The idea for these sessions came when I was asked by my Head of Department to take over the 10 minute morning meeting we have on a Wednesday and use them to do some training. At first I was stumped at how to fit any useful training into a ten minute period, but then I hit upon the idea of using the sessions to address tightly defined discrete skills and techniques that build cumulatively on each other.
In this post, you will find the morning sessions available to download, as well as a breakdown of how I ran the sessions.
I decided to take a ‘from-the-ground-up’ approach when designing the content to ensure that everyone was clear about the basics before we moved to more advanced skills and techniques. I should also say that that these sessions were planned to deal with departmental priorities set from an external review of teaching, hence the focus on learning objectives, progress tracking and questioning. The series (which I will keep adding to as it continues) runs as follows:
- The difference between learning objectives and outcomes
- Setting clear, measurable and achievable learning objectives
- Matching outcomes to objectives
- Sharing the learning objective to encourage cognition
- Tracking and narrating progress through the lesson
- Using an ‘Exit Ticket’ to guide planning
- Student ownership of questioning
- Ensuring accountability during questioning
- Building attention and focus during questioning and class discussion
The structure for the sessions runs as follows:
- Ten minute morning meeting, in which the information or technique is shared. This can be either done quite didactically (to save time) or through a short activity or discussion
- Learning walks – everyone from the department has to sign up to one learning walk over the next week to witness other members of the department trying out the relevant technique
- Feedback – every second meeting involves everyone from the department feeding back on what they tried, what worked or didn’t work and what they saw others do in the learning walks
- The following week a new technique is shared.
To combat the CPD Paradox, I tried to focus on making people accountable for trying techniques out through using learning walks, and also in making the sessions participant-led through every second session being about everyone sharing their own ideas. Finally, for the learning walks, I used a cumulative-skills tracking system to track the most recent skill alongside all those covered on previous sessions, as discussed in another post.
1. The difference between learning objectives and outcomes
This is a very basic session, simply designed to ensure that the difference between objectives and outcomes is clear and that everyone is aware about how objectives should be phrased. I think that this is important distinction is the basis of good lesson planning, so it was important to get it out the way early to ensure consistency.
I wanted it to be clear that a learning objective is about what knowledge, understanding or skill a student will gain during the lesson, while an outcome is what you want students to produce to demonstrate their learning.
2. Setting clear, measurable and achievable learning objectives
Building on the distinction between objectives and outcomes, I then decided to work on ensuring that objectives were written so that it was clear, both to students and teachers, exactly what was going to be achieved by the end of the lesson. I think that this is a vital element in good lesson planning, as a confused objective often leads to a confused lesson and confused students.
This session includes a short task, in which the group sifts through objectives to determine whether they are clear, measurable and achievable within the course of a lesson.
3. Matching outcomes to objectives
In this session, I wanted to outline the idea of having a succession of staggered outcomes that progress towards the achievement of the objective, often moving through basic knowledge to more complex skills and tasks. I think this is important because it leads to carefully planned lessons and also because it instills a sense of learning and progression within the students themselves.
I shared two different methods of staggering outcomes, the first by grading them according to NC levels / GCSE grades (moving from a low level or grade to a high on throughout the lesson) and secondly by using SOLO taxonomy outcome verbs to show the development from basic factual learning to relational or abstract.
4. Sharing the learning objective to encourage cognition
As well as having clear objectives and outcomes, I think that it is important that the students themselves have actually engaged cognitively with them as I think that learning is more effective if purposeful. This session contains a few ways of sharing objectives with students so that they cognitively engage with and internalise them.
Following the session, I asked the department to come up with their own methods to share at the following meeting.
5. Tracking and Narrating Progress
Moving on from looking specifically at objectives and outcomes, I wanted to make this session about different techniques for helping students to see their own progress throughout the lesson, not to mention making this clear to the teacher.
There a seven different techniques within the powerpoint, and I asked members of the department to take one each and present on these to the rest of the group. I also asked people to bring their own versions or come up with new ones to bring to the following meeting.
6. Using an ‘Exit Ticket’ to guide planning
In this session, we focus on one particular element of Assessment for Learning that I think is incredibly effective and successful in making lesson planning responsive to what students have learned.
The procedure for using an exit ticket, as discussed in the session, is as follows:
- Teach a lesson
- Ask students to complete an exit ticket, answering a question / set of questions that clearly tests whether the objective has been achieved
- Mark the exit ticket after the lesson
- Design a task for the beginning of the next lesson which responds to the different mistakes made on the exit cards
7. Student ownership of questioning
In the remainder of the sessions, I began to focus on different areas of good questioning practice, the first of which was encouraging students to take control of questioning sessions themselves, rather than having the teacher as the locus of control.
The session contains a procedure to encourage more independent questioning sessions, as well as two different frameworks on which classroom discussions can be built: clarify, probe, recommend or Agree, Build, Challenge. Finally, it also has a technique for encouraging students to ask good questions of each other.
8. Ensuring accountability during questioning
This session responds to what I consider to be the biggest issue with using questioning within lessons: that not all students participate, either actively or even mentally, with the discussion and, as a result, not everyone is learning. Rather than explain the technique myself, below is a slide from the session which does so:
9. Building attention and focus during questioning and class discussion
In a related session to the previous one, I then moved to some techniques for improving the attention that students pay to classroom discussion and questioning, again responding to the issue about maximising learning from questioning sessions. In this session, I go over three different techniques for helping to build attention and demonstrate learning during questioning.
I cannot claim full ownership over all of these techniques. In particular, there have been three blogs that I found hugely useful in thinking about these issues.