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Q&A with course educators

Q&A opportunity with Dr Andrea Mapplebeck
ANDREA MAPPLEBECK: Hello and welcome. This is the differentiating for learning in STEM course, our online course where we like to offer a question and answer opportunity for you, so we can interact in a way that refers the way that we talk about in the courses that we want to be responsive, and find out about our students, what we want to support and help you as learners in our courses. So good morning, welcome. I’m Andrea Mapplebeck. It’s my pleasure to be able to do this with you today. And thank you to all of you who’ve taken time to write questions. It’s really appreciated.
We’ve gone through, we’ve had a look, and we’ve got similar themes coming out, and we’ve grouped those questions together. But it really just help us get an idea, and give really useful feedback about the flavour of the course and how it’s helping, and what things you think are supporting your learning and your learners. So without further ado then, I will get on, because we’ve got a lot of questions today to get through, which is really good. Thank you very much. And our first suite of questions, we’ve grouped under the heading, developing self-regulated learners.
One of the key things about assessment for learning, and differentiating for learning in particular, is that we want it to be part of supporting pupils on their journey to being able to learn themselves without us. And becoming those independent learners, with that wide range of skills and repertoire, to be able to draw on to support themselves, lifelong after they’ve left in school, so that they can continue developing themselves as individuals and as learners for society and community as a whole. So our first question comes from a group of you. This is Carol, Christopher, Doreen, and Linda. One of the things we’ve looked at in particular on the course is how we get the right level of challenge for our students.
So this question is asking, if students choose a level which is too challenging for them, how should you address it? And should you just provide more support in their current group or move them? And Carol said, I’m conscious of the risk of creating embarrassment of destroying the student’s motivation and self-confidence. So it’s really important here, there’s some really interesting things. And Carol’s absolutely right that we want to build a classroom culture where pupils are confident to have a go and fail. And that’s something we’ve talked about a lot in the course, one of the ideas that’s rippled through all of the weeks, is that failing and learning are part of the same thing. It’s two sides of the same coin.
And actually, by having a go and finding out that I can’t do something, is as powerful for my learning as finding out that I can. So it is about creating that classroom culture, where there isn’t environment, where actually we seek out deep misconceptions, and we’ve talked about those difficulties in the subject, and how we can support the pupils moving forward at those points. So I would say, one of the things that helps build this is, it takes time building a classroom culture where pupils are motivated and self-confident and don’t see failure as an embarrassment, but actually as part of learning. It’s something that’s not quick to establish.
And lots of the ideas we’ve talked about, if you put these in place, will help build that classroom. So it’s very much about developing those relationships with your pupils, finding out about them as learners, finding out when one of our key principles is that we don’t label our pupils on a predetermined category, but we find out where they are in their learning, and we support them from that point.
So finding out where they are in their learning and taking time to help them, see what helps them develop their conceptual understanding, giving them an opportunity to sit back and reflect on, what did you get stuck over this topic, this concept, what helped you move forward, and celebrating that, will help build that confidence. If a pupil is choosing something too challenging for them, it’s actually having the opportunity to have a conversation with them and say, right. Are you able to move forward on your learning? What’s the barrier at the moment? What do we need to support you with?
And we’ve talked about lots of different scaffolds in this course, and we’re going to pick up scaffolding as we go further through in the questions. But it is, then, about the child thinking, right. What do I need to do? So I know in my classroom, I often ask my students to self-assess themselves on how confident they feel before we start an activity. So I’ll do some teaching, we’ll have a practise. Some particular examples, this might be practical work, it might be actually conceptually applying an idea, and then I’ll ask them to rate themselves. And my pupils rate themselves, and I’ll do five, three, one more often than not. And then they move to work in those groups.
Now, pupils who find that they’ve moved somewhere that’s too challenging, they’re allowed to move again in the room. So if they find that they can’t work where they are, they move. And I like that, because they start picking where they are more effectively in terms of their learning. And it nurtures those self regulated motivation, planning, monitoring, evaluating skills, all part of that meta-cognition toolkit that we want the students to have. So I will regularly have discussions with them about where they’re at in their learning and what they need to do. And we have lots of different scaffolds in place within the classroom that help support them develop that. So providing more support in their current group might be an idea.
That might work. It might be that I need to get a pupil from another group to come and work with this particular group, and sort through their ideas. It might be that we have a visualizer and we get somebody in the class who’s either stuck, that’s absolutely fine, because we’re all there to help each other move forward in our learning, come up and we model where they’re stuck, and the class helps them unpick it. And I’ve seen teachers do this really well. I had a teacher who was unpicking an A-level response, actually, with a group of students, where a pupil and made a fundamental mistake in their response.
And they got the student to talk to the class, and the class help that student unpick it. It might be that we move them. As I say, I like my classroom culture to be that the pupils see that they need to move themselves. And we talk about that, if they’re stuck, they move. And there’s lots of different ways we can get the students to signal to us how they’re feeling, in terms of their confidence. As I said, I do five, three, one. I know Dylan’s talked before about using cups, red, amber, and green. Students put them down if they’re working.
It then helps me see where I need to go and intervene and use my support best within in the room, if they’re signalling to me about how confident they feel. But these things take time. So when I meet a class for the first time, we go through our classroom rules and expectations, me for them as learners, me for them as their teacher, them for me as their teacher, and we develop our pledge for learning and what we’re going to put in place. And that helps build that culture.
But it’s as we are doing all of these things that we talk about, in our differentiating for learning, in our assessment for learning, is we’re responding to where the pupils are at in the learning. That helps them become more open to share where they have learning difficulties so we can help move them forward. And one of the things is that impacts massively on the classroom is the language we use. So I don’t talk about learning deficiencies. I talk about learning barriers and learning boundaries. Where are you at? Where are you struggling? It’s not that you’re deficient. It’s where you are on your journey moving forward.
And little things that we say and do in the classroom can have a big impact on that culture. And the other thing I don’t ask is what the right answer is. I always ask, what do you think? Again, I want everybody involved. And these things, over time, get students more confident in their ideas. And I love it when I’m teaching, and one of mine goes, oh I’m really struggling, this is tough. Because then we all celebrate. Because we know that this is a point where you can really learn. But it does take time to build that culture. So thank you, everybody. I hope that helps.
And there was some ideas there, and there’s definitely ideas, too, in the course, and I know people have been sharing ideas in the threads. So moving on to our next question. Henry asks about a particular strategy that we used in the course. Henry asks, how can you effectively use differentiated learning groups and achieve a common goal? If all students can learn, why the extended group? Yeah, really interesting question, Henry. This links to our PACE example, our Practise, Supply, Correct, Extend. And again, Henry, it comes down to how you want to use your group.
The teacher we saw on the video using the activity, she had worked with the students across the week with her children, because they were our primary example across the week. And then the pupils, through self evaluation– so the pupil self evaluated themselves, which is really good– she built out with primary pupils. Your children can do this. And they had gone into the appropriate group. And again, she made sure from what her assessment of the pupils learning that week had been that they were in the most appropriate group. And they did work in those four quadrant groups for the lesson. However, I’ve seen other teachers, and I’ve run similar lessons myself, where pupils might go and work within that group.
And as you say, if we’re working for that inclusive differentiation where we want everybody to be achieving that common goal, we can regroup the whole room. So it might be that somebody from Practise, Apply, Correct, and Extend then gets together, and we have a mixed group of the four. And they work on a consolidation activity, where maybe the Extend and Correct pupils teach and apply their learning to the pupils who have been doing the Practise work. So we can regroup the room and get the pupils working as learning resources for each other. So the ideas we give are just seeds that we hope will help stimulate your thinking. Henry, I love that question.
It’s really good the way that you’re thinking about your learners and their learning. And absolutely, adapt the ideas, and try them out and see how they go. And it might not work first time. It might be that you have to put particular scaffolds in place. But what is it that’s going to support your pupil, so that they can all achieve that common goal? It is something very much I know Dylan and Chris have been talking about recently, this idea of inclusive differentiation. That’s, if this is a learning intention that pupils need to be able to move on in their STEM learning, then what are we doing to make sure that they all get there?
How can we support them in this classroom so that they have different routes, different scaffolds, different attempts so that they can actually achieve that learning? So that’s a lovely question, Henry, that really underpins our thinking about where we are in terms of differentiating. Thank you. So, moving on. A question from Ruth. And I said scaffolding would come up. How do we work with students who cannot do without scaffolding, since it’s not supposed to be a process that is on and on? To help develop their independence we, at a certain time, have to withdraw the scaffolding. How else do we help keep the learners focused in a class dragged a little longer during the lesson?
Individually, I have learners who are 10 and very short attention span in class. So hi, Ruth. Thank you for your question. In terms of scaffolding, you’re absolutely right. Over time, we do want pupils to move from a place in their learning where they’re not just dependent on a scaffold. I’m trying to think of all the different stages, where we go from being a novice through to being a master. This is what my Dreyfus and Dreyfus I was looking at, there was five or six stages that we go through, where we go from novice to competent, competent to proficient, to expert, to master. And what we want to do is move our pupils through the stages over time, absolutely right.
But what I need my pupils to realise is what’s helping them at each stage move to the next stage, so that they, over time, become conscious of what they need to support them. So the idea of scaffolds, we’ve looked at lots of different ways that we can scaffold. We can scaffold with partially worked examples. We can scaffold with errors, by providing examples of work that’s been done inaccurately. We can scaffold by getting pupils to perform. We can scaffold by modelling and performing ourselves. We can scaffold by preparing videos and showing videos of somebody, an expert performer, doing an activity. There’s lots and lots of different ways of scaffolding.
What I want my learners to know is, when they need to scaffold and why, and when they can become more proficient without it, and when they get into a stage to be confident that they can withdraw it. So it’s actually having a conversation with them. Because actually, I think, we’re going to need scaffolds throughout our lives. I talk regularly, when I teach in my own courses, I talk with my own students, that I’ve learnt fairly recently to lino print. Before that, I’ve learnt to do crocheting. And with both, I needed scaffolds. So as an adult learner, I needed scaffolds. The important thing was that I knew I needed scaffolds, and I went and got the most appropriate scaffolds.
And for me, it was getting videos and slowing them down. It was trying something, pulling it apart, working on the bit that I was having most difficulty with, and practicing that bit before going back and putting something into the hold. All of that is scaffolding. And all of that is needed for any learner, when they’re learning something that they are a novice at, as they’re moving towards that mastery role. So for all of this, it’s being aware of that. So I’d want my pupils to know where they are in terms of learning, and have that conversation. You’re a novice, but we’re moving. You’re now competent, you’re now proficient. So what can we do?
And being able to talk to them, and going back to their motivation, and building up that self confidence about where they are as learners, to see, well, this is the scaffold is going to be useful. I’ll go and ask so and so to practise this and show it for you. And actually then say, no, you can have a go now without it. When we learn to drive, we have a scaffold. We have a driving instructor with us with dual control, until we eventually go where we can drive without the dual control, and then we drive independently. And then we become a master over time, as we Practise and put ideas into place. And it’s the same for our listeners.
So hopefully, by giving pupils the language of learning, and talking to them about what’s helping them learn, we’re going to help them see how they need scaffolds and when they can let them go. And then, as they get stuck, to be able to say, miss, I need to see somebody doing this. I’m not stuck. Could you model this one out with me, or could you do the starter for this for me, and so I can see how to get going. Now, that’s really powerful language for learning that I want in the classroom. How else to keep learners focused in class? Well, we’ve looked at lots of ideas.
I’m not quite sure the drag on a little longer during a lesson bit means, but I think we’ve looked at lots of ideas. A key thing to help motivate and keep pupils focused is choice. Again, lots of the ideas we’ve looked at in terms of differentiation are about choice, and about getting children, our pupils, to choose the most appropriate level for their learning, which is a skill that we need to scaffold for them and support them in doing. Other things that help pupils learn, Ruth, in particular for science, I’m sure you’re aware of this, and maths, is making what we do relevant to their everyday lives.
Putting it in a context that actually gives them some motivation and stimulation about what they’re learning and why it’s useful. I know, as teachers, we love all that conversation with pupils, why are we learning this, miss? We’re never going to use it. At which point, I always say to my pupils, well actually, we’re learning this because it’s new, and your brain is going to grow. And then you’re going to be able to do things with your brain that you couldn’t do before. So as a teacher, I always have an answer. But actually, if we can make it relevant, that really helps them, too. So thank you, Ruth.
I hope there are some ideas that are going to support you with that. And thank you, for those of you who have talked about these questions, that helped build those meta-cognitive and self-regulating practises and motivations for our students, as they develop as learners. Our next section is looking at formative uses of different assessments. So this was interesting that we got some questions about formative assessments coming through. I know that in the UK, we have had, because of the current situation with the pandemic, we’ve had a lot of uncertainty about our final assessments now for our pupils, because our exams have been pulled. Which is leaving everybody uncertain, the teachers, and the students, and the schools.
So it put a lot of pressure on everybody, I would say, at the minute. I’m tutoring students at the minute who are doing A-level physics, and it’s just very uncertain for them. And different schools are doing different things. So Sarah, Robert, and Shallon are asking questions about summative assessments. So let me read the question, then I’ll pick some things. So how does summative assessments, like the pressure and emphasis placed on the end of year exams, support the concept of growth mindset, which is something that we have examined in the course?
Sarah says, I would argue that the use of summative assessment creates a high threat, high pressure environment for students, whereby the focus is purely on the outcome, rather than the learning journey. So the test results. Summative assessments also lead to opportunity for feedback, and thus doesn’t support and help students progress in their learning. In this sense, students aren’t given the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. They’re instead used to compare different pupils, rank, et cetera, et cetera. This leads to fixed mindset, where pupils become anxious. How can we use summative assessments to support and aid our students’ learning in formal teaching and differentiation within the classroom? So lovely questions.
So I’ve put Sarah, Robert, and Shallon because they were asking similar things about exam boards and how we use exams and summative assessments. So exam boards do do final exams, and we do want our pupils to perform their best on that day. I’ve had twins who’ve gone through an examination system. They’re both at university, and we’ve talked to them the whole way through school, that any point where there was an assessment that was reported, it is just an assessment of what you did and didn’t know. It’s not a summation of you. It’s a point in time that tells us about where you had understanding, and where you had areas that you weren’t so clear on.
So that’s something that we talked about. However, any assessment, for me this is really important. As I got into this field and got deeper into it, it became very clear that any assessment is just an assessment. It’s what we do with the evidence that makes it either a formative assessment and informing what we do, or summative, and a measure, as Sarah is describing, a measure and evaluation of where somebody is.
Now, apart from my exam board assessments– but even then, even my exam board assessments, I still think, can be used in a formative way– I think all assessments can be used formative, if we use them in ways that, as Sarah’s saying, help pupils identify where the areas of development are. Now, the difficulty with an exam board is that that cohort of students have moved on. So in terms of assessments in school, I wouldn’t call my end of year exams in schools, or my end of topic tests, a summative assessment, because I’d want to be using them in a formative way. What do I mean by that?
So for starters, I’ve been telling the pupils who are sitting the tests and the exams, this is going to help me find out where you are in your understanding, but also where I am in my teaching. And I say this to my students, your assessments are an indication, too, of my teaching, and our scheme of learning and how well the curriculum is supporting your understanding. Because it gives me information back about what I’m doing, as well as about your learning. And so we use assessments in lots of different ways.
There’s a brilliant chapter, it’s written by Richard DuFour in the Ahead of the Curve book, that goes through the story and learning journey of a particular character who moves schools, and finds he goes from one school that uses their final assessments very summatively, and one school who uses their final assessments very formatively. And it gives a very different culture and way of working with colleagues and pupils, to help ensure that those final assessments on a topic are not just a summative assessment, but actually give the opportunity to learn. So what examples can I give you about how this can be achieved? So as teachers, we can work together to set our assessments.
Straight away, with an increase in the validity, is the assessment assessing the learning of this concept, of this unit, of these key ideas? We can then work together to analyse the information that we’re getting from these final assessments that are telling us about how pupils have performed. If there’s particular concepts that they haven’t learnt well, I did some analysis with a department who were looking at their pupils, and they were doing really well at describing answers, really badly explaining answers. So with those pupils, we then did some lessons on helping pupils develop their explanation skills. It wasn’t the concepts for the unit they’d just done. It was for the concepts.
The next unit, their explanations went up incredibly, and they were able to explain better on the concepts previously, because they hadn’t understood what an explanation was. For other pupils, if it’s a particular concept I really need them to understand and assess them and they haven’t got it, then I am going to facilitate drop-in clinics for my students, where we’re going to look at these particular concepts. And those who didn’t get it come along. Those who feel less confident, that they might have performed but didn’t feel they really understood it, and I do have students who do this, they come along and sit with me, too.
So drop-in clinics are for anyone, but particularly those who had issues about those particular concepts. Other ideas. If I’ve taught something and it’s not been done particularly well, but another one of my colleagues has taught it really well, and we agree as a team that this is something really important, that those students really need consolidation and to understand, well then I might ask my colleague to teach those students. We could disaggregate classes for one lesson, a post- end of year exam or a post- topic test. I personally prefer a test that I run maybe once a term, so it’s not too often, but gives pupils the opportunity to learn for longer.
And we might say, right, before we move on to new content, we’re going to have some consolidation intervention lessons. And my students are going to go to my colleague. If possible, I’d love to go see my colleague teach. But if not, I want my colleague to sit down and tell me how they taught, so I can learn. So ultimately, I can reflect back on my teaching and improve it, too. So in terms of exam boards, yes, they are a final assessment. But again, I would want to, and as the head of science subject leader, I would be analysing where my pupils have done particularly well.
I’d want to be getting as much data to help future cohorts, so I could reflect on our teaching, our scheme of learning, and improve that. Examiners’ reports are always powerful for that, too. That cohort of students is gone, so that’s difficult. But for every other assessment that we’re doing across their learning time with me, and to be honest, in primary, our final assessments are year six. In secondary, it’s year 11. And then, at year 13, we have time to use any topic test or exam in a formative way. So that, for me, helps build that growth mindset. Because pupils are going to have to sit an exam. They are going to have to work on their own.
I don’t want them to see that being the ultimate measuring of them as an individual. It was about where they were a point in time. They can learn from that and move on. Just because you didn’t do well in that exam then, doesn’t mean to say you won’t do well in that exam in the future. I know students who have sat exams and have just scraped an E, who have then worked on that topic again, and then the following year, the same exam and actually came out with an A.
So if they’re motivated, and they see it is telling them about their learning, and they work with a more knowledgeable other, that’s why they need us as teachers, then absolutely, with a growth mindset, they can get there. Just because they didn’t do it first time, doesn’t mean to say they won’t do it second. We don’t all pass our driving test first time. It’s often the same with concepts that we learn about, that actually sometimes, I need more learning for that earlier idea to click and for those foundations to be there. So thank you, Sarah, Robert, and Shallon I hope that answers your question and gives you some ideas.
There are constraints, and we do our best with our students, and get them to be motivated to work with us. Christopher, you asked, do you have any tips for assessing primary age children at the beginning of the year to help you decide how to implement differentiation within the classroom? Obviously this will change, as you to get to know your pupils and formative assessment happens. And as we’ve said, any assessment can be formative or summative. So as we’re assessing, we’re going to be responding. So Christopher, we’ll be responding all the time. And absolutely.
Primary age children, at the beginning of the year, any child at the beginning of any year, and any child at the beginning of any topic, I want to know where they are, and what they understand. And we’ve had lots of ideas across our courses about how we can get that going. A key thing is to encourage and develop a talking classroom. Robin Alexander is fantastic, and talks very much about dialogic teaching, and getting powerful classroom talk going, that helps us identify where pupils are at in their understanding and their thinking. And so I would want pupils to be talking.
And I know that we shared ideas of very young children in our differentiating course, who had stimulation areas, where we have physical objects, we have materials for them to engage with. The teachers read stories. And we get the children talking. Pupils will ask lots of questions, and there’s loads of different strategies for gathering those questions. I think we’ve done KWLH grids, what you know, what you wonder. Asking the children those questions. Where do you find those difficulties, what are you learning, how have you learnt. We might have diagnostic questions.
Questions that we’ve written because we know those particular difficulties, and we want to see if the children have got those, so we get them talking about those particular aspects of science. We’ve got the three piles, the yes, no, don’t know. With very young children, obviously, they won’t be able to read, so again, it would be having stimulus questions. I would get pupils moving around the room. I would get pupils yes, no, don’t know, and they run around and they talk to each other. And again, I want to encourage them to be honest and truthful. And if they don’t know, that’s really good. And I would celebrate that, because what a learning journey we’re going to have.
We might have pupils sorting activity. So I’ve seen some fantastic activities done with very young children, where we get hula hoops out, and we get physical materials, and the pupils sort them into the different groups, and they say why. So it’s very much that classroom where the pupils are interacting with ideas when they’re young, and then we’re getting that talk going. I’ve worked with young children where we’ve had microphones out or talk in postcards, and the pupils record their responses. They interview each other, and then I can listen later, and see what they were talking about. But that diagnostic classroom is going to be a classroom where there’s lots of chat and talk going on.
And I think there’s loads of ways we can encourage our young children to do that. The difficulty, I find a teacher saying to me, is it’s difficult to get them to stop talking once we have been talking, when they’re young. It seems that as they get older, they become more shy about talking. And I wonder if that leads back to those ideas about worrying about getting ideas wrong, whereas little children will just– they’re wonderful– they’ll just talk. So I hope that helps, Christopher. But, yeah. That classroom that encourages talk. Another idea, again, is concept cartoons. I don’t think we’ve covered it on this course. Concept cartoons, developed by Millgate House Publishing, they’re fantastic.
They’re written around the difficult concepts, and they’ve got some beautiful ones for young children. And they also have the token puppets, which are brilliant. And they have, what’s it called, Discovery Dog. Discovery Dog, who helps the children think about how to investigate ideas in primary science, and get them talking to Discovery Dog and doing learning. They’re wonderful ways of getting children talking, and then I can find out about their thinking. So thank you, Christopher. I hope that helps for you. So moving on, now. Got a little section here which I’ve titled, supporting specific learners’ needs.
So Dolores and Kadia ask– and again, this links to some of the ideas we’ve looked at on the course– to what extent is it possible to implement more independent differentiation activities, like our quadrants, pyramids, help desk, and reception, early years? Considering how much pupils can read, plan, and focus on themselves rather than following the crowd. Yeah, absolutely. Is it a case of adapting and practicing the activities to train the children, or do they need different strategies entirely? Also, how can these strategies, or others, be applied effectively during continuous provision/ child led learning, through play as well as teacher led sessions? Yeah, Dolores and Kadia Some of these activities will work better in reception and early years, and others won’t.
Some, as you’ve said, will have to scaffold and train for the children. And it will depend on the different children that you have got. Help desks are a very simple activity that can work. I’ve seen work done in reception early years. It depends on what’s put on the help desk. Again, it might just be visual stimulus. It might be that you put a child or the children on the help desk, who can be the help desk monitors for today for a particular concept that the class is looking at. But quadrants and pyramids. Pyramids, in particular, I’m thinking, because there were so many resources where the pupils had to read, that might be more difficult.
You might be able to get a simple quadrant going, or it might be that you just have a more confident and a less confident. So we have something where there’s scaffolding, and something where there’s less scaffolding, and the children decide where they go. And so it will be a case of, adapt to these ideas and, as you say, train them up. And going back to, unpicking that language of what’s helping the children learn, so even down in early years reception, they can start seeing the type of scaffolds that’s supporting them. When I saw somebody do this, that really helped. Or, when you put this on the visualizer, that really helped. All the different types of activities that support the children.
So I hope that helps, Dolores. So some of the ideas work better, some less so. And again, getting the children to think about how confident they are and where to go in the room, will help that dialogue build as we go through. Brenda, Akira, and Linda asked questions, all about how can we best plan for differentiated lessons for learners with particular learning difficulties, including hearing? Again, this is something that, if it’s a learning disability, and a pupil has a learning need, then obviously, that’s something that we need to support them with, and scaffold their learning with them. Doesn’t mean to say that our expectations about what they can achieve are less.
It means that we need to support them in particular ways to get there. Their journeys might be different. Their journeys might be different, which doesn’t mean to say that they can’t get there in the end. And it’s how we support them on that journey, developing those particular needs, and addressing those learning needs as they go. So with hearing disabilities, I’m afraid that’s not an area of expertise. I know I had a child who had hearing difficulties. And I wore a special microphone, so that she could hear me better, and I would check in with her regularly that she understood what we were doing. I’ve worked with pupils with language learning difficulties.
And we’ve put scaffolds in for them, in terms of their understanding of key terms, particularly key terms. I teach science. I’m sure it’s the same in maths. So they understand what the word means in science, and we would think as a team about the different vocabulary across science, because in science, even, we don’t have words that have the same meaning, like the word nucleus. I know in biology, nucleus means one thing. Chemistry and physics, nucleus means something else. And so we build support scaffolds for pupils for key vocabulary, very much drawing on the idea about dual coding, doing things with images, as well as key words, to help the pupils develop the understanding.
There’s something called the Frayer Model, which is very powerful. It’s not just the knowledge of what the word is, but actually, it gives you a definition. And again, I can develop these for the pupils or they can create their own. It gives a definition. It gives characteristics, and then what I really like about the Frayer Model, which takes us to that deeper level of learning that Misana talks about a lot is the compare contrast, is that it talks about examples and non-examples. And that really starts to help, then, pupils understand what these words and key terms are, so that they can start using them then more effectively as part of their learning conversations.
And I can see if they understand or not the words we’re looking at. So they’re a very particularly powerful scaffold. I found those very useful, the Frayer Model. I’ve come across recently, and they are absolutely fantastic, and in the UK, there is a Google website where you can go and download these, they are copyright protected, but they are for teachers to use, something called integrated instructions. They’re absolutely fabulous. They’re dual coded instructions to help pupils access and be able to do practical work. So in a very logical way, they are choked down practical instructions with limited text, mostly images and key vocabulary, to help the pupil be able to do practical work.
And it’s supporting pupils and being able to get into doing the work, that we can then find out how they are, in terms of their conceptual understanding and learning, and then support them where they’re at, in that particular point, to move them forward. So I hope that helps, Brenda, Akira, and Linda. Just a couple of ideas there to support you on that journey, as you’re working with your pupils with their particular learning disabilities. I know in the UK, we have, also, in our schools, special educational needs coordinators, who are a fantastic resource, who give lots of ideas to teachers about helping pupils with specific learning needs.
So I would recommend that people, if you’ve got those in the UK, that you actually draw on those resources. I’m sure people do. I know that my teacher trainees work a lot with their SENCOs, and they really help with them. So our next section, time, is something that often comes up, particularly on our differentiating for learning course. And it doesn’t surprise us, and absolutely , it is something - workload - that we need to think about. So thank you, Esther, Miriam, Rachel, Harriet, Sophie, Emily, Amanda, Shamira, Pearline and Thomas, because you were all asking about this issue of time. So, things that were coming out from the questions you were asking was about workload, and time to prepare these ideas.
Any ways that we can make this easier? How long does it take to come up with these ideas and plan for lessons? Creativity?
Do teachers do this on a daily, weekly basis every unit? How is it manageable? So common themes coming out from across all of your questions. Yes, it does take time to prepare them. Some ideas are easier than others. We try to do that on purpose. And as you’re saying, we would do it over time. We would do it over time. So as you teach your curriculum, you have a repertoire of ideas that you want to develop, you’ll find out what works for your children. So in primary, you’ll have your children. In the UK, we have our children all day, most days. In secondary, we have different children coming in all the time, different pupils.
So we might find that with one class, one idea works, with another class, it doesn’t. So for me, it’s about starting off simple, trying something out, and building up to more complex ideas over time, and getting that repertoire. We give lots of ideas, so that you can choose the ones that you feel work better for you. I think I’ve probably got, in terms of my differentiating repertoire, I’ve got about six or seven strategies I use all the time. And as I teach my course, I’m building new ideas every time.
So going back to what we talked about earlier, in terms of assessments, as I assess my course, so my course gets assessed once a term, I look back at my lessons, and I think, right, how can I now evolve that lesson? So first time you teach something, I develop things on a rolling programme. If you’ve got a team, I would work with my team. And it might be for this one unit, where are we going to have more complex lesson? So you might do a pyramid lesson. When we’re 2/3 of the way through, when we want to consolidate and check the pupils have understood key concepts, so we might develop one pyramid lesson.
We might have a couple of quadrant lessons, and actually help desk is easy. We could use that quite often. So you’ll develop that repertoire and think, right, where are we going to put them in first time we teach this topic? Separate it out. If you co-plan in primary, it might be that you work with your colleagues, one of you develops a pyramid lesson this term, one of you develops a pyramid lesson next term. And so you’re only doing it once or twice a year. And you build these lessons up slowly over time. But it is that constantly evaluating how well the curriculum and the teaching is helping pupils learn that helps us identify where we want to develop future ideas.
And it might be when we want to develop future ideas that we want to develop a differentiation in that lesson. It’ll help us think about that lesson. So we teach it first, we plan it, and then we evaluate it over time. And we slowly roll that out, and if we can, work with colleagues to do it. And some ideas are easier. So the help desk is an easier idea. Using pupils as learning resources for each other in the classroom, whether purposefully regrouped, often is the easiest idea, I think. That one gets them working, gets them motivated, and shows that culture that actually, in this classroom, it’s not a set seating plan.
In this classroom, you’re not going to be in that individual seat all the time, because we are responding to where you’re at in your learning. I need you, Emily, to go over here and teach Andrea how to do this activity, because she’s not got it. And we build that culture, where we see the pupils as learning resources for each other. So a classroom where differentiation is happening is going to have that purposeful regrouping of students, often. So that’s an easier idea. So in terms of, how can I regroup easily? I might ask a question. And we’ve looked at questions on other courses.
I might ask a hingepoint question or a concept cartoon, and actually, I regroup the pupils after that question. Because it’s a question about the more difficult aspects of the learning, and I regroup them as a consequence of that. That’s a fairly easy thing to do. We’re asking questions all the time in our teaching about the difficult aspects of the learning, to check that responsiveness. So I can respond. So I can infer what it’s telling me, and I can take action. And that taking action, then, could be moving the pupils. That is simple differentiation. And helpdesk, I think, is simple differentiation. My five, three, one idea, we’ve picked that up.
We’ve seen that I picked that up from working with the teacher. I use that all the time with my students. So we five, three, one on their confidence, and they move because of it. And these are simple ideas. The more difficult lessons that, I think, the pyramid is probably one of the most difficult we showed you, you might build up once a term, and build them up slowly over time, as you’re reviewing how the scheme is working. So I hope that helps. It’s about being manageable. It’s about thinking about developing our planning, because we plan. Dylan often says, we are better spending our time planning better lessons, than we are spending hours of our time marking.
It’s that responsiveness to our pupils learning that helps us develop our planning to become more responsive in our teaching. And that’s what’s going to make the difference, the research evidence tells us, on their progress. So slowly over time, thinking about their learning, and adapting our teaching as a consequence. Working with others to manage that is something I would definitely say. So I hope that helps. And we have shared ideas, from simple to complex, because we’re differentiating for you as our learners. And I know that you will be able to take away and adapt those ideas. You don’t have to use them just as we’ve shown. Take them away and try them out, and do different things with them.
And then share with other learners on the course what you’ve done and what’s worked. Because that’s really powerful for all of us to develop, and move forward our thinking. So thank you, everybody. It is something that comes up. And we are very conscious. And as a subject leader, I was very conscious. I want my staff to have a life outside of teaching, they will teach better. So how can we work smarter for our pupils and ourselves? Thank you. So. Moving on our next little section of questions, about working with others. And so, Rabbab and Sheila are talking about, they’ve learned some very useful and practical tips on how to motivate students, giving them choices and scaffolds.
The question that’s remaining that is daunting is, Rabbab says, my question is, in this daunting role of a teacher, when one is placed upon a pedestal, what strategies can teachers adopt to keep themselves motivated and resilient day in and day out? It’s interesting, isn’t it, Rabbab I say to my pupils that I’m as much a learner as they are. Yes, I am there as the more knowledgeable other. Yes, I do know how they learn, and I know how to help them learn. But doesn’t mean that I won’t make mistakes, and that I’m a learner, too. So I very much talk to them about the fact that I’m learning all the time, about them as individuals and as learners.
I want to learn what helps them learn best. I want to see them develop. I want them to know, by the time they leave me at the end of the year, that they’ve gone on a journey with me. What strategies have helped them? And it’s those things that keep me motivated and resilient day in day out. It’s seeing my learners learning that gives me that buzz. And I think, for us, as individuals, it might be different. We’ve got to find out, what is it that gives us our energy in our work and what we do?
And I know, when I do leadership CPD, we talk very much about, as leaders, we need to nurture that in our staff, and find out then what we can do to energise them and support them in the work that they’re doing. But I know in the classroom, for me, it’s about seeing my students move on. One of mine said to me last week– in fact, she emailed me after the lesson, which was lovely– and said, because we’ve been doing suvat linear acceleration before Christmas, and she wrote to me last week. She said, it clicked today. I got it, I got it. And that’s brilliant. So I like my students, at the end of the year, to write messages.
I get mine to write a letter to the new students coming in, to tell them that they’re on a journey. And just because they don’t get it first time, doesn’t mean to say that they’re not going to get it. And what types of activities and strategies they use that help them across the year with me, develop their learning. And it’s those things, that I find, help me be resilient, day in day out. It is about supporting my learners on that journey that helps me be motivated. But we’re all different.
So it’s about what helps you and motivates you, Rabbab and I think you need to step back and reflect on that, and then try and put your energies into doing those things. Which is not always the easiest thing to do, because we have lots of other pressures. And it’s how we manage that. And as I say, I do a lot of work with leaders, getting them to think about these ideas, about how they support their staff to do that. So thank you for that question.
I think working with your leader and line manager as well, having a chat with them, will help them have an idea about what it is that motivates you, and help them work with you so that you are motivated. So I hope effective performance management structures, I know we have those in the UK, are all about that dialogue, about what is it that you are doing that brings you energy in your work, what can I help support you as you want to develop, moving towards the goals that we have, as a team, about where we’re going in our performance. So talking to leaders, I would recommend, to Rabbab.
Thinking about what you do and talking to leaders, and talking to your pupils. OK. So Joe asked the question, what role do you think that teaching assistants can play in the design and delivery of differentiated material? Interesting question, Joe, and I think that will come down to how different schools use teaching assistants. So I know that different institutions, there will be different guidance on how teaching assistants are used. It might be that as the teacher, you plan and design the materials, but you’ll have a chat and a conversation with your teaching assistants and support them in how they will be facilitated in the classroom, and their role in that facilitation.
So if you’ve got many teaching assistants across school, it might be that you run some professional development for your teaching assistants. So again, if your teaching assistants are supporting you in the design of, thinking going back to our question earlier about pupils with particular learning needs, your teaching assistant– I know that I’ve worked with some teaching assistants who stay with the pupil all the time– they’re going to get to know that pupils learning things really well. They might be able to support you to adapt the materials for that pupil, so that they address that learning need that they have, so they can access the learning. So you might support your teaching assistant with that.
I would say that you’d probably want to spend some time with them. It is that professional learning for them, and getting them to understand your role and their role in supporting the learner. The key thing, for me– with anybody, so myself, my pupils, we’ve talked about this across our courses– is that our pupils need to see that they are the learners, and we’re there to help them be the best learner they can be. And in order to help them do that, they’ve got to do their thinking. And so, when I’m working with teaching assistants, when I’m working with pupils myself, I’m not going to be giving them the answers. I might scaffold for them.
So you might support your teaching assistants in different scaffolding approaches they can use. They could model for the pupils. They could use different exemplars, model how they’re thinking, and then support the pupils to become independent and do that gradual release of responsibility, as they talk about in the research. It might be for problem solving, they do the step for the problem solving. There’s research evidence that initial steps to problem solving support pupils, then, to be able to work to move into independent learning.
So again, it’s supporting your teaching assistant with a range of ideas to help the pupil with that particular need that they will build that understanding of, and to make sure that the pupil is still the one that is cognitively responsible and active in their learning, so that they’re building their own meaning and understanding. So it’s not just regurgitation, but, actually, they’re developing their thinking. And that’s how I want to work with my teaching assistants. And I would want to run some CPD or support with them. It might be that as a science team, we do some CPD about how to support pupils in science, or how to support pupils in maths.
And we look at particular strategies, then, with teaching assistants, that help them scaffold and support the needs of pupils when we’re doing practical work, as well. So lots of different ways. But it’s supporting them, too, to be the most effective support and scaffold for that pupil that they can be. So thank you, Joe. As I say, I think they are a fantastic resource for learners. And we have the opportunity to work with them, to help them become particularly effective. Again, I think the Education Endowment Foundation, in the UK, did look at some research about how to support teaching assistants effectively. So it is worth going to have to look at their website, as well, for further ideas. OK.
So Robinah asks, sometimes the scaffolding process is time consuming, mostly when there’s no assistance from teaching assistants. This may result in lengthy periods of independent small group work. How can I effectively apply this in my 40 minute lesson? Thank you, Robinah, for your question. Scaffolding can be time consuming sometimes. Other times, as we’re building the pupils moving from novice through to competent, and they can go and get the scaffolds themselves, it becomes less time consuming. It’s about how I use myself in the classroom. If pupils are independent small group work for a time, and that’s something that you want them to get onto, that might not be a bad thing.
It’s when they’re struggling, and I want to go and intervene and support them, I think you’re talking about. So I might have a pupil who’s available on the help desk, who can run drop in clinics for students who are in small group work. And I’m worried about them not being able to cope without me being there, if I’m scaffolding for somebody for a substantial amount of time. It might go, I get somebody else to do the scaffolding, so I can go and do the going around the groups, and making sure that they’re getting appropriate support. Dylan had a brilliant idea that he picked up from a teacher, which I used.
And I know other teachers have shared this idea with you. So we talked about the traffic light cups earlier, the red, amber, and green. I’ve got my cups there, actually, I should have got them out. Dylan says he walks around, he saw his teacher walk around, and they had a blue cup. And so, when a group is working, so you might be thinking, I’m setting the class off. They’re going into their small group work, and in two minutes I’m going to run a drop in clinic and do some scaffolding, so pupils, if you’re ready, you’re going to come to the scaffolding. And then you walk around, and the groups that have got it, you can drop a blue cup on.
And so the blue cup is the indicator from the teacher, this group know what they’re doing. So if you’ve got groups who are working independently without you for too long, and they’re struggling, they could go to the blue group. And they could go and ask for help, and go and get some more ideas for them. And that, then, will help you manage your time, them as the learning resources in what can be, as you say, 40 minutes is a very short lesson. So to maximise that learning opportunity as much as possible. Just thinking about it then, as I was talking, red, amber, and green, and blue, I know my other half is colorblind.
He wouldn’t be able to see, probably, the difference between the red, amber, green well definitely the red, green, and blue cups. So you might have different pictures on them that help colour blind pupils as well, as we differentiate for their learning needs. I might have to repaint my cups. So thank you, Robinah. So going on to Sheilja’s question, then. Even though for differentiation to be effective, it’s important not to have ability sets in the classroom. But can we, as teachers, get this message across to the institution? As many schools believe in having ability and sets and separate students, so they work effectively without being slowed down or distracted. Sheilja, that’s a really difficult question and a really interesting question.
John Hattie and Shirley Clarke, in their Visible Learning Feedback book, that was out, I think, it was the start of last year. They talked very much about this. They talked very much about, I think, Western society, in the main, is very bought into this idea about ability setting and separating students. Which does have, I think, big ripples of effects on how that pupil sees themselves, going back to our first questions about self regulated learners. And they talk about how jurisdictions around the world, high performing jurisdictions, don’t have this. They talk about Japan. They talk about Finland.
They talk about the idea that in the West, we often see mixed– and Chris and I are very adamant, we don’t like the word “ability”– we talk about mixed attainment classes as a difficulty, whereas these high performing jurisdictions see them as gifts. And isn’t that a lovely way to see it? But it is. It’s about nurturing and valuing, and cherishing that. But how can we get that message across to the institution? That’s where the difficulty lies. Because we work within organisations who have systems in place, and have thought through what they are doing. Again, one of the things we talk about on leadership training, professional development that I do, is how can we effectively lead change.
And there’s lots of research evidence about how to lead change effectively. Sheilja, I would highly, highly recommend reading the work of John Kotter. He’s got several publications out. He’s got a fabulous website about the work that he has done looking at how to lead change effectively over time. And one of the key things, and this comes out from other research as well, looking at the diffusion of innovation work from Roger Everett, and he was looking at how we actually implement change, a key thing is to trial something.
So I would be going, as a subject leader, or if I’m a classroom teacher and you’ve done one of our courses, going and saying, look, I’d like to try this out with one of my classes, for this set amount of time, and to see what impact it has. And we try it, and we see. And we gather evidence, and we evaluate it. And then, if we gather evidence and we evaluate it, we can then take that evidence forward. Whilst we’re gathering the evidence and we’re monitoring, we can be adapting what we’re doing, trying different things now. Which approaches are working? Which approaches are not working? What can we do about it?
And then we can report that impact and evaluation back to others, who can then consider whether or not this is a larger change they would like to take on board. So I’d want to be piloting ideas, and building up evidence of what our pupils are capable of doing in our institutions. And then, take that to our leaders to talk to them about the changes that might be possible within the constraints that we are working in. I know a particular teacher wanted to move away from grading pupils, which was an institutional policy. Went to the head teacher, they took with them some research literature, and asked the head to read it. They had a professional discussion about it.
The head of department then emailed and wrote to all parents, and talked about this change of policy for one particular year group. So they were piloting it for one particular year group. They said that the grades would be noted in the planner if they wanted them, but for particular reasons, they weren’t going to be giving them to pupils. They were going to be giving them information about what they understood and what they needed to work on to develop their learning. And it turned out that this teacher worked on this for a year. They then evaluated it, and they took the information then back, and analysed how effective it had been.
And it turned out that for the pupils who were motivated in learning and working, and all of them outperformed their target. For those that weren’t working, they didn’t. That then had implications for the next steps. But it’s about a controlled, evaluative, and trialled approach, that’s simple and effective, to gather evidence to look at what’s happening in your institution, that will help drive forward that change. And it’s really powerful to get evidence of what your pupils can do to give to others, because then that raises aspirations about what is actually potentially possible within our work. So I’ve worked often with bottom set pupils, I’ve had pupils who’ve performed well, and we’ve taught particular things.
We’ve unpicked it, and we can look then at how we can break down these barriers of being in a set is not limiting your learning, if we can take it forward and develop things. So I hope that helps, Sheilja, and good luck with it. But as I say, there’s lots of research evidence about how to effectively lead change. So do read upon some of that. These ideas about diffusion of innovation and John Cotter’s eight stage cycle will really help. OK. Moving on. A couple of questions have come up, which don’t surprise me at all, with the current world pandemic that we find ourselves in. And teaching has been difficult for so many of us for so long.
So thank you, Priscilla. Priscilla asks, how can we encourage and use collaborative learning while using groups with this current situation of COVID-19, that requires learners to be at least one metre apart? Absolutely. It is, we have to be more creative. I actually found, ironically, I found teaching and collaborative learning online was easier than it is, actually, in the classroom. Because online, with the platform that I used, it was very easy to be able to quickly regroup pupils, put them into different groups to talk. I could create groups where pupils could choose where they went, so we could do some self confidence assessment. But it’s actually in the classroom it’s more difficult.
So for me, Priscilla, what I’ve been doing, because obviously it’s that, as you’re saying, it’s that one metre apart. And there’s been various things I’ve been thinking. I’ve been finding out where my pupils are in their learning at the end of the session or lesson, and when they come in next lesson, I will change the seating plan. So they come in, and currently, I have mine sitting in rows. So the row that comes in will be the row who needs to support each other this lesson. So I’ll be looking at what we learnt last time, and thinking about who would work well. So there’ll be a new seating plan.
Quite often, not every lesson, but most lessons, depending on what they’ve learnt before and how well somebody understood it in terms of the concepts. It depends what we’re looking at. And then I see them as a group, because they’re sat as a row. And so, yes, they can’t move, but I will have activities and questions and ideas that we’re going through, where they will be talking as a group. So they will be discussing as a row across each other. Sometimes, I can get them to turn around and talk to the person behind or in front of them and do a face to face talk, because they’re a metre apart in that way.
So I am getting them to talk to different people, and purposefully thinking about the different people sitting around them each time. So that’s one way of getting collaborative learning going. I’ve been doing practical work with mine, and again, I’ve been thinking about who goes in which area of the room when they’re working and how we manage that. So as a learning resource in the classroom, I will go with the least confident learners in a particular area of the room, and we are working a set distance apart, but I’m there to be able to talk to them and be there as a learning resource for them.
I’ve also managed to get them doing some peer assessment work by wandering around and using post-it notes that one individual writes on and then puts on the paper, but nobody touches afterwards. And so I have had them moving around the room in a timed way, so they’re at least a metre apart from each other’s work, and writing so they carry their own post-it notes and not using anybody else’s. They stick their post-it note on that work. Nobody touches the post-it note, but we look at the work, and then we move it as a consequence. They develop their work as a consequence of what each other has said. So I have developed a few strategies to get them working collaboratively.
It does take more management and it does take more thinking, I cannot wait for COVID to be over to get my more fluid classroom back. But there are some ideas that, Priscilla, I hope that help support with you. But it is difficult. It is difficult. So Thomas asks, with the amount of time out of the classroom over the last 12 months, the pupils, do you think we’ll need to think more about differentiation or more about making up for lost face to face learning when things get back to normal? And Thomas, we will need to differentiate, but I think first of all, I need to find out what they do and don’t understand conceptually.
Because I know that the pupils that we teach have all had different experiences through COVID. And what I really want to be able to do is sit down where their understanding is, in terms of key concepts that we’ve been looking at, or they should have been studying, and what level of understanding they’ve got about those concepts. I was fortunate enough, I listened to a webinar that John Hattie did last year. And he was talking very much about this idea of triage, of prioritising where it is that we need to identify learners’ conceptual horizons, where their learning boundaries are. I know when I tutor, those of you who’ve tutored, I don’t necessarily teach the whole curriculum.
I sift out, what are the key concepts that the kids need to have that are really going to build their understanding? And particularly, the pupils who are towards the end of their education, our pupils who are in year 10, 11, 12, 13, where are they in terms of these deep concepts that they need to understand? Our younger pupils, what are the foundational ideas that build in the curriculum as they move forward into the next years? What do I need to make sure that they understand to deepen that learning, as they develop further? I think my biggest concern with science, the practical subject, is that loss of learning in terms of skill development, which I think is going to be crucial.
I’ve heard stories of my trainees saying that pupils don’t even recognise kit, because they’ve not seen. They’ve been teaching in non science classrooms. And pupils, we’ve got some issues about kit, so it’s very much that idea of triage. Sitting down with my colleagues, what are the key concepts, key skills, our pupils need to have by the end of this year and moving forward? So what do we need to look at, in terms of the curriculum, and find out their understanding? It might be that we need to differentiate, then, and think, well, home learning, homework, home learning, from now on, as we move forward, might be a suite of ideas that pupils pick up on.
There’s lots of stuff pupils can do without me there. I know Dylan always quotes the phases of the moon. Do kids need teachers to learn the phases of the moon? There’s various things the pupils can learn without me, but there’s some fundamentals that actually, I need to make sure they’ve got. For me, as a physicist, I would very much want to make sure my pupils understood key concepts and ideas about forces and energy, so we could unpick those in various places. So, yeah. It is going to be about triaging with colleagues those concepts, skills, in terms of a year four curriculum, a year two curriculum, a year six curriculum, a year eight curriculum. What are the key things?
How am I going to find out what our pupils have got? And then differentiating. And the differentiation might be using pupils doing different activities but on the same learning concept. I might be doing some consolidation with kids who haven’t got it, a bit like our PACE idea, the Practise, apply, correct, extend, just so that we’re all getting there. We regroup them at the end, so that we make sure that they’re all getting the opportunity to learn from each other’s quadrant. But yeah. So Thomas, it’s a difficult time. But I do think working with us, and us responding to the evidence we get, that we can get the pupils back on track. I feel so sorry for them.
I feel so sorry for them. Bless them. So I hope that helps, Thomas. It is a difficult time. It is a difficult time. It will be sharing resources and ideas with each other about what’s working well, too. So getting that going with your team, and having chats with the team about those concepts, and how then we support the pupils with those key ideas. OK. So thank you for that, Thomas. I was going to mention, actually, the big ideas work by Wynne Harlen. And I’m sure exam boards are also going to be looking at things like this that can support pupils. And that gives good ideas about key concepts, and how they develop over time, that we could think about.
So our final section, then. We’re moving on to some questions about resources. So thank you for those of you who’ve asked these. So first off, we’ve got Declan. Declan asks, is there a database website software that exists, which collates different template resources, that can assist with differentiation? So my immediate thought, Declan, was thinking very much about thinking organisers. We’ve talked about thinking organisers a lot as a way of scaffolding for pupils. We could have different thinking organisers going on, in different areas of the classroom, for pupils who are building up knowledge. That can be mind mapping for pupils who are applying ideas. They could be using different, they could be using their double bubble.
So we have different mind maps going on. A website that’s got loads of really good thinking organisers is Pam Hook’s solo website, solo taxonomy website. So there’s a lot of thinking organisers, I think Pam Book calls them graphic organisers, on there, that you will find really useful, that link to different ways that pupils could be thinking. So lots of templates there. If you Google thinking organisers or graphic organisers, I’m sure you’ll get a lot of templates that come up.
In support, in terms of scaffolding and support, and questions linked to difficult areas and research ideas in science, I know that the best evidence in science teaching website has got lots of really good ideas to help with resources that will support pupils learning. As I say, linked to research ideas about where pupils have conceptual difficulty. I know that there are ideas, again, for maths. I know that the maths curriculum website, and also, I think, Enrich Maths have got lots of ideas that link to difficulties. And then also, there’s the STEM learning website. So they’ve got loads of resources that you could go away and have a look at. So lots and lots of resources and ideas there for you, Declan.
I’m also thinking, in terms of maths, I know that Craig Barton, and his ED website and his diagnostic questions website, have got lots of resources and ideas, as well, to help. So there is lots of stuff out there to help support you with building up these practises and approaches. So absolutely, Declan. So I hope that helps. Thank you for asking. Lydia asks, how can effective differentiation be processed in schools that do not have enough resources? Yeah, it’s difficult, Lydia, isn’t it? Hopefully, if you’re aware that you’ve not got enough resources, it would be useful to audit, over time, where more resources could be bought.
I’m thinking, if you’re thinking about resources for practical work, it might be that we need to think differently about how we support our scheme of learning with the resources that we’ve got. So an audit over time might help you think about how to use the budget differently. I know that, personally, when I was the head of science, I was shocked when I took over at the amount of budget that went on printing. I couldn’t believe the amount of budget that went on printing. So I did do an audit resource about what we needed. What’s going to help the learning? We were printing a lot of stuff that just wasn’t getting used.
So getting your technicians involved, as well, thinking about, in science departments in the UK, we have technicians doing audits of where are we getting asked for a particular kit? So I would be thinking about spending my money smartly, would be one thing. So trying to look at how to get resources, and also put in bids in to the school or organisation to get resources. So that would help. But then, how can we differentiate in different ways? Well, we’ve talked, I think, lots of ideas throughout the course, and today, that actually, I can get differentiation going with very limited resources.
A visualizer, or some way of sharing quickly during the learning with the pupils, where learning is being done well or where common errors and mistakes are being made, so we can all learn from that, is a really powerful resource to have. So a visualizer that can help with that, some way of projecting it, is a cheap resource, I think, that will make a big impact to support effective differentiation. Pupils as learning resources for each other. Getting them used effectively, regularly, is a cheap way, because it’s just the kids. A help desk is a really simple way. So I hope there’s some simple ideas that are not expensive, but can actually start nurturing that culture, Lydia.
And as I say, over time, I want to be auditing what we want our curriculum to be doing to facilitate the learning that we’re aiming for, in terms of our vision. And I would be auditing results in that and asking for money, and thinking about how I spend my budget. So I hope that supports you, Lydia. And again, share with each other ideas that are working that are cheap. Cheap ideas that work and other resources that you find. So build up a resource sharing area with the team. Where have we picked up resources that have worked particularly well? How have we use the pupils that’s worked particularly well?
And let’s get a resource sharing area going, a creativity area in the staff room, or in the science corridor, or somewhere where we can talk to each other and where we don’t have to necessarily be face to face. There’s electronic ways of doing that. There’s Google Docs, and we can start sharing ideas with each other. Thank you, Lydia. So, last question, I think. So this comes from Jackline. This question is, I liked the help desk. However, I wonder which sheets or resources can be out there for maths, numeracy? So, Jacqueline, my expertise area is not maths. I know with the help desk, we can have thinking organisers, like we’ve talked about.
And I’m just thinking, because what we want on the help desk is scaffolds or challenges, so I sometimes put challenges on. So one of the ideas that we could put on the help desk, I’m sure we mentioned in the course, the idea about a self-confidence worksheet, where instead of getting people to do three worksheets, they just do the one. And we say to them, you don’t have to do all 15 or 20, but actually just do 10. So I think that works particularly well with maths. So one worksheet, where there’s 20 questions and the kids have to do 10. And I would plan that worksheet and I would put it on.
And if the pupil are done with that particular activity, then they go on that worksheet, and they’re applying their ideas. So that would work nicely in maths. As a scaffold for maths, we talked earlier about that gradual release of responsibility that they talk about in the research. This idea that if I can do the first steps of the problem solving– and this is something Dylan’s talked about before– if we can support and scaffold the pupils to do the first steps, then actually, they’ll be able to get further through, and be able to work without us. So we might have some questions, where the first steps are done. So not the whole answer, but here are the first steps.
So that might be and idea to support maths. Another idea that would help with maths, and I do this a lot when I’m teaching my pupils and we’re doing mathematical applications in science, and physics in particular, is I give them the answer. Because for me, learning is about the process. It’s not about the answer. The answer is great for that example, but I need you to be able to work it out for lots of different examples, a lot of different answers. So I give mine the answers. I give them the marks, I will quite often give them the answer sheet. The answer sheet doesn’t have all the processing.
And so we can have the first steps of the process as a scaffold, we can have the answers as a scaffold. And another thing, if my pupils, I don’t feel them confident enough yet, if they’re very much down at the novice end of that journey to mastery, then actually, I don’t want them performing the process until they understand the process more. I think, sometimes, we move too quick to performance before pupils understand the process. So on the help desk, I might have scaffolds that are actually questions that have been done. And I might purposefully do some badly.
So I might have answered questions that are done wrongly, and I want the pupils to sit and see if they can unpick them. If they’re not capable of unpicking the mistakes yet, then actually, I might have the pupils come and sit at the help desk, and I will model through, and talk about my thinking. And I will be the scaffold on the help desk. So lots of different things, then, that we could do with maths. So we can have worked examples. Again, I’m sure this will work in maths, because it works when I do in physics, I will have two examples that are worked through, that have both got the right answer, but I’ve got them in different ways.
And I want the pupils to tell me which one they think is better. So evaluating quality in terms of learning, and being able to explain which one they think is better and why, helps them understand that process. And I will put things in, like a pupil showing clearly that they’ve rearranged an equation before they put numbers in, because I stress and hammer that in. Because my pupils make mistakes if they put numbers in and then rearrange it. So I will have a pupil who’s done it that way and a pupil who hasn’t, and they will talk to me about quality.
So looking at quality, problem solving starters, somebody modelling their thinking, here’s the answers so how do you work that out, I think all of those ideas and resources would work for maths. So thank you, Jackline. And again, if there are others, please share them on the call, so we can learn from each other. So I’m just going to wrap up and say thank you, again, for all of your questions. There is a lot of questions. Thanks for all of the comments on the course, because it’s the learning from each other when we actually try stuff out in classrooms that I think makes such a difference.
Thank you to the National STEM Learning Centre, as always, for the opportunity for these courses. Thank you to Dylan and Chris, our education experts, who helped develop these courses, and their depth of knowledge and understanding about this research field, that helps us pull together these ideas to support you. And just to encourage you, that assessment for learning has been around a substantial amount of time. There is such a huge amount of evidence that this approach to teaching has an impact. And not only an impact on pupils progress, but on how they see themselves as learners for the rest of their life. So thank you for engaging in our professional development.
For those of you here in the UK, want to encourage you, as well, to join the STEM community now, that is out there, where you could go away and ask others teachers ideas that we’ve discussed here, across the whole of the country, who will comment and get back to you with ideas that are working for them with their students. Particularly thinking about difficult times and the questions we’ve had about COVID, what ways have teachers got that they found work. So do recommend you go and join that STEM community, too. I look forward to seeing you at some point in the future on another course, and some of the professional learning. But thanks, again. It’s been a pleasure.

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