Being British | Being Muslim

Real safeguarding: A new tailored Cooperative Learning course directly to secondary pupils for one of the UK’s leading Cultural Competency Trainers

AKSAA are market leaders in Islamic Awareness and Cultural Competency Training. Since 2004 more than 17,500 delegates have undergone unique and insightful courses delivered in over 80 different Local Authority locations across the UK.

I am happy to be developing an entirely new type of courses for secondary state schools with a large proportion of Muslim students, to meet statutory requirements related to community cohesion, fundamental British values and Citizenship for AKSAA .

As part of the Government’s Prevent Strategy, and for the schools to fulfill their Prevent duty, Aksaa has been delivering specialist training for pupils and teachers to help build pupils’ resilience to radicalisation by promoting fundamental British values and enabling them to challenge extremist views.

By using cooperative learning to engage all students in authentic debates about values and choice, this unique course facilitates democratic negotiation of controversial issues in a safe, social environment. Debates are based on relevant subject knowledge and students get the opportunity to ask frank, questions directly to born and Muslim consultants.


This course is available from January 2016. Please see the other site for details.


“Cooperative Learning helps to think on your feet and be more focused. It helps with promoting your opinions more effectively with deeper thinking.”

– Mr K. Tai, Director of AKSAA

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Filed under Citizenship, community building, Cooperative Learning, Education policy, Enquiry, integration, Islam, Lesson plans, Multiculturalism, Religious Education, Religious studies, RS

Feedback strategies & Cooperative Learning

This brief article explores how Cooperative Learning seamlessly integrates Feedback, making it possible to reach a total of 8 months progress per pupil per year with an investment of as little as £5 in one-off costs.

(This article is a natural follow-up to EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit; a Cooperative Learning gloss, and of special interest to attendees of Charlie Hebdo in Luton and last week’s MTA event at Berrymede Junior School in London).

From the Sutton Trust/EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit definition:

Feedback is information given to the learner or teacher about the learner’s performance relative to specific learning goals or outcomes, to redirect or refocus either the teacher’s or the learner’s actions to achieve a goal, by aligning effort and activity with an outcome.


Information given to the learner

Feedback can “be about the output of the activity, the process of the activity, or the student’s management of their learning.” These three correspond roughly to 1. evaluation of a product, 2.  formative assessment and even 3. self-regulation (which is a separate strategy from the Toolkit) respectively, all of which are ideally suited to Cooperative Learning activities.

First of all, because of the reflection and negotiation required by these three is built into any social activity, feedback is implicit. The teacher has only to adjust the volume or focus by dropping in questions.

Assume in the Charlie Hebdo lesson plan, we have reached the stage where our students present their core arguments  to partners, before a Live Opponent.  Repeat that step a couple of times, but give the ancillary task: “Before switching to a new partner, tell each other how to improve your next presentation.” Then drive sub-objectives by giving detail: “Remember how we discussed pausing at commas and full stops when reading out? Same thing here. You do not want to rush through.” or “Is there a way to make the language more concise.” etc.

Remember that having the recipient writing down the feedback, and having the advisor sign it, again ensures accountability for both parties.

Secondly, because of the tightly controlled organizing of peers and teams means the teacher is able to control the who gives feedback to whom – negating the usual perils of less-organised group work. This is especially important if you want to leverage Higher with Lower Ability Pupils. I hope to write more on that in a later post. In the interim, you will find some details on equal participation here.


Information given to the teacher 

As for feedback to the teacher, there is obviously the information automatically culled on the learning process, implicit in all proper Cooperative Learning. Here, first port of call is again unobtrusive monitoring. Added to this is the activities staged with feedback as the specific product.

As an example, I refer to the newsletter eCL#3: Charlie’s Angels or Sympathy for the Devils… RE Lesson Plan on the Paris attacks. Attendees of last weeks MTA event at Berrymede in London will recognise the many levels information can be culled in written form – notetaking before presenting, note-taking during interviewing, during listening to other pupil’s presentation, as well as any other way one normally secures written evidence; with Cooperative Learning, it is never an either/or. The end of the plan also gives examples of homework.



Feedback studies tend to show very high effects on learning across all age groups. Generally, research in schools has focused particularly on its impact on English, mathematics and, to a lesser extent, science and recent meta-analysis of the impact of formative assessment on writing indicates gains of 8 months’ progress are achievable. Given  feedback is integrated implicitly and may be explicitly organised with superior effect this makes structural  Cooperative Learning exceptionally  effective.

According to Sutton Trust research, some studies reporting lower impact indicate that it is challenging to improve the quality of feedback in the classroom. But with Cooperative Learning, because the individual accountability makes feedback implicit in the    Cooperative Learning activities themselves with no further preparation from the teacher.

In a recent study, some teachers initially believed that the programme was unnecessary as they already used feedback effectively. For such teachers,  Cooperative Learning would simply be a tool to further increase focus and effect of their feedback.

Working explicitly with feedback however does require some delineation – as I often warn teachers is that Cooperative Learning  will give what you put into it. For example, the literature on feedback draws an essential distinction between feedback targeted at the self (‘Great sentence; you are a superstar!’) and feedback which promotes self-regulation and independent learning (‘You have learned some adverbs today. Check if you could add some adverbs to improve your sentences.’).

It was not clear in observed lessons that this distinction was consistently understood by teachers, and this is important because Cooperative Learning  will engage students in both cases, but the outcome is very different. Precisely because Cooperative Learning multiplies the effect of the input, it is recommended that staff be provided with a large number of examples illustrating the variety of types of feedback.


Price tag

This research is based on whole school intervention, involving 10 schools and around 4,000 pupils at a cost of around £88,000. The cost per pupil is approximately £22 according to the Sutton Trust research. Referring back to the previous articles, where we mentioned the price of the basic Skills & Mastery as less than £5 for a collaborative learning programme normally priced at £40, consider saving an additional sum by restricting  feedback CPD to best practice questioning techniques, rather than a full scale package.

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Evidence culled from the action research project Anglican Schools Partnership and Effective Feedback and Teaching and Learning Toolkit.

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MTA presents Cooperative Learning at Berrymede, London

On January 23, I have the honour of presenting Cooperative Learning at one of this month’s MTA Weekend workshops at Berrymede Junior School.

I want to again promote the Muslim  Teacher’s Association for making very expensive speakers and CPD events available to both Muslim and non-Muslim educationists at a fraction of market price. Last year saw Ms Camplell Stephens and Mr Ed Wallas at 10. Although I do not compare myself to them, this course would easily cost delegates £50, yet mada available at a fifth of the price to members of MTA and less than half of non-members.

Please also note this is an outstanding school which has been awarded the GPU education for Excellence 2013, and that the day also offers mentoring opportunities, with 30 minutes time slots to be allocated with experienced educational senior leaders).


This Workshop presents delegates with some of the active learning strategies of  21st Century British Muslim tailored to turn teaching and learning in Muslim faith schools outstanding within 12 months.

However, the course is also highly relevant to teachers working in state schools with a large proportion of Muslim pupils, looking to effectively approach controversy without repercussions, and ensure safeguarding and other statutory requirements are met without compromising the personal integrety of certain groups of students.

The relationship between Cooperative Learning, Pupil Premium and disadvantaged pupils have been discussed at great length in the post EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit; a Cooperative Learning gloss.



To register your place, send your name, organisation and contact details to:
Cost £10 (Members)    £20 (Non-Members)
For queries on the day, please contact Lubna Khan, Vice-President, on 07834 195007

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A lesson at the Association for Science Education

Ben and I presented our first joint session to Science teachers at the ASE conference in Birmingham yesterday; in spite of very positive feedback, it was a lesson that taught us something.

First of all, I’ve always run my CPD with delegates playing the role of their own pupils. One reason is because Cooperative Learning cannot be grasped as a theory – it is in every way a practical, immersive experience. Another reason is that trying it first hand creates empathy with your pupils and insight into the unique challenges they face when learning together in such a structured fashion.

However, in yesterday’s session, we found that presenting  a reading skills lesson to highly skilled readers quickly becomes as convoluted as it sounds.

Reading a paragraph out and then having your partner summarising or commenting on it works extremely well from KS4-10. But, to most secondary science teachers, all motivated and highly skilled readers, reading alone and in their own tempo is far more effective –  as opposed to children and young adults who can read alone for half an hour and then have no clue what the text was about.

ASE Ben and Jakob

Ben & Jakob at Birmingham University

As Ben commented from his experience, this lesson is actually far more effective to students. Also far quicker, as youngsters do not delve into each nook and corner as intelligent, professional adults in a paid session tend to do. In the ten minutes they had, many pairs only managed to go through one or two of a 6 page extract from On transfer as the goal in literacy by Wiggins.

You know you are working with science teachers when a delegate turns around to you and says “This text is as dense as tungsten.”

One major mistake on our behalf was to pick this text on research into … well, reading strategies. Suddenly, content and objective became inextricably garbled.

In summary…

We chose it because we wanted to present something where all attendees were on an equal footing, but using a text on quantum computing or somesuch from Scientific American would have been a lot better.


To give an example, the opening Catch1Partner with vocabulary from the text came across precisely not as vocabulary from the text, but as general introduction to reading skills. “reciprocal learning” and “prior knowledge” should have been replaced with “quants” and “nano” had we only gone with Scientific American.

(More on rote learning with Catch1Partner here. Just skip past the discussion of Mr Peal’s book).

We are aiming to upload materials for the benefit of delegates over the next few days. In the meantime: I discussed introvert learners with some of you. The article I mentioned was Inside out? collaborating introverts.

Our introduction mentioned Cooperative Learning in relation to the Sutton Trust. For anyone considering presenting this method to school budget-controllers, this is a must read: EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit; a Cooperative Learning gloss.

I am aiming to get an article up on on how Feedback, another Sutton Trust/EEF best practice, integrates with Cooperative Learning.

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More on the actual lesson on CooperateBeLiterate.

Thank you for your attendance. As always with Cooperative Learning, I am amazed how much attendees get out of it compared to quality and quantity of the actual input.

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For the benefit of London delegates; links…

On 4 January the fully developed 21st century British Muslim programme was presented to the two first adopters of 2016, as well as external delegates from the AMS South Hub INSET, forty seats in all.

21st century British Muslim is an 11-hour course developed over 18 months to meet the highly specialised needs of Muslim faith schools in the UK, in relation to results, radicalisation issues and leadership.

It puts Ofsted-compliant, effective student-centred learning at the fingertips of all staff, including unqualified teachers, across all subjects, driving attainment and progress, while integrating behavior and higher level thinking.

The objective is to move Teaching & Learning in attending schools to oustanding in 12 months. The relationship between Cooperative Learning and disadvantaged pupils has been discussed in detail in EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit; a Cooperative Learning gloss.

Muntada 21stc.jpg

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone, especially for you intelligent questions and positive feedback. I was informed by school management yesterday evening that you have already run out the first exercises successfully. Just remember, small steps with easy tasks and clear objectives.



As promised, I have collected some links that I referred to in the presentation (this is by no means an exhaustive list!):


On running and staging Cooperative Learning lessons:

Monitoring and real-time feedback in the Cooperative Learning classroom

Workshop debriefing: As I have states in numerous places, the candid verbalization of opinions during the debate gives teachers a unique insight into the knowledge and thought processes of each individual student as thet work through tasks and materials.


Deconstructing the Progressive-Traditional Dichotomy; a note to Mr Peal

Balancing teacher and student centredness, with practical examples.

Cooperative Learning; a model lesson across all subjects

This lesson reflect Stalham Academy’s best-practice experience, which secures an ideal mix of group and individual work, saves teachers mental planning and provides children with a repeated, recognisable format.


Norwich High School for Girls; A tailored workshop lesson plan

In 2014, I successfully presented Norwich High School for Girls with a series of four tailored 60 minute workshops. The aim was to allow students to collaboratively construct a mental framework to help get the most out of the following two-week Connected Curriculum theme “Life in the Global Village” culminating in a staged UN session to resolve the current crisis in Syria.For the benefit of humanities teachers, we present here the lesson plan to demonstrate how Cooperative Learning techniques were used to meet a wide scope of lesson aims.


Inside out? collaborating introverts

In a recent article in The Atlantic, Michael Godsey claims that the growing emphasis in classrooms on interactive arrangements can be challenging for introverted students who tend to perform better when they are working independently and in more subdued environments.
Social Skills

Socio(pathic) Skills; the dark tangent of Student-Centred Learning?

I admit it; I was in school at a time when the 60s generation free thinking was not a rebellious idea, but a norm – both inside and outside the classroom – and communism was in vogue among intellectuals and …

Safgeguarding; Thinking skills & Identity

Thinking children are the future? – Cooperative Learning & (Higher Level) Thinking

Independent, critical and creative thinking and the ability to solve problems is central to Cooperative Learning, by the very nature of the case. In Denmark and other Scandinavian countries these skills have long had a high priority and are considered fundamental to citizenship in a democratic society.

Bad Arguments in RE; Arming our children’s minds

I have long wanted to introduce the online resource Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments.

Deradicalisation; it’s not about what you do, it’s about who you are

Mohammed Elshimi (University of Exeter) : Identity, Citizenship, and Security: What is Deradicalisation? (PART 1, read PART 2)* (Notes from BRAIS conference, University of Edinburgh 10-11 April 2014, Panel 3: Identity and Integration In Muslim-Minority Societies)


Deradicalisation#2; “Salvation in this life”

Highly important to the theme of the Islamic Education Conference seminar on June 2, this entry builds on the previous post on deradicalisation which summarises some key findings in Mohammed Elshimi’s recent presentation…



EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit; a Cooperative Learning gloss

Commenting on the famous Sutton Trust-EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit, this article posits the structural approach as the most effective form of collaborative learning, bar none.


Engaging staff effectively with their CPD; A CL gloss

Without her mentioning Cooperative Learning once, Ms Jessica Brosnan, of the Teacher Development Trust, has unwittingly written a better article on why Cooperative Learning should be adopted as a whole school ethos than I could.


Community building

Seminar at IEC2014: Opening Minds, Closing Achievement Gaps

– Empowering Identity and Community Building through Cooperative Learning

Empowering communities through Student-Centred Learning

According to one American researcher, Palestinians get it; do we?

History of the course:

21st century British Muslim in London; a message from the course leader

From the first big trial in Date Valley School last year. Sums up the course.


Cooperative Learning and the 21c British Muslim

Seminar follow-up. Thank you to participants – external and internal – at Harrow Primary School; a very engaged crowd of teachers, fresh from the holidays and eager to start a new year.


21c British Muslim: The solution?

The first 3 hour Interactive Seminar, London, August 29, 2014.


Relevant event in London

Finally, I noted my presentation at the MTAs next London event on 23 January 2016 at Berrymede. This is a piece on a previous event by the Muslim Teachers Association.

Please download the flyer here.

Critical thinking & community empowerment: coming soon to a staff room near you?

This event “Muslim Teachers of the Future” yesterday raised the level, urgency and sheer importance of investigative sessions such as Healing Fractures II.






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Cooperate Be Literate Live!

Happy New Year: This Thursday, the first lesson plan hatched by the Cooperate Be Literate project will be presented to delegates at the ASE Annual Conference 2016 at the University of Birmingham.

Ben and I have been busy over Christmas writing up the lesson plan and preparing our science reading lessons. We’ve written the first chapters of our book on how to teach science students to read using cooperative learning techniques.

We’ve trialled the lesson with learners from year 5 to adults. Seems it is a very enjoyable way of embedding the skills needed to read scientific texts effectively.

ASE Conference invite


And reading is such an important skill. Only 20% of the science and engineering professionals Ben asked over the summer said that they were taught to read technical texts at school. A staggering number.

Our lesson is great and we’ve got an exciting presentation to deliver. We hope to see you there.

Our session is on Thursday at 15.00 – 16.00. Looking forward to seeing you. As final evidence of the content void nature of Cooperative Learning, the same activity which a few weeks ago facilitated higher level thinking and communicative skills when debating toxic subjects in the soft context of RE/RS, Citizenship and SMSC, now promotes literacy in your next Science lesson.


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Charlie Hebdo revisited in Walsall

A warm thank you to participants of yesterday’s event Charlie Hebdo & Islam; effectively handling controversy and FBV in Walsall.

I especially wish to thank the Association of Muslim Schools for their initiative and Abu Bakr Boys School for providing a venue for this very necessary event, leading up to the Charlie Hebdo year date next month.

This 2 hour twilight demonstrated a scalable, instantly applicable RE lesson plan related to the murders last year, using Cooperative Learning to foster tightly controlled discussions of controversial materials in a safe environment, and included strategies for assessment, evidence of learning and SMSC/Citizenhip integration in compliance with DfE requirements.


“Very inspiring – it was immediately obvious why cooperative learning approach would have multiple benefits, especially when learning about controversial topics.”

– Mr R.T. Bradley, Head of Religious Studies, Queen Mary’s Grammar School, Walsall, 16 December 2015


The lesson was staged using two antagonistic texts, culled from online media:

Charlie Hebdo: This Attack Was Nothing To Do With Free Speech — It Was About War by Mr  Asghar Bukhari at

Charlie Hebdo and the freedom to offend by David Suissa at the Jewish Journal.

At the end of this lesson, students should be able to describe, correlate, criticise, synthesise some of the viewpoints and arguments about freedom of expression, religious tolerance, the role of media, Islamic  vs. secular (British) values, and consequences of terrorism, specifically related to the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, which too place almost exactly a year ago.

It is implicitly understood that Cooperative Learning facilitate a wide variety of areas of learning, i.e. reading skills, note-taking, discussion, as well as social skills. Please investigate this the other site and this blog for more information.

Quick lesson outline

The full plan Charlie’s Angels or Sympathy for the Devils? A full RE lesson plan on the Paris attacks is available as a PDF download in the original post,  where you will also find a repository of alternative materials and reflections:

The PDF lesson plan comprises 6 stages, each including stage timing, aims, teacher’s instructions and step-by-step execution of the three Cooperative Learning Interaction Patterns (CLIPs) used, see below.

1. Lead-in & set context
2. Individually investigate materials & uncover issues
3. Collaboratively check understanding & prepare arguments
4. Debating with a live opponent
5. Debriefing
6. Follow-up: next steps/homework


The activities are tried and tested, are simple to apply in the classroom, and will be familiar to many teachers; as the Subject Leader for Religious Education at the IoE noted after observing a CPD course to PGCEs‘‘…a reinforcement of known strategies and a recognition that they work.’’
The strategies outlined are extracted from Module B in Islam in RE; Religious Literacy and Controversy through Enquiry which has been designed to facilitate the best practice outlined in Ofsted’s RE report Realising the Potential.

“I would recommend this as it involves social interaction skills and the activities involve a huge amount of learning taking place.”

– Mr H. Rashid, Deputy Head, responsible for Teaching & Learning, Abu Bakr Boys School, Walsall, December 2015

Alternative uses of the lesson

I’ve noted before that any materials used in CPD are placeholders, and that Cooperative LEarning is there to drive your specific objectives, given that you understand you needs best.

The inexhaustibly of Cooperative Learning  means I always get new ideas from delegates that I never considered for a moment. Yesterday, one proposed using this lesson to deal with parent-school conflict, i.e. when views and values of the home might not reflect those promoted in the school, with students caught in the middle.

A possibility we discussed was using two extracts from novels, short stories, diary entries or SMSC/Citizenship material, describing a student who holds parental views above those of the school (e.g. “EDLs got good points, innit?!”),  and another who uses school values to trump parental advice (Muslim girl questioning Islamic dress code, perhaps?)

Both examples are complex, emotional issues of loyalty and identity, and failing to deal, or approaching them in the wrong way, might have a lot of negative consequences for all involved.

Here, the automatic learning differentiation inherent in Cooperative Learning would naturally facilitate the student’s own experiences and reflections, as we saw happen in the lesson. In every case, unobtrusive monitoring and securing written evidence of learning is key, as it was very clear that a lot of prior knowledge and previous reflections were pulled in to win the arguments in stage 4 Debating with a live opponent. 

In this respect, another delegate asked for more details on competition in collaborative classrooms, as he believed an all-boys environment would benefit. The EEF Toolkit does mention this: Please examine their comments and research here.

I do hope to write a proper post on this at a later time. Get notifications of related posts on twitter.

Successful staging and other reminders

The most important thing is to stage the Cooperative Learning so the interaction itself drives, rather than hinders your lesson objectives.

Instructions must be crystal clear, and modeled in front of the students. A recorded example of staging Catch1Partner is found on Potential realised? Celebrating Ofsted Report’s 1st Birthday…  (Please be aware that no links to videos are working at the time of publication. My video host,, is working to resolve the issue).

It is also helpful to have the interaction steps made available to pupils. Simply print copies of the lesson plan and blow up to A3 or simply provide as handouts.

Also remember to make sure they respect the question formats, such as using “why, who, when…” to drive the activation of factual knowledge in Stage 1: Lead-in & set context. You saw  yourselves how easy it is to stray off and just mouth of opinions. Students in secondary certainly need to distinguish the categories fact, opinion and argument. Do not be afraid to let students into the boiler room and have a meta-discussion on questioning techniques, categories, etc. This is about the future of democracy, and without this awareness, youngsters are prone to fall for the most banal propaganda.

Most white people don’t like to admit it, but those cartoons upheld their prejudice, their racism, their political supremacy, and cut it how you will — images like that upheld a political order built on discrimination.

From yesterday’s Text C – Charlie Hebdo: This Attack Was Nothing To Do With Free Speech...

However, remember to allow for some scope of off-task behavior – as long as they are not discussing football or cussing, there may be benefit in letting some teams or pairs explore a tangent for a while. Remember interactions are timed, so they will soon enough be back in the fold.

Thought strokes on biblical quotes

It’s fair to say that yesterday’s delegates represented good or outstanding schools in  Walsall.

While such schools benefit no less from Cooperative Learning, and have as much need to deal with toxic subjects (perhaps more, given the challenge such pupils would expect), it does strike me as odd that not a single struggling, ethnically mixed school with high pupil premium attended.

As I did outline in the presentation and in a recent post on the Sutton Trust/EEF Toolkit, Cooperative Learning does represent the best use of Pupil Premium money, and will help disadvantaged pupils quickly close achievement gaps. (Please a my client discuss some actual figures in New head, fresh eyes; a critical outsider’s look at Cooperative Learning).

This low attendance of struggling schools just goes to prove the biblical statement “Whoever has will be given more…” and it is an incredible shame given a quarter of Walsall’s schools rated inadequate this year.

The more schools I work with, the more firmly convinced I am the structural approach to Cooperative Learning is that sought-after bridge will allow safe, instant crossing back and forth between the traditional, teacher-centredness and the Ofsted-obligatory student-centred environment demanded by businesses and governments, yet meeting the real and immediate needs of children, parents and teachers.

Surely, if something is not done, the rest of Matthew’s word may prove true to many a desperate school: “Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”

Shame, given this:

Toolkit CL classification



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Filed under Citizenship, Cooperative Learning, CPD, Didactic methodologies, Discovery, Enquiry, events, integration, Islam, Lesson plans, Multiculturalism, PSHE, RE, Religious Education, Religious studies, RS, SMCS, social skills