Category Archives: Cooperative Learning

“Mum wasn’t good at maths either, love…” Girls, Maths & Cooperative Learning

I am very honoured to be taking part in the Strategic School Improvement Fund project to raise progress in mathematics for KS2 girls in Norfolk

Followers of this blog will be aware of my ongoing work with Sheringham Primary School and Nursery. The teaching school based there, Norfolk’s largest, has made a successful bid for addressing the under-attainment in maths at Key Stage 2, specifically focusing on girls, which is a county-wide issue.

The relevance to the rest of the UK is clear when one bears in mind that girls present a relatively untapped source of talent to handle the growing shortage of digitally skilled workers. However, young women are grossly underrepresented in mathematics and other essential subjects for taking computer science at university. For years it has been recognised that this gender imbalance might be traced back to bottlenecks in school education.




Girls will be girls?

This unfortunate trend starts early on: There is a large gender gap between the progress of boys and girls in maths at KS2 and in Norfolk overall attainment for both boys and girls is already below the national average.

Maths standards in Norfolk

One of the first things that inspired me about the SSIF bid was that it looks beyond the “teaching the subject” to include such factors as the negative messages that many children, in particular girls, receive about maths. It is a prevalent myth in our society that you have a maths brain or not, which affects teachers, TAs, parents and ultimately children as schools do not operate in a vacuum.


Girls and Maths - no worries!

Getting the message?


The project therefore includes work to undo these negative messages with staff, children and parents. As these messages are almost subliminal, one of my areas of focus will be to use the dialogical/constructivist aspect of Cooperative Learning to unpick them and draw them into the light.

Another prevalent myth is that speed in calculation equates with being good at maths. This leads to maths classrooms being perceived as threatening because you are put on the spot to provide answers very quickly. Girls often will not flourish in this environment. Instead children need to make connections and learn facts conceptually to allow creative application in a range of situations. Above all we need to value depth over speed.

Such conceptual teaching needs to be coupled with messages about the brain and how it can grow, along with metacognitive strategies to increase independence and confidence when learning maths. We have discussed here on on numerous occasions the connections between metacognition and Cooperative Learning. As noted in the original bid outline: “Maths, even at the highest level, is a collaborative subject and children should be given well-structured opportunities to collaborate effectively.” Cooperative Learning secures this.

Once all the above elements are in place all children can flourish in maths classrooms, the progress of girls will rise to match the boys and all will attain at higher levels, not least due to the mutual benefit to all participants secured by Cooperative Learning. As Mr McConnell of George White Junior School notes, “This is what inclusion looks like.”

John McConnell video still.PNG

Mr McConnell video interview on his experiences with Cooperative Learning.

The project in a nutshell

This project comprises several components, which have been introduced to 30 schools through CPD sessions and are to be supported for the duration of the project by designated Specialist Leaders in Education (SLEs) who are training and guiding two Project Leads (PLs) within each school.

These CPD components comprise:

  • Meta-cognition by Anne Stokes and Robert Brewster from Sheringham Primary National Teaching School Alliance (SPNTSA).
  • Maths mindsets of staff, parents, children, including maths learning cafes delivered by SPNTSA and A2E2 Education
  • Conceptual Teaching in Maths, including CPA, number sense and aims of the National Curriculum, delivered by Educator Solutions.


SSIF training maths kit A
Some materials from Educators Solutions’ training day for SLEs, November 2017


The objective of my own upcoming training is to fuse all this previous input into a simple, sustainable classroom practice, tailored to each school, yet consistent enough to be accurately assessed, shared and supported.

Sustainability, a crucial requirement to receive SSI funding, is precisely being ensured by Project Leads being trained to deliver and embed packages of CPD, rather than external consulting. This means one of my most interesting challenges is to train by proxy – to train the Project Leads to not only deliver Cooperative Learning CPD packages, but to empower each of them to the point they will be able to support and guide their colleagues in the long term without oversight from me or SLEs.

It is worth noting that Cooperative Learning is not the actual objective of the training – the objective is that Cooperative Learning secures the three components above in every classroom.

Therefore, the acid test when SLEs come to assess impact of my training will be whether they actually see metacognition, CPA, etc. – rather than the quality of Cooperative Learning in its own right: A core message to PLs in the upcoming training is that one may stage an excellent Cooperative Learning activity that has absolutely nothing to do with the objectives one is supposed to be teaching, in the same way as a doctor may find the right vein, but inject the wrong medicine.

Cooperative Learning and Maths

So, is Cooperative Learning relevant to maths? The answer to this has several aspects.

Number one, maths is much more than knowing your times tables. Real maths requires high-level thinking and understanding of ever more complex concepts as you move up through keystages. The best way to avoid getting lost in this complexity is peer-to-peer negotiation of meanings, ideas, where pupils (and teachers) can check and recheck their comprehension.

Number two, Cooperative Learning should never be confused with disorganised group work. It is a precision tool that allows repetitive tasks resolution in a highly engaging manner. Much of the maths curriculum is comprised of what we would term procedural skills: how do you convert fractions to decimals? What’s the bus stop method? Cooperative learning allows a very effective learning of these core skills sets.

Number three, maths requires that certain things are simply known. A good example is multiplication tables, definitions and terms such as enumerator and denominator, and specific values, such as Pi. Cooperative Learning is equally good at drilling what are essentially non-negotiable closed questions, and get a great deal more out of them than would be expected.

During my training for MUA Consultancy, one of the UK’s leading specialists in Singapore Maths, maths leads have pointed it out time and time again how Cooperative Learning strengthens maths, even such specific systems as MathsNoProblem.

Cooperative Learning is a truly vast and largely unexplored resource to solve the multivarious challenges faced by STEM, something I have touched on in articles on Mrs Mary Whitehouse and my recent presentation at the ASE Conference on oracy with Naomi Hennah. And I still owe Ron and Richard of recognition for their inspiring day on the interpretive range of Maths vocabulary and other issues at the IoE last Summer – you are not forgotten!


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Hand in Glove; SOLO Taxonomy & Cooperative Learning

Action Research: Working with Berrymede Junior School has presented an opportunity to better harness the vast amounts of pupil knowledge made visible by Cooperative Learning.

Ever open to hand-carry any and all curriculum content and pedagogical approaches, Cooperative Learning multiplies the value of programmes as diverse as Read-Write-Inc, Talk4Writing, and Maths No Problem. However, one specific approach stands out. 

Unlike the above-mentioned schemes – specific to phonics, writing and maths – this unique approach mirrors the all-encompassing scope of Cooperative Learning. And like Cooperative Learning, it needs an avatar to manifest in the classroom.

This extraordinary approach is, of course, SOLO Taxonomy, which I have wanted to sink my teeth into since attending Laura Kearney’s workshop almost a year ago. (See “Me teaching! You Learning!” – When Teaching Meets Learning@NB2B conference…).


Cooperative Learning goes SOLO

So, what aligns SOLO so perfectly with Cooperative Learning? Ironically, the fact that they are polar opposites:

Cooperative Learning fashions an outward, physical aspect of learning – manifest as tightly organised peer-to-peer discussion, negotiation, presentation, Q&A, sharing, guiding, assisting, note-taking, and so forth.

SOLO Taxonomy fashions an inward, mental aspect of learning – manifest by its organising, qualifying and classifying the knowledge production resulting from this outward aspect.

Then, there is a less fortunate resemblance: Despite their superficial simplicity, both can be applied to anything, at any time, to achieve virtually any objective within their respective fields. As we know, doing everything all at once is seldom successful. Here’s a few items on the SOLO list: “plan teaching,” “assess and guide learning in relation to both functional and declarative knowledge” and “give proximate, hierarchical and explicit feedback, feed-forward and feed-up on learning” (Pam Hook First Steps with SOLO Taxonomy – Applying the model in your classroom, p. 11).

Hence, getting SOLO firmly embedded in your school is a time-consuming uphill struggle to first get everyone’s head around the underlying theory and then anchor practice consistently across all classrooms – on top of everything else you have to do.



To save time and effort, and to minimise risk of wasting both, the alternative is ongoing, costly consulting and coaching from an external provider (building in-school champions, etc. etc). For school leaders, short of time, mental and emotional resources and money, getting hooked on SOLO seems an overwhelming endeavour.

(As for deploying Cooperative Learning without adequate training, we have covered that in How to NOT benefit from a visit to Stalham Academy; a warning to desperate heads.)

Fortunately, I have recently been contacted by Berrymede Junior, a London school looking for a simple, practical way to embed SOLO. This has presented us with the opportunity  for an action research project to synthesise the power of Cooperative Learning and SOLO Taxonomy into an inexpensive, practical and straightforward deployment solution.


SOLO in a nutshell

So, what is SOLO? All references in this article are culled from Pam Hook’s First Steps with SOLO Taxonomy – Applying the model in your classroom.

SOLO stands for the Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome and at its most basic plane organises learners’ performance into four distinct levels of increasing structural complexity. This taxonomy not only makes it possible to identify the pupils’ levels at any given time, but it also makes it possible to classify teacher input. 

Levels 1 and 2 are referred to as Unistructural and Multistructural. These relate to the surface level of quantity: simple recall of factual knowledge or parroting teacher talk.



The difference between levels I and II is the amount of knowledge, from single ideas to multiple ideas, as opposed to the quality of knowledge (see below).

Level 3 is referred to as Relational. From simply listing and describing individual items, pupils working on this level have now moved on to be able to sequence, classify, explain, compare, contrast, analyse, relate, and apply information and procedures.

Finally, Level 4, Extended abstract, connects these relationship to broader knowledge, allowing learners to rethink and find new ways to use it as the basis for prediction, generalisation, reflection or creation of new understanding.


SOLO taxonomy overview


(Here’s a task for you to check your understanding: After reading this paragraph, which level best describes your understanding of SOLO and its connection to Cooperative Learning?). I am guessing most would now be Level 2, which is where this paragraph is pitched. However, if you are using Cooperative Learning in your current lessons, you may already be moving up into Level 3, making connections.

For more on SOLO, I suggest visiting Pam Hook’s website

Blinded by visible learning?

In order to assess pupil’s SOLO levels and maximise feedback to get those elusive 8 months of additional progress mentioned in the EEF Toolkit, you need to, literally, make learning explicit. Nothing generates more explicit learning than Cooperative Learning. Simply walking around in a class in the midst of any CLIP provides twenty times the information on learning any teacher can reasonably process. And we have not even touched the embedded production of written evidence.

Nothing organises and structures that information overload better than SOLO. When  teachers need to identify levels at a glance/eavesdrop, its far simpler than Bloom’s – and its alternatives, if you scan Terry Heick’s comparison. By using SOLO to classify and organise, you tap more fully into the assessment potential of Cooperative Learning.

In a nutshell, Cooperative Learning provides the high volumes of realistic data that SOLO needs, and SOLO increases precision, speed and scope of what you can do with the high volumes of realistic data provided by Cooperative Learning.


SOLO alone and together.PNG


Shared language?

So, what do we mean by “realistic data”? David Dideau, who famously back-pedalled on SOLO some years ago (Why I changed my mind about the SOLO taxonomy), notes that “teaching children a new cross curricular language of learning assumes that the terms we use mean the same things at different times and in different places.”

That is precisely why we should give teachers and learners a chance to find out what they actually mean. For fans of Bakhtin, the ultimate aim of learning is to help best develop a person’s thought process by allowing their “inner-voice” to flourish.  The inner-voice can only be developed effectively when it has access to a range of different “outer-voices” which can be synthesised, repeated and interpreted using the individual’s own language. (See Mikhail Bakhtin, Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 1986).

David Oldham capture

The term “Shared language” comes up again and again in different contexts in this recent interview with headteacher David Oldham. (watch now)

Cooperative Learning Interaction Patterns are ideal tools for teachers to micro-manage the expansion of the inner-coming-out. Ensuring a bridging of potential gaps in perception between teacher-pupil and pupil-pupil mitigates the very real risk described by Dideau.

Above every deep is a surface you need to break

Being able to generate revolutionary new thinking and seeing links and connections between different concepts and ideas are utterly dependent on the depth and breadth of what pupils know. In the words of Dideau, “teaching pupils how to analyse in isolation is pretty pointless. They need to have something to analyse.”

For more on how Cooperative Learning promotes simple recall of factual knowledge, see such posts as Cooperative Learning; Closed Questions,  Closed Achievement Gaps and Deconstructing the Progressive-Traditional Dichotomy; a note to Mr Peal. So, I am pleased to note that, like me, Pam Hook and other principal proponents of SOLO identify such surface understanding as absolutely necessary to move on to the deep learning of levels 3 and 4.

Here, we need to again negate the misapprehension that Cooperative Learning is all about pupils venting random opinions completely out of context. I still remember a hilarious example of such by HMI Alan Brine taken from an RE lesson where pupils had been asked where they wanted to go on pilgrimage, where the majority had honestly answered “vacation.” It simply says to the teacher moved ahead before the surface understanding of SOLO Level I was in place: Define “pilgrimage.”

Cooperative Learning is a surgical precision tool to let the teacher generate high volumes of observable learning outcomes. SOLO, the Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes, is a simple, tried-and-tested way to get more out of those outcomes.

Below are some relevant questions you might ask yourself about this article. 

Some illustrative SOLO questions

Now imagine a trusted colleague with whom you could bounce your thoughts back and forth, adding, checking, sharing, suggesting?

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*) Pam Hook, First Steps with SOLO Taxonomy – Applying the model in your classroom, 
Essential Resources Educational Publishers Limited, 2016.



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Comprehending Texts & Acquiring Language… Reflections#1

This new series of post investigates the workshop Comprehending Texts & Acquiring Language in Science presented 4 Jan 2018 at the ASE annual conference by Naomi Hennah (@MrsHennahand myself. 

This first instalment focuses on how the Word-Round following the reading activity was used summatively to investigate the text and to develop questioning as a transferable skill.

Introduction for non-delegates

The lesson Naomi and I presented last week at the ASE annual conference in Liverpool is designed to furnish learners with two important strategies for reading technical texts, specifically to help them answer a technical question. The two strategies are:

  1. questioning the text
  2. summarising the text.

This article deals with the first one, questioning. Both strategies have been shown to be effective after only a few sessions of instruction.*

When questioning a text students learn to ask questions as they read as an interior dialogue. During the paired reading that forms the bulk of our lesson, we externalise this dialogue to give students the opportunity to develop their questioning skills. Then, after reading is completed, we then round off with a Cooperative Learning Interaction Pattern (CLIP) known as Word-Round to formalise and prioritise and share “summative” questions about the entire text. Aside from the impact on learning, generating questions form an excellent assessment tool on a very different level than providing mere answers.*

(The context of the problem of reading specific science texts has been discussed previously in Comprehending Texts & Acquiring Language in Science: Resources and The Chemistry of Collaboration: CL & Science at the ASE Annual Conference. Non-delegates might wish to refer to these before proceeding).


Word-Round: Understanding a CLIP

To recap, Cooperative Learning consists of students in small hand-picked teams or pairs working in fixed Cooperative Learning Interaction Patterns (called CLIPs) selected and timed by teachers to achieve very specific aims – while affording students endless variation and excitement through changing materials and tasks. Cooperative Learning seamlessly integrates oral interventions, and fuses with meta-cognition and feedback, which potentially yield up to 8 months of additional progress per pupil per year according to the Sutton Trust-EEF Toolkit. (See Feedback strategies & Cooperative Learning).

Thus, keep in mind that while the CLIP discussed in the following, the Word-Round, is tailored in this lesson to support these reading strategies in general and acquire one science text in particular, it potentially has infinite application.

In its generic form, it looks like this:

  1. The teacher presents a task with several possible answers.
  2. Team members take turns presenting an answer or solution in their team.

Its deceptive simplicity belies its usefulness and versatility: It may be used for everything from brainstorming to reviewing. Here, we explain the strategy in greater depth.


Word-Round in the context of the ASE reading lesson

At the ASE conference, the Word-Round followed the 20 minute Pair-Reading where delegates took turns to read and summarise/questions/comment on one paragraph or image at a time. Delegates will find the full plan in their handouts. Both handouts and the edited article on the 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry used is found among the resources in the previous post.

Delegates in Pair-Reading.PNGTongue in cheek – Pair-Reading delegates at Thursday’s session.

In effect, while the Pair-Reading may be the core of the lesson, the Word-Round is its pinnacle. This means that other reading strategies you are familiar with might be used prior to the Word-Round, including individual reading. However, you will likely find that the peer support provided by Pair-Reading will greatly affect the level of outcomes, because it has given all students a chance to reflect and acquire understanding and vocabulary. (Pair-Reading will be discussed in a separate article.  Get notifications of related posts on Twitter).

So, following reading in pairs, small groups were tasked to identify the paragraph that would best help answer the two basic hinge questions we asked delegates to focus on while reading the text – “What was the problem with water?” and “How was it solved?”

To be clear, Naomi spent a great deal of time picking out the most interesting hinge questions before settling on these two. Runner-ups included meta-questions about how the text demonstrated collaboration as a key to success in science. But in a lesson where objectives are defined by curriculum and schemes of work coming up with hinge questions should not present such a challenge – as you are likely to find them predefined in your teaching materials.


Staging the Word-Round

From the Lesson Plan:

Individual task:

  1. students individually write as many questions as possible about the paragraph.
  2. Individuals priority order their questions.


Each student proposes and explains to the team why their question should be asked. (Can loop multiple times as required).

The balance between individual and collaborative work is discussed in detail below. But when individuals prepare input for a collaborative activity, it is vital the students are not discussing their questions. As I said, “This is your time for reflection. Forget your mate, for a moment. What do you wonder about?”

On a side note: One issue that thankfully got as much attention in our workshop as the reading itself were the complex set of ancillary, transferable skills facilitated in the lesson.  One such of value to any professional teacher or scientist is comprehending the benefits and drawbacks of individual vs. collaborative work – and their appropriacy in context. As I explained to one delegate after the session, I have worked with a school where Year 5 children with two years of Cooperative Learning under their belt are able to assess and pick relevant interaction fitting team composition, task and materials. What would they be like in university if their high school picks up on it?!

These are the slide instructions for the tailored Word-Round, including scaffolding language in red:

Word-Round ASE

A simple, fast and effective way to share ideas within teams without jeopardising individual accountability, devolving the CLIP into disorganised, worthless “group work.” However, as simple and fast as it is, as Naomi has pointed out on numerous occasions, you need to train students to do this. Consistency is the key to success.

Note again that the objective is not to discuss, nor even at this stage to answer questions, but for each student to inquire into their own understanding (or lack thereof) and formalise this into questions and to consider their relevance and value.

Individual work vs collaborative work

Cooperative Learning is not an aim in itself – It has value only as a surgical tool to drive objectives, whether in individual lessons or in relation to whole-school improvement (explained by one headteacher in the video interview below) and should be seamlessly interwoven with other elements of the lesson. 

Adam Mason video

Headteacher at Fakenham Junior School, Adam Mason, discusses Cooperative Learning as a whole-school approach (more videos in the gallery)

Therefore, unless it forms an integral step of the CLIP (such as the ubiquitous Think-Pair-Share) time needs to be allocated for individual work: The question the teacher needs to ask himself is when to use Cooperative Learning and when to ask learners to work alone.

Some of the advantages of Cooperative Learning are outlined below:

  1. ensures that every student makes a relevant contribution
  2.  supports every learner’s own understanding, as well as that of peers
  3. ensures the learners work towards your lesson objectives.

Generally, to encourage thoughtful contributions, many Cooperative Learning Interaction Patterns benefit from a period of individual work before the collaboration begins. This gives learners the opportunity to reflect or solve problems before they share with the group.


Generating questions

In this lesson, the activity is preceded by students individually writing as many questions as possible about the text they have read. A ‘question placemat’ as seen in the following slide can provide support for learners to ask relevant questions. It is vital that they all have at least one, even if it is copied from the board. 

Question the key section

For many students even copying a question from the board and having the courage to present it is actually a step up and slowly paves the way for individual work as the team members reward thank and praise contributions, a given in any Cooperative Learning classroom (For more information, see On the subject of social skills

So, some students will write many questions, others fewer. Some will be reflective, some may seem superficial. Regardless, the individual element of the task combined with the Word-Round following it provides good assessment information on:

  • the student’s understanding of the text
  • language/vocabulary
  • oral presentation skills
  • listening and reflection skills.

The way you phrase the task may be subtly used to guide the questions, or support ancillary objectives. For example, instead of “Ask questions about the text” try “Ask questions about how this text connects to previous lessons on this topic” or “…questions that you feel this text does not discuss in depth” or “…questions about the ethical implications about this scientific approach,” etc.

Be aware that asking questions is more difficult than it sounds. When learners ask questions, they need to identify what it is they don’t understand, or what makes them wonder.

The first one is a challenge to many pupils because it demands metacognition, i.e. awareness of one’s own learning process. The paired reading activity that preceded the independent task gives learners the opportunity to rehearse questioning, however, at first, students may not be aware how much they need to make use of each other at this stage. The individual task leaves them alone and accountable. They need to re-consider their pair discussion for clues. “What was that thing Bob said that I didn’t get?”

The second one is a challenge because, in order to wonder, you need to use both your imagination and previous knowledge. There can be no wondering about the text unless the text is held up against something else that may or may not quite fit. “I am wondering how XYZ relates to ABC in yesterday’s lesson.”

Finally, we strongly recommend that every question is signed. This provides written evidence for assessment and also lets the teacher hold individuals to account for the quality of their work.

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More general information at, the business end of

Other articles of interest include:



Note: Elements of this article are adapted from an original resource pack by Jakob Werdelin w. Ben Rogers.


*) Please see ​On transfer as the goal in literacy ​Posted on​ “​Granted, and…​– thoughts on education” ​by ​grantwiggins​ 20 April 2015) for more detail on these.

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Comprehending Texts & Acquiring Language in Science: Resources

A warm thank you to delegates who managed to claw their way through a text on cryo-electron microscopy in our 30 degree seminar room.

Comprehending Texts & Acquiring Language in Science was presented by Jakob and Naomi at the Association of Science Education Annual Conference on 4 January 2018 in Liverpool.

“A proper workshop!”

– Marc Neesam, Development Manager, Cambridge Assessment International Education.

This first post includes bits and bobs from the session, as promised. Please use the comment field or contact @MrsHennah or @werdelinEdu if you feel anything is missing.


Materials used in the session

All downloads in safe PDF format:

Please refer to science teacher Ben Rogers’ research on reading in Science for more on the topic. Aside from his own blog on literacy Ben has run versions of this lesson multiple times with different ages and may be contacted at @BenRogersEdu.

Thank you, Ben, for stopping by!

Ben's research

Additional resources

I am updating a text that I originally developed with Ben from my generic course materials on the Word-Round, the last CLIP to be used in the session.

This text supplants the very lesson-specific handouts by uncovering why such superficially simple activities match Naomi’s very high ambition for oracy in Science. It includes such practical aspects as tips & tricks how to stage variations of the Word-Round.

Topics also include:

  • A note on accountability and written evidence of learning
  • Generating questions
  • Picking the best question
  • Sharing the best question
  • ICQs (Instruction Checking Questions)
  • Ideas for other uses of the Word-Round in Science

I am planning to present each topic as separate posts over the next weeks. Need to drive home now. Lots to think about.


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The Chemistry of Collaboration: CL & Science at the ASE Annual Conference.

At January’s annual ASE conference in Liverpool, Naomi Hennah and I hope to demonstrate how Cooperative Learning can further her vision for oracy skills in Science.

Naomi Hennah (@MrsHennah) is a Teacher of Science/Chemistry at Northampton School for Boys.  I have previously written a dedicated article on her work.

Mrs Hennah says: The difficulties associated with the language of science has always been a matter of both interest and concern for me in my own teaching. I wanted to decouple literacy demands from scientific concepts and began using Socratic Questioning Technique  with small intervention groups as a tool for unpicking misconceptions. The power of student talk and how to harness its potential is a matter of ongoing research including its application in laboratory work, as a tool for constructing knowledge and lessening cognitive demand.


Jakob says: Given the routine concerns from science and maths teachers that Cooperative Learning denotes imprecise “talking exercises” best suited to discussing poetry, this reflects precisely my own vision for Cooperative Learning in the subject of science. (Note that some of these concerns are addressed in the post Out of the Question from ASE’s London and Essex Summer conference Supporting Learning for all in Science).

Indeed, it seems there is a dire need for a different approach to science education. The special vocabulary, the mindset of enquiry and curiosity balanced against non-negotiable concepts and rigorous application of  precise procedures, all combine to put Science into a field of its own.

Even the language of Maths is violently re-framed when applied to science. I am still hoping to give the revolational Language of Mathematics in Science presented by Richard Boohan & Roni Malek at that conference its (over-)due attention; and no opportunity seems better than in connection with this new presentation in Liverpool.

Maths in Science.png
HINTS from Language of Mathematics in Science: This is some of the vocabulary you cannot count on transferring directly from Maths. (

If you have any doubts, just revisit Ben Roger’s 2015 survey of the reading habits of one hundred UK scientist. A central conclusions is that professional scientists and engineers had to teach themselves to read subject texts, at least until college.

Shockingly, only 10% of the professionals who responded to the survey were taught to read science texts at school. 84% said they taught themselves.


Oracy; the living counterpart to reading and writing

Mrs Hennah says: I am currently “studying” as an Oracy Leader with Voice21 and have been looking at talk for reading, talk for writing and my particular interest – social construction of learning and as a tool to rehearse vocabulary and lesson cognitive load.
What I had not appreciated was how much training kids need before they can talk and listen effectively!

To integrate this into classrooms “will require a shift in classroom culture from a more traditional, passive environment to that of active collaborative enquiry.” Our session will hopefully demonstrate how Cooperative Learning makes that shift easy to manage, for leadership, for teachers and for our learners.

Here, Jakob and I do not mean just drilling the definitions, vocabulary and procedures for the benefit of GCSEs. We want to facilitate transferable thinking and communication skills needed in the highly collaborative working environment of tomorrow’s Mendeleevs and Curries.

Delegates in our session will find themselves walking in the shoes of their students as they work together to unpick a PhD-level scientific text and experience the power of peer learning.

Our session will hopefully demonstrate how various Cooperative Learning Interaction Patterns will expedite all required aspects of the learning process, including traditional individual tasks such as reading and writing and achieve automatic differentiation, comprehension, language acquisition and contextualisation – with virtually no teacher intervention.


Because, with Cooperative Learning, talking is not an end in itself.


Comprehending Texts & Acquiring Language in Science
Thursday, January 4 • 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm

Limited Capacity seats available. Reserve here.




ASE Annual Conference 2018 at the University of Liverpool

Wednesday 3rd to Saturday 6th January 2018

The ASE Annual Conference, Europe’s Largest Science Education Conference,  is a unique opportunity for all teachers of science.

The conference programme offers over 350 sessions, covering all phases and all levels from NQTs to Heads of Department. Common to every session is the focus on the resulting impact on students’ learning and achievement including:

  • Updates from the exam boards
  • Assessment guidance
  • Curriculum development
  • Practical science ideas
  • Research into teaching practice
  • Insight into cutting-edge science


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Making best use of TAs with Cooperative Learning; Index of articles

Please find links below to the full series of articles explaining how Cooperative Learning will make the seven recommendations in the EEF Making best use of Teaching Assistants Guidance Report a lived reality in your school, simply and cost-efficiently. 

The key message of this series is that the shared language and simple and consistent framework that Cooperative Learning provides ensures a flexible, yet homogeneous, toolkit and ethos throughout your school, from the headteacher to the to teachers – and, most importantly teaching assistants, who are probably the most undervalued and untapped resource in English schools today.




Index of articles on


* * *

Our next area of focus will be on how Cooperative Learning makes SOLO Taxonomy simple and accessible.

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…Best Use of Teaching Assistants with Cooperative Learning#6; V-VII On linking structured, quality TA interventions to regular teaching

This is the final instalment in our series of articles explaining how Cooperative Learning will make the seven recommendations in the EEF Making best use of TAs Guidance Report a lived reality in your school, simply and cost-efficiently. 

This article discusses Recommendations V-VII, found in Section 6 & 7 of the report:



The essentials of the relationship between Cooperative Learning and recommendations V-VII have been dealt in the previous articles, so this final instalment therefore mainly recaps and links these key points to connect structured, quality TA interventions to regular teaching – in the minds of teachers, TAs and learners.


Cooperative Learning and small-group interventions


According the the report, TAs working in structured settings with high-quality support and proper training is where the 3-4 additional months’ progress is found. Adversely, when TAs are deployed in more informal, unsupported instructional roles, they can impact negatively on pupils’ learning outcomes (p. 23).

Thus, the key to success in out-of-class interventions is the amount and type of training, coaching and support provided by the school. We have already discussed in Recommendation IV how TAs should (A) always take part in training sessions, and how (B) they are involved in the staging and running of Cooperative Learning Interaction Patterns (CLIPs) in classrooms on a daily basis.

The combined effect is that TAs very soon take ownership of the CLIPs. Through training and direct experience, they understand when, how and why individual CLIPs should be used. Though coaching is indispensable, and should take place in any circumstances,  the shared language and simple consistency of Cooperative Learning allows for an incredibly cost-effective and safe transfer of good classroom practice into small-group interventions run exclusively by support staff.

“…learning the ability to implement during interventions and tailored to individual needs.” -Cat Moore, teaching assistant, on the best part of attending Cooperative Learning CPD at Fakenham Junior School, 2017.

Take note that the SEN Code of Practice makes it clear that teachers remain responsible and accountable for the progress and development of the pupils in their class, including “where pupils access support from teaching assistants”. Cooperative Learning should never be used to transfer teacher responsibility to support staff.

Instructions from teachers to coordinate interventions could be as simple as “Boss and Secretary these three questions and send them back in.” For an example of Boss & Secretary in class, revisit this video in Recommandation IV where Gypsie explains her knowledge of division to Sidney at Sheringham Primary Community School:


Sheringham Boss & Secretary.PNG



However, in an intervention, the TA would model the Boss-role extensively, tweaked to match special needs, integrate targets from each SEN pupil’s individual development plan, and/or micro-guide the two or three pupil Bosses present in a 4-6-pupil intervention.

As a result, the supported pupils regularly moving back and forth between interventions and classroom teaching will find total coherence in the execution and outcomes of activities: the only difference being the increased level of adult support and possibly differentiated content.

This is especially important as the report makes clear that it cannot be left to the pupil to make links between the coverage of the intervention and the wider curriculum coverage back in the classroom. Given that supported pupils are usually those who find accessing learning difficult in the first place, this presents a huge additional challenge.

Cooperative Learning lets you use evidence-based interventions to reflect similar evidence-based class teaching to secure consistent and high-quality teaching across the school, yet lets you involve SEN and other vulnerable pupils on an equal footing.

TA with small group

Ideal intervention is what you get when you stage things properly. (From the Report, p. 13).

The ideal intervention

The Report lists specific trusted programmes (p. 24), including Talk for Literacy which we have already dealt with in relation to Cooperative Learning, but also gives general guidelines for how ideal interventions should look.

Summarising the key points, also found on page 24:

Sessions have structured supporting resources and lesson plans, are brief (20–50mins) and regular over a sustained period with clear objectives and “possibly a delivery script.” This should now be familiar to those who have been following this series.

TAs receive extensive training from experienced trainers and/or teachers (5–30 hours per intervention). Basic training consists of 3-4 twilights with the rest of staff (i.e. 6-8 hours), and class specific training from teachers take place in class as discussed above. Baring occasional monitoring and coaching – which should be a given regardless of intervention type – there is no need for further investment of valuable time.

Assessments are used to identify appropriate pupils and track pupil progress. We have discussed the issue of visible learning through Cooperative Learning on multiple occasions. This is a good summary.


Connecting the dots

Crucially, the final piece of advice, Recommendation VII, is to build bridges between what happens in these two learning environments:




Nothing is more explicit than Cooperative Learning. By being exposed to identical CLIPs with more support,  pupils coming back from interventions to land in a duplicate activity in class may all of a sudden become a valued resource for their peers. For many disadvantaged or lower-attaining pupils, such academic appreciation by peers might be a first-time experience.

With this connection between academic results and self-esteem, we conclude our series on the seven recommendations form the EEF’s Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants Guidance Report. 

The key message of this series is that the shared language and simple and consistent framework that Cooperative Learning provides ensures a flexible, yet homogeneous, toolkit and ethos throughout your school, from the headteacher to the to teachers – and, most importantly teaching assistants – probably the most undervalued and untapped resource in English schools today.




Index of articles:


As I work with schools, more and more best-practice comes to light. You are welcome to contact me if you have questions or wish to learn more.

Our next area of focus will be on how Cooperative Learning makes SOLO Taxonomy simple and accessible.

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