Tag Archives: Cooperative Learning

ASE London #1: Out of the Question …

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

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

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

Questions in Context

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

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

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

 

Cooperative Learning & Questions

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

5gpyzmbp_400x400

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Mary and the Word

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

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

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

Milk float

Milk float courtesy of milkfloats.org.uk

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

 

The good multiple choice question 

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

Mary Whitehoude, diagnostic questions

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

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

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

How can a very high temperature lead to death

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

 

Getting more out of it with Cooperative Learning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Trusted partners: VNET/Werdelin present a Hands-on Introduction to CL

Working with Viscount Nelson Education Network, I am presenting Introduction to Cooperative Learning on the 14th July.

I am very proud of being accepted as a trusted VNET partner. I am especially happy about VNET’s minimal staff and commitment to independence and empowerment of schools through bespoke programmes that reflect their needs, which express my own take on school improvement.

As a partner, I have therefore agreed on an enhanced pricing model for VNET Schools. We are also offering opportunities to develop bespoke packages across multiple VNET Schools. All part of the benefit of being part of the VNET Network!

VNET – “the artist formerly known as NB2B”
Norfolk County Council’s highly successful Norfolk Better to Best (B2B) programme which delivered tremendous Ofsted outcome improvements across Norfolk over the last three years has recently been taken over by the community interest company Viscount Nelson Education Network CIC (VNET). VNET has been founded to ensure that the community network of schools that was formed through B2B, committed to a self improving approach and being both givers and receivers of support, could continue without funding form the LA.

The VNET approach is to provide tailored school improvement from best of breed partners who are matched to the needs and philosophy of the school. No two schools are the same, and therefore, a system of school improvement where one size fits all fails to deliver the desired results for many.
full_master_logo_mono_blue-2776x1124

 

The workshop

The workshop is our response to a number of requests from Headteachers following previous Tea Party discussions and Special Measures to Top-500 webinars with Andrew Howard on the considerable impact of Cooperative Learning in the area.
While it is well known that the Sutton Trust – EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit rates Cooperative Learning among one of the top investments of Pupil Premium funding, the aim of this Workshop is to give Headteachers who are keen to know more a chance to experience in a practical way.
In the workshop, we demonstrate how a single, simple activity from the programme may be used across all subjects to instantly generate outstanding teaching and learning by:
  • Sharing knowledge, reflections and ideas across class.
  • Activating prior knowledge.
  • Making students aware of their own learning process and knowledge gaps.
  • Retaining or explaining knowledge.
  • Drilling rote learning and procedural skills.
  • Providing formative and summative assessment.
  • Securing written evidence of learning.
  • Subtly guiding focus towards specific learning objective

 

Closed question, closed gaps

Even your closed questions yield more with Cooperative Learning. Read Cooperative Learning; Closed Questions, Closed Achievement Gaps)

 

As part of the workshop, Heads will receive handouts to take away – allowing participants to pilot techniques in their own schools with their current lesson objectives and materials. There will also be case study materials about the considerable impact similar programmes have made on other schools.
Booking & Details

Title: An Introduction to Cooperative Learning Hands-on Workshop

Date: 14th July 8:30 am – 10:30 am

Place: Information Suite, VNET offices
South Green Park, Mattishall
NR20 3JY (map)

Booking: To book your place, please email anita.lee@viscountnelson.net asap. This session is limited to a maximum of 12 Headteachers on a first come first served basis, and is provided as part of VNET Membership.

 

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For more information on Cooperative Learning, please visit www.werdelin.co.uk
VNET homepage is found at viscountnelson.net

 

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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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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?

 

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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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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.

 

 

 

website-screendump-2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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