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The Iceberg Principle

Year 8 are starting their physical geography topics, and whilst I would love to say that they enthusiastically bounce into lessons wanting to know the differences between the moraine and snout of a glacier, it can prove problematic to enthuse them at the start. We decided that a great way to engage them even before the topic starts was to allow them the choice, what will your next topic be?

This led me to look at the curriculum as a whole, and more likely, the school wide learning. Are we stuck following, what Anders Ericsson calls, the Iceberg Illusion? This surface learning, the lovely images and videos, (and as a geographer, we as teachers are blessed with a plethora of amazing and engaging images and vids), does this provide the depth of knowledge and application that pupils;

  • Need
  • Crave
  • Are beneficial for their crisis curricular opportunities?

That surface, initial engagement must then lead onto a deep, deep understanding and eventual application of the learning, and a clear link to other subjects and areas of interest for the pupils. Too many times we scratch the surface, concerned about maintaining  a curriculum time frame, concerned with ‘Coverage vs. Depth’.

This can be the case with ‘bought in’ schemes of work, a common issue that can be evident in some sectors of education that require non-specialists to take the lead on foundation subjects. I am a massive fan of adapting anything that I am provided with, matching it to the needs of my learners, and although this seems so obvious, in the era of data input and analysis, (we now enter report season), taking the time to analyse the performance of the curriculum you deliver may not be top of the agenda. If it works, if the pupils are enjoying the lessons, making progress, why change?

Well it seems that this engagement and progress, whilst beneficial at the time, could be detrimental to allowing the depth of provision for the subject, its only the ice on the wave, not the 9/10’s under the surface. As teachers, we should look to dive down, invest in the underwater features; although time constraints in lessons will more than likely lead us to hurry to cover the curriculum. Gardner states that the ‘greatest enemy to understanding is coverage’. 

Should we invest time in a scaled down curricula?

A method of mindful practice, ways of applying the skills of learning in a variety of settings?

Would this affect judgements and assessments made of the learning in our establishments?

How many Ice Puns can i fit into the year 8 lessons this term?

Will report back soon!

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Learning Walks/Research Rambling!

Learning walks are characterised in many establishments by their absence, or at least by the fact that it is generally just senior leaders who take part in them, and primarily are looking to see of the learning objectives are on the board! The walks should really be a primary method of free CPD for staff, ways of sharing practice through a non-invasive or pressurised method.

The focus for this term, (although in theory it really should be every term!) is looking at the quality and diversity of learning happening around our academy, and rather than this be a top down method of moderation, we felt a more inclusive method would be to offer the opportunity for all members of staff to take part in a series of learning walks around the academy.

We have created a timetable that enables staff in all parts of the school hierarchy the opportunity to take part in a learning walk if they want to. For one week, SLT will be the cover supervisors! Graham Stobart in ‘The Expert Learner’ discusses the ‘myth of ability’, that over time, those pupils who are challenged at all levels of ability can become experts’ in their own way, and surely the only way we as practitioners can consistently challenge at the correct levels is to enhance and reflect on their own knowledge of other practitioners practice.

I have attached the two versions of the learning walk reflection sheets that staff will share at our next staff meeting, one is more conceptual than the other, looking at elements of learning that we may forget/take for granted, and that some teachers have excellent command over, ensuring that learning is of a really high level.

Feedback Sheet 1Feedback Sheet 2


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Time for a Teaching MOT!

The Academy has a wealth of experience and practice within it, and engaging each other in academic and pedagogical discussions will only serve to boost the support we can give to the learning within the Academy. We can, and do, learn so much from each other, and these short, fortnightly, morning sessions can serve to develop us as educators and empower the profession within the Academy even more.

We decided to run them in the morning, (pastries included!), with all presenter/organisers of short 3-5 min activities being volunteers, members of our own staff, who have stepped up to share with us something they feel will benefit our practice. We endeavored to have a focus for some of these sessions relating to our improvement plan, and linked to the CPD needs of the staff.

But mainly, it was just an opportunity for our staff to share their practice, to discuss and start their day with a positive outlook towards learning. We realised that our time is precious, and what better way to use it then to discuss how to increase the learning of our pupils!

motsThis image will take you to some of our sessions run by our amazing staff.

As the image depicts, we have some fantastic resources that I will make available on the teaching and learning section of the blog.

An amazing free CPD resource, a great way of empowering staff and celebrating their practice.

Posted in assessment, Learning

Travelling to be a Master!

We realised early on that adapting KS3 assessment would prove challenging, but also exciting. A chance to create a school specific method of recording attainment and that is what it actually is, a method of recording attainment. The way we help the pupils learn through assessment, formative discussions, summative next step targets doesn’t change. Pupils still want to know how they can learn more, improve on application of that learning, and ultimately come out the other side better for it, thus meaning the primary focus of our job does not change.

Attainment graphThe attainment graph our humanities faculty is using allows pupils to plot their own flight paths, so they can see which areas of the curriculum they are succeeding in and areas they need to develop, our role is to sign post those sills that will transform areas for development into success.

Combining the language of assessment with a KS3 to 4 system is a great way of improving transitions for the pupils, and will help us to increase the focus on ‘effort’ leading to attainment.

Effort stickers

The stickers are a visual representation of the pupils effort and link to the next step targets.

Next Step Targets: Oakfield Humanities Faculty

  1. Keep my exercise book more organised
  2. Take care with my presentation
  3. Ensure that my effort is at a high level to complete the task set
  4. Listen to all verbal instructions and explanations
  5. Make a plan of all the key points before I start my written work
  6. P.E.E., Point, Evidence, Explain
  7. Respond to the challenges set in my work and lessons
  8. Complete my homework
  9. Contribute to class discussions
  10. S.P.A.G.: Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar
  11. Increase my participation in group tasks
  12. Have you used the correct locations?
  13. Apply the key words and tricky terms from your learning
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Comfort to Learning to Challenge

Whilst reading ‘The Expert Learner’ (Stobart 2015), I came across a fantastic model about our ‘deliberate practice involving risk taking’, and how excellence is achieved from stepping out of the comfort zone, into the learning zone, (Colvin 2008). I had a long think about many academies and educational establishment’s targets, representing a greater degree of challenge for pupils across the ability spectrum, creating a strong, solid learning environment. If we stay in this comfort zone, it can lead to a measure of apathy towards learning, and its only when we stretch the pupils that they can enter the learning zone, master new skills and knowledge.

Colvin model

I wanted to adapt it to look at the element of challenge, and how easy it can be sometimes to misjudge the balance between the two zones, pushing learners too much and forcing them into the panic zone. The battle as an educator is to foster challenge and an ethos of acceptance towards failure, whilst maintaining a positive outlook on learning as a whole. This is a model I will share with my classes, and discuss through pupil voice where they feel they are in lessons.

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Learning away from the classroom; Fancy term for H/W!

We all have a 1001 ideas, but as all teachers need to remember, the term isn’t condensed into one month, and the long term vision is to take staff on a journey of   developing  of teaching and learning to a fantastic level for all pupils. H/W can sometimes prove an issue that takes over the real in depth analysis of learning in an establishment.

This has raised the question about the amount of homework that KS3 pupils receive in a week. Average is one hour a night, and pupils are told that if the piece runs over this allotted time, then they can stop. But is this valid?
It was always my view that hw should inform or challenge the learning from lessons.
With 2 hrs of maths, 1 hr eng, hist, Geog, sci, art and DT in one week, this overload can be good for the HA pupils, a challenge, but what of those who struggle with their organisation, their time management on even the basic tasks?
Richard Walker (2013), raises the questions;
1. Is homework beneficial for student achievement outcomes?
2. Does homework help to develop the skills of independent, self-directed learning in students?
3. Is parental involvement in their children’s homework activities beneficial for achievement, motivation and the development of independent learning skills?

Taking these into account whilst writing a H/W timetable has provided some sage thinking, as how beneficial can 8 hrs of hw be for a 12 yr old, when the new nat curriculum looks towards developing a love of learning through an interactive curriculum and lessons that enthuse and inspire?
We use Doddle in geography, a fantastic online resource that pupils love, but as hw becomes increasingly directed towards individual thinking skills/project based, is the time of quizzes and summation assessment seen its day?
How important is homework for KS 3 pupils?

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Be Proud to Learn

Thats what we are telling the pupils at the Academy, be proud to learn. We want to show the pupils that learning is ok, that it alright to be an academic success, and to utilise the skills they have to learn more. To achieve this, implementation of CPD that challenges the teachers to use themselves, to reflect on theirs and other practice is becoming common place. Throughout this site, I will endeavour to share the projects, both successful and not, that we pilot and trial to improve and enhance the learning of the pupils. Inspiration has been taken from fantastic blogs like Chris Hildrew’s and the Team GB’s Marginal Gains.