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TLC’s @Rossett & providing challenge for all

Last year at Rossett School our cross curricular teaching and learning communities focused on the key areas of questioning, differentiation and feedback. It culminated in a fantastic end of year learning fair where all the departments in school showcased how these three key areas had impacted positively upon student learning. I must thank the excellent @westlyish here for putting together the video below showing how great the fair was. (It’s a little long but if you skip through some bits you get a real feel of its success)

http://youtu.be/GMePEkHhbdk

The challenge this year was how do we build on that and keep improving our standards of teaching and learning. We were helped in May by a peer review at school undertaken through our membership of the Red Kite Alliance. They helped us confirm that our 5 whole school focus areas should be:
1. Technology/ipads to promote student responsibility.
2. Consistent use of feedback/DIRT to improve student reflectiveness.
3. Providing challenge to promote resilience.
4. Progress for all (particular PP)
5. Improve independence and responsibility through 6th form teaching.
These 5 key areas would be our “marginal gains” for the next academic year. They fit in with the small gains we have to keep looking to improve upon to maintain our status as an outstanding school.
Heads of department consulted with their staff and decided which two out the five areas each person would focus on. Colleagues would be in one focus TLC up until Christmas and then look at their next area during the second half of the year. It allowed staff to develop two areas of their teaching specific to them that would be tied into their performance appraisal.

My first TLC focus is to be “providing challenge to promote resilience”. I decided that if I was serious about this it would have to come through all aspects of my teaching. With my A2 PE group last week I began my push! I was lucky enough to have Paul Taylor @ticktock80 from Penistone Grammar in my lesson on a visit, and he helped me to sharpen my focus even more. The topic was the ATP-PC energy system which is quite difficult. In the past I may have put students into groups asking each to find out different parts of the system, it’s application to sport etc and then got them to feedback to each other. However I was conscious that this sometimes didn’t challenge them all and some just sat back whilst others did the work for them. Therefore following a short Socrative quiz on the iPads to check where they were in their learning I allowed the students to choose which Solo station they wanted to start on. For those not familiar with solo taxonomy, it can be a great way to get students to challenge themselves and make great progress.

What happened next was that most of the students began at the first unistructural station just to check they were happy with their understanding. One student went straight to the complex extended abstract station as he felt through his Biology knowledge he was fairly confident. As it turned out his level of understanding was good, but he still needed some support and by the individual structure of challenge I set up, it allowed me to challenge him personally. If he had been sat in a group, I may have missed this opportunity to see where he was in his learning and then push him accordingly. The others then began progressing at their own rate as the lesson moved forwards. They were able to ask individual questions that was of interest to them and often their peers answered their questions before I could.
The lesson wasn’t perfect by any means and the plenary was a bit rushed, but that was only because the students kept challenging themselves to learn more and on reflection I probably shouldn’t have stopped them.
As someone who has tried and failed at times with group work as a means to challenge students I was happy with my solo stations to individually challenge those in my class.
As ever I will be looking for ways to improve and keep challenging myself to make it even better!

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