Archive for the 'Effective Methods' Category

Marking. What works?

teacher marking


Blooms Taxonomy Planning Tool


Try something different


Try one of the following in a class next week…..

10 silver arrows


Meta-cognition and self-regulation


What is it?

Meta-cognition (sometimes known as ‘learning to learn’) and self-regulation approaches aim to help learners think about their own learning more explicitly. This is usually by teaching pupils specific strategies to set goals, and monitor and evaluate their own academic development. Self-regulation means managing one’s own motivation towards learning. The intention is often to give pupils a repertoire of strategies to choose from during learning activities.

How effective is it?

Meta-cognition and self-regulation approaches have consistently high levels of impact, with pupils making an average of eight months’ additional progress. The evidence indicates that teaching these strategies can be particularly effective for low achieving and older pupils. These strategies are usually more effective when taught in collaborative groups so learners can support each other and make their thinking explicit through discussion. The potential impact of these approaches is very high, but can be difficult to achieve as they require pupils to take greater responsibility for their learning and develop their understanding of what is required to succeed. There is no simple strategy or trick for this. It is possible to support pupils’ work too much, so that they do not learn to monitor and manage their own learning but come to rely on the prompts and support from the teacher. “Scaffolding” provides a useful metaphor: a teacher would provide support (scaffolding) when first introducing a pupil to a concept, then remove the scaffolding to ensure that the pupil continues to manage their learning autonomously.

How secure is the evidence?

The evidence is moderately secure. The quality of evaluations has improved in recent years with more rigorous designs compared with earlier studies, which often relied on correlational designs. Impact estimates have been fairly consistent over the last decade. Studies come from a number of countries, including the UK. A recent EEF-funded study, Improving Writing Quality, used a structured programme of writing development based on a self-regulation strategy. The evaluation found gains, on average, of an additional 9 months’ progress, suggesting that the high average impact of self-regulation strategies can be achieved in English schools.

What are the costs?

Overall, costs are estimated as low. Many studies report the benefits of professional development or an inquiry approach for teachers, where they actively evaluate strategies as they learn to use them. A course of sustained professional development or collaborative professional inquiry is estimated at £2-3,000 per year (including some release from classroom teaching) or about £100 per pupil. The cost of the Improving Writing Quality project was estimated at £52 per pupil (very low).

What should I consider?

Teaching approaches which encourage learners to plan, monitor and evaluate their learning have very high potential, but require careful implementation. Have you taught pupils explicit strategies on how to plan, monitor and evaluate their learning? Have you given them opportunities to use them with support and then independently? Teaching how to plan: Have you asked pupils to identify the different ways that they could plan (general strategies) and then how best to approach a particular task (specific technique)? Teaching how to monitor: Have you asked pupils to consider where the task might go wrong? Have you asked the pupils to identify the key steps for keeping the task on track? Teaching how to evaluate: Have you asked pupils to consider how they would improve their approach to the task if they completed it again?

The Flipped Classroom




The Flipped Classroom Video

A video explaining the theory behind the flipped classroom.

If you have used the flipped classroom at all, let me know how you got on with it.


Pedagogy Postcard #2: Learning Objectives vs Tasks

Very often, in the busy flow of every day school life, although I have an overarching idea of the broad learning goals, I plan the individual lessons in terms of tasks.  I think about what my students will do.  For example, in an electricity topic, they might make some circuits with different components,  measure voltage and current readings, plot graphs, discuss their findings, answer some follow-up questions…. And so on.  Some students will get more done than others and that’s the crudest form of differentiation there is.  At the end of all of this activity, I’m working on the assumption that they will have learned various relevant aspects of the science topic in hand.

Although task planning is a common, practical way to think about your lessons for the week it’s just hit and hope…. It’s far from ideal. It can lead to a lot of dissipated energy, wasted time and unfocused learning. My experience is that my lessons are much better when thelearning objectives are very clear in my mind; when I’m really clear about the purpose of all the tasks and I’ve got a reasonably tight goal in my mind for that specific lesson.

So, the learning objective for the electricity example above might be:

for students to recognise:

  • that voltage and current vary in direct proportion for a fixed resistor
  • that the curve for a light bulb shows that its resistance changes as it heats up
  • that the resistance increases as shown by the gradient of the curve.

This sounds obvious enough but it makes quite a difference.  It makes you ask yourself ‘why are they doing what they are doing?’ which can then lead to a more efficient use of time, cutting out activities that don’t support the learning objectives directly; it helps sharpen your questions and provide more focused assessment feedback.

Alom Shaha makes this point really well in relation to science demonstrations and class practicals.

Nuffield Foundation: Practical Work for Learning

If you want students to develop practical skills, to become familiar with apparatus and gain an understanding of the complexities of measurement, then a hands-on experiment is an essential task for that objective.  But, if you want them to make a connection between an abstract idea and its manifestation in a real setting, then a teacher-led demo is likely to be far more effective.

The same applies in other subjects.  For example, in History GCSE, it’s  useful to make a distinction between a learning objective about the historical understanding the significance of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam…versus an objective to understand the assessment requirements of a 10 mark answer on a source paper.  These things may overlap in the source analysis task, but what is the main learning you are after?

In English, it makes a difference if you are focusing on knowing and understanding Falstaff’s character development in Act II in broad narrative terms rather than the more technical ideas about Shakespeare’s use of structure and language in the text. And each of these can be developed more sharply if your objective is clear during the task of ‘reading and analysing Act II’.  Of course these things interact and overlap, but students get a firmer grasp if the focus in any given lesson is precise.  The terms ‘narrative’, ‘structure’ and ‘language’ need to be learned clearly before students can use them.. obviously enough… but that requires some sharp sequencing of learning objectives.

In Maths, if you want students to know how to learn how to solve simultaneous equations by substitution, then it makes sense to show them how, give a few examples and get them to practise their own before checking how they’re getting on. A group task or long lecture wouldn’t be as effective.  The specific learning objective helps to identify the most efficient and effective strategy.

If you want students to practise their ability to use language spontaneously in French, a role play or group task is going to help deliver that learning objective because they need interaction in that form.

I’ve seen plenty of must/could/should Learning Objectives in classrooms that are really just a list of tasks. Is that helpful? It can be.. but it’s not the same thing at all.  The most important thing is that you, the teacher, know what the learning objectives are; getting that very clear in your mind.  You really don’t need the students to write them down slavishly. I don’t understand why schools make teachers do that.

Cornell Notes

This is something that was mentioned at the pedagogy lunchtime meeting. A method of note taking. Helen Mark kindly put me onto this video explaining the process.

Cornell Notes Video

Cornell Notes

John Hattie Effective Methods

John Hattie Effective Methods Video

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