- Implementing Weekly Retrieval Quizzes and Retrieval Starters
One of my aims for this year has been to introduce more retrieval practice into my lessons. I have done this in two ways, focusing mostly on my IGCSE classes. Firstly, I have done a weekly quiz with my classes. I describe how I run this in more detail here, but they have been popular with students as a way to identify their shortcomings. The second is the retrieval starters which I talk about in this post, where each lesson students have to recall material from Last Lesson, Last Unit and Further Back. In both cases, I need to think about how I get students to act on those questions they are unable to answer, but on the whole, these two initiatives have been a huge success. I am expanding both these to my IB classes next year.
- Example Problem Pairs
I have adapted all my teaching to make use of example problem pairs this year. I started dabbling with this last year, but have moved to full integration this year (see here). I am still working on how many examples to give, which depends on the level of the class. I have found I needed fewer examples this year with my S3 class than the S3 class I trialed it with last year, but this is not surprising given I have a higher set this year, and the ideas of the expertise reversal effect. Providing fewer examples gives more time for students to engage in a more thought provoking activity that will help consolidate these new ideas. I have also pushed the idea of doing silent examples in the second half of the year, discussing with my students the need to concentrate on new material. I have an IB HL class next year, who will be much further along the novice-expertise spectrum, so I will have to bear in mind the expertise reversal effect when using examples with that class.
- Work booklets
Also for my IGCSE class I have produced a set of work booklets for each unit. The unit is split into the component skills, and for each skill there is a required prior knowledge question, some fill in the blank notes, the example problem pairs, independent practice exercises, and some challenging activities. At the end of the booklet there is a unit review worksheet covering all the skills. These have been very popular with students, and have saved a lot of time in them copying down questions etc. They are still expected to copy down the examples and notes, but the structure makes this quicker. It also provides students with more stuff to move on to if they finish the exercise, and gives them extra questions to use in their revision. You can find the student resources here, including PDFs of the booklets. Again, I am trialing a similar set up with my IB class next year, but it will be lesson sheets rather than full booklets.
- T&L Newsletter
I started the T&L Newsletter this year as a way to communicate ideas, blog posts and other T&L news to our staff body in one monthly installment, rather than just emailing out whenever I found something of interest. The Newsletter has adapted over the year, getting a new look, and expanding to include a section on cognitive science in recent months. When a new issue is released, I often see people reading it at break and lunch, and people often come up to me to discuss something in it. One Head of Department has told me it forms a part of their departmental meetings, and other teachers have told me how they use the ideas shared. Sometimes it has sparked a debate. Overall, it has gotten teachers talking about T&L a bit more, and, for me, that makes it a resounding success.
- Assessing prior knowledge explicitly using Diagnostic Questions
I started this year doing a pre-unit assessment, but this took too much class time, so it fell by the wayside. Next year I want to make use of 2-3 diagnostic questions before a new unit/skill on the required prior knowledge, so that I can address any misconceptions before moving on. I am thinking of setting these electronically as a quick homework, but have not decided yet.
- Give student more time for independent practice, particularly using varied questions
This year I have felt pushed for time, and the part of lessons that has probably slipped has been giving students plenty of time to practice new skills to embed them better. I have dabbled with varied questions, but want to make more use of these, as they give students a chance to practice but also develop skills such as conjecturing. I need to focus on how I am going to implement this successfully.
- Improve quality of student responses by increasing wait time, and making more use of Cold/Show Call
Giving students time to think before asking for an answer is essential if we want students to give their best answers. Giving them time after hearing another students answer to compose a response is also necessary if we want to further develop ideas. I also want to continue to develop my use of Cold Calling to engage all students in producing their best work, and Show Call (projecting student work) to show excellent pieces of work (and also address misconceptions).
- To be able to offer more personalised support for colleagues, I will endeavour to drop in to more classes.
In my role as T&L Coordinator I am always looking for ways to support my colleagues in their professional development, to provide the best learning opportunities for our students and to keep teachers interested in what they do. Over the last two years I have worked hard to promote an atmosphere of discussion about Teaching and Learning, and the next stage is to start going in to more classrooms and offering direct support to teachers. This will not be in an invasive or forced way, but rather giving them a fresh set of eyes and ears to bounce ideas off of in order to further improve.