Outstanding Teaching, Learning, and Assessment

Two weeks ago we had a whole school training day, and the focus was on Outstanding, Teaching, and Assessment. The day was run by Robert Powell; I was pleasantly surprised as it was engaging and informative throughout. Although there were no earth shattering ideas I think it is essential that teachers occasionally reflect on the basics.

Robert began by stating that Outstanding Teaching, Learning and Assessment are all interrelated.

Outstanding Teaching

Robert said that outstanding lessons had the following characteristics:

  1. Excellent behaviour/management.
  2. Focuses on learning outcomes.
  3. Passion, pace and participation.
  4. Variety of stimuli/activity.
  5. Deep understanding.
  6. Differentiated.
  7. Feedback (teachers and learners)

To achieve these he gave a range of pratical suggestions:

  • When the students are going into classroom make sure there is an activity that is easily accessible that gets students working. It is important to make sure there is an activity that establishes learning.
  • When students are working in groups make students more accountable. Assign a scribe (noting down not only contributions but who made it), also assign a chair lead the group. When carrying out extended projects via group work get students to produce a plan to be signed off before starting the project. This allows the teacher to make sure the plan contains the right level or challenge.
  • Use groups to check understanding; then if someone does not understand the chair can ask the question making it a question from the group rather than an individual.
  • Ensure the learning objective is displayed throughout the lesson; not just at the start and end of the lesson. Ensure lesson objectives present a quick summary for the student, but do not contain too much detail.
  • When working with sixth form students provide them with a lesson structure to help them structure their notes.
  • Use mind maps to structure knowledge and show links between learning.
  • Teachers that love subjects engage pupils; make lessons different, teaching by numbers kills off passion.
  • Alternatively start with a question mark and a stimulus (either photo or video), and get pupils to put together learning outcomes.
  • There are a number of strategies to engage pupils: Snowball (10 seconds along, 20 seconds in pairs, 40 seconds in groups, then whole class), Give us a Clue (using symbols to describe places), True or False, Question Time (panel of experts), or Pass the Question.
  • Display key words as they are the starting point to understanding in subjects.
  • Make sure questions contain the right level of challenge, many textbook questions are poor.
  • If using cloze activities don’t give a word bank.
  • When giving sixth form students handouts don’t give them complete sheets of notes; complete the left hand column with key points, have a empty right hand column for students to add ideas.
  • Differentiation for outcome is not differentiation. Differentiation by task is more appropriate.
  • Use mind mapping for essays; put a list of words on the wall before carrying out tasks.
  • At the end of the lesson ‘celebrate learning’, send pupils out the lesson feeling positive.

Outstanding Assessment

  • Data comes from better learning and teaching.
  • Learn from assessment; analyse assessment results to feed back into teaching.
  • Formative Assessment – identify what you need to do to adapt for the future.
  • Test before and after units to see evidence of progress – use multiple choice.
  • Need to share assessment criteria, make sure they use straight forward language.
  • Break down targets in pupil friendly language  using chunks.
  • Mark without using comments; using ticks, crosses and question marks. Get students to write in the feedback.
  • When students are doing group presentations get each student to evaluate a particular aspect of peer’s assessments.
  • Use a prompt sheet for self assessment: What have you done/made? What have you enjoyed? What have you found difficult? What have you learned? What would you improve or do differently next time?
  • At the end of an assessed piece of work get students to produce a target; this target then can be transferred to the start of the next piece of work.

Robert Powell who led the training has a website here; he has also written a couple of books which I will definitely be trying to get a hold of.