What Learning Looks Like…to me

A personal think-piece

Combining visualisation, design and systems-thinking, this is my visual response to the question,’What does coherent, evidenced-based learning look, sound and feel like?’.

Something to watch with a cup of tea…

(Created in Keynote, converted into Mp4 with a rather lovely Creative Commons soundtrack from Bensound found here: http://www.bensound.com/royalty-free-music)

‘6 UP’ – Leading change modelling leadership at all levels

up-graphics-002
David Jackson pointed me in the direction of this great talk from Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter. In her TEDx Talk below on the ‘6 Keys of Leading Change’ there are loads of insights and gems that can be applied to a plethora of contexts.
  • Show-Up: Being visible, being involved and being able to understand every perspective and viewpoint in an organisation or project; to understand, develop empathy, make informed decisions and ultimately, ‘making oneself available’ and knowing that sometimes, just your presence and ‘being there’ makes a difference.
  • Speak-Up: The ‘Power of Voice’ is about shaping the agenda and being ‘thought leaders’. The example she gives of actively grading and giving students feedback on their participation in lessons both requires and supports each one of them to find and share their own voice. In this Key, she gives a clear definition of what ‘participation’ really means, where listening is absolutely integral to expressing your ‘voice’. She then illustrates the power this has by using the example of how a journalist’s ideas and his ability to use his voice to make suggestions about how to take action has created a ‘learning neighbourhood’ in Sao Paola and transformed the community.
  • Look-Up: To look up to a higher vision and clarify the principles that are needed to guide everybody. Leaders who do this are in a position to prevent what she refers to as ‘hollow leadership’. She gives a pragmatic, day-to-day application and description of what it means to live your ‘Vision and Values’ and what engaging in your ‘noble purpose’ really means. ‘Looking Up’ is all about deliberately designing and committing to giving everybody the space and time to discuss, clarify and revisit your shared purpose. Embedding the act of revisiting your vision and values as an organisational habit will, ‘lift the spirits like nothing else’. Only when this is in place can you be assured that your vision and values are genuinely lived in every part of your organisation.
  • Team-Up: ‘…nearly anything worth doing is very difficult to do alone’ and the best projects are those which have a ‘sense of partnership from the beginning’. To intentionally grow and deepen connections through partners who share your vision and values and draw them into your ‘nobler cause’ is highlighted as fundamental to the next step of deliberately aligning your partnerships, to develop and behave as ‘one big team’, to deliver your vision and values.
  • Never Give-Up (aka Kanter’s Law): Only by stopping will you fail. This Key is integral to delivering your ‘noble cause’. Being aware and genuinely ready to dig deep as individuals, as leaders, as whole-teams and as learning organisations is underpinned by the requirement to persist, be resilient and resolute all the way through the implementation dip(s) which she refers to as ‘the messy middle’. The time it takes to develop and design a project, shape and refine it, align partners around your vision, values  and purpose is time well invested.
  • Lift Others-Up: Sharing and giving back to others is fundamental to ensuring the Six Keys are part of a sustainable cycle of development, innovation and ensuring we can all be part of a system that makes a difference.

Here’s the Talk itself…

The Keys offer a great way to structure a modular leadership/ leading change development programme. The ‘6 Keys’ similarly provide a simple and practical framework ready to be adopted when assessing leadership competencies, mindsets and effectiveness. This framework could then be used to shape coaching conversations and programmes. I’m really interested in any thoughts and considerations for how they could be used in other contexts.

Professor Dweck at TED earlier this year

This TED Talk by Professor Carol Dweck provides a good catch-all summary and introduction for anybody wanting to start doing some thinking around Growth Mindsets.

I’ll be adding this to the Core Professional Curriculum iTunesU course we have at school. This talk is only 10 minutes, so we’ll be using it as an introduction to the start of an EduBook Club Meeting. It also works well as a stimulus for a departmental meeting with a team wanting to undertake some subject-specific action research or a staff meeting in a smaller setting where you want to start focusing in on the big hitters such as motivation and engagement.

Here are just a few prompt questions I have posed in the past when using Ted Talks and other short videos and podcasts of educational thinkers in this way:

  • What do I know about the perceptions my pupils have of their own ability and how can I find out?
  • How does this relate to me, in my subject area, for the groups I teach?
  • How can I use the information from this research to refine my questioning to encourage pupils to refine, redraft and act on feedback?
  • In what ways does this prompt me to consider the way I design learning activities?
  • How does teacher-mindset influence verbal and written feedback?
  • How can we develop a shared language of learning that explicitly promotes the belief that learning is a developmental process?

Dweck’s earlier book, Self Theories is well worth a read (be warned, it’s quite pricey!) as it gets right into the different ways that pupils perceive their own ability, respond to praise, feedback and criticism, based on years of research undertaken by Dweck and her team.

PHRONESIS & CPRd

This post has languished in my drafts for a year; you’ll see this from the date references. The main reason I didn’t publish over a year ago was simply because I didn’t want to wade into what was, at the time, an extremely highly charged debate about the place of research, evidence, and practice in education. My additional reasons for not publishing until now will, possibly, be covered in another post on another day.

Anyway, a year has come around and although the charge and passion of the debate is still high, it has, perhaps calmed and softened somewhat. l have spent the morning watching the second National ResearchED 2014 Conference online thanks to the wonderful technical expertise of Leon Cynch @eyebeams through the LIVESTREAM feed. Having listened to the first of the main hall speakers (@johntomsett  @huntingenglish and @dylanwiliam) advocating a practical, wise approach to what we do in our classrooms, I thought I’d go back to this post from last year, take the plunge and publish.

I haven’t edited any part of it, and my only addition to it is the inclusion of a presentation by an inspirational education consultant, Dr Julia Atkin (@Juliaatkin) South Australia who I came across a few months ago. In this talk, Dr Atkin references the Aristoltlean view of knowledge, PHRONESIS, also referenced in Dylan Wiliam’s presentation today. Dr Atkin speaks brilliantly about the need for teachers to merge their own experience with research, through the lens of deliberate practice and analytical thinking.

ORIGINAL POST (Written in September 2013)

There is always healthy discussion around research findings and sources of evidence and even more so thanks to the increasing availability of the work of academics and research centres online. Tom Bennett and ResearchED have responded to this debate in the establishment of a conference for teachers and researchers as part of ResearchED 2013 to be held at Dulwich College in London on Saturday 7th September 2013.

The growth in Master Level opportunities and engagement in accredited courses through the National College and Teaching School Alliances will continue to bolster the body of research findings and evidence for teachers to access. Alongside this, academic research is increasingly becoming more accessible through websites and direct engagement with researchers and there’s a tiny selection at the end of this post for reference. There are far more listed on the site of The Teacher Development Trust who also, on 20th May 2013, launched the second exciting phase of The National Teacher Enquiry Network“A family of schools & colleges working for better professional development” to strengthen the link between evidence, practice and professional learning in schools.

But there’s nothing stopping anyone developing and researching their own practice right now and the summer term is a great time to have a go and try something different, new, or just to do more of the good stuff that’s already in place.

Individual practitioners can access reams of effectively communicated evidence from contemporary researchers such as John Hattie, Dylan Wiliam, Carol Dweck and Geoff Petty and even discuss their work directly with the authors through social media and by attending seminars and public lectures.  The educational landscape and quality of teaching and learning is so much richer for this and for the debate and discussion these sources of evidence stimulate.

CPD: Thinking ‘as’ research 

Our own evidence base and sources of inspiration continue to be drawn from the wider educational world and beyond; from business and advertising; from design and engineering; from fashion and space exploration and from medicine and architecture.  As a result, we are able to adapt many different ideas, approaches, systems and processes from the many different contexts we encounter. Integral to this is access to an effective evaluation framework against which we can assess impact on learning outcomes.

Amongst all of the evidence that we have access to, it could be argued that the best evidencei.e. the most valuable, important and accessible, is the evidence we have before us every day: the internal. First and foremost, it is this that we can begin to research, as it unfolds before us, immediately.

So we need access to everything that is available to us, in a digestible but not diluted format. We need researchers to continue to make their work accessible and practical. The Education Endowment Fund Teaching and Learning Toolkit has provided us with one highly accessible format for this. We also need to create a personal-professional evidence base drawn from our own research into our own practice. For it is only when we can understand and witness first-hand the real-life impact of teaching-decisions on learning-outcomes for our own practice and ultimately, for our own learners, that we will truly be able to bring our practice to life and have the greatest impact.

So…a mindset to adopt….? CPRD

This is my attempt to clarify the impact of ‘thinking-as’ a researcher; an activity of adopting ‘Research Thinking’. In doing so, a ‘Research-Thinking School’ will encourage a systematic implementation of Continuing Professional Research Development. Such an approach to professional development and system-wide innovation will engage practitioners in habitual meticulous self-reflection that result in deliberate and mindful teaching actions. These ‘mindful teaching’ actions will be both evidence-informed (external and internal) and research-based (external and internal). The result of this is to establish and sustain a culture where observable and measurable innovations in practice become an integral expectation and rationale of the systems throughout the organisation.

Sustainable school-wide systems that connect research, developmental lesson observations and coaching and place these at the heart of professional development will have the greatest impact. Many schools are using video to support a similar growth-mindset approach to professional development. When placed within a carefully personalised programme supported by skilled coaches and reflective practitioners, the benefits of such an approach are clear.

But the first port of call must be to establish a culture that both enables and encourages us to research that which we encounter every day. It is this that informs and inspires us more than anything else and it is this that we can analyse and interpret immediately and meticulously in every lesson designed and delivered. It is the activity of researching this evidence that sharpens our thinking and prompts us to pose challenging questions. It is a culture of active, on-going and daily research that will continue to excite and enrich us and, as a direct result, our learners.

Thinking and acting as a researcher of our own practice requires a habit of constant evidence collection (feedback) from our immediate experiences, often in the form of informal, ‘micro-research’ projects. These micro-research projects encourage Mindful Teaching that notice and describe rather than infer and interpret. There’s more on this on the Marginal Learning Gains METHOD page.

Couple the everyday evidence to the canon of wider research and evidence (incorporating evidence and research from the educational world and beyond) available to us, then we have a powerful framework for systematic and daily research of own practice:

(a) Discuss and share what we see, hear and sense (internal research) from our own experiences and

(b) Connect and compare our own research to the experiences and evidence from beyond us (external research) and between each other

(c) Understand and apply what we now know and understand to our own context and setting (the internal and external) so that it shapes and informs the design of the learning opportunities that we provide

(d) Research and evaluate the impact of its application so that we can

(e) Repeat the cycle from (a) and begin to embed it as everyday practice 

Thinking and acting as a leading research-thinker and constantly investigating the evidence of our own practice in this way enables us to engage in an overarching process where we can be part of a constant process of collating, analysing and applying evidence from beyond and within so that it directly informs our practice and brings about sustainable and systemic change. It has an impact on:

  • Frequency of feedback (an on-going cycle that includes in equal measure information from the learner to the teacher and back again)
  • Systematic reflective and collaborative professional practice across a whole school (and beyond)
  • Quality of specific language that communicates learning outcomes and success criteria
  • Effectiveness of the communication of teacher and learner expectations
  • Deliberately planned opportunities for learners to lead, take responsibility, articulate and evaluate their own progress

Instead of providing us with a detailed list of ‘teachable actions‘ that we have not developed from our own practice or professional conversations, ‘Research Thinking’ ensures that the evidence we have to hand can be used to directly, immediately and in a timely manner to inform ‘learnable behaviours’.

‘Research Thinking’ provides a bridge between the evidence before us (internal) and the evidence and research from beyond us (external). It demands that we

  • analyse and dissect teaching language and actions
  • clarify our understanding and interpretations
  • so that we can…
  • define our concepts of learning
  • forensically analyse its implications, inferences and impact on learning

‘Research Thinking’ enables us to actively and habitually search out examples, experiences and findings from beyond our context so that we can make sense of ourselves and our practice in our context.

“This is my evidence.

There is much evidence like this. But this evidence is mine.

Without me, my evidence is nothing.

Without my evidence, I am nothing.”

(Paraphrased by me from The Rifleman’s Creed)

Useful websites:

Check out the following tiny selection of online research resources available:

The Research Centre for Evidence-Informed Policy and Practice in Education (www.eppi.ioe.ac.uk)

Current Educational Research in the United Kingdom (www.ceruk.ac.uk)

The Economic Social Research Council (www.esrc.ac.uk)

The National Foundation for Educational Research (www.nfer.ac.uk)

In addition, sites are emerging that invite direct interaction between researchers and practitioners:

The Learning Emergence Site (www.learningemergence.net)

Futurelab (www.futurelab.org.uk)

There are many, many more…

FINAL Quick note: When it comes to ‘Research Thinking’ all I am attempting to do is to articulate my own approach to pedagogical pedantry (a pejorative term that I therefore dislike) and with this, my approach to curriculum innovation and designing systemic research-driven opportunities for professional development. This post is an attempt to explain the ‘Why, How and What’ it is I try for myself and practitioners to ‘be like’ when we’re thinking and talking about learning. This approach is illustrated in the Marginal Learning Gains Theory project.

A Pedagogical Model for Excellence & Growth

I have drawn together some ideas to form a first draft (very EoE) of a Pedagogical Model for Motivation, Growth Mindsets and Excellence. It also incorporates a Marginal Learning Gains approach as an integral part of developing Growth Mindsets for teachers and students alike.

This work is in its infancy in terms of a fully workable pedagogical model but I am hoping it my serve to start conversations and give practitioners some of the following:

  • The Why – Rationale and research to underpin the aims of the changes that are sought
  • The How – Strategic ways of thinking and designing learning to bring about those changes
  • The What – Practical tools and approaches to test out to increase the teaching repertoire to achieve your stated aims

It may will be that I need to provide the narrative that I would use to accompanies any work around this document if so, please let me know! I certainly see it as the start point for:

  1. Some very focused action research linking into the Marginal Learning Gains approach
  2. A design template for learning where we can truly wrap the curriculum around the pedagogy.

If you want to find out more about what schools are doing around Growth Mindsets, then please get in touch with the EG Schools Network via the blog and follow on Twitter @EG_Schools. There’s already a fantastic bank of ideas, blogs, resources and approaches being shared by the Excellence & Growth Schools’ Network,

In the meantime, I’ll be updating this in time once I’ve had a chance to collaborate and reflect on the model…so here it is:

EG Culture

 

Quality Teacher Talk

In this typically engaging short video piece from Hans Rosling, the world-renowned data visualisation and data-entertainment guru (see his brilliant TED Talks for more), identifies the power of explaining using props. He emphasises that although video can be used to explain some concepts, (see Ted-ED for examples to use if you’re looking to implement some flipped learning in your lessons), nothing replaces the teacher and their ability   to make learning fun through the explanations they can offer. For teachers and presenters alike,  being able to draw upon a vast repertoire of explaining is fundamental to being able to meet the needs of all learners/ listeners. As a result, there’s a great opportunity to keep refreshing ‘explaining techniques’ and consider the many ways we can employ quality teacher talk to differentiate, challenge and encourage learners to understand new concepts and think in new ways.

 

 

I’ve included a screen shot of an observation format I use very regularly for you to have a look at: ‘Explaining – Improving the Quality of Teacher Talk’  The original version plus others that I regularly use, adapt and tweak can be found in “Full On Learning”. You’ll notice that this is a very focused observation tool, as it ONLY looks at the quality of teacher talk in relation to EXPLAINING. Hence it can be used as part of a developmental coaching approach..which is just how I use it.

I use this particular one as part of my pedagogical coaching toolkit. I’ve got others that focus on questioning and a more generic one that looks ONLY at ‘Pupil activity during the lesson’. They’re all developmental in design as they are limited by their focus on a very specific element of pedagogy. In practice, they work as a simple tally sheet during the lesson. You can add additional layers of complexity, according to what the teacher wants to focus on, but my watchword is and always has been to keep it SIMPLE when it comes to observing the complicated world of teaching and the similarly complex world of learning.

The strength of this tool is:

1. When you work with a group of teachers to create and amend the observation format you get into wonderful discussions and sharing of expertise. In fact, it’s at THIS point when you get the really crunchy discussions about ‘quality teacher talk’ and how various concepts can be explained and what else could be used to aid the communication of complexity, of topic fundamentals and of core concepts so that learner understanding is secure.

2. When used as part of a pedagogical coaching programme, the results can be put into a simple spreadsheet to generate a visual chart (Hans Rosling would be proud!). This then forms the basis of your coaching discussion, as it places the focus of the discussion on the teacher, enabling them to reflect and consider their own practice.

3. Coupled with a skilled coach possibly also with video, you get rewarded by by using this as part of a MARGINAL LEARNING GAINS approach and find that you get those sought-after MULTIPLE GAINS from one simple pedagogical focus.

Teacher Explanations and the Quality of Teacher Talk

Teacher Explanations and the Quality of Teacher

 

Creating Learning Events

We’ve had an amazing couple of weeks at school where as a staff community, we have all been part of ‘Operation Challenge-All-Areas’. This has led to some cracking learning conversations both in lessons and beyond with a plethora of ideas being shared daily throughout an always-buzzing school. Our Challenge-All-Areas approach is a way to communicate our determination to our students that they must:

Invest as much as possible in every aspect of their school day

SO THAT

they get as much as they possibly can in return.

We discussed how students’ work is often only ever seen by one person: their teacher. Not only that, when the work is submitted it is within a familiar, comfortable and established ‘expert-novice’ relationship. Where peer assessment is regular, it can often occur once the work is well underway or even as part of the final editing and checking stage. As such, any opportunity to show work to someone other than a subject or class teacher or a familiar peer is incidental and it certainly isn’t something that is explicitly planned for and worked towards in a deliberate way. As such, it misses an opportunity: to create a ‘Learning Event’.

Contrast this instead with the emotional, intellectual and logistical preparation required for an art exhibition, a dance, drama or music performance. Here, the expectations are high from the outset as every participant knows that the final outcome will be seen by an unknown, unfamiliar and potentially hard-to-please-audience. This means that everybody knows that they had better provide a quality experience. Similarly, the preparation required for a school netball tournament or a county cup final, where the stakes are already high in terms of  achieving a  win or a loss, but even more than this, is the knowledge that the performance will be seen and scrutinised by others…so, again, every team member knows that they had better put in a good performance. This means getting the preparation right, using training to make any adjustments and refinements they need and make sure they are absolutely focused ahead of the moment the first whistle blows.

How differently we all behave and apply ourselves when we know, from the outset, that what we will do will be seen, scrutinised and consumed by others (just think of any presentation or interview scenario). Our frailties, any short-cuts or lack of planning are only a breath away from exposure when we face an audience. So much of our energy goes into making sure those frailties are eradicated as far as humanly possible.

These conversations led us to consider whether we could use the idea of an audience to drive up expectations, raise aspirations and make it clear, from the start, that this work is destined to be viewed by others. All of this also brings into play one of current action research questions: “How do we prepare our students for linear exams?”.

Using the lovely tool of VideoScribe (@videoscribetv) aka the presentation tool for introverts and quiet leaders (!), here are nine ideas for creating an audience of more than one SO THAT you can communicate high expectations from the outset. It is a great way to celebrate and evaluate student work. It involves all students, members of staff, parents and carers in critiquing and engaging in learning throughout the school.

This work follows our most recent INSET day, where staff inspired each other with ideas and approaches showing different ways to provide CHALLENGE. This included taking intellectual risks, supporting students to develop their own learning toolkits and asking every student to reflect on success criteria in answer to a pre-submission question, ‘Is it good enough?’

So the last two weeks have given us the opportunity to be really explicit about our expectations, overt about quality criteria for tasks and deliberate in communicating our desire for students to experience the best possible learning outcomes in every part of the school day.

Operation Challenge-All-Areas starts first thing in the morning. We aim to share a ‘good morning’ with every student on the gate (challenge to connect), design higher order question sequences in lessons (challenge to go deeper) and require students to use quality criteria for themselves to refine, edit and polish work before they hand it in (challenge to meet their own high expectations).

One thing is certain, Operation Challenge-All-Areas is here to stay.