All entries for Friday 03 June 2016

June 03, 2016

Trainee teacher 7: Varying degrees of success

Although I can sometimes grumble and moan about the extra workload of reading research papers, there can be no doubt that I’ve taken ideas and inspiration from the research I’ve written. Over the year so far, I’ve been trying to take ideas from my reading and implement them in classrooms, with varying degrees of success.

From an early stage, my research into theories of effective marking and feedback yielded some ideas that I could implement into my classroom. Reading work by Hattie and Timperley gave me the idea to use displayed success criteria for written tasks in class. This allows students to constantly self-assess their work as they go, and continuously generate next steps at any stage during the lesson. This allows me to use the criteria to also structure my written feedback, saving a lot of time thinking about what next steps are necessary. I recently took this to another level in terms of student engagement with the criteria, by challenging students to mark a sample piece of work before they started working on their own task. I was impressed with the levels of critical engagement with the criteria, and by their willingness to judge whether a piece of work was worthy of meeting a criteria rather than just being present. The feedback was very focused, and they were very demanding of detail (in hindsight, maybe telling them I had produced the work was a bad idea!).

More recently, I have been reading into theories of discovery learning and how to make it effective in the classroom. The overall picture I obtained from my literature review was that discovery learning can yield improved outcomes, but not in all cases. I identified two main factors that can help discovery learning be more effective:

  1. Choose the class carefully. When results were separated out by student ability, a positive effect on higher ability students was observed, often masked in mixed studies by a negative effect on lower ability students. Using this strategy appropriately is an important facet of making it successful. In terms of implementing this, I have primarily used these activities with only one of my classes, where all students are targeted an A or A* grade.

  2. Don’t just leave them on their own! Some studies gave students as young as 7 no guidance, and expected them to be able to learn. There is no way that this would yield effective progress and learning at almost any age As a result, when I have used discovery-style activities, I have always provided scaffolding questions and walked around providing support to ensure that students have the supported environment to allow them to make those discoveries.

The opportunity for discovery learning to produce improved outcomes has been particularly of interest to me, and I have been trying to implement more and more in my lessons where appropriate. Recently, I put on an activity where my students used dice to model radioactive decay. Using the structured worksheet, students were able to work through and calculate a half-life for their radioactive ‘sample’. This then led into a discussion of half-life, with students moving on to look at how it relates to carbon dating in their next lesson.

Robert Seaton

June 2016

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  • As soon as your work is published, you spot an error which you didn't pick up at the proof–reading s… by Jeremy Burrows on this entry
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  • Thanks for sharing this Lauren it sounds like you had a great lesson, what a fantastic strategy! I t… by Will Haywood on this entry
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