My interest in the idea of sharing pedagogical purposes comes directly with the contact I have had with the Project for Enhancing Effective Learning at Monash University in Australia. Now each of these teachers were very active in establishing learning agendas with their classes. The impact they were having was inspiring. Each classroom tool can have a purpose beyond delivering content, and this needs to be shared.
I suppose the purpose of this website is collate, crystalise and open dialogues about how to increase this within classrooms. As the quote from Carl Bereiter illustrates this classroom methodology can empower our students.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

The Pedagogical Anatomy of a lesson.

I've recently done a demonstration lesson in a school that I support, the purpose of which was to show strategies to engage and stretch the most able. as this was in a different school , with students I've met briefly I needed a strong lesson structure both in terms of practical organisation ( which love it or hate it PowerPoint facilitates this, it also allowed me to reflect on each part of the lesson planning) but also in terms of pedagogy. The lesson is planned using the TEEP learning cycle. This piece aims to explore the structures and the reasoning behind each strategy. The reasons have been italicised.

The opening slide was a starter activity, students here practice something they had done in a previous lesson and connect to a concrete fact that the lesson was aiming to explain. This helps prepare the student to learn and (using Hatties words) "build commitment and engagement. Challenge is added here by getting the students to establish the FACT, and by using technical words like correlate c.f. whats the pattern?

Next the studenst completed a ranking activity as to the likelihood of these statements being correct, this is primarily an teaching input, but trying to get the students to speculate whats really going on justifying their position. This is a higher order thinking skill and thereby increasing challenge. The questions quickly establish alternative conceptions of the ideas about to be learned. This student to teacher feedback information can then be acted upon. These also provide a focus for the incipient teacher input.
Since the students have been processing on their own so far, it is important to review not only the content but also the meta cognitive processes. Again this is structured so that they workout the facts for themselves. Question 3 is a "seed" question? I sell it as the question you can use to demonstrate mastery? It is given as soon as possible, to allow time for the students to think about it.

The learning intentions are planned using SOLO taxonomy, meaning that from the top the learning intentions are simple recalling of factsand this progresses to extended abstract demanding the students to make inferences based upon abstract ideas and prediction about hitherto unknown substances. The unistructural intentions are in fact essential learnings that the rest of the learning is built upon. This is not done by accident but through careful thinking about the pedagogical content knowledge of this topic, allowng specific intentions to be defined. John Hattie describes the use of SOLO as being "most valuable both in developing models of teaching and learning and also in our understanding of assessment". I have to humbly agree.

This then leads into a brief teacher input. The input has been delayed until this point to allow the teacher access to information available on student thinking on this subject. This allows accurate decisions to be made about pace and pitch, again this allows differentiation to take place. The input is carefully plotted to give a step by step method to perform the task and to emphasise the key and new language. This is brief around 6-7 minutes to allow maximum time for students to create meaning for themselves, thereby taking into account the age old saying - "it doesn't mean I said that they have learned it." It also allows the teacher to model the kinds of thinking and the connections that are necessary to fully understand the topic. This teacher input can be justified by the following quote from John Hattie " sometimes the deeper concepts need more specific and direct teaching". Infact the structure of the lesson is built around the notion of effective direct teaching employing the TEEP learning cycle
At this point a quick review is used to clarify the thinking, after the input. These questions were considered difficult ten minutes ago, but now the answers are obvious to the students. I was using a random name generator to select students ensuring that all are paying attention and that I don't focus the questioning on the 25% of students with their hands up! Since I did not know these students, I colour coded their names by their target grades, so that I could phrase the question in appropriate manner (differentiation): An "A" grade student would get something like so what's your opinion on these statements now?- While a "C" grade would get the more structured " So why do you now think that statement 2 is hogwash?". Research shows that a ration of 10 minutes teaching should have 2 minutes worth of review.

The students are then given a choice of which level they want to tackle. The colour coding seen above was not revealed in to the students, and is added for the benefit of showing planning progression and a confidence building trick. During the lesson the students are given the choice of easy, hard and"uber"-difficult. In reality this is not the case, as can be seen above with the order of difficulty going from yellow, orange, red, blue then purple. This was designed into the lesson in full knowledge that the purpose of this exercise was to allow the students to assimilate and practice the previous teaching, and allow the teacher to gain useful information on the alternative conceptions, sticking points and confidence levels within the classroom.Hattie describes this part of the lesson as "independent practice" but i would go further as this is THE opportunity for the teacher to personalise the experience for each student by providing support and challenge as appropriate.
It was hoped that the students would gain confidence by completing an easy one and the take the bait of a (unreal) difficult one. This gets the students to think that they can do this task. I like to make full use of the saying "whether you think you can or whether you think you can't = you're probably right!"
Since the demonstration nature of this lesson was stretching the most able, the above task was designed to give the same information in different ways, and introduce new language to the students. For example the inclusion of Sodium oxide is there to challenge the idea that covalent compounds are solely made from non metals, some have names and not formulae and vice versa. The most difficult one actually requires modification of the model provided during this lesson. Anyway enough Science.

Again since 15 minutes has past by the students are encouraged to review their learning. This activity actually serves two purposes with the second being to demonstrate their new learning. The task has been phrased to encourage generalisation of the key learning points. This is to help the students reach the highest levels of SOLO taxonomy as per the learning intentions. Reviewing should refer back to these to demonstrate progress, and this will allow student to self report this.
This is the point in the lesson that could involve a change of direction, I call this the " What if? " point, as in if what do I do if thye do not get i! This activity remained unused as the information in the classroom suggested that the students had progressed. This activity was designed to go back over the basics from a slightly different angle/ starting position, with a little more structure. It was then planned for the students to re attempt the previous activity.

This task is tantamount to another teacher input albeit a connecting one. The task is an activity called " X" marks the vowel, a task I invented to encourage students to interact with text. For a detailed write up of this teaching strategy please visit the wonderful ww.peelweb.org. The challenge in this activity is three fold. Firstly, the students are not being told the content being learned but are encouraged (and structured) to work it out for themselves. Secondly, the text needs to interpreted from having X's in place of the vowels, whxch xs stxll xxsy tx rxxd xf yxx cxncxntrxtx! And finally the questions the have to answer move from comprehension to comparasion and finally to inference. The final question is the third time the students have come across the notion of the boiling point of waterand relating it to its structure. Graham Nuthall's inspiring research tells us that students learn when they have three or four exposures to an idea in different ways. This is also a reason for the design of the What if activity.
By answering these questions the students also begin to demonstrate new learning. As a teacher I am less interested in the comprehension question and more interested in the questions where they have to apply new knowledge.

A major "content" plenary is then planned using a rather natty animation from the BBC. A task of listing seven key points, based on the brain based research that we find it easier to remember 5, 7, 9 items rather than say 10. This summary also enable the students to come across the information needed in another (different) way. This also allows for the uniqueness of student learning to be seen by the teacher. Graham Nuthall's research shows that student learner is fairly unique with up to 80% of the items learned being learned by only one or two students. This information is vital for a teacher to see, as this will give a crude measure of what has worked and not in the lesson and for future planning and differentiation.

Penultimately, and importantly the students are asked to speculate, which is a high order thinking skill, as part of a preview of next lesson. This activity allows students to meet one of the learning intentions and also provides a learning bridge to the next set of related content.

The final act brings closure to the lesson.The students then mark their progress against the SOLO learning intentions this is essential not only for motivation and the creation of a sense of pride but also in consolidating the important points within the lesson. John Hattie makes clear the effectiveness of self reporting grade as it helps build up an accurate picture that will inform their "prior" achievement.

Graham Nuthall's research can be found in his book "The Hidden Lives of Learners"

John Hatties meta analysis of achievement outcomes can be found in his book "Visible Learning"