Category Archives: PedagooEvents

Unleashing Learners & Educational Leaders #PedagooMuckle

I was lucky enough to be involved in the fantastic #PedagooMuckle yesterday…what a day! It was great to meet so many new folk and I’m very excited to see what happens next…

At SCEL we are really proud to have supported this event and we’re looking forward to seeing what other teacher-led professional learning events we can support in the future also.

I thought I ought to share two of the presentations I gave on the day on here in case anyone was wanting them. I started off in the morning talking a bit about what educational leaders look like. You can see my slides from this here.

The point I was making here was primarily that we need to dissociate the word ‘leadership’ from the word ‘promotion’, which relates a lot to my work in supporting the development of teacher leadership. However, I was trying to go a bit further here by suggesting that perhaps a key element of effective pedagogical leadership is the power of collaboration…which relates strongly to the vision of the Pedagoo movement. I concluded with the #scelfie above and argued that this collective group of teachers is what educational leadership looks like.

If you would like to know more about SCEL’s teacher leadership work you can download our recent report or you can take your own professional learning forward as a teacher leader through our Framework for Educational Leadership. You should also check out our upcoming series of Enquire Connect Engage events!


I then also led a learning conversation based on my work as a teacher to find ways of involving pupils in planning learning. You can view the presentation I used for this here.

I’ve written much more about this approach here, and you can also download this excellent book which relates to this approach for free!

If anyone wants to get in touch regarding either of my presentations yesterday, or anything else related to teacher leadership, please feel free to do so. My contact details can be found here.

Hopefully see you at another Pedagoo event or TeachMeet, perhaps even one organised by you, very soon…

My Reflections on a Wonderful #PedagooHampshire16

What happens when Teachers and School Leaders learn to put themselves first?

On Saturday 17th September, I was delighted to attend Pedagoo Hampshire 16 in Alton. This event, which featured a day of interactive seminars hosted by individuals across the educational landscape, aimed to discuss and tackle key issues in education and create a forum for speakers to share their rich experience and expertise.

My belief is that teaching is a vocation. In the words of Parker J Palmer, it is a calling that invites our “deepest gladness to meet the world’s deepest need”. Yet for so many in the profession their ‘deepest gladness’ has been lost.

I decided therefore to base my seminar around “Taking Care of the Soul in the Role” and on how teachers and school leaders must learn to nurture the ‘being’ in Human-being’ through affording themselves the kindness and attention to meet their deepest needs. I sought to encourage those who attended to reflect on what was the most precious thing they brought to their role and challenged them to reflect on these crucial questions:


Click here to download the rest of the slides from my talk “Taking Care of the Soul in the Role”

In my talk, I also emphasised the dangers of living in the Sacrifice Syndrome. A place where teachers and school leaders “sacrifice too much for too long – and reap too little.”  Personal Sacrifice and the diminishment of one’s own needs becomes the norm. Leaving individuals feeling mentally and emotionally exhausted, and deriving less satisfaction from their lives.


Click here to download the rest of the slides from my talk “Taking Care of the Soul in the Role”

I put it to those who attended that the only way to break the cycle of the Sacrifice Syndrome, is through regular relationships that invite a deep engagement with one’s own soul.  Relationships that invite engagement in affirming & life-giving conversations, that regularly allow time and the opportunity for genuine renewal. When this becomes a deliberate practice we are able to sustain ourselves for the long-haul and remain connected with what really matters as an educator. Above all, I stressed the need for teachers and school leaders to feel:

–          Celebrated

–          Affirmed

–          Encouraged

–          Supported

What struck me was that at this event, everyone appeared to feel this way. This event really was about all that is good and noble in the profession. It provided the opportunity for these affirming conversations and time for reflection so necessary for genuine renewal. On top of this, it was a great chance to make connections, build new relationships, offer hope to one another and most importantly for all present, to realise that there is nothing to be lost, but everything to be gained in putting oneself first.


Click here to download the rest of the slides from my talk “Taking Care of the Soul in the Role”

As individuals shared stories, examples of best practice, personal and professional techniques for improvement both on a personal and a professional level, I saw colleagues around me realise that by putting their needs first, they could let go of feeling

–          Guilty

–          Overwhelmed

–          Isolated

–          Confused

–          Disillusioned

And instead discover that by asking themselves “What do I need from myself and others to be by best?” and by taking proactive steps they could instead feel:

–          Re-energised

–          Inspired

–          Hopeful

–          Connected [to themselves and others – so important!]

–          Valued

In short, they had rediscovered their ‘deepest gladness’ and hence were better prepared to meet the ‘deepest needs’ of their students/colleagues at the start of the new school week.

Finally, #PedagooHampshire16 for me was made even more exciting and wonderful because it marked the beginning of a journey for me and Integrity Coaching. Namely, my session marked the start of a month of exploration into the “Bigger Picture” of what it means to be an educator, seeking to understand what our deepest needs are as human beings and ultimately, how  we can bring who we truly are into our roles as educators and leaders.

The journey will consist of several blogs around the experiences of educators, the issues facing school leaders and teachers, and eventually this adventure of thought will culminate on Tuesday 4th October from 8:00-8:30 PM when we will be hosting our first ever webinar on “Meeting the Deeper Needs of Teachers and School Leaders”.

In this webinar, we will look to discuss the ways in which schools can support human growth and development, whilst also support educators in maintaining their ‘vocational vitality’ amidst feelings of overwhelm, anxiety and stress.

We hope you can join us for this.

If you would like to find out more about the webinar, please click here


Taking Care of the Soul in the Role – #PedagooHampshire16


I was delighted to be offered a chance to speak this coming Saturday 17th September at Pedagoo Hampshire 16 in Alton. This event, which features a day of interactive seminars hosted by individuals across the educational landscape, aims to discuss and tackle key issues in education and create a forum for speakers to share their rich experience and expertise. If you have been lucky enough to get a ticket and you are thinking of coming along to my session on Saturday, there’s one key question on which I’d like you to ponder, as this one question will form the core of my session.

And that question is…

“What do you believe is the most precious thing that you bring to your role as an educator?”

We’ll be exploring this question, because for the last eight years, working as an Executive Coach, I have spent easily over 100 hours listening to the inner most thoughts and questions of Head teachers and senior school leaders, and when individuals find their own answer to this question, things begin to change.

I also have another question for you, … What do you know of the journey you are on?

From ‘walking alongside’ individuals on their leadership journeys, I have come to the conclusion that school leadership is a journey of deep growth and personal transformation. However, because of the systems over-emphasis on results and league tables many individuals are devoid of a language or a space to describe the inner dissonance that often accompanies this walk into the unknown.

It is not until they have been afforded this space, that they begin to see the role of school leadership anew and in so doing make the vital connection between being alive to what Parker J Palmer [American author and social activist] calls the ‘Soul in the Role’ or the ‘being’ in Human-being’

Having been in the profession now for over twenty-eight years, I fully get why this is so; why it feels so alien for us to engage in conversations that take us inside of ourselves. I believe it is because too often we are asked questions that demand that we justify, explain, give account for;

– Good results

– Bad results

– Good performances

– Bad performances

Persist in asking me questions that seek justification for external outcomes and I become a stranger to my inner world, upon which these external outcomes depend. I will seek to defend, ‘who I am’ and what I bring to my role. On the other hand, ask me questions that invite me to explore the ‘how and why’ of what I do and then you invite the best in me to come forth. You invite my soul to come out from behind its defences and engage in more live giving and affirming conversations about what matters most.

My session on Saturday will be just that, an invitation to begin taking part in a journey with us on the subject ‘Taking Care of the Soul in the role’.

The journey begins with Saturday’s interactive workshop and continues throughout September with a series of related blogs on bringing who we truly are into our roles as educators and leaders. The journey’s end will be on Tuesday 4th October from 8:00-8:30 PM when we will be hosting our webinar on Staying in Love With School Leadership.


If you would like to receive our register for this webinar, please click here.

Using iMovie Trailers Across the Curriculum (#PedagooPerth Conversation)

I first became aware of the idea of making book trailers about 3 years ago when the Scottish Book Trust launched a book trailer competition to coincide with the Scottish Book Trust Awards.  At that time I had a number of boys in P7 who were at that difficult stage of trying to find new books that were ‘cool’ enough to really get into.  The Scottish Book Trust Awards take place every year and are a great way of discovering new authors and due to the voting timescale it gives the pupils a clear deadline to work towards.  Essentially book trailers are exactly the same as film trailers but are created to encourage people to read books.  The group were enthralled with the book ‘Black Tide’ and were keen to encourage others to read it, after introducing the trailer concept to them they couldn’t wait to get started.  You can see the rather unnerving trailer here

The key literacy skills involved link nicely with reciprocal reading strategies and also the skill of visualisation.  There is a really useful resource aimed at pupils aged 9+ I’ve included the link  below. Over the past couple of years I have adapted the activities to suit younger pupils too.

You can use any film making approach to creating your trailers however the simplest one I have found is the ‘trailer’ section of the free iMovie app on an iPad.  It handles all the formatting and sound and you just add your content, words, still pictures and short clips of video.  Deciding which theme to use is also a great way for the pupils to think about what genre the book is so they can use a relevant theme for their trailer.  Initially I had encouraged the groups to fill in blank story boards to plan out their trailers however the formatting for iMovie Trailers is quite specific so I was delighted to find that someone had already created a set of storyboards linked to the themes!

We have included book trailers as part of our literacy programme each year using the shortlisted books for the Scottish Book Trust.  This year I have a much younger class, P1-6 with the majority being in P1-3, we went through the same process looking at examples of trailers, picking out the things we liked and things we would change.  P4/6 had the task of creating the storyboard, they then passed it on to P3 who had to interpret their storyboard and direct P1/2 in acting out the scenes.  You can view the result here

Trailers are clearly an excellent way of developing key skills in literacy and discussing the language of film, however I think there are many more uses across the curriculum and at all stages of learning.  Last year we created a trailer as part of our transition programme where pupils were encouraged to think about what learning & responsibilities  lay ahead for them.  We also filmed our new P1 pupils so they could see themselves as part of the school.  This was then shown at our celebration of success.  Similar to this we created a trailer to show parents what the planned topic was for the next term, this was also to get pupils thinking about what we needed to plan and what skills we might need to develop.

During the sessionat #PedagooPerth there was great discussion about how the trailers could be used across a range of subjects and stages e.g. as a summary of learning in Modern Languages, to highlight skills taught in a project, transition work, to promote clubs, activities and experiences that some pupils can be unsure about and even to publicise the next Pedagoo event!

How could you use this in your setting?

If you would like any further information on how we’ve enjoyed creating trailers please get in touch.


#PedagooHull: what is it and why is it?

#PedagooHull event for teachers is on May 14, 2016. Put this date into your diary!

Pedagoo’s page for the event:


So, being a new Pedagoo Curator, I’ve decided to organise a Pedagoo event in Hull. As far as I know (correct me if I am wrong), this will be the first Pedagoo event in Hull, if not Humberside. Those of you well familiar with Pedagoo will know that their events are somewhat similar to TeachMeets, but come with a difference. Rather than being short presentations, which is the case with TeachMeets, their main feature are meetings of small groups of teachers around a table, where practice, ideas, resources related to T&L are shared and exchanged. The atmosphere is relaxed, and there tends to be a lot of enthusiasm and laughter! I attended my first Pedagoo event in Newcastle (Pedagoo Christmas Party 2014) at the University there and fell in love with the format and the way it was run quite instantly. It reinvigorated me (much needed in December after the entire term and it always being dark when you go to work and always being dark when you leave!). It allowed me to revisit – with full force – why I am in this profession, why I love it so much, and how I am surrounded, in every school I go to or work in, with dozens of other teachers dedicated to the same: preparing children for the world ahead of them. Day in. Day out. Teachers were sharing practice with each other – always amazes me what we can learn from each other and how inspirational we can be for each other! – their spirits were lifted. It was an event when we were able to reclaim our profession and professionalism.

The plan is that you leave #PedagooHull with the same uplifting feelings and lots of ideas to use in your own classrooms.

The groups will be led by Learning Conversations leaders and there should be 9 different ones. Any teacher can be a leader, so if there is an area you are great at (feedback, questioning, differentiation, marking, IT in your classroom) – everyone has their strengths! – do sign up to lead one using the relevant form on the page linked to above. We already have 3 leaders, but there is space for you there!

I would like to extend a HUGE thank you to @lisajaneashes and @SeahamRE and @lovelinkous. Lisa, in particular, has been incredibly welcoming and inspirational to me both both prior to the Christmas Party event in Newcastle (extremely welcoming!) and whilst the event was on. All these three wonderful people have been supportive of me over the last year. They are a true example of what can be accomplished when a community of like-minded, sharing-practice and research-driven people get together. Without them, I wouldn’t have thought of becoming a Pedagoo Curator. Thank you!

So who is this guy? Why is he doing this?

My name is Kamil, and I am an EAL Coordinator at one of Hull’s secondaries. I have had a long career in English language teaching, starting in 1999 back in my home country Poland. I moved to England in 2007 to be a teacher of EAL, and worked at a secondary in Wembley, London, for three years. I have since taught in Scotland, then back in London, and now I am in Hull. In essence, I am committed to three things, which drive my own practice and how I work with other teachers:

Disseminating good EAL practice to other teachers – and networking:

be it in my own school, where, beside teaching EAL learners myself, potentially half of my role is advising other teachers on EAL practice, or through networking and training other teachers across the country. I’ve spoken at well over 10 different teachmeets on EAL in the last two years (my first one was, I think, @TMHullEY at Malet Lambert!), and wherever I’ve been, it was quite apparent to me that mainstream teachers ache for this knowledge. I’ve spoken at conferences, too, such as a ResearchEd in Swindon in November 2015. If you are an NQT, you might just see me delivering a short workshop at the NQT Conference at the University of Hull next week.

EAL is a vast area, drawing on insights from studies of bilingualism, English language teaching, literacy, issues of cultural belonging and race and far more: it is at huge disadvantage to many teachers that there is so little training in this area: as a result, people struggle knowing what to do, facing with the prospect of teaching both language and content in their classrooms. Theories and strategies such as CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning), CBLT (Content Based Language Teaching) and writings of people such as Pauline Gibbons, Thomas & Collier, Bernard Mohan or Neil Mercer remain unknown to many. Language is incredibly important and I wish there was more of a concept of language across the curriculum instead of just the literacy. I want to help those struggling teachers. Most teachers I speak to want to learn about how to better serve EAL learners. At the risk of sounding like a Tesco employee: I am here to help. I have the knowledge of both theories and strategies that can be flexibly used for EAL learners and am willing to share these. I am willing to train or help individually any mainstream teacher.

Learning from the mainstream teachers:

I don’t find it enough, however, to be just sitting there in my specialism. There are some EAL teachers out there, who in some utopian way believe that “we are in the right” and “they are in the wrong”. It’s just not me. In my view, we simply need to learn from each other. In my role, I cannot hope to advise teachers of English, Maths, Science, Geography and other subject teachers, if I don’t understand the kind of knowledge that they took from their trainee university programmes. I was originally trained in Poland and a good while ago, and most to be an English language (TEFL) teachers. A teacher who knows about language theories (such as Chomsky, Skinner, Krashen and Pinker) is likely to be a great teacher in English-language schools, but cannot hope to help British mainstream teachers navigate the need to teach content and language. Everyone needs to know about the writings of Bloom, Piaget, Dweck, Hattie and Dewey. I continue to read and learn about what knowledge teachers I am advising have coming in to schools in England, so I can find common ground.

I want to learn from you guys how to improve my teaching too. At TeachMeets and other conferences I’ve attended I have learnt so much. My morning silent reading with my EAL student uses an adapted by myself version of silent reading cards I picked up at EngMeet in Buckinghamshire last year. At Yorkshire TeachMeet last year, I picked a great idea on how to mark more effectively. At a NATE TeachMeet in Leeds just last week, I learned how to use PlayDough to engage learners reading literature. At Ross McGill’s TeachMeet in London last year, I picked up how to use Kahoots and Plickr with my students. There is massive experience and knowledge there that I can use to improve my practice. It is certainly not a one way street.

Research, research, research:

I am always on the lookout for more research into education and like-minded teachers who want to use action research and/or just reading about others’ research to improve their own practice. Taking the time to think about what we do and reflecting on what we do as professionals is extremely important to me. Obviously, it’s not that we’ll ever be able to incorporate all the good ideas into our own practice, but the more we know the more we can choose from. Exploring ideas of others (not just from the UK) is of utmost importance. Engaging with other points of view gives us, the teachers, the power of knowledge. That power mean we can be more critical about what we’re asked to do in our classrooms and why we are asked to do so. (For instance, the knowledge I have about bilingualism and language learning equips me with power – in some schools, EAL may be perceived as a marginal concern, but being knowledgeable means one can stand one’s ground.) That way we can, I strongly believe, enforce a bottom-up approach to education. We are the people on the ground – we are the once who know what it feels like to be in our classrooms – and we should be the ones who have more of a say (to begin with, at least) in what the education system looks like. But we need to be equipped with knowledge to change this highly politicised landscape we’re dealing with these days. But we need to have that research knowledge that empowers us.


I do hope that #PedagooHull will bring the teachers and educationalists in the Humberside, East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire together (and beyond, if you’d like to come!). I would like to begin building a community of teachers that network together and share practice and ideas. If you’d like to be part of that community, please do sign up to lead a learning conversation at the event or simply sign up to the event. We’re first looking for conversation leaders; following this, we’ll be opening the event to general registration. If you want to be informed about when that general registration opens, there is a separate form for that at the Pedagoo Event’s page.

I do hope to see you there on the 14th! Please share this with other teachers. Let’s share practice and empower each other!

Kamil Trzebiatowski

(EAL Coordinator, Teacher, Trainer, Speaker, Education Blogger)

MEd in Advanced Studies in Inclusive Education

Education bloggerValuing and Protecting Diversity Through Education

EAL Academy Associate, NALDIC Publications Committee Member, Pedagoo Curator & ATL Union Rep

Twitter: @ktlangspec , LinkedIn:

Admin of International English / ESL / EAL Collaborative Group (Facebook)

Pedagoo Beach Walk 5 December 2015 #PedagooMeetBoMo


Earlier this term, I attended #PedagooHampshire, organised by Martyn Reah at Eggar’s School in Hants. The day was an amazing success: a wide range of sessions throughout the day, filled with teachers (and some other professions) clearly passionate about their jobs. The conversations were rich and filled the local pub long into the evening.

The day ended with an incredible speech from Vivienne Porritt (@LCLL_Director), and her message really stuck with me. Here we were, 100 or so teachers giving up our Saturday for CPD, but would it be worth it? What difference would this event make to the teaching and learning in our own settings, long term?

As a result, we were determined to keep the ‘learning conversations’ going, and so Martyn, Abigail Mann and myself discussed a follow up event. And so  #PedagooMeetBoMo was born. The plan is to rendezvous on Bournemouth seafront on Saturday 5 December. The day will consist of beach walking, hot chocolate and mulled wine, more walking, and culminate with a Christmas party at the Spyglass and Kettle pub. The main purpose is to catch up again after #PedagooHampshire, and share what has been happening since. How did the day impact our own teaching? Where are we going next?

All attendees of #PedagooHampshire are invited, as are people who didn’t actually make the first event. Come along, find out what we discussed, what we learnt, and what is happening as a result.

The day itself is very informal. No timetables and no set speakers or presentations. Just an opportunity to catch up with fellow colleagues and keep the conversations going.

Hope to see you there. Bring your thermals!


Sign up here:

Differentiated CPD – It’s The Future! I’ve Tasted It!

Have you ever been forced to sit through a whole day training session on an area of teaching you consider to be one of your strengths? Has a trainer visited your school to say that you should be teaching in a style that really wouldn’t work for you? Did you go to the same Teachmeet as me last year where an ‘Educational Consultant’ stood up and spent ten minutes telling a room full of qualified teachers what the difference is between formative and summative assessment? (She gave me her business card if anyone’s interested.) How about a death by Powerpoint experience? An evangelist with an annoying amount of enthusiasm for an idea that’s a tiny bit rubbish? If you are like me, the answer will be yes to all of these questions.

It’s funny how we are all busy differentiating our lessons for the benefit of the children we teach. But what about our learning? How can we make sure that we are getting the CPD we need to be the best we can be? The answer is something like Pedagoo Hampshire.

A menu selection of 40 mini seminars, each delivered by different speakers who ranged from primary, secondary and further education teachers from across the south east of England, was available to choose from before arrival. After a talk by @graham_irisc which set the tone superbly, it was off to the starter course – Telescopic Education by @chrischivers2 and Collaboration by @hayleymc2222. Hayley bought to the table a plethora of suggestions on who to follow in the Twitter world as well as some wise words on how to organise a Teachmeet – something I would recommend to anyone looking to develop their own, as well as their school’s teaching and learning philosophy and delivery. I love the fact that Hayley organised one in her NQT year – amazing! It was nice to get a mention on one of Hayley’s slides (they say everyone is famous for 5 minutes don’t they?) but I didn’t let this go to my head. Instead, I concentrated on the importance of learning from each other. Next, Chris Chivers stimulated a discussion between a group of primary teachers on the barriers faced when trying to implement a bottom-up teaching model to secure progress. Admittedly, the group digressed into a sharing of ideas on curriculum enrichment and CPD opportunities and what the barriers to these are instead. The message was loud and clear – lots of teachers feel scared to digress from the core subjects – a terrible shame in my opinion, and that of my peers in the group.

The sorbet course to cleanse the pallet came in the guise of @basnettj on giving pupils feedback and @lizbpattison on how differentiation might just be counter-productive. There were some great discussions generated around the importance of involving students in feedback. I raised the question of peer feedback in mixed ability groups and whether this can work for the higher attainer – I haven’t yet found my answer. Then my clever (sorry I mean able/gifted/talented *delete as applicable) friend Liz stepped up with some fascinating thoughts on the effectiveness of differentiation on the growth mindset we are all looking to expand. What did I take away from her talk? Well, it reinforced my view that differentiation is brilliant when done properly but can be disastrous when done badly – as it was for Liz during her school days when she was labelled ‘middle ability.’ (You wouldn’t know it to hear her now!) Unfortunately for Liz, but fortunately for us, she still can’t let it go, which means I am very much looking forward to hearing about the research she continues to do into the subject.

The main course was a corned beef and pickle sandwich (me) paired with a fillet steak and triple cooked chips (@graham_irisc). Graham invited a discussion on what is important to focus on – is it inspection? Is it budgets? Is it the standard of biscuits in the staffroom? No, the room came to the conclusion it was teaching & learning. Although, in my opinion, biscuits definitely feed into this. (Pardon the very accidental pun) Then it was my turn to evangelise on the benefits of empowering middle leaders along with some tips on how these vital members of staff can empower themselves to deliver brilliant learning experiences for their pupils. Thank you to everyone who turned up – I hadn’t slept for a week wondering if I still would have delivered my presentation to an empty room! I think I would have – it would have been a terrible waste to have not given it an airing.

And then, just when the full-up sleepy feeling started to take over, there was @natalielovemath to wake us up from our slumber with a very inspiring talk on using objects bought from Poundland to enrich Maths lessons. I don’t teach Maths anymore and this session only served to make me sad about this fact. Although, the idea of pasta graphs, children writing on disposable table cloths and sticking numbers on fly-swatters have been enthusiastically received by the Maths teachers at my school! Then, just when I thought things couldn’t get any more surreal (in a brilliant and inspiring way!) @haslemeremuseum extracted woolen brains from a poor Egyptian rag doll. Learning through objects is very under-rated and can be the key to unlock the door of learners who struggle to take an interest.

Before departing, the classy port and cheese board came in the form of @lcll_director who pressed home the need for using days like this to actually make changes in our practice. “All of these brilliant ideas are no good just stored in our heads,” murmured the rag doll from session 4.

So there we have it – a day of differentiated CPD just for me. Imagine if groups of schools got together to do this at the start of every school year – giving teachers a choice of CPD suited just to them through the sharing of strengths and passions of their peers. Would that be better than a whole-school INSET day which doesn’t differentiate for the needs of every learner; in this case, teachers? I think so. How about you?


This is posted later than I planned but the rugby took precedent on Saturday night (What a game!) then life during the week happened.

I had my first experience of #pedagoo last weekend at #PedagooWorcs. Nervous and excited were just some of the great, albeit conflicting, feelings I felt before the ‘event’. I was originally asked to present by @DuncanSKing and although not having been to a Pedagoo event and only been to one TeachMeet I said, ‘Yes’.

I did my research before hand. I spoke, and am thankful, to Mark Anderson and Lee Parkinson for their time to discuss their thoughts on whether my topic and style was okay.

I planned my talk on the new Computing Curriculum and whether it was fit for purpose. What I meant by this statement was:

*Is there more to the Computer Curriculum than coding?

*Are we doing enough to prepare the children for the future?

*Is the rounded/balanced enough to be relevant in today’s world, and more importantly the future?

I set up (Well got my DLs to set up!) the iPads on the Friday. Now with the talk planned I arrived at Saturday’s event where I met @SBHSMissTaylor and @MurphieGirl and checked the room where I was to later present. At this point I discovered that the iPads had been used Friday afternoon and now needed setting up again; ah well the best laid plans! Once ready I joined my fellow #PedagooWorcs compatriots for a drink.

We were given a keynote talk from @DrMattoLeary where we encouraged to take all the positives from the day’s work event and similar TeachMeet events and to also take the power reclaiming and redefining your own CPD/PPD. I enjoyed the rest of the morning’s sessions and learned from other primary and senior school teachers.

The day passed quickly and then it was my turn. Well, what could have gone wrong went wrong! First the projector screen would not display the whole presentation screen and then Reflector would not show or sync with the iPads. Once ‘fixed’ and my blushing calmed down the session moved along quickly. I feel this is such an important of the day; I was very pleased to be able to share my thoughts and ideas and I feel all there were receptive and engaged. It was great!

I, personally feel, digital literacy must be given higher esteem in all our teaching.  There is the clamour for the teaching of coding and 85% of all our children’s jobs have not been created but not all will ‘code’ but all WILL have to use social media, email, video conferencing, computers  These ‘sharing’ skills are the ones that need to be looked at too.

Much was gained and I look forward to taking the idea forward and presenting and sharing again. If you have never been to a TeachMeet or Pedagoo event I wholeheartedly recommend them. As I said, ‘Been there, done that, loved it!


What’s the point of differentiation? #PedagooHampshire

Everyone assumes that differentiation is the right approach to mixed ability teaching, but does it actually work? Do students necessarily maximise their learning and what is the psychological effect on students of differentiating tasks and resources?

It was with these concerns in mind that I researched the merits of differentiation by task. I do it in my teaching, but am not always convinced it’s the right thing to do. I often feel quite uncomfortable differentiating resources and tasks and even more so when I group students by ability.

The first theory I explored was the Pygmalion effect. The self-fulfilling prophecy and labelling theory by Rosenthal and Jacobson (1968) was a study of one elementary school where all children were tested for IQ in order to predict academic potential. The teachers were told that 20% of (randomly selected) pupils could be expected to show rapid intellectual growth within a year. The children were re-tested at the end of the period and it was found that the sample population did indeed show greater gains in IQ, despite them having been selected at random. The implication is, of course, that teachers’ expectations significantly affect their pupils’ performance. Rosenthal and Jacobson speculated that the teachers’ manner, facial expressions, degree of friendliness and encouragement conveyed their pre-formed impression, which produced a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The Pygmalion effect is what I fear from differentiating resources and tasks. I worry that by grouping students by ability in a seating plan or allocating students targeted worksheets serves merely to reinforce feelings of superiority or inadequacy. I next turned to Vygotsky’s (1997) sociocultural perspective on learning. He tied cognitive development to social interaction and makes several pivotal observations about how we learn:

  1. The Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) is the area of learning between the child’s current development level and the level of development which could be achieved through adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers (who are already operating in the child’s ZPD).
  2. Pupils learn best when they choose their own activities with encouragement from their teacher to tackle challenges.
  3. Pupils construct meaning (and therefore understanding) through interactions with others. This is known as social constructivism.

So in our teaching, we should:

  • direct pupils to work in their ZPD (and therefore differentiate the resources, tasks and outcomes)
  • give pupils a choice in their learning activities
  • place pupils in mixed ability groupings so that they can co-construct knowledge (the more able pupil learns through explaining and elaborating and the less able pupil learns through questioning and enquiring)

What does this mean for differentiation?

I teach in a sixth form college and have carried out a survey of all the students I teach: 70 Year 12 and 13 mixed-ability students in Geography and also 20 Gifted and Talented students in one of my Target A* groups. All students come from a large number of partner schools in the area and have target grades of A to E.

Question 1: Have you ever had lessons where resources or tasks were different for different ability students?

  • Most students reported being put in sets from primary school. The most common subjects were Maths, English, Science and MFL.
  • Many reported differentiated worksheets in lessons according to target grade (or Higher/Foundation level GCSEs).
  • The G&T students said they were usually given an extra task or more difficult homework in addition to higher level worksheets.

Question 2: Have you ever been put in a seating plan by ability, that you are aware?

  • The majority of students said they weren’t aware of ever having been put in a seating plan apart from the G&T students who were either regularly seated together or deliberately in mixed ability groupings.
  • Some students did, however, mention being seated by table in some subjects ‘named’ the A*/A table; the B table; the C/D table.

Question 3: How did either of these activities affect your learning?

Positive  Negative
(having different worksheets)

  • were more suited to my ability
  • made me feel like the smart kid
  • let me go for harder activities because I want to push myself
  • pushed me further than I otherwise would
  • I felt more motivated
  • It allowed me to work at the difficulty I was comfortable with

(mixed ability groupings)

  • I felt teaching others helped me to understand the work
  • I was pushed to do better (by my peers)

(students given a choice of activities)

  • This had a positive effect on my learning as I was able to challenge myself further
  • We were given sheets without being asked what level we wanted and this was unfair
  • I would always prefer to be asked which worksheet I wanted
  • If I was given easier work, I wasn’t challenged and didn’t learn anything
  • Sometimes (being given a worksheet) it made you feel thick
  • In English and Maths it made me feel like I was incapable of higher grades because of what my teacher gave me



I think there are obvious links here between the survey responses and Vygotsky’s theory. It certainly does appear that students like working in their ZPD, rather than in their ‘comfort zone’, and that they want to be able to choose which level they work at. This makes perfect sense to me. How can I possibly know what prior knowledge each student in my class has of a topic? How can I possibly know what they want to achieve at A level?

The other message that clearly comes from the responses is the Pygmalion effect of labelling students by ability. Some said that the tables were openly labelled the A*/A table, the C/D table, etc., while others said that while the teacher never explicitly named each table, everyone “knew their place”. The fact that a student is placed on the ‘D table’ and then given a ‘D grade’ worksheet surely ensures that they will never achieve higher?

The G&T students had a particularly insightful response to the survey. They had identical responses to the other students about the first 2 questions (they come from the same schools), but their experience of differentiation as higher ability pupils was quite different:

  • It’s helpful if you’re higher ability and put with higher ability students but not helpful if with lower ability because you’re not challenged
  • Being higher ability meant I was often left to get on with my work alone – I felt neglected
  • Putting higher ability learners at the back of the classroom only isolates them from discussion with the teacher
  • I enjoyed being put with similar ability pupils because it enabled me to be challenged in lessons and bounce ideas off other people
  • Being grouped together was good because it allowed for a more challenging environment
  • Being grouped by mixed ability was just disruptive because we either had to entertain the others or wait for them to catch up
  • Additional harder tasks are very useful, but follow up would be even better

So, again, what does this mean for differentiation?

I think that Vygotsky was right in his first two proposals: namely, that all students should be working in their ZPD and should be given the choice as to what level they work at (albeit with guidance from the teacher). All students, regardless of their target grade, need to be challenged and stretched but they must be given autonomy over their learning decisions. Perhaps the D grade pupil might not be able to tackle the ‘explain’ or ‘justify’ task just yet, but give them support to scaffold their response, and they’ll surely get there.

Vygotsky’s third proposal is less clear. On the whole, the G&T students did not have positive learning experiences of working in mixed ability groups, although many of the other cohort did. The G&T students’ reports of feeling “neglected” and “isolated” reveal a classroom truth which I suspect we are all guilty of: namely, letting the high ability students get on with the work while the teacher supports less able students. I don’t profess to know the solution to this – I suspect it lies somewhere in well-designed carousel activities, project work or even in extra-curricular clubs – but it is something we must all be mindful of.

To conclude, my anxieties about differentiating tasks and resources appear unfounded. Both Vygotsky and my students say that it’s the most effective way to promote learning and while I still have not solved seating plans, I am much more comfortable in my approach to differentiation in the classroom.

Liz Bentley-Pattison


The Pedagoo event in Glasgow last Saturday was excellent!

There were a wide range of topics covered by conversation leaders and the three I attended were of great interest. The Nurture, Growth Mindset & Homework groups were all full of like minded professionals, happy to share experiences and ideas. In particular it was interesting to discuss views on homework. Management and benefits were a focus and different ways of approaching this.

This event highlighted to me that teachers need to be more confident in sharing ideas and approaches and realise others will find these interesting and gain something from this. The informality of the event was also fantastic with no pressures. I look forward to the next one…