All entries for November 2018

November 26, 2018

Describe successful models for inclusion in your subject area – Charlie

It is essential for all teachers, including Modern Foreign Language (MFL) teachers, to recognise that every class is comprised of a group of unique individuals. A significant challenge for teachers is to meet the different needs of each of these students, who may vary with respect to gender, social class, special educational need and disability (SEND), interests, self-esteem, ethnic, cultural and linguistic background, family situation, motivation, ability, previous attainment and numerous other factors.

An advantage of an MFL classroom with respect to these individual differences is that students are encouraged to talk about themselves and their interests, hobbies, families and experiences in the target language, and so this can present the teacher with many opportunities to take an interest in and value what each individual student has to say about him or herself, thus modelling an inclusive approach. Discussions about festivals and cultural practices in other countries and differences between the target language and other languages can also lead to interesting contributions from students from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds and can give the teacher an opportunity to celebrate the diversity of the class. This links to Teachers' Standard 1: Set high expectations which inspire, motivate and challenge pupils: establish a safe and stimulating environment for pupils, rooted in mutual respect, and demonstrate consistently the positive attitudes, values and behaviour which are expected of pupils. Teachers can also ensure that resources featuring pictures of people reflect the diverse mix of the student cohort that they are teaching.

“Inclusion” within the literature on education is often used as a specific reference to the inclusion of SEND students. In her paper on foreign language learning and inclusion, McColl (2015) argues that it is essential for pupils with SEND to be given equal access to the curriculum, including MFL, even if they struggle with proficiency in their own language. This is, she argues, because the teaching of languages is also about the teaching of other cultures and acceptance of other ways of life and beliefs. McColl also argues that some students, for example those with autism, may only gain a clear understanding of what it is to be British and living in Britain through being taught about the existence of other countries and Britain’s global context. In this way McColl is advocating a fully inclusive model of MFL teaching.

Working with pupils with SEND can present significant challenges for a class teacher as these pupils can have very different and specific needs. One three-part research-based model of inclusion presented by the Institutes of Education at London and Exeter proposed that approaches should 1) help all but be modified to remove barriers for those with SEND, 2) be drawn from specialist studies of the subject being taught and 3) use insights from disability-specific knowledge (Peacey, 2016). One way to combine these elements in MFL is to ensure that the languages teacher combines his/her expert knowledge of the subject, pedagogical knowledge and knowledge of the students with the expertise of SEND colleagues within the school. The teacher should ensure that they obtain all available information on their students, including those with and without SEND, plan for appropriate differentiation, make any adjustments required by students and draw on any support available from SEND colleagues to ensure that the needs of all students are met to the best of the teacher’s ability.

Evidence demonstrates that I put in place specific strategies to meet the needs of my autistic learners. This links to Teachers' Standard 5: 5 Adapt teaching to respond to the strengths and needs of all pupils: have a clear understanding of the needs of all pupils, including those with special educational needs; those of high ability; those with English as an additional language; those with disabilities. I engage with staff within the SEND department of my school to support these students to the best of my ability and at times they support these learners in lessons. This is in line with Teachers' Standard 8: Fulfil wider professional responsibilities: deploy support staff effectively.

Inclusion within an MFL classroom can present significant challenges for language teachers. However, inclusive models of teaching can also present opportunities to celebrate diversity and give equal access to the benefits of learning languages to all students.


McColl, H. (2005). Foreign Language Learning and Inclusion: Who? Why? What? - and How? Support for Learning Journal, 20 (3), pp.103-108.

Peacey, N. (2016). An Introduction to Inclusion, Special Educational Needs and Disability. In: Capel, S., Leask, M, and Younie, S., eds. Learning to Teach in the Secondary School: A Companion to School Experience. 7th Edition. London: Routledge, pp. 302-324.

November 21, 2018

How can assessment encourage & motivate learners to succeed, academically & socially? – Danielle

Defined by Wiliam and Black as “activities undertaken by teachers…which provides information to be used as feedback to modify teaching and learning” (Black & Wiliam 2010, p. 82), assessment is considered to be vital for pupil progress (TS6 and TS2). However, it can also provide opportunities for teachers to encourage and motivate learners to succeed, both academically and socially.

Formative assessment can also provide opportunity for teachers to encourage and motivate learners. For example, once a topic has been introduced, a teacher can engage students in an open discussion to determine how pupils can progress in their learning (TS6 and TS2). As strategies such as this also promote the development of higher-order thinking skills, which are typically required for high GCSE grades, pupils are encouraged to succeed academically. Furthermore, and through the use of character sheets, students can be prompted to think empathetically about both sides of the debate. As this helps students to cultivate a flexible mind-set and become more understanding of other people’s views, pupils are also being helped to succeed socially.

Conducting frequent summative assessments, and using them to motivate learners to succeed, can lead to students becoming demotivated and disengaged (Harlen 2007; Hendrick et al. 2017). However, if end-of-topic tests are required, demotivation can be avoided by allowing the students to conduct the test as both open and closed-book. Within the first half of the lesson, pupils attempt the test under exam conditions; this helps the teacher to identify what pupils know and understand, and to determine where progress can be made (TS6). For the remainder of the lesson, pupils are then allowed to use a different colour pen and amend their test using information from textbooks and other resources.

There are many benefits to using assessments in this manner. Firstly, by allowing pupils the opportunity to alter their work, the tests are not considered to be ‘high-stakes’ (Trotter 2006). As such, students do not lose motivation with studying the subject and are encouraged to succeed academically (ibid.). Secondly, as pupils are given marks for both the open and closed-test, they are able to clearly see the grade that they could achieve with further revision (TS2); this can help motivate students to take responsibility for their learning, and thus help them to improve. Finally, by identifying gaps in their knowledge, pupils are able to focus their revision on the weakest aspects of that subject. As this can encourage students to develop skills such as: time-management; prioritising work-load; and self-evaluation, summative assessment can be used to promote social success.

Allowing time for pupils to reflect and respond to feedback from assessments is similarly important for pupils’ academic and social success (TS6). As a trainee teacher, the incorporation of this aspect into my practice needs to be improved. However, when I have prompted my pupils to respond to feedback, they have engaged with the process and have reflected upon how to improve their learning. As Roorda et al. (2011) highlight, this engagement stems from forming positive relationships with the students that are rooted in mutual respect (TS1). If the students trust that it is within their best interest to action the feedback that has been provided, they will be more likely to engage in activities that will help them to succeed.


Black, P. & Wiliam, D., 2010. Inside the Black Box: Raising Standards through Classroom Assessment. Phi Delta Kappan, 92(1), pp.81–90. Available at:

Harlen, W., 2007. Assessment of Learning, SAGE Publications. Available at:

Hendrick, C., Macpherson, R. & Caviglioli, O., 2017. What Does this Look Like in the Classroom?: Bridging the Gap Between Research and Practice, John Catt Educational Limited. Available at:

Roorda, D.L. et al., 2011. The Influence of Affective Teacher–Student Relationships on Students’ School Engagement and Achievement: A Meta-Analytic Approach. Review of Educational Research, 81(4), pp.493–529. Available at:

Trotter, E., 2006. Student perceptions of continuous summative assessment. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 31(5), pp.505–521. Available at:

November 12, 2018

Science Cascade Days – Sally Spicer

This post is a summary of my article published in May 2018 in Science Teacher Education: 82; 13-18. Science Cascade Days are used to support the development of science subject knowledge and trainee confidence in teaching science for primary and early years PGCE trainees. March 2018 was the fourth time they have been held in the current format, run in partnership with the University’s Life Sciences department. Thanks are due to colleagues in Life Sciences who lead training and facilitate the cascade days. One day is spent with trainees being trained in observational and practical skills. This includes being ‘nature detectives’ in the Tocil Wood Nature Reserve, pond dipping, and using the laboratory equipment to make detailed observations of collected samples, which are tested for oxygen produced by pond-oxygenating plants and using computer software for testing their own reaction times. Trainees then cascade their learning to children from local schools. Each year, two different schools are invited: one bringing Year 2 children (age 6-7), the other upper Key Stage 2 (age 9-11) pupils for a day on campus, again based at Life Sciences.

Like other Initial Teacher Education (ITE) providers, the University of Warwick sets initial subject knowledge audits for its primary and early years (EY) Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) trainees in English, mathematics and science. Observations of, implications of and responses to the results for science discussed here were initially presented at the ASE Futures Group ITT-Meet, ‘Strengthening Initial Science Teacher Education’, at the University of Leicester in May 2017 and many aspects were corroborated by primary colleagues from other primary ITE providers who attended.

The questions addressed are: ‘What do the audit scores and additional information tell us?’ and ‘What do we do with it?’, on an individual trainee and cohort level. Our main focus is on trainees who show an initial score ≤ 60%. Some self-identify as needing low support and just revision, as their science subject knowledge may be rusty, especially for mature career changers. There are sometimes observable disparities between audit score, high or low, and trainees’ self-awareness and self–efficacy in the subject, observed in seminar participation.

Those trainees with weaker science subject knowledge and confidence are directed to an enhanced, provision opportunity - the science cascade days.

The schools invited are chosen to meet university widening participation criteria, such as having high numbers of pupils eligible for pupil premium, with little everyday opportunity to engage with the natural environment.

The Y2 children visit the nature reserve as nature detectives and use laboratory equipment to closely observe collected specimens under magnification. They also enjoy meeting ‘The Animal Man.’

The KS2 children work in a separate lab following pond dipping, observing specimens, oxygen collection and testing and investigating reaction time.

Schools, children and staff are enthusiastic about the day, all benefit from engaging with university and the natural environment. Trainees show increased confidence in teaching science outdoors: e.g. “It gave me real confidence; I loved seeing the children’s enthusiasm and excitement.”

November 05, 2018

How can assessment encourage & motivate learners to succeed, academically & socially? – Jade

Summative and formative assessments can both enable students to succeed, academically and socially. Summative assessments are “cumulative assessments…that intend to capture what a student has learned, or the quality of learning, and judge performance against some standards” National Research Council, 2001). This method of assessment is often used to evaluate student knowledge and understanding at the end of a topic (Gardner, 2010), and is often graded. Consequently, summative assessments may encourage and reassure students who have performed well, or motivate those who have under-achieved to try harder. In my practice, I summatively assess end-of-topic tests, and keep an accurate, up-to-date mark book with comparisons to target grades. This enables student performance to be monitored, which may lead to conversations with students or parents, or interventions, if students are underachieving.

Formative assessment refers to “frequent, interactive assessments of student progress and understanding to identify learning needs and adjust teaching appropriately” (OECD, 2005, p.21). Since formative assessments can inform teachers of student comprehension, this can, in turn, inform planning. For example, recently, after beginning teaching the topic of electrolysis to a year 10 class, through whole-class questioning, I realised that they knew very little about ionic bonding. Therefore, I planned and devoted a full lesson to teaching these principles, before continuing with electrolysis.

Importantly, formative assessments enable students to consider feedback, and improve upon their work and understanding, rather than purely focussing on their grade (Education Endowment Foundation, 2016, p.5). Consequently, I rarely write students’ grades or scores on their classwork or homework, but instead offer positive comments, effort grades and several action points. Students then complete these actions during lessons in a different-coloured pen, for easy comparison to the original work. In my opinion, this method is extremely effective; students have to correct mistakes (scientific or literacy), give more detailed, well-written answers, or complete challenge questions, which encourage higher-order thinking. This also allows for students to reflect on the progress they have made, which may motivate students to continue to learn through making improvements.

In terms of the type of written feedback, rather than offering vague remarks such as “great job” or “nearly there”, I try to give more constructive, specific comments. This type of feedback has been shown to focus students’ attention on certain aspects that require improvement (Hattie and Timperley, 2007). For verbal feedback, I try to give lots of praise (including merits) when students answer questions, even if their answers are wrong. As Mueller and Dweck (1998) argue, it is more important to reward effort than intelligence, and socially, I believe that this makes students feel safe and builds their confidence, meaning that they are more likely to volunteer answers in the future. To further help students succeed socially, I set peer assessment tasks, in which students are encouraged to give each other positive comments, in addition to suggestions for improvement.

Furthermore, I assess students’ learning through a range of a plenary activities. I have found that competition encourages learners to succeed, for both academic and social reasons, and thus, I try to implement a variety of games into my lessons, such as bingo, splat, noughts-and-crosses and team quizzes.


Education Endowment Foundation, 2016. A marked improvement? A review on the evidence of written marking. London: Education Endowment Foundation.

Gardner, J., 2010. Developing teacher assessments: An introduction. In: J. Gardner, W. Harlen, L. Hayward, G. Stobart and M. Montgomery, eds. 2010. Developing teacher assessment. New York: Open University Press. pp.1−11.

Hattie, J. and Timperley, H., 2007. The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), pp.81−112.

Mueller, C. M. and Dweck, C. S., 1998. Praise for intelligence can undermine children’s motivation and performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75(1), pp. 33−52.

National Research Council, 2001. Assessment in the classroom. [online] National Academies Press. Available at: https: [Accessed 8 February 2018].

Office of Economic Co-operation and Development, 2005. Formative assessment: Improving learning in secondary classrooms. Paris: OECD Publishing.

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  • Very interesting, thank you for sharing. Great CPD reflection. by Joel Milburn on this entry
  • Hi Lucy, Thank you for sharing the highs and lows of diverse assessments. I hope you have inspired o… by Anna Tranter on this entry
  • Hello Lucy, I totally agree with everything you have said here. And well done for having the energy … by Natalie Sharpling on this entry
  • Thank you for setting up this Learning Circle. Clearly, this is an area where we can make real progr… by Gwen Van der Velden on this entry
  • It's wonderful to read of your success Alex and the fact that you've been able to eradicate some pre… by Catherine Glavina on this entry

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