The challenge of making progress!
Here at @Rossett School we are now into our second cycle of the teaching learning community (TLC) staff CPD meetings. Our 5 areas linked to our school development plan are:
Technology/ipads to promote student responsibility.
Consistent use of feedback/DIRT to improve student reflectiveness.
Providing challenge to promote resilience.
4. Progress for all (particular PP students)
5. Improve independence and responsibility through 6th form teaching.
All staff are part of two TLC focus areas over the course of the year. My first one was providing challenge and I am now working in the progress for all TLC group. For me the checking of student progress has been something good teachers have always done, through effective questioning and guiding them with structured feedback. Therefore the Ofsted craze of “rapid and sustained progress” although clearly crazy, is something that we all probably strive to achieve.
I have over recent weeks thought about this concept of progress a lot more. How do I know students have “got it” and how do I know whether some of them have got it more than most. Have some of them just learnt things on a superficial level when I really want them all progressing, with a deep understanding of what I am teaching them.
With my AS PE Anatomy & Physiology group I had reached the part of the syllabus where they needed a deep understanding of various coronary heart diseases and what impact an active healthy lifestyle could have. When I plan lessons like this that cover a wide range of content and require students to link, explain and show a deep understanding of key concepts, I do find myself going back to using Solo taxonomy stations. Here is what they looked like:
I firstly allowed all the students to walk around and look at the questions that I had written down on each station. In that way they could note down on a pre-structural level what they actually didn’t know or were unsure on. This helped them and me see where they were in their learning and where I needed to guide them. I then used the post it plus app recommended by @ictevangelist to record down their pre-structural thoughts. Using the app to record their post it’s meant I could annotate them, noting common elements and display them on the screen for all the students to see. There were quite a few similarities in their learning gaps of knowledge. I then just let them go and was able to physically see their progress as they individually moved around the room from station to station gaining a deeper understanding as they progressed.
All the students at least reached the relational section with few of the higher ability students exploring the questions on the extended abstract part. It allowed the students to make progress at their own rate and meant they could question each other, aswell as me, to improve their learning as they moved through the stations in the lesson.
I feel that this area of questioning and explanations are vital for students to learn and progress. After reading this great blog below on the how important explaining concepts in detail are by Tom Sherrington, I really started to think carefully how I needed to ensure my explanations on concepts were clearly understood.
I put this to the test with my BTEC Level 3 Anatomy Physiology students when we looked last week at the difficult concepts of energy systems. Here I used simple laminated task cards and got the students to act out and explain to each other how an energy system breaks down a fuel with an enzyme to create energy to resynthesise ATP. By not just relying on my explanation, but instead making students feel, do and explain to each other the actual processes involved, all of a sudden a difficult topic became one that they started to grasp. That to me was progress!
I again used the post it plus app to get a written gauge of what they knew at the start from our previous learning and then how their learning had progressed by the end. I have annotated on the post it’s and given some students a number so you can see their progress.
I am certainly now going to think a lot more about my explanations to students and also encourage them to explain things to each other as I believe this is a vital component in their learning and progress.