Category: progress

Hardwiring learning and effort = success

brain-train

I try to lead by challenging preconceived notions that people are born talented or lucky.  In Daniel Coyle’s The Talent Code: Greatness isn’t born it’s Grown he argues that talent is grown through purposeful practice…deep practice.  Below I give a specific example of how this can be seen in students’ learning.

“We all have the ability to profoundly change our levels of talent, our level of skill. Where clusters of great talent emerge there has been a culture created where individuals are constantly reaching and repeating, making mistakes, receiving feedback, building better brains, faster more fluent brains…inside the brain myelin acts like insulation on the pathways and connections in the brain – each time we reach and repeat we earn another layer – signal speeds in the brain start to increase from 2 mph to 200 mph – neuro broadband – (or the difference between normal and great).” (Dan Coyle)

What he is describing is the hardwiring of the brain – through repeated efforts, mistakes and improvement, until the action (or learning) becomes as natural as riding a bike. That is how talent is created.

This recently became really evident to me during a lesson observation of my Y12 Sociology class: one observer sat next to a student and asked her to deconstruct the exam question we were looking at (having heard me used the word ‘deconstruct’ in my instructions). I was amazed, and pleased, to hear her deconstruct the question effortlessly, without hesitation and to depth, drawing on prior knowledge, pulling out command words, key subject-specific words and implied meaning behind the question in a thorough analysis that was no less deep than if I had done it. I realised then that her success in that skill (which she hadn’t been able to do at the start of the year) came from the fact that this was how we started every topic that we studied: with an exam question that we deconstruct thoroughly. Essentially, us practising this skill at the start of every topic had resulted in it becoming ‘hardwired’ in her brain so that she could effortlessly pull it out no matter what the topic or question. Deconstructing an exam question is a transferable skill so I hope that she is able to make use of it in her other subjects as well.

time-effort-success

This message of repeating to hardwire your brain is exactly what I’m trying to get across to Y8 in my assemblies, preparing them for their mid-year exams, and reminding them that determined and deliberate effort = success.

Here’s another useful resource, Dan Coyle’s TED talk…

Post submitted by:

Domini Choudhury
Assistant Principal

#neverstoplearning

Feedback. Please let us know how ‘Hardwiring learning and effort = success’ worked for you. Leave a comment on this post or tweet us at @nslhub.

‘Quick wins’ #11 – Tracking progress over time.

Multiple assessment sheets seemed like a good idea... Image by @gapingvoid

Multiple assessment sheets seemed like a good idea… Image by @gapingvoid

Why? In Art & Design we mark students coursework & exam projects numerous times before the final marks are submit at the end of the course. I found that students would occasionally lose the odd feedback sheet & sometimes even the assessment booklets I provided.

Possible solution. To make certain we have a clear record of progression in sketchbooks,  I adapted an assessment worksheet I saw at Redland Green Art Department for our GCSE & A-Level classes. It is just one A3 assessment sheet which clearly shows the progression students make over time in each of the assessment objectives. Every time work is marked, I do it in a different colour pen and pupils can see their work gaining more marks as they redraft & build up their projects.

 Resources.

GCSE Marking Progress Sheet (editable) – Easily adapted for any subject!

Shrinking the change - removing clutter and focusing on what's really important.

Shrinking the change – removing clutter and focusing on what’s really important.

Outcome. Pupils & teachers can see clearly see on one page (which is stuck into sketchbooks) where they are making progress and the areas in which they need to improve.

Kate Heath

Art Teacher / Artist / Leader

@ArtEdu_KHeath

#neverstoplearning

Feedback. Please let us know how ‘Tracking progress over time’ worked for you. Leave a comment on this post or tweet us at @nslhub.

Begin with the end in mind.

Begin with the end in mind.

Begin with the end in mind.

Recently I rediscovered a strategy that has revolutionised my teaching; a fundamental shift in mindset resulting in enormously simplifying my planning, consistently producing lessons graded as ‘Outstanding’ and receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback from student voice in my classes. It’s not new. It’s not difficult. It is simple.

The strategy (taken from Stephen Covey’s ‘7 Habits of highly effective people’): beginning with the end in mind.

I have now begun to structure the teaching of every topic/unit of work by starting with the end i.e. at KS4 and KS5, starting with sharing a possible exam question for that topic; or at KS3, starting with sharing the end of unit assessment, using these to create just one set of learning objectives for a sequence of lessons (differentiated by bands of marks in an exam question or success criteria for levelled skills and content in a KS3 assessment), rather than pandering to the misconception that every individual lesson requires a new and different learning objective.

We start by deconstructing the exam question (using the opportunity to draw out prior knowledge to help in deconstructing a question for a topic they haven’t studied yet and discussing a bullet-pointed checklist of the success criteria/mark scheme for the question) or, with KS3, drawing out the skills they will need to use and what the assessment task will be. Planning and delivery of knowledge and skills for the new topic becomes so much simpler as in ‘keeping the end in mind’ we regularly return to the exam question or end of unit assessment checklist to self or peer assess how much knowledge and skill we’ve gained to be successful in completing the question or assessment. My planning has simplified because I now know that simply with a well-thought out set of learning objectives shaped by the end goal, a passionate delivery of subject knowledge and content (drawing students into this with ‘storytelling’ and deep questioning that also encourages them to link their verbal answers to the end in mind), and encouraging students to regularly assess their progress against the end in mind, I have the tools to provide my students with at least a Good lesson each time.

I worried for a while that the students would be bored by starting every new topic in this same way and being so exams, or assessment, driven so I carried out some student voice work with my classes. The students love it. They say it keeps them focused, they understand how everything they learn fits in with what they will be assessed on (some students sharing horror stories with me of when they’ve had teaching where the end of unit assessment did not assess them on the skills they had been learning all term). Most importantly, the student voice revealed the sense of success the students feel as they work towards the end goal. Each time they are able to link a verbal answer to the end goal, or prove in a self or peer assessment that they have mastered the next skill or gained the next piece of knowledge towards that end goal, they feel a sense of success and can see the progress they are making.

Then, when they come to the end of the topic and properly complete the exam question or end of topic assessment, students are already in a good starting place because of the way the teaching of the topic has been structured. Finally, unless they gain full, or almost full marks in their exam question, my students know that they will never be allowed to just do the question once and that they will have to redraft it again. But that, and the magic of storytelling, whatever your subject, is for another time.

Here’s a video summary of Stephen Covey’s ‘7 Habits of highly effective people.’


Post submitted by:

Domini Choudhury

Assistant Principal

@DominiChoudhury

#neverstoplearning

‘Quick wins’ #10 – Formative feedback marginal gain.

Image by @gapingvoid - http://gapingvoid.com/

Image by @gapingvoid – http://gapingvoid.com/

Why? Returning formative feedback often has a demotivating impact, despite any positive comments. This is a particular issue for Key stage 4  C/D borderline students who find the leap to the next grade quite daunting, and able students attempting to bridge the gap between A-A*.

Possible solution. To direct student focus to improving I have added an extra comment to assessment sheets. When students receive their assessments they now see not only their target grade and current grade but the marks required to get to the next grade,

Resources.
Here are a couple examples of this marginal gain being implemented…

Example from a KS5 Art progress booklet.

Example from a KS5 Art progress booklet.

Example from a KS4 Computing class.

Example from a KS4 Computing class.

Outcome. The effect was immediate as students focused on the marks required to achieve the next grade rather than their current grade.A year 10  student commented on the fact that he was just 2 marks away from achieving a C grade, not that he had a D grade. In his previous assessment he had felt quite despondent. It is a simple yet, effective motivational tool that provides an instant snapshot of how close they are to the next step.

Post submitted by:

Rachel Taylor-Evans

Head of Art

#neverstoplearning

Feedback. Please let us know how ‘Formative feedback marginal gain’ worked for you. Leave a comment on this post or tweet us at @nslhub.

‘Quick wins’ #8 – Differentiated question cards

Differentiated question cards.

Differentiated question cards.

Why? To ensure that students are aware of the key questions that need to be asked and answered in a learning topic, and that pre-planned questions are appropriately pitched to the right students in a very mixed ability class (grades A through to E at A-level). Also, when questions are chosen carefully to have an appropriate level of challenge for each ability, this resource makes it easy to demonstrate the progress students make within the lesson.

Possible solution. As they walk into the lesson, provide each student with a slip of brightly coloured card with their key question on it and some space to write their answer on the card later on. Questions which are more open to interpretation can be repeated with different students. Students should keep their question card on their desk in front of them throughout the lesson as a visible reminder of the key question that they are seeking an answer for. Either use these questions punctuated throughout the lesson to draw students attention to what they have learnt so far after each activity, or use as a plenary at the end of the lesson.

Resources.
A set of pre-planned and differentiated questions, a couple of pieces of coloured card.

Outcome. The key questions keep students intently focused throughout the lesson seeking the answer to their question. Student responses to these questions, and further questioning that develops from their responses, enables the teacher to demonstrate the progress made within the lesson. Pre-planned questions which are more open to interpretation enable the teacher to ‘basketball’ the questioning to develop a depth of response from a range of students.

Post submitted by:

Domini Choudhury

Assistant Principal

@DominiChoudhury

#neverstoplearning

Feedback. Please let us know how ‘differentiated question cards’ worked for you. Leave a comment on this post or tweet us at @nslhub.

‘Quick wins’ #7 – Differentiated SMART objectives

Why?To raise achievement in my Year 12 and Year 13 classes, I knew that this year I needed to have an embedded exam focus in all my lessons and not just at the end of topics. At the same time, I also felt that the trend for differentiated learning objectives that are leveled or graded in every lesson was becoming meaningless for my students who knew full well that the learning that we were going to cover in a singular lesson would not mean that they were going to achieve a ‘C’ or ‘B’ grade by the end of that lesson. My objectives needed to become SMART: measurable and achievable steps to success with a focus on practicing exam skills and demonstrating exam knowledge in every lesson.

Possible solution. SMART objectives: differentiated objectives that are set within an achievable context of progress towards full marks in a specific exam question by the end of the lesson.

Differentiated SMART objective with achievable outcomes.

Differentiated SMART objective with achievable outcomes.

Resources.

I adapted a lesson objectives template to refer to marks towards a specific exam question rather than overall grades as outcomes, using the mark scheme for that question to guide my wording, which allowed students to very clearly see the success criteria needed to achieve each progressive band of marks.

Outcome.
Students felt a real sense of success as suddenly they could very specifically measure their progress in the lesson and in real, achievable terms for that lesson, work steadily towards gaining increasingly more marks. The objectives were the launch pad for regular AfL opportunities – I kept returning to them and asking students how many marks they thought they had gained so far after the last activity and then saying to them ‘prove it’. This then led into lots of self and peer assessment opportunities where students used different coloured highlighters to highlight evidence of where they were picking up the marks for different skills or knowledge in their work, and we could then discuss what the colour patterns of their highlighted work revealed about where they were not picking up the marks. By the end of the lesson, students were very confident about how to gain full marks for that question and able to reflect well on what had held them back from gaining full marks. The next lesson then looks at a different exam question but covering the same topic so students have the opportunity to repeat this pattern of learning over again and secure higher marks after reflection from the first time around.

Post submitted by:

Domini Choudhury
Assistant Principal

#neverstoplearning

‘Quick wins’ #6 – Getting students to reflect on their progress.

RAG cards used by students to reflect on their learning. Also a great way to show progress over time.

RAG cards used by students to reflect on their learning. Also a great way to show progress over time.

Why? – I found it hard to get students to assess and reflect on their progress in a lesson. They found it hard to express themselves and what their progress looked like.

Possible solution – All students set a target linked to differentiated targets of the lesson. At the end of lesson students self assess their progress using R/A/G smiley faces that they stick in their book. Clear indication to teacher who takes what colour. It has a simple structure to fill in as they write across the face what they feel went well in meeting their target and in the to improve box they state what they need to work on to improve.

Resources. Print out the resource below onto red, orange and green paper.

Keep the cards on your desk for ease of use.

Keep the cards on your desk for ease of use.

Outcome. Students felt more confident in reflecting/assessing their own progress in lessons. It can be used when they come to revise as they start on the topic where they have an orange or red face. Students are also very honest as only I see it. It is also very clear in showing progress over time.

Example from a students exercise book.

Example from a students exercise book.

Another example from a students exercise book.

Another example from a students exercise book.

Post submitted by:

R Escourt

Science Teacher

#neverstoplearning