Tag Archives: Collaboration

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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



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


Filed under Cooperative Learning, events, science

Cooperative Learning; (an) engaging business

I have pointed out in the about section that Cooperative Learning can be used  “Everywhere you find a group of people, including classrooms, study groups, even teacher-parent knees-ups….”

Here is the evidence from Mr Khalid Mair, a London businessman and experienced coach with a longstanding commitment to community building. In these comments on Healing Fractures II – Beyond Birmingham, which took place during Islam Awareness Week on March 17, 2015, he outlines the effect of Cooperative Learning on adults handling and solving controversy.

Watch the video.

K Mair video

“The creative solutions that came out as a product of that

process were very illuminating”

“…ensured full commitment from
all participants”

– K. Mair, business coach
Islamic Awareness Week, Norwich, March 17, 2015

More pictures and videos from and about the event at the full gallery.

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Filed under 21c, community building, events

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

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

Odd thing to write under a heading which includes the word “Critical thinking”, but if Sunday’s event is anything to go by, I want to start by quite uncritically recommending  Muslim Teacher’s Association‘s training days at the Institute of Education:

Where else do £10 normally let you listen to, and discuss directly with, a leader of an global interfaith charity, several international educational consultants in school and B2B curriculum development, seasoned innovators in diversity and minority issues, a politician, innovative curriculum developers, heads, teachers, researchers from a variety of ethnic, religious and professional backgrounds? In many ways, everyone present was of a level, experience and heartfelt engagement that made me wish they had all been present at Healing Fractures last Monday – and did I mention all tables had flowers and that lunch was included?

Rosemary Campbell Stephens: “Colour blind or just plain blind?”

Rosemary Campbell-Stevens needs no further introduction: She did not refer to any “minorities” in her presentation; it actually took me a while to work out who she was referring to by “global majority.” White European, are you? You constitute a microscopic minority, mate. It’s just a question of the frame.

Speaking of frames: First Ms Campbell-Stephens had a go at the concept of “colour blindness”, normally seen as a positive. Key points here: “What sense does it make for Government to be colour blind in Birmingham? Didn’t the various authors of various reports notice those people were Asians? Or did they just feel who these people were was irrelevant?”

Begs the questions posed by Hallaq’s seminal work “Islamic State” about the benefits of localised versions of the Sharia in traditional Islamic societies – which reflected the culture and temperament of the environment, whether Andalusia or China – over and above a one-size-fits all remote-controlled State law-machinery of the Enlightenment programme: Especially now that dismantling of Local Authority has effectively removed one of the final key areas where various local groups could challenge state narratives about issues such as race, culture, poverty.

“Colour blindness” is the tip of the iceberg. The latest media gags of “racism no longer being an issue in Britain” by a certain politician covers a more subtle issue raised by Ms Campbell-Stephens: What does it even matter that blacks, or Asians, or any other UK minority group breaks the glass ceiling, if they are unable to renovate the roof? What power do you wield if you can occupy a space, but not change it? The phrase she used was to “exhale in the workplace.” That means not feeling compelled to get rid of dreadlocks, or “ethnic” earrings, or the scarf in the office, but to come in and make a meaningful change with what and who you are, exactly as a “white British” person would, for the benefit of everyone. These examples came out in the discussion, by the way.

Yet here are the teachers, duly teaching the British value of democracy…

Ed Walsh: “Need words in science, too”
You’d think that a model outstanding science lesson by Ed Walsh would be a break from the endless negotiations of meaning;  finally something solid,  tangible,  indisputable!  Not so.
In two rounds we were presented with tightly managed social construction to facilitate thinking,  reflection and precise, concise scientific thinking through language!
These sessions warrant their own posts. In relation to my previous posts on Mr Peal’s lunges at student-centred learning, given Mr Walsh has 15+ years in teaching, it seems less clear why we should pay any attention to a book written by a thirty-years-old w. 2 years of experience, published by a right-wing think tank.
When it all comes together
In the above, we have driven home the point that reality is up for grabs, and posited that creating reality, not “getting” it from someone else, is not only a vital skill in any democratic society, but is also the best way to teach outstanding lessons. In relation to the comment on Peal’s book above, I stand by his point that poor, undirected “lazy teacher” social constructivism is not an option. My claim is simply that using classroom management tools such as Cooperative Learning will put this type of high-powered, outstanding teaching into the hands of even unqualified teachers.
Question: may politics and science conceivably be taught using the same lesson plan? Just a question.
More on this event and its connection to the themes of Healing Fractures II in following posts. Other topics presentations by Mr Amjal Masroor, Maimonides Interfaith Foundation and Connect2Colour (which, incidentally, is NOT about race) and the proposition that Sir Michael is actually an alright guy (I apologise in advance for poking fun at him in a previous article). Follow on @werdelin_CL.
MTA: More information at their revamped site.

An interesting related example is Matthew Vince’s research on Muslim teachers navigating Islam in RE state-school curriculum, found here.

 is the business end of cooperativelearning.works.


Filed under 21c, community building, Cooperative Learning, Education policy, Enquiry, events, integration, Islam, Multiculturalism, P4C, Philosophy for Children

Enquiry and Immersion: Full-Day Field Trip to Ihsan Mosque, November 13

– a unique cross cultural meeting for all secondary RE students in Norfolk

 I have been advocating Cooperative Learning as a tool to facilitate collaboration between schools and faith communities for some time, and have now partnered with Ihsan Mosque in Norwich to stage a unique cross cultural meeting for all secondary RE students in Norfolk, the first to take place on Thursday 13 November 2014.

For this first event, I am working closely with RE/humanities coordinators of Acle Academy to receive a number of Gifted & Talented students for this trail run. We have around 15 places available for the day’s event, available on a first come, first served basis (Contact).

Setting the stage: Religious literacy through enquiry

In the morning students will be presented with an enquiry exercise expanding their understanding of Islam in a guided student-centered session where students collaborate to understand and correlate a wide variety of unique materials. The literacy component will be integrated with tasks to pursue the attainment target “learning from religion.” etc.*

Not only does the exercise facilitate relevant religious literacy, but through negotiation, preconceptions are challenged and new connections are made between a host of historical, theological and contemporary political issues, including the ongoing controversy of ISIS.

Elements of this exercise have been trialed at Norwich High School for Girls’ connected curriculum week Life in the Global Village. Below are some of the responses from students:

“…never boring, different … Imaginative!”


“…forces people to be concise [and] to participate and learn.”


“I enjoyed working independently and under pressure … concise yet detailed, curiosity evoked.”


“… after getting used to it, I began to interact more with the class as everybody needed your information and listened to you.”

Read more.

Minds & hearts: Immersion over information

However, this enquiry lesson, for all its higher level thinking, etc. is still information processing. Students will then have the opportunity to informally engage with Muslim community members over informal lunch in the Mosque. The food is a Morrocan/Jamacian/British fusion kitchen, served on floor from communal plates in a gender separated setting.

We believe that his format, combined with students eating and conversing with regular people, deciding if they want to share their food some with random folks coming in early for the prayer (as they will know from the previous session is basic Islamic practice, and why) is the immersion where real transformative learning will take place.

Momodou MON

Note that the trip also includes observing the noon prayer performed and a tour the mosque grounds, presented by experienced staff. The Ihsan Mosque in Chapelfield has been a part of the wider Norwich community for many years and many teachers will be familiar with its outreach programs within local schools and Mosque tours.

Please contact me directly at jakobwerdelin@werdelin.co.uk for booking and further details.


(may be subject to change)

  • 10-12: Islam in RE: Religious literacy through Enquiry at Centre
  • 12.00-13.00 Lunch, informally hosted by members of Muslim community.
  • 13-13.15 Students watch the noon prayer in Mosque
  • 13.15-14.00 Mosque tour
  • 14.00+ Questions and answer session

Community Building: Getting the bricks together 

On a final note, connected to this is my vision presented at Edinburgh University and June’s Islamic Education Conference in London of presenting a model for local communities, whether unique in relation to faith, ethnicity etc. to provide services and become more self-reliant through their uniqueness. Eg. in this case, the centre and the catering are run by local Muslims,  working with me to provide a unique service to the wider community. Community building is a vital life skill and showing the pupils a vital, self-reliant community is a vital piece of learning: real SMSC.

Link to Ihsan Mosque & Community site here.

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

* Generally the session facilitates the best practice outlined in the documents Realising the Potential (Ofsted, 2013), Religious Education in English schools: Non‑statutory Guidance 2010 and The Norfolk Agreed Syllabus for Religious Education 2012 and incorporates elements from our upcoming CPD course on October 23.


Filed under Cooperative Learning, Enquiry, events, integration, Islam, Multiculturalism

Skills and Mastery at Norfolk Academy: Attainment with CL

Werdelin Education has been working closely with the head of Stalham Academy to facilitate the newly converted Academy’s vision of high attainment through engaging, high impact student-centred learning.

Cooperative Learning is often incorrectly perceived as “talking exercises” unsuitable for teaching specific procedures or rote learning.

The contrary is true: CL is highly effective in teaching facts, reading, maths and SPaG. The new Skills & Mastery CL course intentionally cuts out theoretical background and Ofsted compliant tick-box language in order to put simple, comprehensive tools into the hands of teachers looking to boost attainment with instantly applicable and assessable student-centred learning.

This reflects the fact that schools are not looking for CPD to re-wire their overall strategy and successful routines they have built up over months and years; and teachers even less so. As I have stated before we need to move beyond the buzzwords of ‘self-directed’, ‘flexible’, ‘inquiry based’,  ‘project based’  – no, give teachers a practical tool to effectively steer group processes
in the direction they need, and everything else will follow.

Cooperative Learning has had an immediate quantifiable impact on learning at our school

Andrew Howard, Head, Stalham Academy
Skills & Mastery CL course, 2014

Though nominally priced as an off-the-shelf CL course, the same versatile nature of Cooperative Learning that permits instant mix-n-match implementation in live classrooms allows the content of this CPD course to be re-ordered and refurbished with actual LO’s and teaching materials at no extra cost.

A most suitable image from Stalham Academy’s homepage

By the end of the full 6 hour Skills & Mastery CL course participating teachers will be able to supplement their teaching with a number of engaging group and pair work interaction patterns:

  • activating schemata in relation to topics and tasks
  • using CL to discover solutions
  • unobtrusive monitoring of learning and thinking processes to provide relevant on-the-fly teacher response
  • effective task work in pairs and teams
  • using CL to creative writing, skim, scan and intensive reading, in English and foreign languages
  • Higher Level Thinking Skills; enhancement and rote learning integration
  • homework checking
  • cross-class knowledge sharing
  • retention of  rules and facts
  • memorising and training correct application of rote procedures e.g. mathematical formula, how to use a foreign language dictionary or steps in conducting scientific experiments.

Thank you for this evening! We are all buzzing from your approach and how we can adapt to our school  re children’s learning and assessment for learning!!

Deborah Gillespie, Deputy Head, Stalham Academy
Skills & Mastery CL course, 2014

The course may be delivered as twilight sessions in blocks of 2 x 3 hours or 3 x 2 hours, as well as a full day at your school. All courses are preceded by a non-committal discussion about the needs of the specific school, regarding both pupil population, staff and materials. Two hour units of the course may also be bought individually.

More on CL and rote read post Facts vs. Free Thinking? a CL perspective

More about this and other CL courses at werdelin.co.uk.

NB: RE and humanities teachers!

The next presentation of Islam in RE: Religious Literacy & Controversy Through Enquiry will take place on 21 November at the Institute of Education, London. We have completed successful pilots of this course at the University of East Anglia in June, attended by Secondary School teachers, Academic Researchers and a member of Norfolk SACRE and at the Institute of Education in London in July attended by national Educators and Academic Researchers.

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Filed under Cooperative Learning, CPD, get started with CL

From Cooperative Learning of skills to Collaboration as a Skill

As a further note to Dr. Lawson’s comment on teachers subverting a cumbersome educational system to create amazing teaching, I just came across an article on Personal Learning Network about the distinction between collaborative learning and cooperative learning. The author defines Cooperative Learning as an “educational approach that emphasizes teacher involvement in setting goals and determining activities,” as opposed to more open and general collaborative learning as “the passing of more control of learning to the students.”

Its doesn’t take a Ministry of Education to spot a logical progression here. When I took over the English Dpt. in 2007, my underlying intention was to empower my students to take over their learning process. Implementing the quite rigid model of structural Cooperative Learning was the best I could come up with, as it provided a much needed firm support for students collaborating on both subject matter and social skills while giving me a potentially tight control of form, time and content. Completely free reign was not an option; aside from the fact that the Danish equivalent of Ofsted, the school administration and the parents would have cooperated and collaborated to have me fired, it would not have benefited my students at all, quite the contrary.

So in the bigger picture, structural cooperative learning should be used to teach students not just subjects and social skills, but forms of working together and communicating, which they gradually choose how to implement as they become more and more adept. A sample conversation in a given team would then be “Ok, we’ve got to present our take on this poem, let’s do a Think-Pair-Share on it and take it from there, what do you say?” – “I disagree; it’s better to use a Team Interview, as Bob and I get a lot from questioning in our thinking processes.” – “Alright, I’m fine with that, what about you Alice…?” etc. 

Whether on-line or off-line, successful collaboration between independent and self-reliant individuals who can bring something to the table is a crucial future skill. As powerful as Cooperative Learning is in achieving day-to-day teaching aims, it should be seen as a means to that end. And if government wants the country to remain competitive, it should support its teachers in this.

How to pitch CL to business and government:  
Look, look, the robots are collaborating!”


Filed under CL definitions and terminology, Cooperative Learning, Didactic methodologies, Education policy