Tag Archive | ace-d

School priorities and how to recognise them.

I am currently reading David Hughes book “Future Proof your school” the section on pupil voice contained a comment that made me think, well most of the book has made me think!

Power!

Pupil voice is a key component of my work on learner engagement and building learning relationships which I represented in the acronym “PBCF” meaning Power Belonging Choice and Fun. Easy to remember – “Please be child friendly”! These four ‘needs’ form the drivers for engagement and so pupil voice is a critical component. Power is the representation of ‘voice’, being heard or your views and opinions genuinely recognised.

In his book David gives an account of one of his experiences in making the Schools Council a funded body. The school was suffering from the effects of vandalism which drew resources away from the school and affected the environment in a negative way. His solution was to offer the Schools Council a percentage of the saving the school would make if there was little or no vandalism. They could then spend this money on school projects, such as disco equipment. Attendance at the disco would be by ticket and tickets were linked to learning behaviours and learning progress, engage in learning and you were eligible for a ticket but if you did not then you would not be able to attend.  He says:

“.. achievement co-ordinators monitored pupils’ progress with the tutors, issuing weekly reports in assemblies. This was much more positive use of their time and began to set a change in climate of the school: achievement was given a higher priority.

It is the last part of that quote that made me think, “achievement was given a higher priority”. It made me ask the questions “Priority over what, and in what was achievement in competition with?

Symptoms or cause?

I know that it is easy to focus on the symptom rather than the cause and these then becoming the priorities in schools. Symptoms of under achievement include lateness and absence, poor learning behaviours, a lack of respect to each other and these are symptoms we need to address by understanding the cause.  I think that is what David did successfully and what began to alter the climate in the school, he understood the need for a real voice, for ‘power’ in a structured and tangible way that had a  genuine ‘ear’ when it came to setting school priorities. Students became ‘empowered’ and understood the implications of their actions or indifference to what was directly affecting them.

Recognising priorities

So what are the priorities in your school and how would you characterise them? Do they focus on symptoms rather than cause? We know all schools will say achievement is a priority, perhaps their number one priority but how does this translate in terms of allocation of resources?  I would claim that those things that have the biggest immediate negative impact tend to receive the greatest resources. In doing so the finite resources of a school are often focused on the symptoms and not addressing the underlying cause. I believe those students who do not have their four learning needs met will only reluctantly engage in learning and will present symptoms typical of those needs not being met which result in school  ‘phoney’ priorities.  Perhaps you can suggest a few.

Here are some of the ‘priorities’ I have experienced in the schools in which I have worked. Assessing the resources given to each (teacher time, money, facilities, equipment) we can get an idea of the true priority each is given.   

  1. Classroom behaviour
  2. Movement around the school
  3. School rules (equipment – uniform etc)
  4. Various policies (marking – homework etc)
  5. Raising standards

Subjugating ’cause’

One through to four only become a priority because learners are not actively engaged in learning and we hold number five as our single accountability performance indicator.  I suggest we become fixated on one to four which only serve to subjugate the symptoms of the causes rather than recognising them.   Ask yourself what you do if you don’t like the TV programme you are watching. What do you do if your partner wants to do something together and you don’t. Your actions are moderated by maturity, agency and a sense of responsibility. Perhaps our students don’t possess such moderating factors. If they don’t then it is our responsibility to recognise the four needs and ensure the school maintains these as their true priorities for doing so will result in raising standrads.

For more on PBCF you can download details of my presentation I gave at the 10th Festival of Education this year held at Wellington College.

https://4c3d.wordpress.com/2019/07/01/closing-the-achievement-net-talk-notes-and-slides/

For David’s book you can find it here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Future-proof-Your-School-improvement-developing/dp/1912508443

Lesson Planning 101

 

challenge magic

It may appear simple to say that there has to be a beginning, middle and end but is important that we do not miss any of these stages and they must be in balance.

I have known lessons where the beginning went on too long, or where there is not enough time for the students to engage or immerse themselves in the learning or there was not enough time at the end of the lesson to conclude it in a meaningful way. Get it right and lessons are meaningful, full of learning and there is a great teacher/learner relationship. Get it wrong and lessons are often characterised by boredom or conflict and challenge.

The risk of poor lesson planning

I have experienced lesson planning pro-forma that seek to address these issues but become so prescriptive that they do not allow for the natural dynamics of a lesson and risk creating the same outcome they are trying to avoid.

There is a simple but effective way to ensure lesson planning creates the type of lesson we would ideally like in our teaching and that is to plan a lesson as a learner and not as a teacher.

Think about how, as a learner, you would like the lesson structured and the pace or balance of the lesson. As a learner, you would like time to become familiar with the learning challenge, time to explore or practice and to establish your understanding and then to have an opportunity to consolidate the learning or perhaps ask questions to further your understanding. These stages should characterise the beginning, middle and end of a lesson. The ‘mindful’ teacher addresses these needs in their planning and delivery.

Power Belonging Choice and Fun in lesson planning

Planning lessons around subject material is only one aspect of the planning, we need to consider the learner needs too. I define these needs as power, belonging, choice and fun and suggest we ignore them at our peril. Within a calm learning environment, a teacher needs to lead, to guide their students not to push them or over-regulate their behaviour and we can do this if we meet their learning needs. In doing so we can create effective learning relationships and improve learning outcomes.

The beginning, middle and end

Meeting learning needs (power, belonging, choice and fun) is important at the start, during and at the end of all lessons. Addressing them in our planning will help us create the engagement we are looking for as well as creating effective relationships. A relationship that allows for that dynamic of being able to respond to the unexpected teaching and learning challenges in a meaningful way without disrupting the lesson flow. We may on such occasions leave the subject content planning path but by doing so we will better support our learners because we are meeting their needs.

The start of a lesson should include how we are going to meet the need for belonging. Perhaps the greeting and arrival are ideal opportunities to do so. Offering guided choice and listening to the ‘student voice’ can be included too during the lesson. Linking fun to achievement is our greatest challenge and we must include opportunities to celebrate learning at the end.

“Please be child friendly”

My way of remembering learning needs is simple and apt. “Please Be Child Friendly” when planning and teaching. The graphic is also something you can print off and keep at hand.

A different way of looking at teaching and learning

PBCF is part of an approach to teaching I refer to as “Learning Intelligence”, or “LQ” for short, and looks at how the learner and teacher can manage the learning environment to promote better learning and improve learning relationships. If you are interested in LQ or just PBCF then get in touch I am more than happy to talk you through how, with only small changes, the approach can make a significant impact on teaching and learning.

LQ+PBCF latest

WHY?

Why dedicate yourself to introducing and promoting a way of thinking about, and going about, teaching and learning?

I was asked this question and have been asking myself the same thing as I struggle to make a significant impact on teaching and learning through the promotion and adoption of my concept of “learning Intelligence”. After a career teaching and seven years of reflection, research and developing a vocabulary and narrative for what works in teaching and learning I need to answer this question in order to continue to justify my efforts and to remain motivated. Motivation often comes from recognising the goal or benefits; here is my attempt at that challenge, of having a reason to continue.

  • The “one way” of learning does not work for everyone. Putting aside SEND challenges not all learners thrive in the school environment.
  • There are a lot of people who go through education and form the wrong impression about their abilities and about their ability to learn. As a result, there is a significant amount of talent that may never be discovered.
  • Learners who are unable to engage in the learning present challenges for teachers and often dealing with these challenges impact the learning of others and the classroom dynamics, or teacher/learner relationships.
  • The school has a lifelong impact on us and influences our careers and opportunities. To “fail” at school leaves a deep and lasting scar.
  • There is a need for a narrative that brings together what we know or think about learning in a meaningful and coherent way and gives us the flexibility to challenge the “one way”.
  • The benefits of the LQ approach are significant and build self-esteem in learners.
  • There are a significant number of teachers who could benefit from adopting the LQ approach to teaching and learning.
  • LQ promotes seeing learning as a problem-solving activity and develops life-long learners able to face new learning challenges with minimal support.
  • I want to make a positive difference to teaching and learning.

Through the Teach Meets at which I have presented and my workshops with teachers it is clear not all teachers see the issue of underachievement as a significant one to address. Perhaps many are happy to believe the mantel learners wear based on past performances and work within it. I would argue that to do so we accept labels as definitive and unchangeable.  Underachievement is not solely based within the group those who fail to “perform” it is also within the group who adopt compliance as a strategy to cope with the learning environment in which they find themselves. This group I find often do not possess the skills, attitudes, attributes or behaviours to manage their environment to meet their needs. They respond poorly to target setting without these needs being addressed, needs that are often overlooked as we race to achieve those targets.

Finally, I am reminded of a sobering truth.

It is no good having an answer if nobody is asking the question!

Let me know what you think. Should I continue to promote the concept of LQ and learners needs and if so how?

If you would like to get in touch to find out more about my work or perhaps engage me to challenge you and your staff about teaching and learning then click the link below.

Email link to Advocating Creativity

The two aspects of Learning Intelligence, “LQ”

LQ roundLQ and PBCF

In Search of a GCSE ‘Pass’

 

This is an article to celebrate the success of a student and of further success for a teaching approach defined by the concept of Learning Intelligence or LQ. Read on.

It was very late in the last academic year (2016-2017), in March actually, when I was asked if I could work with a Y11 student. The subject this time was maths and the target a ‘pass’ at GCSE (a grade C or as of 2017, a grade 4). School predictions and targets suggested this was a significant challenge, especially given the short timescale and me meeting the student only once a week for an hour.  This was an opportunity for demonstrating my approach centred on my concept of Learning Intelligence (LQ) and learning needs (PBCF).

I can report that we were successful, “We” because this was a learning partnership and this is what my student had to say

“I just wanted to let you know that I got my GCSE results today and I got a 4 in maths which is the pass mark and what I have never achieved before. I am super happy and it means I have a confirmed place at college but I couldn’t of done it without your help and strategies to help me get through the exam… .”

So what had we done to achieve such a welcome result?

Essentially the approach is to see learning as a problem-solving activity, this helps in negating the emotional link to failure and personal self-doubt. Once this is accepted the limiting subject perceptions become secondary to the learning challenge and we can get on with finding ways of solving the learning problem, of managing our learning environment to meet our learning needs.

Please Be Child Friendly

Any teacher will know you need a willing student but also one who is confident and has a degree of self-belief. The student also needs to trust their teacher and have a learning relationship with them. Achieving this is my first step and uses the learning needs approach I have developed of PBCF.

PBCF” stands for Power, Belonging, Choice and Fun and each element needs to be in place first before learning challenges can be set.

So, even with very little time available to me, this was my priority and strategies were used to first establish a sense of belonging, of me knowing enough about the learner in order to understand who they are and where they are and create a partnership. It is also important that the student knows something about their teacher, the sort of things that build in them hope and confidence.

This was then followed by power, effectively this means listening. It means giving the student a voice and recognising their emotional state in terms of learning. Anyone who feels powerless is unlikely to engage in any challenge. This stage is vital in understanding the barriers to learning that the student holds.

Offering a choice as to how we were going to tackle the challenge together is an essential part of the strategy and supports the first two. This in practical terms means creating both a coaching and mentoring environment.

Finally, our learning relationship had to have a sense of fun but more importantly tying this to achievement, we needed to celebrate our successes and find fun in learning.

I also encouraged my student to take the concept of PBCF with them into the school environment and use it when faced with learning challenges. The benefit of this approach is that of improving their awareness of the impact of not having learning needs met on their ability to learn. This helps significantly especially when we have an over compliant student who does not express their learning needs well in the school environment or a teacher who is not ‘listening’.

Solving the learning problem

Finding ways of overcoming the learning challenges, of solving the problem,  is the second part of the strategy and involves developing the four aspects of LQ. I define these as:

  • learning Skills,
  • Attitudes,
  • Attributes and
  • Behaviours

The advantages of seeing learning as a problem-solving activity are highlighted when we employ LQ.

Let’s consider an electrician as an example of a problem-solving approach. In repairing or rewiring a house in addition to the necessary knowledge we would expect him, or her, to:

  1. have a developed set of skills associated with the task,
  2. have the ‘right’ attitude, to do a good job and to not give up and walk away
  3. demonstrate attributes such as flexibility or creativity in completing the task
  4. behave in such a way as to be both professional and polite.

A deficiency in any of these aspects on the part of the electrician will limit their ability to solve the problem. So it is with learning but if we do not integrate LQ into learning within the school context, and instead focus on subjects, students see themselves as unable to learn a subject rather than lacking any of the elements of LQ to solve the learning problem.

My work with my student focused in a very short space of time in assessing their LQ and working to develop those elements that were necessary for them to solve a learning problem themselves. It does not just have to be maths either, any subject or topic of learning can be tackled in the same way. Often I find that once a student sees learning in this way they quickly adapt and their self-belief as a learner blossoms as does their confidence.

Can you scale up this approach?

My nearly 40 years of teaching experience says yes you can. The approach I have outlined was used in a developing literacy and coaching model successfully used by an independent tutoring service. The issue of scaling up 1:1 coaching successes with larger groups was considered by Bloom in his 2 Sigma question. The problem in achieving this most often results from sticking with the original teacher/learner mindset and approach. Changing an approach is simple, in fact it is probably the easiest and least costly change you can make in teaching and learning. It will certainly have the biggest return.

What about maths

On a subject-specific note, that of maths, since it is one of the least favoured subjects amongst adults and children alike, I strongly advise that we need to treat it like a language if we want students to become confident in tackling the learning problems it presents.

Think for a moment how much time we use written and spoken language each day compared to maths. Much of our day is taking up with talking, reading or listening. We even use language when thinking so it is no wonder we are conversant in it.  How much of your day is spent on the four basic mathematical functions, those of adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing?  One of my strategies with any student I work within the area of maths is to increase this time significantly by asking them to play number games with their family and by looking around them for number patterns and associations in everyday life and when out and about. Try it and you will soon see the difference.

See for yourself and take the LQ, PBCF challenge

If you are interested in PBCF and LQ and how it can help your students, your own children or teaching then get in touch. I can arrange 1:1 sessions with parents, teachers and all the way through to group work and whole school CPD either here in the UK or indeed anywhere I am asked thanks to technology.

You can contact me here: kevin@ace-d.co.uk

Wishing you success in your learning challenges

Why Learning Intelligence?

The original article was published at “The Staffroom”

why learning inteligence

To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle”    George Orwell

Sometimes the obvious is on our doorstep, often ignored and rarely noticed.  So it is with my experience as a teacher and in the development of the concept of Learning Intelligence, or “LQ”.

After a career of nearly 4 decades in teaching I have taken an opportunity to step out of the classroom on a daily basis and take the time to reflect and research. It is a chance to read all those authors and study their ideas and theories with the benefit of experience.  If education is guilty of anything it is the jumping on an idea and wanting it to solve all the problems surrounding teaching and learning. The list of theories and game changing concepts in teaching is significant and probably an indication of the fundamental importance of needing to “get it right”. Do we need another theory or concept, that of Learning Intelligence or LQ[i]? I think we do and this is why. Let’s face it, it has to be better than “back to basics”, the “3R’s” or the PISA[ii] ranking stick we are often beaten with.

Imagine something so big that no matter which way you look, up/down, left/right, it almost blocks your view.  It is a colossal structure and its surface is a multitude of fine intricate patterns and textures coloured in every imaginable shade and tone. It is impossible to see it all at once and the best you can do is to look at one small area at a time. As an outsider you have no idea how it functions or really how it does what it does. It is too big to study all of it in any one lifetime. So people focus on just one small part and try to predict how the rest of it works based on the discoveries they make, no matter how small or controversial.  We call these people “researchers”.

Those who want to control or master it are not those that study it but they do make claims about what must be done to improve it.  As each new discovery is published new practices that sweep away the old are introduced. We call these people “administrators”.

Then there are those that work in it, know only what works and what does not work and follow their instincts. They have little time for studying it as they are too busy “doing it” but they must take on each new practice as if it will solve every problem and make whatever this huge thing is efficient. We call these people “teachers”.

This has been my experience in education, but after a career which included some challenging situations, I have had the benefit of almost 5 years to study what the researchers have come up with and piece together with the aid of experience something of the big picture.

I have not the space here to list all the theories or ideas I have been subjected to or tried to make work. Nor to list the authors and speakers I have listened to.  One thing I have been able to do though is to trace some of the ideas back in time and explored their roots through the lens of experience. It has proved enlightening.  For most I have found a grain of truth, an element that when blended with others does indeed work.

The outcome is simple, it occurred to me we may be going about teaching back to front and the evidence is there right in front of our noses.  This is the background to my concept of LQ so let me explain what it is.

Let’s start with a couple of propositions. Learning is a personal journey, whatever we see or experience each of us may take something different from it. The education system tries to standardise learning and assessment. This process involves both curriculum content and teaching but more significantly assessment.  Unfortunately assessment has come to mean only qualifications or standards. This is despite the work by Dylan Williams and Paul Black [iii] who promoted the importance of assessment for learning.

With this “engine” driving education it is easy to see how the process of teaching and learning is susceptible to a somewhat mechanistic approach. Use this tool to fix this problem, use this method to achieve this goal. The learner is only required to conform to the policies, practices and ambitions of the system, to be compliant, in order to be successful.  This standardisation though brings with it responsibility, that of having the right tool, policy or method.  If anything is wrong with these then we risk limiting individual achievement for the sake of compliance[iv]. I asked Sir Ken Robinson if compliance was a learning disability within the education systems we have. His reply was whilst it may not be a disability it is a disadvantage.

As a result of this approach we hit a buffer, we are brought to a halt, when it is found that not all learners are the same, or more to the point given the same input the outcomes are not the same for all learners.  We have seen this outcome explained by saying students having “abilities” or “aptitudes” in certain subjects or being referred to as “Gifted and Talented”, in short labelling learners.  These labels set expectations and the mechanism could grind on with the variable outcome now explained in terms of the raw material or the people who operate it

There was another shudder in the machine when it was suggested that we had what were referred to as “learning styles” or “multiple intelligences” [v]and that if we learnt in a way that satisfied these then standards would rise[vi].  The machine that is education duly took responsibility for changing practices, it could do no other.  When this did not “work” we looked for other reasons for why some learners are more successful than others.  Maybe it is not the machine that is at “fault” perhaps learners don’t have a “growth mind set[vii]” or display sufficient “grit” to do well.

I would claim that education is at fault for taking responsibility for learning and by trying to control the learning environment to suit every type of learner, although given the circumstances I have suggested it could do no other. The responsibility to raise standards weighs heavily and so ultimately becomes the only focus for teaching and learning[viii]. Anything that is not already credited with raising standards or is not the outcome of research or a product of legislation is seen as too risky to attempt. It will probably continue down this route too unless something changes and I suggest LQ is that change.

So what makes LQ unique or different? Well firstly it see the education system as an environment, one that with the right skills, attitudes, attributes and behaviours we can manage in a way that allows us to meet our learning needs. I need you to read that again, it’s what’s has been right under our nose all along.  Instead of the learner being the passenger we teach them to be the driver able to understand and navigate their own learning. This is not “learning to learn” , it’s about understanding and managing learning.

LQ is a construct; a form of narrative that brings all the pieces, ideas, and theories of the jigsaw together in a meaningful way, it’s the 3D viewer that allows us to explore the colossal structure that is education.  LQ is something we need to develop in learners if they are to manage any learning environment they encounter. LQ  will allow us to create lifelong learners. As Albert Toffler[ix] warns “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. ”

LQ round

There is much more to LQ than I can discuss here and to date I have published well over 50 articles on the various aspects of LQ both from the perspective of education, the teacher and the learner. You can find them all on my blog at https://4c3d.wordpress.com/  You can also find out about my work as an author, consultant, coach and speaker at www.ace-d.co.uk

Should you wish to find out about how LQ can make a significant difference to you then please e-mail me at kevin@ace-d.co.uk and we will start a conversation!

[i] If you want to skip the rest of this article and  don’t suggest you do, and go to the heart of LQ go here:

http://wp.me/p2LphS-3p

 

[ii] The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a triennial international survey which aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students. https://www.oecd.org/pisa/home/

[iii] INSIDE THE BLACK BOX: Raising Standards Through Classroom Assessment Jan 1990

[iv] For a discussion about the impact of compliance on learning see the article “Is Compliance a Learning Disability” at http://wp.me/p2LphS-kd

 

 

[v] See Howard Gardner regarding Multiple Intelligences  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Gardner

[vi] See Barbara Prashnig’s article on this subject “Debating Learning Styles” http://www.creativelearningcentre.com/downloads/Debating%20LS.pdf

[vii] See Carol Dweck Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential

[viii] To explore the “Responsibility Ratio” see “The Return to School” article at: http://wp.me/p2LphS-kk

[ix] https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3030.Alvin_Toffler

 

 

The original article was published at “The Staffroom” visit:

Why Learning Intelligence? By Kevin Hewitson

An Even Better Way

arrow-with-the-words-hit-your-target-is-pulled-back-on-the-bow-and-is-aimed-at-a-red-bulls-eye-ta

Schools are pushing students at this time of year to make or exceed their target grades. A great deal goes on both during school, after school and during holidays to finish coursework or to revise topics. Revision strategies most commonly ask students to go over ground they have already covered, often in the same way with the same teachers and approach. What if there was a better way to reach those targets grades?

If we take a sporting analogy for a moment we can see that there is more to performance than learning how to do something and practicing it.  Athletes have to believe in their ability to succeed and without this mental state it matters little how often they practice or train. What if our students did not believe in their ability and what if we did little to change that state of mind? Would it matter how much revision or practice they did if at heart they did not believe they would succeed?

In 2016 Roy Leighton was involved with a school in Leicester in changing mind-sets of a group of Y11 students. They were using a ‘better way’ to help students achieve and it does not involve revision in any school subject but it will pay off across all of them. In fact it will have a lifelong pay off for the students because they will believe in themselves.

I had the opportunity to accompany Roy on a visit to the school to meet with some of the students during the Easter Holiday and to see the better way in action.  The better way is actually called the “Butterfly Model” and it is something Roy has been developing and refining very successfully.  I have known Roy for some time and our work has a number of common elements including enabling learners to manage their own learning and to understand the emotional impact on our ability to learn. Roy once said to me: “We are holding different ends of the same stick” and I take this as a both a compliment and encouragement for developing my work on Learning Intelligence seeing how big the stick is that he is holding.  

BM1
I recommend you check out his work on personal transformation here:  http://www.royleighton.com/the-butterfly-model1.html

What gets students engaged and motivated?

From my own experience and work on getting Y11 ‘down to it’ I know that getting them motivated is the essential. I have identified four key elements that are necessary to getting people to engage and hence motivated. The first is PBCF.

PBCF “Please Be Child Friendly” is a way of remembering the four elements shown in my graphic below. I would challenge you to find anything in which you are actively engaged that does not involve these four components.

The second aspect is LQ and shares the same roots as Roy’s stick! It’s about a mindset and them enabling and supporting the engagement of learners by developing the Skills, Attitudes, Attributes and Behaviours that form the enabling aspect of LQ. You can read more about LQ, starting with an introduction here at LQ Introduction

LQ and PBCFLQ round

Back to the school and students who voluntarily came in during the holiday to meet with Roy and carry on with the programme. This was his 4th visit and there are others to come along with “hangouts”, text messages and online resources that are part of the programme. This may sound like an advert for the Butterfly model but hey if you see something that works you should share it – right!

The session focused on being the person you want to be, making the changes you need to make and recognising the powerful emotions that influence our self-beliefs as learners.  “Getting from here, to where you want to be”. Not your typical exam boosting session but one that is as essential as any in achieving success, just ask any athlete.

As students reflected on the last session and what they decided they wanted to keep, develop and let go you could see their energy rise ready for the challenges this session would provide. A significant difference to getting students to go over work they have already struggled with again which does little to alter their “learning map”, what they believe they can and cannot learn.

Looking at ourselves and recognising our strengths and our weaknesses is difficult, acknowledging these and then deciding what to do about it even harder, but hardest of all is actually doing something about it.  I saw students fully engaged in this journey, facing up to the challenges and changing their beliefs about themselves as learners and having fun while they did so.

With the pressures schools face and not forgetting how these find their way to the teachers it is refreshing to see a school take a different approach, a better way, to achieving success. Some may even say a “braver way” and in many respects I would have to agree. Doing what is the norm, even if it does not always work, is less risky than doing something that is right when it is not recognised. The students who attended this session are in many ways pioneers and deserve recognition. I am sure they will show others there is a better way and I look forward to hearing of their success.

Want to explore the PBCF and LQ intervention and how it can help your students?

emailGet in touch with me via e-mail here:

How PARENTS can support learning at home

Desk web size

A time of exams and a time of testing

Here in the UK we are rapidly moving towards the Y11 and Y13 examination or key stage 2 testing phase in our schools.  These are significant transition points in education and carry with them considerable pressures. Get it right and learners have life choices, get it wrong and we are “picking up the pieces” in a number of ways.

How can parents help their children during this time?

The question I want to look at in this article is “What can parents do to support their children at such times as these?” It is a summary of the workshop I offer to schools and parent groups. I also want to provide strategies that can help both the parent and the child deal with the upcoming challenges by way of a PARENT acronym.

The issue of homework

Whilst examinations and tests are points of high involvement and stress for parents there is the issue of homework too.  Homework tends to increase prior to periods of testing and is often seen as synonymous with revision.  Much of what I say here applies to the daily issue of homework, especially if we aim to foster lifelong learning and don’t want the morning ritual in many homes that starts with the question “Have you got your homework?” and ends with both parents and children being stressed.

Let’s start by looking at things from the learner’s perspective.

They will have had mock examinations or practice tests by now and be rehearsed in the practices that are involved in taking them. They will be trying to reach expectations or maintain progress towards them. For some it may be an expectation too far, they may already be beginning to fold under the pressure. Even if they have done well so far there is the pressure to do it for real when the time comes.  Revision and homework don’t have to be lone activities, you being in the same room can be a form of support. Without a strategy and without support we are expecting a great deal from our children.

The learning environment

Remember we are all different and where you like to study is not the same as your child’s.  There are a number of myths around where study should take place but the common one is on your own and in a quite place. Think for a moment, at a time of stress and anxiety do you relish the idea of being sent to your room, to be isolated? Few of us do. I even moved my own home office into the “flow” of the home rather than be isolated from the energy that is part of family life. Remember we look forward to things we enjoy and put off the things we don’t! Working at the kitchen table, lounging on the sofa or on the bed, indoors or outdoors . With bright light or dim light, with music or without. These are all acceptable places and ways to study.  The key though is to be organised.

Remembering the ways to help

Here is an acronym or mnemonic (I am not sure which you would call it) that can help PARENTs be supportive of learners and I am going to use it to outline the strategies parents can use to effectively engage with their children. A more detailed workshop can be provided for a group of parents or you can request a copy of “The Parents Guide to Study” from the link at the end of this article. The basic approach is to be “gently” involved, think of your role as being more of a “guide” than a task master or time keeper.

The meaning of the acronym PARENT is to:

Participate, Ask questions, Reflect, Encourage, Negotiate, Time

What each letter means

Participate – Find out what is going on. Know the dates and key times of all examinations or tests. Provide a reason and relevance for doing their best (not rewards). Work at using peer groups to provide support and not distractions. Understand what learning needs and preferences your child has (for example some like the quiet and others like a busy background). Homework does not have to be alone work either.

Ask questions – but do not interrogate – AVOID using “Why?” , it makes us defensive (try it, ask somebody why they are doing whatever it is they are doing and see what response you get). Find out what topics are being studied and see what you know about them.  You can ask about how they remember best or what new things have you learnt. You can ask your children to explain things to you (pretend if you do know or understand that you do not). Ask how they think they can improve. Use positive emotional triggers – “How did you feel when you did well at….?”

Reflectfind or make opportunities for your children to reflect, recap, internalise, or explain. Short periods work best and if you can make them spontaneous so much the better. Remember mistakes are part of the learning process. Work at building self-esteem, it’s going to take a battering!

Encourageit’s important you stay positive and purposeful and not to let negativity build. Focus on getting better and not just results. Show how much you believe effort leads to success and set a good example. Praise only when praise is due and make it specific.

Negotiateit’s about goal setting and creating win/win situations. AVOID bribery. Talk about consequences and be consistent. Remember choice is a powerful motivator but not if it is free choice.

Time – our lives are influenced by every second. A break or leisure activity are as important as studying if managed properly. They can keep us fresh and can break negative moods. Plan ahead to try to minimise anxiety and stress where you can. Rehearse what will happen at key times so they are part of the process and as ‘normal’ or familiar as they can be.

The PARENT Poster

To make it easier to remember the parent role I have designed a poster that you can put on a wall, cupboard door or any place you find yourself passing by regularly.

PARENT acronym web version

As a PARENT learn to stand back

Although PARENTS is also a useful acronym I have left the “s” out of the acronym as it stands for “stand back“. Learning to stand back is probably the hardest thing for a parent to do.   Let them make mistakes, it’s part of learning. Your job is not to do it for them. I know this can be nail biting and frustrating but better to learn the lessons of life early. I have worked with college/university students who are in a terrible state because they have not developed the skills to cope on their own or do not know how to handle failure.

Well that is how to be a PARENT at a time of examination or testing and during homework  time. I hope you found it useful.

Using the PARENT poster.

I am happy for you to download and use the graphic in this article but please acknowledge the copyright.  The poster in high resolution pdf format is available via a request sent to info@ace-d.co.uk, just put Parent Poster in the subject box.

If you are a school and want a license to print as many posters as you wish, starting at £25 a year, get in touch at info@ace-d.co.uk and I will send you the details

Buy Now

PS – Possible book for parents

I am considering extending this article into a guide for parents “The Parents Guide to Supporting Home Study”. If this is something you would like to see then please let me know  (via twitter @4c3d  or e-mail)and I will put pen to paper!

Get Motivated

Concept image of a signpost with motivational directions.

Get motivated – 6 things to do to make sure you get and remain motivated

So you have an essay to write, a research paper to prepare or whatever.  The trouble is you have the time and the resources but not the will to do it. You are putting it off, procrastinating.

Why and what can you do about it?

The first problem is there is tomorrow, or the next day to do it. Well that is what you tell yourself. Nothing feels urgent, there is plenty of time left to get it done so its gets left undone. It will get done later.

Relax

The second problem is that you forget about it. Well your conscious mind does but not the subconscious.  Since you set no specific timetable to start and finish by there is no urgency and your mind gets busy with the day to day stuff. It is only when you relax you remembered and then you feel tired so a) you panic or b) you decide to put off starting until later (there is that “later” again).

 

Young beautiful business woman panic

 

Pain and worry are both draining, they sap our energy and we feel drained and mentally tired and thinking becomes harder. Why am I telling you this? Well a task sitting in the subconscious is like pain and like worry, it drains us of energy.  Once you have a task to do it is taking up mental resources, its sitting there draining your energy. The longer you leave it the less energy you have to do it. The only way you get started in these situations is when the adrenalin kicks in and gives you that energy boost. So as soon as you panic you get the energy to make a start.  The problem we have here is that an adrenaline hit does nothing for our perceptive thinking. You are in “fight or flight” mode and not think and reflect mode.

Next to come are the excuses.

You need to balance the lack of progress in order to feel okay about not starting so you make excuses. Excuses include promises to yourself too. Excuses and promises mean nothing in terms of getting started or completing a task. They achieve nothing in themselves and often are not fulfilled. Enough said about excuses and promises, you are fooling no one, and that includes yourself!  Stop making excuses.

There is too much to do, you are too busy already. Sorry but this is an excuse in disguise and you are fooling no one but yourself.  You have enough time but you are using it unwisely. You are allowing small tasks and the tasks you enjoy doing to eat up your time. You need to get strict with yourself and plan better.

Leaving things to the last minute, or beyond if you consider the quality of your work, is not good for you. It is self-inflicted pain and anguish. A set of emotions that never result in a positive feeling once you have finished. Instead there is a combination of relief for getting it done and anger with yourself for not starting sooner and doing a better job. This is probably the main reason why you leave things until the last minute too. Let me explain.

Feeling good about something is a reward to yourself. Remember doing something well and how proud you felt. Remember the praise you got when you achieved something significant.  We like rewards and rewards spurs us on to try harder or to do well.  By leaving things to the last minute, by delaying starting, you are robbing yourself of the reward. Without a reward all you are left with are the negative emotions and an experience that does little to inspire you next time.

So that is why and how we put things off.

What can you do about it?

1

For a start, set your own deadline and do not go with the “hand in” or “hand over” date.  Take control of the situation and do not dance to somebody else’s tune. They have no idea what else you have to do, want to do or wish to do. They do not offer to organise your time and only to expect you to use your time to complete the task they set.

Next, and it’s the most important part, set out your rewards for when you complete the task for the date you have set yourself. If you can meditate on them, visualise them happening. Make them real in your mind, feel the emotions that go with getting things done not only in time but in plenty of time. The reward is a powerful motivator but it must be a realistic reward. No setting unrealistic rewards, they do not motivate you.

Get realistic about your use of time. If something is a two hour task then spend little more than the two hours on it. If you spend more than 2 hours you are taking time away from something else.  You risk running out of time and we know where that leads.

Then, and only then, when you have achieved the task take the time and make the effort to reward yourself.  When you are doing so take a moment to reflect on how you would feel and what position you would be in if you were still rushing to get things finished. Contrast those emotions with how you feel having achieved your task as you set out to do.  Embedding the positive emotions in your memory will help you become motivated next time.

So to sum up then:

  1. Allocate a realistic and appropriate amount of time to a task and stick to it.
  2. Set your own “complete by” date ahead of the hand in or hand over dates.
  3. Plan realistically and stick to it. Make no excuses.
  4. Establish you rewards for completing on time.
  5. Take a moment to visualise and feel the positive emotions associated with your rewards before you start.
  6. When you have completed on time reward yourself and take the time to embed the good feelings into memory. Rewards must be meaningful and achievable.

 

By the way if you are struggling with time management then here is a link to a series of articles that solve that problem too.

man holding back time

Part 3: The one and only learning theory that counts is …

'There Is No One Way', World Economic Forum protest.

Why there is no one learning environment and no one environment that meets all learning needs.

Over the years teachers have been asked to plan and deliver lessons to specific models. These models have included meeting various learning styles, multiple intelligences, and differences in ability. Teachers are now being asked to adopt a “growth mind-set” approach when dealing with learners (if they do not already have one what are they doing in teaching?) Views on how best to teach a particular aspect also change and teachers have been instructed in the way to teach reading and mathematical concepts with each supporter or instigator claiming theirs to be better than the other. Strangely enough we could have expected this dichotomy to have been resolved by now if there was one way to teach and to learn! Perhaps this is evidence of sorts for there not being a “one way”.

tug of war

This situation of new ideas replacing old and then being replaced by old ones re-discovered and of to-ing and fro-ing  is unhelpful for teachers and for learners in a number of ways. Firstly it ignores teaching and learning experience. Experience of what works and what does not work and in what circumstances. I suggest that a variety of approaches and teaching strategies is the hallmark of a seasoned teacher. They are able to respond and adapt to meet the dynamics of a lesson in a way that maintains engagement and supports learning. To ignore, or in some way supress this experience, is not helpful. I have seen excellent teachers be sacrificed on the altar of the “one way” because instead of going with their instinct they stuck to the plan. Instead of using experience to take another way in achieving the same aim they tried to apply an inappropriate strategy determined by the one way.  At the least the one way produces conflict and at the worst high levels of job related stress.

When the “one way” does not have a level playing field and there are high stakes implications for not reaching the same standards then a second undermining condition occurs. This can be summed up by the term “playing the system”. Ways are found to produce the required output at all costs because these are far less than the impact of not doing so. Once discovered then this leads to attempts to strengthen the original one way  systems. This is a spiral of pressure, playing the system, tightening the system controls and more pressure.

Wanting to do things one way also calls for conformity rather than supporting or stimulating innovation. This is something I claim leads to much narrower inspection frameworks. Frameworks that by their very nature, become inflexible and constraining. There is a natural outcome of an inflexible framework and that is any responsibility for lack of success is directed not at the framework itself but at those operating it or being inspected by it. The logic flows along the lines of if it’s not the framework at fault, and it cannot be, then it must be the people.  The spiral of decline and blame is there for all to see whenever we have this situation. The result is a very toxic environment for the people as the means to support the framework is strengthened in an effort to make it work. It never will but that does not stop those that believe in it trying to make it. Efforts are made to drive up standards and grades re-assessed or re-defined even if the framework standards are being achieved. This is because the framework is fundamentally flawed and cannot produce the desired outcomes.  The stupidity of this approach defies only those who instigate and support it.

When the one way is not working then changes occur, not in broadening the approach but instead as I have suggested earlier, in standards or grade definitions. This adds an element of insecurity and confusion for those involved. What is the old “C” in terms of the new level? Why is this subject included and this one excluded? Changes of this nature also make demands on time and energy as the people work to accommodate the changes.

What is worse is when eventually the current one way is dismantled to be replaced not by an amalgam, a variety or a blend, but once again by the new one way. Yesterday’s best way becomes today’s “must avoid” as each “new way “undermines earlier “new ways”. What is worse is the latest ideas fail to be the one way it is claimed to be and the old way becomes the new way once again.

I have seen first-hand the draining nature of this approach, of imposing a one way approach to teaching and learning. Teachers keep their heads down, they have little enthusiasm, or energy for new ideas or innovation, be it good or bad.  Some vote with their feet and leave the profession.

Yes we learn from experience and so things evolve but surely this should make us aware of the dangers of the “one way” mentality in teaching and learning. The power of Learning Intelligence is that it opens our eyes to the effects of the one way and empowers us to do something about it.  It also provides the reassurance and boost to confidence we need when being challenged by the one way syndrome.  

Part 4

The Final Part of: What if everything we thought about learning was wrong?

foundations

In the final part of this article I will suggest that it is time to re-evaluate the foundations of teaching and learning and describe what I believe are the true foundations of any education system we should seek to build on to ensure learning remains at the heart of what we do.

clean-slate-board

It is time to go back to basics of teaching and learning, not those of the 3 R’s, or of rote learning, of the industrial revolution or that of the information technology revolution but instead the basics of relationships and trust in education. It is time to rethink our pedagogy. A time to wipe the slate clean and rethink things from the beginning and not keep adding things that we think will or should “work”.  It is not a case of what can be done but rather a case of what should be done with the tools education has at its disposal to promote teaching and learning.

Imagine starting again knowing what we know now about how education has evolved and been influenced by the revolutions that have occurred over the last 150 years. I hope you will have decided that the foundation of any education system must include building relationships between the teacher and the learner. Apart from three other key elements all the other “stuff” is just, well stuff. It comes and goes according to, for the want of a better word, “fashion.”

teacher and class

Some time ago I wrote about understanding learning needs. This led to an e-book based on both reflection on my time as a teacher and research. As I read studies and ideas about teaching and learning, old and new, time and time again I came across references to the importance of the relationships between the teacher and the learner. Thinking about my own time in the classroom when things went well I had a good relationship with my classes and when things went badly or were stressful for me it was because these relationships had not yet formed. A target driven system that distances the teacher from the learner  is not what learning is about. 

pbcf4

Building relationships and maintaining them is not always easy and is often more complicated than we think. Perhaps the divorce rate confirms this! I have boiled it down to four key learning needs that require being satisfied most of the time if we are to build learning relationships. The graphic below describes the four learning needs. It would be my approach to include these in any foundations. The acronym Please Be Child Friendly offers a suitable reminder of the aim as well as providing a memory key for the four learning needs. Ignoring learning needs is not what builds engagement and is not what learning is about.

Teaching and Learning Responibility diag v2

I have also developed a “learning responsibility ratio” graphic. The graphic aims to show how the dynamics of the learning relationship should change over time. It highlights how the learning relationship may also come under strain at times, especially during a transition point.  At the start the biggest responsibility lies with the teacher in learning about their students, planning the curriculum and developing resources. At this point the learner has only a small responsibility, that of “paying attention”. Later as time passes the ratio of responsibility should transfer from the teacher to the learner. There are points where there is some element of reclaiming responsibility but these need to be part of the learning journey.  If there are too many occasions where the teacher reclaims responsibility the downward trend of the line, the responsibility transfer, is slowed and may never reach a satisfactory stage. The result of such an action means the learner remains dependent on the teacher and takes little responsibility for learning. In a high stakes system it is all too easy for the teacher, who is often most “accountable” to reclaim responsibility in order to maintain control of the learning. Incorporating the dynamics of learning relationships is also a key element in the foundation of an education system. Making or allowing the teacher alone accountable for learning is not what learning is about.

hero's journey adapted for learning

The third block in the foundation is the continued professional development of the teacher. It is important that the teacher models learning to their students. This has two effects. Firstly it will demonstrate that learning requires effort. As the teacher shares the emotional challenges of learning as well as the practical aspects they can show how taking on a learning challenge can be both daunting and rewarding. Secondly it grounds the teacher in the learning experience. This is important because in building successful learning relationships there needs to be both empathy and understanding of the student perspective.  Roy Leighton’s work on the Butterfly Model and specifically the Learning Line demonstrates this aspect of learning. Another example of the trials and challenges of learning can be seen in the Hero’s journey once it is adapted to learning. Ignoring the learning journey and expecting a standardised approach and progress is not what learning is about. lQ graphic 6

The fourth block is a natural requirement of the learning transition. It is no good expecting the learner to take responsibility for and manage their own learning unless they are prepared for and supported in doing so. This last element is one that appears obvious but we do so little in education in this area. We need to directly develop the skills, attitudes, attributes, and behaviours that support the learner in managing their own learning environment to meet their learning needs. The term I have used to describe this is “Learning Intelligence” or LQ. Failure to develop in learners an understanding of how they can manage their learning environment to meet their learning needs is not what learning is about.

Education learning foundation

So there we have it, the four corner stones of the foundation of any education system we care to develop based on learning. I would claim that if we remain true to these foundations then we can adapt and adopt all that is good and useful in teaching and learning from whatever source. We are in effect  guided by the foundations in selecting only those that adhere to the principles and therefore sustain them.  I would claim that such a foundation is both agile and secure. It is able to respond to changes in curriculum, forms of delivery and use whatever technology is appropriate to support teaching and learning.

Want to see any of the first 4 posts?

Part 1: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong? http://wp.me/p2LphS-nz

We need to go back to the start, to look at teaching and learning from the beginning to find out if we have lost our way.

Part 2: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong? http://wp.me/p2LphS-nD

How far back can we go with teaching and learning?

Part 3: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong? http://wp.me/p2LphS-nJ

We go back and explore the simplest of learning models to see if we can re-establish secure foundations on which to build.

Part 4: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong? http://wp.me/p2LphS-nZ

What are the influences of the industrial and technological revolutions on education?

Part 3: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong?

2585609947_41943f8ab5_Okinawa Soba

So far I have suggested that we have lost sight of the foundations of teaching and learning. That the practices of science, those of ‘theories’ and ‘testing’ have come to dominate educational thinking and that some of the aspects of the art of teaching have been lost. I have also suggested that we go back and explore the simplest of learning models to see if we can re establish secure foundations on which to build.

So let’s take that simplest of learning models for a moment and let me suggest how it will look

  • I show you how to do something.
  • You watch me, ask questions and imitate.
  • I observe and evaluate what you do and provide feedback.
  • There is recognition of competence and progress reflected in the instruction and tasks.
  • You take note of my comments and try to improve, to become better, to master, to learn and perhaps ultimately understand.
  • I take note of your reactions and try to improve my instruction/guidance
  • We build a relationship and trust each other to do our best as either teacher or student although such roles are not always clearly defined. Often the teacher learns as much from the student as the student learns from the teacher.

2 sigma

This is in effect a model of the apprenticeship.  Problems may arise with this model as we try to scale things up, as we go from 1:1 to 1: many.   Bloom identified this as the “2 sigma problem” when he published his article “The Search for Methods of Group Instruction as effective as 1:1 Tutoring” in 1984 (1).  There are claims being made for being able to personalise learning through “adaptive learning” software in the context of “gamification of learning” . A TEDx talk by Ben Betts exploring the issue of the 2-sigma problem and gamification can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqLiLH6Sjnw

Whatever we do there are issues of quality, consistency, standards and resources as well as cost in whatever model we choose.

We can imagine 10 or 20 students and one teacher, and we may even imagine 60 students and one teacher. It is easy to see how a different model, successful in its own right and particular situation, can be looked to solve other problems.  The Victorians looked to mechanisation and standardisation, the process we refer to as industrialisation, and we are looking at the new technologies as we explore the latest revolution but as we scale things up one element of the simple model is diluted. Can you guess which one it is?

I believe as we scale up, as we increase the pupil teacher ratio, with our current approach we lose the intimacy element that is part of building the relationship between the teacher and the student. As yet, with current models, the teacher has not been able to provide the level of 1:1 observation and therefore focused and often immediate feedback that may be part of the foundation of the teaching and learning process.

This need to build relationships and trust in order to achieve effective teaching and learning systems may be the basic principle or foundation that we have lost as we have increasingly sought  to put things right in education.

By looking to the use of principles and practices from other models, perhaps first those of the industrial revolution and latterly the information technology revolution, have we moved away from the foundations of teaching and learning. The question is “Can we get them back in some effective form?

In the next part of this article I will look at the influences I believe both the industrial and information technology revolution have had, and continue to have, on education.

Part 4: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong?  http://wp.me/p2LphS-nZ

What are the influences of the industrial and technological revolutions on education?

Final Part: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong? http://wp.me/p2LphS-pv

The four foundations of learning and what learning is not

 

[i] http://web.mit.edu/5.95/readings/bloom-two-sigma.pdf

Image credit: Okinawa Soba http://www.flickr.com/photos/24443965@N08/2585609947/sizes/o/

Part 2: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong?

In the last part of this article I argued for the need to re-examine the foundations of teaching and learning and to establish if the foundations of what we do and why we do it are still part of today’s educations systems. In short are they relevant? In this, the second part, I ask the question “How far back can we go with teaching and learning?”

campfire homo erectus

Well I would argue that there must have been a time when somebody knew something somebody else did not. Something they discovered for themselves, something that gave them an evolutionary advantage  and perhaps wanted to share with those they lived with.  The making of fire may just have been that one thing or that a stone can act as a club. Although it is rather romantic to imagine such a scenario it does conjure up the first possible teaching and learning scenario.  It does also point to a few possible long lost principles of education too. That:

  • learning through need is a great motivational aspect of learning
  • we learn better when we co-operate with each other,
  • sharing ideas develops new ideas and improves existing ones,
  • failing is just part of the learning journey and should not define who we are (try, try and try again) and
  • trust is a significant aspect of the learning relationship

Long before teaching was a recognised profession and education was a nation’s currency in world rankings there was a time when people learnt things from one another or by reflecting on experiences. Since this simple model we have sought to turn learning into a science and in doing so brought the principles, practices, evaluative and proof tools of science to bear on the process.  I believe some aspects of the art of learning have been sacrificed as we have moved away from the simple model of teaching and learning and adopted a more scientific approach of theories and testing.

As the sciences have  evolved we have attempted to build models of learning that influence how we teach. These models go on to set or influence education policy and practices. Some of these models have been discredited and some build up a strong following as they appear to provide insights into how we can teach better and improve the process of learning.  Whatever appears to work in any part of the educational landscape is explored in order to find elements we can transplant and improve the health of our own education systems.  The idea of science making the process of learning clear continues.  We have seen the rise of neuroscience as we look for ways in which people learn and have employed MRI scanning to map the brain functions.

But what would we do if we had only the simple model of learning and everything else that we believe in how we learn was wrong?  So what if there is:

  • no right brain/left brain functions,
  • no learning styles,
  • no benefit to rote learning or
  • no set of basics or subjects on which we build further learning,
  • no best time of the day to learn

or any of the other ideas or theories we have about how we learn best.

What would we do? What policies and practices would we adopt if there was only the simplest of learning models?

In the next part of this article I will propose the principles and practices of a simple learning model.

Part 3: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong? http://wp.me/p2LphS-nJ

We go back and explore the simplest of learning models to see if we can re-establish secure foundations on which to build.

Part 4: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong?  http://wp.me/p2LphS-nZ

What are the influences of the industrial and technological revolutions on education?

Final Part: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong? http://wp.me/p2LphS-pv

The four foundations of learning and what learning is not

Graphic from: http://socialesiesae.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/prehistory.html

What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong?

final examination

Well we have been wrong about things before!

People argued that the world was flat and even now people have different views about the earth revolving around the sun (just go on line and Goggle it!). It is easy to build on shaky foundations if you believe in those foundations. There may come a time when you have to find ways of discounting new discoveries in order to maintain your original beliefs too. You may even re-interpret things in order to fit in with what you believe to be true and attack or try to convince those who do not believe as you do. It may be a human condition that we act this way.

Whatever foundation we build on there is the potential, as we rise so far from them, that we no longer even recognise them for what they were and what they were based on. We become slaves to tradition, to the “basics”, to doing more of what we have always done. Going back to the start is often a cathartic way of trying to determine what is, and what is not, “right” of what actually works and what does not rather than what is.   I believe there is a saying attributed to Albert Einstein that goes along the lines of “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I suggest that to expect that in doing what others have done for different reasons or needs than those of your own will bring about what you need is misguided at least and insanity at worst.

Dismantling existing practices or held beliefs in order to establish their validity or truth can reveal some of our shaky foundations and give us the freedoms to rebuild and establish more informed pathways or beliefs. The caveat though is only if we are open, unbiased, and honest with ourselves and we are willing to assess the process and not just the outcomes.

I believe there are many things about education that we presently believe that we have wrong. Or perhaps there are many things in education that we do that are driven by the wrong motives and beliefs.  We need to go back to the start, to look at teaching and learning from the beginning to find out if we have lost our way.

The next part of this article will ask how far we can go back in teaching and learning.

Part 2: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong? http://wp.me/p2LphS-nD

How far back can we go with teaching and learning?

Part 3: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong? http://wp.me/p2LphS-nJ

We go back and explore the simplest of learning models to see if we can re-establish secure foundations on which to build.

Part 4: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong?  http://wp.me/p2LphS-nZ

What are the influences of the industrial and technological revolutions on education?

Final Part: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong? http://wp.me/p2LphS-pv

The four foundations of learning and what learning is not

What is in a name and how important is it that people know your name?

baby’s-name

What is in a name and how important is it that people know your name?

What does your name say about you?

We are all given one but have you ever stopped to think how you would find your way in the world or how others would find you without one! In fact there a lot more questions about your name once you stop to think about it.

  • Do you like your name?
  • Does your name reflect who you really are?
  • Do you think people treat you a certain way when they meet you for the first time possibly because of your name?
  • Does your name help or hinder you as you make your way in the world?
  • Would you, or have you ever thought of, changing your name?
  • If you decided to change your name what would it be?
  • Do people call you by your given name or have you a nickname they prefer to use?

So now you may be thinking about your name a little more and if it is Kevin, like mine, then you may be happily reflecting on the “fact” that Kevin means  “handsome”.

You may be asking where am I going with all this name stuff? Well let me get to my point.

In 2011 I had achieved  33 years of being a successful teacher and a few more after that outside of the school environment exploring and working in the “real world”. Having a little more time at hand I started to reflect on my learning experiences. It occurred to me that successful learning and teaching was based on a set of skills, attributes, attitudes, and behaviours. The more I have prodded and probed this notion the more secure I am in my belief but I digress, more of that later. I truly believed then, as I do now, that I have something unique to say about learning and teaching and decided I needed to tell the world about it because as far as I could find out no one else had put the various bits together in the way I had. To me it is both blindingly simple and obvious at the same time, not complicated at all. A sort of eureka moment you would call it.

I needed a way to spread the word and let others know of this simple truth about how to make learning easier, be a great teacher and have successful schools.

In 2011 I decided to set up a company, a website, blog and Twitter account and tell the world about what I have discovered. In order to do so I needed a name for the company. Something that said what I was about and was easy to remember and search on the web so people could find me easily. This is where I was probably too clever for my own good because I have come to realise how important a name is and I may have got mine wrong. Let me explain.

I realised that if we did more of what we have been doing in education, especially in the UK, then we would get more of what we have now. To summarise: stressed teachers, stressed students, a waste of talent, mediocre results, more of a focus on meeting a target than being the best we can be, a lack of creativity or individual expression, too much change and a lot more negatives along the way. I realised we needed to do something different and that we needed to be creative in the way we did it. I still have the same aspirations for students, schools, and education as those who set targets or standards to aim for I just think there is a better way of going about achieving it, one that does not carry with it all the negative aspects we are seeing now. I wanted my company name to reflect this more creative approach and to emphasise the possibilities of being the best as a result of adopting it. There was also the need to be unique on the World Wide Web, a challenge in itself.

The name I chose, “ace-d” ,takes the “a” from advocating, the “c” from creative  and “e-d” from an abbreviation of education and stands for advocating a creative approach to education. The word “aced” is also an idiom for doing very well.

Did you get all that or have I been too clever for my own good?

So “ace-d” was born along with a “leet speek” version for the blog and Twitter called “4c3d” (the 4 replacing the “a” and  3 as a backward “e”. I had to use this approach because “aced” had already been taken as a Twitter and blog name and since creativity is a core principle of ace-d it seemed appropriate to find a creative solution.

Then there is the “ace” connotation of the name and its meaning in general use. We do not have to tear down walls to bring about positive change in teaching and learning, to ace it (too clever again?). As Ellen Langer has pointed out in her theory on mindfulness, we just need to be creative and approach things differently. A one degree change in your course when sailing can bring a different shore into view. Going around an obstacle is just as effective as going through it and there are plenty of obstacles in education!

So why do I think I got the name wrong? Well because it is now 4 years since I set up ace-d and although some people have found me and some of those have become colleagues, some have become listeners and some have asked questions I feel I have only been able to directly help a handful of individuals and schools. That is far less than I know that can benefit from ace-d’s approach and that is what makes me think I got it wrong. If people are looking for help would they find it, would they find ace-d? Try Googling “ ace-d LQ”  and let me know if you found me.

Advocating Creativity Ltd is the formal company name for ace-d and I offer an independent advisory service for those seeking significant and sustainable improvements in learning and teaching. This is primarily achieved by adopting a concept developed by me based on experience and research and called Learning Quotient, LQ for short, or Learning Intelligence. LQ is about developing a set of skills, attributes, attitudes and behaviours shown to significantly impact learning and teaching. You will find elements of Dweck, Hattie, Glasser and many more embedded in the concept of LQ. LQ is about an approach to learning that is both simple and powerful but one that as we chase targets and standards I fear we may move further away from.

You can download a leaflet about LQ here: About LQ with LQ graphic. You can also view a presentation about LQ to a TeachMeet at Northampton University here.

If you are a teacher, leader, or a learner and would like to find out more about how ace-d and LQ can help you I would be pleased to hear from you, now you know the name of course.

You can contact me at kevin@ace-d.co.uk

Links to website

Link to Twitter

How do you use your classroom to support learning?

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We know the classroom is more than a place for pupils to sit and the teacher to store resources. It is more than just four walls, windows, doors, a floor and a ceiling too. What makes a classroom is the dynamic way the resources it provides are used. This is why a classroom can be an open space or a piece of ground under a bridge.  My view is that the classroom should say “Welcome to my world.” There should be something about the classroom that celebrates your passion for the subjects you teach and that shows you are a learner too. Here are some of the ways you can use your classroom to promote teaching and learning.

Promote focus by avoiding clutter. Clutter is things that you are not using, do not need to refer to or just don’t want to throw away. It is the last project outcomes, the broken chair or something propped in the corner out of the way. If you cannot bring yourself to throw it away box it and label it. Have only the things that are relevant out on show and in the room if you can.

Make the walls relevant by getting rid of “wall paper”. This is stuff well past it’s sell by date. There is nothing worse than having work on the wall from somebody who has left or was in the class last year. It is also stuff you cannot read if you are sat in the middle of the classroom without requiring the eyesight of Superman. Sit in the middle of the classroom and if you cannot read what is on the wall then bin it. If you cannot read it then neither can your pupils. If it is important then make it readable.

Make the walls a resource for you as well as the pupils. Teachers are adept at using the walls of the classroom to carry all manner of resources but what about using one wall for prompts and reminders for your teaching too.  If when you are addressing the pupils you are at the front of the class then use the back wall for your own purposes. This is not as daft as it sounds; the back wall is probably the least viewed by the pupils.  Here is an example of how you may use the back wall. Say you wanted to develop your teaching by asking more mindful[i] questions then you may have a large image of a brain posted on the back wall.  Unless you explain to others what it is for then it is your own personal reminder to ask questions in a way that encourages rather than discourages responses. If anyone asks you do not have to tell them the reason why it is there, that is up to you.

Share ownership of the walls and encourage pupils to take ownership by displaying their own learning outcomes. You do not have to select every piece that goes on the wall.

Get creative when you need to and this includes using the ceiling, the windows, the doors, and even the floor. The classroom can be “dressed” in the same way as shop windows to promote a theme or support a topic. I have even seen Egypt complete with sand and pyramids appear in a classroom (just be sure to cover the floor in plastic first and get the cleaner on your side!)

Set the mood using technology. Projectors not only project images but hey can be sued to create blocks of colour and coloured light. This can be very effective at creating a mood, especially if you add in some sounds. Plain white sheets can be hung as screens and they do not have to be on the wall. Images can be projected onto them to create illusions of walls or the seaside or anything your imagination comes up with.

Consider the unusual. If you have ever walked into a bakery as the bread is cooling you will know the power of smell. Like music it can transport you both in time and space and lift your mood. Scented candles or perfumes can add that extra dimension. Just image the impact of a few stink bombs if you were studying the history of sewerage in the Victorian era! Having music playing alters mood and pace significantly, just the thing for creative writing.

Move things around, but only for a reason. Too many changes and too much change can unsettle pupils. Like everyone they like the familiar and may need warning about what you have planned. Just imagine how you feel if you cannot use your usual car parking space.  Putting desks in rows just like a Victorian school may be a great way of starting off a topic.

Think about the entrance to your room, it is after all a portal to learning. How can you make it more effective? Remember that sometimes your pupils may be lining up outside your door and it could provide a useful opportunity to learn something or set the scene.

Be welcoming. It goes without saying but sometimes you may get carried away clearing up after the last session or in preparing for the upcoming one. Even if you are not ready take time to meet and greet. How pupils enter a room and even how they leave says something about the space they are in.  Don’t miss an opportunity to use subtle influences to mark out your room as a place to learn.

Give it an identity so the pupils know where they are.  There is nothing worse than bland teaching room after bland teaching room along a corridor. Think what the high street would look like if all the shops were the same. How would you know where you are or where to go?

Promote organisation. A place for everything and everything in its place is a very important adage. So is “Don’t put it down. Put it away.” Have systems that you use to keep your room organised. This helps you find things as well as the pupils and saves them waiting to ask you.

[i] Mindful questions are those that do not impose limits or require absolute understanding in order to answer. They can be satisfied in part or in whole depending on the knowledge and understanding of the pupil.  For example if you ask pupils to name the three states matter can exist in then you are excluding those that can only think of 1 or 2 from answering and anyone who believes there are 4 (plasma) or even 5.  A mindful question format may be formed in this way, “Who can name me a state matter can exist in?” . Now you have not set any boundaries and can respond to any “odd” or interesting responses you receive.

The Highway Code: A Metaphor for Learning

In discussing the importance of self-belief in learning I have described the learner’s beliefs about what they can and cannot learn as a “learning map“. A suitable metaphor for the way learners see the learning landscape built by them as a result of their experiences, emotional responses and successes or failures. Each time a new learning challenge is presented out comes the learning map and decisions made about how possible the learning journey is. How we view this map, our mindset, also influences the decisions we make about learning challenges. If we take this metaphor a little further we can use a form of the Highway Code,  a Learning Highway Code, to describe a set behaviours we may exhibit. This is what I have done using either a “Limiting” or “Empowering” mindset in interpreting the signs we may establish on our learning map.

 

Highway Code Metaphor Chart

 

You can see the full chart with five signs that give orders and seven that are warning signs here: ace-d learning highway code graphic

You may consider using this idea in your classroom to show the advantage of a empowering behavioral response, a growth mindset, as opposed to a limiting or fixed mindset one.  Perhaps  you could get the learners to write their own descriptions. If you do I would love to see them.

Whilst I can not lay claim to the highway code I do hope you will recognise the idea of a learning map and the Learning Highway Code as being one from Advocating Creativity.

The Learning Highway Code is part of the concept Learning Intelligence or LQ. You can read the first article about LQ here: LQ Introduction 

Comments always welcome.

 

 

What if there was a simple way of enabling learners to be the best they could be?

holy_grail_png_by_erdmute-d1nodd1

It’s the Holy Grail in teaching, to ensure all learners reach their potential, and we have tried all manner of ways to find it.

E-learning concept

What if the answer was staring us in the face all along? Would we recognise it and would we grasp the opportunity with both hands? My experience as a teacher and consultant suggests not. Along with my solution, that of developing Learning Intelligence, here is why we have not taken the opportunity so far.

arrow-with-the-words-hit-your-target-is-pulled-back-on-the-bow-and-is-aimed-at-a-red-bulls-eye-taPoliticians consider it too risky to leave education to what they perceive as chance and imagine they can dictate and control it through inspection and the setting of targets. The trouble with this is we only see the things we are looking for and only hit the things we aim for.  This limits creativity, innovation, and risk taking. It also sets a limit on what can be achieved, if you are required to hit a target at 100m why try to hit it at 1000m? There is no point in making the extra effort. The target has got to be constantly revised otherwise there is no challenge and “moving the goal posts” hardly appears fair when you were so close to achieving it. Targets may do more to de-motivate than to motivate.

Responsibility diagram upadated

Leadership misunderstand their responsibilities. It is often interpreted as the imposing  of policies sent down by politicians, even if it does not foster a learning relationship between the teacher and learner. This behaviour can inhibit them from reacting to local needs and conditions.  The true role of leadership is to ensure only those initiatives and ideas that actually promote the learning relationship are supported.

Teacher and Class 3

I find that teachers are inclined to teach the way they learn and were taught. Perhaps it is difficult to even imagine another way when the way you learnt was so successful for you.  The drive to be a teacher is often to help give the opportunities that became available to you as a result of your education to others, so why do it any differently. Teachers are the instruments by which policy is applied and targets achieved so they have little freedom to explore alternatives or little inclination to take risks.

parents and children

Parents have bought into the passive learning model. Their children go to school to be taught and that model is one they themselves experienced. In this model the responsibility for a lack of achievement is easily directed at the teacher and certainly away from them as parents or their children as learners. They insist the school tries harder, sets more homework, and makes their children learn so long as it does not take up too much of their time.

Employers

Employers are not sure what they want an education system to do to prepare young people for the world of work.  We hear that many of the jobs our students will be doing when they leave school don’t exist yet so I suppose this makes it difficult. In the absence of a clear picture of what is required we hear the common call for “the basics”, but often that is left vaguely defined and what is the basics for one employer may not be for another.  Many call for “soft skills”*,  skills that complement the job related or “hard skills”.  Schools are not measured or given targets for these skills so they do not form part of the directed curriculum and therefore are not given a high priority.

diagram of LQ and SAAB

The solution, the one that is staring us in the face. There is a simple way of enabling learners and we can find fragments of it scattered through current and past research, writings, and practices. Some call for better feedback in the learning cycle, building learning power, some for a more mindful approach to learning and others of requiring grit from the learner.

needs

Each has a piece of the jigsaw but no one person or concept has it all.  No one, until now that is, has brought what we know about teaching and learning together under one unifying approach or concept. So we move from one initiative or idea to another. Each time hoping that each will help find the Holy Grail. What we should be doing is unifying our efforts into working with learners to develop their ability to manage their learning environment to meet their learning needs. Just take a moment to  reflect on this statement before I go on to explain what this means.

I claim that successful learners are those who are able to interact with their learning environment and that their environment meets their learning needs. This explains why some learners do well at school but not as well as adults and why some learners who struggled in school do well in the real world. Where there is a match between  the school environment and the needs of a particular learner they will do well, where there is not any learner will struggle to reach their true potential in that environment. Other factors must come into play for an individual who is mismatched with their learning environment to achieve their potential.

An analysis of this reality suggests that there are a set of skills, attributes, attitudes, and behaviours that learners who are successful in any environment have or display. They are able to adapt their environment to meet their needs and overcome environmental limiting factors. I call this “Learning Intelligence” or LQ for short and it represents the way we can help all learners to reach their true potential.

The evidence that supports the concept of LQ is there for us to see if we adopt an open mind to the issues of learning. Perhaps the first glimpses we have seen of LQ in action has been as a result of the changing of the learning environment through technology.  For example the Khan Academy and YouTube have shown that learners can respond successfully to a different learning environment to that of the school. What these new learning environments provide is a better match to the learner’s needs.  We hear also of the “gamification” of learning as we see the effort people are willing to put into these type of environments.  It seems obvious then that if we develop the learner’s ability to manage different learning environments to meet their learning needs by developing their LQ that they will be in better position to reach their potential.

There are numerous benefits to the LQ approach to learning too.

  • We do not have to worry about what new initiatives or ideas that may come along for the learner will be equipped to deal with them.
  • The concept of life-long learning becomes a reality because the learner will be able to cope with any change in learning environment.
  • Teachers are not asked to plan and deliver lessons to accommodate numerous learning styles and can focus on what matters – building relationships and turning knowledge into understanding.
  • Parents can be helped to understand how the environment they create at home also impacts learning.
  • Politicians can relax a little knowing that they have a society of learners that can adapt to changes in the skills, knowledge or understanding required of them during their working life.
  • Employers will get the employees they are looking for.

boy 2

So we have a simpler and better way to approach learning if we want it.

Any takers?

For an introduction to LQ go to:  https://magic.piktochart.com/output/2297869-learning-intelligence

To access over 30 articles on LQ explore: www.4c3d.wordpress.com or download the leaflet on  LQ 

Kev Profile Pic

For workshops, keynote speeches or for more about how developing LQ can release the potential of learners you can contact me at info@ace-d.co.uk

Graphic from: http://erdmute.deviantart.com/art/holy-grail-png-100234405

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soft_skills

As a learner how important is self-belief and…

… what has it got to do with Learning Intelligence (LQ)?

diagram of LQ and SAAB

Those of you who follow this blog will know of my aim and passion for developing a global awareness of Learning Intelligence and how it can transform learning. Through my company, Advocating Creativity, workshops, keynote speeches and writing I aim to provide access to my ideas, insights, and strategies. The number of people showing an interest in LQ is growing[i]. There have been over 1300 views of the info-graphic defining LQ in the last 4 months. With nearly 10,000 views  of the blog since August 2013, (as of May 2016 this is now over 21,000)and with many comments, acknowledgements and questions being received, LQ is beginning to become part of the vocabulary of learning.

I am always looking for the science that sits behind the art of teaching and the desire to learn. At the end of August, as part of a comment I received about the article “Introducing Learning Intelligence”, ( http://wp.me/p2LphS-3p ), a link to a paper was provided. The title of the paper was “Human Agency in Social Cognitive Theory” and was by Albert Bandura, Stamford University and appeared in the American Psychologist in September of 1989[ii]. My thanks to D Sharrock, who provided the link, and suggested that the article would help support the evidence base for why LQ is such a powerful learning concept. If you have read something that you think will support , or even challenge,  the concept of LQ please let me know.

I have found Bandura’ work does indeed underpin several key aspects of LQ and there are conclusions in Bandura’s paper that I believe also find themselves echoed in the work of, among others,  Carol Dweck . These include certain LQ related attitudes, attributes and behaviours (see diagram above) that enable the learner to manage their learning environment and exercise resilience. This post seeks to show how Bandura’s work supports the concept of LQ.

lQ graphic 6

People Can Change

Bandura argues people can change and that the more confident they are, the better their problem solving capabilities and analytical thinking the better they perform. I feel certain that many sports coaches would agree, as they would with the suggestion that where individuals visualise success they achieve better performances. Motivation is very much linked to self-belief and problem solving is very much a part of LQ. Knowing you can change and by doing so learn to manage your learning environment to meet your learning needs is the belief that sits behind LQ.

Self-Belief and Resilience

Self-belief also plays a part in resilience, getting back on the horse after falling off. Passion and a strong belief in what you are doing enables people to overcome many of life’s many problems. “It takes a resilient sense of efficacy to override the numerous dissuading impediments to significant accomplishments” (Bandura). People who believe in their ability to cope and overcome challenges tend not to dwell on their inabilities but instead look for ways of moving forward. This is important when we consider our “Learning Map” (what we believe we can and cannot learn). The learning map landscape is often defined by school based experiences and what is said to us by significant people in our lives (parents and peers). More about the learning map in another post.

Learning Map

Being able to re-define our learning map has the benefit of a long term impact on our ability to learn. “After perceived coping efficacy is strengthened to the max level, coping with previously intimidating tasks no longer elicits differential psychobiological reactions” (Bandura). We become imbibed with the belief that we can cope with what were possibly considered too risky or too demanding situations. This makes it more likely we will develop adaptive strategies. LQ requires creative and adaptive strategies to overcome learning limitations imposed by the learning environment rather than being impeded by them. As Bandura warns “Depressive rumination not only impairs ability to initiate and sustain adaptive activities, but it further diminishes perceptions of personal efficacy.” Believing you can do nothing about your situation is debilitating. Developing and being aware of LQ gives you the ability to do something about your situation.

Responsibility

Developing LQ is not only the responsibility of the learner. The responsibility for developing an LQ friendly learning environment in which learners can experience learning challenges and find ways of overcoming them is one that rests with the teacher. This is supported when we recognise  “People tend to avoid activities and situations they believe exceed their coping capabilities, but they readily undertake challenging activities and select social environments they judge themselves capable of handling” (Bandura). This emphasises the role of the teacher as a coach and mentor in supporting LQ development. It is also important to note that all learners need to face challenges in their learning but to do so without support is debilitating. This is just as important for those who are recognised in school as Gifted and Talented as those who have recognised learning challenges. “Development of resilient self-efficacy requires some experience in mastering difficulties through perseverant effort.” (Bandura) By successfully overcoming learning challenges we develop a broader set of skills, more informed attitudes, are more confident in our aptitudes and more in control of our behaviours.

Implications

The implications for developing LQ go way beyond school and can follow us into work and careers. As a teacher, I have recognised that we are inclined to seek environments in which we feel comfortable and safe and are less likely to take on challenges if we are limited by our self-efficacy. “Any factor that influences choice behaviour can profoundly affect the direction of personal development… long after the decisional determinant has rendered its inaugurating effect” (Bandura). We can still face self-belief issues long after we felt uncomfortable, challenged, or inadequate in any learning situation unless it is resolved. How many people avoid subjects studied in school well into adult life? Developing LQ is a way of overcoming these negative emotions, limiting self-beliefs and improving learning at any stage of our lives. LQ is the tool we have been looking for to promote the idea of “lifelong learning.”

Motivation

Motivation is also considered and describes our requirement to extending what we believe we can achieve or attain in order to undertake a new challenge, especially if we consider there is a risk. We can see this in the work of Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development[iii]  where we consider what we can do, what we can do with help and what we as yet cannot do. What we imagine we can achieve is very important in motivation and an attribute of LQ is imagination. “The ability to envision the likely outcomes of prospective actions is another way in which anticipatory mechanisms regulate human motivation and action.” (Bandura).

Importance of LQ

Finally the reason why it is so important we promote and develop our LQ in our learning journey and as teachers we create an LQ friendly learning environment is supported by Bandura’s conclusions.

Given the same environmental conditions, persons who have developed skills for accomplishing many options and are adept at regulating their own motivation and behaviour are more successful in their pursuits than those who have limited means of personal agency.” (Bandura)

If you would like to be kept up to date with LQ and how to both promote and develop it then follow this blog. If you would like a more detailed introduction to both LQ and learn about practical school and classroom based approaches to developing LQ then contact me for an initial discussion at kevin@ace-d.co.uk.

Advocating Creativity 2014

[i] https://magic.piktochart.com/output/2297869-learning-intelligence)

[ii] http://meagherlab.tamu.edu/M-Meagher/Health%20360/Psyc%20360%20articles/Psyc%20360%20Ch%203/self-efficacy.pdf

[iii] http://www.instructionaldesign.org/theories/social-development.html

Assessment Without Levels. Is it Possible?

banned sign

The flux in education in the UK at the moment is all about levels; the lack of levels, the change of levels and the validity of levels.  This is a great time to take a totally different approach to preparing students for examinations, one that focuses on learning and improves performance.

Section 7 of the NCSL publication “Beyond Levels” concluded that:

Pupil involvement in the learning process: the importance of placing pupils at the centre of the assessment process; and involving their active participation and views was a recurring outcome. Enabling young people to have a clear understanding of what they were learning and needed to learn next, was recognised as important.”

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/349266/beyond-levels-alternative-assessment-approaches-developed-by-teaching-schools.pdf

This article is an outline of the principles a professional development course for schools and available from Advocating Creativity that satisfies that need.

Although the course, “Assessment Without Levels” by Advocating Creativity Ltd,  was developed before the popularity of theories and research by people such as Dweck (Growth mindset), Langer (Mindful learning) and Hattie (Table of effects) it brings all three together in an effective approach. The outcome of the course has been shown to include improved:

  • learning,
  • student performance and
  • teacher planning.

Assessment for Learning

My experience shows that when we focus on establishing what a student knows or understands at any given point  then we can better plan future learning.  This is because we have a clearer understanding of what has been achieved and understood so far. The term “Assessment for Learning” (AfL) encompasses this approach. The difficulty has always been getting the students to see assessment this way , partially because they have been taught to focus on levels, be they targets or achievement  grades.

Setting tests

As a teacher you know the way it works. You set a test or revision paper and the buzz in the class at feedback time is about what mark or grade was achieved. Students are quick to spot any discrepancies in marking and insist on the right mark being awarded in line with another student in the class. Getting students to review papers in light of what they are familiar with but need to review and what they do not understand or know is at times difficult.  A great deal of valuable feedback can be lost if we do not find a way of using the performance in a formative manner. This can be a significant challenge for the teacher as few students want to revisit a test they did poorly, or even well, in.

The problem of targets

What if the setting of target grades is a way of limiting performance not enhancing it? In my experience few students see a target grade as anything more than a line to cross. Still fewer still see it as a line to be surpassed. What is more, the mechanism of setting target grades to raise attainment can be a limiting factor. This is in part  due to  the use of algorithms that are used to calculate and then predict future performance based on past performance.

There is, I believe, a particular issue with boys in respect of setting target grades.  Experience suggests that by nature many boys who are not fully engaged in an activity nearly always do just enough and little more. They see little, if any, benefit in doing more than just what is required of them. See this article if you wish to explore this idea further. “Why many boys only do just enough” http://wp.me/p2LphS-2J

Life after levels and grades

Moving away from providing feedback or targets via grades or levels may be scary but it is a course of action that if grasped with both hands will put the focus back where it needs to be, on learning.

Implementing the approach of the course, Assessment Without Levels, results in a different emphasis when setting and “marking” assessments. The traditional focus on what mark or grade to award is eliminated and replaced instead by a traffic light system indicating a level of learning. The only way for a student to assess how well they have done is by reviewing their responses[i].

better way to mark capture

Setting the test requires a slightly different approach in the way it is planned and structured. Each question or task requires identifying with a particular set of learning points. The author of the test must start with defining the learning points and consider how the learner will demonstrate understanding. They can then go on to design the question or task in a way that will allow the learner to demonstrate understanding (not just recall).

Differentiation of response is converted into a mark scheme by the teacher but this remains unseen throughout by the learner.  A question is awarded a series of marks according to the learning criteria demonstrated. Whilst there are marks involved at this stage of the process they are merely to determine the thresholds of the three possible outcomes per topic or question. The threshold marks are required by the conditional formatting process employed at the spread sheet stage.

When marking the allowed outcomes are as follows:

1) the student  has demonstrated a sound grasp of the concepts/topic and could transfer this knowledge and understanding to similar situations without difficulty[ii]This is a green traffic light.

2) the student  may understand the topic but there are some areas that need revision in order to gain mastery and be able to transfer knowledge and understanding to similar situations. This is an amber traffic light

3) the student has not shown sufficient understanding of a large number of aspects about the topic and requires a review rather than a revision of material along with possible coaching or a different approach or example used at the teaching stage. This is a red traffic light.

The learner perspective

On reviewing a test, and faced with the traffic lights per question or topic, the student can immediately identify where they need to put their efforts in order to improve. Red takes priority, followed by amber. Green responses fall into the occasional revision category. This gives a focus to further work and an ability to apply future efforts in a more effective and efficient manner.

The teacher perspective

A further analysis, this time from the teacher perspective, is also very informative.  Preparing a matrix of questions and student responses the teacher is immediately able to see if there are any common trends. Red or amber areas of concern across a number of students may suggest a topic that has not been well understood by the class. Red traffic lights indicate priorities for review, amber traffic lights revision. As a result the teacher is then better informed as how to proceed in planning revision or review after the test.  This has the benefits of making teaching more effective and resource allocation more efficient leading to the economic advantages of saved time.

How to carry out the analysis

Luckily for us Excel is able to do the analysis and presentation for us once we set the thresholds of performance. Here is an example of a typical class test set out in this way.

TRAFFIC LIGHT MARKING

 

In the example conditional formatting has been used to set the traffic lights according to performance thresholds set by the teacher. For example Q1, based on the analysis of information, is scored out of 10. The teacher has determined that a score of 8 or more is acceptable in demonstrating a sound understanding. A score of 6 or 7 suggests the second category, that of requiring revision. Anything less than 6 is regarded as a red traffic light and requires a whole scale review. What is more the teacher can model scenarios by adjusting the thresholds seeing who or what topic moves into what zone. This exercise can yield a great deal of information and inform future planning as well as helping to target resources more efficiently and effectively.

Reading the data

There is a great deal that can be gained from this type of analysis of performance. Below are a few examples of what you may find.

A brief look at the chart tells us the following

  • David needs to focus on “writing a response”.
  • Mark has need of further coaching and support in all areas.
  • Lucy needs to focus on two areas, those of: “preparing an argument” and “writing a response”

You can see how powerful this is in analysing performance of individual students.  What would you say about Angel’s performance?

For Angel It would be easy to say everything needs attention but we can see “Preparing and argument” is priority. Perhaps they have not had enough practice or the lesson planning and resources need review.

Now let’s look once again at the class performance from the teacher perspective.

We can see that:

  • all the class need to look again at “writing a response”. Perhaps they have not had enough practice or the lesson planning and resources need review.
  • possible strategies for whole class activity may include peer review and we know which students to pair up.

Returning the test

Here is an example of how a student may receive their results in the form of the front page rubric[iii]. Circling the appropriate smiley face gives direct feedback on where their efforts are needed or where they have demonstrated understanding and should celebrate their achievements.

[i] Front page of test from TuitionGuru Coaching

rubric

A word of warning. Unless you have prepared your students for this type of response to their test or assignments you will be asked “What grade did I get then?” Once you have got over this hurdle I have found that the question becomes “How can I change from an amber to a green?” When this happens you know you have AfL. I also find it useful for students to look at green or amber answers as part of self review. In this way they get to see what they are aiming for in terms of an answer and where their understanding is lacking.

Returning to the original question

Assessment without Levels. Is it possible? Not only is possible to assess without giving learners grades or levels it benefits learning to do so. Benefits can be seen in teaching and learning and in performance. Schools can be more effective and efficient in the way in which they deploy resources. Finally there are economic benefits to be gained from better use of resources.

Want to adopt or explore this approach?

If you would like your staff and learners to benefit from the approach outlined here then contact

.

*My thanks to Paul Whitehead for his feedback and comments on this article. His questions and observations have led to a review that I hope makes the process and advantages clearer.

[i] From the Advocating Creativity in Education “Teaching Ideas” series. You can download a copy  from the website  along with other titles in the Teaching Ideas series.

[ii] This is determined  as a result of the way in which the question or task is designed

[iii] Front page of test from TuitionGuru Coaching http://www.coachingmathsandenglish.co.uk

Five Steps in Developing Learning Intelligence (LQ)

diagram of LQ and SAAB


For over a year now I have been publishing articles that describe the concept I call Learning Intelligence or “LQ” for short. You can see a list of the articles here: About LQ and articles

My “elevator” speech is that “LQ is the ability of the learner to manage their learning environment to  meet their learning needs.”  This is proving to be a simple yet powerful approach to teaching and learning.

As you can see from the graphic above LQ consists of a set of Skills, Attitudes, Attributes and Behaviors but how do you go about developing your LQ?

Here are five steps you could try.

1) Understand the impact of your learning environment on your learning and develop a feeling of being “safe” through taking responsibility for your own learning.

2) Determine the best learning strategy in any learning situation, this may involve delaying in depth learning so be patient.

3) Manage those around you or those directing your learning in a way that supports your learning and builds relationships

4) Be confident and willing to collaborate and to share what you have learnt or finding difficult to learn in order to seek support or guidance.

5) Be willing to change what you believe you can and cannot learn.

For more about how LQ can help you as a parent, teacher or as a learner then you can contact me at kevin@ace-d.co.uk

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