Category Archives: events

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:

Word-Round
  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.

Word-Round:

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.

Get notifications of the next posts on Twitter.

More general information at werdelin.co.uk, the business end of cooperativelearning.works.

Other articles of interest include:

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

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*) 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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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.

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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. (mathsinscience.uk)

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.

(link: http://sched.co/C59e)

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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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ASE London #1: Out of the Question …

It was a pleasure to attend yesterday’s Association of Science Education’s London and Essex Summer Conference “Supporting Learning for all in Science” at the Institute of Education, London. For someone like me, whose method deliberately targets achievement gaps, the title alone made coming irresistible.

A special thank you to Sheila of ASE, who virtually singlehandedly made it all happen, and to everyone who took interest in my impromptu stall. You should now all have received a welcome mail to COGS.

Due to the content void nature of Cooperative Learning, though specific examples here are taken straight from STEM KS3+, the theory connecting CL with questioning techniques, and the cooperative activities themselves, benefit equally in any subject and key stage. You will also discover what a milk float is.

Questions in Context

I know Dr Lyn Hayes, who invited me to the conference, from our work with the INSPIRE STEM PGCE training programme at Imperial College in January. I have previously explored the relationship between Cooperative Learning and STEM with Ben Rogers at the 2016 Annual ASE Conference at Birmingham University, where we presented the course Great Reading, Great Learning, and lately with Math leads in Leicester for SDSA, where the enhancement of Singapore Maths through Cooperative Learning was made very clear by delegates themselves. (More information here).

At yesterday’s conference, I prioritised  “Developing good questions for STEM learning” with Mary Whitehouse of University of York Science Education Group and “The Language of Mathematics in Science” with Richard Boohan & Roni Malek. The regular reader of this blog will recognise the obvious connection to my planned work with Mrs Hennah on oracy skills in science.

My final top choice was unfortunately cancelled; as I am involved in a Strategic Funding Bid to close gender gaps in Maths, another of my top workshop choices from the programme was “Improving Gender Balance” with Nicky Thomas from the Institute of Physics. Hopefully next time?

 

Cooperative Learning & Questions

Mary Whitehouse (@MaryUYSEG)  opened her keynote with the seemingly ubiquitous reference to Hattie’s research on effect size, recapping the impact of assessment (0.46), spaced practice (0.71) and feedback to the teacher (0.73) – all of which, as followers of this blog will know, are integral (assessment and feedback) or easily facilitated (spaced practice) by Cooperative Learning.

5gpyzmbp_400x400

Specifically, I was very happy with her quote from Hattie: “Structuring class sessions to entice, teach and listen to students asking questions to students is very powerful.” If that is not a description of Cooperative Learning and three of its main outcomes,  it’s not Cooperative Learning. I will attempt to exemplify in the following commentary on Whitehouse’s workshop.

Why asking the right questions is crucial should hopefully be something all teachers are aware of; what is less obvious perhaps is the support Cooperative Learning offers in situations where questions are poor or just plain intermediate in quality – which may well be the majority of questions in the average lessons.

First of all, if you cannot have quality, you can always have quantity. The simultaneous engagement with your questions by every single pupil in the classroom, and the stacking afforded by such basic Cooperative Learning Interaction Patterns as Think-Pair-Share (discussed below), means any ‘less good’ question will be dressed up in peer-to-peer feedback and support and automatic differentiation through negotiation. (Who knows, you might get lucky and get the metacognitive comment “I think this question is stupid, because…”).

Also, since every single pupil is presenting their understanding, the assessment element is very strong. So, while the poor question posited might only have half the effect of a good question in the same cooperative activity, it still has a substantially higher impact than that question asked from the board and discussed with a lower ability pupil who is off on a tangent, while the rest of the class of 32 pupils nod off (Dare we say 3100% higher impact, mathematicians?).

Vice versa, good questions enhance Cooperative Learning dramatically. Because Cooperative Learning is nothing but a precise, surgical delivery tool for your input, the more powerful the input, the more powerful the impact. And, again, assessment is improved in correspondence with the quality of the questions asked.

So, with no further ado, onto Mary Whitehouse’s presentation  “Developing good questions for STEM learning”.

mary-whitehoude-planning-a-teaching-sequence.jpg

 

Mary and the Word

There are many benefits to making up questions, not least the fact that it forces teachers to think about which outcome they want and helps crystallise it. Specifically, Mary pointed out that looking closely at which answers your question might elicit is a good measure of the quality of your question in reference to you learning objective.

As we mentioned in the last of the articles on Stalham Academy, you can stage and execute a perfect cooperative activity which has absolutely no value to the objectives of the lesson. One of the ways this can happen is precisely the question you pick for the Cooperative Learning Interaction Pattern, whether it be a Think-Pair-Share or Boss & Secretary. It is akin to a doctor who performs his surgery perfectly but on the wrong organ.

Among the things one should also be wary of when writing questions is whether any additional context is needed. Mary had some of us chuckling when she gave the example of pupils with a Chinese background responding to an exam question starting with the words “The batteries in the milk float are…” I chuckled somewhat less than others, as I , poor foreigner that I am, didn’t know what a milk float is. (She suggested trying “electric car” instead).

Milk float

Milk float courtesy of milkfloats.org.uk

Finally, and especially in the case of multiple choice questions, ask yourself if pupils could get the correct answer for the wrong reason – such as luck or misunderstanding?

 

The good multiple choice question 

As Mary pointed out, understanding the purpose of your question is the key to success. For example, “diagnostic questions” test pupils’ understanding to better guide teaching. If a Y7 teacher automatically assumes her new pupils can distinguish “force” and “energy” a whole world of mess opens up. Multiple-choice is a very simple, and easily assessable, way of checking precise understanding of concepts (We have already discussed closed vs open questions).

Mary Whitehoude, diagnostic questions

Here, Mary demonstrated an alternative, collaborative, way to present multiple-choice questions which really struck a chord with me. One of the main reasons Cooperative Learning yields 5 to 8 months of additional progress per pupil per year is the feedback element: Opening discussions between pupils give teachers insight into the thinking process that produces the wrong answers.  As any teacher will be aware, there is often a weird logic behind pupils’ misconceptions that need to be recognised before it can be challenged appropriately. An unfortunate example is found in the next instalment of this when we get to “Confidence Grids.”

The following item was developed to show how GCSE exam questions can be converted into diagnostic questions: The words in the speech bubbles are based on information from the OCR GCSE mark scheme and the examiner’s report:

The question is: “How can very high temperature lead to death?”

How can a very high temperature lead to death

By referring to the examiner’s report, you are sure the wrong answers are common misconceptions that you need to weed out.

 

Getting more out of it with Cooperative Learning

Now, it is entirely possible to present this task on individual pieces of paper, give them a couple of minutes to think and tick the ones they agree with and collect the evidence, but Mary’s point was obviously that one should use this in group work.

However, there is group work and there is Cooperative Learning. Group work risks loss of accountability, equal participation, off-task behaviour, etc. as discussed in multiple previous posts.

Therefore, in the following, I want to demonstrate the benefit of dropping this IWB task into a tightly timed Think-Pair-Share (e.g. one minute to Think, two minutes to Pair and three minutes to Share)With an enforced written element delineated at each stage in the form of “I/my partner and I/our team think X is correct/incorrect, because…”, you achieve the following:

  • get each student to capture their baseline understanding in writing.
  • get each student to practice writing a concise argument, and orally presenting it.
  • promote and train a scientific mindset.
  • acquire written evidence of each student’s specific misconceptions of ideas as well as concepts.
  • ascertain fluency (e.g. high level pupils will produce multiple answers and less capable pupils perhaps only one or two).
  • save plenary feedback time by letting pupils correct some of their wilder misconceptions with their peers.
  • check and improve the precision of subject vocabulary and general language.
  • get written and oral evidence of misconceptions and their corrections as pairs negotiate their individual findings.
  • acquire profound insight into the reasons for any misconceptions by unobtrusively monitoring discussions, securing effective, targeted next steps.
  • get written evidence of self-confidence: which pupils can stand their ground in an argument and who folds, even if he is right. (This needs to be dealt with as it is a matter of too much or too little self-confidence in the pair, both of which impact negatively on personal relationships – think PSHE for which every teacher should feel responsible – and scuttle calm analytical thinking required in science).
  • Get an on-the-spot written summary of each group’s understanding as the final Sharing stage will be the result of combined thinking and debating in each group.
  • feed back this data straight into the current lesson, because eight groups in a standard size class of 32 reduce the amount of data you need to process by a factor of four.
  • avoid marking
  • instilled confidence and team cohesion, as any plenary responses from individual pupils will represent a group effort, saving much humiliation (and recognising the value of collaboration which is indispensable given the complexity of modern science).
  • save time on plenary feedback, as you already know where the trouble spots are.
  • and a whole lot of other things, including automatic differentiation, positive peer pressure, social skills, language acquisition, etc., etc., etc. But that’s just basic Cooperative Learning for you.

And as Mary pointed out, student work is a great resource to acquire further inspiration for questions.

(For schools who have been through my CPD: We have discussed the cons and pros of Think-Pair-Share vs Meet-in-the-Middle. Both could be used here, but the benefit of that extra layer the pair element gives  before they come together I think is a case for TPS. Again, you know you objectives, students and materials best. Cooperative Learning must never be a straitjacket).

Disclaimer: This articles represents my own limited understanding of Mary Whitehouse’s workshop, and does not claim to include all elements or accurately reflect her presentation.

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Get notifications of related posts on Twitter (to include Predict-Explain-Observe-Explain and confidence grids, among other things).

 

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Filed under Cooperative Learning, events, get started with CL, science, STEM, Tips & tricks

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

Great Tea, but what was the Party really about?

The only time anyone in the audience seemed interested in my very ever-so-clever, perfectly timed presentation was in the exercise when they were talking to each other, rather than listening to me drone on – which is precisely why Cooperative Learning instantly improves teaching and learning in any school.

For the benefit of delegates who did not feel satiated after our 15 minutes, this brief article details the underlying objectives of, and delegate feedback to, the introduction to Cooperative Learning at the VNET Tea Party 20 March 2017.

Video and slides now available.

A recap of yesterday’s session

Yesterday, NB2B/VNET threw one of their afternoon Tea Parties at the Enterprise Centre, Mattishall. Alex Bowles and I presented the new, tailored VNET course to 30+ very, very tired headteachers, many of whom had driven for over an hour directly from their schools to attend.

VNET fully recognises the incredible pressure heads are under, mentally, emotionally and financially, so Denise Walker and I wanted to create a simple CPD/coaching programme to radically improve Teaching & Learning which would empower heads, be instantly effective, and accessible to every school, regardless of budget. Basically, enter Top-500 league like Stalham Academy – for as little as £14 per teacher. (Attend the free webinar Monday 27, 7 – 8 pm)

The product of that conversation is the CPD & coaching programme Diamonds in the Rough. The strapline says it all. Turn your pupils into your main classroom resource with Cooperative Learning. If there’s anything our derided, rural county of Norfolk is not short on, it’s these precious stones of youth just lying around, waiting to be mined.

Diamond in the Rough

But before proceeding further, I want to thank delegates and VNET staff, and to ask the reader to have the patience to spend some time on my recommendations of other speakers at the event, especially Kim Frazer and Isabelle Goodman from The Key. If there is one thing the feedback in this exercise made abundantly clear, it is the importance of taking care of one’s  head.

The presentation

As I pointed out in one of my first slides, Cooperative Learning cannot be explained, only experienced. So, even with a 15-minute slot, Alex and I opted for a combination of theory and practice.

Theory

Theory included the obvious powerpoint slides with some simple facts about CL that should get any head standing on his toes:

Be relaxed

This was followed by research evidence from the Sutton Trust Teaching & Learning Toolkit, the UK’s most Trusted resource on Pupil Premium spending. Specifically on how the seamless inclusion of multiple other strands within Cooperative Learning may generate as much as 8 months of progress per pupil per year. You can see an extract of the list below. Note the slider positions: dirt cheap, well-researched and high impact:

Sutton Trust T&L toolkit

Try it yourself. (And don’t let nomenclature confuse you: The Toolkit specifically conflates the terms Cooperative and Collaborative Learning). For more details on the toolkit, please see related articles below.

Practice

Cooperative Learning can do everything, which is a bit hard to demonstrate in the 6 minutes Alex and I now had left of our 15 minutes of fame. How do you explain what a fruit is? Simple, right? Show an apple. But don’t be surprised when someone complains it’s not yellow, long and peels. So when you demonstrate writing, delegates ask why it doesn’t do reading, when you demonstrate social skills, they want to know how it relates to subject content. As always, focus on what’s missing means you risk missing the point being made.

In this case, Alex and I wanted a versatile, engaging Cooperative Learning Interaction Pattern (CLIP) that would demonstrate as many elements of outstanding teaching as possible (especially that all-important assessment). Catch1Partner was an obvious choice, as it works in any environment which has floor space.  It looks like this:

Catch1Partner slide from Tea Party

Before we go into what I wanted the delegates to get out of it, here’s what I got out of it. Be warned.

What actually happened in the yesterday’s activity…

Some of my personal objectives with the exercise were:

  1. To get an inkling of what sort of people I should expect to work with in the VNET context
  2. Understand their issues to better engage with them and help them.
  3. How to improve my presentation and programme to match.

The materials for the exercise was classroom basics, whiteboards and pens, and a small, homemade interview sheet consisting of two words, two lines and two smiley faces (blue lines)to be completed as described (black text) with every new partner:

Tea Party worksheet

A crucial subtask was to challenge partners’ assumptions.

Delegates roved, interviewed, challenged, and filled out the sheets. At the end of the four-minute exercise:

  • I was able to assess the state of the party (Tired, disengaged, some genuinely negative – as evidenced by some sloppy handwriting and superficial answers, including spelling errors, and one simply stating the example was “not drawing him in” – This person spent a great deal of time absorbed in describing this to his partner).
  • I know the majority of people had missed key points (“Takes too long to set up”) and a few had not taken anything from the introduction. (“Don’t know anything about it”).
  • I know the main gripes people have, generally and specifically (Initiative overload is no. 1, followed by money issues).
  • I know what delegates prioritise in their schools (“Raise attainment” came in at a soaring first place, followed by spending Pupil Premium/disadvantaged children, behaviour, and raising engagement).
  • I have a sense of who really didn’t get it and some sense of why, helping me to improve my next presentation – or “next steps,” in your case.
  • And most importantly, I can slot each named delegate neatly into these categories.

Ask yourself, do you usually get this level of granulated, detailed data in four minutes with 30 seconds of preparation by pupils themselves?  Within two weeks of the first CPD, this can be fully embedded across the school. It’s actually that simple. And we have not even touched on how listening in provides even more human detail.

But the main thing I get from this is that headteachers present are simply at the end of their tether, and need to reach out and get the right support that handles their emotional and mental pressure, and solves multiple issues at once with only the absolutely most cost-effective investment of resources.

Birds we want to scatter

Hence my final notes on Kim and The Key CPD Toolkit. A body can survive if it loses an arm or leg. But not the head. And school leaders need to realise are the most important resource in the school, and have every right to be cared for, too.

And then the other benefits

Assessment and these worried reflections aside, I now wish to draw your attention to the following elements of outstanding teaching present in that one simple exercise, which help explain the impact of Cooperative Learning:

  • Extremely high individual accountability (oral and written demonstration of learning on a one-to-one basis).
  • High volume of engagement (30 pupils x 4 minutes in pairs (divide by 2) means 60 minutes of total pupil onstage time, compared to four minutes in an open class plenary).
  • Higher level thinking & argumentation (The subtask of challenging – especially – any negative input. And note how you might have used Growth Mindset gambits here).
  • Integrating new and previous understanding (“How does/doesn’t Cooperative Learning relate to my vision for my school?”)
  • Social skills & class building (Meeting, greeting, thanking, praising, coaching, gentle challenging).
  • Retention (By discussing and evaluating input from the introduction, key points tend to stick in long-term memory).
  • Differentiation (Each and every person gets just the feedback that is relevant to them).
  • Preparing for course/lesson subject (If this had been the first 15 minutes of a lesson, students would now have had a chance to check understanding and integrate some of the opening input before proceeding).
  • “Hard” subject knowledge (Most people did thankfully get that Stalham got 81% achieving expected standard or above).
  • Metacognition (Discussing the benefit/drawbacks of the learning strategy one is actually performing, e.g. this quote I overheard: “I like this because I personally learn better when I talk than listen, but it might not apply to everyone.”).
  • Peer tutoring (Challenging assumptions was a basic part of the exercise).
  • Feedback (As above) – this is one of the Toolkit strands that generate 8 months of additional progress per pupil per year.
  • Yielding all this benefit in any subject, to achieve any conceivable objective or sub-objective, e.g. integrating rigorous self-assessment, based on pre-modelled peer reflection of course, as a part of the exercise. The list is literally endless.

Any objective you want

From the slide with the interview sheet.

Facet? Or stone?

Given VNET offers this programme to schools for as little as £14 per teacher per month over 12 months, and schools are offered 2 hours of the CPD element free of charge if they begin in April, why were Denise, Alex and I not swamped by a feeding frenzy of heads looking to go good or outstanding for less than their monthly utility bill?

Because even in something as simple as this, Cooperative Learning does too much to comprehend. Indeed, for those commencing with Cooperative Learning the first challenge is to distinguish each Cooperative Learning Interaction Pattern (CLIP) from the potentially endless array of subactivities and ancillary objectives it can potentially provide. Without this understanding, it cannot be deployed effectively. The CLIP is the steps. Everything else is up to you. It’s sufficiently mind-boggling that it is at once extremely controlled, yet gives an exhilarating sense of freedom.

CLIP defined from Tea Party

And grasping this is really at the heart of the coaching element of the VNET Diamonds in the Rough programme comprised of 8 hours of CPD and 10 hours of SLT mentoring – the stated objective of which is to make participating schools fully independent with Cooperative Learning to get Stalham-level results or better  – bearing in mind they were in special measures when they started.

As incredibly powerful as Cooperative Learning is, it is even more incredibly simple to adopt. I can only once again echo Denise and invite you out to see it live at Great Hockham Primary, courtesy of Alex Bowles.

Other presenters and their CL connection

In closing, I want to share a personal experience. Leadership is a lonesome proposition, where one is responsible for the welfare of many and poor results of – often – a few, and one finds oneself in potential conflicts with and between staff, parents and children.  I have been in a situation in 2012 before I set out as a full time consultant, where I wished I had had access to someone like Kim Frazer before things came to a head.

Another endorsement would be of The Key CPD Toolkit. Thank you to Ms Goodman, who travelled all the way from London to do a 15-minute presentation. The empowering of school leaders to do follow up on CPD is one of my big hobby horses. Though perhaps not cheap, the sustained impact of any initiatives over time, and the implied transferable skills, make Key services very valuable indeed. In and of itself, taking ownership of CPD is the key to success with any CPD input, including Cooperative Learning. But, incidentally, most Key modules on T&L, e.g. Differentiation, EAL, and Able Pupils, slot straight into Cooperative Learning so that any theoretical understanding gained and any associated materials will only further enhance the impact of the VNET Diamonds in the Rough programme – and vice versa.

From the horse’s mouth

For anyone who is interested in what Cooperative Learning can really do, meet the man who got it right. Due to massive oversubscription on a less-than-adequate technical platform, we are re-running the webinar with Andrew Howard of Stalham Academy “Special Measures to Top-500 with Cooperative Learning” on Monday 27 March 7-8 pm. Sign up here, spaces are free, but limited and strictly first come, first served. For decision making heads and governors only.

webinar slide Special Measures to Top500

Slides to be made available. Get notifications of related posts on Twitter.
Course details on werdelin.co.uku, the business end of cooperativelearning.works.
Any questions or comments, enter them below or contact me directly at werdelin.co.uk.
***
Related articles:

Stalham Academy, What Went Right? Lessons #1, #2 and #3.

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Better Reading through Cooperative Learning

Charles Coddy Walker Academy and Werdelin Education invite our colleagues to attend two sixty-minute twilights on Better Reading and Better Writing through Cooperative Learning on April 18 and 25 respectively.

Have you ever been dismayed at students not grasping texts even after ample support and time to read them aloud in class? This CLIP (Cooperative Learning Interaction Pattern) solves that problem in any subject. It helps pupils work their way through even very challenging materials so everyone understands and remembers what they read.

The day after attending, delegates will be able to deploy effective, yet simple, collaborative activities to promote reading – with no change to lesson content or objectives.

Reading together – more than the sum of parts

Next week’s session Better Reading presents a simple collaborative reading activity which ensures everyone understands and connects every paragraph before proceeding, integrates communicative and cognitive processes to facilitate memorization, and gives insight into the structure of the text.

better reading eventbrite (2)

It will also provide students with a host of ancillary skills, including reading aloud, pronunciation, identifying and verbalising the essence of each paragraph, and connecting meanings not only within the text, but its relationship to themselves and the world around them.  (Ellin Oliver Keene and Susan Zimmerman in Mosaic of Thought (1997), identified these three, text, self and world, as the main types of connections students make as they read).

As always, the CLIP will ensure high individual accountability and equal participation;   collaboration must never be an excuse to step out of the learning process. We also discuss  differentiation, assessment, written evidence of learning, effective monitoring, and feedback. Both sessions integrates vocabulary and SPaG, the writing session more so.

The day after attending, delegates will be able to deploy effective, yet simple, collaborative activities to promote reading – with no change to lesson content or objectives.

Why and how Cooperative Learning just works 

We have previously discussed how the DfE-promoted Sutton Trust-EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit rate collaborative strategies among the absolute top investment of Pupil Premium, giving as much as 5 months progress per year.

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

These two sessions demonstrate how.

 

Only a limited number of spaces are available.

Book now on EventBrite: 

Better Reading through Cooperative Learning

18 Apr 2016 15:30

Better Writing through Cooperative Learning

25 Apr 2016 15:30
Charles Coddy Walker Academy 
Derby Street Lincoln Street, Walsall WS2 7BH, United Kingdom – View Map
 

Related reading:

Cooperate Be Literate

As mentioned in the previous post, a dream has come true for me. I am working with a highly experienced science teacher to discover how Cooperative Learning can further literacy skills in science from KS2 to University.

 

More on Cooperative Learning:

Results        |        Social skills        |        Community

Get notifications of related posts on twitter.

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“Outstandingly Simple”follow-up; an introduction to Cooperative learning

Yesterday, 50+ internal and external delegates attended “Outstandingly Simple,” a 60-minute introduction to Cooperative Learning at Queen Mary’s Grammar School. This post contains some of the materials, extra resources and reflections on the event.

First of all, thank you to all attendees. With high individual accountability, Cooperative Learning is very demanding after a full day of teaching, and I thank everyone for mustering their last resources – and I especially wish to thank the staff at Queen Mary’s who dedicated time and resources to making this CPD available to other Walsall schools.

Note that bookings are now open for next events, courtesy of  Charles Coddy Walker Academy: Better Reading through Cooperative Learning on 18 Apr 2016 15:30 and Better Writing through Cooperative Learning on 25 Apr 2016 15:30.

 

Jakob QMGS.GIF

 

Both of these, and “Outstandingly Simple,” are tailored modules taken from the Skills & Mastery course; in yesterday’s case, the highly versatile Cooperative Learning Interaction Pattern (CLIP) Catch1Partner. The activity simply pairs up all students across the class, and guides their learning through questions or tasks provided either as physical materials, such as flashcards, or teacher questions. Input is discussed further down. (For a step-by-step activity description, please see this discussion on how to balance student and teacher-centering with hard and soft objectives using this activity – scroll down to section title Scenario One; boards to brains or vice versa).

Primary learning objectives at Queen Mary’s were to demonstrate how this single activity works across all subjects to facilitate  or secure:

    1. DRILLING SKILLS AND MASTERY
    2. SOCIAL SKILLS
    3. ASSESSMENT AND WRITTEN EVIDENCE
    4. FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT AND REAL-TIME FEEDBACK

We were a very mixed body of secondary teachers from more than 8 schools, covering quite literally every subject from Science to PE. Two primary teachers were also present – and made up for quantity with quality, I might add. But more on that later.

With such a mixed group, multiple learning objectives, and only 60 minutes, I dispensed with any semblance of theoretical background, but rather let the activity explain itself – aided by dropping in leading questions to make delegates reflect on the learning process, such as “What do you think of this way of learning.”

Indeed, facilitating meta-cognition and feedback were among the secondary objectives, both strategies which may yield up to 8 months of additional progress per year according to the Sutton Trust-EEF Toolkit. (EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit; a Cooperative Learning gloss discusses why this specific approach to Cooperative Learning is the most effective way to close the achievement gap for disadvantaged pupils. Also see Feedback strategies & Cooperative Learning).

Some practical examples of areas we dealt with using flashcards:

  • Higher level thinking and argumentation (e.g. “If God does not exist, then everything is permitted.”) taken from Bad Arguments in RE; Arming our children’s minds,
  • Higher level thinking and SMSC/Citizenship/PSHE: e.g. (“You borrow your friend’s bike without asking…what do you do when it gets stolen?”), and training personal boundaries in the safer social environment of school as a vital part of safeguarding (e.g. “Would you mind scratching my back?”),
  • preparing for course/lesson subject, e.g. “What does Student-Centred learning mean to you?”
  • and “Hard” subject knowledge (e.g. “Most ionising type of radiation?” – with answer on the back).

DRILLING SKILLS AND MASTERY

In this context, “Skills” relate to procedures, such as deploying grammatical rules, procedures in maths or science, correct use of foreign language dictionaries. “Mastery” relates to knowledge, the ability to not only retain it, but to connect and employ it effectively to understand questions, task and issues, and to solve problems. Or, simply put, stuff they need to know, which is not up for opinionated discussion.

Maths cards QMGS
We demonstrated this with flashcards with questions and answers on each side, such as “solve this problem” (as above) or “What is the potential difference of the mains current in the UK?”

Some of you asked about these flashcards with hard learning Q&A. Please find them at goconqr.com, others free of charge at  Collins homepage.

As I mentioned in the session, the bulk of materials should be student-generated, and any flashcard brought in, or produced, needs to be carefully vetted by peers and literally signed off on, with name and date. Out in the real world, there will not be a teacher to serve up everything you need ready-made, and you cannot always rely on your collegues or peers to get it right. Obviously,  this clearing process in itself contributes to learning, as students must critically appraise precision of language, content and voracity of any materisals brought into the learning environment. Note that CLIPs exist to facilitate this as well.

An added benefit is that students start to assume responsibility not only for their own learning, but for their peers’ – current and future: If you laminate and retain these vetted materials in organised libraries, you will find younger siblings three years down the line saying “My big brother made this, look! That’s his signature from 2016!”

Another way to provide content is to have students copy key definitions from course materials onto cards, or simply  base on independent work: in Catch1Partner students mill and compare answers and discuss differences, or present written assignments (Remember to time the activity appropriately). As it were, we did this exercise with delegates creating materials based on actual needs, and then getting peer feedback on language, etc. Here the heterogeneous group created a real challenge for some, through monitoring, I picked up that a GCSE Math question may not be quite as clear to a KS3 English teacher as the KS4 Maths teacher might think.

(Note: Science teachers looking for subject relevant reading skills may be interested in the CooperateBeLitterate project, on the special skills sets needed to get the most out of science texts – please contact me for details by leaving a comment).

Social Skills

Obviously, every single interaction staged by Cooperative Learning is an opportunity to work with social skills. The key benefit is obviously that social skills and behavior is integrated seamlessly with subject content, and these two support each other. For more on this, please see, Norwich Primary Academy, Functional language maketh functional man, On the subject of social skills, and From Cooperative Learning of skills to Collaboration as a Skill to mention a few.

We looked at a simple exercise to make students generate phrases on flashcards that would improve their interaction in class, such as thanking: “Thanks for pairing up with me!” or praising: “Well done, I had never guessed.” Looking at these cards provide written evidence of what students perceive as behavior problems and solutions. Again, Catch1Partner is here used to get feedback and reflect on word choice, and to discuss the problem the phrase addresses. Some of you noticed the high level of implicit learning differentiation, both in relation to time spent and tangents explored by each pair.

Here, I want to mention that classroom control is a key factor. The staging of the activity, and the interaction, must not take time from objectives. As one delegate mentioned, getting 600 pupils quiet in 6 seconds can be done (Bluecoat Academy). And as one of our primaries commented later, this works even with very socially challenged pupils with high-level of EAL per class. In fact, Primary delegates had brilliant input on this, but more on that in the next post, which will look at assessment and real-time feedback. A video of the course introduction will be made available later. Get notifications of related posts on twitter.

Final note for now: Handouts are dense, but try, with the help of coffee.

werdelin.co.uk is the business end of cooperativelearning.works.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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