Tuesday 13 September 2011

How Ofsted will judge and grade you this year.

Another new year, another new set of Ofsted criteria. Well, in my mind that's not necessarily a bad thing as teaching and education have to evolve and keep up to speed with society.

In July, we had an Inset from an Ofsted inspector, who has been piloting the new criteria for inspections. The meeting was a bit bizarre to be honest, we were first given a set of the new criteria which had "confidential" written all over it. We were instructed that we couldn't take copies away with us, but the inspector didn't have any issues with us taking detailed notes. I think one colleague practically copied the confidential documents out by hand verbatim. It seemed a little pointless, but no doubt, if we get called up for an inspection, I know who I'll be visiting for extra notes!

Anyway here's the breakdown:

  • Key emphasis on Differentiation
  • Assessment For Learning still features heavily
  • Emphasis on the use of support staff in lessons

A more detailed overview

For observers, we should be observing based on agreed criteria and we should be commenting on what DID HAPPEN not what did not. Suggestions for future lessons, can come at the end.

Observers should be looking for challenging tasks that improve pupils' learning.
Teachers should ensure ALL pupils are challenged in the starter, main and plenary. Frequently, starters are used and half the pupils are clearly not challenged and gain nothing from the exercise. So differentiation from the outset is key. The observers should be trying to assess "is something new being learnt?".

Note to self, perhaps students can choose their own starters/questions based on colour-coded cards. So instead of asking a student a question, you ask them to pick out a card, either a basic, challenging or gold card. The gold being the hardest questions.

Constructive feedback should be given by teachers based on previous learning. Teachers should avoid "going back to the beginning" and always try to start pupils at the level where they left off last time.

Teachers should ensure students know how they can improve learning / move on. There is nothing new about this criteria.

There is an emphasis on progress for all and more interestingly, considering our recent discussions about "wellbeing"- Teachers enthuse , engage and motivate pupils so that they find learning is engrossing and enjoyable.

There should be a variety of activities for a variety of learning styles. Teachers were advised to not simply differentiate by learning outcomes.

The emphasis is on learning and progress, not on teacher activity.

There was a key addition of "how your lesson was used to improve literacy/numeracy in the subject".

Finally, there was a change in the language using the term "learning intentions" instead of "learning objectives".

It might seem like a load of the same, but I think there is a positive step in the mentioning of lessons being "engrossing and enjoyable". I think teaching and learning has to be fun, if it's box ticking for the sake of it, students probably aren't learning a great deal and are not really enjoying their learning experience. I think that part of the goal of addressing educational disadvantage is getting pupils to find their learning enjoyable and for them to want to learn and want to do well. It seems that Ofsted is taking a step in the right direction in recognising that lessons do need to be enjoyable.

Wednesday 7 September 2011

What I'll be trying on the first day back...

EDIT: I've updated my thoughts and whilst this post is still valid for the first day back, I should also include what I would do in my first week back: http://mrlaulearning.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/what-do-all-outstanding-teachers-have.html . Original post follows below, which is still worth reading if you teach Sixth Form/Juniors and Seniors in high school.

I will have a new Year 12 class.

First of all some icebreakers. I quite like, "Who am I" from this amazing resource bank: http://t.co/zvohRwQ

I will pair this with the Smartie game, students take smarties as soon as they come in, they find out what they're about later. See above link for details.

We will probably then "Walk the line", a pledge from my days as a Southwestern student salesman mixed with a KIPP motto.

A ball of string is released from one side of the room, all that I ask is for the students to pledge two things which I believe will make the successful and happy. These two things are to "Work hard and be nice". If they can agree, they cross the line.

We then cut the string into roughly 15cm strips. They can tie this string around their wrist, bag, pencil case, wallet, whatever they wish. When the two years is over i.e. when it's the end of Year 13, if they have kept to the pledge, they should be still in school (i.e. not expelled, excluded, etc) and be successful and happy. If we were to tie the 20 strands of string back together, it should be the same length as Thurs Sept 8th 2011. It's the string that keeps them together, like climbers, they need to hold onto and support each other on their two year journey.

 We only have an hour, so after lunch, I have cut out some lyrics they can take one for their diary/planner/wallet from: http://www.lyrics2liveby.com/

If we have time, we can do Gimme 10! (See first link) They can finish that for homework, adding their own photo.

In registration next week, we'll also be playing guess who? (See first link).

I'm excited and excited for them. A fresh start.

EDIT: I've updated my thoughts and whilst this post is still valid for the first day back, I should also include what I would do in my first week back: http://mrlaulearning.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/what-do-all-outstanding-teachers-have.html

Wednesday 31 August 2011

Why we should praise effort not ability

In response to @LearningSpy's post how to fix your attitude

Praising effort not ability is the most important strategy for me. In a system, where many schools still set by "current" ability, it's sometimes difficult for us to praise students when they're not doing quite as well as the top student in the top set as it were. It may even seem asthough you're faking it when you praise them for their effort. But if you take a step back and think about it another way.

Imagine you are an athlete, in fact imagine you're a pretty terrible one, so lets say Michael Johnson in 1990, Michael Jordan in 1975 or indeed any athlete in their early years. Michael Johnson failed to make his State trials, Michael Jordon did not make his High School starting line up. Shane Warne couldn't run fast, so he took up spin bowling. Their initial "ability" was poor, but they all became the best in their field because of their "efforts".

The moral of the story (for me to take on board) is to remember that every student is simply on a journey, they have not arrived, they never will as the tracks never end. They will just go far, how far depends on how much you reward their effort. Rewarding their effort is the fuel (motivation) for their journey! No matter how un-natural it seems and how different this strategy is to when you were educated-we must remember-PRAISE EFFORT!

Tuesday 9 August 2011

Why public service cuts do our children no justice

Prophetic words from Nick Clegg:

When the youth clubs are closed, what is there to do? Youths reflect a week before the riots. They were brewing, but many failed to see it and now still fail to admit it:

Read more about it here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/jul/29/young-people-gangs-youth-clubs-close?CMP=twt_gu

Monday 8 August 2011

Technology makes us better

Technology has been blamed for many things recently. But overall, I believe technology and social media is a force for good. Technology enabled the Arab Spring nations such as Egypt to co-ordinate their revolutions and also broadcast the institutional atrocities for the world to see and act on. Similarly, Wikileaks has enabled us to see the injustice that is taking place in conflict zones. It forces the government to take action and be better. It forces us to reflect, morally as well as professionally.

For teachers, we are able to network with the millions of teachers across the globe who are facing similar challenges, successes and learning points. We can share our findings, discuss solutions and take action, collaboratively. Examples of these collaborative efforts include: #edchat, #ukedchat, #RSCON3, and #140edu

For athletes, technology enables them to run faster, jump higher, be more efficient and effective in training and competition. The list of professions and uses goes on but there are also potential pitfalls or "traps":

  1. Over-reliance on technology
  2. Abuse of technology
  3. Technology as a silver bullet

Over-reliance on technology is not good. Examples include, becoming dependent on Spellcheck, SatNav, E-mail, Social Networking, Weather, Apps and any mobile technology. In some circumstances, these aforementioned technologies may not work or may be simply inappropriate. The classic empty battery syndrome and being lost in the middle of a city or even rural setting is a classic.

This reminds us that we should not abandon our traditional tools, techniques and technology and we should always have a backup/contingeny if our tech fails. In some scenarios e.g. courtrooms, airport security, using technology might be banned and occasionally, paper is still quicker and more effective.
Take marking for example, from experience, if you send a student electronic feedback, they generally act on it less effectively than say if you give them a printout with annotations scribbled all over their work. This "traditional" marking, feedback, formative assessment works more effectively. Don't ask me why, maybe it's because students can easily ignore or skim an e-mail, but when red or green pen is scrawled all over their work, they want to reprint it. They therefore improve it and then give you a new version.

Abuse of technology has been exemplified by the News of The World phone hacking scandal . To some extent, Wikileaks has also been accused of disclosing classified locations, which some terrorists could use as targets. The recent riots and looting in London was also coordinated using Blackberry Messenger and Twitter. However, on the other side of the coin, what's the best way to detect, prevent and address technology abuse? Using technology is the answer. I'm not a fan of an Orwellian State, but occasionally technology can be used to prevent further crime and abuse of technology.

The third and most important potential trap is seeing technology as a silver bullet. I am still not entirely convinced that iPad's belong in the classroom. Partly because, it still presents a rich-poor divide issue. There will inevitably be schools and students who cannot afford this technology and therefore access is unfair. Secondly, I still believe a lot of technology use is a gimic. Is it applicable to the real world or are we simply making teaching look good? What actual learning is going on? Yes, experiment and innovate, but do not become reliant on technology and do not believe that simply by investing money into new technology, all your problems will be solved. We still need students who can reference and read books, follow paper trails. There are millions of books un-digitised, holding a wealth of knowledge out there. Alongside, digital resources, these are extremely powerful tools for the future. On their own they can only take us so far, but integrating the old with the new and I believe our lives and learning will be greatly improved.

Monday 1 August 2011

Five things students say they want from education

5 Interactive Technology

4 Teacher Mentors

3 Innovation

2 Choice

1 Real World Application and Relevancy

Number One and Two will be my focuses for next year!

Via EschoolNews

Reform Symposium 3 #RSCON3 - An overview


The last 3 days was a blast, I kind of fell into RSCON3 accidentally, I noticed most of my educator friends on Twitter were posting the hashtag #RSCON3 quite excitedly. Being relatively new to Twitter, I had never heard of the Reform Symposium and I wasn't quite sure how it would work. To sum it up in a sentence,

"RSCON is a collaborative educational e-conference which transcends time zones, countries and subjects."

I started out on Day 2 by tuning in to Principal El's keynote speech and was immediately blown away. Here was a world class speaker, delivering 45 minutes of non-stop 24-carat educational gold. And I'm sat in my study listening in for free. In the meantime, 170+ educators from around the world are also chipping in, sharing links and setting Twitter on fire with the #RSCON3 tag. It was almost too much to keep up with and once the talks are uploaded to http://ReformSymposium.com, I'm sure I'll be going back over a few of the talks that I missed.

Other highlights are presented on my previous posts (below), but it's worth noting 6 key themes which were covered in most talks:

  1. We need to be more free and flexible with the curriculum to ensure students can be creative
  2. We do not know what technology the future holds or indeed what the future looks like
  3. Both teacher and student learning is becoming more collaborative
  4. The more we share/retweet, the more we learn
  5. We need to prepare our students for failure and how to learn from failure as well as success
  6. Have fun-Teaching is the most exciting job in the world.

For the exceptional closing keynote by Steve Wheeler, there were over 200 proactive administrators and teachers tuning in from practically all the time zones across the globe. I begun to question how many world experts you can fit into such a conference. The answer? I'm not sure, but I think RSCON is probably more scalable than any other conference even (say) TED, given that there is no physical size constraint. So, that leaves it to us and all our peers/colleagues to make RSCON4 even bigger and better! Here's a hashtag to get us started #RSCON4.