Dirty Tricks

–          Using PEEL to develop active learners

This is a sneaky little technique that I tried with a top set year 11 class. They are a very bright, conscientious group but enjoy being spoon-fed information and are a bit reluctant to take risks and think for themselves.

So in an attempt to raise their awareness of their passive approach to learning I had a go at a PEEL (Project for Enhance Effective Learning) strategy known as ‘Dirty Tricks’. The idea is that you basically write a load of complete nonsense on the board and get the students to copy it out as ‘notes’ in their books.

The students were absolutely silent as they very neatly copied out word for word what I had written on the board. Despite the fact that the students had just learnt about the topic in the previous lesson, the sentences were grammatically incorrect and the science was nonsense, not one of the students questioned what they were copying down.

Afterwards, when I told the students that they had very laboriously copied down a load of rubbish they were outraged! They crossed it out in their books and told me they would never trust me again (which I hope was a joke). In the end though I found this was a very useful exercise for two reasons. Firstly, the students then had to go back over their notes and correct the mistakes, some of which were more subtle than others which made for a useful task in terms of assessing their scientific understanding.

Secondly, after a constructive follow up discussion they have now hopefully learnt the hard way that they must become active participators in their own learning or they could be caught out!

Sarah Shepherd


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