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Monthly Archives: January 2016

Confessions of a PE Teacher: Breaking the mould

PE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Confessions of a PE Teacher: Breaking the mould

 

There is nothing worse than listening to ultracrepidarian comments about your subject:

 

“It’s alright for you PE Teachers, all you do is organise a game of football.”

“It’s not like you have to plan your lesson.”

“Those who can’t teach, teach PE.”

 

For the most part, the comments are said in jest, but the reality is that these comments reinforce a certain PE Teacher stereotype.  On top of the onslaught of comments suggesting that PE Teachers are less worthy than other teachers, the government constantly places PE at the bottom of the priority pile which can make it very difficult to stay positive.  I won’t be the only PE teacher who has sometimes questioned why I went to university for 4 years of my life to complete a degree in a subject which for some people actually has very little status in education.  The stereotype that PE is somehow for a ‘lesser’ teacher because they weren’t capable of anything else saddens me, as does the low currency that some schools place on the subject and its value to students.  We all know the positive impact that playing a sport can have on our students and in my experience, it is not often the case that I see successful leaders who have not at some point in their lives participate in sporting or other creative activities.

 

It also seems odd to me that despite all of us being aware that we are in the middle of an obesity crisis, there is little recognition of the huge part that PE as a wider subject has to play in raising students’ awareness of the importance of healthy living – particularly those students who come from more disadvantaged backgrounds.  To dismiss it as something which is a luxury if the budget can afford it seems short-sighted to me.

 

PE is not just about kicking a ball about.  It requires acute critical reflection, the tenacity to deliberately practise skills, the resilience to persevere, and the ability to think strategically and quickly under pressure. On top of this, there are huge benefits for students in terms of team work, confidence and, crucially for me, competition.

 

PE teachers consistently teach some of the largest ability spectrums within the school.  It is common to have a group with a county footballer at one end of the spectrum, with a student who can barely make contact with a ball at the other end.  Regardless, PE teachers still ensure that all students make good progress.

 

Being a PE teacher has taught me much and given me the skills to undertake all the leadership positions I have held.  It has helped me build relationships with even the toughest students.  It has allowed me to witness some truly inspirational sporting performances.  But ultimately, it has allowed me to retain my passion for teaching because it is a subject that I truly believe in.

 


Evaluating Teaching not Teachers

 

Evaluating Teaching Cycle V7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am really excited about this model which has been well received by the teaching staff at our school.

Principles of the Model

The principles behind our evaluating teaching cycle are straightforward:

• We are evaluating the quality of teaching NOT teachers. There is a subtle but important difference.
• It is a flawed methodology to arbitrarily judge the quality of teachers through lesson observations.
• The best schools promote a collaborative and shared commitment to improving outcomes for students.
• There is no prescriptive approach to quality teaching – what’s good is what works.
• Data is merely the starting point – it gives no answers, just generates hypotheses.
• The most important aspect of any evaluation cycle is the input – the quality and personalisation of research, actions, and strategies which recognise that different approaches work differently for different teachers, departments and students.

The Cycle
These principles led to @beautifullyfra1 and I designing the following cycle as our methodology for both evaluating and improving the quality of teaching:

Data Collection
This is just the start (or once the cycle is implemented – the checking process!). This is not the post to discuss the process we go through to collect data, but needless to say it has been through a process to ensure that it is meaningful and robust. For us, this is just summative data and we do not pretend for it to be anything other than this. If you look at my previous post (http://www.benbainessle.com/part-2-how-do-we-prevent-data-being-the-catalyst-for-change/) I have written about how we are using PLCs and grain-sized data as the most important form of assessment to inform teaching for students.
Key Questions
This data forms the basis for Directors of Learning and SLT line managers to draw hypotheses from:
• What are the trends for key groups across the subjects?
• How are the students performing in relation to their prior attainment?
• Is there a difference between performance at key stages?
• Is there in-subject variation?
• Where is there good practice?

Cause and Effect
Our Directors of Learning are constantly evaluating the quality of their department’s work, but following the generation of the hypotheses from the data collection, we have a consistent review week across the school to allow for quality assurance, and joint work between middle and senior leaders, to ‘test’ these hypotheses. If the data is suggesting, for example, that in Year 8 maths the high prior attainment disadvantaged students are underperforming in comparison to the advantaged students, we will make this a focus for further investigation on top of our everyday evaluation. We will visit lessons, look at schemes of learning, look at books, talk to the students, look at parental engagement, compare attainment of these students in maths with other subjects and so on.
Once we have interrogated the data and our initial hypotheses, we discuss as a department team, and as a team of middle leaders, what our priorities are as a whole school, as well as highlighting any in-school variation.
The Difference
Once these have been identified, we move to the most important part of our cycle – how we use what we know to ‘productively tinker’ with our practice. We tackle this from both a teacher and student perspective. Some of the strategies we have found effective for us can be seen here:

The work now really begins and students, teachers, middle leaders and senior leaders work together to implement the actions with an emphasis on shared ownership and collaboration. Our data scrutiny meetings have completely changed emphasis. Rather than focusing on the numbers, they are instead driven by a discussion and commitment to the changes that will take place in the classroom in schemes of learning, teaching approaches, assessment approaches and department work.
The next data collection is then an opportunity to ‘temperature check’ the impact of the work we have been undertaking. And so the cycle begins again – in all likelihood, we will need to continue with what we are already doing as sustainable improvements don’t happen overnight, but ‘checking in’ allows us to track progress against priorities and alert us to anything else which may need investigating.

But what about?
The concept of the cycle was welcomed unanimously by Directors of Learning, and their input into how the cycle would work in practice led to some effective changes to our initial thoughts. Unsurprisingly for them, the collaborative approach was the most important aspect.
It is worth noting though that this is not a ‘soft’ option – this model does not excuse underperformance. This model is not one which precludes tackling and addressing individual underperformance. Nor is it only during ‘review’ weeks that teaching is evaluated. We all know that you don’t need an observation or a data collection to tell you that a teacher is not performing. If at any points, there are concerns, these are raised and addressed in the appropriate way.
And whilst I would hope nothing I do is driven by Ofsted, I am not naïve to these pressures. I have every confidence that when we are next inspected, our approach to evaluating teaching – with not a single grading of a teacher in sight – will be welcomed. In fact, I won’t allow it to be up for discussion.

Next steps
Alongside trialling and refining this cycle, I am currently working on a teacher PLC which we will use to forensically identify where we have areas of strength in terms of pedagogy, and where we need to do further work at both a teacher, department and whole school level. We are excited about the potential of this and again, this has been welcomed by staff. I know he intends to blog about it in the near future and I would definitely recommend looking out for it if you are a senior or middle leader.

We would love to hear your thoughts / feedback on what we are doing. Please do leave us a comment.


#12 Solutions for Embedding Spacing and Interleaving – Creating a More Durable Memory.

Memory fascinates me, I am constantly on the lookout for ideas to helps students retain information.  I want to start with a few questions; how many lessons do you walk into where a starter activity is based on the content from the previous lesson? I would imagine that this is very common.   How often do you walk into a lesson and see a starter based on content that was covered 6, 12 or even 18 weeks ago?  What would students find more difficult, a starter based on something they did in the previous lesson or a starter based on something they covered weeks ago?  The answer is likely to be the starter based on older content and the fact that they find it more difficult is the absolute key to building a more durable memory.

 

There are many posts on the principles of spacing and interleaving that go into far more detail with regards to relevant research and so I promise to keep the preamble brief. It is the practical solutions which are most important to me.  This post is fuelled primarily by a fantastic article by Bjork and Bjork and sections of Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning.   Firstly, I want to address spacing which in essence is increasing the time in between delivering content.  What many people recognise as traditional curriculum design is where content is taught in discrete topics. Students sit and end of unit test and then may not revisit the content until the terminal assessment at the end of year.   A curriculum designed with spacing in mind aims to spread the learning out so that students have to recall information at greater intervals.  For example, in science they may do a lesson on current, followed by a lesson on osmosis etc.  At first, this is a frightening concept because immediately teachers are thinking that students will struggle to keep track of all the information, but this struggle is essential.  To quote  Brown, Roediger and McDaniel, ‘Rapid-fire practice leans on short term memory.  Durable learning, however, requires time for mental rehearsal and the other processes of consolidation.’ When delivering a curriculum structured in the traditional way, students rely too heavily on their short term memory and so may perform well on the end of unit test but when trying to recall the key information in the distant future they will struggle.

 

Interleaving two or more subjects or skills has a significant impact on retention of knowledge.  This is the process of inserting content into lessons to challenge them to recall knowledge out of synchronisation.  The big draw backs are that the progress is slower and students find it confusing which makes it unpopular with teachers.  However, I defy anyone to read pg48-50 of Make it Stick:The Science of Successful learning  and not be fully convinced  by the concepts.  In short, one experiment with interleaved practise showed an increase of 215% in performance on a final test.  ‘The research shows unequivocally that mastery and long term retention are much better if you interleave practice rather than you mass it.’

 

There are some fantastic articles in relation to spacing and interleaving which are referenced below.  They are all well worth a read if you can find time.

 

Here are 12 solutions for embedding the principles of spacing and interleaving:

 

 

12 Solutions

 

  • Plan starter activities based on content from previous units.

 

  • Design schemes of learning which factor in time to reteach/review content.

 

  • Less terminal revision, more reviewing during units.

 

  • Use cumulative exams and quizzes throughout the unit.

 

  • Explain the evidence behind the methodology to get buy in from students and parents.

 

  • Mix up the order of practice problems for greater retention.

 

  • When planning learning, vary practice: -Teacher input –Student recall – Application.

 

  • Pilot spaced learning with a group and compare outcomes with a similar group.

 

  • Multiple exposures –students need 3-4 exposures to information over time.(Hattie)

 

  • Use programmes like Quizlet for frequent low stakes quizzes.

 

  • Use PLCs to identify common weaknesses and interleave questions related to the weaknesses.

 

  • Collapse lessons periodically to provide spaced practice on common areas of weakness.

 

Spacing and interleaving 1-6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spacing and interleaving 7-12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

 

Make it stick:The Science of Successful Learning – Peter C Brown, Henry L Roediger III, Mark A McDaniel.

 

Learning: Chaprter 3: Making Things Hard on Yourself, But in a Good Way: Creating Desirable Difficulties to Enhance Learning. Elizabeth L Bjork and Robert Bjork

Cepeda, N. J., Pashler, H., Vul, E., Wixted, J. T., & Rohrer, D. (2006). Distributed practice in verbal recall tasks: A review and quantitative synthesis. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 354-380. DOI: 10.1037/0033-2909.132.3.354.

Cepeda, N. J., Vul, E., Rohrer, D., Wixted, J. T., & Pashler, H. (2008). Spacing effects in learning: A temporal ridgeline of optimal retention. Psychological Science, 19, 1095-1102. DOI : 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02209.x.

http://public.psych.iastate.edu/shacarp/carpenter_2014_science_of_learning.pdf

Spacing and Interleaving of Study and Practice: Shana K. Carpenter Iowa State University. 

Bahrick, H. P., Bahrick, L. E., Bahrick, A. S., & Bahrick, P. E. (1993). Maintenance of foreign language vocabulary and the spacing effect. Psychological Science, 4, 316-321. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467- 9280.1993.tb00571.x.


It’s not about pace, it’s about efficient teaching.

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I don’t particularly like the term pace when talking about teaching.  ‘Good pace’ suggests that it is desirable to move through content as swiftly as possible during lessons which doesn’t necessarily translate into good progress.  I have heard teachers comment on the pace of lessons many times and with a recent move to 50 minute lessons at our school, the notion of pace raised its head again.  As an alternative to pace, I prefer the phrase efficient teaching.  It’s not about getting through as much content as possible, it is about using the available time effectively to enhance learning and support good progress for all.  In order to embed this notion of efficient teaching, it is essential that the term translates into everyday classroom practice.

Why?

Efficient teaching relates to maximising the use of time available.  The amount of time available to deliver and redeliver content is finite and therefore it is essential that every opportunity is taken to use this time effectively.

 

How?

As James Kerr highlights in Legacy “A vision without action is a dream.”  Its all well and good introducing the idea of efficient teaching but without the How, it is just a an idea.  So how can we ensure that teaching is efficient?

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What?

What does it look like on an everyday basis? Here are some ideas for ensuring that everyday teaching is efficient as possible.

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