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Skip to 0 minutes and 2 seconds ANDREA MAPPLEBECK: Our online question and answer session with our educators, Dylan William and Chris Harrison. And so this is part of the differentiation course, one of the ways that we like to get interactivity. And with you as our participants so we can respond to questions that you have. So thank you Dylan and Chris, and thank you to the National STEM Learning Centre. Without further ado, if we have our pens and paper at the ready, we will begin it with our first question. The first questions I’m going to ask to Dylan– I’ve categorise these under the heading of developing pupil motivation and engagement.

Skip to 0 minutes and 34 seconds We’ve kind of got three questions that are very similar here from Nidia, Sana, and Lauris, And they’re asking, what do they do with students when it appears that nothing seems to motivate them? Students who are worried about other things, or who interrupt the work of the others, or who just don’t care about learning at all. So what are your thoughts about pupil motivation and engagement Dylan?

Skip to 0 minutes and 58 seconds DYLAN WILLIAM: I think one of the key insights comes from recent work in psychology. That has looked at motivation and achievements as being much more interrelated and mutually causative than we used to think. So we do think that motivation was a cause of achievement. But now so recent work, particularly mathematics education, has shown that achievement causes motivation at least as much as motivation causes achievement. So one of the really important pieces of this puzzle is to give students an experience of success. And in particular reminding them of the fact that they can now do things that they couldn’t do before. So that some students will say, I can’t do this.

Skip to 1 minute and 39 seconds And that’s why the most valuable word in every teachers vocabulary is yet. And the same way that Lisa Blackwell’s advice that everything is hard before it’s easy. Just reminding young children how hard tying your shoelaces was when you couldn’t do it and now you can do it. And to say that mathematics and science and technology are just the same. The more you practise, the better you get. The other thing is to look at is to see are there any other underlying causes. Obviously, if children have parents who are getting divorced or have difficulties at home, then their mind is not going to be on their schoolwork. And so I think it’s right to make some sort of concessions there.

Skip to 2 minutes and 19 seconds But I think it’s important to acknowledge that this is a huge issue and you can only chip away at those resistances that students often have. But I think the thing that I found most useful in my own teaching was to regard everything that a student did in my classroom as intelligent. From their frame of reference what they just did– messing about, disrupting their lesson, playing the fool. It must have seemed like a small thing for them to do. And so for me, the most powerful thing in taking my own teaching forward, was to try to figure out why what that student just did make sense from that point of view.

Skip to 2 minutes and 58 seconds And often we find that messing about, that misbehaving, is just a way of avoiding being embarrassed that you couldn’t do something. So Monique Boekaerts’ got this rather useful framework which she calls the dual pathway theory. Do students focus on growth or do they focus on well-being? And what you see when students avoid challenge, when they play the fool, when they just disrupt lessons, they’re focusing on well-being. They’re avoiding the threat to their self-esteem by saying I wasn’t even trying. And if they don’t try then they deny the teacher the right or the ability to make any judgement about them because they said, “well I’m fine”. So it’s about chipping away at those.

Skip to 3 minutes and 34 seconds And to try to create a classroom environment where students feel OK about taking the chance to go for increasing achievement and go for growth rather than preserving their sense of well-being. And so lowering the stakes for failure. Saying for example, this is a very challenging task. Most people fail the first, two or three times they attempt it. What you’ve done there is to lower the price of failure. So it’s all those little things that you can do to make it more likely the student will take the chance and try their best. Rather than just preserving self-esteem by avoiding engaging.

Skip to 4 minutes and 8 seconds ANDREA MAPPLEBECK: That’s lovely Dylan, and lots of really rich ideas. Chris, is there anything you’d like to add to that?

Skip to 4 minutes and 12 seconds CHRIS HARRISON: No, except to emphasise really what to be all really concerned about the yet. You know they can’t do this yet. And I think it’s important really, the teachers to make it clear to kids that they do have high expectations of them. And there shouldn’t be an acceptance of kids being low abilities. I can’t bear it when teachers use that term, high ability and low ability. Because it’s actually high attainers, low attainers at that moment. If they put the effort in and if the teacher actually scaffolds and supports them then they actually do learn. Teacher expectations are really important. So say, look I’ll help you with this so that it can actually be important.

Skip to 4 minutes and 55 seconds It’s actually an important thing to teacher to learn. That relationship is so important to be actually emphasised as students are learning.

Skip to 5 minutes and 5 seconds DYLAN WILLIAM: It’s worth remembering the work of John Carroll, who 60 years ago suggested that the whole idea of an aptitude was really just how much time it takes a student to learn something. And so some students will need more time, they’ll need more support, but everybody can learn anything if they’re willing to put in the effort and the time. The other thing I think is very relevant in terms of what Chris said. Is some work by David Yeager who’s formerly done work with Carol Dweck on what he calls wise feedback. He did one experiment in which students wrote an essay about a personal hero. And the teacher then put feedback comments on the essay.

Skip to 5 minutes and 41 seconds But then a post-it note was randomly placed on these essays. Half the students got a post-it note that says, I’ve given you some comments so you have some feedback. Half the students at random got a post-it note that said, I’ve given you feedback on your essay because I very high expectations and I believe you can reach them. So the point is that the teachers did not know which kind of post-it note each student got. And then the students were given a week to resubmit their essays. For the African-American kids, the black kids, the resubmission rates for those who got the neutral post-it note was 20%. For those who’d been given the encouraging high standards message, the resubmission rate was 70%.

Skip to 6 minutes and 25 seconds So a massive increase in just the children’s willingness to engage in work. These were year seven kids– just because the teacher was saying, I’m giving you feedback because I believe in you. And I think making sure that message comes across time and time again. I’m giving you feedback, I’m being critical because I know you can do this. And that I think can be very, very powerful.

Skip to 6 minutes and 45 seconds ANDREA MAPPLEBECK: That’s amazing, thank you both so much. I mean that’s one question that we’ve had that’s come from three people, but already we’ve had so many rich ideas. And I myself am going to go away and re-listen to that. There’s so many things for people to consider. And to go and look at the source material and see how they can apply it to their classroom. And as you say, it’s those little small steps that chip away, that can help our pupils. Thank you both, that’s amazing. Right, moving on to our next question from Siaran. Chris, I’m going to come to you first. So Siaran’s been using our reflection grid throughout the course.

Skip to 7 minutes and 18 seconds And has asked, am I getting the right balance between what I need for the school assessment criteria? And what we want to know or need to remain interested or motivated? So that the dichotomy between the school’s assessment system and what pupils need to know I think is what Siaran’s saying. So your thoughts Chris on that one.

Skip to 7 minutes and 35 seconds CHRIS HARRISON: Well the answer is, I don’t know. I don’t know what needs to be done. However, your quite right Siaran that you need to pay attention to both of those areas. The way I often look at it with teachers is that you always need to have judgements about summative assessments or the summative parts of assessments.

Skip to 7 minutes and 58 seconds You have it in the background where the day to day minutes focus on assessment. It’s formative and you need that in the foreground. So as long as you are responding mainly your learners but collecting some evidence for others, then yep, you’re doing it right. And the way that you’ll know when you’re doing right is one, are your students actually making progress and moving forward? And two, are the people that your reporting to about how your kids are doing? OK, about the evidence you’re sending through. It’s just all the time re-jigging that. It just did that, so what you would need with the background say with 11-year-olds or 13-year-olds are doing.

Skip to 8 minutes and 40 seconds It’s quite different fit in the UK for what your reporting on what your fifteen and 16-year-olds or your 18-year-olds are doing. Because of course, they will near important exam points.

Skip to 8 minutes and 54 seconds DYLAN WILLIAM: I think the really important point for me is to focus on decisions rather than data. So we often focus on data, we collect data in order to have some data. And so teachers often have loads of data but very little information. Because they collected the data without any clear purpose in mind. So that’s why I distinguish between data driven decision making, which is what most schools do. And what I recommend is the alternative, which is decision driven data collection. So start with the decisions, so don’t collect data until you’ve decided clearly what decisions you want to make. And then figure out what kinds of data will help you make those decisions in a better way.

Skip to 9 minutes and 30 seconds And I think if you have that perspective of decision driven data collection then all these variables will fall into place. You will be collecting data because you know what you want to do with it before you’ve even collected the data.

Skip to 9 minutes and 42 seconds ANDREA MAPPLEBECK: Lovely. Thank you both. Thank you, Siaran, because I know that’s something that we’ve had come up before, so we appreciate that question. Thank you Dylan and Chris for your answers. Moving on to our next categories, and so I put these questions under the heading of time, pace, and coverage. And so Elena asks, I’m going to ask you Dylan first, how do I deal with the fact of having to teach all of the units required for the school year? So how do I cover the curriculum if slow learners take more time to process all the information given? So a dichotomy we’ve had I think before. What are you thoughts?

Skip to 10 minutes and 16 seconds DYLAN WILLIAM: I think there are two logically coherent positions here. One, logically coherent but I think immoral, is just to teach the entire curriculum. Just to pace it out over the year, so you covered the entire curriculum and some kids get it and most kids don’t. That’s logically consistent but I think immoral. The other position is to teach less of the curriculum. Go a bit slower, create a bit more slack in the system, so that then when students don’t learn stuff you can actually bring them with you. Now, I want to make it clear, and I’ve said this before, not all content is equal.

Skip to 10 minutes and 49 seconds So in making a decision about which bits to de-emphasise or maybe delegate to homework rather than spending class time on it. You have to look at it how important is this going to be in the future. So if it’s the particular nature of matter, this is really important. But if it’s the phases of the moon, then frankly it’s actually less important. So the question is, do the students need this now? And if so, then you need to make time for it. But if they can get it a few months time, maybe even a year later, then I think there’s a serious candidate there for saying, well we’ll de-emphasise that for right now.

Skip to 11 minutes and 22 seconds I’ll create slack so the stuff that is really important for the students’ progression can be given greater emphasis. But the important point is this is very dependent on the curriculum you’re teaching.

Skip to 11 minutes and 35 seconds There’s no big idea that always has to be taught, it depends on the curriculum. And it often takes you two or three years of teaching the same curriculum to be clear about what the big ideas are and which ideas are could be de-emphasised.

Skip to 11 minutes and 50 seconds The position that the some teachers adopt, which is just to cover the whole curriculum. You don’t need formative assessment because you have no interest in finding out whether students are getting it or not. Because you’re not going to do anything with that information. Don’t collect evidence unless you’ve got something to do with it. So as I said earlier, just ploughing through the textbook at the speed you need to cover the textbook in the whole unit is logically coherent, but I would say a immoral. I would say you have to create some slack. And the problem is, in particular in science, the curricula we have are far too full.

Skip to 12 minutes and 23 seconds My hunch is that the reason for this is that curriculum developers can’t bear the thought that any students have spare time on their hands. So they design curricula, particularly in science, to keep the fastest learning students busy. Which means there’s way too much for most of the students. And so we have to make a decision about that and it’s a moral decision. It’s an ethical decision, it’s not a rational decision. You can’t prove it one way or the other. But what I’m saying is that you have to think about how you create slack so that then you can begin to differentiate. You can begin to go back for the students that are finding it more difficult.

Skip to 12 minutes and 53 seconds And also using things like peer tutoring, because as recent research has shown, those students who give help to others often learn more. Provided they’re doing it from memory rather than from textbooks. So once the research has shown that the crucial thing in peer tutoring, for the person doing the tutoring, is the retrieval practise– retrieving it from memory yourself. And so those activities can also create opportunities for keeping the class together while reflecting the fact that students need different kinds of interventions at different times.

Skip to 13 minutes and 28 seconds CHRIS HARRISON: He’s quite right, I mean it is about making those choices. And I think we need to look at the question more carefully particularly in science. And make sure the topics and areas that kids really do need. It drives me crazy that genetics gets put at the end of any curriculum because it’s difficult. Don’t do it as your first topic but genetics is really important in biology. You do need to teach that well, the kids need to learn that well. So don’t leave it for those last few weeks before you get into revisions before an exam, which tends to happen. So it’s making those choices.

Skip to 14 minutes and 3 seconds And this is what a teacher’s job is, it’s not just about delivering the curriculum. It’s about helping students go through that journey. And actually that meaning making that they undergo as they move through. So they start to understand how these topics not only the knowledge and skills within them but how they connect together. And that’s quite a complex thing to do. And then if you’re using assessment and differentiating to actually help with that– you need time to do it, to do it quite right. And this is extra, this is not from our work but from work with colleagues of Dylan’s and mine, at King’s a while ago.

Skip to 14 minutes and 42 seconds And it just makes me think of the work that Philip Adey and Michael Shayer did when they were doing the original research from cognitive acceleration to science education. I was one of the teachers in one of the schools when they were doing that initial research. And the children we’d got, they were working with 11-year-olds. And once a fortnight these kids had to do a thinking skill lesson rather than the normal curriculum lesson. So at the end of the year they had done only 3/4, the class experimental group had only done 3/4 of the curriculum. That the class who actually were in fact classes that were actually the control groups in the school.

Skip to 15 minutes and 25 seconds Those kids did as well in terms of their content knowledge in the experimental group than the ones who were in the control group. They worked some things out that we haven’t even taught them. How dare they? They’ve actually taken to learning without a teacher. At the same time they’ve actually upped their thinking level as measured by the scales that Shayer and Adey actually produced. So it does show that you don’t have to unload all the curriculum on the kids. They can do some working out on their own. Don’t worry about it, just get the bits that they really need taught well.

Skip to 16 minutes and 1 second That they’re learning that and that they can actually learn themselves will do just as well, if not better, in terms of actual attainment.

Skip to 16 minutes and 10 seconds DYLAN WILLIAM: And this came up again in the KMOFAP project that Chris and I were engaged in. Why teachers actually said, they covered less of the curriculum, particularly GCSE, when they were teaching science. But their children got higher GCSE grades because they didn’t have to reteach things so often. The point I want to just responding to Chris’s jibe about me telling teachers that phase of the moon is less important. The point is it’s important, but it’s not as important. And I think people often think we can make the curriculum leaner by getting rid of bad stuff. There is no bad stuff in any science curriculum, in any mathematics curriculum.

Skip to 16 minutes and 47 seconds The only way to make the curriculum feasible for all but the fastest learners is to leave out good stuff so you can spend more time on the more important stuff. I think that’s the difficulty many people have. Of course, these things are worth having. They wouldn’t be there if they weren’t, but that’s about the tough choices that Chris was talking about. There are no easy choices here, there are tough choices. But you have to make priorities because if everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority.

Skip to 17 minutes and 15 seconds ANDREA MAPPLEBECK: Yeah, that’s lovely. Thank you very much. As a physics teacher I’m not going to say anything. Right, moving on. I got a question from Anneliese, but I think you’ve actually answered a bit of this Chris. Anneliese is asking not about covering all of the units, but when is it right to move on from a unit. So some students may not get the objective as gleaned from a diagnostic tool, but the curriculum constraints dictate a new topic is next. So do you just move on to the topic? Or do you incorporate the unlearned bits from a previous unit? How can we do this successfully? So I think you’ve already answered some of that.

Skip to 17 minutes and 48 seconds Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Skip to 17 minutes and 51 seconds CHRIS HARRISON: I just think you need to be aware really. And if you know what they know and if they know where they are. It might be you can pick various bits up within the next topic.

Skip to 18 minutes and 3 seconds You’ve got to make that decision if– sort of in a class of 24, 22 got it. Then you ever think what do I do with those over two in terms of helping them with that bit? If it’s half haven’t got it, then you certainly going to spend more time on the topic that they haven’t got. And that much consolidated before you move on. So you be sure you’re looking at your evidence and then making that decision about moving forward. It’s also looking ahead in the curriculum. We have a spiral curriculum that we build on at various times. So if you going to pick up forces again after you’ve been doing say forces of motion.

Skip to 18 minutes and 41 seconds But if you’re going to pick it up again when you look at another topic that incorporates forces into it. Maybe when you actually start that second topic later, pick up the things they haven’t quite got. Except again it’s those pedagogic decisions that teachers often make. And provide them with various tools like hinge-point questions and so on, which help them gauge better where children are at. But still the decision is, what next? What’s really important? One that students need to focus on. That responsive action that’s going to be important in helping them progress.

Skip to 19 minutes and 17 seconds DYLAN WILLIAM: I was just going to say, just building on what Chris said, assessment will never tell you what to do. It just gives you evidence that you need to use to make a better decision. The decision that a teacher makes about whether to move on to go back is a professional judgement by that teacher. What I think is unprofessional is to make that judgement without evidence. So the evidence is necessary, but it doesn’t tell you what to do. You have to factor in a whole lot of things like the context you working in. The importance of this particular topic for the student progression.

Skip to 19 minutes and 50 seconds Where you are in the year, all those sorts of things have to be balanced against the evidence of what you’ve got in your classroom in front of you.

Skip to 19 minutes and 58 seconds ANDREA MAPPLEBECK: Lovely, thank you both. And thank you Anneliese for your question. So one last question under this topic of time, pace and coverage. This comes from Rachel, Dylan I’ve put this one to you because Rachel’s asking about maths. So Rachel asks, how can I get through the content available maths, further maths? And get enough good rich activities into lessons rather than being driven by making sure we’ve considered one of every type of example. By the time I’ve laid out what I deem to be the essentials I feel we’d have to move on. I want the good stuff within the chapter, not at the end, but still to get to the end. Help! Rachel pleas. So Dylan over to you.

Skip to 20 minutes and 33 seconds DYLAN WILLIAM: There’s no simple solution. Advice I can offer Rachel is to say, just think about the examples you’re using. And maybe, could two them be combined just to create a bit of slack? There’s not going to be an easy solution here. But sometimes you might be able to see two kinds of problems as different aspects of a deeper problem. So you can actually change the conceptual level by sort of pulling the microscope out a little bit and seeing are these two examples. Just two special cases or more general principle. And that can sometimes be helpful. Although, I’m very aware that what you’re then doing is actually increasing the conceptual demand, the cognitive demand.

Skip to 21 minutes and 15 seconds So that might not be possible for all students. But it’s just that idea of just chipping away and creating a bit of slack here and there, giving a bit more time. And as you become clearer about the big ideas then those places will get easier.

Skip to 21 minutes and 28 seconds ANDREA MAPPLEBECK: Lovely, thank you Dylan. And Chris, did you want anything to add to that one or ?

Skip to 21 minutes and 32 seconds CHRIS HARRISON: No, I think that’s fine.

Skip to 21 minutes and 38 seconds ANDREA MAPPLEBECK: Thank you, Rachel for that. And you’ve got some sage advice there to go away and reflect on. So thank you for that. Our next set of questions I have categorised under the heading of inclusion. Looking at the variety of learning needs from our pupils. So Chris, Gunel and Danielle are asking similar questions about how can you help students with some difficulties. Like the slow writing speed, of language barriers, or ELL learners who have a lower vocabulary. How can we help them learn and make progress within our teaching?

Skip to 22 minutes and 13 seconds CHRIS HARRISON: What I’ve seen good teachers do in this area is to think carefully about the stimulus material that they use with students. The language demands aren’t great in terms of that. And then also it’s not just about the science terms but it’s about helping them use language. Connect those terms and those ideas. So providing scaffolds and practise with it. It might be useful– and I’ve seen this happen again in some schools, particularly some Birmingham schools, grow up and work in. Where there’s quite diverse classrooms where they’ve actually allowed anything that requires the children to discuss difficult concepts. So that’s part of the thinking. They’ve actually allowed them to do that in their own language.

Skip to 23 minutes and 4 seconds So they think within their own language. And then they’re given scaffolds to actually help them explain it within English if that’s the language that the lessons actually being taught in. It sort of lowers the cognitive load of doing that. Because probably the thinking and remember the language at the same time is a lot of students. And I think when this was actually asked, people put in suggestions. I think Margaret put suggestions up. I think that pictorial combined might help. Or story boards, or sentence structure, templates the conversations and so on. All of these can actually help initially get those language levels up that little bit and support those language levels.

Skip to 23 minutes and 48 seconds And then to think again about what terminology do I need? We tend to be a bit overzealous with terminology and science. It’s making those decisions about which ones to use. And then us teachers sticking to those and not jumping about across the many different terms you could use for the same thing.

Skip to 24 minutes and 7 seconds ANDREA MAPPLEBECK: Lovely, thank you Chris. That’s very helpful. And Dylan, anything to add from your experiences?

Skip to 24 minutes and 13 seconds DYLAN WILLIAM: Just the idea of introducing a vocabulary maybe a couple of weeks before you need use it for conceptual work. So in order to lower the cognitive load for a student, one thing you can do is to begin to introduce vocabulary. But then not expect them to use it in demanding activity until it’s a bit familiar. So the idea of seeding the curriculum with some ideas that they’re going to need later on. Coming back to this idea of the spiral curriculum that was mentioned.

Skip to 24 minutes and 40 seconds ANDREA MAPPLEBECK: Lovely, thank you very much. Thank you for that question. So moving on, we’ve now got a question from Sheetal, who again is a maths teacher. And they’re asking– they teach maths to a group of special educational needs students. And they’ve got a lot of scaffolding things in place. So they’ve got differentiated resources, vocabulary books, highlighters, et cetera, et cetera. And this actually kind of overlaps with two that we’ve talked about, the two categories. All the students respond differently in terms of pace and understanding. And she ends up giving a different work to every student. And that results in some students having to wait when they’re stuck or need to move on.

Skip to 25 minutes and 16 seconds So Sheetal’s asking, how can they run the session so that everybody is supported and engaged at the same time and still being challenged? Dylan.

Skip to 25 minutes and 26 seconds DYLAN WILLIAM: Well I think Sheetal deserves a medal for designing individualised learning for each of her students. That sounds like an awful lot of work to me. But she’s right the crucial issue with any kind of group learning or individualised learning is how productive the students can be working when the teacher isn’t with them. So a lot of the research in the 70s on small group work showed that it was very ineffective. Because in an hour a teacher spent doing group work, half an hour was spent administrating, and the other was split amongst four or five groups of students.

Skip to 26 minutes and 0 seconds So it’s not surprising that one hour of teachers talking at kids was more effective than the five or six minutes they got from the teacher in their group. So the challenge is to try to create backup systems, resources, peer resources, but also some other kinds of activities. So maybe if a kid is stuck, just encourage the students to say ok, I can’t do this right now because I’m waiting for the teacher’s help. Is there something else I can do? So you might have multiple pieces of work on the go at the same time. And so a student can actually do some busy work.

Skip to 26 minutes and 31 seconds Not quite busy work but less demanding work while they’re waiting for the teacher to come and help them. So the crucial thing is trying to maximise the amount of work the students get done when the teacher isn’t available to be with a one to one. And thinking about resources that could do that and then also peers. So a technique I used to like to ask was see three before me. So a student could not ask me for help until they’ve actually tried three of their peers for help. And I would ask them, who’ve you asked? And if they weren’t very smart choices. I would say, those weren’t smart choices so you need to ask three more.

Skip to 27 minutes and 4 seconds But the idea is just realising that there’s more than one teacher in the room. And the person who’s called the teacher is actually the most expensive resource in the room. And it’s looking at ways of actually getting students more involved. That said, you have to be very careful. Because as the work of Graham Nuttall showed, students often give each other bad answers. So they give each other bad advice. So you also need to be monitoring the quality of conversations that is taking place. Because after all even if you use peer tutoring, you as the teacher are still responsible for the quality of learning that takes place.

Skip to 27 minutes and 38 seconds ANDREA MAPPLEBECK: Lovely, thank you Dylan. Chris, anything to add that will help Sheetal?

Skip to 27 minutes and 42 seconds CHRIS HARRISON: I think also giving them some extra so they do work on things together. Again, thinking back to the KMOFAP project. Karen, Dylan says, I know she used to– when they were actually preparing say for an examination like the SATS example.

Skip to 28 minutes and 5 seconds She actually got them to work in pairs, but only on the most difficult questions of the exam from the year before. So she’d select five or six questions. They’d work on them together. They might not be able to do them on their own but together they sort of struggled through and talked about it. And then they also were given a mark scheme. And they marked one another’s and had a conversation about bits they found easier and bits they didn’t. That sort of coaching even though they, at similar levels, actually had to struggle through together. Which they probably would have given up if they’d actually done it on their own.

Skip to 28 minutes and 41 seconds And it just then signals to kids that one, they can get so far and that they should persevere. Two, a peer might be able to help before they ask the teacher. And the third thing is, which came out of this one which is really quite interesting. Is that you start to understand not only how questions are set up. How questions are also assessed. So you start towards your assessment capability as well. Different techniques like that which allow really students to start to understand what’s valued in the classroom. Helps them see that they don’t always have to go to the teacher first.

Skip to 29 minutes and 23 seconds Teaching’s just too difficult if you’re trying to do one to one tuition with the 30 kids, you can’t do it. So it’s finding ways round that maybe help things become a more resourceful in a setting that works for you.

Skip to 29 minutes and 35 seconds ANDREA MAPPLEBECK: Lovely, thank you both. I know you’ve mentioned before the power of pupils working cooperatively together. And especially the power of getting pupils to mark work and how important that is. I was also thinking that one of the ideas we’ve got in the course that might help. This is our help desk idea that we had, whether you could help or challenge activities on. It doesn’t have to be just consolidation. Something that for people feel that they’ve learned something they could go to the desk themselves and find something. That kind of links them with that see three before me idea. Sort of links back to something we see our teachers doing on the course.

Skip to 30 minutes and 6 seconds So thank you Sheetal for that question. Thank you Dylan and Chris for your responses. And moving on, Chris I’m pointing this one to you first because Anneliese is asking about differentiation and misconceptions. So Anneliese says, I’m not sure if this is connected to differentiation or not. But feels that it is because she needs to know how to scaffold two particular students in her class who’ve have misconceptions. When we scaffold students in their learning, it’s difficult to know what to do when it’s obvious that they’ve made a misconception about a concept, which is preventing them from moving on. So she goes into details about issues that they’ve had, thinking about the Earth and looking at that.

Skip to 30 minutes and 47 seconds And how students are talking about how they want to ban the sun from shining. But your thoughts how we challenge and deal misconceptions because I know that there are many prevalent in science. So your ideas, Chris.

Skip to 30 minutes and 59 seconds CHRIS HARRISON: Well I’m quite jealous of this class. That I want to teach it because you know me science is about looking at evidence, making claims and creating arguments. So the thing you talked about the perfect situation for this to happen. Now, it’s great that this teacher has actually created these opportunities for the students to reveal their feelings, ideas, and worries about what she’s got to do about them. We all worry about how we might deal with this– trained ideas and those phenomena. But I would look at one model, look at the claim about the part that maybe reducing the sun’s rays to reduce global warming.

Skip to 31 minutes and 45 seconds And then to make a discussion with the class so that students see how that idea can be considered logical from different viewpoints. And then to make a sensible decision about whose ideas can really be accepted or deferred. And once you’ve actually modelled that for students it’s going to be engraved and letting them do similar things that one another’s ideas. One of the ways I’ve seen this set up is crazy scenarios where the teacher might say, What evidence do we have supports this? Or suggest this idea was wrong, or suggest this idea doesn’t fit. And how we might explain to them once we sorted out the evidence. How this idea is different, the way that scientists might look at this.

Skip to 32 minutes and 34 seconds So I think that’s all part of the learning and the meaning making. I learned a lot of my science from make mistakes and thinking in one way. And then saying, well that’s a bit ridiculous. I think for me it’s really important that we take these ideas. And we just had in the UK a report by the Education Endowment Fund called, equities that can be science. Where one of the seven research areas suggested teachers might look at and get in certain formative practice is misconceptions. And I think that’s really good they’ve done that. My only concern is the way that they then said pupils should respond.

Skip to 33 minutes and 18 seconds Because what they suggested is that the students who have the misconception that there’s air between the particles. When they look at particle theory, the gases, solids, and liquids. They suggested giving them a syringe with gases. Syringe with liquid in, a syringe with with solid in and see if they can compare. Now, somebody who’s got particle theory of matter solved out in their heads. They can see why that actually would illustrate that there’s no air between the particles. If a student thinks there is. All they think is, right, you can compress the gas one more than the liquid or the solid one. So I’ve compressed the particles and the air that’s between them in this particular syringe.

Skip to 34 minutes and 7 seconds So you’ve got to be really careful that you do get cognitive challenge when you try for evidence forward. And not just that you illustrate that concept with something that’s a more learned mind would see as a way to illustrate this. I think that’s the mistake we make sometimes with science as teachers. We’ve got to think what’s going to challenge that child at that time of thinking. Not because what that says about how this particular concept works and that will then make sense to them. It’s not making sense to them. That’s why they’ve got this misconception in the first place.

Skip to 34 minutes and 42 seconds We have to be more careful about how we– teachers often say to me they have this misconception the respiration was breathing. And I’ve told them it wasn’t, so I’ve sorted it out. Tell them what you expect them to say when you’ve got respiration in breathing. They still think respiration is breathing.

Skip to 35 minutes and 3 seconds Misconceptions are really difficult to work with, it takes time, it takes lots of evidence for students to change their mind.

Skip to 35 minutes and 12 seconds DYLAN WILLIAM: I mean I think that this is very important. I remember teaching mathematics and these students would often add fractions by adding numerator and denominators. And so I would actually use this technique that I called torpedoing. So I’d ask this girl Jackie, OK, so let’s use your method to add a half to a half. She added the numerators and got two, and added the denominators and got four. And she got two quarters, then I said, what’s that? She says, that’s a half. I said, well, but what is a half plus a half really? That’s a whole. So she could see that her method didn’t work. So I had successfully torpedoed her method.

Skip to 35 minutes and 46 seconds Except that two weeks later she was back to adding the numerator and adding denominators. Because I haven’t dealt with the underlying misconception. I think that people often worry about misconceptions. There’s been a big debate in cognitive science about whether we should actually avoid misconceptions. Because you might remember the misconception rather than the real conception. But I think the evidence is now in that it’s, what Robert Bjork calls, the desirable difficulty of struggling to make sense of the difficulty of misconceptions or misconception that creates that long term learning. So I think teachers don’t need to worry about that time. You could actually tell the students they have a misconception, that they’re wrong.

Skip to 36 minutes and 26 seconds But it won’t do any good until they’re longer term learning. You have to deal with misconceptions. And as Chris said, things like the compression of gasses. Some kids think that all that has happened is that the molecules in air– the actual molecules themselves get squashed. And that the reason that it didn’t work with the liquid is because the actual molecules are less squashable in liquid. So the point is students can always make up these models, so just demonstrating does not work. You need to thrash them out. You need to deal with the misconceptions that students have and it takes time. But it does create long term learning. And then students will have these really powerful models to reason with.

Skip to 37 minutes and 1 second ANDREA MAPPLEBECK: Yeah, lovely. Thank you both. And as we know there’s just so many, there’s just so many. And you find out more, don’t you with experience? You keep thinking you got them all and children never cease to surprise me.

Skip to 37 minutes and 12 seconds DYLAN WILLIAM: But that’s why I think that just this one plug here for the diagnostic questions website. Because what Craig Barton has done is to actually codify a lot of knowledge about the misconceptions in the incorrect answers to some of his multiple choice questions. So I think it’s often a really good starting point just look at those kinds of questions and see what misconceptions would somebody have if they chose one of the incorrect options.

Skip to 37 minutes and 36 seconds ANDREA MAPPLEBECK: Yeah, lovely. Thank you. So that’s a fantastic website and particularly as you say for maths. Chris, resources that for science– do you think particularly good ones?

Skip to 37 minutes and 46 seconds CHRIS HARRISON: Well there’s the York diagnostic questions in Their best evidence practise from YSEG They do a really good job of coming up with diagnostic questions that really help to see what problem is in the topics. And also one you use within the topics. I mean some of them are actually very good hinge-point questions, though they don’t call them that. It does work really well and there’s lots of other stuff in those resources that’s worth looking at. So best evidence science materials from University of York.

Skip to 38 minutes and 22 seconds ANDREA MAPPLEBECK: Lovely, thank you. Thank you both. Thank you Anneliese. We’ve got a really rich answer there and resources as well to share. So the next question I’ve categorised is a question on its own called activating learners. Dylan I’m going to put this to you because Patrick is asking specifically for you to respond. Patrick is engaged with the five different strategies that link to formative assessment. He is struggling in particular with strategy four and five. Activating learners as instructional resources for one another and as owners of their own learning. And so he’s asking if you could give him some support by providing food for thought about those particular strategies for both those approaches.

Skip to 39 minutes and 1 second And whether there are any tips on how to get colleagues and management on board, particularly supporting them with AFL and DFL implementation. Quite a big question there.

Skip to 39 minutes and 13 seconds DYLAN WILLIAM: Patrick makes important points that differentiation for learning is a consequence of assessment for learning. The important point is that the assessment of learning tells you which students have learned what. But then you have to decide what to do with it. And he’s right also that the last two strategies– the student as learning resources for one another and as owners of the learning. Are probably the two hardest for teachers to implement because it involves transferring some responsibility for the learning to the learner. And I think there’s two really important things to bear in mind when we do this. The first relates to the idea of collaborative learning, or cooperative learning that is sometimes called.

Skip to 39 minutes and 51 seconds And the research in this area is pretty clear. We know that you get effective cooperative learning when two conditions are in place. One is the group goals, so those students are working as a group, not just in a group. And individual accountability, so each student has to be individually accountable to the group for their best letting efforts. So when you have students helping each other, first of all, you have to make the person giving the help feel that they own the problem. Your challenge is to get your peer to understand this and then also to make them accountable.

Skip to 40 minutes and 21 seconds So for example, when students are helping each other, I then ask the person who’s giving the help to sign off on the achievement of the other person. Therefore, they have some ownership of that process. I think that building into accountability, not making them responsible for someone else’s mistakes, but making them take it seriously. And the second thing to bear in mind with self-assessment is something called the Dunning Kruger effect. And this is a recently named effect, although it has been around for hundreds of thousands of years. And that is the name given to the fact that the less you know about something, the more you want to overstate your own knowledge.

Skip to 41 minutes and 2 seconds So we find that highest achievers probably underestimate their achievement. Low achievers overestimate their achievements. So the challenge for teachers to help students calibrate their own understanding. And often that means very careful scaffolding and make sure that students understand when they understand and when they don’t. And so that’s a lot of work. It’s worth it because ultimately the goal for all this stuff really is to get students to become owners of the learning, or what psychologists call, self-regulating learners. For me feedback and peer support and careful questioning are all means to an end. And the end is helping the students become more autonomous learners. There’s no simple solutions.

Skip to 41 minutes and 44 seconds As for the last part of Patrick’s question which is, how do we get people on board? I think create success stories. Create proofs of concept in your own school. The most common objection is this won’t work here. But if you can get it working in your own classroom. When the student start giving other teachers a hard time about the fact that they’re not getting useful feedback. This is what we saw in the KMOFAP project. They were actually telling the teachers who weren’t using formative assessments.

Skip to 42 minutes and 14 seconds They needed the teachers to copy what the other teachers were doing because that was working better for them in their own learning. I think those are the key ideas here. It’s not going to be easy, but create living successes in your own classroom. That’s probably the most important thing for getting other people on board.

Skip to 42 minutes and 30 seconds ANDREA MAPPLEBECK: Lovely, thank you Dylan. That’s very helpful. Chris, anything to add?

Skip to 42 minutes and 35 seconds CHRIS HARRISON: Not really, apart from I think Patrick’s said it already. And others in this area, it’s going back to Margaret Heritage’s paper that she did in Phi Delta Kappan online. Where she talks about how learners should one of those new resource as well as the peer support and so on. And she actually explains that really, really well. I certainly think that’s worth looking at again.

Skip to 43 minutes and 6 seconds ANDREA MAPPLEBECK: Lovely, thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you both. And thank you Patrick, it was good. We appreciate your questions. So maybe go on another question here. Chris, this is about building knowledge. This is from Ranasinghe and who is asking that they’ve got some problems with students who are learning knowledge in a lesson. And they’re willing to learn English and they find it interesting. But when they come back to later lessons, they’ve forgotten what they’ve done previously. So Ranasinghe would love to get ideas from you about how to make and help support students in improving their knowledge gained in lessons.

Skip to 43 minutes and 44 seconds CHRIS HARRISON: OK, so I think this one my thinking goes straight away to some of the work that Neil Mercer been doing on the use of language and how that can help with meaning making. He’s in quite a lot in the area of science. But for me, an example of when this happened. I have the primary school example this time.

Skip to 44 minutes and 10 seconds When a student is in a group of students I was working with were looking at fruits and looking at whether fruits floated or sank, And one boy suddenly said to me, “Miss, I know the grapefruit is heavy but the grapefruit is also big. And I think its heaviness is linked to its thickness.” Now this was a seven-year-old. This child had a concept of density. Didn’t have the language to tell me about density, but he could actually explain what was happening and understood what density was. And if you got students like that who actually make observations and describe what’s going on You get them to do that and get the understanding then the language fits with it.

Skip to 45 minutes and 2 seconds You got a whole lot of different fruits I had that day. Classify them in thirds whether they’re heavy or light. And they classify them whether they’re big or small, whether they’re good or poor floaters or floater or sinker. And then get them to start describing before you move along to explain. So might be your core language. You might have to scaffold by starting the sentence for them. An apple floats because… This fruit tends to sink because… the grapefruit because… Then make predictions where you have lots of different fruit. But what I really thought would be the melon, or a mango, or the guava would float or sink. Use that language. Moving on to a more complex sentence…

Skip to 45 minutes and 45 seconds does it float better or worse? I mean not only were the facts in the language but everyday language about density in places. But they also will be letting you know whether they really caught on. This is actually some of the two variables and not just the variable of size. Help their meaning making I think with both floating and sinking in primary. But as you then go into secondary school, then you’re replacing that language with more density more or less dense as I move up to displacement in various things. But what you haven’t got to let them do is to hide behind the terminology. Because sometimes a child will say, it’s density, or it’s pollution, or some term, or its effervescent.

Skip to 46 minutes and 35 seconds You think that they’re not sure what’s going on. Even to talk and thinking low that terminology so that their everyday language actually, one, helps them get their meaning making. But two, helps you to assess Have they really or fully understood that concept.

Skip to 46 minutes and 52 seconds ANDREA MAPPLEBECK: Lovely, thank you Chris. That was a very rich response there about how we scaffold the learning for students for vocab. Dylan, did you want to add anything to that at all?

Skip to 47 minutes and 1 second DYLAN WILLIAM: Yes, I think the important point is just to remember that learning is a change in long term memory. If you’ve taught it and the student can do it tomorrow but they can’t do it in two weeks time, they haven’t learned it. But that forgetting is an important part of learning, so if you actually then refresh that memory. Again to retrieve that memory successfully, then the forgetting will be slower the next time. And if they do it again three weeks later, it will be slower again. So I think the idea of drip feed, building on what we know about how memory works. Rather than expecting one exposure to actually mean the students know it forever.

Skip to 47 minutes and 37 seconds So just keep on and just accept that this is how our brains work. You have to keep on refreshing. The important point is each time the memories refreshed it lasts longer.

Skip to 47 minutes and 46 seconds ANDREA MAPPLEBECK: Brilliant, thank you both. Thank you for that question Ranasinghe. To our next questions which are teachers asking us for specific strategies or teaching approaches or ideas that we have for needs that they have in their practise. So I’m going to start with Catherine. Chris, who’s asked, she’d like to learn more about confidence activities and where she could find examples of how to use them. Have you got any ideas for Catherine?

Skip to 48 minutes and 12 seconds CHRIS HARRISON: Lots, so on the original KMOFAP project. The first time I saw this in the classroom, the teachers were getting students to put traffic light dots on work as they handed it in. So the green meant I think I’ve done this task really well and understood it. A red meant I don’t think I’ve done this very well or I didn’t understand it. And amber meant I’m not so sure about this one, maybe I’ve done OK. Now the way that you would respond to that when you looked at that students work.

Skip to 48 minutes and 45 seconds The way you assessed it and the way that you gave feedback on the decisions you made about the future actions for that student would depend on really on whether they put green, red, or amber dot on their work. So it was giving you a clue to how they had their confidence. Other teachers in the KMOFAP project did similar things. But instead of getting the kids to put the dots on, they just had different colour trays the children put their work in.

Skip to 49 minutes and 14 seconds And again, the way that you make judgements, the way that you feedback, the way that you then responded in the formative action– would change depending on what students had put on it and what the quality of work was like. So in a way really that being extra communication between the teacher and student. We’ve also had– and this is more the people that were working with Dylan than the ones we’ve been working with– but when children are answering in class. I think that’s in the hinge point question. Or if they’re writing answers out on a whiteboard or something. It’s them showing their confidence with number of fingers. They might put one, they’re not so sure about this answer.

Skip to 49 minutes and 55 seconds Up to four fingers being, yes, I’m really sure this is actually correct. Depends on the situation, you get confidence in those sorts. But it really just helps you to tailor both your feedback and your response to that evidence to then gain extra evidence.

Skip to 50 minutes and 17 seconds ANDREA MAPPLEBECK: Thank you. Dylan anything to add about confidence activities?

Skip to 50 minutes and 21 seconds DYLAN WILLIAM: Yes, and I think– if you remember what I said earlier about Kruger and the fact that lower attainers don’t often know that they’re lower attaining. I think you have to be careful about using this in the classroom. So some teachers who actually used kind of traffic lighting system where students self-assess green, yellow, and red. And they try to anchor that by saying green means I’m now ready to teach it to somebody else. But of course, the fact that they think they’re ready to teach it to somebody else doesn’t mean they are ready to teach somebody else. So one of the things that one teacher did was to add a fourth colour, blue.

Skip to 50 minutes and 57 seconds And only the teacher can make you blue on this topic. So students are encouraged to go and ask for help from students who have been assessed by the teacher as being ready to teach somebody else. Rather than just any old person who thinks they understand it. In terms of confidence, the point Chris made is quite important. Because this recent research from Janet Metcalf and her colleagues at Columbia University, about something called the hyper-correction effect. So if you ask students to assess– to finish a maths or science problem. And then rate how confident they were that their solution was correct. If they’re confident they are correct, and it turns out that they’re wrong.

Skip to 51 minutes and 39 seconds The effect of being corrected has a stronger effect than if they were not confident. So it enables you to target your correction. What’s really important, the teacher is to correct things where the students are confident they’re right when they’re actually wrong. You can be a bit more strategic. Because that actually, first of all, it’s more important to get that right. But secondly, the effect on the learning is greater. So you maximise learning when you give students a correction on errors that are made with high confidence. So Janet Metcalf’s phrase is ‘high confidence errors are hyper-corrected’. The more confident you are that something is correct, the bigger the impact of being corrected if it turns out it was wrong.

Skip to 52 minutes and 20 seconds So I think that’s also an interesting sideline on this issue of confidence.

Skip to 52 minutes and 25 seconds ANDREA MAPPLEBECK: Absolutely, thank you. Thank you both very much. And as always evidence based ideas that work practically in the classroom, which is really powerful teachers. I also think on our– I’m thinking on top of my head– on our Planning for Learning online course. I think we’ve got some confidence activities in the classroom. And some examples of our teachers doing. So that’s a link to other CPD that Dylan, Chris, the National STEM Learning Centre, often with these ideas evidenced in classrooms. So thank you both very much. Moving on now to the question for Melanie. Melanie asks, so Dylan I’m pointing this one to you first, should I sit my students ability groups?

Skip to 53 minutes and 2 seconds And she would like more ideas or activities on how she can use learners differently or different learners.

Skip to 53 minutes and 10 seconds DYLAN WILLIAM: I think the question of ability grouping is very vexatious, very contentious. And actually most of the research sheds has very little light on it. Because what really matters is whether the teacher can arrange successful learning activities for a diverse group of students. So most teachers find it easier to organise learning when the range of achievement in a group is smaller. And so if teachers don’t have a very wide range of pedagogical skills then maybe a case of grouping by ability. I mean in general my preference is for more mixed ability teaching, but I recognise that this places greater demands on the skill of the teacher. So for me there can’t be a single answer to this question.

Skip to 53 minutes and 55 seconds There can’t be is it right or is it wrong. It depends on the level of the teacher, it depends on what you’re teaching. So in science and mathematics for example, there are some things where a mixed ability group is perfectly OK because you’re asking students to think about their experiences. And so GMO, for example, genetically modified organisms. That would be a very good topic to have in a mixed ability group because every student has their own experiences and their own feelings by those sorts of things. But there are other topics where the prior knowledge is really important to engage in the discussion productively. So it can’t be a single answer.

Skip to 54 minutes and 30 seconds I think what I would say, however, is what I’m really interested in is what I call inclusive differentiation. The idea here is we differentiate in a more inclusive way. So for example, we might actually have a task which allows different students to engage in the task at a different level. So I think I mentioned this one before but the idea of how many different ways are there of finding the area of the trapezium. The fact is that some students would be happy they find one. Some students will find a four or five. There are actually 13 and one of them involves the properties of similar triangles.

Skip to 55 minutes and 5 seconds So you actually complete the triangle from a trapezium and then use the property of similar triangles to subtract the area of the smaller triangle, of the area the larger triangle, leaving the area the trapezium. That’s pretty demanding in terms of algebra and organising your thoughts. But what a good teacher can do is to set the same task to the whole group. And then if certain students seem to do quite well you might challenge them by saying one of these methods involves errors or similar triangles. See if you can figure it out. So the differentiation comes not by saying some students get some easy work. Some students get harder work.

Skip to 55 minutes and 37 seconds But the task itself is rich enough to be tackled at a number of different levels. We just don’t accept the student’s own choices about what to do. But sometimes lazy smart kids will actually just opt for the easy answer. So the teacher’s job crucially is to probe and to push and to cajole students into actually tackling so something that is going to be challenging as their own personal level. So that’s what I call inclusive differentiation, differentiating in a way that have all the students engaged in the same or a similar task. But the differentiation comes by the challenge the teacher injects into that task.

Skip to 56 minutes and 12 seconds ANDREA MAPPLEBECK: That’s lovely, thank you Dylan.

Skip to 56 minutes and 16 seconds I’m just going to ask Chris if you’ve got anything to add to that, Chris?

Skip to 56 minutes and 20 seconds CHRIS HARRISON: Just with an example of the trapezium. The other thing that it does is allow your low achieving students to access into the ideas of your high achieving students. The low achieving ones could never work out that with what they knew about similar triangles. But they could actually follow to some extent the hierarchy of students explaining that to get access into it. So that’s healthy if it goes with what got Vygotsky proximal development. To help them move along in terms of output they’ve got within their own understanding at that time.

Skip to 56 minutes and 56 seconds ANDREA MAPPLEBECK: Lovely, thank you. Thank you Dylan. Thank you Melanie. Thank you, Chris, for that. Moving on now. Chris, Stevie-Leigh asks a question about– because it’s something that’s mentioned I think on the course as we go through about the use of SOLO taxonomy. We talk about taxonomies as a ways to challenge thinking. And I don’t think we give a particular one we have a preference for. We mentioned that these kind of links into what Dylan was talking about. You can make tasks at different levels of challenge. But Stevie-Leigh picks up particularly on SOLO and he’s asking about how it can be implemented in lessons so it benefits gifted and talented as well as lower and special educational needs students.

Skip to 57 minutes and 37 seconds What are your thoughts about that, Chris?

Skip to 57 minutes and 41 seconds CHRIS HARRISON: OK, I mean I wish my colleague Nick Lindstrom was here from King’s because he’s just written an article for school science review based on SOLO taxonomy and teaching SOLO taxonomy. When he was a full-time teacher he was really into this. But I’ll give you my understanding of it and why I think is important in terms of differentiation. What I remember I think it’s Briggs and colleagues work, 1982 or something like that when the original came out. But it’s the idea of outcomes of a learning event. I think it starts with structured observed learning of objectives.

Skip to 58 minutes and 25 seconds So what they tend to do is that they look at what a student has produced– so a response, or a written, or a product of some sort. And they can analyse and classify that depending on how they’ve done. So it’s the whole hierarchical taxonomy with at the lower end you’ve got them having the single piece of information. Up to get several bits of knowledge. To get them to articulate how they see the separate bits and that. And then through to actually explaining relational understanding. You can see within that there is a hierarchy of thinking that they do.

Skip to 59 minutes and 9 seconds I’ve seen teachers doing this, they actually have symbols to represent this. So those names for each of these different levels in the taxonomy But the symbols make it easier for the students to interpret and communicate with one another with the teacher. What it takes that they are attempting to do and whether they achieved it or not. So it becomes a concept really for pedagogy that students and teachers can easily accept and understand and use. So I think it is worth doing because it allows you within a class then to look at a single topic. For example light or we might say looking at it understanding the conservation in biology.

Skip to 59 minutes and 49 seconds And some students will just look at in terms of a very descriptive if you at it. Make a few examples that you put forward. Others will have more examples and eventually through to explaining, making connections, and eventually to get more conceptual understanding on that particular topic. That’s the way that I see it happening in terms of supporting differentiation in the classroom. I often ask teachers we need something like that to really create those structures so we can develop those routines for our learners. That they try and show their working.

Skip to 60 minutes and 25 seconds I mean you see often on Twitter other social media that some teachers are really sold on this idea and it’s really helping them actually structure what they do with students in the classroom.

Skip to 60 minutes and 36 seconds ANDREA MAPPLEBECK: Lovely, thank you Chris. Anything to add at all Dylan, about SOLO from your experiences?

Skip to 60 minutes and 42 seconds DYLAN WILLIAM: Well I think the really important thing to remember is that the SOLO taxonomy was developed originally for summative assessment. So back in the late 1970s, Briggs and colleagues, they were actually Piagetians to begin with. And they were looking at a different levels of thinking, different modes of thinking, and they were looking at the stages. And what they discovered was that the Piagetian state of thinking were not very useful ways of looking at what was in student’s work. And they realised that what they were trying to do was make guesses about what they call hypothetical cognitive structures. They were making guesses about what’s inside kids’ heads.

Skip to 61 minutes and 18 seconds And they decided that was probably not very wise, so they just turned it around. Then they said, let’s not look at what’s inside the kid’s head. Let’s look at what’s in the work. So SOLO stood for the structure of the observed learning outcome. So rather then trying to hypothesise about what was going on in the student’s head, let’s just look at what we can see in the work that they produce. And as Chris said, they develop these levels of pre-structurals, uni-structural, multi-structural. And that was a way of actually evaluating the student’s work. Now, this was done in the late 70s, early 80s, and it’s had a resurgence of interest in the last five or 10 years.

Skip to 62 minutes and 1 second My own hunch is that it’s probably more useful for formative assessment than for summative assessment. Because it allows you to think about how the student work might be moved forward. So it’s a very general structure for thinking about if this work were to get better, how would it get better? What would change which would make it better? So for example, as Chris said, you might have one cause, one fact being adduced. And you might say to students, are there any other causes you might actually bring in? If the student has listed three different causes of something– you might say, how are these causes connected? So it’s the way of thinking about how might you move the student on.

Skip to 62 minutes and 41 seconds The danger with a SOLO taxonomy is because it focuses on the work, it needs teachers often to improve the work rather than improving the students. As I keep saying, the purpose of feedback is not to improve the work, it’s to improve the student. The purpose of the feedback is to help students do a better job on a similar task they have not yet attempted at some point in the future. And so you have to be very careful that the SOLO taxonomy is a really useful structure for thinking about how this work might get better.

Skip to 63 minutes and 10 seconds But it’s important to realise that if we provide too much scaffolding then the intellectual heavy lifting is done by the teacher and not by the student. And the student doesn’t benefit from that process.

Skip to 63 minutes and 20 seconds ANDREA MAPPLEBECK: That’s lovely, Dylan. Really nice, thank you. That’s great additional thoughts there. And thank you, Chris, for your ideas too. The question we got from Jennifer. Jennifer is asking about strategies that can help teachers develop a student focused way of teaching and learning. I think Jennifer we’ve got lots of answers already that will help you with that. And we had a reply from Ken here, who mentioned about cognitive guiding instruction. So Dylan, any additional ideas that will help Jennifer all clarity about what cognitive guiding instruction is for myself and others on the course?

Skip to 63 minutes and 51 seconds DYLAN WILLIAM: Well the first thing is I struggled with this term ‘student focused teaching’ because it has no information content. Because all teaching is student focused. I mean teachers aren’t teaching in order to actually expend breath. They’re doing it because they want students to learn. So all teaching student focused. My guess is that when you use that term a student focused. What they’re trying to say is that whether the student is making sense of something is important. And yes, that’s kind of obvious. And so for me that would be pretty unexceptional. Basically, all teaching has to be student focused. The danger is we have ourselves trying to put the student at the heart of the process.

Skip to 64 minutes and 36 seconds Yes, we do need a student focus, but we also need a content focus. We can’t just have students having a nice time in classrooms. So if a teacher has to be taking into account what the student is getting from this. But also has to be faithful to the discipline that they’re representing. And so cognitively guided instruction was a project initiated by Thomas Carpenter and Elizabeth Fennema in the United States in the 1980s. And what they were trying to do was to move teachers away from the idea that I teach it and some teachers just teach it, if they didn’t get it that’s just too bad.

Skip to 65 minutes and 10 seconds Some teachers say they didn’t get it, so I better do it again but slower and louder. And so the idea behind cognitively guided instruction was basically formative assessment. The idea is that they would help teachers figure out what it was the students had and had not learned. So the teachers responses to that could be better focused. And so I always regard cognitively guided instruction as one particular approach a formative assessment that demonstrated quite substantial impact on teachers practise. And the most interesting thing about CGI is that they did some follow up work. And these teachers met once a month, for a few hours, for a couple of years.

Skip to 65 minutes and 50 seconds And when they checked up on these teachers four years later, these teachers were still using the same ideas. So their teaching hadn’t regressed. Those teachers views about how to teach effectively had radically changed and appeared to change permanently. So the key idea behind CGI is just like formative assessment. Students do not learn what we teach. And good teaching starts where the student is rather than where we’d like them to be. They better find that out. What you do with that information, as we’ve said several times in this conversation already, depends on the context, depends on the content, depends on how much time you got.

Skip to 66 minutes and 25 seconds But the big idea behind cognitively guided instruction is that our teaching is responsive to students needs. So Chris was telling me about a teacher. We think her name was Pam and she was a science teacher in Greenwich. We don’t know her last name. But she described formative assessments as making the students voices louder and making the teachers hearing better. And I think that whole idea of making the teacher more responsive to student needs is basically the heart of formative assessment. And cognitively guided instruction is one way of doing that.

Skip to 67 minutes and 3 seconds The other question is implicit in what Mary’s asking is this idea of pushing kids off onto the next level. And I think that’s I’m OK with that provided she’s not interpreting level in the sense of either Piagetian level or a skill level. So I think the next steps are fine. But you have to be careful because Piaget and Vygotsky had some very clear ideas about the difference between learning and development. So learning is what happens during a phase of thinking and development is what happens when you move from one way of thinking to a different way of thinking.

Skip to 67 minutes and 40 seconds So in Vygotsky’s terms– in what Piaget called moving from concrete operational to formal operational– would be a process of development, not of learning. And I think that the evidence now is that these theories of learning aren’t particularly helpful. This idea that there are different stages of thinking, that Piaget and Vygotsky believed in, are not that useful. I mean we could argue about whether they exist or not, but they certainly don’t seem to be useful. What really matters is prerequisite knowledge. For science and mathematics and in technology, What really matters is, do the students know the stuff they need to know to take the next steps?

Skip to 68 minutes and 19 seconds And that’s why formative assessment is so important because it saying let’s find out what the students know before we teach anything else. Let’s not build on unsound foundations. And so it’s frustrating because we often find the things that we thought have been very well taught. And I taught them this, they got it, you know they were smiling. They nodded, they seemed to have those my questions correctly. And then a week later it’s all gone. Well they didn’t learn it. So it’s frustrating because you find out the things you feel should be successful were not but it’s reality. I think there are two responses. One is to ignore reality and say I’m just going to teach.

Skip to 68 minutes and 54 seconds I’m just going to plough on relentlessly and no matter what. As I said earlier, I think that’s immoral. I think we have to go back find out what students learn. And then take those difficult professional judgments about what to do next. Do I go on? Do I go back? Is there something I can take care of? Do I see that the student afterwards? Is there something about the whole class needs to move on with? All those kinds of issues need to factor into the teachers decision but the big idea behind the formative assessment or assessment for learning is you can’t make that decision professionally without evidence.

Skip to 69 minutes and 26 seconds CHRIS HARRISON: We have to go back to this whole idea that formative assessment is often called assessment for learning. We can debate whether that’s right or not, but the first task has to be on the learning and not on the learners. Saying something about that then we’re not really dealing with this area properly. So those areas would certainly hit it if you wanted make or concentrate on those.

Skip to 69 minutes and 49 seconds ANDREA MAPPLEBECK: Lovely.

Skip to 69 minutes and 51 seconds DYLAN WILLIAM: Just to tidy things up I mean I think assessment for learning– Paul, Chris, and I have always differentiated very carefully between assessment for learning and formative assessment. Because assessment for learning often just signals the intent rather than the actual function the assessment serves. So I just want to give you it may or may not be helpful to people. But if you tell the students there’s a test on Friday and they prepare for the test. Then you could call that assessment for learning because they will learn more and the assessment caused the learning even if the test was never actually given. You could call that assessment for learning.

Skip to 70 minutes and 28 seconds If you give students the test on Friday, but you don’t mark it. The student can benefit from that process because the retrieval practise they get in figuring out what the answers are to those questions will improve their learning. So it is assessment for learning, I would not say it’s formative assessment. I think assessment becomes formative only when the information is used to decide what to do next. And so for that reason I think that formative assessment is only a part of assessment for learning. But it’s the active ingredient if you like. Yes, there are other ways that assessment might help learning.

Skip to 71 minutes and 1 second But the most powerful one is when teachers use, and teachers and students, use evidence lasted in learning to decide what to do next in their classrooms in order to better meet student learning needs. I think that’s quite an important focus. The assessment for learning label allows us to label a lot of things as a assessment for learning, which are more about the intent than the actual reality.

Skip to 71 minutes and 26 seconds ANDREA MAPPLEBECK: Lovely. Well thank you very much. As usual, I have been scribbling away.

Skip to 71 minutes and 35 seconds Our course that we wrote, this Differentiating for Learning course, we have three key principles. Which were that everyone could develop knowledge, understanding, and skills. That all students need to be challenged in their thinking in order to learn. And all learners in the classroom need to be motivated to learn. And everything you’ve talked about this afternoon has reinforced or clarified. And provided ideas on how we actually can be implemented in the classroom. And I think what always amazes me– I’ve got a huge list that I’ve written of different references of evidence that you provided us with. This is about professional learning. It is a challenge, go out and try, test to see in your classroom.

Skip to 72 minutes and 13 seconds But it is evidence informed, so you know that you’re working on things that are correct. But I feel like we’ve had a real– call to arms this afternoon. It’s about being moral and sometimes making tough choices for our pupils. Where the focus is on them as learners, and where they’re at in their learning, and how we respond to that. Using formative assessment, this decision driven data collection, will help us differentiate better. That will lead us into effective differentiation. And that we need to create those powerful dialogue with our peers. I think what’s come through really strongly from both of you is that it’s the power of the teacher. You don’t just teach something once and you’re an effective teacher.

Skip to 72 minutes and 54 seconds It’s a learning journey for us too and how do we become more effective as teachers. By thinking all the time about our learners, and what’s helping them learn, and what we’re doing. And I think responsiveness, for me, is the key word that comes out from all of this. It’s that thing that you’ve said that we have to be moral. Moral about making tough choices but moral about being responsive to our students and thinking about the impact we have. Another message that’s come out, which I think is encouraging, is that this isn’t simple. It’s not easy, it’s not quick, it takes time. But actually it is powerful.

Skip to 73 minutes and 29 seconds And I think one of the really, really nice things that you’ve talked about, both of you, is that you can create these success stories in your own context. And that’s where it becomes more powerful to share with others, who you learn with. So build a professional community around you. We’ve had it on the course and it’s been fantastic to learn from each other. And obviously we have all the courses that we run for the National STEM Learning Centre and other online courses. But it’s just that power of being able to engage with you Chris, and you Dylan, I think makes it is such a powerful learning process for us.

Skip to 73 minutes and 57 seconds So thank you very much to both of you for as always sharing your research on teaching ideas so clearly and succinctly. Thank you to the National STEM Learning Centre as always for giving us this opportunity to discuss and learn from each other. Thank you to you our participants for your fabulous questions, and for you ideas and engagement in the course. And until next time, I hope you enjoyed listening to everything that’s been spoken about. Thank you very much.

Q&A with Dylan, Chris and Andrea

All online courses from the National STEM Learning Centre give you the opportunity to discuss your practice and context with course mentors and educators. The Q&A steps allow you to take things further, discussing ideas from across the course and get expert opinion on issues that matter to you. Chris, Dylan and Andrea have kindly offered to answer your questions about your teaching practice, your context and differentiating for learning.

Thank you for posting your questions. We recorded the Q&A and have uploaded the video above. With apologies, the sound quality was not at our usual standard.


  • 0:29 - Developing pupil motivation and engagement
  • 09:55 - Time, pace and coverage
  • 21:45 - Inclusion
  • 30:11 - Differentiation and misconceptions
  • 38:30 - Activating learners
  • 43:14 - Building knowledge
  • 47:50 - Specific teaching approaches
    • 48:00 - Confidence activities
    • 53:00 - Different ability groups
    • 57:00 - SOLO taxonomy
    • 1:03:31 - Student-focused teaching and learning and cognitive guided instruction
    • 1:07:05 - Student self-directed learning

This is an open step, so you can bookmark the URL to your favourites and return to it after the course has finished. You will also be able to access the recording on the STEM Learning YouTube channel from 16 April 2019.

Please note: By posting to this step you acknowledge your question and first name may be included in the Q&A video recording which will be uploaded to this step and on the STEM Learning YouTube channel.

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This video is from the free online course:

Teaching STEM Subjects: Differentiation for Learning

National STEM Learning Centre