TLT17: Session 3

Mark Enser on challenge for all. How can we create the correct level of challenge without leaving anybody behind?

How do we create a culture of evidence? How do we do this while leaving nobody behind? 

In 2015, Mark’s department was average, in terms of headline measures, but underperforming in terms of progress and had low uptake for A-level among their students. They came to accept that they could be doing better and that something needed to be different. 

As well as the culture he wanted to foster, he also thought a out the supporting structures that were needed to make the change. Focus was on a move from excellent work – excellent learning – excellent geography. It was also important that the team remained happy and productive – nothing extra without something else being taken out. 

Having made the plan, the team agreed what excellence in geography looked like. They broke it down into what made the subject unique, and for each one decided what excellence would look like. This created a common language and informed planning at all levels – long, medium, lesson. 

They made their motto “Expect Excellence.” There was more focus on re-drafting, inspired by Berger’s work. Is it excellent yet? Encourage this language among students – put it in a poster on the board. 

Identify the top end and really push them. They targeted an excel group. Examples of their work was shared in the corridor; extra homework was given; they were encouraged to read further on the Geography blog: readings from the media with a bit of context and a few prompt questions: things to think about while reading the article or watching the clip. Email subscriptions to WordPress helped them to track which students had signed up and parents were also able to subscribe. 

The department used PLCs to help students identify areas where revision was needed; flipped the knowledge revision and focused on skills in the classroom – worked very well at KS4 and 5.

Their excellence gallery was annotated to explain why the work was excellent: not pretty, but changes frequently and with student names in big writing over it. Students encouraged to look at the work when asking, “Is it excellent yet?” It is also good for parents evening, giving them something to talk about with their children while they wait to talk to you, and giving you something to discuss with them when they see you. 

But what about weaker students? 

Plan for problems. Anticipate misconceptions and pick out the threshold concepts in your subject, so you know when you’ll need to intervene. 

Modelling. Give exemplar pieces (teacher created) early on: it’s important that they can see what the expectation is. Bad exemplars are even more fun: search and destroy! Live modelling on the whiteboard helps to show your thought process – good for metacognition. This models what an expert in your subject does. Making the exemplars take some time, but you save that time in marking and feedback. I was chatting with Will Bailey-Watson yesterday who said he used to write exemplars while students were writing answers in class: great idea. 

Strengthen recall. Quiz regularly. Dual-coding: use text and images to support pupils in recalling. Words are transient but pictures remain. 

Work as a team. It’s impossible to do it alone. Mark’s team plan their lessons together, playing to their strengths. They shared good practice from their own lessons. They involved parents early and often (high on my agenda this year) – make them part of the team, email home a lot. Use SLT a lot – bring them in to help get reticent students on board. 

Prioritise. Will it lead to better progress? 

The results of this were quite spectacular, though Mark is quick to say two years of results are not really enough and it’s no possible to select just one cause. Conversion to target nearly doubled, though, and A-level uptake more than doubled. 

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TLT17: Session 2

Kev Bartle on the chaos of coalition: trust, vulnerability and interdependence in schools. 

He suggests we pay too much attention to the apps in education, without looking at the operating system. We should look at changing the way we operate – upping the trust – before we look at any extras. 

Trust is rooted in vulnerability: you cannot be vulnerable with someone unless you trust them. While we use the word trust a lot, there is less mention of vulnerability. 

Kev has read Trust in Schools, a study of schools in Chicago in the 90s. They found that trust is important as a tool for school improvement. 

Organic trust is characterised by a sense of family; contractual trust by pieces of paper. Both of these are part of schools in a small way, but the important one is relational trust: it is an organisational property and very specific around the school community. The authors compared feelings of trust with school results and found that there was a correlation. Trust correlated with success – big among teachers and between them and their superiors. The evidence suggests that trust makes an impact to academic achievement in spite of socio-economic or racial background. This therefore might be a good way of diminishing differences in these special interest groups. 

These five ideas are all important when it comes to achieving trust.

Schools see themselves as professional bureaucracies. Teachers can choose what to do in their classroom, but senior leaders require monitoring. Kev fears that we are moving towards machine bureaucracy, with a high level of dictating expectations, when we should be moving towards professional organisation, when trust replaces monitoring. Teachers who are in the job for the right reasons, and want to do well and get better, could have greater autonomy and discretion in the conduct of their work. 

(+ Mediate conflicts and foster strong collegial expectations)

Kev talks us through how he tries to achieve this. He doesn’t look at results from individual classes – just subject areas. He meets with department heads to discuss the performance of the team. There’s no link between student performance and appraisal. There are no top down lesson observations, and no lesson grading. He doesn’t pay people extra, because it creates distrust between colleagues. 

Viviane Robinson: Trust is a result, not a precursor. Leadership and interpersonal competence, getting the work done – these things build trust. 

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TLT17: Session 1

Matt Pinkett on Feedback. “We’re spending too much time ticking, flicking and dicking about.” He will talk us through three methods of verbal feedback and give us an overview of the evidence base for written marking. 

Beginning with the latter, evidence on written marking (as opposed to feedback) is scant. There are relatively few valid trials. What we do know is that putting a grade on a piece of work reduces the impact that marking has. Tick and flick has no impact: kids and parents might like it, but this seems a bit self-service for the teacher. Better to tell the students youve looked at their books, but that ticking has no impact and then move on. Students do need time to respond, though Matt is moving towards making this an ongoing process rather than a one off DIRT-type thing. SMART targets are also important. Don’t be fuzzy! 

Matt does not mark books because he doesn’t think it is a good use of his time. Having said something similar to the History PGCE lot at Bristol yesterday, I find this comforting. I think tick and flick marking is the equivalent of deleting emails, or laminating. The time is better sent honing your teaching practice. 

Another reason: the written word is flawed. Trying to explain yourself in a SMART target is very tricky. It is better to talk through these ideas, with nuance and cadence, until you can be sure the student gets it. 

Another: mental health. Getting stressed about the marking is damaging. Doing the marking can be comforting and therapeutic, but the association of good and lots of marking is damaging to the profession. 

And margins are too small!

Matt does more verbal feedback, because it’s respectful: a sit down conversation helps to build the relationship and is arguably more respectful than many ticks. It’s motivating: if they know they’re going to talk with you about what they’re doing, there’s more incentive to get it right. It’s efficient: gets the job done quicker than writing it down. It’s easier.

Model 1: preach in practice. Call students to the desk individually. Give them a red pen and ask to see the piece of work they’re most proud of. Awkward at first but then they will start to open up a bit, and you can ask about a piece of work they’re embarrassed about. They stay for 7 or 8 minutes and you’ll get an idea about diagnosing the problem – easier to identify the errors in understanding and practice. Also gives you an idea about which students you need to see more of. Students can even complete the work in front of you, so you can watch the process. 

Model 2: crib sheet marking. Inspired by Greg Thornton. Using a whole class marking sheet helps to track common misconceptions. 

There’s a preach in practice box on here too, to flag up who needs conversations. This makes the written marking quicker, because the only thing that goes in books is literacy correction.

Model 3: visualiser marking. In response to a two assessment model being adapted at his school, followed by an instruction to mark everything in preparation for Ofsted, Matt used a visualiser (the new VAK of learning 😂) to mark some work of a student who volunteers for whole class marking. As he marks, he articulates the marking he’s doing. Then he does another, asking who thinks they might have done slightly better. Having done a couple, he then invites students to mark their own. Watching someone using a markscheme, and maybe struggling to do it, is instructive…and also I imagine gives them a much better grasp of the assessment criteria, which is indicated to have a big impact on progress. Matt found that his SLT were very keen on this. 


What about the teacher who loves marking? Carry on! Do as much as you choose. Kids do value it, associating lots of marking with their perception of good teachers, but they don’t always know what is best for them. 

What sort of feedback have you had from parents? Matt is honest with them and provides evidence. It’s ok to know best, we are the professionals. 

How do you manage to have the conversations at the same time as teaching? Behaviour needs to be impeccable, so you need support from your leadership team. 

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TLT17: Introduction

Chris Moyse doing the opening speech at TLT’s 5th event. 

He starts with a book shelf….

He recommends the bottom left, a book about the All Blacks. My previous Head of Sixth did a series of assemblies based on this and they were great – “Nobody looks after All Blacks because we look after ourselves, and others”. This led to my tutor group having our own haka. 

Chris asks, are you going to “leave the shirt in a better place”? What’s going to be your legacy?

He moves on to pull quotes from the other books. What’s your mission? What will be your epitaph? What’s your one sentence? What’s the worst thing someone could say about you as a person whilst retaining an element of truth? How will you put a dent in the universe?

Then…who do you want to emulate? Chris gives us some of his background and talks about how some of his idols pushed him to being a better person. He talks about a famous pole vaulter who broke the world record 35 times – going up in tiny increments every time (I missed the name, doh). Think about what tiny thing you can do to kick on a bit next thing – what will be your plus one after today? When you apply your learning, then it becomes CPD. The challenge is always to improve, even when you’re the best. Excellence comes through practice. Force yourself out of autopilot and make your practice more purposeful. Have a goal (not goals) and focus relentlessly on that goal. Get some feedback early on and go beyond the familiar. 

Also though – embrace failure. Sometimes you’re going to plateau. Being good is enough. Be happy with ugly but effective teaching. Focus on the things that are easy to do, but easy not to do. 

Chris finishes with an All Blacks phrase: if you’re not growing anywhere, you’re not going anywhere. 

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ResearchED: session 7

(I was late for session 6 so I missed it out of blogging)

Amanda Spielman, HMCI, taking us through the different ways that Ofsted uses research to improve its practice.

What should be the purposes of research at Ofsted?

Giving a bird’s eye view of what works in schools, based on evidence from all the inspections. Informing Government about how well.olicies are being implemented and whether they are having an impact. Building evidence to improve inspection processes and practices. Assessing the impact inspections have on improving schools. 

So, are Ofsted fit for purpose? How do they use research to test the validity of their judgements? Amanda says that one of the nice things about her job is that almost everybody has an opinion on how to do it better. She says to keep the blogs coming, by the way, as she does find them very interesting. She works through some suggestions that have been made for improving judgement quality, such as parallel inspections – expensive and difficult to do. It would be very tricky to check for data bias, for example; and the free schools inspected with no data can be compared with similar schools that had data, to provide information on the existence of such bias. 

Lesson observations are a valuable tool but should consist of an aggregation of micro lesson observations. She repeats the message that schools should not grade individual  a lessons and says that this sort of thing has her tearing her hair out.  Book scrutiny is similar. 

What about the bird’s eye view? School poplns are often too small to understand properly the performance of special interest groups – disadvantaged, SEN etc. so aggregating the data provides a better view of this. Ofsted have been looking at how the new NC has been introduced and what non-NC schools are doing. She has a strong desire to ensure that the curriculum is fit for purpose as this has a bigger impact on social mobility than the school itself does. She explains why she is a fan of the new GCSEs: a big step in the right direction, she feels, as are new A-levels.

Understanding the impact of Ofsted. Making reports useful for parents; how grading structures affect school behaviour – both of these are currently being researched. (Note: behaviour OF schools, not IN schools).

How are Ofsted developing their next framework? (Don’t worry, not due until at least 2019). Partly by drawing together research from lots of different sources to ensure the best narrative and causal explanations. 

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ResearchED: session 5

Leigh Ingham on young women, school and confidence: the problems and solutions, in their words (a late addition to the program). This session is a report on the impact of programs run by a group called Fearless Futures. 

We begin with a depressing list of statistics about the gender gap, from Rachel of Fearless Futures. Fearless Futures is aimed at tackling these inequalities as well as a wide variety of others, acknowledging intersectionality. They work with schools to try to do this. Leigh, giving the presentation, came in as an external researcher to look at the quality of Fearless Futures’ work.

Leigh’s talk:

The participants all said that participating in the program helped to improve their academic self esteem. They were almost all BME; a majority went on to study STEM subjects at high performing universities. They talked through episodes of discrimination they had experienced and also how to tackle discrimination, which helped them to be confident enough to aim high. 

It also helped their personal self esteem, particularly through the ‘I am special because…’ activity. Participants said that it helped them to recognise their qualities and what they could achieve.

The importance of all-girls sessions. It provides a safe space that made it possible for them to be very open and avoid being shut down. It created trust among the members, allowing them to feel supported and solidarity. One, who didn’t speak in school before the program, went on to successfully lobby for more diversity in the A-level Music spec, speaking on Channel 4. 

It gave the girls the ability to critically analyse the world and recognise/tackle inequalities, whilst giving them the confidence and tools to change society. 

Fearless Futures are running a conference in November called the Gender Assembly. Sounds like it would be worth a look. 

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ResearchED: session 4

Dr Niki Kaiser on threshold concepts. 

Niki is a chemistry teacher and network research lead. She relates a lesson on ionic bonding where she identified a misconception she was unaware of and how happy the subsequent student lightbulb moment made her. 

Niki explains that a threshold concept is described as a portal to transformed learning. You move through it to greater understanding and this is irreversible, making accessible previously out of reach concepts and ideas. To model this, Niki breaks down the different concepts students need to understand ionic bonding. She says Meyer and Land (2003) differentiate between core and threshold concepts and explains her identified bottleneck in understanding ionic bonding. It is tricky for us as experts to put ourselves in the shoes of novices and identify the trouble spots. 

There isn’t a great deal of research on threshold concepts, but Twitter suggested looking at the misconceptions literature and extrapolating from that. Planning a unit on structure and bonding, Niki used a tracker to help her to identify student trouble spots. 

Niki then spoke about her own research, modelling that there are many different ways of going about researching. I lost the thread a bit here (sorry Niki. Sorry readers)

Having identified tricky spots in the learning, Niki revisited them, a la spaced practice, and used Google forms to gather confidence scores from her pupils, to see which ideas they were finding most difficult. She compared the confidence scores with marks from tests on different topics within the course, and this data combined to helpfully show which the most troublesome areas were. 

I like threshold concepts (you might remember) and this was a really good session about how to research among your classes to identify new ones. This is much more scientific than my method, ‘Thinking about it on public transport’. It is also interesting to think about threshold concepts, not just in general historical understanding, but in individual topics. 

Niki’s ppt –

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ResearchEd: session 3

Daisy Christodoulou on improving assessmen: the key to education reform. I’m clearly going heavy on the assessment today. Delighted to get my first seat of the conference: it’s either very busy or I’m picking the most popular sessions. There are a lot of people sitting on floors, in the gallery, on the steps…

Daisy says, it’s a big claim, but ultimately, not just in education but in a whole range of fields, better measurement leads to improvements in innovations, while bad measurement leads to distortion and unintended consequences. Here are four assessment practices that are being influenced by theory that isn’t quite right. 

One. Using prose descriptors to grade work.

These are so entrenched that people think this is assessment. It can be difficult to think outside of this structure. But it is important, because they are neither accurate nor helpful. They don’t give an accurate summative judgment. Daisy demonstrates this with a fraction problem that also appears in her book, showing that ‘can identify which fraction is larger’ is not as simple as it sounds: questions have different difficulties and even small changes have an impact on this. Prose descriptors are not precise enough. 

Are they still a useful structure, eg for formative feedback? Daisy thinks no. They are not helpful for that either. Written comments become generic. They can be accurate, but not helpful. 

Daisy talks about well-designed multiple choice questions that are designed to tease out common misconceptions. Unambiguously wrong, but plausible distractors. This is a better way of giving feedback. 

Took this picture too early: she also recommends Michael Polanyi.

Two. Marking essays using absolute judgment.

Daisy uses the same crimes activity she includes in her book, from Mozer et al: poisoning a barking dog appears on two lists, once with lesser crimes and one with greater crimes, and people asked to score them on a scale of 1-10. 

The alternative to absolute judgment is comparative judgment. This will provide a system for this using an algorithm created by teachers rating pairs of essays. Technology is used to enhance human judgment. Daisy mentions that No More Marking will do this. I missed her summary slide. 

Three. Thinking of grades as discrete categories.

Someone at the top of a grade will be closer to someone at the bottom of the next grade than they are to someone else at the bottom of their own grade, but this is not reflected in the letter on the page. Daniel Koretz has attacked this in ‘Measuring Up’. 

Four. Thinking test scores matter. 

In fact, it is the inferences we can make from then that matter. What can we say from the evidence about what the student can do in other contexts? (Wiliam). Test scores are only samples of a wider domain. When the link between the test and the domain breaks, the inferences made are no longer valid. Any exam is only as good as its link to its domain, but this has become distorted over time, in large part due to the high stakes attached to the grades. ‘When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to become a good measure’: Goodhart’s Law. 

This lecture was a good overview of Daisy’s book, ‘Making Good Progress?’ so I can recommend reading that if you liked this. 

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ResearchED: session 2 

Tricia Taylor on improving peer assessment (nice dovetailing with the previous season). 

About 80% of verbal feedback comes from peers and much of it is wrong (Hattie). Feedback is highly variable, but highly effective. Being able to take feedback is important for a growth mindset. It should be about the task, not the person (ie, not self). 

Tricia shares some of the Austin’s butterfly video, Berger’s case study of using peer feedback to improve a student’s work. She also shares his advice for students giving feedback and reminds us, hard on content but soft on the person. 

It’s important to create the right culture for this. Students need to be able to take feedback and be eager to learn from their mistakes. They need to have good formative feedback modelled and be given a chance to practise, eg with the teacher doing the task first and then asking for feedback from the students to improve it. At the end of this training they need to reflect on it: how they gave feedback and how they were able to take it. “I learnt to be patient and keep trying.”

Student feedback is improving. Students value having several chances and they can see the improvements. Feedback was appreciated and rarely personal, or taken personally. It really helped teachers to get better at success criteria: more specific language when setting them. 

Staff introduced prompt cards to help shape how students five feedback. “I like the way you….have you considered….?” This was less successful with older students (Y8) where it felt a little contrived, but when they used them to work with a reception class they understood the point and it worked really well. 

Next stage: apply to literacy. An example: an English teacher working through a piece of writing might pull out good examples from it to share with students, but students find it more difficult to recognise this. Hence: rubrics. Tricia shares a rubric for applause to help us to improve clapping her: advice on volume and tempo, for example. A rubric helps students to recognise what is good and give advice for improvement. 

Students focused on spag when they give feedback, and teachers are also guilty of this: it is easy and accessible. I often find that when I’m marking a long essay, the spag corrections come thick and fast at the end when I have lost sight of the content of the essay, so I try to mark once for spag and once for task. Anyway…they made the rubric more specific to try to tackle this problem. 

Tricia used gallery critique to give students opportunities to comment on several pieces of work. 

She summarises her learning on making peer assessment work. If kids know there’s an audience at the end, it motivates them. Improving work reinforces the idea that change for the better is possible. Students don’t have to act on all feedback but can choose what they want. 

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ResearchED: session 1

Nik Booth on formative assessment. 

What is formative assessment?

It’s using judgment about quality of student work that is used to shape student competencies: moving learning forward, but not only the teacher’s job (Sadler). Nik talks us through some other definitions, since there is no single agreed one. The key thing is that is has to be used to improve teaching/learning. It doesn’t involve giving out marks, levels or grades (though marks can be formative for the teacher, who can then plan based on who scored what). It doesn’t compare students. It just focuses on what should happen next in the learning process. It is responsive teaching, and responsive learning. 

Why hasn’t it worked in schools? Probably because people don’t completely understand what should happen. Confusion between formative and summative. 

Nik shares a 1988 study which showed that comments had an impact of 30% improvement in achievement where grades alone had none. This same study showed that comments and grades also had no impact, because students ignore the comments and instead focus on ranking themselves against other students. They are more interested in the consequences of the grade, says Kohn (1994), rather than making improvements. 

How can we make formative assessment better in our schools? 

Learning intentions are important and can be powerful, but they can be tricky to write. Shirley Clarke (2005) says it probably shouldn’t include context of task, as this makes it less transferable. So, “To write a letter” rather than “To write a letter to the local council”. But also – it should be the learning, not the activity.  The above then becomes, “To be able to write persuasively” for example. 

Success criteria. Product and process, says Clarke, but process is the more important. Students need to know how to move forward and this should be explicitly clear. 

Hinge questioning helps provide quality feedback to shape the next stage in the learning. Using multiple choice questions where the other choices tackle common misconceptions (the 3 truths and a lie quizzes I wrote for the old GCSE often did this) – just one in the middle of the lesson, with a response from every student, eg using flashcards, is enough. Nik talks us through some examples from other subjects. 

Feedback – common on task, process, self-regulation and self. Whatever feedback you give must cause thinking. Peer, self – can be powerful because students become insiders in the learning process. Problem: it is often done at the end of the lesson, making it less useful. It should happen within the lesson if we want to grow self-regulated learners. 

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