“Ask not what you EXPECT of me, but what you EXPECT of yourself”

(This is also published as new addition to the “EXPECTATIONS” post on www.marginallearninggains.com)

The Line of Engagement

Reflecting on to what degree pupils are engaging in their own learning and what this looks like, rather than whether they just simply, ‘are or are not engaged’ is another important dimension of the mindset of expectant teaching that you may wish to develop.

Here are some reflective and observational questions to hold in your head when the lesson is underway that you can use as part of your Marginal Learning Gains micro-action research:

QUESTION: Who is at what level of engagement for a SPECIFIC phase of the lesson?

(1) PARTICIPATING: Those who are simply ‘there’, being compliant to others and the lesson and completing tasks as and when they decide to, possibly prompted by eye contact with you or your proximity to them.

(2) INVOLVED:  Those who are following the path of least resistance, making you aware that they are there by answering the first and / or lowest challenge, ‘quick win’ questions but not taking their own thinking further or developing it beyond the initial stages. They don’t pose their own questions and certainly don’t take up the challenge of driving their own (or others’) learning on.

(3) ENGAGED: BINGO! These are the students who question, consider, pose, test and really grapple with their own learning. They clarify their understanding through further questions to you and their peers and uses phrases like ‘I had a go at this…what do you think?’ These students demonstrate a real sense of AGENCY.

This approach can also be assessed and, more powerfully, peer and self assessed through powerful learning conversations that might begin with…

  • What do you think is the difference between (a) PARTICIPATING (b) BEING INVOLVED (c) BEING ENGAGED?
  • How ENGAGED (a) Do you EXPECT to be today (b) Did you EXPECT to be today?
  • What does ‘being engaged’ look, sound and feel like for (a) you (b) your peers/ learning buddy?
  • How do you need to change your EXPECTATIONS of yourself SO THAT you can move up the mountain of ENGAGEMENT?

Here’s a familiar (to those of you who know me well) visual prompt that you might want to adapt to support such questions with your groups…

If you’ve got a genuinely engaged group, then you may wish to really place the challenge of learning at their feet with an adapted mantra:

“Ask not what you EXPECT of me, but what you EXPECT of yourself”…or something like that! Improved suggestions on a postcard, please…

Please let me know how you get on with this MLG. Unpicking EXPECTATIONS is a critical component of the MLG project and one MLG that has massive potential when it comes to aggregating the MLGs.

Ensuring Impact: The Aggregation of Marginal Learning Gains

So, I am now well into a reflection-development phase of the Marginal Learning Gains work. This has to centre around, as with all educational endeavours, “What impact will the Marginal Learning Gains approach have on the quality of teaching and learning and how will I know?”. It is early days, I know, but I am a front-end evaluation sort of thinker and I like to be clear about the intended impact and outcomes from the outset. I am always looking to refine and learn and to do that, I have been asking a few questions of MLG. My own experiences with MLG mean that I have been part of a launch of MLG and I am privileged enough to have been made aware from feedback to this blog, emails, ‘actual’ (!) conversations and through Twitter that many, many people are also now well underway in developing Marginal Learning Gains as a way to reflect and develop their own practice with colleagues and staff.

This post is an acknowledgement to the amazing amount of MLG interest, positive feedback, ideas and fantastic sharing of thinking over the past few weeks about the implementation Marginal Learning Gains (MLG). People have been sharing how they are already using MLG to develop quality learning opportunities in individual practice, within teams and across a school.

Although it is tempting at this point to simply say, “Just try it and see” or, “Take a look at what people are saying in their blogs and tweets about how they’re using MLG and the impact that is having” that’s not enough for the evidence-based researcher in me.

Marginal Learning Gains: The missing verb

When it comes to impact, there is one word missing from my blog posts, our tweets, the marginal gains hashtag on Twitter and even the Marginal Learning Gains website itself that is most likely to provide an answer to how we will see and know there is impact. Although described in the original Dave Brailsford documentary and in his interview here, the one word missing from MLG is the verb, “AGGREGATION“.

For it is in what we DO with the many small Learning Gains we identify, analyse and develop that will lay the foundations for sustained improvement. This will also avoid the inherent danger that some people have rightly noted and commented in our discussions of recommending Marginal Learning Gains as a way to ‘just find some (possibly random) little things to improve’ which may result in pressurising us into implementing a frenetic series of disconnected teaching activities that will only serve to confuse, disrupt and overwhelm. Which is the exact opposite of what MLG is all about. It is designed to give clarity to what we want to develop and improve so that we can think, reflect and discuss what great learning needs to look, sound and feel like for our learners. Have a look at the Ofsted survey on the Learning Goggles section of this blog, placed at Number 4: ‘Some myths about teaching and learning’. This has a description of what might constitute ‘over-teaching’ on pages 12-15 of the Ofsted Survey and illustrates this point about ‘overwhelm’ with teaching strategies.

Criteria: what is a Marginal Learning Gain?

A Marginal Learning Gain is one that can be identified as one small constituent part and incorporated into the whole of a teacher’s practice and used to enhance the daily learning experiences of learners. Ultimately, if there is to be an authentic sense of AGENCY and AUTONOMY in this process, the MLG is entirely up to you. It is for you to reflect on your own practice so that you can select what to focus on as what you believe will make the greatest difference. Drawing on your own wealth of expertise and the advice and observations of others around you is probably the best way to select your first few Marginal Learning Gains.

Here are three possible sources of evidence you may choose to use to refine your definition of your own Marginal Learning Gains and make an informed selection:

1. SELF AWARENESS: The here & now: What and where are the missed opportunities that we frequently observe in our own and each others’ lessons, see in written work or notice during learning walks? What are the small adaptions we could make that would avoid the reflection, ‘…if only…’ in response to how learning is delivered and organised. Where we know we could have provided students with opportunities to think more deeply, make connections across and between topics, discuss with confidence, synthesise their prior and present learning and apply their expertise to new situations?

2. EXTERNAL RESEARCH: The known & reported: What does research say really makes a difference to the quality of learning outcomes? Which of the most powerful teaching techniques or approaches are worth really making a part of our standard practice?

3. JUDGEMENTS: The accountability framework: What does Ofsted say aids (a) the flow of learning and (b) the quality of progress over time of every student? How do we avoid trying to do everything listed be discerning about the few things we can identify in our own context, analyse these and develop them accordingly?

There is an inherent danger in taking an ‘only-do’ approach to MLG in that although it may well lead to identifying some (possible very small) aspects of teaching that, if given attention, can be analysed and then developed, this may not be something that, when aggregated, makes s direct contribution to the ‘whole’. There is one level of impact in reflecting in this way, for sure. The trick is, as is always the case, to consider how to make this learning gain an ACTUAL GAIN and with this, ensure that it is sustainable and can be aggregated (incorporated into the whole so that it has impact). The key to the MLG approach is to ensure that every learning gain made can be embedded and sustained as part of everyday practice, ensuring that this will not be one of those ‘missed opportunities’ at a later date.

So here goes…the Marginal Learning Gains approach with a methodology to accompany it. One that can be used time and time again so that gains can indeed be aggregated. As Dave Brailsford says, it is only when you put the marginal gains together and embed them as part of your standard practice, that you will start to see the TOTAL impact. In this case, on the quality of teaching and learning.

So this is my first attempt (of several, I am sure) to explain just how integral and manageable ‘MICRO‘ action research is as an integral part of the Marginal Learning Gains approach. It is an approach I have used for years and as part of the MLG process, I can only see how will benefit anybody who wants to ensure that MLG thinking will have a sustained impact over time for quality teaching and learning.

For me, any form of research is about developing a reflective mindset and with this, it has a direct a impact on practice. In working and thinking in this way, we get to the point where we are confident enough to implement the small but meaningful changes (MLGs) in teaching practice that will make a big difference in learning outcomes.

The MLG tool: Micro Action Research

Micro action research is the methodology that is most suited to implementing Marginal Learning Gains in your practice and ensuring that the aggregation happens. If Marginal Learning Gains is the philosophy, then micro-action research is the methodology. At the end of which, the Learning

Gains can be pulled together (aggregated) to ensure sustained impact. There’s clearly a synergy between the methodology and the philosophy of MLG.

In micro action research, you focus on developing just one aspect of pedagogy (which you have identified from one or all of your three evidence sources listed above) with a specific group within a limited timeframe. Once you have developed this one aspect, embedded it and sustained it as part of your practice, you simply identify another key component and apply the same process. That’s where the Aggregation of Marginal Learning Gains starts to really take a hold.

This is how it works…The Micro Action Research Question

Rather than asking, “How can I improve my teaching from (x) to (y)?” and with this question, getting frustrated because you feel that you’re doing everything you know you should be doing, micro action research requires you to reframe the question in SPECIFICS, so that you can easily and systematically assess the impact of any specific changes you test out. So your question will sound more like this,

“To improve my teaching from (x) to (y)…” becomes…

“How can I use [SPECIFIC STRATEGY] (e.g. paired discussion) SO THAT I see an improvement in the [LEARNING OUTCOME] (e.g. quality of learning talk) with [FOCUS GROUP] (e.g. five Year 9 boys) over [TIMEFRAME] (e.g. three lessons) ?”

The handy thing about this approach is that the research can be undertaken without making massive changes or requiring hours of pre-planning. By adopting a reflective mindset in the first lesson, you are using the Marginal Learning Gains (IAD) approach at a meta-level and in doing so, embedding it in your own thinking.

In your first lesson, you IDENTIFY what your focus needs to be. Between the first and the second lesson, you ANALYSE the characteristics of what you EXPECT when you listen to ‘quality learning talk’ in this instance and then, in the second and third lessons, you can DEVELOP those specific characteristics through the small changes you implement.

In doing this, you don’t have to undertake a whole-scale re-programming of your  teaching preferences and style but instead, you are free to focus your attention on a specific aspect of your repertoire. You can then engage in a highly reflective process that will not only develop this specific aspect of teaching but, more importantly, shape the way in which you design learning at the outset.

If you merge this with some developmental lesson observations as part of a focused MLG coaching programme, then you’ll have a model for teaching and learning development that is sophisticated in terms of depth of thinking and quality reflection but simple in terms of manageability. This is a Low Input: High Impact model for professional development. And if you want to know more about how the developmental coaching programme works, I’ll be posting about that soon.

Marginal Learning Gains #5 pt2: Fostering Expectant Teaching Mindsets (S3)

As I am immersed in Marginal Learning Gains at the moment, I am testing out Tiny Changes that make a Big Difference (#tcbd) and I wanted to follow on from my previous post and share my experience of adopting the thinking-language of expectancy that I used when I worked with a group of teachers very recently.

My enquiry question:

How can I establish a culture of high aspiration with a group of teachers I have only just met and who don’t know each other by using the thinking-language of expectancy SO THAT I encourage really deep thinking, discussion and decision-making (characterised by negotiation, persuasion, consideration and discernment) and elicit high quality responses to a creative thinking activity?

Here’s what I happened…

I deliberately changed my thinking SO THAT I adopted the language of expectancy to communicate my high aspirations for the group. I made a deliberate shift in my thinking as I moved from Hopeful Teaching  (‘I hope they come up with some good responses’) to Expectant Teaching (‘I expect them to generate high quality, well thought-out and considered responses’).

I showed an image and asked the group to come up with a tag line to suit what they saw. Some jumped at this straight away and clearly had lots of ideas as they started talking before I finished my last sentence of explanation. Others responded by lowering their heads in a ‘Please don’t ask me, (I’m not creative at all) and I’ll rely on somebody in my group to come up with something’ sort of way. Pretty typical for any mixed grouping and there’s absolutely no judgement from me for any of those responses. I completely understand and have experienced them all, particularly in staff training and conference workshops!

Anyway, I called an end to the activity by the tried and tested (but vague) wait-for-the-lull-in-the-talk-technique and pulled their attention back to the image. During the activity, I listened very carefully to the discussions and made a notes of the first ideas I heard from the pairings and who they came from. During the activity, nobody wrote anything down or reached for the paper  provided. All of this took about 3 minutes in total.When I asked the whole group for feedback here’s what I noticed:

  1. The responses given were exclusively each pairs’ very first ideas that they had come up (I had noted these down during the task) SO THAT I knew there had been little or no development in thinking from the beginning of the discussion to the end
  2. The ideas that were shared were those ideas that had come from the more confident member of the group SO THAT the less confidently presented ideas lost out to the more confidently expressed ideas.

In the spirit of good research, I then asked them to do the activity again, with a new image. This time I adopted an ‘expectant’ teaching mindset and framed my explanation in the language of high expectations. That is, language that is Structured, Specific and Succinct or S3 for short…

‘You are going to complete this activity in three parts:

First, I am going to ask you to look at an image on your own and think about it for 1 minute.

Second, and you’ll share your thinking with your partner, you will have two minutes only to discuss what you were thinking and together, write down with THREE possible tag lines for this image.

Third and last, still with your partner, you will both have just 30 seconds to create ONE tag line as a pair that shows your best thinking.’

The first thing that happened with the new set of instructions was that every member of the group reached for their pen and paper to make a note of their ideas. This was because they knew they had more than one idea to generate, there would be additional thinking to do and they would have to use all three of their ideas in the second part of the activity.

When the time was up, I asked for their best thinking. This time, I noticed that their responses were much more developed and had clearly moved beyond their first ideas. The final offerings were almost all hybrid versions of the three initial ideas that they had originally generated. Those pairings who had selected one of their original tag lines and not adapted or improved on it justified this by saying that they couldn’t think of anything more or different a it really was the best of their thinking as it was.

The impact of using the language of expectations:

  1. All of them had thought more deeply about the task at hand because they knew they had to generate a specific number of initial ideas within  a structured time frame
  2. All of them made decisions during the process (rather than just going with the first/ loudest/ most confident/ forceful idea) because they were specifically required to justify the selection that they made

To summarise: I used the language of expectations to structure the activity SO THAT everybody demonstrated high levels of discernment and thoughtful consideration as a result of the scaffold of ‘Structured, Specific, Succinct’ expectations.

In being explicit about expectations, we can frame success criteria in a far more purposeful and succinct way. If we want a group to come up with some good questions about a topic, we can start to think about how many questions we realistically, or ambitiously, expect them to come up with. Then we can specifically tell them how many questions we really expect them to generate. If we think they will need about three minutes to do this, we can tell them we expect them to come up with (x number) of questions in (x amount) of time. In this way, we will can be clear about our expectations and communicate our belief in their ability to achieve this at the same time, SO THAT we nurture their personal sense of agency and a ‘can do’ attitude in their learning.

So, “I want you to come up with some ideas” becomes, “I expect each one of you (insert names if needed) to identify six important points in the text and select the three most important in (specific time)”

And, “Some of you might be able to/ could/ should….” becomes, “I expect those of you who are working at level (x) / (insert names if needed) to be able to…by (midway point in the lesson/ end of lesson/)…SO THAT….you can show me/ each other that you can/ understand/ know/…’

Marginal Learning Gain #5 pt 2 = Communicating in the Language of Expectations (S3)

  • Think in the language of expectations SO THAT we communicate what we expect learners to be able to achieve by the mid-point/ end of the lesson/ topic/ unit/ term
  • Design and organise learning SO THAT we ensure learners meet both our own and their own expectations (as far as they possibly can)
  • Communicate through the language of expectations SO THAT learning outcomes are framed as; “I expect (either insert names OR use all/ most/ some of you) to be able to (do/ show/ analyse/ communicate/ create etc) SO THAT …”
  • Encourage learners to adopt the language of expectancy in their own thinking (structured, specific and succinct) SO THAT they start to shape and own their ambition
  • Ask learners what they specifically expect to be able to do/ know/ understand achieve and how they will do this at specific points in the lesson SO THAT they can commit to just this (see Marginal Gains #2 Compliance to learning plan)
  • Ask learners what they expect from the next lesson based on what they can now do and/or what they now know and understand SO THAT they build on prior learning and engage in their own sense of progression over time
  • Ask learners how well they expect to achieve in a forthcoming assessment, by the end of the topic, term, year SO THAT they can record this and use it as their personal learning goals as the year progresses

Being expectant rather than hopeful involves using the word ‘expect’ when we both think and talk about learning. It means we can be structured, specific and succinct in how we design and organise learning SO THAT we create a culture of aspiration and clear expectations. Please don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating that we develop a hope-less teaching environment. We all need to be hopeful particularly when we start out on each new part of our learning journey. But perhaps we can deliberately shift our mindset earlier in the process of teaching? By consciously changing the language in which we think and adopting this in our communications with learners from the outset, we won’t have to wait for evidence to reassure us that we really can believe that great achievement is possible. Perhaps this is what we can also encourage learners to do? If they wait for enough evidence to let them know it is safe enough to commit to learning, they may never take that intellectual risk we know/ believe they can. I wonder if this Marginal Learning Gain could be one way to accelerate a sense of agency and self-belief in our learners.

When we are expectant of ourselves and each other, surely then, we will find ourselves enjoying a culture of high aspirations? And if, for some reason, expectations are not met, then I wonder whether enables us to ask exclusively learning-focused questions as to why this hasn’t happened. In this way, we can avoid being left wondering whether a failure to meet a learning goal was because we did not explain the task with clarity, plan it well enough or think it through. We will surely know that, having adopted the ‘Expectant Teaching Mindset’, we certainly made it clear, we definitely planned it well and we meticulously thought it through, then the next obvious step is to respond to the missed goal as being down to a gap in knowledge, understanding or skill development. We can then immediately and confidently adjust our teaching accordingly.

Maybe this is another Tiny Change (a Marginal Learning Gain) that can make a Big Difference (#tcbd) SO THAT we can own our ambition SO THAT we foster the sense of agency at the motivational heart of our learners.

Marginal Gains #5 pt1: High aspirations and expectant thinking

As I came back from London earlier this week, I reflected on the last remaining signs of the Olympics and Paralympics still in evidence around the city. I remembered the feelings I had experienced as the entire summer of sporting excitement had gained momentum starting with Wimbledon, The Tour De France, the Olympics, the Paralympics, The US Open and the Ryder Cup. I reflected on how the sense of hope that we shared grew into something new, as one outstanding sporting achievement after another hit the headlines. Hope morphed into expectancy. In particular, I started to wonder about the mindset of those performing.

How ‘hopeful’ was Dave Brailsford on the morning of the first leg of The Tour De France or on the morning of the first cycling competitions in London 2012? Did he hope that Bradley Wiggins would win or did he expect it? Did he hope that Team GB Cycling would reach their targets on the medal tables or did he expect it? More to the point, did he and his team communicate an expectation of success to the riders, or simply pat them on the back as they cruised to the start line and then say that they hoped they would win? This got me thinking about the relationship between thinking and speaking. The language in our heads and the language we use to communicate. There’s probably a heap of NLP stuff I should be reading up on about this, so I’ll add it to my list. For now, I’m just going to work this through here and see what you make of it. The question this raised for me was this:

How would our actions as educators change if we adopted a mindset and, therefore, a language of expectation rather than hope? And these musings led me to think about many conversations over the years with teachers during planning and reflective sessions…

Conversations in particular about how to incorporate and communicate high aspirations for learning in the design of lessons. Always, however, it has been incredibly difficult to unpick exactly what aspiration looks, sounds and feels like. Trying to actually establish an aspirational learning environment is dependent on knowing exactly what characterises it in the first place and then being able to design the environment according to those characteristics. We know that when we meet people who have high aspirations, we feel it, sense it and, therefore, we know it. They are inspirational and energising to be around. But replicating exactly what this ‘aspiration thing’ is so that we can both feel, communicate and teach for it through the learning we design is a massive challenge.

So here goes my attempt to give it a go. And as always, I begin with questions…

How do we establish a culture of aspirational learning through the language of learning that we think in and use?

What practical strategies do we need to implement in a culture of aspirational learning?

How can we deliberately develop learner aspirations through our teaching?

How do we know when it’s working?

Well, one thing I have been trying to do lately is be much more conscious about the language I think in. A tiny thing to try, hence it sits within our suite of potential marginal learning gains. I have had a go at removing the word hope from my language when I am thinking about and discussing learning intentions, objectives, success criteria and outcomes. Instead, I have tried to replace it with ‘expectation’. Admittedly, this feels a little uncomfortable. It puts you on the line and suggests a certainty in what you are intending to happen. But I wonder if it is a case of ‘fake it ’till you make it’? If we think in terms of high aspiration and use words that reflect an expectation that something will happen, then maybe that’s worth trying?

Whenever Year 10 and Year 12 students embarked on their courses, fresh new exercise books at the ready, I used to say to them that that they should get to a point during the course when they couldn’t wait for the exam itself to happen. I told them that they should feel excited and energised about it as opposed to dreading it and fearing what was about to happen. They always looked at me quizzically at this point (well, they did so most of the time, to be fair) but I would reassure them that if they knew and understood everything that we were about to cover and could articulate their thinking, ideas and arguments with confidence, then there would be nothing to fear when it came to the examination itself. In fact, they would see it as an opportunity to show off their immense knowledge, skill and understanding and hence be fidgeting with excitement at what they were about to encounter.

In thinking and talking in highly aspirational ways and trying really hard to avoid using the word ‘hope’ and with it, ‘might’ and ‘should’, I am in no ways advocating ‘hopeless‘ teaching or, indeed, a strict, no-compromise rigid and inflexible all-or-nothing succeed-or-fail approach to teaching and learning. Far from it, so please bear with me as I think this is where our marginal learning gains will come to the rescue…

Marginal learning gain: The language of expectation frames our thinking.

Often, when planning lessons together, teachers state that they hope that the students will get to the (x) task. When reflecting on lessons, teachers often say that they had hoped that the group would have achieved (x). But I wonder what might change if instead of hoping, we very deliberately thought about expecting the learning we intend/plan for to happen? What effect would that have on:

(a) How we plan and select learning activities

(b) How we deliver and structure learning

(c) How we communicate our expectations to learners

What if we thought in terms of expectation and then overtly communicated this through the language we use, as opposed to hope/ might/ could SO THAT we can create a ‘culture of expectation’ and foster a sense of agency for all our learners?

I’m still working on this, so I would really appreciate any feedback on this if you want to give it a go. There’s another post to follow, where I will share with you what happened when I noted how thinking in expectations directly informed the structuring of learning.

Marginal Gains: “SO THAT” we can squeeze the learning out of LOs (Part 2)

In my commitment to refining and developing my thinking as a reflective practitioner, here’s a couple of additions to the previous post as a result of Tweacher feedback:

@charte shared some learning from Cramlington, where, “…LOs were usually stated as Content…Process…Benefit which I found helpful!”

And @rachaelkp who tweeted,  “..interesting and useful, could be followed by a question to take learner to next LO?” followed by, “…it also puts the learner in the driving seat, great for motivation.”

Which made me think of this as a type of LO equation, which is great for showing progress over time…

[Today’s LO] SO THAT [next lesson’s LO]

or for links to the wider world or longer term

[Today’s Learning] SO THAT [BIG PICTURE OUTCOME: “You understand/ make informed choices/ contribute to…”]

or for connections to a specific skill…

[Today’s learning] SO THAT [application of skill: “You can…”]

or for a differentiated outcome

[Today’s learning] SO THAT [all can…] [some can…] [most can…]

I’m sure there’s much more in this and I hope you understand that this blog post is my attempt to test out and share my thinking. But it seems that if we dissect the LO so we think about it in terms of exactly why and how the learning will result in the intended outcome, “Learning = Outcome”  then we have a chance to be explicit and concrete about why ‘learning this‘ or ‘learning in this way‘ or even why ‘learning this right now‘ is important, relevant and meaningful. I also really like the Cramlington approach tweeted by Chris Harte which puts the process of learning into the equation.

If students can take the opportunity to reflect for themselves why they think they are ‘learning this’, ‘learning in this way’ and ‘learning this right now’ then they’ll be able to give us some invaluable feedback about the level and security of the understanding they have about their learning which we can then use to inform our teaching adaptations.

If there’s a way to really use LOs to drive the learning and work for us, then I reckon that it could well be yet another marginal gain well worth aggregating.

Constructing learning SO THAT it is meaningful and purposeful

Finding ways to make the complexities of learning concrete and clear to learners is a challenge. Ensuring how we design learning that is both purposeful and meaningful is one thing. Deciding just how we translate the often abstract concept of learning we have in our head so that it makes sense and has meaning for others is what makes a quality learning experience.

This is part of my Marginal Learning Gains (#marginalgains) thinking as it involves focusing in on a very small aspect of learning and refining it in order to extract as big a learning opportunity as possible from it. What I have come to refer to as ‘squeezing the learning’.

I’ve been grappling with the challenge of how to construct learning outcomes and /or objectives (which I will refer to as LOs from here on) that are both purposeful and meaningful. For many lessons, LOs often become the empty and unloved dark corner of our learning architecture rather than the engine room of the learning experience we are offering. So, with my Marginal Learning Gains thinking hat firmly on I started to unpick this one aspect of learning design to see if there was a marginal learning gain to be aggregated in the use and construction of LOs.

The “So That…” of learning 

By inserting the connective of ‘SO THAT…’ there is a concrete way to communicate the relevance of learning. This can also counter challenges from those students who, when faced with something new or unfamiliar and are reluctant to take an intellectual risk, ask why they need to learn/ do/ understand/ study this or learn in this way. So it gives us a great opportunity to pre-empt what is, in fact the ‘SO WHAT?’ by making the reason for the lesson in the LO overt and explicit from the outset.

Some of the benefits of using the ‘SO THAT…’ connective I have begun to notice…

  • It forces me to really think through the reasons why I have designed the learning in a particular way and it doesn’t let me off the hook!
  • It makes me explicit about what I intend the impact of learning to look, sound and feel like, so I have front-end evaluation criteria from the outset as part of my outcome-focused planning
  • It sharpens up my thinking about every form of learning or training session I design. After all, if I can’t explain the ‘SO THAT…’ it probably means that I couldn’t answer the ‘SO WHAT…?’ if I was asked
  • It means that anybody who comes in mid-way through will be clear about the purpose of the design and content of the learning experience
  • It provides a prompt for all learners to articulate why and what they are learning in terms of content and the how in terms of the organisation of their learning
  • It provides an opportunity to involve the learners in working out for themselves what the purpose of learning is. In doing so, they co-construct the success criteria for individual tasks and can see how these are directly linked into the bigger picture of learning

And, if you know me well, you’ll not be surprised that I need a visual to show what I’m talking about. So here you go…I’m working with some teachers to see how this goes, so please let me know what you think so we can add, tweak and refine it further if needs be…Image