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.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

The Pedagogical Purposes of the Relay Review.

This was my presentation Teachmeet Sunderland .I've assigned Solo taxonomy categories to the pedagogic level of its use. A most revealing strategy.

The relay review is one of those "simple on the surface" classroom activity, that has a certain pedagogic richness when used with a little bit of thought. Nominally, to use this you split your class into two teams, assign a colour and a piece of flip chart paper to each and ask them to run up one at a time and write down something that they have learned that lesson. The first team up to say twenty facts wins. That's it, a simple and quick review task.

It is at this point here that I can restate why I believe having pedagogical purposes are essential for teachers. Without them this article ends here, a tool to use in the classroom. Tools and Tool kits are not enough.

I have not hidden my passion for SOLO taxonomy, and it has been revealing to reflect upon to what extent the pedagogical purpose of this activity matches the different levels of it. It gave me different lenses to consider my classroom practice through.

The other tool I find useful in assessing the purpose of an activity is an invention of Jill Flack, an outstanding, inspiring educator who is a corner stone of both PEEL and TEEP practices. It is the table that features in the slides, identify the purpose of each activity, what the students are learning by doing this, and what the implications of this learning has for teachers.

If you use the Relay Review in your class one of the first things you'll notice is that your students will enjoy doing it. I must admit that I was being slightly pejorative in labelling the FUN aspect of this tool as Prestructural . This stems from my lack of ability to define fun properly in an educational setting. On a personal level I learn more when I'm challenged, find things difficult, when I'm intrigued or curious, when I can see the benefits to me . I also enjoy a satisfying, stimulating, thought provoking and safe learning experience, none of which I would describe as fun but things I certainly enjoy. I'm sure there is a great debate on the Pedagogy of Fun to be had as the arguments for it to be engaging , motivating and to entice risk taking by learners are compelling. A quick google search reveals the diversity of opinion. But this one really caught my eye.

Most of the "tool" uses of the relay review I have classified as Unistructural due to the limited amount of student learning associated with this task, after all no new learning is taking place here. It is a simple remember what we have been doing task. So engagement through competition and increasing blood flow to flagging students brains are all valid uses of this tool, but they bring nothing new to the students learning.

With a little adaptation this activity renders some whole class formative assessment information. To do this I provided a littel more structure to the flip chart, so that student responses become more targeted. A simple grid with the key topics quickly displayed not only what the students had learned but also what they had not i.e. a multistuctural use. Instantly the learning in the classroom becomes visible and the students next step is obvious to me and to them. The photograph included here was taken approximately 3 minutes into a activity, it was so obvious what they were avoiding! Being aware of the order of responses is actually giving me useful information to use in my teaching. This kind of thinking takes the use of this task from a multistructural to a relational use. This can be augmented, by debriefing what a quality answer/ response would be. Over a sequence of reviews you would hope to improve this over time.

A limitation of this tool is that you are only assessing the whole class, so using this as a hinge activity for individuals is problematic. It is possible to stand betwixt the two flip charts, and scrutinise the contribution of individuals. in fact this is a potential way of differentiation being more challenging to more able students. Simple feedback can be given at this point too. If you are feeling particularly astute you could stand with your markbook and note who writes what down, although this is blurred by the confluence of student learning. Hence my focus on the process and sequence of this task rather than its finished product.

If you observe you students when they do this, you notice that as they wait there turn students break out of the line and form small huddles, where the vibrant exchange of facts,ideas and clarifications. Taking photographs will aid the debriefing the quality of the teamwork, the pictures providing non judgemental feedback. A well structured discussion can lead to ways forward and the building of a safe community of learners. It makes it clear that skills like teamwork are learnable.

Further discussion can take the implicit and make it explicit, getting students involved and aware of that "secret teacher business" Namely that learning is social ( is this where the fun's at?) asking who helped you learn that? How did they explain it so that you understood? Likewise that learning involves repetition. What did you do when you released that someone had written down what you were going to? How often did you have to keep checking what was on the list already? Was it helpful to recheck ? How often do you recheck your work normally? Will try to do it more often? This makes it clear that metacognition and learner behaviours are learnable.

Perhaps the strongest message is that it is fine not to know everything, simply by having a conversation around what is our next step is and then changing the lesson plan/ route as a result of this makes this clear. This is difficult for teachers but this activity gives opportunity to engender a culture of students seeing feedback not as criticism but as an essential part learning. The research by Black and William highlights the academic impact in having formative assessment in place.

The udders are omnipresent to represent a state of mind, that of having clear, predetermined, and planning pedagogical purpose to our classroom activities. Only if we do this will we ever be able to milk every task for all its worth.