Learning Teams

7.30-10.00am Completed correspondence and had a quick chat with Alan Blackie.

10.00am -3.35pm Learning Team Presentation by
Shirley Clarke Ann McLanachan, Headteacher, Longniddry Primary school has been leading an initiative aimed at promoting classroom research with a focus on formative assessment. A key part of the programme which is being support by Future Learning and Teaching (FLAT) funding from the Scottish Executive is the creation of Learning Teams. All of the primary staff involved in the programme (30 teachers) attended a seminar at Craigielaw Golf Club to listen to Shirley Clarke.

I was fascinated by the day and thoroughly enjoyed listening to my colleagues and to Shirley.

I have no doubt that if we could successfully implement formative assessment in all our schools then attainment would rise, behaviour would be improved and teachers and children would get more out of the schooling process. The challenge for us is to provide the scaffolding to enable all teachers to feel confident enough to experiment with their practice. My concern is that primary schools are so far advanced of most secondary schools, that pupils will feel restricted and confined by the form if interaction they have with secondary teachers and that even more of them may switch off – with all the associated problems such disengagement brings. Once again the problem facing secondary teachers is the feeling that they are a slave to the syllabus or content ans that they just don't have the time to engage in the “luxury” of engaging with pupils in the same way as primary colleagues.

I think we need to directly challenge that notion and suppport teachers to experiment with their practice in a professionally curious and intellectually coherent manner. Perhaps the Department has role to play to encourage teachers and schools to take up the approach and not to feel there is any risk?

What sort of things would need to change in teachers' practice for formative assessment to have a positive impact on children's learning and engagement with the learning process?

Well the following would be a good starting point:

1.Share their intentions with learners.
2.Provide quality feedback to children
3.Summarise the lesson at the end of the teaching period
4.Use appropriate questioning techniques to further childrens’ learning
5.Expect that every child will contribute
6.Provide and reinforce the context for learning.
7.Provide advice about what children can do next to improve
8.Provide regular opportunities for children to give feedback about their learning experiences
9.Be prepared to modify their practice in response to children’s feedback.

Some techniques which Shirley focussed on during the day were:

The importance of identifying well focussed success criteria and use these to plan the lesson around – as opposed to planning the lesson around the learning objective;

Learning partners – put learners together with a learning partner for a two week period – change the partners after two weeks using a random system. I've always been a great believer in pair answering/dialogue but I've just asked them to work with the person next to them.

Questioning – use a range of questioning techniques. I really liked the range of options approach e.g. Which of the following is the answer to 5674-1798?; 1776, 3876, 7472, 4876.

By giving answers which are often given mistakenly we start to enable children to really engage with the problem. I know I would have benefited from this approach when I was at school.

Hands down – don't let children put up their hands – as one who always waited for someone else to get the answer first I never bothered engaging in class – using talking partners for this.

Don't do any marking outside class – now this is a real challenge to all secondary teachers – However I agree that most children only look at the mark or grade and rarely take on the comment or advice. Now this would really free up teachers to plan much better lesson if we could reduce the marking time outside class!! Which school will be the first to take up the challenge? – you have my support

Perhaps the greatest challenge is how we share this with all our colleagues in a way that is meaningful. Formative assement is not “another bloody intiative”. It has the potential to liberate teachers and learners with a proven impact on summative assessment. Perhaps the “viral marketing” approach will prove the most effective means of sharing good practice?

Lat thought – we have been looking for a title for our clusters – other authorities have used the idea of “Learning Communities” – how about “Learning Teams?” – groups of teachers working together, reflecting upon their practice with a definitive purpose, whereas a community does not always have a clear purpose. Just a thought.

Take alook at