This year, we formed a “journal club” as part of our Teach Meet CPD programme. The idea was to get together and discuss interesting articles about education and research.
In the first session, we watched this video of a talk by Prof. Robert Coe about what makes “great teaching” (and what doesn’t). We then considered 3 questions:
– What’s the point of planning a lesson that pupils enjoy if they don’t actually learn something?
– What’s the point of doing everything we do if pupils don’t then remember it afterwards?
– What’s the point of teaching pupils a concept or skill if they can’t use it next time, because it’s an unfamiliar context or application?
We used an article by David Didau as a starting point: Deliberately difficult – why it’s better to make learning harder, where he argues that pupils will learn more effectively if you introduce “desirable difficulties”, and suggests ways that you can do this:
- Spacing learning sessions apart rather than massing them together
- Interleaving topics so that they’ve studied together rather than discretely
- Testing students on material rather than having them simply restudy it
- Having learners generate target material through a puzzle or other kind of active process, rather than simply reading it passively
- Varying the settings in which learning takes place
- Reducing feedback (sometimes!)
- Making learning material less clearly organised
- Making texts more challenging to read
We considered other studies and articles that explored some of these ideas in greater depth. These are listed at the bottom of this post, alongside the slides used in my original presentation to gather ideas.
The strategies we tried with our classes, based on our reading and discussions, tended to fall into two areas:
– metacognition: encouraging students to think about how they should answer questions, why they might approach them in that way, what aspects of an answer made it “good” or correct, and why an incorrect answer was wrong.
– recall: using ideas about forgetting (and reviewing) previous learning, to help students retain ideas more effectively.
We also looked at ways to instil resilience and a “growth mindset” in pupils.
We met throughout the year and discussed ideas, swapped experiences, and talked about anything interesting that we’d read or seen. In our final session, we summarised what we’d done and how it had helped us. We talked about ideas that we’d definitely pass on, and things that didn’t work as well.
We had some really positive experiences, and there are some ideas that we think are definitely worth sharing. Above all, we were trying to increase the effectiveness of what we (and pupils) were doing, while trying not to increase our workload. We were keen that the onus was on students themselves to increase their contribution in terms of reflection and feedback, rather than on teachers to do (or write) anything more time-consuming than necessary.
This is a summary of some of the articles we looked at in Journal Club: