Tag Archives: collaborative learning

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.

***
Join the COGS mailing list or get notifications of related posts on Twitter

Leave a comment

Filed under Cooperative Learning, English, language teaching, Vocabulary

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?

 

* * *

Get notifications on Twitter.

werdelin.co.uk is the business end of cooperativelearning.works.
Any questions or comments, enter them below or contact me directly at werdelin.co.uk.

Leave a comment

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

Get notifications on Twitter.

werdelin.co.uk is the business end of cooperativelearning.works.
Any questions or comments, enter them below or contact me directly at werdelin.co.uk.

Leave a comment

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.
***
Related articles:

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Cooperative Learning, events, get started with CL, VNET

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Cooperative Learning, CPD, events, get started with CL, language teaching

“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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

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

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.

Given the routine assertions that Cooperative Learning denotes wet talking exercises, some science and maths teachers I have spoken to have raised concerns. During development of the courses to Norwich Primary Academy, fate has willed that the deputy head, Mr Ben Rogers, was point man. Before his tenure at NPA, Ben has taught science at secondary level for 18 years and sees what Cooperative Learning can actually do. Many will be familiar with Ben’s blog, ReadingforLearning, and his special focus on reading in Science as a very distinct and largely unexplored area.

However there is a dire need, it seems. Ben has investigated the reading habits of one hundred scientist. One of the main conclusions from the survey is that professional scientists and engineers teach themselves to read subject texts, at least until college (only 10% of the professionals who responded to the survey were taught to read science texts at school, 84% said they taught themselves).

As a science teacher, Ben believes that technical texts require specific reading strategies. As a Cooperative Learning aficionado, I want to prove the role of Cooperative Learning in Science.

I do not mean just in relation to drilling the definitions, vocabulary and procedures associated with these subjects. I aim to facilitate transferable skills, such as contextualisation and higher level thinking,  through negotiation of meaning.

I hope to prove that the tight structuring afforded by Cooperative Learning will simultaneously provide classroom control, focus on objectives and effective assessment, while giving science students a sense of both freedom to investigate and accountability for their own learning.

Read Ben’s reflections on cooperatebeliterate.org.

Read the survey on educationinchemestry

2 Comments

Filed under CooperateBeLiterate, Cooperative Learning, Enquiry, Information, Lesson plans, science