This mornings 15 Minute Forum was based on the discussion around subject based CPD following the government report (please see link below) on the recruitment and retention of teachers that came out February this year. It made a number of points including:
‘Subject-specific CPD is necessary to develop specific skills related to the teaching of a subject, maintenance or acquisition of subject knowledge, and to improve practice. Professor Holman described this for science teaching: ‘There is a huge emphasis in countries like Germany, Finland, the Netherlands and Singapore on the subject and how to be a highly skilled practitioner in that subject. ‘
The following podcast, was also of interest in this discussion:
It is part of the ‘4 thought’ podcast from BBC Radio 4, and this episode is on performance teaching. The podcasts focuses on four main areas a teacher should be proficient in to become expert:
· Subject knowledge
· Pedagogical knowledge
· Theoretical knowledge
· Contextual knowledge
The discussion was really interesting and all agreed that subject based CPD was vital in ensuring high standards of teaching and learning and that we feel we need to have a focus on this every year and think of solutions to providing time for this. A discussion was had about possible INSET to meet this need and this is to be followed up when planning next year’s CPD requirements.
This half term’s forum was focused on homework. We took a brief look at the EEF’s toolkit which outlines the findings from educational research into homework at secondary level (link below). On average, the impact of homework on learning is consistently positive (leading to on average five months’ additional progress). However, beneath this average there is a wide variation in potential impact, suggesting that how homework is set is likely to be very important.
The toolkit states that homework is most effective when:
- it is used as a short and focused intervention (e.g. in the form of a project or specific target connected with a particular element of learning)
- it relates to learning during normal school time
- it is an integral part of learning, rather than an add-on
- students are provided with high quality feedback on their work.
We discussed the various types of homework that we all set and agreed that it must not be an add on and must add value to the students’ learning outside the classroom.
English shared their use of the takeaway homework tasks that they have used with some classes and how they had been surprised that most students had chosen the most challenging task, or if they had chosen the lower level, had done the middle task too as an extra challenge! They felt that this was good for the students to have the choice to differentiate themselves and to choose to present their work in a style that suited them most. An example of an English takeaway homework can be found below.
We discussed in quite a bit of detail the benefits of flip learning which more colleagues are beginning to experiment with and some very successfully. The key messages were that flip learning allows the students to do the basic preparatory work at home leaving the lesson free to build on this basic knowledge and access the content at a higher level developing the required skills. Some colleagues had experienced some students who had not fully engaged with the process and others who has started the course in this manner had found that persevering and being clear about the expectations, was ensuring that students were completing what was asked of them. More information about flip learning can be found in the staff area in the CPD folder.
The latest 15 minute forum was focused on teaching A Level, this was suggested by a colleague who was keen to share ideas. I couldn’t find any reading that was particularly useful but there was a slide that I sent out with the invite (attached) as a starting point for our discussion. There were many ideas shared and some of the challenges discussed were common across many departments. We talked in a quite a bit of detail about independent study and agreed that our next forum would focus on the purpose and effective setting of homework to enhance student progress.
The topic of intervention was suggested by a colleague in English and we used a recent article in the TES to start off our thinking around this area.
We talked about how successful we thought intervention had been this year given the changes we had made and what impact we felt it had on pupil progress. The changes were positive for departments at Year 11 in that there were no longer any clashes, but we still felt that we needed to review this in terms of the well-being of students.
All staff felt that student confidence in the small intervention groups had increased and that this was having a positive impact on students. We agreed that it is difficult to measure whether or not the intervention made any difference to outcomes…to be continued.
There are some of the key points about what it might look like in practice below.
What Could This Look Like in the Classroom?
How can this research on the spacing effect be applied in the classroom?
1) Identify key facts and ideas for distributed study: Think about the key sets of facts and ideas that you most want your students to remember. Once you’ve identified this core content, you can use the next five strategies to engage students in studying this material on a number of occasions over several weeks or even months.
2) Design homework that distributes practice: When developing homework, strongly consider including material that was taught in previous weeks and even months. For example, at the end of a given unit, consider homework that includes questions related to the previous several units (and even units going back to the beginning of the year).
3) Discourage cramming for tests: Carefully consider how to elicit student practice of test material several times before it appears on the test (for example, it might appear in a homework; be elicited as part of a class discussion; and get quizzed in a quick class test). When test time arrives, students have already distributed their learning; the test becomes one more in a series of practice opportunities. In addition, make it a routine to include a number of items from previous units on each test, particularly material that many students did not do well on the first time around. This way students will know that they need to keep working on material that they find challenging and that they won’t be able to get away with just cramming on the current material.
4) Break big ideas down into small pieces that can be easily practiced: After introducing a topic and covering enough content for students to understand the key ideas, break those key ideas and their associated facts or skills into small pieces that can be practiced in a variety of ways like class discussions, short quizzes, and class games.
5) Let students in on the secret: By all means, explain to your students that an important part of learning is remembering and that they’re more likely to remember material if they revisit it a number of times. In fact, students may find that they can spend less total time studying for tests if they distribute their time over several sessions.
These are just a few thoughts and over the course of the year we hope to share good practice and find out what is successful for our students.
Our first ever 15 Minute Forum here at AGGS was a great success, with a dozen or so colleagues discussing the blog post below with a focus on challenge.
Great Lessons 3: Challenge