Debden Minds: Developing the Research. Habits are everything; scaling up the BIG FOUR


Last night in Debden Minds we looked at some BIG DATA, BIG QUESTIONS and the BIG FOUR. The big data was the BIG NATIONAL gap in Pupil Premium achievement in comparison to non –pupil premium students.

We also looked at our BIG questions.  How do the students in your class compare to national? How do boys do in comparison to girls? What about PP in comparison  to Non-PP?  and what about the more able students in your class?

We looked at the “BIG FOUR” and specifically how these will help you improve your teaching and the achievement of your students.  Meta-cognition, AFL, Peer Tuition, Co-operative learning; whatever your “issue” is there is a very good chance these can help.

We also looked at an example of how you might identify the issue(s) and use the BIG FOUR to improve these issues. This blog will go into some more details which wasn’t covered in Debden Minds.

The joy and heart ache of data analysis

Data is great it tells us an awful lot. But often, at this time of the year it tells us an awful lot about the kids we use to teach.  This can be useful, it potentially signposts strengths and weaknesses in our teaching.  It can lead us down the wrong path if we do not consider the students we have in front of us now.  But if over the past three years you know that boys consistently perform worse (from starting points) in your class than the girls, then it’s a reasonable assertion that there is a problem with YOUR teaching of boys.

So if the problem is your teaching of boys’ or Pupil premium, or more able or whatever it is where do you start? Teach them more? Absolutely not! Teaching more of the same will not improve results at the magnitude which warrants the extra time. It has been proven again and again, holding students back, giving them more time does not improve their achievement.The problem is teaching not time.

So what part of your teaching needs improving?  This is the challenge that the data cannot provide an answer to. Is it the way and frequency you question them? Is it the language you use? Is it your classroom environment? Is it your  “default” teaching style? – maybe your own expectations of them? It could be a million things, and you could drive yourself mad trying to identify them.  More importantly elements of the “problem” of your teaching last year may not be the same as this year. In short learning is messy, and teaching is messier!

So what is a teacher of 12 classes, 42 periods to do?

It is a tough question.  But, thankfully there is a huge amount of evidence that signposts what, if done properly will have a big impact on learning and achievement. Yes the BIG FOUR. Importantly the evidence of these studies are wide ranging; across continents and millions of students, in thousands of contexts. So the ‘excuse’ or rationale of thinking “yeah co-operative learning won’t work with my bottom set year tens is….” yep don’t use your teaching, or your students as a reason for not doing something that has been proven to work time and again.

Therefore whatever the issue, one or more of the BIG FOUR will, in all likelihood, if done properly, have a positive impact on your teaching and the learning of your students. (I know that is a lot of “ifs and buts’ – teaching is messy)

A practical example:

As shown in Debden Minds here is an example from my own practice

Issue = Boys’ achievement

Problem = My TEACHING. Specifically – MY AFL and MY groupings

Solution =  Improve AFL by making a deliberate point of getting those boys to report back to class on their understanding. Plus set by grouping and Peer tuition.

How did I come to the conclusion that AFL and groupings was the problem with my teaching? Observations, discussions with the boys and good old self -reflection.

Habit, Habit, Habit  – How to scale it up for maximum effect!

Changing habits is tough. But it is worth it! You have to “scale up” one or elements of the BIG FOUR.

How do you do this?  Habit, Habit Habit.  A few tips to help you with this:

  1. Share with the students what you are doing and why – and get them to remind you! Give them power, give them sweets if necessary! Get them to catch you out when you don’t do it.
  2. Get some one to watch you/ coach you – remind you! – In my case I might get Gemma or Helen to remind me every morning (they are good at nagging)
  3. Put it on your desk (BIG WORDS – get the boys to feedback – or whatever it is you are doing)
  4. Do it over a sizable CHUNK of time. Don’t use a technique once, set it up, make it part of your “default” teaching. You won’t know if it has an impact unless you do it for a chunk of time.
  5. EVALUATE your impact
  • Test scores
  • Work scrutiny’s
  • Student interviews
  • Gather as much evidence and range of evidence you can.

Give it a go. Tweet what you are doing to @TKATLEARNING.  Get enthusiastic about it; SHARE IT!


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