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#100wordTandL Musiccam
February 24, 2016

This is a music specific post but can be adapted for your own context.
Pupil and lesson observation feedback this term have highlighted the use of a simple webcam as a useful tool to aid learning.
As a music teacher I find it very quick and easy to use the webcam over the piano to demonstrate the task, hand position, chords and also easy mistakes to avoid. This is projected onto the screen for students to see, both at desks and at keyboards. It helps with visual prompts, focus and engagement and also a demonstration by the teacher modelling good and bad examples can really help students make progress.
It is always followed up by individual verbal feedback and personalised demonstrations when needed but as a tool, a simple webcam has really helped progress and confidence in my music classroom.

(140 words whoops!)

Employing marginal gains theory to enhance pedagogical approaches

Searching for 1% improvements to teaching and learning!

My throat strained under the excessive screaming and my arms pumped with wild hysteria as I cheered the GB cycling team on to gold at the 2012 Olympic games, but what impressed me the most was the behind the scenes dedication and determination to achieving excellence. 

We have since discovered the secrets to the GB cycling team’s tally of gold medals. It began with a commitment to embed marginal gains theory into every aspect of the GB team’s performance. In short, marginal gains were Sir David Brailsford’s ambition to focus on the small changes in cycling performance that would lead to greater overall excellence and therefore winning.

But can the same concept apply to teaching and the pedagogical approaches we use for learning?

If you categorise every aspect of teaching and learning, you would swiftly have a list of points as long as the hippodrome cycling track! So where to begin? Developing a list of pedagogical approaches most meaningful to learning and determining how your teaching practice fares against each outcome is a daunting prospect and one difficult to quantify. I have deliberated this challenge and developed a model based on marginal gains theory. We can use this model to enhance our pedagogical approaches that lead to transformational learning.

• Evidence – The list of pedagogical approaches fundamental to learning is endless, but which of them are scientifically proven to work? Without strong evidence that these pedagogical approaches support learning to the highest possible standard, you could be trying to change and improve the wrong approaches to learning. I recently investigated which revision strategies actual work to aid learning. I quickly discovered that of the ten most used strategies only two of them actually work, so why not focus on developing, improving and refining the revision strategies scientifically proven to work? So I did and produced a short video and series of resources to help my students.

• Model effective practice – If you are looking to improve an area of your teaching, chances are you need to know what to get better at for the benefit of learning and what you are working towards. So ask yourself, does the wheel really need re-inventing? Or do you need to make slight modifications to the wheel to improve its overall performance? Look towards and connect with other teachers, not necessarily in your own school, that are demonstrating excellent teaching and learning. Share best practices and embed what works into your pedagogical approaches to learning.

• Focus – Follow One Course Until Success, but you can’t achieve that without clarity of vision; which pedagogical approach do you want to improve and therefore achieve? As teachers we do not work in a silo, we have a team to work with on a daily basis, so re-enforce the purpose of the pedagogical approach for learning with your students. If they don’t buy into the learning then the impact will be significantly less. Sir Chris Hoy understood with complete clarity his role within the GB team, to win; and those of his support staff, to help him win! On a daily basis you lead and work with a team of students, so build and foster relationships and above all clarify how you will work together to achieve their success.

• Reflect – Did it work, did it not? The latter is often a better scenario because it forces us to identify and clarify alongside our vision what went wrong, what can be improved and with frequent nudges you can make a greater shift over time. I’m ten years down the teaching line and I am still adapting, pivoting and refining. I can’t control every element, but I can try my hardest to be the best at what I am, and that is an inspirer of minds, a provocateur for learning.

• Refine to excellence – Develop your suite of scientifically proven pedagogical approaches that work. Make changes that improve and drive learning and then repeat the process.

Using John Hattie’s top 11, of 138 influences on student achievement, could provide the basis for selecting which pedagogical approach is going to have the greatest impact on overall teaching and learning. Applying each approach against my process model, should provide you with the basis of a system to achieve your own gold medal level of teaching and learning excellence. A great example of marginal gains in action is discussed on episode 21 of the Inspiration 4 Teachers Podcast Show, with Educating Essex start Headteacher Vic Goddard.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ltp0Zd73Vcc]

Episode take-aways:

• Strategies that lead to willing parent engagement and participation

• Employing marginal gains theory to enhance pedagogical approaches

• Allowing young people to fail in order to progress

If you enjoyed this article please pay the knowledge forward and share with your community!

On Doing What Makes Me Happy – Co-operative Learning – Values and Practice
September 30, 2014

“Happiness is when what you think, what say and what you do are in harmony.”  (Mahatma Ghandi)6c7bc1d280e258ac4102eed00469e194

Co-operative learning makes me feel happy.  It also makes me feel perplexed and challenged but this discomfort is worth it, most of the time.  The thing that makes me happy about co-operative learning is the interaction between the values driving this pedagogy and the practical tools it offers us.  Through co-operative learning we’re given specific structures to teach in a way which make values of collaboration, respect, co-operation and growth real in our learning communities as well as offering really high quality, deep and challenging learning experiences.  In co-operative learning I’ve found a set of teaching behaviours – things to say and do in my classroom – which are in harmony with what I think teaching is actually about.

As co-operative learning makes me happy it’s a part of my practice (and my values) that I always really enjoy sharing with colleagues. I got to do this at the Preston Lodge Learning Festival.  When I’m sharing, the main thing I want to share is the actual experience of learning co-operatively.  I don’t think the values and power of co-operative learning can fully make sense without actually doing it, hearing it and feeling it.   I can make this happen in a room with people.  I haven’t yet managed to work out a way to share this on the screen.  So, here I offer an invitation to you to seek out the real life experience co-operative learning for yourself.  Have a read through my thoughts on the values which I think are at the root of co-operative learning and the way these are then converted into practice in learning communities of any and many kinds.

Value: Learning is a social activity.  We learn best in a learning community.

Practice:  Co-operative learning is rooted in face to face interaction.  If we aren’t talking with the people around us about what we’re learning and what they’re learning then we’re missing out.  So, co-operative learning uses a whole range of strategies (many of them also part of the learning tools promoted under the banners of collaborative learning, critical skills or active learning) to make sure that as we hear and read about new concepts we’re also talking them through with people.  It gives us structures to make sure that we’re discussing the big questions of our learning as part of formulating our individual responses to these questions – testing out our own thinking and building on what we hear from others.  This can be through a think-pair-share, a placemat activity, a graffiti board or a jigsaw activity, with co-operative learning structures giving a framework to direct our attention and our conversations onto learning and then push our thinking further.

Value: When we’re creating learning communities we are committed to creating communities as well as making learning happen.  Community means a place where we know that we belong and we feel like we belong.

Practice:  In our learning community we talk a lot about our learning.  We also talk about ourselves and learn what we all have in common.  We learn about what makes us unique in the group.  We learn about how to listen well to others and make them feel valued.  We learn about how to celebrate success.  We form a strong team identity which connects us to people who, before, may have been nameless strangers who have been issued with the same timetable as us.  This isn’t done by someone telling us it’s important and then moving on to the ‘real’ lesson.  We’re given time to get our voice on the table with short, fun questions and activities to share what’s important to us (usually silly things to start with) and we’re given activities and spaces in which to create a team identity with the people that we’re working with.  There are games to play and challenges to overcome.  As we achieve together we build our skills of encouraging others and celebrating success. We feel good about what’s going well and are more equipped to respond positively at times when things don’t go well.

Value:  We learn with and from everyone in our learning community – this means that everyone in our learning community has something to teach us and we have something to teach everyone too.

Practice:  In a co-operative learning group everyone has a clear role so they know what they’re responsible for to make their group work.  The work being done is carefully structured so that each of us is developing knowledge and skills which our team mates will need.  When we take on a task the activity is chunked to make sure that we all need to be involved to be successful and we can’t be successful if we leave someone out.  There will still be differentiation and adaptation, but we all learn with and from each other.  (And, also, because we’re investing time in building our community we’re more ready to value the contribution that different people can make and realise the different ways that people learn through life.)

Value:  We improve ourselves, our relationships and our learning through deliberate practice and a conscious commitment to development.

Practice:  We talk regularly about what we’re learning, how well we’re learning and how to move our learning forward.  Alongside talking about our academic learning we talk about our social learning.  Alongside our clear learning goals there are social goals.  These help us know where we’re going next to make our community a more purposeful, inclusive and harmonious place.  This may sound grandiose but in practice it means we’re spending time together thinking about our attentive listening skills, how we encourage someone, how we stay focused on the work, how we take turns, how we include others.  Our social goals run through our learning experiences.  We collaborate to decide what success will look like.  We agree the behaviours that will make success happen and then we challenge ourselves to put these things in action.  At the end of a learning experience we take the time to process how our social learning has gone, reflecting on what’s been good, what success feels like and deciding what we need to keep working on to get even better.  There is an authentic, caring and often challenging discussion in our learning community about how we treat each other and how we learn together.  This means we’re becoming a stronger learning community in which everyone is able to do our very best thinking and realise our full potential.


Having written all this, I still mainly feel that to really share what co-operative learning means I need to be doing it not talking about it (or typing about it).  I feel happier that way and I suspect that you might feel happier too.  Until we can meet and work on this together, I hope that there’s a learning community of some kind near you who are working co-operatively.  That way you can join them and see if it makes you feel happy too.

I’m not your Stepping Stone…

I’ve been reading a lot lately, both online in blogs and tweets and in things like TES, about Learning Outcomes and the varying schools of thought around their efficacy or otherwise.

Reading the supposed gurus (no names, no pack drill) and their published texts, you’d be forgiven for thinking you had to use them all the time and get the jargon  exactly right or no learning would ever take place.

I remember a lecture/tutorial thing from my time at Jordanhill (BA Sport in the Community, not BEd…) when we had a session during a block about coaching and the coaching process. Our tutor, a venerable ex PE teacher and Scotland Rugby Internationalist, asked us questions along the lines of “are Learning Outcomes goals we MUST get to? Are there stepping stones on the way? What might they be called? Are they objectives? Must we do things in a certain way and with a certain vocabulary to get the best results?”

He summed up, after we’d batted the idea about for a good ninety minutes, with something I still think is valid today:

It doesn’t matter what you call them as long as they tell you what you want to do, how you’re going to get there and how you’ll know if you’ve done it or not.

I also “studied” (attended lectures, rattled off an assignment) Marketing at the time as part of the course. They like their objectives those Marketing guys. That’s fair enough, people (companies, businesses, public sector organisations) are spending a lot of money to promote whatever it is they need to promote, so it’s only right that there are checks and balances in place to ensure they’re getting a fair bang for their buck.

One way of doing that is to ensure that any plan/campaign/initiative they devise has an associated set of targets. They like to call them “SMART Targets” – I’m sure you’ve heard of them. It’s an acronym. Now, for me, acronyms are generally hateful things but this one stands up well.

The exact nomenclature changes depending on the publication you read but SMART is generally taken to mean that a target must be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound
These, I hope, are pretty much self-explanatory but just in case here’s another wee version of the same. The crux of it is that things (whatever they may be) can’t work well or at any rate *efficiently* if you don’t have an agreed timetable for them to happen to.
Other acronyms, WALT and WILF are often maligned and, to be fair, I’m not keen on the anthropomorphism of them into “characters” but I accept that it’s good to have something to hang your lesson and ideas on.

I don’t always use the phrase “We are learning to…” with the class, sometimes it’s “we are looking at…” or “we’d like to know if…” but the bottom line is the same: it says what you’re hoping to do. I never have too many “WALTS” because then it gets busy, messy and difficult to evaluate but I do always try to flag up any accidental/serendipitious learning after the lesson.

For example, I might write up on the whiteboard during the plenary (tick!):

WALT “x…y…z” – we know we achieved it because “…(revisit WILF)” and We Also Found/Learned/Discovered….

In the Curriculum for Excellence this kind of “accidental learning” or discovery is the kind that I’m finding more and more of.

Today in Science with p4-7 we started off on vinegar and baking soda and ended up looking at the Giant’s Causeway. Don’t ask. It does however mean that, through the children’s own enquiry, we’ve now collaboratively mapped out some possibilities to explore in the coming weeks, everything from studying basalt to trying to organise a talk about the geological history of Ben Nevis.

If I’d put up a strict (ie must-be-adhered-to) list of objectives/targets/whatevers for yesterday’s  lesson then anyone sitting with a checklist would have failed the lot of us yet I’d argue we all got more out of the session as a result of discussions and “happy accidents”.

That’s not to say, of course, that we can ignore plans and pre-determined Outcomes – we must keep them there if we want to ensure appropriate coverage in terms of depth and progression – but they can’t be an enslaving ideology, they must be more of a guiding principle. Surely that’s not too much of a Mission (Statement): Impossible?


TeachMeet : The Scottish Learning Fringe 2012

Every good festival has a fringe so I like to think there is a certain inevitability about this…

SLFringe Logo.png

After years of thinking that the inspiring Scottish Learning Festival was wasted by being held during the week when the majority of teachers couldn’t make it, we here at Pedagoo.org decided to do something about it. This year, the Scottish Learning Festival gets a Fringe! And, because we are all working teachers who can’t get to the Festival proper, we’re holding it on a Saturday.

TeachMeet : The Scottish Learning Fringe 2012

The day will be a mix of Round Table discussions and sharing which should be familiar to anyone who has ever been to a TeachMeet in the past… and a heady mix of enthusiasm, sharing and collaboration for anyone who hasn’t been to one. We have no secret agenda, we are not affiliated with any organisation, we are not doing this to score brownie points with our employers… but we are all teachers who are in the process of implementing the new Scottish Curriculum and who are willing to share what we have tried and explain what did or didn’t work. In short, we are you.

Who is the day for?

The day will be aimed at teachers who wish to learn more about the practical aspects of introducing the Scottish Curriculum. There will be a series of round table demonstrations/discussions led by practitioners who are trying some new things. What they do have in common is a willingness to share what they have tried: good, bad or ‘meh’!
This is a day for those who wish to learn and to share. It is possible that you will get some concrete answers on the day, but what is more likely is that you will be able to join in with a network of fellow teachers who are willing to kick ideas around, and work with you to help develop your own answers.

Screen Shot 2012-04-17 at 20.06.07.png

Where and when will it be?

Having secured sponsorship for the venue thanks to the generosity of ELT Consultants the first SLFringe will take place in a yet to be decided venue in central Glasgow…watch this space!

What’s the catch?

There isn’t really one… The venue is being provided thanks to the incredible generosity of ELT Consultants… but after that, we’re on our own! You’ll either need to bring sandwiches and a flask (leather elbow patches are optional), cash to buy some of the excellent (and reasonable) food from the venue, or see if you can find someone to sponsor a tray of sandwiches or a jar of coffee! (Or cakes… we like cakes…)

The only possible catch is that places will be extremely limited. There will only be about 90 places available on the day… 🙁

What will the day look like?

We will finalise details nearer the time, but at the moment this is the current plan:

  • There will be 10 round table workshops led by teachers where they share something they’ve been doing in their classroom and then lead a discussion around this
  • Participants will sign up to three of these workshops
  • Lunch
  • We will work in groups to cross-pollinate and share key learning outcomes
  • We will retire to some suitable venue for a #BeerMeet/#TeachEat to round the day off

    Sounds amazing! How do I sign up?

    At this stage we are looking for teachers to volunteer to lead a workshop at TeachMeet Scottish Learning Fringe 2012. If you are interested in presenting, you can sign up to do so on the TeachMeet SLFringe Wiki.We will open up registration for attendance at a later date and will notify of this on here and on twitter as @pedagoo and using the hashtag #tmSLFringe12.

    Here’s the blurb from the TMWiki!

    Have you tried something in your classroom you’d like to share with colleagues from across the country? Here’s your chance to do so. By signing up you’ll be required to present something you’ve done in your classroom for approximately 20 minutes and then lead a discussion on this with your group of up to 10 participants for 20 minutes. You may be required to lead your workshop up to 3 times in the course of the morning. There will be no audio-visual equipment available for the workshops – the emphasis is therefore very much on the dialogue. We will also ask that you share your presentation and the outcomes of the discussions as a blog post on pedagoo.org.

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