Category Archives: Cooperative Learning

Trusted partners: VNET/Werdelin present a Hands-on Introduction to CL

Working with Viscount Nelson Education Network, I am presenting Introduction to Cooperative Learning on the 14th July.

I am very proud of being accepted as a trusted VNET partner. I am especially happy about VNET’s minimal staff and commitment to independence and empowerment of schools through bespoke programmes that reflect their needs, which express my own take on school improvement.

As a partner, I have therefore agreed on an enhanced pricing model for VNET Schools. We are also offering opportunities to develop bespoke packages across multiple VNET Schools. All part of the benefit of being part of the VNET Network!

VNET – “the artist formerly known as NB2B”
Norfolk County Council’s highly successful Norfolk Better to Best (B2B) programme which delivered tremendous Ofsted outcome improvements across Norfolk over the last three years has recently been taken over by the community interest company Viscount Nelson Education Network CIC (VNET). VNET has been founded to ensure that the community network of schools that was formed through B2B, committed to a self improving approach and being both givers and receivers of support, could continue without funding form the LA.

The VNET approach is to provide tailored school improvement from best of breed partners who are matched to the needs and philosophy of the school. No two schools are the same, and therefore, a system of school improvement where one size fits all fails to deliver the desired results for many.
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The workshop

The workshop is our response to a number of requests from Headteachers following previous Tea Party discussions and Special Measures to Top-500 webinars with Andrew Howard on the considerable impact of Cooperative Learning in the area.
While it is well known that the Sutton Trust – EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit rates Cooperative Learning among one of the top investments of Pupil Premium funding, the aim of this Workshop is to give Headteachers who are keen to know more a chance to experience in a practical way.
In the workshop, we demonstrate how a single, simple activity from the programme may be used across all subjects to instantly generate outstanding teaching and learning by:
  • Sharing knowledge, reflections and ideas across class.
  • Activating prior knowledge.
  • Making students aware of their own learning process and knowledge gaps.
  • Retaining or explaining knowledge.
  • Drilling rote learning and procedural skills.
  • Providing formative and summative assessment.
  • Securing written evidence of learning.
  • Subtly guiding focus towards specific learning objective

 

Closed question, closed gaps

Even your closed questions yield more with Cooperative Learning. Read Cooperative Learning; Closed Questions, Closed Achievement Gaps)

 

As part of the workshop, Heads will receive handouts to take away – allowing participants to pilot techniques in their own schools with their current lesson objectives and materials. There will also be case study materials about the considerable impact similar programmes have made on other schools.
Booking & Details

Title: An Introduction to Cooperative Learning Hands-on Workshop

Date: 14th July 8:30 am – 10:30 am

Place: Information Suite, VNET offices
South Green Park, Mattishall
NR20 3JY (map)

Booking: To book your place, please email anita.lee@viscountnelson.net asap. This session is limited to a maximum of 12 Headteachers on a first come first served basis, and is provided as part of VNET Membership.

 

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For more information on Cooperative Learning, please visit www.werdelin.co.uk
VNET homepage is found at viscountnelson.net

 

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Cooperative Learning; Closed Questions, Closed Achievement Gaps

Andy Tharby’s article neatly explains my own motives for promoting closed questions – they provide the exactitude which is the foundation for higher level thinking and they mirror the precision that is a hallmark of Cooperative Learning.

A colleague and I were discussing my ideas for an article on open vs. closed questions in the context of Cooperative Learning, when I innocently mentioned @atharby‘s post Closed-question quizzing – unfashionable yet effective as a source of inspiration. His response: How could I champion Cooperative Learning and endorse Mr Tharby’s reactionary views?

Safely home, I revisited the post to see if I had overlooked something. No, it was as I remembered it; well-written with self-depreciating humour,  references to research, final endorsement of open questions in correct context –  basically classroom practice of Bloom’s taxonomy.

So, is it ‘reactionary’ to view closed questions as “a really quite wonderful thing” and share a personal experience that “lists of closed-questions … are amongst the most dependable and useful of everyday resources”?

Or is it rather, as Tharby himself asks, “stating the bleedin’ obvious”? The following hopefully demonstrates that Cooperative Learning makes that discussion obsolete.

 

Before proceeding, please note: while all the poorly executed drawings are from my own hand, the cool character design and sleek style is carbon copied from @jasonramasami‘s original illustration featured in Tharby’s article:

 

tharby-open-closed-final
[  And, please do familiarise yourself with the key before continuing  ]

 

 

Open questions: On the dangers of arming blind people with scatterguns in enclosed spaces

Nowhere does Closed-question quizzing… claim that closed questions should stand on their own – rather “they pave the way for analytical thought.” It’s basic Bloom.

Because, when you ask open questions and expect pupils to acquire your target (the red bullseye) without first delineating relevant vocabulary, concepts and context, this is likely to happen:

The danger of open questions

In case you are wondering, the guy with the arrow in his behind is the teacher.

Because children often lack the vocabulary and reference frameworks that adults take for granted, higher order thinking – let alone “enquiry-based learning” – requires preparation by the teacher. Taking the original article’s reference to Ted Hughes’ poem Bayonet Charge as an example: As a 40+ adult, I intuit just from the title that we are are dealing with a World War One poem – and up pop associated experiences of reading “All Quiet on the Western Front” as a teenager and of flickering black & white images of soldiers going “over the top.”

However, for children in the today’s classroom, “over the top” would likely refer to a detested classmate’s latest hair-do and the very word combination Bayonet and Charge might have no time-space associations at all; It seems the GCSE Bitesize commentary on the poem assumes they don’t even know what a bayonet is (“…long knives attached to the end of their rifles,” apparently).

How open questions open achievement gaps

Furthermore, who stands to benefit most from open questions? Child A, whose home is full of books and whose parents converse with him over dinner? Or Child B, who is fortunate to chance upon a red-top newspaper used to wrap cheap fish & chips and whose single mother’s longest sentence on record is “Go pick up some fags, yeah!” Now imagine that sentence is presented in Urdu or Polish because Mum doesn’t speak English.

So while Child A’s reply to the juicy open question “How do you think the soldier in the poem Bayonet Charge feels and why?” might be “I think he feels like a cog in a machine, because it mentions him being ‘a hand’ in a ‘cold clockwork,'” you are lucky to get “Dunno” from Child B.

Tharby neatly sums up the above in relation to reading comprehension: “Any densely-packed piece of writing (…) presents a problem. Many children will scan the words but fail to digest the finer nuances of meaning. Closed questions encourage close reading and also allow us to guide students towards the key information.”

The problem with open questions is further exacerbated by discussing them in a full-class plenary where you engage in a five-minute exciting dialogue with Prodigy Child A, while Child B (and everyone else) quietly drifts off. However, refraining from giving Child A the opportunity to explain and explore his thoughts by sticking with closed questions just to engage Child Bs is equally unfair. Ah, the conundrum of differentiation!

Fortunately, replacing that five minute plenary with a CLIP like Catch1Partner in a class of 30 secures a total of two-plus hours worth of differentiated learning opportunities for every single child, regardless of background.

But first things first.

Closed questions, closed gaps

The reason I initially caught onto Tharby’s article was that he so neatly explained my own motives for promoting closed questions – they provide the exactitude which is the foundation for higher level thinking and debating and they nicely mirror the precision that is a hallmark of Cooperative Learning.

Yet, with Cooperative Learning even a closed question may open an opportunity for differentiated higher level thinking and language acquisition through mixed-ability peer learning, as demonstrated below.

Remember that Cooperative Learning should not increase your workload or require special materials, so I am going to use an original quiz sheet Tharby has used with Bayonet Charge. Here are the first three questions:

1. What was the soldier doing just before the poem started?
2. Which ‘r’ is repeated in the 1st and 2nd lines?
3. What is coming from ‘a green hedge’?

We will look at variations in tasks and materials ([questions]) at the end of this article, but here are instructions for one sample Cooperative Learning activity (Fig. I):

“The objective is to compare your answers and investigate differences. When I say “Go!” you are going to grab your [questions], poems and a pen, stand up, find a partner and ask your question (Fig. II). Let him explain his answer. If he can’t answer, or you disagree, support him and guide him by identifying where you think he has gone wrong (Fig. III)

C1P cartoon 1-3

Note in Fig. III how the sneaky teacher is carefully listening in. 

Sample discussion Child A and B

A: “My question is: “What was the soldier doing just before the poem started?”

B: Wait, I am reading…. It doesn’t say, innit!? (Fig. II)

A: “Read the first line to  me…”

B: “Sudd… Sudden …. Suddenly he awoke and was … was run … running…”

A: “What does ‘awoke’ mean?”

B: “Oi, he must have been sleeping!”

A: Got it! Well, done, you!” (Fig. IV)

Now, the pair of them swap roles (Fig. IV-VI) before bidding farewell and finding new partners (Remember this is happening in 15 pairs across the class). If you choose to have single [questions] on individual cards, have them swap those cards to distribute learning. 

All the while, you notice the sneaky teacher is pulling out and preparing his open questions (Fig. V-VI) based on his unobtrusive monitoring. It is instant Feedback giving 8 months of additional progress per pupil per year, straight out of the Teaching & Learning Toolkit.

C1P cartoon 4-6

Sample discussion B and A

B: “Ok, my turn: My question is …uhm …: “Which ‘r’ is repeated in the 1st and 2nd lines?”

A: “Well, obviously ‘raw’ is repeated: ‘Suddenly he awoke and was running – raw… In raw-seamed hot khaki…'”

B; “Yeah, you are right. Why two times, though? Why be’s poems so hard, innit?!”

A: “Well, repetition makes you notice that word and it connect ideas. The first ‘raw’ is himself, the second raw describes … hot khaki. Weird. Khaki’s a colour.”

B: “No, it’s be’s a uniform. I plays “Ghost Recon” on my bruv’s PS4. We always wear khaki, like.”

A: Ah, because khaki is the colour of the uniform! … ok. Thanks for helping me with that one. 

B: No sweat….’raw’… ok.

Once the basics are covered with closed questions, the more high-level objectives can then be engaged with open questions, again in pairs. As before, the teacher models the relevant language, behaviours for learning, specific vocabulary. etc. (Fig. VII).

C1P cartoon 7-8

And, as before, students support each other (Fig. VIII).

Now bear in mind that you can vary this endlessly to suit your specific needs:

  • Each pupil could read the whole text and answer all closed questions individually before comparing with partners;
  • each pupil (or team) could focus on one closed question to better support partners in the following cooperative activity;
  • Pupils could read the text and come up with the closed questions themselves (A feat of higher level thinking in itself);
  • a sub-task could be to follow up any closed question with their own question starting “why” or “how”;
  • you could even write the questions and your answers on flashcards (if your class is really struggling);
  • you can track responses by letting pupils note and sign answers in logbooks.

You don’t even have to get them out of their chairs. The same principles apply in a Think-Pair-Share: Read the poem, Think, and answer the questions; Pair up and discuss; take it to the next, open, level in Share.

The point is that with Cooperative Learning, you can close achievement gaps and get more teaching and learning out of your current list of closed questions – in preperation for open questions, of course.

c1p-cartoon-7-81.png

 


NB: The sample conversations are between higher and lower ability pupils. When two lower ability pupils meet, it is a different story, yet collaborating on a closed question brings poem analysis within range of even your most struggling child. And if you run with a basic Catch1Partner with materials, where they swap question cards, every pupil will have the option to discuss an answer twice – first when he is questioned and takes that card, then again when he elicits an answer from the next partner. 

Some related articles:

Mr Tharnby’s work has been quoted before in:

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

More on vocabulary:

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

On unobtrusive monitoring:

Monitoring and real-time feedback in the Cooperative Learning classroom

On closing achievment gaps:

EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit; a Cooperative Learning gloss

And Jason’s site saamvisual.com/school is well worth a visit.

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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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Any questions or comments, enter them below or contact me directly at werdelin.co.uk.

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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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