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Teaching and Learning Priorities

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Teaching and Learning Priorities

In order to consistently teach good and outstanding lessons, EPHS learning walk and observe against the teaching standards.

Staff who carry out the expectations set by these, produce well planned, personalised learning that is catered for all abilities. In the classroom, five key components must be seen for effective Teaching and Learning. These five components are:

High expectations

One consistent finding of academic research is that high expectations are the most reliable driver of high student achievement, even in students who do not have a history of successful achievement. Much of this research has been conducted to test, confirm, or debunk the famous “Pygmalion” study in which teachers were told that randomly selected groups of students had been proven through testing to be on the brink of great academic gains. Those groups of randomly selected students in fact outperformed other randomly selected groups whose teachers had not been led to expect great things, presumably because of those expectations.

One of the problems with findings about high expectations is that they often include in the definition a wide array of actions, beliefs, and operational strategies. One study defined high expectations as including the decision to allocate and protect more time on task in academic subjects. That’s certainly good policy, but from a research standpoint, it’s hard to disaggregate the effect of more time on task from expectations. It’s also hard to turn that into specific action in the classroom.

So what are the concrete actionable ways that teachers who get exceptional Short results demonstrate high expectations?

NO OPT OUT

One consistency among champion teachers is their vigilance in maintaining the expectation that it’s not okay not to try. Everybody learns in a high-performing classroom, and expectations are high even for students who don’t yet have high expectations for themselves. So a method of eliminating the possibility of opting out—muttering, “I don’t know,” in response to a question or perhaps merely shrugging impassively in expectation that the teacher will soon leave you alone—quickly becomes a key component of the classroom culture. That’s where No Opt Out started. It soon found additional applications as a useful tool for helping earnest, striving students who are trying hard but genuinely don’t know the answer. No Opt Out helps address both. At its core is the belief that a sequence beginning with a student unable (or unwilling) to answer a question should end with that student giving the right answer as often as possible, even if it is only to repeat the correct answer. Only then is the sequence complete.

RIGHT IS RIGHT

Right Is Right is about the difference between partially right and all-the-way right—between pretty good and 100 percent. The job of the teacher is to set a high standard for correctness: 100 percent. The likelihood is strong that students will stop striving when they hear the word right (or yes or some other proxy), so there’s a real risk to naming as right that which is not truly and completely right. When you sign off and tell a student she is right, she must not be betrayed into thinking she can do something that she cannot.

STRETCH IT

When students finally get an answer all the way right, there’s a temptation, often justified, to respond by saying “good” or “yes” or by repeating the right answer, and that’s that. Just as often, though, the learning can and should continue after a correct answer has been given. So it’s great to remember to respond, as many of champion teachers do, to right answers by asking students to answer a different or tougher question or by using questioning to make sure that a right answer is repeatable, that is, the student knows how to get similar right answers again and again. The technique of rewarding right answers with more questions is called Stretch It.

Student engagement

Engaging students in learning

Research has demonstrated that engaging students in the learning process increases their attention and focus, motivates them to practice higher-level critical thinking skills, and promotes meaningful learning experiences. Instructors who adopt a student-centered approach to instruction increase opportunities for student engagement, which then helps everyone more successfully achieve the course’s learning objectives.

Promoting student engagement through active learning

Active learning requires students to participate in class, as opposed to sitting and listening quietly. Strategies include, but are not limited to, brief question-and-answer sessions, discussion integrated into the lecture, impromptu writing assignments, hands-on activities, and experiential learning events. As you think of integrating active learning strategies into your course, consider ways to set clear expectations, design effective evaluation strategies, and provide helpful feedback.

Flipping the classroom

A pedagogy-first approach to teaching in which in-class time is re-purposed for inquiry, application and assessment in order to better meet the needs of the individual learners.

Leading dynamic discussions

While “good” discussions can be a powerful tool for encouraging student learning, successful discussions rarely happen spontaneously. Preparing ahead of time will help you delineate a clear focus for the discussion and set well-defined parameters. This will enable the class to address important topics from multiple perspectives, thus increasing students’ curiosity for, and engagement with, course content.

Responding to disruptions in the classroom

Passionate disagreement can become disrespectful. That’s when discussion sheds more heat than light, impairing the ability to make arguments based on fact or to listen past preconceptions.

Student Writing

As an instructor, you might work with student writing in a number of ways: short-answer exams, essays, journals, blog posts, research assignments and so on.  You may also take your students through the writing process by assigning drafts, encouraging peer response through structured or informal exercises, and using writing to facilitate active learning.

Teaching with technology

In-classroom technologies — podium-based computers, wireless, real-time response systems (e.g., clickers) and web-based tools (e.g., blogs, online forums, wikis, podcasts, etc.) — continue to change rapidly. These tools have a high potential for supporting student learning in creative and innovative ways when properly aligned with the instructor’s learning objectives and course content.

Large lecture instruction

Large classes (100+ students) should not be limited exclusively to lecture-based teaching. In a large class, participation can be designed to get students actively solving problems, interacting with one another and the instructor, and processing course material.

Office hours

Office hours give students the opportunity to ask in-depth questions and to explore points of confusion or interest that cannot be fully addressed in class.  It is important for UW instructors to encourage their students to come to office hours and to use that time effectively.  We have two guides to help you: Face-to-face office hours and Virtual office hours.

Service-learning

Service-learning refers to learning that actively involves students in a wide range of experiences, which often benefit others and the community, while also advancing the goals of a given curriculum.

Differentiation

It’s a term that every teacher has heard during their training: differentiation. Differentiation is defined by the Training and Development Agency for Schools as ‘the process by which differences between learners are accommodated so that all students in a group have the best possible chance of learning’. In recent decades it has come to be considered a key skill for any teacher, especially those of mixed-ability classes. But what does it really mean?

What is meant by ‘differences between learners’?

In a large class, differences between students may on the face of it seem too numerous to be quantified, but differentiation works on 3 key aspects which can be summed up as follows:

  • Readiness to learn
  • Learning needs
  • Interest

These differences may sound rather broad, but by applying effective methods of differentiation, it is possible to cater for quite wide variations between learners. Expert opinion varies when it comes to a definitive list of the methods of differentiation in the classroom, with some holding that it can fall under as many as 7 categories. Let’s look at them.

Task

One of the core methods of differentiation, differentiation by task, involves setting different tasks for students of different abilities. One way to achieve this may be to produce different sets of worksheets or exercises depending on students’ abilities. However, some teachers are loath to employ this method because of both the social implications and the additional planning it entails. An alternative method is to use a single worksheet comprised of tasks which get progressively harder. The more advanced students will quickly progress to the later questions whilst the less able can concentrate on grasping the essentials.

Grouping

Collaborative learning has many well-documented benefits such as enabling shy students to participate more confidently in class, but it’s also a useful differentiation method. Small, mixed-ability groups allow lower achievers to take advantage of peer support whilst higher achievers gain the opportunity to organise and voice their thoughts for the benefit of the whole group (known as peer modelling). Grouping also allows roles to be allocated within the team which cater for each member’s skill set and learning needs.

Resources

In this method it’s important to recognise that some students can work with more advanced resources than others, and that it is possible to use multiple materials in order to approach a topic from different angles. This means that while some may require quite basic texts with illustrations, others are capable of working with more advanced vocabulary and complex ideas. Differentiation of this kind allows a wide spectrum of materials to be used to attain a single learning outcome. It’s a method that is greatly assisted by advances in technology, and the use of educational video in the classroom, which is why it is becoming more prevalent.

Pace

In the traditional classroom, activities are completed within a single time frame, irrespective of the level of difficulty for some students. The result is that more advanced learners can be held back to the speed of the less able ones, and at the other end of the scale, some may simply find it impossible to keep up. When differentiation is used in lesson planning, the available time is used flexibly in order to meet all students’ needs. Students who quickly grasp core activities need not be held back because their classmates need to spend more time on the fundamentals of a topic. They can instead be allocated more challenging extension tasks in order to develop a more rounded understanding of the subject matter or even to progress through the set course more quickly.

Outcome

Differentiation by outcome is a technique whereby all students undertake the same task but a variety of results is expected and acceptable. For example, the teacher sets a task but instead of working towards a single ‘right’ answer, the students arrive at a personalised outcome depending on their level of ability. It’s a method about which some teachers have reservations as there is a risk that the less able students will fall below an acceptable level of understanding, however that risk can be mitigated somewhat by establishing a clear set of guidelines that apply to all students, and it does offer one clear advantage in that no prior grouping is necessary.

Dialogue and support

Differentiation by dialogue is the most regularly used type of differentiation in the classroom. With this technique, the emphasis is on the role of the teacher, who must facilitate problem solving by identifying which students need detailed explanations in simple language and which students can engage in dialogue at a more sophisticated level. The teacher may also employ targeted questioning to produce a range of responses and to challenge the more able students. Verbal support and encouragement also plays a crucial part in this technique.

Assessment

In the differentiated classroom, rather than assessment taking place at the end of learning, students are assessed on an on-going basis so that teaching, and indeed the other methods of differentiation, can be continuously adjusted according to the learners’ needs.

Differentiation in the classroom is all about understanding that we are dealing with a group of diverse individuals and adapting our teaching to ensure that all of them have access to learn. It should be an on-going and flexible process which not only profiles students initially but also recognises progress and areas for improvement and adjusts accordingly to ensure learning needs continue to be met. In short, it shifts the focus from teaching a subject to teaching the students. 

AfL

Assessment as part of classroom activities is a fundamental process required to promote learning and ultimately achievement.

Learners need to know and understand the following before learning can take place:

  • What is the aim of the learning?
  • Why do they need to learn it?
  • Where are they in terms of achieving the aim?
  • How can they achieve the aim?

When learners know and understand these principles, the quality of learning will improve. Sharing this information with learners will promote ownership of the learning aims and a sense of shared responsibility between the teacher and learner to achieve those aims. Improving learners’ confidence and self-esteem reflects positively in learners’ work and their motivation is improved.

To promote effective assessment, teachers need to:

  • Explain the learning aims to learners and check their understanding
  • Demonstrate the standards learners are required to achieve and help them recognise when they have achieved that standard
  • Give effective feedback on assessment decisions, so that learners know how to improve
  • Demonstrate high expectations and make it obvious to learners that they believe that they can improve on their past performance
  • Provide regular opportunities for teachers and learners to reflect on the last performance and review learners’ progress
  • Develop learners’ self-assessment skills, so that they can recognise what aspects of their own work need to improve.

Assessment for Learning is all about informing learners of their progress to empower them to take the necessary action to improve their performance. Teachers need to create learning opportunities where learners can progress at their own pace and undertake consolidation activities where necessary. In recent years, it has been stated that teachers have become adept at supporting the less able learner, sometimes to the detriment of the more able learner. Assessment for Learning strategies should be implemented in such a way that quality feedback provided to learners based on, for example, an interim assessment decision, will help to challenge the more able learner to reach new levels of achievement and, in doing so, reach their full potential. The individuality of feedback, by its very nature, has the facility to support weaker learners and challenge more able learners.

Methods of AfL:

  • Questioning- Both students answering questions as well as asking them. When questioning, keep them open and use words such as might to explore student understanding. Consider a question board in your room where students can write anything on that they need help with.
  • Random name generator- Rather than answering teacher set questions from students with their hands up, create a classroom environment where the teacher will chose a student at random. Hands up only for asking questions.
  • Exemplar work- When carrying out a class task- why not create a level 9 answer that students can use as a guide, or have the students review others work through a visualiser to peer assess.
  • Traffic lights- Students have a R,A,G card on their desk which highlights to the teacher their current level of understanding in a discrete way
  • Bounce questions- Ask one student a question, then bounce to a second to either mark the quality of the answer, or to follow it up with a greater level of detail
  • Peer exam creation- When revising, have the students devise their own exam questions and mark schemes. This can then be passed to others in the class to attempt and receive peer feedback on
  • Group answers- Provide students with an exam question and then as a team, they have to write the answer. Add class competition for increased buy-in.
  • Knowledge dump- Pose a question or topic on the board. Students then have a certain amount of time to write down all they know about that topic. Go around the class and award points if a student provides correct information that another student does not have.

Pace

Pacing can be defined as “the illusion of speed.”  It is your ability to make rigorous work on a given topic feel energetic and engaging to students while still maintaining their focus. 

As many teachers know firsthand, doing the same thing for too long can be a recipe for trouble. A patch of independent writing that started out with a soundtrack of scratching pencils and the hum of productive reflection can give way to a dirge of muted grumbling with pencils seemingly stuck in mud.  The momentum created by your engaging Call and Response can evaporate before your eyes, as participation grows tired and superficial. One potential cause is staying with the same activity for too long.

Achieving the right balance of energy in your classroom requires a skill called Change the Pace—your ability to shift between “fast” or “slow” moments in a lesson by changing activity types (e.g. transitioning from independent practice to discussion) or activity formats (e.g., staying with discussion but changing the dynamics of the discussion, for example, from a pair activity to a whole-class discussion).

Changing Activity Types: The Five Major “Muscle Groups”

There are generally five types of activities we can ask students to participate in.  Each requires students to think and engage in a different way. They are:

  • Knowledge Assimilation (KA): When students are presented with new information, while they listen, read, take notes, and ask or answer basic questions.
  • Guided Practice/Guided Questioning (GPGQ): When students engage in activities that involve back-and-forth with the teacher, practicing the use or application of knowledge.
  • Independent Practice (IP): When students complete work without significant support from the teacher that they know how to do on their own. It’s often silent, but doesn’t always need to be.
  • Reflection and Idea Generation (RIG): Usually solo work and often involves writing. Whereas in IP, students execute work they know how to do on their own, students engaged in RIG are given time to try to make sense of things they are in the midst of learning, or do not yet understand.
  • Discussion (Disc): Activities in which students develop ideas and answers by talking directly to one another, in small groups, or as a class.

Since all five “activity types” are important, and since students should develop skill with all of them through constant practice.  It’s important that teachers work all of them regularly to ensure students get a well-rounded mental workout.