A vision for learning and the importance of GRIT

From The Young Foundation

I have written about the idea of GRIT before, inspired by creative thinker and writer, Jonah Leher (@jonahleher). His website is well worth a visit, not least because it is a thing of beauty.

This morning, I came across this report all about GRIT, from The Young Foundation, which provides a really detailed analysis on both the importance and benefits of developing GRIT and RESILIENCE in all our learners. With an array of useful links, case studies and practical applications to curriculum redesign. If you are currently developing your vision for learning, this is a great place to start.

 

Coaching to develop questioning expertise

“What makes a great questioner?”

 

In my coaching work with practitioners, I work with them to un-pick the skills involved in expert questioning.

At the heart of our coaching conversation, the practitioner breaks down the whole of the issue at hand, in this instance, QUESTIONING, into its constituent parts. This enables them to build on the specific strengths of their questioning strategies. This may identify times for them when they may have used a framework such as Bloom’s to construct their questions, but found that they haven’t waited long enough to allow ALL learners to come up with a range of quality answers.

Alternatively, they may know exactly who they need and want to ask as part of an inclusive questioning strategy to ensure that everybody is included in their questioning, but when they get a response, they get over-excited, particularly when they hear the one they were waiting for and use this as a prompt that everybody is ready to move on. This then misses the chance to use the answer(s) received as an opportunity to adapt teaching to meet learning needs.

So often, the difference between good and outstanding teaching comes down to just such missed opportunities.

 

So here’s what I’ve been working on in coaching sessions with practitioners who want to develop their expertise in questioning. I hope you find this deconstruction helpful!

 

As part of the coaching conversation, I focus on the following elements:

 

1. Decide on the purpose of the question

  • Why are you posing the question?
  • To prompt deeper thinking or because you and your students need to ‘cover the ground’?
  • To illicit a range of responses or a achieve specific response?
  • To assess security of understanding or reinforce existing knowledge?
  • To find out what you need to do next in your teaching or to reassure yourself that you can stick to a fixed plan?

N.B. There is no judgement on any of these suggested purposes. It is just a way to reflect on whether questions are ‘fit for purpose’

 

2. Construct the question

  • How can you use a thinking framework, a taxonomy or a graphic organiser to design your questions? For example, inference squares, 8-way thinking, 5 Ws, Bloom’s, De Bono’s hats, SOLO, P4C and so on are all great tools and processes to construct quality questions, develop deep thinking and foster curiosity.
  • Who’s question is it? Do all the questions come from you? How do you design opportunities for students to ask their own authentic questions?

 

3. Deliver the question

  • Who will you ask what questions and at what stage of the lesson do they need to be asked for greatest effect?
  • When will you use your deliberately planned ‘Big Bang Questions’ (BBQs) and what questions can you rely on as your standard ‘go-to’ questions to ‘scatter’ throughout the lesson? How can you deliberately design lessons in response to students’ questions?
  • How will you pose your questions? What ways can you deliver your questions in a creative and engaging way? In what ways might you be able to use technology to deliver your questions for you, using apps to animate your questions and surprise pupils as the lesson progresses. Just one example, ‘Talking Animals’ is great for this but there are loads of different ways to animate your questions.
  • How could you design learning so that questions are presented as clues hidden and slowly revealed during the lesson or placed around the room or site, or give them to pupils for them to make their own meanings collaboratively?
  • Will you be the sole questioner or will you delegate some questions to be asked by students, groups or as individuals?

 

4. Wait for the answer

  • How we you ‘grow the thinking gap’ . That is the time between the question being asked and the answer being expected? There’s a load of research about  the power of such wait time, but here’s one nice summary from the Independent Thinking Blog.

5. Respond to the answer

  • What will you do with the information that comes back to you in response to the question you have asked? Handily, this links back to the first element of questioning expertise, “What is the purpose of your question?”
  • How will you respond to inaccuracies in understanding? What kind of inaccuracies are you likely to encounter? How will you use these as critical teaching moments ‘CTMs’? How will you handle the completely unexpected response? What will you do if your question illicit nothing but the ‘tumble weed’ effect and how will you adapt your teaching to address a whole-scale misunderstanding or lack of confidence with the learning?

 

Trying to develop expertise in questioning involves reflecting and developing all of these elements in order to master one coherent approach to achieve the greater goal of, “Fostering curiosity”. In a coaching conversation, focusing on developing questioning expertise provides a rich vein of exploration and many opportunities for very specific formative lesson observation. 

 

The complexity of learning is constantly matched by the complexity of teaching. I am always mindful of the dangers of un-picking expertise in this  very specific way. If we’re not careful, teaching could be reduced to a mechanical activity.  We may then start to think of it as a straightforward checklist of processes, rather than the more organic craft that we all know it to be.  So having deconstructed these elements, the trick is to coach the practitioner to be able to stick everything back together, ready to be applied with confidence back in their busy classroom.

 

For me, then, questioning continues to be hold my fascination. I use a variety of formats to support formative lesson observation as part of my coaching practice. Each one takes a specific element of questioning and limits the focus of the observation to describe (not interpret or judge) what takes place in a specific time period within or over a series of lessons. I am always testing new versions so that I make sure I can capture exactly what it is the practitioner has asked me to look for. 

 

Once we become expert questioners, we are likely to be far more confident to continuously model what great questions sound like and, more importantly, the effect that posing a great question has.  This is equally true for coaches and practitioners. In this way, students are far more likely to develop confidence as expert questioners in their own right. It is at this moment, when students take responsibility for the lion’s share of the questioning during a lesson that curiosity will reign supreme!

Harnessing learning power through video


We (a collection of ambitious educators including the marvellous Jim Smith author of “The Lazy Teacher’s Handbook”) ran a student conference in 2008 with 100 students from 10 secondary schools. Their task over the two day residential was to ‘RE-BRAND LEARNING’. Above is just one of the outcomes from one group. Bear in mind, this was a group of learners who hadn’t met each other before the conference and came from very different schools and backgrounds. Yet when it came to learning, they were pretty clear about what they wanted…

The new site launched earlier this month by TED-ED has a call-out for videos to inspire learning and learners in the true spirit of www.TED.com. As you know, I’ve put together TEDucation which attempts to use the wealth of ideas from all the TED talks to reflect on and adapt to learning contexts. This project is a natural next step for TEDsters across the globe. There’s a place to engage through the TED-ED forum and a growing number of questions to respond to.

So, if nothing else, the TED-ED video opportunity could be a fabulous student project, and it could be very naturally linked to the amazing work of the #purposed team (@purposeducation).

“Make your own short film about what YOU think is the purpose of education.” and upload it to a global audience. Now THERE’S an opportunity for some awesome learning.

How we learn (VIDEO) from www.born-to-learn.org

I read John Abbott (@21learn)’s book, “Over-schooled but undereducated” a while ago now and have kept up with the 21st Learning Initiative (@iwasborntolearn) with interest. This animation (the first of a series) is the latest in a new suite of projects they’re launching. It’s definitely worth a watch and sharing with staff and parents and carers to generate discussion. They are launching a website on 28th March at www.born-to-learn.org to accompany the video projects. 

 

Oyster Learning with GriT: A new definition of Gifts & Talents?

(www.flickr.com/photos/annak/441319206/ by http://www.flickr.com/people/annak/ under Creative Commons License)

I really enjoyed this WIRED article by Jonah Lehrer, (@jonahlehrer) “Which traits predict success” (The importance of grit).  I have developed my own approach to gifted and talented education using similar principles but as with all great pieces of writing, this one provided a bit of a side-swipe on my thinking, which is always good.

Here’s my approach to how to foster gifts and talents in all our learners (rather than seeking to identify the gifted and talented learners) requires that we design opportunities where learning is underpinned by the concepts of:

1. Deliberate  & mindful practise (see Anders-Ericsson’s work on this)

2. Positive “Growth Mindsets” (see the recent publication, “Mindsets: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol S Dweck)

3. Task Commitment (Joseph Renzulli) .

Jonah Lehrer’s article made me consider an additional angle on the whole discussion about what we are looking for when we are identifying the ‘gifts and talents’ in our learners.

What Jonah says about measuring talent and intelligence by exploring the degree to which somebody displays resilience, stickability (what he refers to as ‘grit’) is a refreshing way to consider how schools might provide for their most able students. 

So often, we identify high ability and attainment first and then find ourselves looking for inventive ways to develop resilience, determination or ‘grit’ through the learning opportunities we provide. What if we flipped this model around and identified the ‘grit’ first and then, with the collaboration of the learners, designed activities that allowed them to really thrive? We would then have an approach that (a) provides opportunities for learners to demonstrate ‘grit’ (b) identifies it when it shows and (c) explicitly develops this ‘grit’ as a talent in its own right.

What would a cohort of learners who are identified as having the talent of ‘grit’, resilience and determination look, sound and be like in school?

Would a ‘grit’ talent pool include the same learners as a ‘high ability’ talent pool?

Could such an approach be used as an early intervention strategy. We spot the grit before the intellectual ability, celebrate this and then, through quality learning conversations, seek to apply the ‘grit’ talent to specific subject domains. What if they were yet to show high ability in a particular subject or domain area, but were picked up on the simple fact that they had stickability and determination to do their best. How would identifying such a cohort of learners inform the provision we then design for them?

A whole new cohort of young people may well be identified as ‘talented’ if we were to incorporate this in our definition of ‘gifted and talented’ in schools. Not only that, if we then design learning opportunities that explicitly seek to nurture resilience, tenacity and determination, then we can provide young people with the opportunity to deliberately and mindfully practise just the ‘talent’  of ‘grit’ that we are seeking to nurture.

As I said to Jonah when I wrote and thanked him for his insight, I LOVE the metaphorical connection that can be drawn between ‘grit’ and the way in which oysters make pearls…something we can easily latch on to. And Jonah very kindly said that he liked the metaphor too.

I’d be interested in your thoughts about this…

 

 

Blooming marvellous!

I love Twitter! I have so much to thank it for. Not least, for the fact that it has connected me with so many amazing people, their inspirational ideas, resources and on-going support. Today, I am particularly grateful for my connection with Cristina Milos @surreallyno and her wonderful blog “ateacherswonderings”. Cristina teaches in an IB school in Romania and she is whole-heartedly committed to engaging her own creative powers to grow the creative powers of her pupils.

Today, after Cristina had commented on a TEDucation post I’d just published, I followed a link to her blog, and came across this great book that she had come across on Storybird by the amazing janeh271 (if you click on her name, you’ll get to see her other great works – well worth a read!). It  explains Bloom’s taxonomy in the most engaging & accessible way. I hope you enjoy it and can use it. Thank you Cristina, thank you Twitter and my Personal Learning Network. A good day to be connected today.

It’s all about learning…

What Ofsted says Gifted & Talented Provision should look like

I rarely blog about documents.

Actually, I never do. So this is a first.

The reason for the inclusion of this particular one is the hugely positive reception it has received from the teachers I’ve been working with. We have been focusing on ways to use whole-school gifted and talented provision to develop quality teaching and learning and this document has proved to be a very useful way to consider what it looks like when it works.

So I thought it might be useful to post here.

See what you think of it.

gifted_and_talented_pupils_in_schools_ofsted_dec09.pdf
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