Tag: classroom

I bought a piano… and am tasting my own pedagogical medicine.

I bought a piano… and am tasting my own pedagogical medicine.

I love music. Creativity has played a major role in my family for generations. My great grandparents played instruments. My grandma was trained to sing at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, touring concert houses across the globe with her beautiful voice in the 60s, 70s and 80s. My Dad had earned a place at RADA before opting for church ministry instead (quite a career change, yes) and has mastered jazz piano ever since I can remember. My mum is less musical – more adept at art – but brilliant in her own right. The majority of my wider family can play an instrument of some kind; guitar, drums, piano, didgeridoo, flute, banjo, euphonium etc. You name it; we’ve tried it.

As a child I had piano lessons, but my potential for Beethovenian genius was snatched from my little hands each time we moved for my parents’ jobs, making it difficult to continue successfully. (As an aside: as a result of moving I also studied the Aztecs twice and never learned long division until I had to teach it to my Year 6 class at the age of 22.)

I’m pleased to say that, this summer, I succumbed to my ever-increasing desire to play again and bought a piano. I am totally loving it. Whenever I can in the evenings or weekends, I’ll sit for an hour and strike away at the keys in the hope that the chord I’m reaching for resembles something of the graphical note representation I see on the page before me. It’s still hit and miss if truth be told, but I’m definitely way better than I was eight weeks ago.

Why am I harping on about a piano?

Simply, this process of learning that I’m becoming more and more committed to is opening my eyes to the journey we expect our students to travel. The fact that I possess a novice-level understanding of the piano and how it works already might mean that I am building any further knowledge a little quicker, but it’s certainly not easy. I thought I’d put together a top five set of ‘quick learns’ that seem wholly transferable from my own learning experience to the classroom:

  1. PRIOR KNOWLEDGE:
    Learning anything new must build on prior knowledge, however weak the triggers may be. The brain seems to be constantly trying to make associations; between notes, within chords, from one piece to another.
  2. EXPERTISE:
    Making progress will be faster in the presence (and under the direction) of someone whose subject knowledge is far superior to your own.
  3. INTERLEAVING REHEARSAL:
    Practising in smaller measures – an hour here and there rather than a whole morning – seems to produce better performance. Opportunities for testing, resting and a chance to forget movements or parts of movements, then returning to a piece a day (or more) later is resulting in longer-term learning.
  4. ADDRESSING ERRORS:
    Keeping your fingers locked into the incorrect keys, when you fail to produce the sound you thought you were about to, allows you to check each note and find the misplaced one (or two, or three…). From there, you can find real clarity in the assessment of your own playing over time. Once you’ve identified common error patterns you’re repeatedly making you can focus on the minutiae of specific chord movements and retrain your mind and muscles to move how they should.
  5. FEEDBACK:
    Having an audience who is willing to listen to you and give feed back on specific aspects of your playing is a real win. You can lose yourself in the precision of the notes a little, so to have those who possess a level of musicality themselves offering suggestions for development; this can only be a good thing.

In such a brief reflection as this, I’m surprised as to how much of what we preach in the classroom transfers to learning a musical instrument – and beyond. There’s comfort in that.

Watch this space for an invitation to a wonderful Christmas soiree. Or Summer.
Yes, that has a more realistic ring to it.

Advertisements

Feedback to Feed Forward

A couple of weeks ago, the focus of our school INSET day was on Feedback. Phil Stock (@joeybagstock), our Assistant Headteacher of Professional Development and Language challenged us as a staff body to consider what we perceive to be the most effective method(s) of feedback, both within and outside the classroom. Following a hearty breakfast, we were gifted a rare hour of our time dedicated solely to reading. Phil had recommended a number of blog posts by a range of different writers within the educational sphere and encouraged us to choose a selection from the menu provided.

Feedback logo

I suppose it was a bit of a risk to kick off a day of training with an hour of silence and solitude, but I loved it. If you’re any kind of educationalist who has spent some time in a school environment, you’ll know how incredibly rare it is to find time in the school day to make room for this kind of personal study. And yet, it’s possibly one of the most important things we really should be doing to develop our knowledge on key principles of teaching and learning. We were invited to read up to 5-6 blog posts or articles within the hour and then reunite later to share findings and consider the potential positive impact these ideas could have within our own classrooms.

The purpose of this post is simply to share my notes on the posts I read (and found to be very worthwhile), as well as offering a simple ‘Top 10’ list I wrote as a result, to share with members of staff I lead who teach lower set Y7 groups. These points are in no way exclusive to SEN, but have been designed around the effective strategies I know to work within my own intervention classroom.
a

Blog Posts
a

Planning

Let’s build it in, not add it on: Andy Tharby (@atharby) 

  • Most useful feedback happens while students are working, not after
  • Should be indistinguishable from other elements of a lesson such as explanation and questioning
  • Feedback from and to students informs every decision we make
  • A balance is required between the challenge of a high level of “correctness” without creation of a dependency culture

20140327-215034

Presentation

improving the basics: Tom Sherrington (@headguruteacher) http://wp.me/p2qGQb-15J

  • Devote time to drafting and redrafting – Austin’s butterfly
  • Maintain higher expectations, and praise for progress/achievement
  • Students just need to know what the standards are and how to reach them
  • Very much about shift of attitude

Frequency

Making time for feedback: ASCD http://tinyurl.com/8jdyysv

  • Work smarter, not harder
  • Focus on errors, not mistakes
  • We recognise simple mistakes by students when we know them – it shows as uncharacteristic
  • Mistakes are ones we can correct using our knowledge
  • Errors are ones we make because we do not possess the necessary knowledge to correct
  • “Correcting errors typically results in new understanding and improved performance; moreover, once teachers implement this practice, students rarely make those errors again.”
  • 4 main error categories:
  1. Factual errors
  2. Procedural errors
  3. Transformation errors – incorrect application to new situations
    e.g. biology and bicycle – not knowing difference between bi and bio roots
  4. Misconception errors
  • Should look for patterns in student errors to be able to target specific areas rather than reteach a whole concept or unit
  • Distinguish between global and targeted errors
  • Use prompts and cues to shift the learner’s attention

TL_Question-05

Focus

Have we got feedback backwards?: Alex Quigley (@HuntingEnglish) http://tinyurl.com/oos78r4

  • Time spent on marking isn’t equal to the impact it has on learning – onus is on the teacher in this model, not student
  • DIRT – Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time – onus moves to student to reflect and respond to feedback, making changes to their work
  • More time spent responding to feedback that marking
  • Feedback vs. feeding forward – should impact future learning
  • Symbols, not comments
  • Dot round to signal error but student must work it out
  • Assess in colour – colour code
  • Self assessment before teacher assessment
  • One to one
  • Active process – oral feedback just as effective

Dialogue

Improving peer feedback with gallery critique: David Didau (@LearningSpy) http://tinyurl.com/pttamzl
I didn’t make notes on this as I had already read it extensively for a workshop I had previously led on peer assessment, but I would highly recommend it.

atop 10

As a result of these brilliant, really gritty, content-packed pieces of writing, I was able to draw ten key points from these to share with colleagues.

For me, the most successful methods of feedback I’ve seen to have the most positive impact in the classroom are those listed below. One beautiful thing about teaching intervention groups is the way in which it is possible for me to reach every student within one lesson. To have the opportunity to get round to each of them and offer targeted, one to one support with their work right there and then is invaluable in their learning journey. It is wholly possible to apply many of these below to the mainstream classroom, though as with most pedagogical approaches, it would take some thought around how to implement them.
a

EFFECTIVE FEEDBACK: My ‘Top 10’

  1. Effective feedback often happens most DURING lessons, not after
    a
  2. LA sets will not benefit from long streams of marked written comments
    a
  3. Symbols over work, work best – be careful not to give them the answer
    a
  4. Concentrate on errors, not Remember:
    A mistake = incorrect due to tiredness/one-off mistake that can be corrected with own knowledge
    An error = a common pattern of errors made due to the learner not possessing the knowledge to correct themselves
    a
  5. DIRT (Dedicated Improvement & Reflection Time) – Build time into lessons for valuable drafting & redrafting focus sessions
    a
  6. Model high quality work – show outstanding examples and feedback as a group
    a
  7. 1:1 conversations – be specific, giving high quality feedback
    a
  8. Self-efficacy (praise of tasks/achievement) vs. self-confidence (praise of ego) – see Dylan Wiliam: http://www.journeytoexcellence.org.uk/videos/expertspeakers/selfefficacydylanwiliam.asp
    a
  9. Make peer/self- assessment valuable … model what effective feedback looks like
    a
  10. Maintain highest expectations and don’t accept less than their best