Tag Archives: collaborative learning

Making best use of … Leadership; Coaching & Cooperative Learning.

Cooperative Learning makes learning visible. But, perhaps more importantly to senior leadership teams, it also makes visible their key area of responsibility, namely the teaching.

Were I to sum up Cooperative Learning in one word, it would be empowerment. Empowerment first and foremost of every pupil; self-confidence, courage, curiosity, choice, to name a few; empowerment of teachers (and their support staff) by making all the tick-boxes of outstanding teaching available in a simple, manageable manner; and empowerment of senior leadership teams (SLT) by facilitating their key role as guides to good teaching.

It may be obvious that empowerment of teachers is a prerequisite for the empowerment of pupils. But I venture here that empowerment of leaders in their role is in some ways a prerequisite for the empowerment of teachers themselves.

The responsibility of leadership

This article discusses how Cooperative Learning may empower all levels of your school community by working from the top down. Counter-intuitive, perhaps, and certainly something which needs to be tweaked to reflect the ethos of each school.

The fundamental assumption in this text is that 1) you are a leader because you have more to give – perhaps a more comprehensive educational background, more experience, better communication skills, patience, or decisiveness, to name some – and that 2) most of your staff could actually benefit from you, and actually wish to.

Empowerment via the top-down approach has several aspects. School leaders struggle with an overload of tasks which push the focus away from the raison d’etre of any school: every-day excellent teaching and learning in the classroom:

 

Headteacher's priorities.PNG

For those who use the Eisenhower/Covey matrix.

 

Given schools only exists for the sake of teaching and learning, and the documented positive impact of coaching on teachers professional development,* you would think that weekly lesson observations of every teacher by an experienced leader would not just be a given, it would be a right, the violation of which could bring the NUT down on the school’s head.

However, learning walks/lesson observations are often draining because outcomes seldom match the effort; objectives are not clear and feedback is not practical and, as a consequence, observations often result in vague hints which are seldom followed up, rather than instantly applicable advice that actually improves life for teachers and pupils from the next day and onwards. (Which only increases the sense among teachers observations are not about them being raised, but being judged).

We have previously discussed how Cooperative Learning has the capacity to effectively turn fluffy concepts of “secure more pupil engagement”  into practical reality. The question is, how does the school take ownership of this capacity?

Why coach leadership

The answer is to turn leaders into just that: Trusted, inspiring guides, who master Cooperative Learning enough to take the torch from the consultant and drive their school’s vision. So, rather than having me come into classrooms following CPD to observe and coach teachers, I began coming into classrooms to observe and coach school leaders doing the same.

There are numerous benefits to this, four of which are listed below.

 

1. Improve Cooperative Learning and basic teaching skills

Teaching becomes visible through Cooperative Learning. Here it is important to grasp that weakness in the understanding of teaching is not the same as weakness in the execution of the Cooperative Learning Interaction Patterns (CLIPs).

I specifically coach to maximise the benefit of Cooperative Learning – a clear objective with clear outcomes that I feel confident I can secure during one lesson/feedback session, and although I deal with matters which impinge on the quality of Cooperative Learning (e.g. timing and directive modelling) any underlying deep or subject-specific issues (e.g. misapprehension of objectives, or inappropriate levelling), is best dealt with in an ongoing process with responsible school leaders.

So by coaching SLT rather than the individual teacher, the benefit of the coaching is much more ongoing, comprehensive, and cohesive; and here, the clarity of Cooperative Learning will not only disclose gaps in teaching skills but will give very practical tools to close them, presented in a respectful, and perhaps less direct, manner.

2. Put victims at peace

Most teachers are used to being masters of their own classrooms and, as do most people, dislike the sense of being observed and judged, even if they are brilliant. By focusing attention on the performance of leadership in the role of coaches, it is possible to secure accountability and improvement while being more respectful of teachers’ integrity.

executive-coaching

 

3. Fast-track to independence

By turning SLT into capable Cooperative Learning coaches, the school becomes independent of further external consulting, which is, of course, the ultimate goal for the school – and for me a sign I have done my job right.

4. The learner becomes the master

The practical coaching of SLT will enable leaders who are so disposed – there is at least one of those in every school – to move Cooperative Learning to a whole new level, tweaking, experimenting, combining, Stalham Academy being an obvious case study. But this cannot be done without mastering of the basics. “Wax on, wax off,” for those who remember the Karate Kid’s ordeals (Youtube).

Stages of lesson observations

There are several ways to approach Cooperative Learning lesson observations. The following discusses options of (A) Before, (B) During and (C) After lessons – with (B) obviously being indispensable.

(A) Before the observation

Ideally, the teacher presents the rationale behind the lesson plan prior to the observation (whether to me directly, or to a member of SLT being trained by me). This presentation includes shared reflections on pacing, choice of materials, assumptions about previous learning, securing evidence, as one normally would, but specifically how the CLIPs support this. “Why this CLIP and not that? Which sub-tasks fit in the objective? What target language are you requiring them to use?” For practical reasons, we usually do this in a break immediately preceding the lesson.

A special benefit of this approach is that I can confirm that the teacher grasps where and how to use the CLIPs in the context of the lesson, so that the observation may focus solely on the execution of the CLIP itself. By coordinating when CLIPs are used, it is conceivable to observe up to three separate classes within the span of a lesson slot.

 

 

(B) During the observation

With the coach(es) present in the classroom as the lesson takes place, there are two options: one is passive observation for later feedback, the other is active guidance as the lesson proceeds. As Cooperative Learning turns the focus away from the teacher, it is possible to have a real-time conversation about what is happening in the heat of the moment. For example, a reminder to monitor the whole class and not get sucked into the individual pupil’s issues is a classic.*

(An alternative version of this is to watch a video recording of the lesson together, where the teacher can see himself from the outside and discuss his observations with the coach. However, there is a risk that too much detail is lost in a video, as the coach cannot direct attention to individual pupils or teams).

(C) After the observation

It is crucial that the feedback following the lesson is a two-way process, respectful, yet honest. When coaching leaders, I usually run the feedback in the following stages.

1. Alone with me, the senior leader gives her own take on the Cooperative Learning within the lesson, and I fill in the gaps, add to the precision of language, or correct errors. Where relevant, we discuss the relationship to teaching skills and we use a checklist to make sure bases are covered. This checklist is provided to all staff during training (and every teacher is expected to laminate it and chain it to his wrist). Sometimes, the oral feedback is prepared with me playing the role as the teacher.

2. The observed teacher enters and gives his own subjective perspective. (“God, I was horrible!” is not an uncommon – and incorrect – opening statement, which reflects the strain of being monitored more than anything else). What is important that the teacher is allowed time and space to reflect on himself, and come up with his own solutions, first and foremost.

3. The leader being coached then uses this as a sounding board for the feedback, rephrasing it as needed to match, tweak, or correct the perspectives of the teacher. There is, of course, no reason to repeat problems that the teacher flagged up himself, except to note his insight, as realistic self-assessment is one of the single most valuable skills one may have.

4. Now comes the important part: the practical application of the feedback. This means picking the most important few issues, and presenting solutions in an actionable form. An example is given in the following section.

5. The teacher is offered time discuss with me directly, with or without the leader present.

6. I give the leader ia set of final comments on her interaction with the teacher. This will usually focus on the clarity of her message. Hence the extreme example below.

 

Exemplary feedback

Here is an example of what that could look like, with the wrapping peeled away:

“You pointed out yourself that you find it difficult to connect back to previous lessons. So, what we have agreed is that, starting tomorrow, every lesson will begin with a such-and-such CLIP, staged just like this, using these metacognitive questions about their prior knowledge, and securing this type of written evidence. The CLIP will last minimum five minutes, excluding staging, and you will use a on-screen timer to make your two Asperger’s pupils feel safe. You will dedicate yourself to monitoring, leaving the overall control of the class to your TA, who you will have carefully instructed in this task. A specific target for you is to stop waffling and to bring your modelling down to 45 seconds, giving more time to put the pupils in control of their own learning. So next week, I will pop in and have a look. We’ll take it from there. Any questions?”

 

Soddin’ Growth Mindset!

I intentionally stripped the fluff of the example above, because I want the content of the feedback to be crystal clear. Two points here: Number One, the “action plan” is the result of a dialogue between the teacher and the leader during the coaching session. Number Two, I do not, and I do not ask leaders to, speak that way to staff. However, behind the coating, that is the level of specificity you need to arrive at. If you find it a challenge to empower yourself in your role as leader to do that, consider asking other leaders in your hub or trust on how they do it.

Because, as uncomfortable and un-British as it may feel to risk stepping on people’s toes (I’ve actually had people apologise to me about the English weather!) just remember that you are doing the teacher and the pupils, both entrusted to your care, a severe disservice by not bringing out the very best in your staff.

As a Dane, I come from a very direct culture where many a casual conversation would be considered extremely rude by the British. Yet, one benefit to this obnoxious forthrightness is that it negates the confusion between what is professional, realistic feedback and what is a personal judgement to which one is entitled to respond emotionally. Those two are not the same.

On that note, ponder this: With smiling faces, we teachers drill into a pupil standing nailed to the whiteboard and feeling utterly humiliated in front of their whole class, that “It is GREAT to make mistakes because we can learn and grow!” Yet, some of us flatly refuse to rectify our shortcomings with a trusted colleague in a private setting, though we affect the futures of thousands of children over the course of our careers?

There is no real reason to feel judged in learning from colleagues, and certainly, there is no shame in learning from a colleague with superior skills or more experience. So, in summary, a trusting, collaborative ethos is not just a requisite for children to learn, but for adults as well. Coming full circle, the capacity to learn and improve is the basis of all empowerment. For pupils, teaching staff, and leaders.

 

Recognise this?

 

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NB: This article has been in the pipeline for a while, and was inspired by a novel take on coaching by a school I am now working with. Here, rather than sending leaders on learning walks, teachers are paired up with a sparring partner, who take turns observing and coaching each other. This opens an opportunity to dedicated use of Cooperative Learning to share practice and experience between those pairs and keep leadership informed in an informal and non-threatening manner. I am hoping to write an ongoing series on this theme. (And learn something new in the process).

You can follow on Twitter or join the mailing list for updates.

Also, benefit from related articles written for leadership on best-practice.

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*) “The reflection promoted by effective mentoring and coaching approaches in turn encourages a collaborative learning culture in organisations. For schools, this is particularly important, as it may alleviate some of the sense of professional isolation….”

From Mentoring And Coaching For Professionals: A Study Of The Research Evidence, P. Lord, et al., National Foundation for Educational Research, 2008, p. viii,  https://www.nfer.ac.uk/publications/MCM01/MCM01.pdf  (accessed 17 September 2017).
**) Because the learning is so in-your-face, it is almost impossible not to step in. But unless the (indispensable!) TA is present to keep a bird’s eye view, this is not advisable.

 

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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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May 15, 2017 · 13:19

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

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

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

webinar slide Special Measures to Top500

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March 29, 2017 · 18:02

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.
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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

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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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