A grand day out at Wellington

A quick run down of the Wellington ‘Festival of Education’ that took place last week.

Class Teaching

festival ed

#EducationFest

On Thursday Andy Tharby and I were fortunate enough to spend the day at Wellington College, soaking up all that their annual ‘Festival of Education’ had to offer.  We had a great day – here are some of the key messages.

“We are committed to consistent improvement and spreading excellence”

Nicky Morgan

The Secretary of State opened the festival, telling us about the importance of academic rigour for all, the importance of character traits and how she wanted to ‘unleash the greatness in the system’ by us all taking responsibility and collaborating, so that the best schools can extend their reach and influence.

I doubt many teachers would argue against any of these intentions.  In fact, that’s what we do as a profession day in, day out.  It just becomes very difficult to do so when faced when reduced budgets, a massive recruitment crisis, a narrowing curriculum and high…

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Growth Mindset – more evidence from Alex Quigley

Growth Mindset – More Evidence

Growth-mindset

If you are a school teacher and you haven’t heard of Carol Dweck’s ubiquitous growth and fixed mindset concept then… quite frankly, where the hell have you been for the past few years? No doubt lots of good has emerged from this common-sense psychological framework, with a few dodgy approaches too. The growing evidence base, showing the limitations, flaws and best bets relating to these popular psychological interventions, is important to help improve what we do in schools.

More recent evidence related to growth mindset interventions is emerging – developing our knowledge and adapting our practice. Only this week, the Education Endowment Foundation published its Changing Mindsets EEF report, based on the trial conducted by the University of Portsmouth. It reveals some really interesting insights. Please do read the report yourself, but I did find some of the findings interesting and worthy of further discussion:

– Clearly, the interventions aimed at training the students, helping them understand about a growth mindset, brain plasticity etc. had more of a positive impact than the intervention aimed at training teachers. Relevance for schools: Attempting to change the life-long attitudes of teachers may prove a fool’s errand. Better to attempt to directly change the attitudes of students who, ultimately, are the captain of their own learning. Growth mindset interventions will likely best benefit those students who need to better self-regulate their learning. 

– I would hypothesise a couple of teacher INSET training sessions, however useful, are simply not going to change teacher beliefs and habits in any meaningful way, no matter how potent the message. Relevance for schools: one off INSET training for ‘growth mindset’, or whatever aspect of teacher practice, rarely changes teacher habits. CPD only works when it is sustained over time, supported by school structures, whilst being embedded into the fabric of planning and training in a series of sessions focused on teaching and learning and student outcomes. 

– “Intervention and control schools were already using some aspects of the growth mindsets approach. This may have weakened any impact of the interventions.” Relevance for schools: given that growth mindset is now pretty much common knowledge in schools, it is tricky to fairly evaluate interventions. Not only that, but schools struggle to evaluate with anything like the controls of a independent study like this one. Still, we can surely evaluate better and ask questions about our interventions, being honest when their impact is negligible. 

There were some positive findings of two months gain in learning relative to those students who didn’t receive the growth mindset message intervention. Overall though, there is doubt that the results showed definitive statistical significance. That is to say that the growth mindset interventions may not be the cause of the improvement made by students of a couple of months. Still, given the relatively light intervention (six short sessions on study skills with a growth mindset emphasis – in comparison with a control group who had the equivalent sessions, but on general study skills), it provides us with enough reason to further pursue ‘growth mindset interventions’. Relevance for schools: Psychological interventions can be slippy things. Finding a ‘growth mindset attitude’ as being the direct cause of improvements in student attainment is no doubt tricky, but as such interventions can prove very quick, cheap and easy, then we don’t stand to lose much in the pursuit. Investing too much time and money in ‘growth mindset programmes’ won’t likely prove a silver bullet – as research has found: ‘they are not magic‘. Perhaps then better stealthy, short interventions are the best bet. 

Changing Mindsets‘ key conclusions:

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 10.29.01 PM

The data findings are helpfully broken down into sub-groups:

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 10.34.08 PM

This ‘Changing Mindsets‘ study isn’t the only recent growth mindset orientated research. The study, ‘Mind-Set Interventions Are a Scalable Treatment for Academic Underachievement’, by Paunesku, Walton, Romero, Smith, Yeager, Dweck (2015), has also shown promise regarding the impact and scalability for growth mindset focused interventions. Some of the messages are similar to the study above: both were student focused interventions; they were both relatively short interventions (though the Dweck study used technology); they both focused on the message that intelligence is malleable etc.

The striking focus of the Dweck study was that students ‘at risk of dropping out of high schools’ benefitted much more from the interventions:

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 10.40.30 PM

Now, both studies recognise their limitations and, like most good research, they recommend replication, better future studies that stand on their shoulders and testing their findings in different contexts. My view: the message of the malleability of the human brain and the power of effort and resilience is, as the Americans would say, a no brainer. How we convey that message, however, may need work and some subtle design and application. Quick, well targeted and stealthy growth mindset interventions may well prove our best bet given the growing evidence.

Related reading:

– I have written here about some of the problems that attend growth mindset: The Problem with Growth Mindset

– I think we can better embed growth mindset principles into teaching and learning. I think twinning it with metacognition is key: Growth Mindset – SO What’s Next?

– Considering what ‘stealthy psychological interventions’ might look like? Give this a read: Successful Learning by Stealth

Developing Great teaching – new report!

Developing Great Teaching: Lessons from the international reviews into effective professional development

front page summary[Download Summary Report]

In September 2014 the Teacher Development Trust, with kind support from TES Global, commissioned a review of the international research into what constitutes effective professional development for teachers. The review was conducted by an expert team of Professors Steve Higgins and Rob Coe of Durham University, Philippa Cordingley of CUREE and Professor Toby Greany of the UCL Institute of Education.

On June 9th 2015, TDT were proud to launch the review’s emerging findings: “Developing Great Teaching: Lessons from the international reviews into effective professional development”.

This important review of reviews provides a rigorous update and overview of the lessons that can be taken from the international reviews into effective professional development.

The key finding of the review was that professional development opportunities that are carefully designed and have a strong focus on pupil outcomes have a significant impact on student achievement.

The review has also been able to add crucial nuance and detail to the components that constitute this “careful design”, including the duration, structure, content and activities associated with effective professional development. The review’s findings also give detail around the role of external facilitators, and some insight into the importance of leadership around professional development.

We strongly encourage practitioners, school leaders, providers of professional development, policy makers, and all those with a role in providing high quality support and development for teachers, to engage with the review’s findings.

In the coming months and years, the Teacher Development Trust will be proactively working with partners and all stakeholder groups to develop our shared understanding of the review, and embed its recommendations across all related areas of practice.

front page full report

Read a summary of the review’s emerging findings, with extrapolated implications for stakeholders, here.

Read the full report on the review’s emerging findings here.

Read the press release for the review and launch event here.

A great blog from Belmont on 10 principles for great instruction in class – well worth a read!

10 Research Based Principles of Instruction for Teachers

10 principles of instruction informed by research, with subsequent suggestions for implementing them in the classroom. It was also one of the articles cited in the “What makes great teaching? Review of the underpinning research” by Rob Coe et al and provided further elaboration on one of their six components of great teaching thought to have strong evidence of impact on student outcomes, i.e. quality of instruction.

Here’s my summary of the key messages from each of the 10 principles.

1: Begin with a short review of prior learning

Time-for-Review

Students in experimental classes where daily review was used had higher achievement scores. A 5-8 minute review of prior learning was said to strengthen connections between material learned and improve recall so that it became effortless and automatic, thus freeing up working memory.

Daily review could include, for example:

  • Homework
  • Previous material
  • Key vocabulary
  • Problems where there were errors
  • Further practise of knowledge, concepts and skills

2: Present new material in small amounts or steps

problem-solving-steps

Working memory is small and can only cope with small chunks at a time. Too much information presented at once overloads it and can confuse students, who won’t be able to process it. Sufficient time needs to be allocated to processes that will allow students to work with confidence independently. More effective teachers in the study dealt with the limitation of working memory by presenting only small amounts of new material at a time.

3: Ask a large number of questions and check the responses of all students

lots-questions

Questions allow students to practise new material and connect new material to prior learning. They also help teachers to determine how well material has been learned and whether additional teaching is required. The most effective teachers asked students to explain the process they used and how they answered the question, as well as answering the question posed.

Strategies suggested for checking the responses of all students included asking students to:

  • Tell their answers to a partner
  • Write a short summary and share it with a partner
  • Write their answers on a mini-white board or similar, followed by “show me”
  • Raise their hands if they know the answer or agree with someone else

4: Provide models

chemical modelStudents require cognitive support to reduce the cognitive load on their working memory and help them to solve problems faster. Examples include:

  • Providing clearly laid out, step-by-step worked examples
  • Identifying and explaining the underlying principles of each step
  • Modelling the use of prompts
  • Working together with students on tasks
  • Providing partially completed problems

5: Guide student practice

guidanceNew material will quickly be forgotten without sufficient rehearsal. Rehearsal helps students to access information quickly and easily when required. Additional time needs to be spent by students summarising, rephrasing or elaborating on new material so that it can become:

  • Stored in long-term memory
  • Easily retrieved
  • Used for new learning and problem solving

The quality of storage relies on:

  • Student engagement with the material
  • Providing feedback to the students to correct errors and ensure misconceptions aren’t stored

The rehearsal process can be facilitated and enhanced by:

  • Questioning students
  • Asking students to summarise the main points
  • Supervising students during practice

In one study, the more successful teachers spent more time guiding practice, for example by working through initial problems at the board whilst explaining the reasons for each step or asking students to work out problems at the board and discuss their procedures. This also served as a way of providing multiple models for students to allow them to be better prepared for independent work.

6: Check for student understanding

thinking aloud

More effective teachers frequently checked for understanding. Checking for understanding identifies whether students are developing misconceptions as well as providing some of the processing required to move new learning into long-term memory.

The purpose of checking is twofold:

  1. Answering questions might cause students to elaborate and strengthen connections to prior learning in their long term-memory
  2. The answers provided by students alert the teacher to parts of the material that may need reteaching

A number of strategies can be used to check for understanding, e.g:

  • Questioning
  • Asking students to think aloud as they work
  • Asking students to defend a position to others

7: Obtain a high success rate

80percentWhen students learn new material, they construct meaning in their long-term memory. Errors can be made though, as they attempt to be logical in areas where their background knowledge may still be weak. It was suggested that the optimal success rate for fostering student achievement is approximately 80%. Furthermore, it was said that achieving a success rate of 80% showed that students were learning the material, whilst being suitably challenged. High success rates during guided practice led to higher success rates during independent work. If practice did not have a high success rate, there was a chance that errors were being practised and learned, which then become difficult to overcome. The development of misconceptions can be limited by breaking material down into small steps, providing guided practice and checking for understanding.

8: Provide scaffolds for difficult tasks

Building site scaffoldingScaffolds are temporary supports that help students to learn difficult tasks, which are gradually withdrawn with increasing competence. The use of scaffolds and models, aided by a master, helps students to serve their “cognitive apprenticeship” and learn strategies that allow them to become independent.

Scaffolds include:

  • Thinking aloud by the teacher to reveal the thought processes of an expert and provide mental labels during problem solving
  • Providing poor examples to correct, as well as expert models
  • Tools such as cue cards or checklists
  • Prompts such as “Who?” “Why?” and “How? that enable students to ask questions as they work
  • Box prompts to categorise and elaborate on the main ideas
  • A model of the completed task for students to compare their own work to

9: Require and monitor independent practice

practiceIndependent practice follows guided practice and involves students working alone and practising new material. Sufficient practice is necessary for students to become fluent and automatic. This avoids overcrowding working memory, and enables more attention to be devoted to comprehension and application.

Independent practice should involve the same material as guided practice, or with only slight variation. The research showed that optimal teacher-student contact time during supervision was 30 seconds or less, with longer explanations being required an indication that students were practising errors.

10: Engage students in weekly and monthly review

calendar reviewAs students rehearse and review information, connections between ideas in long-term memory are strengthened. The more information is reviewed, the stronger these connections become. This also makes it easier to learn new information, as prior knowledge becomes more readily available for use. It also frees up space in working memory, as knowledge is organised into larger, better-connected patterns.

Practical suggestions for implementation include:

  • Review the previous week’s work at the beginning of the following week
  • Review the previous month’s work at the beginning of every fourth week
  • Test following a review
  • Weekly quizzes

The full report by Barak Rosenshine: Principles of Instruction – Research based strategies that all teachers should know is available here.

Gallery Critique

Gallery Critique – a better way to peer assess!
This has worked well across the country and is similar to Ron Bergers work. Try it and let me know how you get on. Tim

Class Teaching

The 15 minute forum was led tonight by English teacher Jo Grimwood.  Jo started the session by sharing with us the concerns she has with peer assessment:

  • Students don’t know how to assess work – we are the professionals, they aren’t!
  • They’re sensitive about their friends reading their work.
  • They’re not sure how to mark/what to say.
  • They’re not clear on what’s good/what’s not.
  • They give vague/unhelpful feedback, because they don’t know where/how the feedback should be focused.
  • It doesn’t help them to understand the important areas of weakness and how to move on.

So as a process, it’s not always that useful.  In fact, it can often be damaging and compound misconceptions.   Gallery critique, where students spend an extended period of time reading and assessing the work of their peers, as well as giving high quality feedback, seems to be a far more purposeful alternative.

Preparing for gallery critique

  • It…

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Doing NPQH as a member of SLT

For those interested in Headship!

Teaching: Leading Learning

With thanks and apologies to Kev Bartle for the title!

News from the NCTL News from the NCTL

I received notification yesterday that I have passed the NPQH. It’s no longer mandatory to have the qualification to be a Headteacher, but I’ve spent sixteen months on the course. This blog is really for anyone weighing up the prospect of taking it on. I’ll run through my experiences, and try to answer the question…is it worth it?

Getting on the course

This is really, really tough. I can’t actually blog about what happens in the selection process, as we were sworn to secrecy so as not to prejudice or advantage future cohorts. Suffice to say, when our cohort got together for the first time we bonded over the incredibly rigorous, taxing tasks you have to do just to get a place on the course – really, really tough! The idea is that, if you pass…

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