Webinar Summary Part #2; Special Measures to Top-500

This is the second themed recording from the webinar Special Measures to Top-500 with Cooperative Learning.

The first part introduced context – definitions of Cooperative Learning, related research, the EEF Toolkit & Pupil Premium, and more.

In this second part. Andrew Howard, then acting head, describes step-by-step how Stalham Academy reached the top with happy pupils, teachers, and parents. Cooperative Learning is essentially about ownership – for pupils to gradually become independent of their teachers, for schools to become independent of consultancy as quickly as possible.

This is where the meat is.

“It makes learning and teaching very visible. As you develop your toolkit of CLIPs, you can develop more and more and more and more ways with which you can engage your pupils and give really, really structured feedback based on what you believe good teaching and learning is.”

– Andrew Howard,  Webinar Special Measures to Top-500. March 27, 2017.

 

Webinar Special Measures to Top-500 (7).png

CLIPs – Cooperative Learning Interaction Patterns Andrew define in a practical way how learners interact with materials and each other to achieve various objectives, giving full control of the learning process. More on werdelin.co.uk.

Read a detailed article on these lessons, written after a parent’s meeting in 2015 Cooperative Learning; a model lesson across all subjects

Read the four articles for Senior Leadership: Stalham Academy, What went Right?

 

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May 15, 2017 · 13:19

Five Things You Wish You’d Known (about Cooperative Learning) before You started Teaching

One of the reasons why Cooperative Learning yields mind-boggling results is because it solves a lot of those tiresome conundrums that drive teachers nuts.

I got inspired to write this post by Carl Hendrick’s (@C_Hendrick) well-researched and well-referenced piece Five Things I Wish I knew When I started Teaching. Please visit his original post for elaboration on each point.

Most teachers recognise these five as among  the contentious classics. (As bocks1 comments on the post: “Worth remembering these work both ways too…”) However, the point here is not who is right, but how Cooperative Learning might present a practical solution that helps get around the argument entirely.

 

1. Motivation doesn’t always lead to achievement, but achievement often leads to motivation.

With Cooperative Learning, there is no “causal arrow” here which can potentially point the wrong way. Rather, motivation and achievement are fused. Think of the Cooperative Learning Interaction Pattern Catch1Partner where pupils with flashcards get out of their seats, join partners, ask, hint, explain and answer questions, and then swap cards before repeating the process with a new partner.

Enquiry & Immersion C1P

There is movement, social interaction, the excitement of changing partners, the adrenaline of getting it right, the safety of being wrong in front of one person only, and then the victory of having the answer when you meet your next partner, and being able to hint and explain, especially for lower ability pupils. (And for SEN pupils with autism spectrum disorders there is a rigid, safe structure, aside from other relevant measures).

I often pick Catch1Partner as an example of how to effortlessly motivate children to drill key facts and concepts – which are necessary for achievement in any subject. The high achievement is the result of integrating knowledge into memory through the negotiation of meaning, differentiated examples, and targeted explaining. And obviously, because you get better and better every time that card set is used, the higher achievement leads to ever higher motivation, as, Hendrick rightly points out.

Achievement Motivation

Caveat: It is assumed here that you’re drilling facts which are actually relevant to what is being taught, with an exception to this being revision but that is a different story.  (Just remember that you can integrate an endless array of sub-activities, such as demanding they always follow what with the question “So, what else can you tell me about that?” – Thank you for that one, Stalham Academy).

 

 

2. Just because they’re engaged doesn’t mean they’re learning anything.

That’s not completely true; e.g. sharing new ways to use four letter words under the cover of “group work” will certainly engage many pupils I could think of.  This is precisely the reason Cooperative Learning is not “group work.” The rigid structuring of how pupils interact with each other and the learning materials, paired with limited timing, create a sense of urgency, accountability, and focus, As Matthew snickers in this video, “…there is no room for them to go off task.”

Matthew Vince

Visit full video gallery.

The combination of urgency, accountability, and focus is very difficult to achieve with individual work unless pupils are, as the article points out, beyond the point where the work is challenging. And certainly impossible to achieve with fluffy “group work.”

There is a dry comment to this point by Dan Whittaker that had me laughing: “Great post. Number 2 is the one that jolted me. The title shouldn’t be ‘Five Things I Wish I knew When I started Teaching’ but ‘Five Things I Wish SLTs Knew’.” This is precisely the reason I wrote Get your Head around it about making teaching visible so we can get rid off unhelpful advice such as “ensure pupil engagement” following a lesson observation by the deputy head.

3. Marking and feedback are not the same thing

“The value in marking a piece of work may counterintuitively be of more benefit to the teacher than the student.” I am assuming here that marking means penning into workbooks ticks, crosses, and/or smileys, with a very short comment, for example, “Can you expand on this a bit more?” or “Remember to capitalise your first letter.”

Feedback, on the other hand, 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.”

I lifted this bit on “information given to the learner” from my post on feedback from January 2016: “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 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…” Read more on Feedback strategies & Cooperative Learning.

 

“An example during a Y5/6 Catch1Partner – two less able pupils who found each other.  When one could not answer the maths problem the other said ‘Shall I give you a clue’ and then proceeded to give a sensible clue so the other child could work out the answer!  Amazing given the children in question!”

– Lucy Bates, headteacher, Ormesby Village Junior School, December 2016. More.

 

4. Feedback should be more work for the recipient than the donor.

From the original article: “… for feedback to be truly meaningful to students, they need to take ownership of it which may well mean not giving levels to a piece of work at all and instead just leaving comments for the student to reflect and act upon.”

I again refer to Feedback strategies & Cooperative Learning.

 

5. (a) The steps needed to achieve a skill may look very different to the final skill itself.

From the article: “Deliberate practice asserts the benefit of breaking down a global skill into its constituent local parts and focusing on specific feedback and incremental improvement rather than a set of assessment criteria/performance descriptors that are “aimed at some vague overall improvement.”

Because Cooperative Learning puts the onus of learning on the learners, it, unfortunately, puts the onus of teaching on the teacher (Yes, go figure!): Effectiveness hinges upon precise modelling. Forget the guide on the side, et cetera. The key to success is clear step-by-step demonstration of what good practice looks like, replete with exact language and specific vocabulary.

Boss & Secretary (or, more politically correct, Sage-N-Scribe) pops to mind here. Setting up a science experiment: one student reads out the step-by-step process using relevant language, demonstrated by the teacher and scaffolded by relevant materials (but cannot touch the materials), the partner executes the orders, asking clarifying questions, but cannot act without instructions. (There’s life skills for you, right in the science lesson).

Or, converting fractions to decimals, or a past tense sentence into a present tense sentence, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. There is almost no skill that cannot be broken down into component parts and said into relevant CLIPs.

(b). There is no such thing as developing a ‘general’ skill.

Here, I admit my total bafflement:

“… critical thinking is an essential part of any student’s mental equipment. However, it cannot be detached from context. Teaching students generic ‘thinking skills’ separate from the rest of the curriculum is often meaningless and ineffective. “

This sentence seems to claim it is even possible to teach thinking skills without anchoring them in specific contexts, which is as absurd as an attribute without an essence. I cannot imagine this is what is intended by protagonists of “general” skills. (But I’d be very eager to hear from anyone who can give me a practical example of how this would be done).

 

Kim#s cards

Attributes and essences. Cards by Kim, Norwich Primary Academy, 2016.

 

But, referring back to “So, what else can you tell me?” in Catch1Partner as discussed above, this sub-task would certainly promote thinking and communication skills, which could be described as general. But obviously, the question ties into very specific content, whether the flashcard question was about Roman numerals or a play by Shakespeare.

So, to reiterate, motivation, achievement, thinking skills, practical skills and associated vocabulary (with full differentiation included) – with no extra work or planning on the part of the teacher.

Upcoming:

The Chemistry of Communication; Oracy Skills in Science (and everything else)

Mrs Naomi Hennah (@MrsHennah) of Northampton School for Boys has created a clear and concise “visual summary of the complexity of chemical discourse” to boost oracy skills and language acquisition in chemistry.

 

Some related articles

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.

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

Student-Centred Learning in UK schools; Here be Dragons… Over the past month, I have been reading Mr Peal’s Progressively Worse with disturbed fascination.

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.

 

 

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The ‘Washing Hands’ of Learning: Think Pair Share

Source: The ‘Washing Hands’ of Learning: Think Pair Share

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The Chemistry of Communication; Oracy Skills in Science (and everywhere else)

Mrs Naomi Hennah (@MrsHennah) of Northampton School for Boys has created a clear and concise “visual summary of the complexity of chemical discourse” to boost oracy skills and language acquisition in chemistry.  (Link at the end of the page).

Teachers from other subjects should not be put off, however. This post should hopefully make Mrs Hennah’s considerations relevant not only to other fields of science (which would not require a huge leap of the imagination) but to all subjects, as remote from Science as, say, Religious Studies. 

 

The reason for this is found in the requirement for exact vocabulary in any subfield. Imagine grammar without the delineation provided by word classes; maths without numerator & denominator; English without active and passive voice. Even Religious Studies cannot be taught without the concepts of monotheism, ritual, and so forth. However, as all teachers know, the correct understanding and application of subject relevant language is not a given, even after laborious explanation. 

“…to do so requires words.”

As Mrs Hennah says in her introduction: “Teachers are required to facilitate understanding [and] to do so requires words. Words are at the heart of knowledge and understanding, but it is unwise to assume we share their meaning.”

Unwise indeed. Because social constructivism is a fact of human existence, like breathing, meaning is continuously negotiated everywhere: in media, in politics, and even in families debating what constitutes “too much screen time.” Infuriating for its critics in right-wing think tanks, the moment one begins to even discuss social constructivism, one is engaging in social constructivism.

In fact, social constructivism factors as much into science as it does in, say, philosophy. If in doubt about this, just replace “scientific” with “philosophic” in the following quote. As Mrs Hennah points out, the national curriculum for science specifically refers to the need for “spoken language in pupils’ development across the whole curriculum — cognitively, socially and linguistically. The quality and variety of language that pupils hear and speak are key factors in developing their scientific vocabulary and articulating scientific concepts clearly and precisely,” to clarify students’ thinking and use the discussion to probe and remedy their misconceptions. 

So, social constructivism is just brilliant in education: through everyone explaining, recapping, challenging, questioning, discussing, and debating, vocabulary and its multivarious contexts are acquired and integrated on the fly into the minds of all the debating participants, each adding unique value as sounding boards for preconceptions, correlating information, renegotiating significance. Right?

Hey, let’s make pupils teachers! (What could possibly go wrong?)

So far so good. Except that, order to leverage social constructivism, you need to pass at least some of the learning process into the hands of the students. The potential for off-task behaviour, messy assessment, and especially peers teaching nonsense, is enough to unflip many a classroom.

Cooperative Learning handles these risks effectively. Because it micro-manages timing, subject specific language, materials, interaction, and tasks, Cooperative Learning facilitates accountability and monitoring and seamlessly interlaces the unique input of the teacher with student-centred activities. We have discussed in the last post on Stalham Academy how this is not experienced as a straitjacket, but the opposite. Teachers have full control, yet students are free to roam within this focus. As Matthew Vince puts it in this video: ” … you can teach specific knowledge, its just in a way that is engaging and active … There is just no room for anyone to go off task…” (Note that he can barely contain his laughter at this point).

Matthew Vince

But! Matthew is an Religious Studies teacher – not relevant to science at all! My point exactly: Matthew is referring to the exact same Cooperative Learning Interaction Patterns (CLIPs) which led Dr Lynn Hayes of INSPIRE STEM PGCEs at Imperial College to say: 

“I just had to share with you how my Maths Student Teacher used CLIPs SO effectively as a revision starter to his lesson. It was only the second time that he used it with his top set Math Yr9 set. They have really bought into the process and learning was happening! The school that I visited yesterday is going to use CLIPs to investigate developing Literacy in Science Year 7.” 

Bridging the Gap

The aim of Mrs Hennah’s project is to develop oracy in the classroom and measure the impact that this has on technical and semi-technical language acquisition and she is clear that to do so “will require a shift in classroom culture from a more traditional, passive environment to that of active collaborative enquiry.”

Cooperative Learning makes that shift easy to manage, for senior leadership, teachers and students – and might concievably help with the cross-curricular problems Ben Rogers describes in his recent article  Haven’t We Got Enough To Do Already? How and Why Science Teachers Teach Vocabulary.

With Cooperative Learning, talking  is not an end in itself. Various Cooperative Learning Interaction Patterns cover all required aspects of the learning process, including traditional individual tasks such as reading and writing. (For science teachers, I highly recommend reading Ben Rogers’s recent article on how simple Cooperative Learning can improve reading comprehension of texts).

For example: the classic Sage-n-Scribe (Boss & Secretary) is an obvious choice for setting up a science experiment: one student reads out the step-by-step process using relevant language, demonstrated by teacher and scaffolded by relevant materials (but cannot touch the materials), the partner executes the orders, asking clarifying questions, but cannot act without instructions. (There are life skills for you, right in the science lesson).  

Think-Pair-Share, on the other hand, is brilliant for guessing experiment outcomes and their whys, or, afterwards, for assessing why exactly the results didn’t come out as expected. (Just add in a written element in each of those three stages, and you will get the written evidence, as well as a track record of who won the argument and why).

Now open Mrs Henna’s visual and start in the box “Oracy: the ability to express oneself fluently and grammatically in speech” and as you work your way through, imagine in a practical way how you would stage Boss & Secretary and Think-Pair-Share to tick the other boxes.

 

For more on TPS, I refer to my previous repressing of Tom Sherrington’s post on Think-Pair-Share.

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Stalham Academy, What Went Right? Lesson#4; Don’t trouble your Head with lesson plans

Teach. Smile. Repeat. It is well-known that the very greatest mastery in any field is the result of great discipline. Less recognised is the fact that the greatest freedom is often also the result of great discipline.

For headteachers looking to maximise return on their CPD investment, there is a fine balance between letting teachers experiment and find their individual style, and stepping in and guiding them to match the vision one has for the school.

At Stalham Academy, Andrew Howard adopted the second approach. And this is where the relationship between freedom and discipline is key.

We’ve already shown how properly executed Cooperative Learning creates a sense of freedom and empowerment among learners.

What we will investigate in this article is the freedom its structure gave to teachers when it was applied consistently to all lessons at Stalham Academy.

Choices, choices…

Cooperative learning is an endless toolbox. You can choose to use it only for class building every Monday morning – just fun and games. You can also choose to massively improve outcomes of specific tasks recurring in specific lessons. For example, peers comparing and correcting individual work, or confirming connections to previous knowledge, or simple task resolution. To name three of hundreds.

toolboxTake your pick…

 

Now, many of us teachers have a repository of strategies that we find work well for us and that we tend to use again and again. But how we order and use or don’t use them at which points in a lesson is often a matter of intuition, (bad) habits, or whim, as it were.

Because almost all Cooperative Learning Interaction Patterns (CLIPs) can achieve multiple different objectives, the use of each can vary tremendously from teacher to teacher and lesson to lesson.

For one teacher Catch1Partner warms up the class with metacognitive questions, for another it drills multiplication tables, for a third it is the final step in a Think-Pair-Share to cross-fertilise ideas between teams.

Each may get stuck in their ways miss how simple it is to achive so much more. Don’t  forget CLIPs are not deployed for their own sake, but to drive progress in every lesson. Student-centered learning is not an objective in its own right.

And though execution may be very good (and often is), bear in mind it is fully possible to stage and run a CLIP extremely well and achieve all the outcomes one is hoping for but use it at the wrong time in the lesson, or to want the wrong outcomes in relation to the goals of the lesson itself.

For example, by using Cooperative Learning solely to gain insight into the minutae of children’s learning processes, and thus breaking up their flow and slowing progress when one could have used at different CLIP, gone with the flow, maintained the pace, and still gained the insight one was looking for.

Inventing the wheel just once

In practice, Andrew identified a few sensible lesson formats that would draw upon the content-void nature of Cooperative Learning to work across all subjects; a stack of CLIPs which were laced together in advance and which would drive forward the learning in the best possible way, leaving teachers free to focus on the content rather than the form of the lesson.

The children quickly took to this repeated, clear structure, which minimises the amount of necessary commands to the barest minimum. After a very short time some classes were able to carry out lessons virtually without teacher guidance. The command “open your workbooks on page 25. Think-Pair-Share the second question, you have two minutes for each stage” was sufficient.

Parent meeting Andrew Howard lesson presentationMr Howard at work on a pie diagramme… Watch video in new window.

In conclusion

So while asking teachers to follow a specific lesson template composed of the string of Cooperative Learning activities, content void as they may be, superficially comes across as dictatorial, by no means is that the case.

The freedom to focus on what is important by having the basics in place from the get-go creates exciting, engaged learning and a sense of accomplishment and empowerment because the students master the format of the lesson and learn to recognise the learning process itself.

For the teacher, such a template reduces stress because there is less micromanagement, less planning, less unforeseen mess that demands crisis handling and thinking-on-the-hoof to reinvent the wheel, when all one wants is a cup of coffee in the staff room – happy in the knowledge that one has just delivered an outstanding lesson in every sense of the word.

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Read a detailed article on these lessons, written after a parent’s meeting in 2015 Cooperative Learning; a model lesson across all subjects

Read the previous articles in the series Stalham Academy, What went Right?

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Webinar Summary Part #1; Special Measures to Top-500

This is the first of several themed recordings from the webinar Special Measures to Top-500 with Cooperative Learning. Part #2 will be available next week.

Topics: context – definitions – research – EEF Toolkit & Pupil Premium and more.

webinar slide Special Measures to Top500

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March 29, 2017 · 18:02

Diamonds in the Rough; video & slides from Monday’s presentation

Among the 85 delegates who missed the first Tea Party due to Storm Doris, but remain curious about the new VNET/NB2B  Cooperative Learning programme Diamonds in the Rough?

This six-minute video edit summarises my presentation at Mattishall. Best enjoyed with tea. The full slideshow is also available for viewing at werdelin.co.uk/VNET.html.

Jakob presents the NB2B VNET Tea Party 20 March 2017

The full slideshow is available for viewing at werdelin.co.uk/VNET.html(No sign-ups or such required).

Attend the webinar for more information on how one Norfolk school reached the Top-500 league for £900 – with happy teachers, parents and pupils.

Read the detailed article on the objectives and actual outcomes of the event.

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March 23, 2017 · 10:24