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by David Walker
This conference drew delegates from around the world, for an analysis of what is rapidly becoming a global movement. With hundreds of people in the room, John Hattie introduced his 3 themes: understanding learning, measuring learning and promoting learning.
Throughout the day the reality was that there were other pervading ideas: the SOLO taxonomy was extolled as the holy grail (as a way of moving learning from ‘surface’ to ‘deep’), Dweck’s growth mindset received its fair share of positive press, and the benefits of making students struggle (in ‘the learning pit’) was mentioned time and again. In contrast, ideas like VAK were wholeheartedly lambasted.
In his keynote speech, Hattie made it clear that the job of the teacher is to facilitate the process of developing sufficient surface knowledge to then move to conceptual understanding. And this is teachable. The structure that this hangs off is the SOLO taxonomy: one idea, many ideas, relate ideas, extend ideas (the first two are surface knowledge, the latter two are deep). Another way of looking at this is that students should be able to recall and reproduce, apply basic skills and concepts, think strategically and then extend their thinking (by hypothesizing etc.)
So that’s surface and deep. Next Hattie described knowledge in terms of the ‘Near’ and the ‘Far’, i.e. closely related contexts or further afield relations – he proposed that our classrooms are almost always focused around near transfer. Hattie finished his keynote speech by briefly outlining 6 of the most effective learning strategies:
- Backward design and success criteria. ES=0.54 (with ‘Outlining and Transforming’ the most striking at 0.85, although he didn’t really say what this actually meant). More straightforwardly, worked examples are at 0.57 – for me, as a Physics teacher, this is critical. Finally, concept mapping entered the hit parade with an ES of 0.64. Hattie then went on to discuss flipped learning, which he seemed quite positive about, perhaps because the effect size of homework in primary schools is zero – which he spun to be a positive: “What an incredible opportunity to improve it”.
- Investment and deliberate practice. ES=0.51. Top of the table here was ‘practice testing’ (even when there is limited feedback). Hattie thinks that the key to this is that students are investing in effort. “We need to get rid of the language of talent”, including setting etc. Dweck’s mindset work was repeatedly referenced during the day, including an interesting idea about the dangers of putting final work on the walls – perhaps we should decorate our rooms with works in progress? But how do we make the practice that they do ‘deliberate’. Another author repeatedly referenced was Graham Nuthall and his work on needing 3 opportunities to see a concept before we learn it. I thought that it was interesting that Nuthall was given such a glowing report when his book ‘The Hidden Lives of Learners’ includes relatively little in the way of attempting to measure and quantify his conclusions. His conclusion to this section was the catchphrase: “How do we teach kids to know what to do when they don’t know what to do?”
- Rehearsal and highlighting. ES=0.40. Some strategies here: rehearsal and memorization, summarization, underlining, re-reading, note-taking, mnemonics, matching style of learning (in order of effect size, with the latter at ES=0.17). The key here is to get kids to get sufficient surface knowledge so they can use their (limited) working memory to do the far learning. I thought it was interesting that matching learning styles gets such a bad press when it does, according to this, have at least a small positive impact.
- Teaching self-regulation. ES=0.53. Reciprocal teaching – not just knowing, but checking that they know why.
- Self-talk. ES=0.59. Self-verbalization and self-questioning.
- Social Learning. ES=0.48. The top effect is via classroom discussion (at 0.82) (Hattie stressed that this should not be a Q&A, but an actual discussion).”When you are learning something and you’re still not sure, then reinforcement from classroom discussion is the biggest effect”…but if the discussion is of something wrong, then people are more likely to remember it. The most memorable quote here was that “80% of the feedback in the classroom is from peers…and 80% is wrong”.
- What about Direct instruction? ES=0.6. The important thing is sitting down with colleagues and planning a series of lessons. And then jointly discussing how you are going to assess. “If you go out and buy the script, you’ve missed the point”. Constructivist teaching only has an effect size of 0.17. Guide on the side leaves the kids without self-regulation behind. This resonated with the work of David Didau (the learning spy). Interestingly, ‘problem solving’ has negligible effect size, but ‘problem based teaching’ has a large ES.
- And what about IT? Technology is the revolution that’s been around for 50 years and has an ES=0.3. Teachers use technology for consumption purposes, e.g. using a phone instead of a dictionary. That’s why the ES is so low. If you use technology in pairs, then the ES goes up. Why? Because they communicate and problem solve; i.e. use it for knowledge production. Three linked concepts were mentioned: the power of two. Dialogue not monologue. The power of listening. Compare this to the quip: “Kids learn very quickly that they come to school to watch you work”.
- Feedback? The question of feedback is not about how much you give, but how much you receive. Most of the feedback is given, but not received. Students want to know “Where to next?”, so we should show another way, giving direction. This is incredibly powerful. “How do teachers listen to the student feedback voice, to understand what has been received?” This is at the vanguard of Hattie’s current research.
- Error management? Typically errors are seen as maladaptive…and teachers create that climate: solving the error, redirecting to another student, returning the correction to the student who made the mistake, ignore the error (although hardly ever). Hattie sees errors as the essence of learning. He mentioned the teaching resilience as an example of best practice.
Session 1: the Visible Learner (with Deb Masters)
In her work with John they have developed a model for measuring the effect of feedback and asked the question, how do you take the research and put it into a process in the schools? She called this ‘Visible learning plus’. We were asked to come up with our ideal pupil characteristics: questioning, resilient, reflective, risk takers. And the least ideal: not proactive, defeatist. No surprises there, then.
Deb defined visible learning as “when teachers SEE learning thought he eyes of the student and when students SEE themselves as their own teachers.” So the job is to collect feedback about how the students are learning.
Deb defined visible learning as “when teachers SEE learning thought he eyes of the student and when students SEE themselves as their own teachers.” So the job is to collect feedback about how the students are learning.
We also need to develop assessment capable learners (ES=1.44). What does this mean? Students should know the answers to the questions…Where am I going? How am I doing? Where to next? Students should be able to tell you what they will get in up-coming assessments.
This workshop slightly lost its way towards the end as time ran out. We quickly looked at the use of rubrics to develop visible learners, and I was struck by the links with the MYP assessment structure.
Session 2: SOLO taxonomy (with Craig Parkinson – lead consultant for Visible Learning in the UK)
This is based on the work of Biggs and Collis (1982) and was an interesting and practical session. Much of it was based on the ‘5 minute lesson plan’ (which I remain unconvinced about, despite liking the idea of focusing on a big question). The key is to design and plan for questions that will move students from surface to deep learning (one idea, several ideas, relate, expand). SOLO was the preferred model here, over the well-established Bloom taxonomy. I was sitting next to Peter DeWitt whose blog ‘Finding Common ground‘ expands on this.
Session 3: Effective feedback (Deb Masters)
“If feedback is so important, how can we make sure that we get it right?” For feedback to be heard the contention was that you need “relational trust and clear learning intention”. I agreed with the former, but am less convinced by the latter. What do students say about effective feedback? “It tells me what to do next”. Nuthall was mentioned again – 80% is from other kids, and 80% is wrong. Why is there such a reliance on peer feedback? Students say that the best feedback is “Just in time and just for me” … and interaction with their peers is a good way of getting this.
Deb used the golf analogy to discuss the levels of feedback:
- Self … praise (“cheerleading does not close the gap in performance”).
- Task … holding the club etc. This is often where teacher talk features the most.
- Process … what do you think you could do to hit the ball straighter?
- Self-regulation … what do you need to focus on to improve your score?
The idea is to pick the right level at which to give the feedback.
Can we use the model to help the pupils to give each other and us feedback? I was particularly struck when one delegate from a large school in Bahrain suggested that they are experimenting with the use of Twitter to get instant feedback about the teaching in real time!
Keynote 2: James Nottingham: Visible Learning as a new paradigm for progress
James started with a critique of the current labelling practices that occur in schools. For example, every single member of the Swedish parliament is a first born child, and 71% of September births get in top sets compared with only 25% of August births: “Labelling has gone bananas … if you label pupils then you affect their expectation of their ability to learn”.
Eccles (2000): Application = Value x Expectation
Again, progress should be valued rather than achievement. How do we go about getting this … what is the process involved?
The ‘learning pit’ was discussed (Challenging Learning, 2010). Often teachers try to make things easier and easier…the ‘curling’ teacher (push the stone in the right direction and then desperately clean the ice to make it easier for it to go further). I liked that analogy. James (rightly in my view) said that our job is to make things difficult for pupils, after all “Eureka” means “I’ve found it”. I’m sure his book will expand on this, but his basic structure was:
- Conflict and cognitive dissonance
Some thoughts from the day
- The key message that came through from the whole conference was that everything has to hang off the learning objectives / the learning intentions. Is this just because their research requires a measurement of outcome? This is performance, but not necessarily learning. The question is whether the interventions that Hattie has found apply to effective classroom performance and learning…or just performance? I was struck by the contrast between this and what Didau talks about.
- Throughout the day there was an interesting use of instant feedback – point to one corner of the room if you know about x and the other corner if you don’t.
- Hattie recognizes that we are extremely good at the transfer of ‘near’ knowledge, but not good at the ‘far’ … and that is okay: we shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.
- “It’s a sin to go into a class and watch them teach … because all you do is end up telling them how to teach like you”. You should go into the class to watch the impact that you have.
- Should we stop the debate about privileging teaching?
- Can we plot a graph of achievement against progress for our students? This can allow you to make interventions with the drifters.
- How do we measure progress?
- Do we have enough nuancing of assessment levels?
- Hattie: “What does it mean to have a year’s growth / progress? We have to show what excellence looks like. Proficiency, sure, but the key is the link with progress.”
And one final thought: “Visible learning into action” will be out April – June next year to show how this might be put into practice in schools.
Work smarter. Be efficient with your time. Use technology wisely. Downloading Turnitin as an app for my iPad allowed to do all three in one easy hit. Existing practice would have been to download, and print out each uploaded document one at a time, to be marked by hand. Now, using this e-marking version, time taken to mark was halved, at no expense to the accuracy or detail of feedback for the student.
After downloading the app, which took a matter of minutes, my existing account was downloaded almost instantly. The front screen looks like this.
After selecting the relevant class, all students appear in a list, separated into who has and has not uploaded their assignment to Turnitin.
Marking a piece of work is simple. On selecting the pencil icon for a student, their work appears with the originality report shown; different colours corresponding to a different source. You can switch this off in a slider near the top right hand corner. Being touch screen, you can insert comments precisely where you want to. A comment box appears on touch, ready for a comment to be typed. The box collapses to a speech bubble once written. Both are shown here.
There are also a number of pre-designed errors/improvement to use if you like, such as sp. for spelling mistakes.
Student work downloads well and tables …
… and graphs …
appear as they would when scanned, ready for comments to be added anywhere as appropriate.
To complete the marking, you simply select the pencil icon, which is now in the top right hand corner of the screen, where several options appear on the ‘grade overview’ screen. I tend to write a general comment in addition to the feedback given throughout the text, and don’t take advantage of the voice comment – though that is available. A combination of always refusing to accept that my voice sounds the way it does, and my assumption that students will be too busy laughing rather than listening to the feedback, results in me ignoring this particular function.
There is, however, an excellent rubric function, so you can upload rubrics designed by you on the website – specific to any course – which will appear under the ‘open rubric’ button in the top left hand corner of the grade overview screen. Just above this is where you type in the number to grade the piece of work as appropriate. You can put more than one number if required. In the example show, I have given to marks, corresponding to two criteria from the MYP curriculum. The grade overview page as discussed looks like this.
If I did choose to print out the document once graded, all comments appear in an appendix, numbered, at the end of the originality report. This is particularly useful for moderation reports, where evidence of clear, accurate marking is obvious.
Finally, and importantly for me in a world where I can never be quite certain that wifi connection will be available, the Turnitin app offers me a solution. Once in an area of wifi, you can download all pieces of work – taking about 10 to 20 seconds per piece of work – so that I can complete the marking anytime, anywhere, without the need for wifi. The feedback will then upload once refreshed. The total time taken to mark the work was certainly reduced for me, and there was no wasted paper either – even the environment approves.
A couple of years ago we were lucky enough to get to work with Google at The Sunday Times/ Wellington College Festival of Education to design a unit of work in English.
They were a delight to work with because, fundamentally, they clearly cared about education. And one key element of their interest in our Education Festival was that they wanted to do something which would involve our children. There were several questions that needed answering: most obviously, what would interest (and challenge) them? And perhaps just as importantly, what could they work on which could be linked to a set of core skills, as well as be transferred to other subjects?
We took a risk: three 3rd Form MYP classes were studying The Road, the dystopian novel by the American novelist Cormac McCarthy. It’s a difficult, sometimes unbearably moving novel, and it does not flinch from scrutinizing many of life’s most fundamental moral choices in stripped-down, brutal language. For this group of 13 year olds this is the most complex novel most of them will have read.
We went to Google and said that we wanted to work with them on a project which would be focused on The Road, and which would bring in new technology, but only if that technology extended the students’ learning: in other words, if it was gratuitous, or done for the sake of promoting a brand, we wouldn’t use it. The learning was the priority, the technology secondary. It was with a little trepidation that we emailed this message to Google. Their response was immediate: ‘we’re completely cool with that’ they said.
And so we set to work. One important decision we made was to bring in @tombarrett, a Google-certified teacher, who could show us the real potential of Google tools. We then asked all the pupils to write letters of application for this role outlining why they should be part of the team (a useful exercise in itself). We chose 14 pupils and over a whole day mapped out ideas for the project with Tom. Several trips to Google HQ in London followed so that our pupils could get a sense of the ethos of the company, as well as their high expectations of the project.
Through close collaborative planning, using tools such as Google Maps, Google Plus, Docs, Sketch Up, Google Sites, embedded clips from YouTube, as well as other tools (such as Skitch and Garage Band) the pupils were able to construct a diverse, interactive website which explored McCarthy’s novel in a number of different ways, but each extended their learning, and each approach developed skills which could be transferred to other subjects.
When the Education Festival kicked off our pupils were installed in the Google classroom and it was clear that for many of those attending they were one of the highlights of the two days: they explained clearly and perceptively the choices they had made in designing the site to the many adults who wanted to know more. And in so doing they made crucial transition: they were no longer students but, through their learning, had become teachers.
By Arielle Jennings
We all want students to think for themselves, take responsibility for their learning and growth, and have a strong sense of identity and well-being. In today’s increasingly test-driven and highly-pressurised systems, it can be hard to find the time to cultivate a learning environment that promotes these outcomes.
Last week, I completed a training course on coaching in education. By the end of this course, I was convinced that we should put coaching at the heart of education. Coaching has the potential to create an environment that promotes the learning environment described above. Let me explain.
Coaching can occur both in a one-on-one environment like a tutoring situation or a group environment like in a classroom or on a sports pitch. Whatever the case, there are a set of assumptions that underpin a coaching relationship. The first assumption is that pupils have worth and the ability to make their own choices about what they value and how they will live their life. If we truly trust them to do this and give them the space to explore what it is they care about, they will end up making decisions that are right for them. The second assumption coaches adopt is the ‘ask not tell’ rule. In order to show pupils that we do believe they can be in control of their decisions, we have to constantly ask them to come up with their own ideas and make decisions for themselves, rather than influencing or telling them what they should do and how they should do it.
When presented with these first two assumptions, I was floored by how often I doubt my students and don’t fully embrace the idea that they are capable and can make decisions for themselves, often stepping in to do things for them. Embodying these two assumptions, I think, is the hardest part of coaching.
In practice, coaching looks a lot like a conversation that is very one-sided in terms of favouring the pupil, or “coachee”. The coach acts as a listener, with strong active listening skills at the heart of their practice. Through a series of non-leading questions, the coach invites the pupil to take the reins and identify problems they might face and come up with solutions to those problems. Questions that start with ‘what’ and ‘how’ tend to be more open than those that start with ‘why’ or ‘is’. Coaches don’t give answers, but rather pick up on things that particularly resonate with their coachee and ask the coachee to elaborate or to focus on those things. A pupil might report, for instance that they hate English lessons. The coach will continue to question and listen to the student to discover the root of their feelings about these lessons, holding the student accountable to explore their opinion about English rather than taking it at face value. This often reveals a larger, or different, conflict that can be addressed.
Coaching is not just about exploring the intricacies of challenges pupils face. The coach must also engage the coachee in a goal setting process, asking the coachee to set realistic goals to solve or begin to solve their issue. This is because through the coaching process the pupil is allowed to identify an issue and come up with a solution all on their own, all of a sudden the buy-in for actually carrying out the goal is significantly higher than if you had told that student what to do.
Coaching is not just about getting pupils to make goals and then carry them out – although this aspect of it is very useful in an academic setting. It is so much more than that. It is about sending consistent messages to young people that they have power over their lives and are in control of making change for the better if they work hard at it and take responsibility. They are no longer told that the teacher holds all the power, answers and knowledge, but instead, that they, the young person, are the bearers of them. This can sometimes be scary for them, but ultimately, it builds resilience, self-worth and a person who thinks for themselves.
I highly recommend those in education, parents, or really anyone who interacts with others, to take a look at the ethos of coaching and find ways to adopt it into their own practice. Putting coaching at the heart of education could surely do a lot of good in promoting the next generation of intelligent and engaged young people.