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.

Friday, 30 April 2010

The Hidden Lives Of Learners

These are the slides I used during my TeachMeet NorthEast Presentation on Graham Nuthalls work.
On the surface Nuthalls work is very simple. He assessed prior learning, wired each student and teacher for sound, used classroom observers to note interactions and resources, assessed again, interviewed learners about their learning experiences and finally correlated learning with this data. But what you get is so much more. An inspiring synthesis of the hidden lives of learners!. Even the methodology employed has a useful message for teachers, we must listen and look out for the learning that is taking place.

The concept of the three worlds that a learner exists in is instantly a useful planning and reflective tool for teachers. Another neat way of thing about it is Pam Hook's question "What is happening at the ampersand?" This book gets to the heart of the confluence between teaching and learning.

The question posed is illustrative (but not definitive) of how messy the business of learning is. The first posing is difficult unless you know the answer. The second is easier by virtue of your prior learning. This allowed you to deduce what the answer is, but not that you have learned anything!
Students learn what they do.

Consider the amount of learning forgotten by students, especially that crammed for an exam. Nuthall makes clear that students do not become content experts but experts in classroom procedures that is imprinted upon them lesson after lesson, day after day.

So when it comes to seeing learning teacher and students can find it difficult. In fact Nuthall makes it clear that when asked what learning looks like teachers describe good behaviour, not even learner behaviours as opposed to seeing the process of learning. The next few slides prove that I too have failed to see the dichotomy. I have blogged about this previously. Fortunately my PEEL Good learner behaviours display rescues me intermittently.

Three exposures

The seemingly random picture of the Queen, an anagram and a choice of number. Is used to demonstrate a key finding of Nuthalls work. Students need 3 or 4 different exposures to a fact in order to commit it to their working memory. This is the second exposure to the content to be learned from the questions asked earlier.


The first of the graphs (slide 26) see the students increase in ability from left to right. It is unsurprising to see the more able students be more successful in a module of work than the weaker ones. This is typical. What is a little surprising is the influence of prior learning. The more able arrive already knowing more, and this is the sole difference in their success. The amount of learning by all students is equivocal, independent of ability. This probably explains why Finland's schools are considered so successful. This is the reason I celebrate performance against target, rather than "grade" with my students. Again I have blogged on this.

The graph on slide 28, is a source of comfort for teachers, and again typical. It highlights that the majority of the learning in the class has come either directly or indirectly form the teacher. The weaker students are more reliant upon the teacher than the more able, and are more reliant upon direct teacher input. A clear call to arms for effective differentiation if there ever was one! It is also important to note that the learning from the choice of teacher designed activities, will also be influenced by the peer culture and social status systems our students construct in and out side of school. On top of this,there is still a significant amount of learning that is self or peer derived. hence the warning from Hattie! Students require training and structures in giving effective feedback.

The one that I do not know

Is a quote from one one of my students, directed at his peers, who persistently ignored him.I intervened and was lucky in my timing in two ways. One that I overheard his plea, but also in that my lesson plan, the ensuing conversation that we had was the third exposure to the information he was struggling with. Now, he knows the what he doesn't know, and when asked the content and the action of learning are linked. So, when I ask whats the one that you don't know he replies "condensation!", the right answer.

The table shows the frighteningly uniqueness of learning. The numbers in the final column, ranging from 44- 89% are the amount of learning that is exclusive to one or one and a single other student. This too is independent of ability. I have not yet assimilated this into my pedagogy, as fully as I expect we can, but I do engage level ladders with a range of suggestive ability indicators. I annotate these with code, for every students, sampling them frequently. So BM is book marking. MMT a mid module test, TQ a teacher question etc. i revisit them when I am unconvinced that a student has not learned them. This way I can (crudely) track the learning taking place.

Finally the ISBN, and the forth and final exposure to the previous answer. The Hidden Lives of Learners. Read it, Think about, Reflect upon your practice, but most of all enjoy it.