The Teacher Wall by Ken Brechin

A new addition to many of our classroom displays across the school is our new ‘Teacher Wall’. This has been developed to replace the previous learning wall, whose design was aimed at supporting a ‘learning to learn’ approach which was at one time highly relevant when the government had a focus on  ‘developing 21st century skills’.

Developing the new wall was the summer term project of the teaching and learning team, with our aim being to base the contents on a body of evidence and best practice and to support our teaching and learning priorities: precision, quality first teaching and retention of knowledge over time.

Let’s take a tour:

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Pose, Pause, Pounce, Bounce

Pose, Pause, Pounce, Bounce (also called cold-call with no opt out) is a questioning strategy recommended as part of the ‘Teach like a Champion’ body of work  which has been evidenced as having a positive impact on the progress of disadvantaged students.  This strategy is already in use in many classrooms across the school, which sees a teacher pose a good question, pause to give thinking time, ‘pounce’ the question on an appropriate student and then ‘bounce’ it around so there is that alertness amongst the students.

While some of our best questioning is often instinctive, our best teachers frequently plan the questions they are going to ask and a common thought process for each stage of the interaction often follows thus:

Pose

What question will I ask? Will it be open ended or closed? What do I want to find out from the students? Is it to consolidate surface knowledge or to deepen understanding?

Pause

The pause is a reminder to add in wait-time to the questioning process. The average wait time in the UK – that is, the time between a teacher ending their question and then them answering it themselves or restructuring the question – is 0.7 seconds. Research shows that consistent use of 3 seconds of wait-time can have a significant impact on student outcomes

Pounce

One of the best things about visiting classrooms is seeing teachers in action, who really know the students in their class and who tailor their questioning and teaching to support and challenge all groups of learners. Again, many teachers have in mind which students they want to target their questions at, often ensuring a good spread of questions while ensuring our PP and SEN students come under focus as part of our ‘quality first teaching’ approach.

Bounce

The bounce part can be equally as instinctive, or equally as planned. Depending on whether the teacher wants to deepen the concept, or check the understanding of a different student, effective use of ‘bounce’ can also keep the group ‘on its toes’ and the level of participation high.

The Question Grid:ken6 - Edited

The question grid was re- introduced to our teachers as part of staff training right in the middle of our section 5 visit a classic moment where the staff were all beautifully behaved and participative with HMI Evans sat there in the room, with a collective chuckle and exhalation released when he walked out of the learning plaza.

HMI Evans was really taken with our use of the question grid to support the right blend between helpful, lower order questions and the deeper, more probing higher order questions to promote really active learning. It was also remarked on day two of our inspection how inspectors saw a very good blend of higher order and lower order questioning so we thought it was appropriate to include this in our new wall.

In terms of the blend of questions asked by teachers, it is important to note John Hattie’s recent assertion that 90% of questions asked in classrooms are surface based questions, with question stems being more of the  ‘what is’, ‘where did’ ‘what can’ type, with far fewer questions being asked which can promote thinking and discussion. The Question Grid is therefore hopefully a useful tool to help teachers and students ask deeper questions and establish a better blend of higher order to lower order questioning.

CLV ‘Teach Like a Champion’ Strategies

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Of the many, many ‘Teach Like a Champion’ strategies from across that evidence- based canon, we have focussed on a key few strategies that are having the most impact with our learners. We have the cold call questioning with no opt out – where every student has to be prepared to answer, during pose, pause, pounce, bounce questioning .

Everybody writes is a good reminder that we need to give the students the opportunity to practice their writing as often as possible. Teachers are also expected to use the write, pair share, as an alternative to think, pair share, with the rationale being that’s sometimes ‘you only really know what you think about something if you have written about it’ (Lemov, Teach Like a Champion).

Check for understanding is a good reminder to teachers to not let too many minutes go by before they have checked for student understanding and progress, so that no student is being left behind and that misconceptions are not allowed to take root.

Managing the transitions in lessons tightly and smoothly is key to good classroom management and keeping the pace high and so is making sure the students see that they are constantly being monitored with good scanning techniques – with personal favourites of mine being ‘the disco move’, ‘the meerkat’ and the ‘around the column’ scan!

Screenshot 2017-12-19 at 08.06.06 - Edited

Regular Review

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My set 5 students are fast learners, but very very fast forgetters. I have found the ‘forgetting curve’ graphic helpful in reminding me of the need to structure my lessons and content better to help them hold on to their learning better. The key principles I am trying to follow are making sure I go over the key concepts at timely moments and make good use of frequent, low stakes testing to help them practice dredging knowledge up from their memories.

As well as serving as a visual reminder to teachers that timely review of the main concepts is key to shallowing out the ‘forgetting curve’ – we have put this graphic on the teaching wall so we can use it with the students. Teachers will be able to use this to have conversations with the students – sharing with them why they are periodically revisiting concepts, or having a low-stakes test, and reminding them of the need to review their learning and revise regularly.

Balancing Surface and Deep

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This image is adapted from the work of Professor John Hattie, the notable academic who produced the seminal work ‘Visible Learning’ in 2008, which was a meta-analysis of over 10,000 studies into what works in education. His effect size driven analysis has informed educational practice worldwide at government, school and classroom level. That piece of work was 12 years in the making. He has spent the last 7 years on his new body of work which turns his attentions to learning, and what specifically helps students learn.

Hattie describes learning as “The process of developing sufficient surface knowledge to then move to deeper understanding” (then transfer) and as he did in visible learning, teaching and learning activities have been evaluated by its effect size, with a negative score meaning that the strategy does damage to learning, a score of 0 meaning it has no difference at all and then a positive effect size meaning it has value to learning.

So we now have access to a new rich body of evidence that informs us of strategies that work well when:

  • Acquiring surface knowledge
  • Consolidating Surface knowledge
  • Acquiring Deep Learning
  • Consolidating Deep learning

Hattie strongly suggests  it’s about using the evidence to do the right thing at the right time with students, all the while being mindful of that balance between surface knowledge – which a lot of our curricula demands from students – and that deeper knowledge that the students will hold on to better over time.

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