Data – from foe to useful ‘friend’
By Harry Pike – Head of History, 2iC Humanities, Teaching Lead for Humanities
I was asked to jointly lead an INSET on data in our final Wednesday PM INSET session of the term. At first it seemed as if I had drawn the short straw – not only was the INSET coming at the end of a long, hard term, but it was on a topic that I’m sure even the most ardent STEM colleague would have admittedly groaned at after such an arduous term: ‘Data’.
However, it was in the planning stage that I realised that, despite all the bad press that data and its ‘culture’ receive in our state system today, an INSET on data could be both useful, and dare I say, also interesting.
This blog post is designed to come at data from two angles – the first from a classroom teacher’s angle, and the second from a Middle Leader’s perspective (the focus of the aforementioned INSET).
Data for classroom teachers:
Whilst data can seem the preserve of middle and senior teachers, I have found over my first five years as a teacher (and now as a Middle Leader) that data can be, without overstretching yourself, put to good use in very simple, easy-to-manage ways as a classroom teacher.
As a classroom teacher after data drops I often simply look to filter the students on, above and below target to see firstly what the range is. Then, I try to see if there are any trends with regards to target trades – are my middle, top or lower ability students under-performing most significantly? Or is it simply a real mix?
In the most simplistic sense, I then use this data to inform my classroom practice through simple strategies such as: targeted questioning of said students; greater focus when marking students’ books on those who are deemed as being ‘underperforming’; or reseating my class (should I need to or feel it necessary/required) according to both target and those below target.
This latter technique I have found to work particularly well with my GCSE classes as it allows me easily as the teacher to direct attention, praise, sanctions (if needed) and questions to the students who need it most. I try to group my underperforming students to one side of my classroom, and choose to place students front-to-back according to their target grades. This therefore allows me to both focus my attention in written tasks/note taking etc at the students who need a little more of a push, as well as for me to ensure that students who might slip under the radar unnoticed with regards to outcome or effort do not so. I know, for instance, the minimum required standard of work needed from students targeted a 2,3,4 etc, and those targeted a 5,6,7,8 etc. When they are grouped together I know, without the help of a data sheet, the required effort/outcome from each targeted group and can direct my attention as so.
For Middle Leaders:
As Subject Lead for History I have found one of the hardest aspects of the new GCSE course to juggle to be the sheer variety of question types and skills needed to ace the new GCSE History qualification.
For our latest Assessment Point I asked my staff, instead of recording the individual question marks on the front of the papers, to instead record them on a spreadsheet to allow us to see as a department how student performance varied across classes, question types and examination papers.
This data has then be used by myself to inform the ‘intervention’ class foci for each Y11 History class and ensure that more attention is directed both in class, and outside of class, to the students and classes that need support most on a particular area rather than the same ‘formula’ be doled out to all classes/students.
In doing so I can ensure that intervention is more targeted and student specific, as well as for me to see if particular groups / abilities are struggling with certain question types better than others, or if certain classes are more competent at answering certain questions more than others. These trends, both positive and more negative, can also be acted upon and good practice be shared amongst colleagues.
Data is often made out to be the villain, and it often is in schools that demand reams and reams of data to be collected and mulled over on a regular basis. However, used sparingly and tactically data can prove hugely useful for teachers of all experiences and positions in their careers.
Home Straight – How am I going to cram it all in?
By Harry Pike – Head of History, 2iC Humanities, Teaching Lead for Humanities
We are now into the second half of the academic year and the end is in sight. Whilst, technically, we are at the halfway point of the year, for exam classes, and their teachers alike, we are MUCH closer to the summit.
Whether this worries or reassures you will vary by teacher. But if a recent scroll through the ‘Teachers of AQA GCSE History’ Facebook Page is anything to go by, teachers of all subjects up and down the country likely have the same concerns. Namely, will I get all that I need to get taught, taught by Easter?
Such is our moral purpose that we worry about doing the children in our care a disservice by not setting them up as best we can for the upcoming Public Examinations.
This blog post is an attempt to share some of the tips and advice that have helped us here in the Humanities Team at CCA to (hopefully!) navigate safely to the end of our respective GCSE courses.
None of the points explored below are revolutionary, and many of the questions underpin natural good curriculum planning across the whole academic year. However, that being said, when time is tight lessons have to be equally slick to maximise the time we have left. As such, repetition is not always a bad thing!
- Entering the final stretch: How long do I actually have left?
It might sound obvious, but with students being pulled out of lessons for compulsory practicals (e.g. Art exams/mocks) or missing a week of lesson time during whole school ‘Assessment Weeks’, it is important to be realistic about how much time we actually have left in the classroom.
I have found that good curriculum planning will involve a clear, week by week, breakdown of the remaining time to see if, and where, any time will be lost. This will aid with backwards planning and prevent panics setting in when you ‘suddenly’ miss a lesson or a week, putting your seemingly perfect planning under increasing strain.
2. Takeaways: What do students need to know?
Again, this should be at the core of every good lesson but knowing what the core ‘nuggets’ of information that students need to grasp at the end of each lesson will help you streamline teaching and ensure that students are guided as best they can towards the finish line. I often find that ‘learning questions’ aid with this process and keep lessons as tight as they can be when time is as pushed as it inevitably is at this time in the academic year. These learning questions are then answered/assessed at the end of each lesson to check student understanding.
3. Big picture: What is the ultimate end goal?
Knowing what needs covering and in what depth will be crucial. If corners need cutting then you will want to be as confident as possible in ensuring that as little, if any, ‘core’ content is being glossed over/cut. What links can be made between topics that help build towards an overall end goal of each unit? Questions like this will help you shave off any excess bulk from the curriculum and, with luck, keep your curriculum as lean as possible.
4. Getting the balance right: How do I blend knowledge with skills?
Which areas of the exam specification are students weakest on? Which skills have been covered in other modules previously? Which ones are in greatest need of focus? Are there any skills that are weighted, significantly, more or less than others?
Being clear on the answer to the above questions will help balance the need for content teaching and exam practice. Sequenced, repetitive focus on certain ‘weak’ exam skills will help students build confidence and maximise the effectiveness of our final remaining hours with our classes ahead of revision/intervention after Easter.
5. Balance: What can be provided for students? What should their core focus be in class?
Finally, be clear on what students need to know, what they can be ‘given’, and what their core focus in lessons should be. This final one comes from our experience as a History Department at CCA. The AQA Thematic Unit (Power and the People) requires students to cover 850+ years of British History over a short teaching time period. Obviously, you need to be crystal clear as a teacher about what students NEED to know, what NEEDS to be noted in class, and what CAN be provided for students to save time. Being clear on the above will help you have as clear a focus as possible in class for the remaining few, precious, teaching hours.
As such, the end is, indeed, in sight. With adequate planning and preparation all courses can be finished and all students adequately prepared for the upcoming examinations.
Believe in yourself and know that, when in doubt, you have done all you physically can to give the students in our care the best possible chance in the upcoming Public Examinations. That is as much as anyone can ask of you at this time.
Underachievement of Bangladeshi Pupils
By Katrina Chowdhury – Teacher of English and Teach First Mentor
The underachievement of Bangladeshi pupils in Britain is attributed to a number of ‘ethnic’ factors, namely their socio-economic background, length of stay in Britain, parental issues, and their culture and religion. In recent years though, some schools have shown signs of bucking the trend and producing consistently good results across their multi-ethnic student body, which includes a large number of Bangladeshis. The thesis of this dissertation is that schools and teachers do make a difference, regardless of the ‘ethnic’ factors. Interviews of teachers were carried out in two Ofsted-rated “Good” schools in England to establish certain features of ‘teacher climate’ as defined by Brookover et al. (1979). The findings of the interviews show that while teachers have mixed opinions of why Bangladeshi students may find it harder than most to achieve academically, the teachers’ high expectations, drive for excellence, and ability to be colour-blind while taking cultural nuances into account enable Bangladeshi students to thrive in these schools.
Burgess, R. (1984) In The Field. London: Allen and Unwin.
Brookover, W., Beady, C., Flood, P., Schweitzer, J. & Wisenbaker, J. (1979) School Social Systems and Student Achievement : Schools Can Make a Difference. New York: Praeger.
Brown, K. E. & Medway, F. J. (2007) School Climate and Teacher Beliefs in a School Effectively Teaching Poor South Carolina (USA) African-American Students: A case study. Teaching and Teacher Education, 23, 529 – 540
Autonomy and Knowledge
By Ben Okoh – KS3 Maths Coordinator
While faced with the challenge of creating a curriculum in Key Stage 3 Maths last year, I enrolled on a module on Curriculum design and development at UCL.
Many aspects of the module were inspiring and impactful but two points stood out for me. One was the fact that different views held of knowledge and the direct impact views held had on government policy, school policy, teaching methods, approaches to behaviour management and about every area of school organisation and activity. What is knowledge? What is the nature of the child? Autonomy will involve pupils believing in their own authority and so engaged with making decisions about their own learning.
How has an understanding of knowledge and or autonomy, impacted on my practice? These studies have helped me to be critical of my practice and have led to some changes in Key Stage 3 mathematics. Among the unique learning system developed in KS3 Maths, are the Little Einstein Project on Peer Learning which was created is an attempt at increasing student voice, autonomy and mastery of the subject at the same time. On the Little Einstein Project, selected students and class reps (from every maths set) are involved in teaching other students struggling with homework, while improving their mastery at the same time. Another project which was a direct result of the module undertaken was the planning of an experiential model of teacher CPD based on rich task as a form of allowing teachers empathise with the experiences of their students while promoting the growth learning mind-set idea.
(A crude attempt at poetry)
With eyes transfixed on a child in the front row seat,
Fingers pointed to the red and green arrows,
Each pointed opposite ways on the white board.
“You will get an S3 if…”
“Or a P3 if…”.
Coercion the necessary tool.
You can’t teach any other way!
Is this true or is this the truth we make of our experiences.
Whatever choice is made when teaching in the classroom,
It is essentially a decision of choice.
Conscious or unconscious it may be,
A choice based on our beliefs about knowledge
Our belief about the child,
The Capital City Academy Child.
Ben Okoh (2016)
Suggested reading around knowledge and or autonomy:
Moore, A. (2012) Models of Teaching and Learning. Chapter 1 in: A. Moore, Teaching and Learning, Abingdon, Routledge, pages 1-32.
Niemiec, Christopher P., and Richard M. Ryan. “Autonomy, competence, and relatedness in the classroom Applying self-determination theory to educational practice.” Theory and research in Education 7.2 (2009): 133-144.
Holocaust Education within Schools
By Marc Pettifor – Teacher of History
As part of the University College London (UCL) Institute of Education Holocaust Education Project (Beacon Schools Programme) I have been privileged to attend a number of CPD events and participate on a study visit to Poland where we spent time investigating the impact and implications of the Holocaust and assessing how this can be incorporated within existing educational guidelines without detriment to the student led pedagogy promoted by the Beacon Schools Programme. I also submitted a short testimony to the Parliamentary Education Committee on behalf of the IoE and the UCL HEDP. The Committee decided to recognise the value of Holocaust Education and the importance of the Beacon Schools Programme.
The idea of the HEDP is to focus students on developing their understanding regarding the subtle and variable distinctions between perpetrators, bystanders and the individuals who are/were targets of violence and oppression as to aid the development of meaning for themselves. This way of thinking and delivering a topic is redolent of my initial teacher training and illustrates a pedagogical approach that has a focus on scaffolding student led learning. I have reacquainted myself with methods of questioning and delivery that though out of fashion in modern teaching practice provide opportunity for students to engage in deep learning directed by their own curiosity rather than proscribed schemes of work. The key appears to be a marriage of both educational philosophies.
Site visits for both the World War One Centenary Programme and the HEDP visit to Poland have provided me with a deeper insight into how to utilise external opportunities in the classroom, providing physical links and resources that embed experience in the students and teacher allowing for a deeper exploration not only of the topic at hand but the utilisation of History as an effective moral/social and academic tool
I have utilised the resources, CPD and knowledge acquired as a member of the programme to inform my teaching across all year groups with particular reference to year 9 (schemes of work and individual lessons) and the GCSE course.
I recently took part successfully in the First World War Centenary Battlefield Tours Programme organised by UCL and the Department of Education and hope to develop the understanding and research gathered by participating in the Legacy 101 programme, this is an ongoing project that aims to develop understanding and knowledge regarding the impact, sacrifices and developments made during the First World War and how these still resonate in contemporary society.
Suggested reading on ideas about the Holocaust:
KL by Nikolaus Waschmann
The Historiography of the Holocaust by Dan Stone
No More Marking
By Hannah Aizenberg – English CAL
In the English department at Capital City Academy we have been trailing a new marking system called ‘No More Marking’ with some key stage three classes. We first became interested in this idea when we came across it on Joe Kirby’s blog, Pragmatic Reform. We contacted the English department at Michela Free School where Joe works and were able to come in and ask them about their approach. They explained that, as is often the case, marking is extremely burdensome and is a significant time commitment for teachers when there are already too many things to fit into one day. They felt it was more important that teachers used their time on in-depth planning.
Whilst we agreed that marking probably takes up the majority of most teachers’ days, it seemed radical to just stop; overhauling our marking policy and insisting on increased frequency and more depth (albeit with a quick system) was one of the factors we felt helped accelerate progress. It is clear that the adoption of this would require a complete overhaul in our mind-set – but we recognise that red pen does not automatically equal progress. Therefore, after much research, we decided that the key to success would be based on the strength of the feedback sessions we ran after each extended writing task. There are many ways to do this, but we settled on using a PowerPoint slide with a predefined layout where we focused on the following:
- General things teachers noticed, both positive and negative
- Common SPG errors
- Strong examples (teachers to award P3s for all good examples and name check them on PowerPoints)
- Examples to discuss (either because teachers need to speak directly to the student, or because they’re good examples to identify WWW/EBI in)
Instead of spending hours marking books, teachers now spend thirty minutes every week reading through every student’s work, and keeping a record of their notes. Feedback takes place in the lesson following their extended writing task so that it is immediate. Following the PowerPoint slide detailed above, teachers then transition to the modelling part of the lesson: either getting the class to joint construct a response to fill the ‘gaps’ identified in the student work, or deconstructing a model with them, thereby demonstrating to students how to move on to the next stage. Students then redraft their work, focusing on embedding the skills learned in the modelling part of the lesson. They finish by highlighting where they have improved their task so that they have a visual reminder of their progress.
As a department we will reflect on this process next term and consider our next steps.
Whole School Reading
By Joseph Harris – Teacher of English and Literacy Coordinator
Dissertation title: Which leadership strategies support successful implementation of the Accelerated Reader programme? (A case study of the introduction of the Accelerated Reader programme at Anonymous Academy)
In my role as Literacy Coordinator Wave 2, and lead on whole school reading, the Accelerated Reader programme is a key part of our overall strategy. I used my dissertation as an opportunity to evaluate my leadership of the first year of Accelerated Reader at Capital City Academy, using a mixture of academic literature, pupil data, visits to other schools using the programme, feedback from staff at CCA, and my own critical observations.
Key findings which have been used to inform the second year of AR include:
- Additional focus on instructional leadership, specifically more training staff to use AR reporting functions.
- Seeking greater input into schemes of work from staff with specific skillsets, for example SEND post holders.
- More regular observation of AR lessons to identify and share best practice, and reduce in-school variation to greater homogenise student progress.
Equally, the most effective aspects of leadership of AR which will be built on this year include:
- Communication of a clear and inclusive vision to all staff involved, garnering staff buy-in.
- High standard of resources provided for all lessons, allowing for teacher differentiation.
- Elements of distributed leadership, producing strong feelings of efficacy, trust and autonomy amongst staff.
Moving English Forward – Ofsted
Reading: The next steps – DfE