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Differentiation, feedback and questioning

Here at Rossett we are looking at how effective differentiation, feedback and questioning can enhance the learning of our students and make them and our staff more responsible, resilient and reflective.
All staff are going to look to focus in detail on one of these three areas through our teacher learning communities. This stepping up a gear and having the opportunity to become say a differentiation expert by exploring all the small marginal gains necessary, will be built upon later in the year, when faculties come together with their experts from all three focus areas. Faculties then with their differentiation, feedback and questioning experts will all showcase their work and evidence of impact in lessons through our end of year learning fair.
Below are some of my key principles around the three areas which I must thank the many people I follow on twitter for their contributions:

Differentiation

Sometimes with differentiation I know I am guilty of lowering expectations for some students, by capping aspiration and potential achievement. I have moved away from learning outcomes for “all, most, some”. For me by lessons starting off like this I was using differentiation by dumbing down and not providing challenge for all. I have changed things so now my learning outcome has the connector of “so that” in the middle. For example,
Learning Outcome.
“Reflect on your knowledge of periodisation of training, so that you know of its benefits and how to plan a programme for a range of athletes.”

What follows the “so that” gives students the reason why and also the opportunity to explore and challenge themselves.
Differentiation is about all students given hard work they can do. Tasks should be designed to give students a clear element of challenge, but they should be do-able. Lessons need to have sustained student involvement, where activities are set up for students to discover part of the answer at least. Having guided group work is another key element. So planning in advance how you want to group students (by ability does allow you to intervene more) caters for greater progress, rather than “just going round the class”. This planning could come from previous marking, which lends itself very well to the obvious idea of marking for planning. Your groups could then be made up of a Teach/Do/Review structure, where the targeted teacher intervention takes place with the teach group. The do group carry out a form of extension task where the review group review their work and come up with further ideas/theories or questions to ask.
Think too about differentiated resources and choice of tasks. Or how some tasks can be attempted without support by some students.

Feedback

Marking is going to form an integral part of ensuring effective feedback is given. It will also link very well into how we effectively differentiate too. Marking should be done to inform planning and is in fact a key component of effective planning. It should be handed back the next lesson and used as a starting point for that lesson. Time has to be built in then for students to reflect and act upon this feedback, with the idea that they are striving to “close the gap” between what they have produced and where you want them to be. This sounds common sense and when you think about it, to not build in time for students to reflect and close the gap, when we have given up alot of time to mark, is just crazy.
I have also for a long time been interested in how the use of public critique by students can enhance the quality of work produced. Too often here at Rossett, students are happy to submit sloppy work. I have now started to embed with my students the idea of re-drafting work once they have received feedback from either myself or their peers. Apps like Edmodo are great for this. This gets the students to be become more resilient and not be happy until they would be proud enough of their work to have a wide audience look at it. This seeking of perfection following feedback, is how I want our students to operate.

Questioning

Questioning is one of those areas that teachers engage in alot. We are always asking questions of the students, often in a whole class didactic manner. Whether you adopt a no hands up rule or use Mr Dylan Williams lolly pops this doesn’t really give much room for differentiation. Flipping things a little and getting the students to come up with their own questions is one way of changing things. I have used on many occasions to really good effect, question formulation technique. (Look it up!)
For me it has helped to use the concept of questioning to engage students in finding the solutions to questions they want answering and not the ones I think I should ask them.

As always your thoughts and comments are greatly appreciated

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