Monday, 4 October 2021

Assessment for Learning - Jess Pather

“In the context of curriculum freedoms and increasing autonomy for schools, it would make no sense to prescribe any one model for assessment. Curriculum and assessment are inextricably linked. Schools should be free to develop an approach to assessment which aligns with their curriculum and works for their pupils and staff” 

Commission on Assessment Without Levels, 2015.

…so to, teachers ‘should be free to develop an approach to assessment which aligns with their curriculum and works for their pupils’. The expectation is that assessment for learning is continuous; there is no defined or instructed time-frame. Assessment should form a dialogue between teacher and pupil with the aim to improve pupils’ understanding, learning and raise achievement. Assessment should be motivating and meaningful for both teacher and learner - teachers will glean information about pupil performance and use this to inform planning and progression for individuals and groups, whilst pupils will have an acute awareness of what they need to do to improve but more importantly, how to improve and understand the importance of that progression.

Marking everything that moves does not gurantee progress - in fact it is detrimental. Honorous marking burns out teachers and takes away time from more impactful activities such as planning great lessons and delivering them with energy!

Marking and feedback are key components of effective assessment but the quantity of marking should not be confused with the quality. Both the regularity and purpose of marking and feedback should be communicated to pupils so that they have an informed expectation of assessment. To be effective, feedback through marking should be about challenging tasks or goals rather than easy ones. Give feedback about what has been done well and about what can be done better and ensure that pupils have time to make improvements and corrections to their work.

Focus on the 3Ms of marking: 

  • Meaningful 
  • Manageable 
  • Motivating

Meaningful marking will vary by age group, subject and what works best for the pupil and teacher in relation to learning and progress. Manageable means that marking is proportionate and considers the frequency and complexity of written feedback, as well as the cost and time effectiveness of marking in relation to the overall workload of teachers. Motivating marking should help to motivate pupils’ to progress. This does not mean always writing in-depth comments, sometimes, short, challenging comments or verbal feedback can be more effective.

If the teacher is doing more work than their pupils are, this can become a disincentive for pupils to accept challenges and take responsibility for improving their work.

Meaningful, manageable, motivating – make it matter.

Jess Pather

Follow Jess on twitter @JPather74

Further Reading

Tuesday, 7 September 2021

The Denbigh Teaching & Learning Philosophy - Ian Stonnell

What is the purpose of teaching? When you ask this question you often get a whole range of responses - "To improve the life chances of students"... "To give students a passion for my subject"... "To prepare students for the challenges of an ever changing world". These answers are all worthy and noble. However, they overcomplicate what the core purpose of teaching is - the purpose that ultimately will achieve those aims. The purpose of teaching is to transfer knowledge.

To know more and remember more
At Denbigh we want students to know more and remember more. The transfer of knowledge to our students and their ability to recall and apply this knowledge is at the heart of our every aim at school. It sounds simple - in principle it is - however in practice we know it is complex.

This focus on knowledge and recall makes memory an important concept for all teachers to grasp. At Denbigh, we use the multi-store model of memory as a starting point to explore the concept of memory and how it works. It may be familiar to you if you have ever studied psychology!
The multi-store model of memory. Read more about it here.
The multi-store model of memory states a few important things for teachers to consider:
  1. For knowledge to enter the short-term memory (working memory) students must pay attention to it - easier said than done.
  2. We must be careful not to overload too much new knowledge at once as this can cause an overload of the short-term memory. On average our short-term memory can take 5-9 items of new information and keep it there for around 20 seconds. Too much new information will cause knowledge to be displaced and forgotten... forever.
  3. For that knowledge to remain in the short-term memory it needs to be repeated and practised (maintenance rehearsal), hopefully some form of understanding may take place. If no maintenance rehearsal takes place, the knowledge will decay and be forgotten again... forever.
  4. Maintenance rehearsal on its own does not guarantee that knowledge will transfer to the long-term memory. For knowledge to process from the short-term memory to the long-term memory, it needs to be repeated over time and linked to other knowledge that already exists in the long-term memory (this relates to the schema theory of memory that we will encounter at our next PDD day).
  5. Even if we are successful in transferring knowledge to the long-term memory without retrieval practise, students can experience retrieval failure - the inability to recall. This is different to forgetting; however it is just as disasterous in an exam setting. Therefore students need to practise the skill of remembering - we call this retrieval practise.
Our new Teaching and Learning Model - PEPPA
Please believe me when I say that, when designing this model, I did not start out with PEPPA and then force a model into it. I assure you it was the opposite. The new model came into existence with the sole purpose of supporting our core aim - creating students who know more and remember more with a grounding in the multi-store model of memory. The mnuenomic PEPPA was a happy little accident, as Bob Ross would say, that fell out of this thinking. So what does PEPPA stand for?
A starting point for all teachers is the planning phase. At a macro level the important considerations are what knowledge we want to transfer and in what order we want to transfer it in (this is also known as the curriculum). At a micro level we are also talking about the planning of individual lessons - in what order do we sequence knowledge delivery, rehearsal and retrieval activities to maximise knowledge acquirement and recall.  

Now if we have the planning secure we need to move on to the delivery and the most important part of delivery is engaging the students. If they are not engaged, they will not pay attention and we have already lost as there will be nothing in their short-term working memory. How do we engage? Well there are considerations we make in planning - well laid out resources, clear sequencing, clear explanations, setting the right level of challenge. There are also simple human factors to consider; do we have positive relationships with our students? Do we know our students' names, understand their individual needs, include everyone, and smile at them? Together, it is these considerations that make lessons engaging (not necessarilly 'fun'). 

If the conditions are set through good planning and high engagement, it is now all about the knowledge transfer, practise and retrieval - this is live classroom pedagogy. This can vary from subject to subject and teacher to teacher; no lesson should look the same.  The list of pedagogical strategies to be used is endless, from: reading, teacher modelling and explanations, debates and discussions, quizzes, group work, essay writing and so on. The most important thing however, is their effectiveness in knowledge transfer, practise and retrieval. 

And the effectiveness can be measured through the progress students make - do they know it, do they remember it? As a class teacher, progress can be measured through assessment and feedback, formative and summative. Progress over time can also be seen by looking at books, Google classrooms and (the best way) by talking to students about their learning. 

Now achievement is the outcome. If we apply this model succesfully, our students will know more and remember more and this is what will help improve their life chances and prepare them for the challenges of an ever changing world or whatever other moral or social aim of teaching you would like to instill. 

The Big Picture
New models should never sit on their own and look pretty. They must have a purpose. This model has a clear purpose in drawing teachers' focus to helping our students to know more and remember more by considering how memory works and focussing our thinking on sound evidence informed pedagogy. In addition, this model is integral to the wider teaching and learning ecosystem informing our approach to learning, quality assurance, appraisal and continuing professional development.
An example of a way this will be happening at Denbigh is through our instructional coaching programme. Using aspects of the Teaching Walkthrus handbook, teachers are able to access guides to refresh and reinvigorate their pedagogical practices as well as work with coaches over a sustained period of time to implement new strategies to drive improvement according to our new model.

I hope you all have a great start to the new term. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions and rememebr to follow this blog or my twitter for updates of further teaching and learning news at Denbigh. 

Ian Stonnell @DenbighCPD

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Thoughts on our return to school - Ian Stonnell

Out of the ashes the phoenix rises.
On Monday we meet our students in the classroom for the first time since December. That's quite a long time ago. Now, it will be easy for us to focus on the negatives when they return. We could conduct an audit of who completed their remote learning and who did not, we could give daunting lectures about the lost learning that has taken place and how we need to catch up as quickly as possible. We could dwell on the doom and gloom and have a wonderfully gloomy time doing it. 

This is not what we should do. 

Instead, we need to resist this understandable desire and remember that the times we are living through are extraordinary. No one can be blamed for the disruption that has taken place, particularly the students, and although some of them may have been lazy, the fact that they were given the opporuntiy to be so, by a global pandemic, is not really their fault - just think how you would have responded to a lockdown when you were thirteen! I know I would have struggled, and that would have been in a world with only 5 TV channels and dial up internet. We also cannot discount the reality that many of our students have had a terrible time during this lockdown and have genuine reasons for struggling to engage.

We must show understanding and forgiveness. 

On March 8th we are starting anew together, what has happened has happened and although it has been tough, we will recover and like a phoenix from the ashes, we will come back stronger.
Use the right language

To start anew we have we have to use the right language. At the moment there is a lot of concerning phrases being bandied about by politicians and 'tsars' with regards to education and, as was so neatly summed up by our inspirational headteacher Donna Neely-Hayes, a lot of this waffle needs to be ignored and filtered out - “our students are not damaged”

Instead we should see that our students have been through an experience that will define their childhood and scorch an indelible mark on their identity, where they can rightly be proud of their resilience, discipline and independence. I would argue that these students are not damaged, they have been tempered and made stronger whether they realise this yet or not. Let's reinforce that message by making sure we use the right language on their return and not perpetuate a story of loss that can only serve to damage their well-being, rather lets tell a story of growth.

Below is a table of some of the not so useful language that has been floating around with an equivalent positive language replacement which you can use in your classrooms, note how it encourages growth - credit to @MrAWGordon
Move forward with great teaching

Finally some thoughts on teaching, this is a teaching and learning blog after all. My key message - let's not panic, we have done this before. When we returned in September after the first lockdown, we managed just fine. In fact I seem to remember all of us getting so much better at using technology for learning - it was inspirational. I also know that each department has already spent a lot of time planning for the return particularly with a focus on the curriculum, so we are ready. 

However, as a guide, for those first few lessons on our return the following basics can be adhered to:
  1. Retreive: Start of with a stimulus of what may have been covered over lockdown then assess with some low stakes retrieval and questioing to identify gaps in knowledge on small, key parts of the curriculum.
  2. Re-teach: Once gaps are identified, using direct instruction re-teach topics with an emphasis on the gaps - providing models and scaffolding where necessary.
Regardless of this, for now you should have faith in your ability to be what you already are - amazing teachers. No doubt in the near future we will be doing lots more to improve and get even better at supporting our students, that's just what we do. However, that is for the future, on Monday let's just get back to it.

Ian Stonnell @DenbighCPD

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Blended Learning - 3 Smart ways to use Google Rubrics - Ian Stonnell

A few months ago I wrote a post about the rubric function in Google Assignments and how you can create them. If you are still unfamiliar with what a rubric is you can read that post (and watch the some exemplar videos) here

I am pleased to say that since that post was published staff at Denbigh have gone on to create many rubrics to help assess the progress of students and give feedback. These rubrics have had the added benefit of reducing workload in the marking process. 

In this blog we will look at three effective ways that rubrics have been used across the school. If you have any other unique ways you are using rubrics please get in touch to let me know.

1) The rubric that 'soft marks'
I'll be honest, this is essentially the 'tick and flick' equivalent of marking on Google Classroom (yet slightly better as I'll explain).  At it's heart it is a simple rubric that does the equivalent of RAGing a piece of work and has been applied by many departments. Take a look at this example below that assesses 'quality of work' it is so generic it could be applied to almost any subject.

Click the image to see a Google Sheet of this rubric (CLT staff only)
The advantage of a this rubric is that it is quick to set up and generates simple numeric data that is automatically stored in the markbook for every online lesson or homework task that a student completes. The rubric also helps teachers roughly assess, or 'soft mark', work that may not necessarily have a numeric value or be a key point of assessment that requires detailed marking. This type of marking also gives teachers a general understanding of student engagement and attitudes and can keep students motivated and on their toes. The disadvantage is that the feedback this rubric generates to students is not overly helpful in supporting progress, it just lets them know how happy you are with their work.
On a side note here is a great blog in defence of 'tick and flick' by David Didau.
2) The rubric that mimics assessment criteria
These rubrics are far more complex as they attempt to reflect the assessment or marking criteria of a particular exam question or a set of KPIs for a particular subject. They may also only apply to a specific task/exam question in a subject area. Take a look at this example from English which provides a rubric for their 24 mark question in the GCSE language paper - it looks like a lot of work went into it!

Click the image to see a Google Sheet of this rubric (CLT staff only)
However, despite the initial effort that is required to create a rubric like this the reward is great. First of all, the time it takes to mark an essay is reduced to a few clicks which automatically generates a score. Secondly, the rubric creates a highly valid bank of data that smartly identifies weaknesses which can in turn help formulate valid targets for a student and also help inform future teaching. The only drawback to this kind of rubric is the danger that a student may not be able to access the language of complex mark scheme or exam criteria if the rubric reflects it too closely. As such when they receive a mark and look at a rubric it may be difficult for students to decipher what it means and therefore not benefit from it. This highlights the importance of either thinking about the language we use when we create this kind of rubric or spending lesson time to help students understand the that criteria - something that is not always necessary or useful.

3) The rubric that provides scaffolding and develops metacognition
The weakness of the previous rubric leads on to this final rubric possibility; a rubric that is designed to scaffold a task and develop metacognition. With this kind of rubric there may be a complete abandonment of any complex and convoluted language related to exam criteria and in its place a pupil friendly instructional language which guides students to succeed in a task process or skill. 

In History and RE they have been developing rubrics just like this to help students answer longer essay questions and, rather than using the examination marking criteria, they have produced instructional rubrics that provide the scaffolds for different stages of the writing process. Take this example below where the rubric follows a paragraph by paragraph approach detailing what is expected from each stage which ultimately build towards a more complete answer.

Click the image to see a Google Sheet of this rubric (CLT staff only)
The advantage of this rubric is that it helps students develop metacognition skills for a specific task (the process of writing this essay becomes ingrained the more they engage with the rubric) and although it may not neatly match up with an examination marking criteria, by students following the process they will develop consistency and competency in the task to the point that the rubric will barely be needed - as will happen in an exam. Of course personalized feedback can still be created to support progress further (as with any rubric) however, in this example it is the rubric that will underpin the skill.

A well thought out rubric can support progress and build confidence.
I hope you have found this blog useful. If you want further support developing rubrics please have a discussion with your team leader or let me know and I'll be happy to help. Thanks to all the teachers who have contributed to this blog and keep up the great work! 

Ian Stonnell @DenbighCPD

Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Remote Learning - How to encourage peer interaction in Google Classroom - Ian Stonnell

At Denbigh we do not do 'live' lessons in the way they are portrayed in the media. Rather we take a synchronous approach were we post resources on Google Classroom, including pre-records, set tasks and then watch the work come in to give feedback on. During this time we are available to answer questions submitted via email or through the Classroom comments section. This approach has the advantage of allowing students to get the work done at their own pace and even go asynchronous if needed.

However, the issue with this approach can be the lack of peer interaction. This is quite a concern as the EEF found that during remote learning periods, peer interactions helped to improve motivation and led to better outcomes. This probably makes a lot of sense after all for many subjects peer interaction, though debate and discussion, is often the lifeblood of a lesson that characterizes deep learning and understanding. 

The loss of peer interaction is inherently de-motivating and can limit pupil progress.

The question is how can we bring back some of this peer interaction into our current model of remote learning? In this blog we will look at a few ways that teachers have been attempting to do this using Google Classroom. If you have any other ideas please get in touch and let me know! 

1. Using the 'Announcement' feature to encourage discussion in History
In this example Sana Tariq encouraged peer interaction by using an announcement to pose an open question assessing prior knowledge about the Crusades. Students responded rapidly through the lesson hour. During this time Sana responded to comments, checked misconceptions, issued praise and asked further developmental questions which encouraged students to conduct their own research on the topic. 

In total 41 comments were made and students certainly got a good feel for other students being present in the classroom working toward the same learning goals.

2. Using the 'Question' feature to encourage debate in RE
When setting assignments Google Classroom offers a 'question' feature. It is a wonderful way to encourage general discussion and debate in an online setting.

An example of how to set up a debate question on Google Classroom.

When you set a question it creates what is essentially a message board, where students can answer the question and also reply to other student's answers. It also places the teacher as a moderator who can equally engage with discussion, adding comments, responding to comment and adding further questions and so on, as well as have the ability to delete comments and mute students if needed (this feature is available throughout the Google Classroom - just click on the 3 dots next to any comment). 

Last week the whole RE department used this approach in a year 7 debate about the nature of evil and suffering. This generated some passionate arguments and top quality work, largely due to the genuine peer interaction that was offered. 

3. Sharing documents to enable peer marking in English 
Finally, in English they have been using peer marking as a way of encouraging student interaction. Using the sharing settings on any document, a student can give access rights to one of their peers allowing them to make comments and suggestions which can be reviewed by the class teacher.

An example of peer marking in year 11 English.

Considering the benefits of encouraging peer interaction I hope you give one of these strategies a go. You could possibly do it as a review activity for the learning students have engaged in so far, I know that's what I am going to. 

Thanks to all the teachers who have contributed to this week's blog! 

Ian Stonnell @DenbighCPD

Thursday, 28 January 2021

Remote Learning - 6 Practices that make it succeed at Denbigh - Ian Stonnell

At Denbigh there are some amazing remote learning practices; Loom videos, Mote feedback, Rubrics in assignments and more. But each of these in isolation does not guarantee that our remote learning is delivering the best results. In this blog post we will look at 6 practices that are common in some of the best remote learning at Denbigh. I am sure it will help you recognise your own good habits and also enable you to reflect on how you can further develop your practice. 

1 - The quantity of learning is achievable
Too often one of the barriers to learning is knowledge overload. In a remote learning episode we have to be clear and specific on what we expect our students to learn by the end of it. This also has to be achievable and pose the right level of challenge. Great practice would be to include a small number of key takeaways in our pre-records and keep our videos relatively short especially if what they are learning is new. In last weeks blog the example from Tom Davies demonstrates this well.
Look! Here is a relevant visual metaphor.
2 - The curriculum pace is kept slow
Many of us may be concerned about not covering the content in our curriculums or specifications, because of this we may feel the need to move through the curriculum as quickly as we would do when students are in the classroom. This could be a recipe for disaster. We have probably all noticed that student engagement is not at 100% and that many students are finding it more difficult to learn at home independently. As such, we need to give students more time to consolidate knowledge through regular review and rehearsal. We should build this into our remote learning curriculum. Furthermore, by slowing down the pace, students will feel less overwhelmed, feel secure in the knowledge they are acquiring and ultimately be more confident. Going slow also has the added bonus of giving students who have found it difficult to engage the chance and time to catch up. 
"Slow and steady wins the race" said the tortoise to the hare.
Obviously, slowing down the pace of a curriculum is a topic for discussion in subject areas. You could consider how year groups may need to be treated differently. For example a year 9 group starting a GCSE may benefit from going slow now, building a secure knowledge base, and then speeding up later when they come back into school. After all there is no point rushing through a curriculum now (during a lockdown) then in year 11 finding you have to teach it all again because they have forgotten it. In KS3 some subjects may even consider reducing the content in their curriculums to ensure what they do learn - they learn well.

For example Maishah Khan has reduced her Year 9 Psychology curriculum considerably to only teach one key theory this term (only four pages of the GCSE textbook). The first three weeks of term students have engaged in small chunks of new knowledge where understanding was assessed using quizzes and short questions. Then, in the upcoming three weeks students are due to consolidate this knowledge into revision resources, exam style questions and a mini-assessment that finally culminates into an evaluation of the theory.

An overview of the remote learning curriculum in Year 9 Psychology.
3 - Only tasks that effectively support and check learning are set
Many of the tasks that we set in the classroom do not translate effectively to the remote learning digital environment. Let's consider a word search or crossword activity. In the classroom it's a reasonable little starter that can settle students and get them to retrieve some keywords with some good questioning. However, set as a remote learning task it can be a nightmare... lots of emails and comments "how do you fill in the word search? How can I highlight the words? I can't do the word search sir! Help!" All of a sudden you may have a large number of students stuck on a task that at the end of the day is pretty meaningless when it comes to assessing the learning. The task can actually become a barrier to learning.
Do this word search digitally and hand it in to me. Then tell me what you learnt.
We cannot recreate remote lessons as a facsimile of how we delivered them in the classroom, it does not work. The best remote learning ruthlessly cuts tasks that will create barriers to student learning and only sets tasks which will support learning and enable it to be assessed efficiently.  

4 - Tasks are modelled effectively
Sometimes the tasks we want students to complete are complex and necessary. If this is the case, we must model them. If a student cannot understand the process of a task, they will not engage and they will feel demotivated. How can you avoid this in a remote learning context? Model tasks to students explicitly through video tutorials - and it MUST be in videos. Students respond far better to practical demonstrations of tasks rather than written instructions (NEWSFLASH - they often don't even read them!). We know that when we are in the classroom live modelling is one of the most effective methods that a teacher employs to support students to engage in a task; we can't just replace this with written instruction and expect the same results. 

In MFL the team have been superb in sharing a video for every lesson explaining how to complete tasks along with written instructions. You can also look at this example from Eric Adjei's Year 11 History where he models an essay question in his own unique style that is the only task for completion that lesson.

5 - Regular feedback is given
Doing work and getting no feedback is almost the same as doing no work at all. A lack of feedback and acknowledgement of the work completed is intrinsically de-motivating. As teachers, we need to avoid this by offering feedback as soon as we possibly can. This need not be onerous. With self-marking quizzes, rubrics and now the amazing mote, we have several time-saving ways to give feedback. The video below is an example of how you can use google forms to provide automatic feedback that has been developed in RE. You can also check this post here about the use of rubrics.

Whole class feedback is also a great time saving way to keep students motivated. Take a look at this example from Taslima Hannan in English where she gives some group feedback on a poetry task her year 8's have completed.

6 - The human touch is not lost
The saddest part of the remote learning experience is that the relationship between teacher and students can often be lost. In this lockdown the formulaic, almost robotic like routine of plan lesson, post lesson, mark work and repeat, has removed the humanity from being a teacher. The jokes, the smiles, the equally enjoyable nagging and telling offs, the motivational speeches... all the things that make teaching and learning a fulfilling human experience have disappeared! 

Well there are ways to keep the human touch going. Why not send a motivational video of yourself to your classes? Do some positive name dropping and bigging up (the students that aren't mentioned might get the hint). Have a watch of my little pep talk to my year 11s this week and see what you think.

We need to remember that these are extraordinary times and that for many of us it is a difficult time too. We need to show understanding and encouragement. 


Thanks to all the teachers who have contributed to this week's blog. There will be more examples of good practice coming next week. Leave a comment if you have found this useful or interesting - it'll make my day! 😊

Ian Stonnell @DenbighCPD

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Remote Learning in Practice - Tom Davies - Production Studies

In this week's blog take a look at this superb pre-recorded video lesson from Tom Davies in year 8  production studies. Once you've had a watch have a read of some of the key takeaways and considerations and see if you agree. 

Thanks to Tom for being a top level legend for sharing! 💪

Key Takeaways:

  • In this example there are clear expectations of the desired learning outcomes including the process of how the students can meet them.
  • Students are encouraged to review previous learning before engaging in new learning.
  • Task modelling - the task is clearly modelled and scaffolded giving students the best chance of completing the final task well. 
  • The use of 'PAUSE, REPEAT, REVISE' - what a great practice that we could all add to our pre-recorded lessons!

Feel free to copy and paste this image into your pre-recorded lessons.

Further considerations for all based upon this example:
  • Avoid overload - particularly the setting of extraneous tasks. The requirement for note taking in this example is an extraneous task as it does not add to the learning, it just adds a process. The only task that really matters is the final worksheet where valid assessment can take place - as such, in this remote learning environment it may be better to remove the note taking element. We should all consider what tasks we may be asking students to complete that are actually not really contributing to learning and consider removing them. 
  • Streamline the quantity of new knowledge delivered. In this example both celebrity endorsements and shocking images are discussed. It may be wise to consider focusing only on one area to avoid overload and maximise the chances of longer term memory and recall.

Ian Stonnell @DenbighCPD

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Effective Remote Learning - Ian Stonnell

Remote learning is the new norm. For staff at Denbigh and across the country, classrooms have gone online. The challenge is now how we can engage, enthuse and support all students to continue learning despite this virus' best efforts to disrupt us. We have to believe that this is possible.  

The challenge of delivering effective remote learning
Often teachers may feel that with remote learning we have to think about teaching and learning differently. Well that is not the case, the process of learning works in exactly the same way online as it does in the classroom - students need to have some form of instruction (linked to prior learning); create some evidence of learning; and then receive some feedback - this cycle is as effective online as it is in the classroom. However, we have to acknowledge that students are in a new learning environment - their homes - which can create significant barriers to their engagement. 

High impact teaching is the same inside the classroom as it is online. Credit @ImpactWales

Avoid overload, engage through feedback and monitor engagement
To overcome these barriers one of the first considerations is to make sure that the work we set is achievable by avoiding overloading students with either too much new learning or too many tasks. If there is sure way to discourage students, it is to swamp them, which will lead to cognitive overload and ultimately very little learning. To do this, we as teachers and subject leaders need to consider how we can break down our curriculums into smaller bitesize chunks of key learning and provide resources that students can review and repeat in good time. In addition to considering what work we set, we also need to consider our expectations on completion - students' lives at home are varied and unknown to teachers, this means when setting deadlines we have to have a degree of flexibility in our expectations. There is nothing worse than an email inbox full of demands for incomplete work to make anyone feel stressed overwhelmed.

Another consideration is feedback. A key reason why students disengage is because they may feel that their own teachers are not engaging with them in their learning. A regular dialogue needs to exist. This could be as simple as ensuring work is acknowledged and marked where relevant, and that a teacher is also available to support. Regular feedback makes doing the work worth it and will encourage students to engage further.

Finally we need to monitor engagement. At Denbigh we are introducing a whole school approach involving the taking of online registers as well as individual subject teachers monitoring engagement using a centralized system. This in turn can support a coordinated approach to promoting engagement by identifying disengaged students and supporting them to get into the learning routines they need to be successful. 

Some furthers considerations here come from the Education Development Trust via @ImpactWales

What should a typical remote learning experience look like?
At Denbigh students can typically expect the following:

  1. Teacher instruction: A pre-recorded video summarising the desired learning outcome followed by the delivery of content. This could include other resources such as a GCSEPod or web based reading etc. (5-20 minutes)
  2. A task to elicit evidence of learning: This could be a Google assignment or quiz, or another online activity set through an approved VLE. During this time the teacher is 'live' on the Google Classroom to respond to questions. (10-30 minutes)
  3. Feedback. Students should have work acknowledged and marked accordingly. Feedback can be given individually or as a class. At Denbigh we are also able to give verbal feedback through Google Classroom using mote
To demonstrate this further have a look at my example of remote learning from year 9 Psychology where hopefully you may see some of these principles in action.

Although subjects may approach remote learning differently and not all remote learning will look exactly like this, we should all stick to the basic principles of teaching and learning. We must also see this current situation as a great opportunity as, if we get this right, when our students return they will be self sufficient, resilient, independent learners, who will prosper in the classroom. Let's get it right.

Ian Stonnell @DenbighCPD

Further Reading:

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

Teaching Walkthrus - Continuing professional development at Denbigh - Ian Stonnell

Finally the end of this term is in sight and the holidays are but a few days away! After a challenging yet successful term, a well deserved two weeks to rest and recuperate are upon us! Hooray!!!

As a thank you for your hard work, all teaching and learning staff at Denbigh will be receiving a copy of Tom Sherrington's and Oliver Caviglioli's 'Teaching Walkthrus'. This book provides 50 evidence informed strategies that have been shown to support the improvement of teaching an learning.

With everyone owning a copy, this book will provide a cornerstone for all staff to discuss new ways in which we can develop our teaching practice. At the year first TLRD meeting discussion of this book will be at the top of the agenda!

Hope you enjoy! 

Have a great holiday and a happy new year!

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Live Lessons - What are they and how do I run one at Denbigh? - Ian Stonnell

At any point in these winter months we may be told to self-isolate. A positive test in our household, a notification from the NHS Covid-19 app or a call from test and trace could result in the instruction to self-isolate. If this happens to us, and we are otherwise healthy, the expectation for teachers is to continue to work from home and also deliver live lessons.

What is a live lesson?
A live lesson is delivered online by a teacher who is self-isolating to students who are in school. For a lesson period the teacher should be available to deliver parts of the lesson through Google Meet or a pre-recorded video and be available to communicate with a cover supervisor and students through Google Classroom. 

Setting up a live lesson
The day before you teach a live lesson you should be informed by the cover supervisors who will be taking your lesson (if this does not happen you should set cover as normal - see FAQ). Once you know who is going to cover your lesson it is your responsibility to invite them to a Google Meet. 

To do this you need to create a calendar event. Go to your Google Calendar, click create, then set the time and date of the meeting, invite the relevant cover supervisor and then make sure you click 'Add Google Meet video conferencing'. Save this and then you meeting is arranged.

You should also ensure that you invite the cover supervisor into the relevant Google Classroom were you can set the instructions for cover as well as any work that you want your class to complete. Please note you should still send in a cover lesson template to provide a back up.

What should a live lesson look like?
A live lesson does not require the self-isolating teacher to be visible for the entire lesson. Below is a simple infographic on what a good live lesson can look like:

The first part of the lesson does require the self-isolating teacher to be visible. At this point the lesson objectives should be shared and direct instruction can take place. This could be reviewing previous learning followed by delivering new knowledge or modelling a skill. Please note that this can be done live or through a pre-recorded video. 

Once direct instruction has taken place students can then engage in an activity. Ideally this would be set up as an assignment in Google Classroom, however it could be a task set that students can complete in exercise books or using another online resource. During the activity the cover supervisor will monitor the behavior for learning and the self-isolating teacher need not be visible.

If the task has been set on Google Classroom, the teacher can monitor the activity and if desired can provide live feedback and respond to student questions or enquiries from the cover supervisor.

Once the task is completed the teacher can then provide feedback. This feedback could be based on work completed in the Google Classroom or through a pre-prepared exemplar. Either way, the feedback should summarize the desired learning outcome.

Depending on the length of the task set you may want to set up a follow up activity following a similar method.

Evidently there will be a great deal of variation between live lessons delivered in different subject areas, the key thing is to make it simple and achievable for both you as a teacher, the cover supervisor and the students. Following this guidance will help you deliver a successful live lesson if ever you are required to self-isolate. Below are some FAQs that may also support in your delivery of live lessons. If there are further questions please do not hesitate to email me. 

Why do I need to be seen in a live lesson? Can't I just set an Oak academy lesson? 
Evidence suggest that students engage with their class teacher far more effectively than with people they are unfamiliar with. A live lesson with you at the helm will support students make progress and as such would be the ideal way to deliver lessons whilst self-isolating.

Can I speak to students?
No. When you deliver a live lesson you will not be able to see or hear students. Behavior for learning will be in the hands of the cover supervisor. You can communicate with students through the Google Classroom and also instruct the cover supervisor to ask questions on your behalf through e-mail or the Google Classroom.

What if I have childcare issues whilst self isolating which prevent me from delivering a live session?
If you are unable to deliver a session live you can pre-record any direct instruction in advance using software such as Screencastify or Loom and share this with the cover supervisor. You should still be contactable by the cover supervisor through Google Classroom or e-mail.

What if I become ill when I am self-isolating?
If you become ill whilst self-isolating you should inform cover of your illness and set cover as normal. You are not expected to deliver a live lesson. 

What if I am self-isolating but have not been informed by cover who is covering my lesson?
This may happen for a variety of reasons that are beyond the control of the cover supervisor. In this case set cover as normal. As an ideal you can still share recordings of direct instruction and set and monitor work through Google Classroom. You should still be available during that lesson hour in case any communication comes your way from a cover supervisor. 

What about Chromebooks?
Ideally you would want to use Google Classroom to deliver a live lesson - In year 8, 9, 10 and soon to be 7, the majority of students have chromebooks. If you require additional chromebooks they should be booked in the normal way and the cover supervisor should be informed of this when you submit a cover template. In year 11 where students may not have chromebooks the work you set through the Google Classroom may have to reflect that limitation. 

Ian Stonnell @DenbighCPD

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

VLOG#3 - Using Rubrics to improve marking and feedback - Ian Stonnell

Let's be honest, marking has always been a drag for teachers. Going through books, deciphering the handwriting, giving meaningful comments... it could all take an age. The impact of this incredible effort has also always been a debatable one. I know, from personal experience as an RE teacher, that once I've completed a piece of marking the impact it has on many students is negligible, especially considering the amount of time between them doing the work and then me getting it back to them.

Is there a better way? 

Well yes. Marking using Google Classroom.

In GCSE RE we have put a great deal of effort into the use of  assignments on Google Classroom - we have used them both in the classroom and remotely. Now, with the introduction of the rubric tool, a revolution is taking place. It is now possible to mark work and give feedback so quickly and efficiently that our marking has becoming a powerful tool with meaningful impact. Have a watch of this video to see how we have designed and used a rubric to improve our marking and feedback.

What do you think of that? Is it something that could work in your context? Consider that using this system means marking can be done anywhere, anytime without the need to go near (or carry) a pile of exercise books, and that the feedback is quick, legible and easy to act upon. There's got to be a way you can use it!

Below is another video with a brief guide on how to make a rubric.

Obviously traditional marking will have it's place (for now). We still want students to complete written work and we will still need to mark this work - and in some subjects requirements are different. Nevertheless, the direction of travel, particularly in light of Covid-19, is that digital learning is the future, and that includes digital examinations. Get ahead of the game and start to experiment with rubrics.

Ian Stonnell @DenbighCPD

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Blended Learning: How to get the most out of technology for learning at Denbigh - Ian Stonnell

With the likelihood that further Covid-19 restrictions will return in the autumn and winter months the probability that we will have to resort to some form of distance learning is also high (as I write already three year groups have been sent home to isolate). As such we should be keenly aware of developing our ability to provide the best quality teaching and learning for our students through distance learning. We can start this by developing our current technology for learning practices so that, when distant learning happens we will be ready for a seamless transition. 

In this blog we will look at a few basic strategies that, if we develop and make them a part of our culture of practice in now, we can make the change to distance learning seemless for our students - it is a blended learning approach

If you wish to see these techniques demonstrated and ask further questions DEnbigh staff can sign up for the additional CPD session on Wednesday 30th September, led by myself and Emma Darcy; sign up here.

1. Using Google Classroom to share.

One of the simplest things to do with your lesson resources is to share them. Upload your lesson presentations, worksheets, video links and more just with a few clicks. By sharing resources we make sure that all students have access to them whether they are in school or out. You can also provide detailed instructions for what you want students to do with the resources when they are shared. 

2. Google Classroom to assess - Summative and Formative

Assessment is now so easy using google classroom. For formal assessments and exam questions it is possible to set assignments which students can complete in school using Chromebooks or at home. Marking these assessments is easy - you can edit students' work to add literacy suggestions automatically, you can create comment banks to give students specific feedback, and for exam questions you can even create generic rubrics that can act as assessment criteria (which you can mark along to). This is time saving and can be done at a great distance or even in the classroom for live marking. If you want to assess speaking you can also have student upload recordings of themselves that you can give feedback too.

AFL can also be built into live lessons using google forms. You can easily set a google form that can contain short, low-stakes, multiple choice knowledge questions that can be marked automatically and give you instant feedback that can be shared with the class. This can also be done remotely.

It is important to note that in both of these examples Google Classroom will automatically create a mark sheet for you that can track student progress. In the context of distance learning this is useful information that can assess how much a student is engaging with work and also how well they are doing -providing evidence for you if you need to call home for concerns or praise!

3. Using Chromebooks for literacy.

Sharing resources is easy. Why not share reading resources? In a live lesson students reading along to an extract that a teacher is reading in front of them is a powerful way to improve the vocabulary of students. Engaging in reading, with a Chromebook at their fingertips, also provides them with the means to build their understanding using online dictionaries or further signposted resources that can illustrate the concepts they are reading about. 

In distance learning scenarios you can still share reading as an activity. Then provide them with a google form quiz to assess understanding (multiple choices questions are good here) and then a longer written assignment that assesses comprehension and other desired skills.

4. Using Chromebooks to open the world.

Why not send students on an trip during distance learning? You can! Here is a 360 degree tour of the Holy Sites of Jerusalem and another visit to North Pole. Just two among hundreds available!

The internet is a gateway to the world. So long as we provide them direction, students can see the world in a way that builds their knowledge in your subject. Using resources such as Google Expeditions and Google Poly we can open the world up to our students. For the latest list of expeditions available on Google Expeditions have a look here. I need not remind you that YouTube also has a wealth of educational videos and guided tours of world sites that are also worth a search - here is a 360 degree tour of St Paul's Cathedral in London that could be used in history and RE.

5. Using Screencastify to explain and model.

Screencastify is a recording tool which is an extension added to google chrome. The free version (which we have at Denbigh) enables you to record 5 minute videos of your computer screen (such as presentation slides) with you talking over. My covid video was produced using screencastify and, after a few practice runs, I found it an easy to use. 

The impact that screencastify can have for distance learning is powerful. 

During lockdown, students reported that one of the biggest things they missed was teachers explaining concepts to them. Reading from presentations can be effective, but that guided pieces of teacher narrative can make the difference. Using screencastify we can record short and concise explanations of the more difficult concepts we deliver in our subjects. We can also model how to tackle exam questions or problems using meta-cognitive speech - a proven way to support student progress that is hard to replicate using the written word.

Ian Stonnell @DenbighCPD

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Applying cognitive load theory to Computer Science - Simon James

The focus for my research is around Cognitive Load Theory and how using Chromebooks and Google Applications can promote longer term memory and recall by considering the cognitive load on learners. 

Literature Review - Cognitive Load Theory
Cognitive Load Theory is based upon an understanding of how information is held in working memory and then processed into the long term memory. There are three types known as intrinsic load, which concerns the difficulty of the task; extraneous load, which is unnecessary thinking required by students, and germane load, which is load required by the teaching task to support the learning.

Why Bar-Model Works #2: Reducing Cognitive Load – Reading for Learning

Research into cognitive load suggests a number of different strategies particularly with the use of teacher presentations. Tharby (2019) suggests that “labels are integrated into diagrams and ensure that information is presented in close physical proximity to related information”. He further mentions the importance of “images to support complex and conceptual idea”, which can help reduce germane load. Tharby (2019) explores a range of different strategies to support effective classroom pedagogy:
  • Ensure that labels are integrated into diagrams and ensure that the information is presented in close physical proximity to related information.
  • Avoid reading out text that is already on the slide
  • Remove distractions or superfluous images
  • Use images to support complex and conceptual ideas
  • If you intend to explain an image, it is best not to include written text at the same time.
  • Never expect students to read something from the board while you are talking
  • Reveal processes stage by stage on the same slide.

Diagrams — OliCav
Oliver Caviglioli is a leading figure in applying cognitive load theory to diagrams and presentations (a link to a webinar is included below).

In our Computer Science department we have identified that students struggle with the cognitive load placed upon them due to the quantity of new knowledge that they need to process to be successful at the new GCSE specification. This load often causes students to become stressed, demotivated or both. A solution to this that will form part of my practitioner study is to introduce some of the knowledge required in the GCSE specification at an earlier level to help scaffold the knowledge, reducing load at a later stage. In lessons we should also be able to apply some of the techniques advised by Andy Tharby to support learning. Finally through the use of Chromebooks and the G-suite of educational tools such as Google Classroom we should be able to further reduce the cognitive load on students by building knowledge through routine low stakes assessment and supporting homework tasks.

I aim to use my year 8 computer science class (82/Cs) they are a group of mostly high achieving pupils who have already had a number of difficult topics at GCSE computer science introduced in a way which reduces unnecessary difficulties and promotes long-term knowledge retention. Their long-term memory will be tested at regular intervals to check if cognitive load strategies help with completing these tasks.

The intervention will involve using pre-prepared examples, with models, flowcharts and other relevant images to support text (following the guidance of Andy Tharby). There will also be permanent access to task instructions and success criteria available on Google Classroom for the pupils to access. The resources will cover a whole half-term of learning which will deliver new content pupils haven’t been exposed to before on algorithms. The learning will also be supported by Google Form assessments that will be completed using Chromebooks.

Using the Cognitive Load and technology strategies suggested I am hoping to see an improvement in knowledge retention as the reduced cognitive load will ensure greater transfer of knowledge into the long term memory. This will be measured through the end of year exams and compared to other groups in year 8 who are not receiving the intervention.

The topic for the term was ‘algorithms’ so I wanted to focus on reducing the intrinsic load of the knowledge, by including useful labels and diagrams to support the learning. This strategy along with using the formatting of bold and underline to help reinforce key pieces of information with pupils. After modelling the knowledge the students would complete a range of interactive tasks including defining, creating and reading a variety of flowcharts applying the knowledge learnt from my explanations.

After completing these activities, I explained to the pupils that their homework and classwork would be focussed around specific knowledge and skills this based upon the lesson content (rather than completing a project log for homework where they reflect on their learning journey). I explained that we would be focussing on exploring algorithms in great depth and how we would use Google Forms for assessment with the aim of promoting mastery. 

The pupils managed to show good improvement from the initial control group, which showed that they managed to grasp difficult topics which typically are taught in Year 9. They made strong progress during the 6 week half-term. They were taught an introduction to computational thinking; exploring the 4 main techniques of computational thinking (as seen above). The presentation and use of supporting images pictured above helped articulate each of the key words and then the exploration activities the pupils undertook in the worksheet allowed them to explore and build a strong cognitive understanding of the topic. Other groups learning about algorithms in the same term struggled possibly due to less attention on key subject terminology and more focus on practical task based tasked which overloaded them cognitively. 

The pupils typically are asked to complete a project log each week for homework, and after completing a questionnaire the results showed that 84% said they enjoyed completing the Google Forms assessments on their chromebooks and 63% said it helped them to remember the learning which happened in the lesson. In the following term I interviewed a small group of pupils to ask if they enjoyed the topic and the way the knowledge was presented this term. One pupil said “learning the algorithm theory then applying it to flowgorithm was great”. One pupil stated that “I now understand how processes work by using flowcharts”. I had a few suggestions and one pupil stated that “too much information in the first lesson - I couldn’t remember some of the points”. So I need to restructure the learning in this lesson to ensure that it isn’t overwhelming and presented appropriately.

Further research
It’s important to consider the ability of the learners in the control group and considering they are a high ability group the same strategies may not work with lower ability pupils. There are very few research articles around effective cognitive load strategies using technology so it’s always important to consider how technology is helping learning and avoid distraction from learning as much as possible.

The strategies used with this control group could be used as a wider study with other year groups assessing their understanding of algorithms and with older year groups checking understanding of that topic. How information is presented is essential and whilst textbooks are largely no longer used in education it’s important that pupils see the bigger picture of all concepts learnt in computer science for long-term memory retention.

  • Focus on key knowledge when introducing new learning, and don’t overcomplicate. The information shouldn’t be overwhelming and the use of images and diagrams will help to structure the information in a way that is accessible for all pupils to make strong progress.
  • Try to avoid distracting images on teacher presentations which will hinder learning for the pupil - and ensure that you assess understanding of new knowledge through effective assessment.
  • Allow enough lesson time for pupils to practically explore new knowledge and encourage effective discussions in the classroom around the new learning.
Further Reading