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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds CHRIS HARRISON: I think the most important thing coming through for me just talking generally with them is that give students time to tackle work before you pitch in. It’s certainly clear for me, even from some of my friends who are teachers, that they are really sort of almost standing over the students or sitting next to them. And actually as soon as they hesitate or as soon as they go slightly awry on what they’re doing, it’s corrected. So it’s seen as somebody correcting my work rather than somebody guiding or seeing how I’ve done. So I think it’s trying to put the onus on the student to do the work and not trying to make the student get the work correct.

Skip to 0 minutes and 53 seconds And that’s not just with primary. But my friends who’ve got primary kids, they are very much into that. But certainly, that’s secondary as well. Give them time to actually have a go at things and get them to talk through what– if they can’t manage to get an answer or they start to– get them to talk through what they’re finding difficult, rather than automatically showing them how they might do it.

Skip to 1 minute and 14 seconds DYLAN WILLIAM: It may be helpful to talk to parents about the psychologist’s distinction between performance and learning. So performance is how well students complete the learning task, and learning is the change in long-term capability that results. And I think, as Chris says, there’s a tendency to try to help the child through the task. And the point is parents need to understand that when you do that, you practically guarantee that no long-term learning takes place because the performance is good, but the student hasn’t been engaged. And so, I think, just getting people to understand that there’s actually an inverse relationship between performance and learning. Clearly it’s limited.

Skip to 1 minute and 53 seconds If this child struggles so much of the task they give up, then no learning is going to take place. But some productive struggle, as some people call it– what Robert Bjork, the memory researcher, calls “desirable difficulties”– is essential to long-term learning. That’s the first thing. And, secondly, just a really practical thing, when parents are looking at their children doing something that they don’t understand. One really good technique for consolidating your learning, when you’ve been reading a chapter of a science textbook, for example, is to ask the students to write three or four questions about the chapter they’ve been reading. So in the psychological jargon, this is called question generation.

Skip to 2 minutes and 31 seconds And the idea is that when you are forced to think through what would be a good question on this chapter, you engage with the content far more deeply. And then as a parent, you can engage with your child and say, so why did you think that this was the best question to ask on this chapter. And the child would then have to explain to you. So there’s quite a lot of recent research that question generation– making up questions about what you’ve been studying– is one of the most powerful ways of consolidating things in long-term memory. So that’s something that parents can do regularly with their children, just write some questions. Tell me why you think they’re good questions.

Strategies to support structured reflection

Assessment for learning, that is the use of formative assessment to infer student understanding and adapt teaching accordingly, can work well when teaching students at a distance. Remote learning affords the opportunity to really allow students the time to think and work through problems.

Less about correct answers, more about unpicking ideas

The key is to stress to students that it is their ideas, and the approaches they undertake, that are what teachers (and parents) will want to explore and find out more about. This is because if you can identify the processes used and how the students are thinking, you can support them by providing feedback and guiding them to help drive forward their learning. As such it is less about getting the correct answers and more about unpicking students’ ideas for how they explain, apply, and link ideas when given the factual information. This is a great way to encourage students to own their thinking and to build their own understanding.

In the video, Chris and Dylan discuss allowing students the time to work through a task themselves, and the difference between performance and learning, highlighting that just because a student can perform i.e. give the answer to a question, does not mean that they have understood the concept they have been working on.

Dylan provides a useful technique to share with parents to help students to think about their learning: Asking the students to generate a specified number of questions linked to an article they have read by asking them ‘What would be good questions to ask on this text?’ The parent’s role is then to discuss with their child why they chose those questions, and this removes the necessity for parents to have knowledge of the subject.


If you were going to ask parents to help their children to reflect of the learning process by using this strategy, what top tips would you send home to support them with the discussion?

Give ONE tip of your own in the comments below, and then use other people’s tips to create a set of five top tips to send home for parents.

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This video is from the free online course:

Teaching for Home Learning: Secondary Science

National STEM Learning Centre