Bright Spots

We’re using this page to highlight examples of good practice seen throughout the school (following the ideas on this page).


Bulletin 29A 2016-17

Metacognition at NDHS

Notre Dame has talked about Metacognition at much of the CPD this year and it’s something we should all try to develop within our practice. The EEF places it as one of the most cost effective ways to impact on student progress

As Dylan Williams puts it, most teachers try to cause learning without the students help. But this week, I saw several examples of teachers ‘starting from the other side’, seemingly naturally, using metacognitive strategies.

In one such example, a 10 question starter quiz (used by many staff) allows students to complete as many q’s as they can within a given timeframe. The answers are written on whiteboards and the students self mark. The metacognitive strategy habitually used by this teacher, however, is to ask the class for 3/4 key questions they’d like to go through. What then makes it even more effective is that the students consequently discuss their own strategies for solving the problems.

I like this because it also promotes a growth mindset. The focus isn’t only on the answer, it’s also about the process, and it places the effort with the students.

In another example, it was also great to see one of our more experienced teachers really engaging students in process and not outcome. 10 minutes of question and answer, where praise was focussed on process, and the correct answer was seemingly less important at that moment in time.

Metacognition can be broken down into three phases, where students:

  1. Plan their learning
  2. Monitor their learning
  3. Evaluate their learning

Which aspect can we incorporate in our lessons next week?

Lots of observations have occurred recently, don’t forget to send any ‘bright spots’ you see throughout the year to Niki Kaiser or myself, and we’ll get them on the bright spots page.

Tom Pinnington

Bulletin 10B 2016-17

We need to stop thinking about what works and think about what works best!

I heard John Hattie speak this week (CPD to follow for interested parties). He’s a researcher, not a teacher. His mantra is that teachers should only do the things that raise achievement and facilitate progress, nothing revolutionary there then. What is interesting is that Hattie has quantified much of what teachers do in terms of effect size, and his conclusion is that much of what the education system does has little impact and needs to stop.

Notre Dame students do make progress, our progress 8 scores, levels of progress and ALPS scores are the evidence of that! However, we should never become complacent. We need to stop thinking about what works and think about what works best!

Hattie uses a powerful quote, he says, ‘we need to see learning though the eyes of our students and students need to see themselves as their own teachers’. In technology this week I saw this in action. Students were being truly reflective, analysing their product designs against the specifications they had designed themselves. They were colour coding their designs to show where the criteria had been met. Hattie talks about self-reported grades (largely the students own expectations of their attainment) as the number 1 factor in attainment and progress. More often than not these can be self-limiting. Therefore, when we ask students to reflect on their work and self assess, how are we challenging them to expect more of themselves?

Crucially they need clarity on how to improve. The technology lessons I walked through were providing this. Another example of clarity was seen as a member staff gave the big picture from previous lessons and how they informed this lessons learning. Students had spent a lesson developing their drawing skills, the following lesson using crates (boxes) provided by the teacher to create 3D shapes and now this lesson, they were to create their own crates and draw shapes within it. It felt like a well scaffolded series of lessons in which students knew the direction of travel. There was sufficient challenge and within the folders further examples of self reflection and analysis.

Great teaching!


Bulletin 6B 2016-17

AFL at its best 

We all have our ‘go to’ strategies, sometimes departments have them as a collective. I have witnessed some really excellent use of exemplar analysis recently, which can be used for any subject and is a great way to determine success criteria before students start a piece of work.

This week I entered a lesson where such an activity was happening. It was being used as a post assessment tool, where common errors had been made, the range of language was limited and the teacher wanted all students to structure their answers more effectively on a fresh attempt.

Following the analysis, the teacher hooked students in by telling them they were going shopping for vocab. Music was played and the students moved around the room and selected vocab from a wide choice. This 3 minute ‘Primark’ moment lifted the energy level in the room during period 5 (and in no way felt superfluous). Students were then asked to find the meaning and incorporate the new vocab into their answers, thus increasing their range of language.

A great reminder to stick with consistent ‘go to’ strategies but take the odd risk along the way. Do common errors witnessed in our marking inform our next lesson and the way we teach the same topic the following year? Is the valuable time we spend on marking truly benefitting our students? A recent national independent review of marking says it should be Meaningful, Manageable and Motivating – The 3 Ms (See Niki’s blog from last week for more on this and how to be efficient with your marking of tests!) (TPI)

Bulletin 5A 2016-17

Ethos Quality Assurance 

This week I observed a colleague in Science through the subject PLR process. It was refreshing to do an observation without grading and to be able to pose questions to create discussion for both of us. The key aspects of the lesson that impressed me were…

1) The strong routines that had been set. Students were fully aware that the lesson would start with a 10 question recall quiz, and end with an application exam question. Student’s appreciate consistency (as well as creativity!).

2) Very high expectations for a set that could all too easily be negatively labelled. The teacher pushed 2 themes, additional reading, using the online textbook and independence within the lesson.

3) Student choice. Student’s were given the option of a practical or a worksheet. Interestingly only 3 students opted for the practical. When questioned, all students were able to rationalise why they had made their choice.

Observations in every form are a great chance to see the variety of practice that exists at ND. They should challenge our own practice. When does teacher know best? When should we trust our students to make sensible and informed choices about what and how to learn? How open are our doors for colleagues? (TPI)

Bulletin 4B 2016-17

Once again, it was a pleasure to circulate through lessons and year 7 form time this week. It’s great to see the productivity remaining high as the ‘honeymoon’ wears off.

Experience counts for a lot in teaching, and knowing how to pitch to a class is a crucial part of differentiation. It was excellent to see a teacher in action who knew the best way for their class to tackle an exam question of the, ‘to what extent do you agree’ ilk. The teacher ‘recommended’ the class to agree with the statement as it was the most accessible way (for this group) to pick up marks. The pre-exam prep was very thorough, but the most powerful aspect of the learning came when the teacher asked the class to imagine what it would be like if ‘Curly’ walked through the door now. Their answers were spot on, they brought the characters to life! This gave them the confidence to then agree with the statement “The writer brings the characters to life”. (TPI)

Bulletin 3A 2016-17

It was a pleasure to drop into lessons this week, and the standard of teaching was really impressive! Thank you to all the staff I saw.

I really enjoyed seeing students ‘getting stuck’ or being in ‘the pit’. The students displayed remarkable resilience and made a real effort to try and go back to what they already knew – credit to them! On one occasion, most of the class seemed to reach a dead end in their progress. This was quickly acknowledged by the teacher, who then proceeded to draw out the answer using clues and well-designed questioning. Students then used their new knowledge to attempt more examples. It was one of the rare occasions where progress could have been measured in a snap shot, and it all arose from a high level of challenge provided by the teacher. (TPI)