Student voice

– What Students Tell Us About Our Teaching

How often do we listen to our students, our customers? I like to think I do, but, I must confess it’s probably at a cursory level. This article is me really listening! It is based on thirty reflections completed at the end of a project by my students. It is purposely anecdotal rather than statistical as students are too often reduced to a number.

I must confess I love the final half term of school, the exams are finished and a small window of opportunity to experiment with the curriculum is granted. This summer, the Science department at our school tried something different, very different. We turned over the lessons to our students in a very real way. This is our attempt at training our year 9 students in how we want them to learn come next September. Ken Brechin was the genius behind the marvellous “Brainiac” challenge. Brainiac Science Abuse is a Sky TV show that performs weird, wacky and wild scientific experiments. This was our chance to really enthuse our students about science and give them “intellectual control”. This article is a summary of the students’ experiences and what we as teachers can learn from them.

So what was the Brainiac Challenge?

Before we proceed a brief synopsis of the Brainiac challenge will be useful. Students were assigned to groups, then had to storyboard and script an episode of Brainiac Science Abuse, and present their ideas to executive producers – their class mates. They had free reign of what science they did and which experiment to perform and explain in front of the class. They were given a substantial 6 hours of lesson time to prepare. To reflect on their experience of the challenge students were given a choice of questions to respond to.

So what did they make of this, and what does it tell us about teaching and learning?

Tough beginnings lead to first success

Overwhelmingly the students found this experience “fun”, “enjoyable” and “exciting”, although this was very much a summation of their overall experience. Progress was slow at the start since the task was so open-ended. They found it difficult to make the decision on what to do and found this frustrating with one student commenting

“Once we started designing our show I was not very enthusiastic towards it, but after a few lessons I started to enjoy it. ”

It became clear that the ownership of the learning was the enjoyable part. Would the students enjoy these lessons to the same extent if they were teacher led, or if only a short time was allocated to develop the task.

“I remember thinking and panicking are we ever going to get anywhere with this, and when would the group start working together and getting things done. ”

This quote also illustrates initial trepidation, but shows they were investing emotionally in the activity. Having an extended period of time is essential for students to properly take intellectual control over their learning, though I hope they will get quicker as time goes on. They are used to short, fragmented lessons with many and varied teacher input. They are not used to doing so on such a scale.

Our students are lucky enough to enjoy a Learn to Learn course in which the 5 R’s (Resilience, Reflection, Resourcefulness, Responsibility and Reasoning) are taught and developed. It is when students are challenged that they really get to apply the 5 R’s.

“I had to be really responsible and resilient to complete this project rang truly one comment. It was indeed the students showing these qualities, though it was a show of resilience on my part not to jump in! ”

Blank pages are full of opportunities

The open-ended nature of this challenge allowed students to take control and use many skills such as; “making decisions”, “adapting”, “team working”, “negotiating” and “solving problems” to mention a few that I did expect, as well as a few that I did not expect; “listening”, “drawing”, “designing with restrictions” and “independent learning skills”.

What struck me most, however, was the sense that students were developing and improving these skills, so what initially seemed like a large chunk, nearly two weeks, of science teaching time became a mere 6 lessons. I am wondering if we dedicate enough time to these skills within our lessons.

It is important to make it clear that the teachers did retain actual control of the class (without the students realising). This was achieved by the detailed creation of the challenge, keeping perspective on what our success criteria were and our provision of quality feedback to our students on these criteria. Another trick I used was to provide grids at the beginning of each session, which students could use to agree success criteria for themselves.

They also had the opportunity to review at the end of each session. This gave each lesson purpose and direction. We were able to comment on them in between sessions too. Students did find these useful with six students using the term success criteria (despite it not being mentioned on the review sheet. This shows that success criteria are valued by students and helps them gain a sense of achievement.

Comments ranged from “not very exciting” to “I felt proud of what we did”. Whilst others found it difficult to make comments at all “because we were so involved in the challenge”.

This highlights the need for teachers to organise and run a quiet reflection time each lesson. It would be a shame if they did not get to articulate their feelings about the experience.

Pros and Cons of group work

I must signal a word of warning, that this style of teaching does create pressure that may not always be positive. Students’ skills in negotiating and delegating can be crude and therefore could lead to inequalities in labour division. Yes, the challenge of getting things done to a strict deadline is helpful, and it is evident in the reflections that it played a major part in their learning. But this can put some individuals pushing over the edge of their comfort zones.

A lot of pressure was put on me and I didn’t like it. It was a hard job. I struggled with the script and didn’t manage to finish it.”

Although only one student reflected upon this, teachers must be aware, and spend time developing the community of your classroom. Most students made their task easier by relying on their group for assistance. One student makes this perfectly clear:

I thought this challenge would be really hard but when everyone in the group thought about it together it didn’t seem that hard anymore. ”

Students were grouped using my knowledge of their strengths, a balance by gender and one or two classroom management decisions. This class is used to working in different groups. They are familiar with the routine of arriving at the lesson, and checking the board to find out which groups they will work in that day. So new groupings are very much taken in their stride.

Only one student claimed they would have been more productive if they “worked with their friends”, but this was countered by multiple responses that said “my group was nice”, “ I liked my group” and even “it was good to work with people I wouldn’t normally work with”.

The student presentations were a revelation to me as, although I had been observing closely their progress each lesson, I had yet to see a final product. Their quality, with some variation was exceptional. They explained ideas succinctly and made it obvious that they had researched and asked questions.

A particularly pleasing outcome was the fact that they felt they had learned from other presentations. Some reflections were “the presentations we saw were filled with information and facts”, “I was impressed”, “I enjoyed watching other groups”, and my personal favourite “we didn’t just learn form our own experiment

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, but also from everyone else’s.”

The presentations were surprisingly slick for 13 year olds. Many of the presentations were enhanced by the use of ICT, images and music. Like the TV show the students had raised many questions to answer by performing an experiment or scientific demonstration.

* Which vegetable is the strongest?

* Do fruit flavoured sweets taste like fruit? – (This involved me being blindfolded and taste testing lemons and limes, I may be too trusting, though no misfortune befell me!)

* Is it possible to put Humpty Dumpty together again?

* Can you make a milk bottle fart? The students were keen to pose their own questions and took the opportunity to use question dice to help formulate them. Their quest was then to answer them with real science.

The students were asked to feedback to each other in small groups and had designed feedback tools that they distributed. This is an important reflective activity and can provide stimulus to students in future activities.

“When we watched other groups presentations I couldn’t help feeling that they were so much better than I expected ”

The peer feedback was welcomed and was based on the agreed success criteria

“We met the success criteria, getting good feedback from Mr Mead and the other teams. ”

I am glad I was mentioned here. It is nice to see my students value my feedback. They give and receive feedback consistently with me and each other, so I need not be worried peer assessment will lack the rigour that makes it valuable to its recipients.

The learner qualities of 13 year olds

Problem solving is a feature prominent in many of the student reflections, with the solving of problems adding to the enjoyment of this challenge. This was pleasing although they were not usually forthcoming in describing the thought processes involved – an area for development here. “Teamwork” and “Togetherness” were common phrases and, intriguingly, one student claimed “We overcame a problem by using black hat thinking”. This student does not embellish this thought, but he has obviously seen it as a tool which he found helpful.

During the end of lessons reviews students were issued with a table of thinking words with one group utilising these well in describing their thinking “We all imagined our end products”, “We distributed tasks and interpreted information, “We identified tasks that we have to do”, All this leads me to the conclusion that my students are just starting a journey of using tools to aid thinking, but they have begun and I hope the next step is exponential.

Target setting was also a keen feature of their reflections; these were honest about work rate with direct targets such as “Instead of wasting time talking I would get started straight away” (although I disagree with this as I observed barely any off task behaviour), or technical ones like “I would have included a PowerPoint (maybe with some music)”, “We would have rehearsed”, “Learn the script and be more enthusiastic”.

All of these would have improved the quality of their presentations. These targets show that students have high expectations of themselves and, if anything, are overly critical of their performance.

My final thought on these lessons is on the last activity my students and I did, and what inspired this article. This being the honest and expansive reflections that my students so generously indulged in. It is clear that they feel successful and proud, not only of their achievement, but also of their ability to learn.

As I said at the beginning of the article, I love the final half term where the imagination can run wild, learning is unrestrained and the students have a chance to teach me things. And these things are….

1. Plan open ended activities

2. Allow time for students to make mistakes and correct them

3. Learning is fun, as long as some challenge is provided

4. Teachers must value the 5 R’s (and other learner skills) as much as content

5. Success criteria are essential

6. Provide a variety of opportunities so that they can take control and make decisions

7. Teacher feedback is essential

8. Build a safe, risk taking environment

9. Consider student groups carefully and use different groupings regularly

10. Have high expectations of students – they will pick up on this and adopt them for themselves.

11. Plan time for reflection

12. Students are a resource for each other

As an afterthought I noticed a marked similarity between what my students told me and the “PEEL principles of teaching for quality learning”. I have faithfully listed these here for you to make a comparison for yourself. It is unsurprising to see that our students are experienced learners and know what’s what when it comes to how they should learn. To find out more all we have to do is listen.


Maths for Breakfast Anyone? (Issue 7, Conference June 2010))

– Flexible intervention inspires year 11

The maths intervention program is specifically aimed at year 11 pupils who were not achieving that important, life changing, grade C. The intervention program allows students to get one-to-one tutoring, something which many parents do not have the luxury to afford, often costing £20 a pop.

A few ideas were tried out to find out how intervention would be the most effective. Originally starting with the idea of one-to-one sessions, we soon realised that three-to-one sessions were the way forward with more willingness to come from the students if they were not on their own. It also meant that there could be more contact time with the maths coach as with one-to-one sessions the time slots soon filled up and they would only be seen once a week, but the group sessions allowed them to have two or three sessions a week.

Having small groups gave the students more confidence to ask questions or say that they did not understand things as there was not the pressure of a whole class watching them, and allowing them to learn things at their own pace.

This new found confidence was often reflected in the classroom setting, with them attempting questions in class that they maybe previously avoided.

The small group setting also meant they could not shy away when they were asked questions, so always had to be thinking.

Another issue that the program helped us to overcome was that students did not revise or did not do enough revision, or left revision too late, a common finding in many C/D borderline students. Therefore, the intervention program put in the extra revision time.

As time went on the program progressed with new additions to it. One of these being morning maths revision. This involved the students coming in early for morning registration and getting 30 minutes of maths everyday before school. We began by doing 5 minutes or so of teaching into a topic and then set challenges so that students had something to work towards.

For example obtaining 100% on the mymaths C’s to B’ booster packs, and rewarded those that achieved this with Haribo! We found that this encouraged many of the pupils to do some work at home. As if they had not been able to complete the challenge during morning registration, they often worked on it at home.

We also did whole days of maths. Although this was originally greeted with grunts, it proved to be very successful with almost all of the students saying they were pleased they had done it.

On these days we carried on the Haribo challenge but with slightly different rules. Everyone did a test in the morning when they came in, all aiming to get a grade C. Anyone that managed it got some haribo! Following on from their results in the morning exam pupils were givena lesson to improve their mark. In this lesson they worked independently using custom designed ICT resources focusing on all the topics they had been unable to do on the test, or had got wrong. In addition they could also utilise revision guides or, if they preferred there were a number of teachers available to speak with.

The final part of the day was the students taking the same test again but with the numbers altered to see how much progress they had made through the day.

Most pupils went up one or two grades which was a great confidence booster and also showed them that if they just did a little bit of work they could improve their grades.

Results in January showed that so far the intervention program has been a success with 70% of the cohort achieving their grade C. Many of the students commented that they may not have passed if it had not been for the extra time and help they had received in maths intervention.

The intervention program was not only about teaching the pupils how to do things, but also about giving them the confidence to have a go at everything!

Kayleigh Rainbow

Break it Down (Issue 7, Conference June 2010)

– Scientific Learning in Create:  an experimental approach to active learning

There has been a shift in musical pedagogy in recent years, away from being able to cite possible composers for a piece of orchestral music, or to know your Rock Steady from your Reggae. Instead the music curriculum is now more geared towards the elements or building blocks of music, and developing an understanding of how music is put together through holistic activities that combine performing, composing and listening.

Indeed, the new AQA GCSE has moved completely from areas of study based on styles and traditions such as ‘Music for Film’ to the more fundamental ‘Rhythm & Metre’ or ‘Structure & Form’.

This elemental knowledge of music is vital at Key Stage 3, where the national curriculum is entirely skills based. The challenge we faced in writing the embryonic Create curriculum was how to introduce these musical elements in an engaging way, and also in a way that would allow scope for the other disciplines of Create (Media and Drama) to not only check understanding but to further it. The nature of Create demands a holistic approach, as do the main strands of Key Stage 3 Music, where we aim to encourage students to see the links between listening and appraising, composing and performing. In fact if you were to visit some tribes in Africa, they would not be able to make any distinction, for example between composing and listening.

After some thought we came up with the enquiry: ‘What would music look like?’ the idea being that students would have to make music tangible through the use of images. Students would be challenged to create a video that could help hearing impaired children to understand the musical elements. Students would create a piece of music and accompanying moving images, with clear links between the images and the use of musical elements such as tempo or  pitch.

Happy with this idea, we still had the dilemma of how to present the basic knowledge of the musical elements which would underpin the enquiry. Most students in Year 7 have a firm understanding of the more innate elements such as pitch or tempo, but few could explain what timbre is.

It was then that I decided to investigate a long-held wish. For years I had been frustrated that you could easily demonstrate dynamics (volume) with the simple turn of a dial, why could this not be true for the other elements?

Through a lot of trial of error, and yet more careful calculation with our web designer Chris Allen, I set about making an online mixing desk that did  exactly that, with a slider for each of the musical elements, the effects of which could be heard in real-time.

My thinking was that if students could experiment with, and experience how the musical elements work by making the changes themselves much like a scientific experiment, this fundamental knowledge would be much more likely to stick. Not only that, the activity itself would be completely student focused, encouraging active learning and allowing the teacher to have proper learning conversations with students, many of whom they were meeting for the first time.

I chose the current (ish… I am certainly not a “down with the kids” music teacher) hit by The Ting Tings, “That’s not my name” as the simple, hookbased nature of the song allowed me to use loops and samples and keep workload down in making audio clips for the resource.

In practice the activity was a resounding success. Before they got hands-on time with the musical elements mixing desk, students filled in a matrix of keywords asking them to write down what they knew about the musical elements. Students were offered a choice in level, with more complex terms on the higher level matrices.

When they got to use the mixing desk, the students were entirely engaged and were able to see the progress of their learning from the start of the lesson. Without fail all students in my class were able to add significant details about the musical elements to their matrices at the end of the lesson. In fact this lesson was delivered as a Create tutorial by all members of the Create team; drama and media specialists alike. The student centric experimental approach meant that even colleagues who were not music specialists were able to deliver the lesson from the point of view: “I don’t know the answers, but by the end of the lesson you will be able to tell me”.

During CPD sessions this year we were asked to give examples of active learning tasks as part of a market-style sharing of ideas. During this session I began thinking of ways this scientific, hands-on experimental approach could be used in other lessons.

Perhaps a short story in English, with buttons at the bottom of the screen to turn on and off devices such as similes or structuring using paragraphs? Whereby pressing the button will magically make the text come alive with similes appearing in the text accompanied by images to demonstrate. Or in Art a simple drawing could be brought to life by turning on shading or colour.

I’m now left hoping that The Ting Tings are still in vogue in September as I certainly intend to use the resource again. Though I’m not holding my breath, doubtless some new genre with a preposterous moniker like ‘Krunk n grind’ will be the latest thing. I’m also left with the knowledge that I am slowly, unavoidably becoming my father.

Martin Said

Introduction to Teaching and Learning (Issue 7, Conference June 2010)

– An insight into the Cramlington Model 

Our teaching and learning model is our answer to the question — WHAT DOES GREAT LEARNING AT CRAMLINGTON LOOK LIKE?

We believe that great learning happens when clear learning outcomes are combined with engaging learning activities through an understood model of teaching and learning.

The Cramlington model puts fundamental stages of learning in the right order i.e. learning is CONNECTED to prior knowledge. Learning is introduced through the SHARING OF NEW INFORMATION. There is an opportunity for students to develop their understanding through student centred ACTIVITIES and to DEMONSTRATE their new knowledge. Learning is also REVIEWED throughout the lesson.

This learning model and the principles underpinning it are described in this article. Essentially our model is in four parts:

(i) A lesson planning template which puts the important parts of a learning experience in the right order.

(ii) 5 ‘touchstones’ of our pedagogy which are Accelerated Learning, Assessment For Learning, Enquiry, Thinking for learning and ICT to support/enhance learning.

(iii) Developing independent learners through progressively developing learner skills (communication, thinking, collaboration) and learner attributes – the 5R’s (Reasoning, Resourcefulness, Resilience, Responsibility and Reflection).

(iv) Effective teacher behaviours – which describe the type of things teachers do in the classroom to bring lessons to life and to ensure all their students make good progress.

Assessment for Learning

Clarify your learning intention at the planning stage: What’s the purpose of the lesson and how will the students demonstrate their learning to you?

Discuss our learning outcomes: clarify/state what you expect the students to have learnt by the end of the lesson (content), how they will go about learning it (process) and why they are learning it (benefit). Discuss/ share how the students will know how they have been successful and agree the success criteria. Help the students to know and recognize the standards they are aiming for.

Plan in advance the questions you are going to use. Use questions to create new knowledge/learning rather than rehearsing existing knowledge. Show how you expect everyone to be ready to answer questions by using the no hands rule and give students time to respond (think time).

Feedback written or oral should cause thinking:

• Say what he/she has done well

• What the student needs to improve

• How they can improve

• Give the student time to think about your feedback and respond to you thereby creating a dialogue about their learning.

Create shared responsibility for learning through students:

• Assessing each other’s work (e.g. using a rubric)

• Self assessing their work against the agreed success criteria, a rubric or exemplar work you have provided

Adjust your teaching appropriately in light of student responses.

Points to consider:

• Is it an expectation in your classroom that everyone is ready to answer questions? Do you use the no hands rule?

• What do the tasks you set tell you about your students learning?

• Do you amend your teaching plans in light of the feedback you gather in a lesson?



• Teachers plan activities which engage students in higher order thinking

• Students have a vocabulary to discuss and explore their thinking

• Students are explicitly taught how to be better/deeper thinkers

• Students are able to select appropriate thinking tools to help them organize and structure their thinking

The National Thinking skills are defined as the following:

Information-processing skills: These enable students to locate and collect relevant information; to sort, to classify, sequence, compare and contrast; and to analyse part/whole relationships.

Reasoning skills: These enable students to give reasons for opinions and actions, to draw inferences and make deductions, to use precise language to explain what they think, and to make judgements and decisions informed by reasons or evidence.

Enquiry skills: These enable pupils to ask questions, to pose and define problems, to plan what to do and how to research, to predict outcomes and anticipate consequences, and to test conclusions and improve ideas.

Creative thinking skills: These enable students to generate and extend ideas, to suggest hypotheses, to apply imagination, and to look for alternative innovative outcomes.

Evaluation skills: These enable students to evaluate information; to judge the value of what they read, hear and do; to develop criteria for judging the value of their own and others’ work or ideas; and to have confidence in their judgements

Points to consider:

• Do you model thinking out loud in front of your students?

• Do you plan for the use of thinking tools and graphic organizers?

• Do you encourage students to reflect on their thinking (metacognition)?

Accelerated Learning 


• Learning is social

• Learning is active

• Learning is connected to prior learning

• Students know where the learning fits into the wider context (big picture)

• Learning is activated through emotional hooks and engaging questions

• Learning allows for multiple ways of accessing and processing nformation (VAK and multiple intelligences)

• Learning takes place in a positive emotional environment

• Learning takes place in an appropriate physical environment

• Learning happens best when learners are stretched and challenged

• Learning takes place when it is rehearsed and reviewed on a regular basis

Points to consider

• Do you engage students through stories, props, humour and interesting questions

• Do you use a variety of teaching and learning strategies to accommodate students who learn in different ways.

• Do you organize your lessons to allow for students to learn in different ways?

• Do you build meaningful relationships with students and know them well – is your classroom a ‘no put down zone!’.

• Do you make full use of the physical learning environment e.g. questions walls, constextualising display, room layout, keywords etc

Enquiry Based Learning 

An Enquiry is based around a question to be answered or a problem to be solved.

Enquiries can be:

• Structured OR Unstructured

• Short OR Extended

• Individual OR Group

For example

‘How can we ensure that everyone on the planet has access to fresh water?’

– Could be the basis for an extended, unstructured, group enquiry with students coming up with their own ideas and solutions.


‘Does changing the temperature affect the rate of a chemical reaction?’

– Might be a shorter and more structured enquiry designed to run over a lesson with the teacher asking each student to demonstrate their understanding through a lab report completed as homework.

Characteristics of an Enquiry based classroom

• Learning is based around a question to be answered or a problem to be solved

• Students are encouraged to generate (sub)questions of their own

• Learning can be Messy – doesn’t always go in a “straight line”

• Students are involved in active exploration and research

• Students may have some choice over what, how, and with who they learn

• Students do the thinking-teacher doesn’t do it for them

• Questions can be complex with multiple possible solutions

• Students will get it wrong sometimes

• Teacher is facilitator/resource/ critical friend/architect of the learning experience

• Learning outcomes are focussed

on process as well as content

• Students present their learning to an audience

• Debriefing the “what” has been learned and the “how” did we learn it are absolutely vital

Enquiry based learning becomes Project based learning

• When enquiries are set in real world contexts i.e. real problems to be solved

• With meaningful outcomes i.e. the result of students learning culminates in an outcome that makes a difference in or to the community

• When adults or “experts” other than teachers are consulted or involved.

• And when students present what they have learnt to a real audience

• At Cramlington students are taught a process for “stepping” through an enquiry. This is the

• Enquiry Cycle and its purpose is to give students a way to “scaffold” their journey through an enquiry.

Mark Lovatt

Real Sport, Real Jobs, Real Life (Issue 8, January 2011)

– Student teacher knocks socks off whilst Year 7 learn transferable skills in PE

We often take for granted our Student Teachers when they arrive from our various local Higher and Further Education Establishments. No doubt we’ve all encountered a “dodgy one” who has required more than a little support when attempting to establish classroom discipline or the one who has forgotten to get their resources photocopied for a 9:00 lesson. On the whole though, they’re a decent bunch and we’ve all been one at some point ourselves. It is refreshing occasionally when a student not only seems to get the basics right, but actually develops a really top quality unit of work for the pupils.

The latter is exactly what Simon Richardson, a PE SCITT student from Northumbria University, has done during his placement at Cramlington. Simon has introduced the Football Manager scheme to a group of Year 7 pupils; an innovative and exciting method of teaching the game of football, which can, if one is not careful, be a little dry. Here, Simon explains how he has given students real roles from the world of sport which has led to excellent outcomes with the students – food for thought for all curriculum areas:

“As part of a unit of work on football, year 7 North are participating in a sport education trial module called Football Manager. The group has been separated into four teams allowing for a range of abilities in each team. Gifted & talented, and more able pupils are then assigned roles within the team for the future lessons. These roles are manager, coach, captain and publicist.

Managers are in charge of equipment & behavioural issues within the team, for instance if a member of their team has forgotten their kit it is down to the manager to tell the teacher what they have forgotten.

The publicist speaks for the team during each lesson’s plenary; giving a summary of what their team have learned through the lesson and the progress they have made. Publicists also create any PowerPoint presentations the teams may be giving.

Team captains are the motivators of the team. They are in charge of tactics on the pitch and support the coaches in any way they can.

The role of the coach is the most challenging. Coaches are in charge of warm-ups and are informed of activities, working areas and equipment, which may require setting up for their team. They are then responsible for providing feedback on the team’s performance to each individual and suggest areas on which they could improve. Although students were hand-picked for this role, it has been interesting to see emergent leaders within the teams begin to take on additional responsibility as “assistant coaches” throughout the course of the unit.

Collaboration is a very big theme of the unit. Students have been encouraged to respect each other and work together to improve their learning experience and the ethos of genuine teamwork, which is not often apparent in the classroom, has been clear throughout.

Each week a different homework is given to those pupils who have roles within the team, culminating recently in teams designing their own Learning Outcomes and Success Criteria. This is something that has been built up over a series of lessons. By using learning language in my own Learning Outcomes – such as demonstrate, describe, create, use and apply – students can now avoid setting vague targets which are impossible to assess.

Although students have been well motivated through the activities, a point system has been used to reward individual and team achievements. Individual points are awarded to best performers in each activity, for example most resilient or hardest working as well as for displays of good teamwork and sportsmanship. Teams are awarded points too; for being the most organised, best prepared, or for being top scorers to name a few. These points are displayed on the league tables at the start of each lesson.”

So there you have it! It really has impressed me to see Simon take this idea and develop it into something that genuinely works; so much so that I’ve already pinched it for a new year 7 football scheme of work.

Long gone are the days when a student teacher made your tea/ coffee and took your lessons while you got your reports done. They’re as innovative and excited about teaching as can be. And if you really watch them teach, every now and then you’ll see something that knocks your socks off!

Simon Richardson & Chris Horner


Co-construction made easy (Issue 8, January 2011)

– A clever idea for reviewing learning

What is co-construction?

It is allowing students to take the learning into their own hands. It is allowing students to develop their own individual thinking patterns. It is allowing students to shape the way our school operates and works.

It is also so much more but these are just some of the key reasons why co-construction is so important in our teaching and learning.

Co-construction, like anything, needs to be scaffolded. We cannot create co-construction in our classrooms instantly. However one very simple way of doing this is to put the power of learning into the hands of the students within the review section of the cycle.

A simple but effective way is to use review cards. The following are examples I have used recently:

–          Today I have learnt…

–          The skills I developed today were…

–          The outcomes of today’s lessons were…

–          I have…

Review cards can also be subject / module specific with specific sentence starters given to students to allow them to show you “what” they have learnt. These cards allow students to think about what learning has taken place in the lesson.

It also hands over control of the review to the students, allowing them to offer information to do, each other and themselves. Having a generic bank of cards also allows us to select cards for each student enabling us to differentiate and really personalise those all-important reviews.

Jen Hill

Further reading:

Metacognition essential to assessment (Issue 8, January 2011)

 – Given encouragement, structure and a little time, students are pretty good at identifying how to move theselves forward

When I started marking the end of module mock exam, it was clear that the group as a whole had underperformed. This was for a variety of reasons – lack of revision, misconceptions, misreading the questions and failing to make use of information provided were the most common. I wanted to use this as an opportunity for students to identify the reasons for underperformance and begin to address them.

I have always found ‘going over’ the exam paper, however, to be a very unsatisfactory exercise and wanted to make the task more productive. So I structured the lesson after the exam carefully to facilitate this.

For bell work students completed a graphic organiser so that they knew, not only knew which topics they had underperformed on, but also the reasons for underperformance. Next, they completed a concept map, starting with the concepts they had found most problematic. This ensured personalisation of the task and increased the relevance of the lesson to each child.

Following this, they had to pair / share with someone who was working on the same aspects to find additional, information and try to provide feedback to the other person.

Finally, the students were given a set of topic-specific, grade-related criteria and a task that related to the concept map. They were asked to carry out this task to the standard of their MQT initially, then their UQT when they had satisfied those criteria.

The lesson review was to answer the following questions, relating to the mock exam paper:

• Are you aware of why you did badly?

• Can you improve on your answer?

• What advice would you give yourself before the next end of module test?

The answers had to be emailed to me after the lesson, to encourage the students to reflect on their responses. This structure allowed the students to identify and address specific reasons for underperformance and led to a genuinely personalised learning experience for all in the group.

The reviews were thoughtful and showed that most had spent some time considering how their understanding had developed [see example resposnses below, Ed.].

Finally, the graded task was performed at a far higher level than the test – although this might have been expected of a different mode of assessment, the students were confident that their performance in the real module test would be greatly improved as a result of the exercise –

I’ll let you know…

Ian Nelson