I have been a teacher for 26 years, a Headteacher for 11 years and, at the age of 50, this much I know about what REALLY WORKS when preparing students for their examinations!
I am keener than ever to spend as much time as possible in classrooms. As I wrote in a post last October, leading our teachers’ own learning about teaching, is, I feel, the most important thing I do in my role as a Headteacher.
It’s not often you innovate in your teaching and the impact on students’ learning is so clearly significant. My recent post about meta-cognition and self-regulation described an obvious tactic for helping students perform better in examinations. Thing is, whilst it now seems obvious, it took me 26 years to discover. It’s probably worth quickly reading my meta-cognition and self-regulation post here before looking at what follows.
Lead teacher learning by sharing. My meta-cognition and self-regulation post was picked up by some of the teachers at Huntington. Tim, a truly great teacher of Music, annotated an A level paper just as I had done and then explained his thinking to his A level class during their mock debrief.
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He then sent me this email:
Reading from the bottom up, here is my reply and then Tim’s response, which I feel is the fruit of sharing as a Headteacher.
Observing lessons judgementally, or leading teacher learning? I try really hard to make lesson observations a developmental experience for colleagues I performance develop. I cannot see the point of spending time observing a lesson if I am not actively helping teachers to improve their practice. We co-plan, I play an active, helpful role in the lesson and then we spend time reflecting upon how the lesson could have been better. Quite often we wait a week or two to meet so that the teacher can bring along work completed in the interim period by the students so that we can see whether the teaching has resulted in improved student progress – the Golden Thread!
This particular meta-cognition technique is spreading. In the following lesson another truly great teacher, Lisa, uses a visualiser to demonstrate her thinking when completing a particular simultaneous equation question from the mathematics GCSE mock paper the students sat recently. Everyone has a fresh blank copy of the question sheet. She describes her thinking and the students are directed to copy down verbatim, on their own copies of the question sheet, what she writes as she writes it in real time. This helps ingrain the teacher’s meta-cognitive processes in the students’ memories, with the physical action of the writing playing some role in making the teacher’s meta-cognitive processes more tangible for the students. As well as the video, Lisa’s completed answer is below so that you can follow what she says, as well as the staged approach to answering questions which we are training the students to master.
Practice makes perfect. Once Lisa has modelled the meta-cognitive process for completing the question the students are given a similar question to complete on their own, with the brief to mimic the meta-cognitive processes learnt from Lisa’s modelling. Once the students have attempted the process themselves on the similar question she asks one of the students – whom she has seen complete the question well – to use the visualiser and explain his meta-cognitive processes when completing the question. The video of Kallan’s visualiser monologue is below as is his completed question. Listen for the round of applause from his peers at the end…
An evidence-based profession? All this work is rooted in the Sutton Trust-Education Endowment Foundation Teaching & Learning Toolkit. Think about it…meta-cognition; effective feedback; peer tutoring all combined in the one lesson…and then look at the Toolkit’s now ubiquitous evaluation of high-impact/cost effective activities to improve student progress:
When I asked the students about the usefulness of Lisa’s meta-cognition lesson they gave it anywhere between 9 and 10 out of 10.