Tag Archives: cooperative classroom

How to NOT benefit from a visit to Stalham Academy; a warning to desperate heads

I am very happy that so many have taken an interest in the success of schools I have worked with. I am less happy to find that some visitors have disregarded the context of that success.

Stalham Academy has recently issued a disclaimer email to schools whose staff have visited them following the Regional Schools Commissioner’s endorsement.

The upshot of that correspondence is that, while they welcome observers, under no circumstances will Stalham Academy accept responsibility for haphazard attempts to replicate “Cooperative Learning” in schools following such a 2-hour visit.

While Andrew and Glenn have made every effort to demonstrate how they have deployed my original 2014 Skills & Mastery CPD course to improve their school, I know that they do not advise randomly dumping Cooperative Learning into classrooms without proper training, any deep understanding of its application, context or, indeed, of its aims. (Some of the requirements of leadership may be found in this series of articles).



Warning do not try this at home



On the contrary, they have clarified to visitors that success depends on SLT systematically connecting Cooperative Learning to all areas of the SIDP, including assessment systems, as well as the overall vision for the school’s ethos as a safe and collaborative community of pupils, parents, and staff.

Furthermore, precisely because my CPD always reflects the needs of each specific school, it may well be that Stalham Academy’s use of Cooperative Learning is not even best practice for your school. Bear in mind that Stalham had just gone into special measures, lost their headteacher, and converted to academy status when the acting head and I planned their CPD.

Thus, Stalham Academy’s results are absolutely not the sole result of my CPD provision, but of an ongoing and systematic and responsible effort by all staff to operationalise my training to meet their needs and achieve their vision.


” Jakob’s training leaves nothing to chance, is focussed, thorough, reflective and takes good account of the real development needs of the team.” 

-Tony Hull, CEO of Evolution Academy Trust, on “The Real Value of TAs” tailored Cooperative Learning programme,  July 2017. 

To write off their hard work because one chooses to blatantly disregard their advice in search of a free magic bullet is unfair. To repay their hospitality by speaking ill of them to one’s colleagues and to denigrate Cooperative Learning as a “fad” simply to cover one’s own shortfalls is the height of ingratitude.

Cooperative Learning is a cost-effective solution, but any solution must be applied correctly. I therefore strongly urge past and future visitors to Stalham and other schools to not to write off Cooperative Learning with the comment “We tried it out when we came back and it didn’t work.”

Should you hear such talk, please urge the concerned individual to contact me for a meaningful dialogue about the requirements of their situation.


“We found working with Jakob really effective, he …  listened to us and adapted his programme specifically for our teachers and our children.”

 Ben Rogers, Vice Principal at Norwich Primary Academy, 2015.
(Watch Vice Principal Ben Rogers and Year 3 teacher Ms Shane Horne discuss their experiences with Cooperative Learning in these short video interviews) .

My training has come a long way since 2014, as it continuously evolves to integrate changes to statutory requirements and DfE recommendations, relevant research (such as best use of TAs), and include a host of ancillary objectives, ideas and experiences from working with a number of schools and training providers.

I, therefore, trust that such a conversation seems a fair proposition?



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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

Welcome back to school; time for dessert

Preparing for academic year 2016-2017. The proof is in the pudding…

Anyone who looks through the copious research (including the meta-studies in the Teaching and Learning Toolkit)  is convinced by Cooperative Learning.

Cooperative Learning always works if you follow the steps, quite literally. But, unlike most other things in life, Cooperative Learning gives what you want from it.



If you’re looking to boost teachers individually, or provide one more exciting tool among many, then that’s what you will get; everywhere it’s used, it will benefit teaching and learning.  But if you are looking for cohesive, systematic improvement to school ethos on every front, then that is what you  will get –   through coordinated cooperation, any teacher you add to the mix will increase impact exponentially.

But, again, the proof is in the pudding.  This year, Tim Coulson, Regional Schools Commissioner, listed Stalham Academy , under Right for Success Trust, as one of seven schools in the Eastern region to contact for good practice, due to their incredible results, with 81% achieving the expected standard or above in Reading, Writing & Maths.

This this from a school that was a special measures 16 months ago. Cooperative Learning has also had substantial positive impact on behaviour, language, and thinking skills. It is integrated with assessment systems, and actively supports other programs in which the school has invested, including Attainment for All.

To achieve this, Stalham paid £150 per month over six months. 


 But … what does  Ofsted think?

Unlike Stalham, another client of mine in Norfolk, Norwich  Primary Academy,  has actually had an Ofsted inspection. The former Larkman Primary School was ruled “inadequate” by Ofsted in 2010. Converted to Academy status as Norwich Primary Academy  under the Inspiration Trust, the school had their first Skills & Mastery session in September 2014.  This is an extract from  The Academy’s first Ofsted report:

“Teaching is good because underperformance has been tackled. …  Pupils throughout the academy make good progress because they practise key skills very regularly in ways they describe as ‘fun’ and ‘interesting’. Pupils make particularly good progress in writing because they develop these skills in the imaginative tasks teachers provide for them.”

Reading and writing are two key areas of focus of the course, and both have been presented as separate modules for the benefit of Birmingham schools last academic year.  Speaking of writing, Judy Brady, a year 3 teacher in Norwich Primary Academy, made this remark:

“I really don’t think I could have achieved such a dramatic improvement using ‘usual’ methods. [One pupil], who’s partner told him he couldn’t read the sentence on Wednesday, earned himself a house point for improvement and I’m sure he left the room several centimetres taller!”

And  this is perhaps the most telling evidence of the  value of Cooperative Learning.

More desert anyone?


New SAT course in the pipeline

I want to make 81% achieving the expected standard or above in Reading, Writing & Maths  in SATs available to every school. Working  closely with  practising teachers in schools,  I’m in the process of creating a new course  to do just that.

Initially entitled SAT  through CL,  it will  let teachers effectively prepare Year 6 pupils for SAT tests. Not through mere drilling of the concepts being tested, but by recognising when and how to use various procedures. 

This is especially relevant for EAL or lower ability pupils with poor language and reading skills, who often find recognising the actual task itself is a challenge. Therefore, the Cooperative Learning Interaction Patterns (CLIPs) in this course are picked and ordered to drive deep integration of skills with higher level thinking processes. 

SATs through CL is  being developed and tested in close collaboration with Year 6 teachers, and consists of a series of content-void lesson plans immediatly applicable to any SAT-related material. These integrate procedural training, peer learning, feedback, accountability, knowledge sharing across class, and effective monitoring.

This is not teaching-for-the-test, it’s teaching the skills required for the test and everywhere else.   Super SAT results  are almost a by-product.

SATs through CL will hopefully be available to schools in the academic year 2016.

Contact me now for more information and follow on twitter for updates on this course.


In other news

One of the most exciting thing to happen  over the last six months  is my work with West Midlands Police. With Cooperative Learning, the true resources are the participants – regardless of age group or objectives.

These workshops mark a new way of staging complex citizen meetings, securing equal participation and accountability – with a lot of challenging engagement.

Using Cooperative Learning to work directly with communities, increase democracy and local empowerment  is a long-standing dream of mine. We are looking forward to the next session in Perry Barr on September 17.

Also  to be continued and expanded is my work with Uthman bin Affan Trust, which will, quite literally,  change the lives of hundreds of thousands of  Syrian children over time – inshallah.

The challenges are many; post-traumatic stress, oversized classes, five-year divergence within a single form, and in some cases virtually no classroom resources. Added to this, many wholly unqualified teachers are used to cover shortages.
Only Cooperative Learning leverages the resources within each child and promotes subject knowledge and, equally importantly, skills of collaboration, creative thinking, and a practical understanding of democracy, leadership and decision making; everything young Syrians needs to thrive in the 21st century.
Follow on twitter for updates on the full programme,  and for more news on new clients, including Great Hockham Primary & Nursery and Caston  Coe VA Primary, teacher training schools in the Midlands, and content providers.

 And finally, in every sense of the word, new website

You will find more information on courses, other clients,  and Cooperative  Learning in general on the recently redesigned werdelin.co.uk – much lighter,  in terms of both colour  and words.  I do hope you like it.













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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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Being British | Being Muslim

Real safeguarding: A new tailored Cooperative Learning course directly to secondary pupils for one of the UK’s leading Cultural Competency Trainers

AKSAA are market leaders in Islamic Awareness and Cultural Competency Training. Since 2004 more than 17,500 delegates have undergone unique and insightful courses delivered in over 80 different Local Authority locations across the UK.

I am happy to be developing an entirely new type of courses for secondary state schools with a large proportion of Muslim students, to meet statutory requirements related to community cohesion, fundamental British values and Citizenship for AKSAA .

As part of the Government’s Prevent Strategy, and for the schools to fulfill their Prevent duty, Aksaa has been delivering specialist training for pupils and teachers to help build pupils’ resilience to radicalisation by promoting fundamental British values and enabling them to challenge extremist views.

By using cooperative learning to engage all students in authentic debates about values and choice, this unique course facilitates democratic negotiation of controversial issues in a safe, social environment. Debates are based on relevant subject knowledge and students get the opportunity to ask frank, questions directly to born and converted.adult Muslim consultants.


This course is available from January 2016. Please see the other site for details.


“Cooperative Learning helps to think on your feet and be more focused. It helps with promoting your opinions more effectively with deeper thinking.”

– Mr K. Tai, Director of AKSAA

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Charlie Hebdo revisited in Walsall

A warm thank you to participants of yesterday’s event Charlie Hebdo & Islam; effectively handling controversy and FBV in Walsall.

I especially wish to thank the Association of Muslim Schools for their initiative and Abu Bakr Boys School for providing a venue for this very necessary event, leading up to the Charlie Hebdo year date next month.

This 2 hour twilight demonstrated a scalable, instantly applicable RE lesson plan related to the murders last year, using Cooperative Learning to foster tightly controlled discussions of controversial materials in a safe environment, and included strategies for assessment, evidence of learning and SMSC/Citizenhip integration in compliance with DfE requirements.


“Very inspiring – it was immediately obvious why cooperative learning approach would have multiple benefits, especially when learning about controversial topics.”

– Mr R.T. Bradley, Head of Religious Studies, Queen Mary’s Grammar School, Walsall, 16 December 2015


The lesson was staged using two antagonistic texts, culled from online media:

Charlie Hebdo: This Attack Was Nothing To Do With Free Speech — It Was About War by Mr  Asghar Bukhari at Medium.com.

Charlie Hebdo and the freedom to offend by David Suissa at the Jewish Journal.

At the end of this lesson, students should be able to describe, correlate, criticise, synthesise some of the viewpoints and arguments about freedom of expression, religious tolerance, the role of media, Islamic  vs. secular (British) values, and consequences of terrorism, specifically related to the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, which too place almost exactly a year ago.

It is implicitly understood that Cooperative Learning facilitate a wide variety of areas of learning, i.e. reading skills, note-taking, discussion, as well as social skills. Please investigate this the other site and this blog for more information.

Quick lesson outline

The full plan Charlie’s Angels or Sympathy for the Devils? A full RE lesson plan on the Paris attacks is available as a PDF download in the original post,  where you will also find a repository of alternative materials and reflections:

The PDF lesson plan comprises 6 stages, each including stage timing, aims, teacher’s instructions and step-by-step execution of the three Cooperative Learning Interaction Patterns (CLIPs) used, see below.

1. Lead-in & set context
2. Individually investigate materials & uncover issues
3. Collaboratively check understanding & prepare arguments
4. Debating with a live opponent
5. Debriefing
6. Follow-up: next steps/homework


The activities are tried and tested, are simple to apply in the classroom, and will be familiar to many teachers; as the Subject Leader for Religious Education at the IoE noted after observing a CPD course to PGCEs‘‘…a reinforcement of known strategies and a recognition that they work.’’
The strategies outlined are extracted from Module B in Islam in RE; Religious Literacy and Controversy through Enquiry which has been designed to facilitate the best practice outlined in Ofsted’s RE report Realising the Potential.

“I would recommend this as it involves social interaction skills and the activities involve a huge amount of learning taking place.”

– Mr H. Rashid, Deputy Head, responsible for Teaching & Learning, Abu Bakr Boys School, Walsall, December 2015

Alternative uses of the lesson

I’ve noted before that any materials used in CPD are placeholders, and that Cooperative LEarning is there to drive your specific objectives, given that you understand you needs best.

The inexhaustibly of Cooperative Learning  means I always get new ideas from delegates that I never considered for a moment. Yesterday, one proposed using this lesson to deal with parent-school conflict, i.e. when views and values of the home might not reflect those promoted in the school, with students caught in the middle.

A possibility we discussed was using two extracts from novels, short stories, diary entries or SMSC/Citizenship material, describing a student who holds parental views above those of the school (e.g. “EDLs got good points, innit?!”),  and another who uses school values to trump parental advice (Muslim girl questioning Islamic dress code, perhaps?)

Both examples are complex, emotional issues of loyalty and identity, and failing to deal, or approaching them in the wrong way, might have a lot of negative consequences for all involved.

Here, the automatic learning differentiation inherent in Cooperative Learning would naturally facilitate the student’s own experiences and reflections, as we saw happen in the lesson. In every case, unobtrusive monitoring and securing written evidence of learning is key, as it was very clear that a lot of prior knowledge and previous reflections were pulled in to win the arguments in stage 4 Debating with a live opponent. 

In this respect, another delegate asked for more details on competition in collaborative classrooms, as he believed an all-boys environment would benefit. The EEF Toolkit does mention this: Please examine their comments and research here.

I do hope to write a proper post on this at a later time. Get notifications of related posts on twitter.

Successful staging and other reminders

The most important thing is to stage the Cooperative Learning so the interaction itself drives, rather than hinders your lesson objectives.

Instructions must be crystal clear, and modeled in front of the students. A recorded example of staging Catch1Partner is found on Potential realised? Celebrating Ofsted Report’s 1st Birthday…  (Please be aware that no links to videos are working at the time of publication. My video host, One.com, is working to resolve the issue).

It is also helpful to have the interaction steps made available to pupils. Simply print copies of the lesson plan and blow up to A3 or simply provide as handouts.

Also remember to make sure they respect the question formats, such as using “why, who, when…” to drive the activation of factual knowledge in Stage 1: Lead-in & set context. You saw  yourselves how easy it is to stray off and just mouth of opinions. Students in secondary certainly need to distinguish the categories fact, opinion and argument. Do not be afraid to let students into the boiler room and have a meta-discussion on questioning techniques, categories, etc. This is about the future of democracy, and without this awareness, youngsters are prone to fall for the most banal propaganda.

Most white people don’t like to admit it, but those cartoons upheld their prejudice, their racism, their political supremacy, and cut it how you will — images like that upheld a political order built on discrimination.

From yesterday’s Text C – Charlie Hebdo: This Attack Was Nothing To Do With Free Speech...

However, remember to allow for some scope of off-task behavior – as long as they are not discussing football or cussing, there may be benefit in letting some teams or pairs explore a tangent for a while. Remember interactions are timed, so they will soon enough be back in the fold.

Thought strokes on biblical quotes

It’s fair to say that yesterday’s delegates represented good or outstanding schools in  Walsall.

While such schools benefit no less from Cooperative Learning, and have as much need to deal with toxic subjects (perhaps more, given the challenge such pupils would expect), it does strike me as odd that not a single struggling, ethnically mixed school with high pupil premium attended.

As I did outline in the presentation and in a recent post on the Sutton Trust/EEF Toolkit, Cooperative Learning does represent the best use of Pupil Premium money, and will help disadvantaged pupils quickly close achievement gaps. (Please a my client discuss some actual figures in New head, fresh eyes; a critical outsider’s look at Cooperative Learning).

This low attendance of struggling schools just goes to prove the biblical statement “Whoever has will be given more…” and it is an incredible shame given a quarter of Walsall’s schools rated inadequate this year.

The more schools I work with, the more firmly convinced I am the structural approach to Cooperative Learning is that sought-after bridge will allow safe, instant crossing back and forth between the traditional, teacher-centredness and the Ofsted-obligatory student-centred environment demanded by businesses and governments, yet meeting the real and immediate needs of children, parents and teachers.

Surely, if something is not done, the rest of Matthew’s word may prove true to many a desperate school: “Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”

Shame, given this:

Toolkit CL classification



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