally a good questioning strategy, particularly in the early stages of learning new material. In teaching for mastery we concentrate a lot on sticking to one key concept during a lesson, and we try to think hard about what that key concept is, and find small steps to help all students get there. For example when teaching how to solve simultaneous equations, which is quite a complicated, multi-step process, I might be concentrating on the key concept of “should we add or subtract the equations to eliminate a variable?”. In this case, my questions should help students to specifically understand this key concept and not distract them by suddenly asking them to do the additions or subtractions. At least initially, my questions should be along the lines of “Add or subtract? Why add? Why subtract?”. I think this topic particularly lends itself to poor questioning as the mechanics of solving the equations only requires quite straightforward arithmetic, so it can look like students know what is going on, when the understanding of the process is much more difficult. I am trying increasingly to direct my questioning away from arithmetic not directly linked to the key concept, and towards understanding.

  1. Using true and false and looking at boundary conditions

Another aspect of my questioning that has changed is that I now spend much more time at the start of a topic discussing examples and also non-examples: what it is and what it isn’t. True or False questioning lends itself particularly well to this as it is easy to elicit a whole-class response by using thumbs up and down or fingers in a tick or a cross. Using boundary conditions when introducing a new key concept is really useful in helping students to develop their schema around a topic. When looking at parallelograms yesterday in my year 7 class I included a picture of a rectangle. When I asked whether it was a parallelogram one student answered “false, because it is a rectangle” and we were then able to refer back to the definition of a parallelogram that we had already discussed, and apply this to the rectangle and therefore ascertain that it was in fact also a parallelogram. Which brings me to my final point:

  1. Eliciting answers that generalise

After reading Dani Quinn’s recent blog post about the importance of good answers I have been thinking about this in my classroom in the context of teaching for mastery. In the rectangle example above, my aim was for my class to know that a parallelogram has opposite pairs of parallel lines and opposite sides the same length. A rectangle satisfies these conditions, so it is a parallelogram, and it also has four angles of 90 degrees, which is what makes it also a rectangle. Because we were discussing general properties this was quite easy in the case above, but when we move on to area I want to continue getting them to answer in this way: “I know the area is ??? because to get the area of a parallelogram I multiply the base by the perpendicular height”. This generalisation is important, much more so in fact than just knowing how to do the arithmetic. This reinforces the method to all students as well as getting the correct answer to the question.

Rather than getting snowed under with trying to remember all of the questioning guidelines at once, I’m concentrating on these three aspects at the moment and trying to get them really embedded in my practice.

By Deb Friis


Posted in General Teaching | Tagged | Leave a comment

CTeach in West Sussex, East Sussex, Brighton and Hove and Kent

This is a guest post by Zoe James. Assistant Headteacher at The Beacon Academy, Crowborough, East Sussex.  Zoe can be contacted on Z.James@beacon-academy.org

Have you been teaching for more than 3 years?  Would you like to become an expert classroom teacher?  Read on to find out about the prestigious Chartered Teacher Programme, which is now available to teachers in Sussex, Kent, Brighton and Hove.

Based on similar programmes around the world, C-Teach is designed to further the expertise of experienced practitioners. At the Beacon Partnership, we are delighted to have been selected by the Chartered College of Teaching to deliver the C-Teach Programme in our region.  Previous participants on the programme have highlighted the phenomenal impact it has had on their practice and the young people they teach. We also know that it is a qualification headteachers value.  C-Teach is open to school teachers from all phases: early years, primary, secondary, post-16, special schools and pupil referral units.

Earlier this year, we established The Beacon Partnership, made up of Sussex University, Sussex Teaching Schools and East Sussex County Council, precisely because we recognised the immense of value the C-Teach programme.  We wanted to ensure that the schools, teachers and young people in our region benefit from the fantastic opportunities C-Teach offers.

C-Teach is undoubtedly a challenging programme, but that is an important part of its value. Completion demonstrates excellent knowledge and practices as a teacher as well as a commitment to professional growth. There are rigorous set of development and assessment processes and tasks, underpinned by professional principles which were established through extensive engagement with our profession.  You are, however, well supported throughout by on-going meetings with an expert mentor and our 3 face to face sessions over the 15-month programme.

Successful completion means that you are awarded the status of Chartered Teacher and can use the post-nominal C-Teach.  You will also be awarded master’s level credits.  What’s more, if you are a teacher in an East Sussex state school there is the opportunity to part fund the programme through the East Sussex Scholarship.

We do hope you choose to be part of our programme.  Further details and the programme brochure can be found at http://batsa.beacon-academy.org/beacon-partnership-cteach.php

Closing date for applications is 23rd March 2020

Posted in General Teaching | Leave a comment

Bright Spots: 24.2.2020

Today myself and Andy Tharby spent some time visiting lessons, looking for  bright spots – examples of teachers implementing the 6 principles effectively in their classrooms.  This is what we saw:

In maths, Shane Borrett had marked and handed back a set of homework to his class.  Individual students were then having to go through and re-do the questions they had got wrong.  This often goes wrong, because if the student didn’t know how to do that particular question at home, why would they now be able to do it, simply because their teacher has told them it was wrong?  These students were able to because of the feedback Shane had given them on their work.  He hadn’t written lengthy comments but just a simple ‘nudge’ to point them in the right direction and see where they had gone wrong e.g. “Why haven’t you used this measurement in your calculation?“.   Just enough feedback to make them think about where they had gone wrong and how to correct it, without just telling them.

In English, Kathryn Clarke had set her Y10 class a homework of learning the definitions of various writer’s devices (tier 3 vocabulary).  Students  were then having to retrieve these from memory at the start of the lesson and write out the definitions to the words, as they were presented to them. As they were doing this, Kathryn was circulating the class, giving them feedback on how they had done and prompts to support them with the ones they were struggling with.

In science, Alex Brown was getting his students to engage with retrieval practice.  His lesson was on photosynthesis, but students were being asked to retrieve knowledge on a previously studied topic – cell organelles.  This was done through ‘cold call’ questioning i.e. asking a question, pausing so that everybody has to think about the answer and then selecting a student to answer.  Alex’s questioning was then scaffolded to link the knowledge from the previous topic to the new one – “Whats this organelle? (chloroplast)  What colour is it?  Why, what does it contain? What does it do?”  This was demonstrating good progression and was a great lead in to today’s lesson.

In geography Sam Atkins was using questioning to great effect with Y9.  He was questioning a student, who appeared to be lacking in confidence, on how you describe it when the focus of an earthquake is close to the surface.  The boy’s initial response was “I don’t know“, but rather than moving straight on to somebody else, Sam very calmly asked the boy to think about a previous discussion, referred him to a diagram on the board that Sam has used earlier to explain the idea and then allowed the silence, whilst the boy thought – again, avoiding the temptation to just pass the question on to somebody else.  Eventually the boy got the answer – shallow.  This was also a good example of insisting on a good level level of challenge, by insisting on appropriate use of tier 2 vocabulary.

Finally in a Y8 computing lesson, Claire Taylor was allowing students to practise and embed the block programming that they had been using in previous lessons, to ensure they were secure with this knowledge, before moving them on to the more complex textual programming.  This is important in teaching.  All too often we move on to more complex ideas and processes, before students have mastered the knowledge needed to do this proficiently.

These are all examples of great teachers using really effective teaching strategies in their day to day work in the classroom.  No gimmicks, just good solid teaching, based on what the evidence says is most likely to work.  This is what we are about at Durrington.

Shaun Allison is Head of School Improvement at Durrington Multi-Academy Trust. He is also Director of Research School for Durrington Research School and will be delivering training on ‘Evidence informed approach to curriculum, teaching and assessment’, ‘Making Every Lesson Count’ and ‘An evidence informed approach to improving science teaching’.

Posted in Bright Spots, General Teaching | Leave a comment

Embedding Curriculum Development


Last week Alex Quigley wrote an excellent blog on curriculum development.  Alex offers a word of caution to school leaders who are frantically looking to develop their curriculum, in response to OFSTED’s renewed focus:

“A handy short-cut is to consider all of our curriculum changes through the lens of a harried full-time teacher who is snatching at hard-earned windows of time in the corners of their full timetable. It rightly grounds our ambitions in the messiness of real classrooms of tired, hustling teachers. 

If we don’t face head-on the significant challenge of teacher development, then our exciting curriculum debates and plans will come to nought. 

Slowly, quietly, the majority of teachers in schools will close their classroom door and slip back into doing it as they always have done. Our best intent will simply wilt in the white-hot crucible of the classroom. “

He’s right.  Leaders can be mapping out the most rigorous, brilliantly sequenced and superbly coherent curriculum imaginable, but if the implementation of this isn’t aligned with a well thought out and comprehensive programme of CPD to support teachers, to quote Alex, ‘it will come to nought’.   The importance of planning a programme of CPD when implementing change is discussed in detail in the EEF Implementation Guide .

This is something we have been mindful of here at Durrington, as we look at reviewing our curriculum (more on this here).

Sharing Curriculum Intent

Once a fortnight, subject teams meet for a ‘Subject Planning & Development Session’ (SPDS).  The idea here is for curriculum teams to discuss ‘What are we teaching over the next fortnight and how do we teach it well?’  When these sessions are used effectively, they are a great opportunity to ensure that everybody is on the same page in terms of curriculum intent.  For example, there will be discussions around:

  • Clarifying and agreeing exactly which aspects of the curriculum will be delivered over the next fortnight.
  • Discussing the previous curriculum content that this this links to, so all teachers are exploiting this prior knowledge and students are encouraged to do so as well.
  • Discussing how the knowledge taught over the next fortnight will prepare students for future curriculum topics.
  • Ensuring that this part of the curriculum is taught as intended e.g. the key learning points are clearly understood; it’s rigorous in terms of high challenge; possible misconceptions that might occur are shared; key vocabulary and how to explicitly teach it is agreed.
  • Teaching resources are discussed and shared.
  • Ensuring that all teachers in the team have strong subject knowledge in this topic, in order to teach it effectively.  Filling any knowledge gaps if necessary.
  • Using expertise from within the team to discuss how to teach it really well e.g. rich questions to ask; effective modelling strategies; opportunities to develop metacognition.

Ensuring Consistent Curriculum Implementation

Having discussed and agreed these points at the fortnightly SPDS, Curriculum Leaders will then visit lessons over the next fortnight (as often as is possible).  They will use this as an opportunity to monitor that the curriculum is being implemented with fidelity by all teachers – as agreed by the whole team at the SPDS e.g. is the level of challenge right?  Is the key vocabulary being explicitly taught?  Are the key learning points being emphasised? Are the most effective, evidence-informed teaching approaches being used effectively?  Are links to other parts of the curriculum being exploited?

This allows them to:

  • Share examples of effective practice that they see with the rest of the team.  This is usually done at the next SPDS or as ‘bright spots’ in their weekly e-bulletin.
  • Plan follow-up coaching with any teachers who would benefit from some further and more personalised CPD.
  • Inform what might need to be covered at the next SPDS.
  • Review the curriculum in an ongoing and ‘live’ way.

This seems to be working well as a cyclical model of CPD because it aligns with what the research evidence says about effective CPD.  It is:

  • Sustained – it happens on an ongoing fortnightly cycle.
  • Subject Specific – it is carried out by subject teams.
  • Focused – it relates to what they will be teaching over the next fortnight.
  • Evidence informed – during the SPDS, teachers are discussing evidence informed teaching approaches.

Curriculum development and teacher development need to be closely aligned, sustained and cyclical.  This is necessary because real and authentic curriculum development, that results in change in the classroom, is a long term endeavour – but a very worthy one.  This is why it deserves our time, care and attention.

Shaun Allison is Head of School Improvement at Durrington Multi-Academy Trust. He is also Director of Research School for Durrington Research School and will be delivering training on ‘Evidence informed approach to curriculum, teaching and assessment’, ‘Making Every Lesson Count’ and ‘An evidence informed approach to improving science teaching’.



Posted in General Teaching | Tagged | Leave a comment

Student Attention – 5 Tips

As Mark Enser so eloquently put it in his recent article in the TES on this topic, the idea that it is important that students pay attention, can be put in “well, duh” basket of educational advice.

Still, knowing it and achieving it are two different things.  Even harder is achieving it in a way that best exploits the available evidence.

A really useful blog to develop an understanding of the evidence-base in this area is the one written by Mike Hobbiss, school teacher and cognitive neuroscience researcher.  The sister blog to my own one, develops this further and can be found on the Durrington Research School website.  One aspect of the research-evidence here, is that while there is evidence regarding the problems around student attention, there is less clarity on what to do to retain it.  However, what there is, is sound research in other areas that may be able to help us find some “best bet” solutions.

Therefore, to support these excellent explanations of the vagaries of student attention and its importance, here are five practical tips for classroom teachers:

1) Consider the limitations of working memory

The information in our working memories lasts for about 30 seconds and we can attend to roughly four things at a time.  That is why when you try and remember an account number and sort code while working your telephone banking app, you often fail.  Therefore, students will not be able to attend to instructions that do not take account of these limitations.  If your instructions last too long, some students will have forgotten the start of what you’ve told them before you finishing talking.

2) Consider the implications of Cognitive Load Theory

The more extraneous stimuli vying for student attention, the less likely they are to attend what it is you want them to learn.  Therefore, declutter your classroom and your PowerPoints and stop talking over them when they are working.

3) Plan for thinking

As Daniel Willingham puts it: “memory is the residue of thought.”  Therefore, we need to plan for thinking as much, or perhaps more than, doing.  Ask yourself when planning your lessons, “what will they be thinking about during this activity?”  We want their attention to be held by the thinking and for the thinking to be about the content, not difficult task-based instructions.

4) Keep it quiet (when you want close attention)

Noisy or quiet classrooms are not in themselves desirable or undesirable.  However, if you want student attention to be full focused on something difficult that they need to practise independently then silence is golden.  That way there is less splitting of their attention.

5) Take a snapshot

At a random moment in the lesson scan the class and ask yourself whether each child seems (as far as you can tell) to be attending to whatever it is you want them to be concentrating on.  It seems an obvious one, but often as we engage with the demands of teaching we can lose sight of the big picture.  If you find more than you were expecting have lost attention you have a starting point for where to focus your energies.  Alternatively, you could ask a colleague to do this for you.

Chris Runeckles is an Assistant Headteacher at Durrington High School.  He is also an Assistant Director for Durrington Research School and is delivering our training on Memory and Metacognition.

Posted in General Teaching | 1 Comment

Getting Formative Assessment Right – Bright Spots

This year at Durrington we have framed our teaching and learning priorities around what we consider to be the key threshold concepts for teachers working in our context – one of these threshold concepts is formative assessment.


There is not doubt that when done effectively formative assessment can have substantial positive impacts on learning and student outcomes, however in the face of curriculum demands, limited teaching time, a mistaken desire for pace or the beast that is summative assessment, it can often be overlooked or completed poorly.


“When formative assessment practices are integrated into the minute-by-minute and day-by-day classroom activities of teachers, substantial increases in student achievement – of the order of a 70 to 80 per cent increase in the speed of learning are possible.” (Dylan Wiliam)


The other week Chris Runeckles ran a whole school twilight on ensuring that formative assessment is as effective as possible, which was then followed by an opportunity for subject teams to sit down and discuss ideas of how formative assessment should look in their department. Prior to this, I decided to have a walk round the school to see what formative assessment was going on outside of Geography and what ideas/practice I could take away to embed into Geography.


I started close to home going into Beth Clarke’s history lesson where year 9 students where learning about the importance of the Magna Carta. Students were completing a gap fill task, asking them to retrieve articles or clauses of the policy. Beth circulated the room reading over the shoulder of a large number of students and gave individual feedback where necessary. Having circulated the room Beth began to notice that a large number of the students had developed a misconception regarding King Johns relationship with the church. Subsequently she stopped the task, asked students to put their pens down and then re-explained John’s relationship with the church and then used a series of elaborative questions to check that students had re-shaped their understanding. Returning to the retrieval quiz, Beth asked students to put their hands up after the correct answer has been given if they too had got it correct, from which she was able to judge student knowledge and understanding and identify any articles within the Magna Carta that she may need to review. Quite often quizzing is believed to be a form of formative assessment, but without this consideration of how many students got which question correct/incorrect, quizzing itself does little to inform future teaching.


Just down the corridor Sam Atkins was teaching a year 7 Geography lesson on manufacturing industries in contrasting countries. Sam was using a great deal of elaborative questioning to draw out students prior and base knowledge. Having given students two particularly challenging questions regarding the role of an assembly line in improving the efficiency of manufacturing Sam gave students the opportunity to “think, pair, share” their thought s prior to giving an answer. As students discussed this, Sam circulated the room, asking some prompt questions, but most importantly listening to students ideas and talk – from this it quickly became clear that students had a misunderstanding of what an assembly line was (thinking that the people moved and the object remained stationary). Sam used this to adjust his lesson and simply explained the concept of an assembly line before moving on. The formative assessment had identified an issue and the subsequent learning was adjusted accordingly.


In science Michael Kyle was reviewing a year 10 summative assessment with his class. While this assessment had been used to provide important tracking point data, Michael was also using this formatively. Having read students answers to particular questions he had identified common mistakes from the class. He then projected the question and common answer types onto the board, and through high challenge questioning was drawing out and then modelling how these answers could have been improved, so that students had mastered these topics before they moved onto their new unit.


Finally, I visited Alison Humphries in Art. The Art and Design team are a fantastic resource for formative assessment strategies with so much of their assessment being done through peer critique and verbal feedback during the making process. Students were practising their still life drawings. As the task progressed students were prompted to give feedback on each other’s work, Alison listened closely to these conversations and used the feedback students gave to judge their understanding of what made a high-quality piece of work. Where students struggled to articulate where the work they were reviewing was strong or needed development, Alison took this as a cue to bring the class together and re-model the skills necessary for success. Once students had returned to their individual sketches, Alison gave concise feedback on their work with clear areas for improvement. Before leaving Alison showed me her model book and formative assessment log. This sketch book included models of excellence that Alison had created in lessons to model the process/processes to students, next to these models she had made notes on the skills, techniques or common mistakes students had articulated during her modelling or when doing their own versions (for example struggling to achieve symmetry when drawing both sides of a skull). Alison had thus implemented strategies to improve this and given students opportunities to practice this skill again, so that they could improve this area. Chris talks about the value of keeping a simple log of areas of weakness in student knowledge or skills, so that these areas remain live in your thinking and therefore your future teaching can be adjusted accordingly.


Ben Crockett is Head of Geography at Durrington High School. He is also a Research School Associate and will be running a 1 day workshop focusing on effective and evidence informed teaching in Geography

Posted in General Teaching | Leave a comment