Tag: Learning

Metacognition Series: 3 of 6

Metacognition Series: 3 of 6

Meta Session 3 8Dec
This is the 3rd blog post of a 6-post series on Metacognition. You can find post 1 here and post 2 here.
(If you’ve read the previous posts, skip straight to the key themes below. I’ll keep the intro the same at the top of each post.)

 

INTRO
In my recently-appointed role as a Lead Learner, I have been charged with delivering a series of six enquiry sessions for teachers on the theme of Metacognition*. Both a challenge and a privilege to lead such a great, diverse group of teachers with varying levels of experience and responsibility, I’ve been taking my research very seriously. (*For more information on our CPD Programme, designed by my colleague, Phil Stock, see his blog post here.)
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The sequence of posts I intend to write over the course of this year will 1. outline key areas addressed in sessions, 2. share questions that have arisen from our group discussions (sometimes as a result of the pre-reading that has been set), 3. offer points of interest from research studies that I continue to contemplate at each stage.
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I should make it clear from the outset – I have no doubt in my mind that metacognitive strategies can significantly enhance the learning of an individual, be they 5 or 95. With a grandparent of 89 who recently completed a BA degree in Humanities, I (and I know he does too) fully adhere to the notion that a high dose of metacognition and self-regulation can vastly improve the educational journey for a learner. It is the whos and whys and whens and hows that I believe need further thought.


 

Prior to this session, teachers were asked to bring two items that would aid them during the planning time allocated within the session:
1. Their research and enquiry question* – these were written independently by teachers, who selected a very specific teaching element and target group to base their research on. Questions were devised in accordance with the guidance* shared with staff and agreed by line managers during appraisal meetings in the first half of the Autumn Term.
2. Any planning or knowledge of subject content due to be covered in the New Year.
*Screenshot taken from Phil’s post
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Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 12.06.19

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8 themes from session 3:

  1. We addressed a query that arose in session 2
    During one of the rich discussions we have shared as a group, a question was raised regarding the difference between two the concepts of ‘self-control’ and ‘self-regulation’. At the time, I admitted to not knowing what the research would suggest on this and could only speculate at possible answers. After some reading around this, I found the following quotes that served as a basis on which to summarise that:

Self-control: definitions seem to possess a shared trait of explaining a physical reaction to a stimulus. Self-control requires an individual to make wise decisions in the moment.

Self-regulation: definitions suggest that this concept helps an individual to guide or adjust their behaviour in pursuit of some desired end state or goal.

Meta Session 3 8DecbMeta Session 3 8Deca

 

 

 

 

 

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It is worth mentioning that these two terms are also often used interchangeably, so it is not quite as black and white as it may initially seem.

2.We recalled key themes from session 2

Once again, teachers were presented with a challenging multiple-choice quiz in order to familiarise themselves with themes from the first two sessions. These were completed independently, after which the answers were shared and discussed as a group. I should declare here that, despite the success of my first recap quiz used in session 2, I came under significant – though entirely civilised – attack from teachers present, for the phrasing of one or two of my questions.

In one section of the test, teachers had to judge statements to be true or false. For one of those statements I had written, “A regimented classroom culture can discourage self-regulation.”

Now, the response I had expected to receive was ‘true’, which was a little disconcerting when the choir of united voices before me replied ‘false’. This harmonious moment of unison soon became a cacophony when I overconfidently responded ‘WRONG!’.

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In my mind, the word ‘regimented’ looked like a classroom of learners who lacked autonomy, conjuring visions of a teacher who was spoon-feeding curriculum content, denying students opportunities for deep thinking.

In the minds of everybody else, the word ‘regimented’ looked like a calm, orderly classroom.

It was evident where I had gone wrong and apologised without reserve. Needless to say that everybody scored a point for that question, irrespective of the answer they had given.

This was a fruitful learning experience for me, reminding me how careful one needs to be when constructing questions for formative assessments. A high quality test is critical if we hope it might reveal any valuable window of insight into the on-going learning processes of our students.

  1. We shared reflections on the pre-reading**

As has been the case in all three sessions so far, teachers were brilliantly forthcoming in sharing their personal reflections on the reading we have engaged in. Conscious of time constraints on this session (mindful of reserving time for planning), we didn’t spend huge amounts of time dwelling on this though, again, some very interesting points arose. Two comments of note included:
a) The video talk by Dr Derek Cabrera greatly helped in provoking one to think about the value we place on thinking in our lessons. It leads us to question whether the pedagogical approaches we employ to share information about our subjects are the right ones.
b) Reference was given to a concept discussed in John Hattie’s chapter on self-control, called ‘ego depletion’. Many studies, including the work of psychologists such as Roy Baumeister et al (1998), propose that, “Self-control is a finite resource that determines capacity for effortful control over dominant responses and, once expended, leads to impaired self-control task performance, known as ego depletion.”

Teachers discussed the implications of this concept in relation to the demands we put on our students in a variety of learning situations.

**Pre-reading list focus: 
Dr Derek Cabrera, How Thinking Works (online video clip)
John Hattie, Visible Learning and the Science of How we Learn
Chapter 26, Achieving Self-Control

  1. We took a shallow dip into the field of Executive Function
    In response to a dialogue that arose in session 1, a brief amount of time was spent considering the concept of Executive Function. An overview video from Harvard was shown, outlining the premise that EF is, in essence, the CEO of all cognitive processes. According to Harvard,

“Executive function and self-regulation skills are the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully. Just as an air traffic control system at a busy airport safely manages the arrivals and departures of many aircraft on multiple runways, the brain needs this skill set to filter distractions, prioritize tasks, set and achieve goals, and control impulses.”

We are taught that EF skills depend on three types of brain function:

  1. working memory
  2. mental flexibility
  3. self-control
  1. We attempted a task that challenged our Executive Function ability

To understand the demands our EF skills are consistently required to monitor, we looked to the unfaltering wisdom of the Two Ronnies. While not technically qualified as cognitive psychologists, these men have been pioneers in broadcasting the complexities of EF. Watch their informative Mastermind sketch here.

Following this, teachers were challenged to attempt the same task in pairs, responding with an answer to the previous question instead of the current one. Here is one of the two sheets I devised to test teachers’ mental flexibility.

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After a few hot minutes of serious brain activity (and much laughter), we reviewed how the task had gone. The two main comments that arose were:
1. It was more difficult to ask the questions, since your brain is having to read, listen, look ahead and score at the same time.
2. It was much more difficult to answer when you had to complete an operation in order to reach an answer, while also storing the next question in your mind.

One teacher raised a concern that this could have a significant negative effect on our learners. A student might easily fail to cling on to an influx of information we have given, if we have not considered the demands we are placing on their working memory at any one time.

6.We made associations between our questions and the Metacognition session content
As mentioned in the intro of this post, staff referred back to their individual research and enquiry questions, making connections between these and the content we have covered so far in sessions. This was a brief discussion, before moving into more tailored groupings for effective planning and preparation time.

7. We regrouped according to enquiry question focus and began planning
Prior to this session, I had spent time reminding myself of teachers’ enquiry questions and carefully grouped them according to the focus of their upcoming trial (not necessarily by department). These were broadly grouped around themes including: self-assessment or self-monitoring, applying technical or higher level vocabulary to work, social or emotional attitudes to learning, ability to apply strategies taught. This list is not exhaustive but incorporates many of the key focuses shared by teachers in our group.

In these subgroups, teachers discussed their hoped student outcomes as a result of new strategies they will seek to implement in the New Year. They also identified relevant strategies from a menu I had collated to best suit their subject area and enquiry focus. Strategies were selected from a range of research studies and articles I’d read in preparation for these sessions, including a reference table outlining many of the great techniques explored in Doug Lemov‘s book ‘Teach Like a Champion 2.0‘.

Meta Session 3 8Decn

8. We looked ahead to January, considering how to monitor any progress
While a six-week period is a short time in which to measure improvement in the deeper learning of students, we will intend to pause and consider how the trial is going in February. Teachers were informed that, when we meet on February 10th, it would be great to hear from each member of the group:
a) what strategies have been implemented
b) what has / has not worked so well and
c) what improvements to learning, if any, have been noticed in that time
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Any evidence can be simply anecdotal, video footage, photo evidence, student work, formative assessment, student interviews or surveys etc. It is left to the teacher to make the best decision as to how to measure any change, though it was advised that some form of pre and post comparison might be useful. The trial will continue for the remainder of the year, though this next session will serve as a good review point along the journey to reflect and revise the metacognitive approaches employed.
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Following the session, I shared a step-by-step timeline of actions that need to take place between now and February. This includes arrangements for planning, delivery and reviewing. I will also be sharing any reading I find that links to teachers’ questions in the interim period, as well as being available for on-going support.
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I’m geekily eager to see how the next phase goes.

Metacognition Series: 1 of 6

Metacognition Series: 1 of 6

 

In my recently-appointed role as a Lead Learner, I have been charged with delivering a series of six enquiry sessions for teachers on the theme of Metacognition*. Both a challenge and a privilege to lead such a great, diverse group of teachers with varying levels of experience and responsibility, I’ve been taking my research very seriously.
(*For more information on our CPD Programme, designed by my colleague, Phil Stock, see his blog post here.)
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The sequence of posts I intend to write over the course of this year will 1. outline key areas addressed in sessions, 2. share questions that have arisen from our group discussions (sometimes as a result of the pre-reading that has been set), 3. offer points of interest from research studies that I continue to contemplate at each stage.
aa

I should make it clear from the outset – I have no doubt in my mind that metacognitive strategies can significantly enhance the learning of an individual, be they 5 or 95. With a grandparent of 89 who recently completed a BA degree in Humanities, I (and I know he does too) fully adhere to the notion that a high dose of metacognition and self-regulation can vastly improve the educational journey for a learner. It is the whos and whys and whens and hows that I believe need further thought.
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Metacognition Session 1 04.11.15k.jpgaa
8 themes from session 1:

  1. We defined the term ‘metacognition’
    Put simply, metacognition is ‘thinking about thinking’. It is the process by which a learner becomes aware of their own cognitive processes and, as a result of this, makes a deliberate response to any given stimulus.

  2. We considered the theoretical background
    A summary of Jean Piaget’s four stages of cognitive development were shared, comparing the similarities and differences between this earlier work and the later work of John H. Flavell on the Theory of Mind; namely that Flavell perceived metacognition as a skill that occurs much earlier on in development than Piaget first thought.
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    Metacognition Session 1 04.11.15maa
  3. We acknowledged the distinction between cognition and metacognition
    Cognition
    = all mental processes and abilities in which people engage on a daily basis such as memory, learning, problem-solving, evaluation, reasoning and decision making
    Metacognition
    = thinking about thinking. It allows us to complete a given task well through planning, monitoring, evaluating and comprehending, making a person more aware of his/her cognitive processes
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    Metacognition Session 1 04.11.15daa
  4. We identified the two main strands of metacognition
    a) knowing about cognition and b) regulation of cognition
    We considered learning activities that would fall under each of these two headings, understanding that many cognitive psychologists would not consider metacognition to have taken place unless the regulation of cognition stage had been completed. If knowing aspects of one’s own learning does not lead an individual to adjust their working habits in order to lead to greater learning capacity, then the full process of metacognition has not yet finished.
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    Metacognition Session 1 04.11.15z.jpgaa
  5. We analysed research ratings of metacognition
    Sharing the Education Endowment Fund’s (EEF) Toolkit rating, we acknowledged the positive impact that metacognition can have on learning, aware of the low cost and high strength of evidence in employing metacognitive strategies in the classroom.
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    Metacognition Session 1 04.11.15laa
  6. We recognised the importance of teaching metacognition explicitly
    As teachers, we cannot possibly assume that all learners possess an innate ability in metacognition, a skill often determined by inherited traits or exposure to various models witnessed in the home. There is a real need for us to demonstrate how to employ metacognitive strategies in order to enhance the learning journey. Back in 1999, the DfEE stated,
    “There is a need to be explicit about what we mean by better forms of thinking. If students are to become better thinkers – to learn meaningfully, to think flexibly and to make reasoned judgments – then they must be taught explicitly how to do it.”
    I then illustrated this by showing a video clip on John Tomsett’s blog post (the student-student clip at the bottom of the post), where a student verbalises his own thought process, which he undertook to reach a correct mathematical answer. It is this environment of sharing thoughts and strategic steps that will give students the opportunity to question and reflect on their own thinking.
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  7. We considered effective formative assessment techniques
    Drawing on the wisdom of educational researchers such as Dylan Wiliam, we looked at why and how multiple choice questions can act as a great metacognitive teaching strategy for learning, posing a demand on learners to adopt higher order thinking techniques to reach a particular answer.
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    Metacognition Session 1 04.11.15p.jpgaa
  8. We learned that metacognitive strategies MUST be rooted within a subject domain
    A tecnique that requires students to step back from the learning process and consider their own thinking can not be taught as a discrete tool, isolated from a subject area. The purpose of metacognition is to reflect on your own learning in order to enhance understanding and, by the nature of learning, this can only be attributed to a particular subject area at any given time. Without the foundation of subject knowledge, metacognitive tools could be considered somewhat redundant. As Joe Kirby, Assistant Headteacher and Head of English at Michaela Community School, Wembley, states,
    “Over the last three decades, cognitive science has come to a conclusion that is scientifically robust: critical thinking skills require broad background knowledge. This is the reason why teaching abstract skills devoid of facts such as ‘evaluation’, generic strategies such as ‘skimming’ and unchallenging content like celebrities, TV, Twitter and Cirque du Freak doesn’t help academic achievement: the opportunity cost.”
    He goes on to say,
    “When my class struggles to think critically about a text, it’s often because I’ve starved them of the deep knowledge they need.”
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Questions that arose during the session:

  • Aren’t some of us employing some metacognitive strategies already in our classrooms?
  • Do some learners already possess strong metacognitive strategies and therefore require little instruction on how to employ?
  • Is there time to teach these strategies on top of curriculum content pressures?
  • How great is the role of genetics and do we have much influence?
  • What is the role of executive functioning in relation to this?
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It was a super first session with a great range of contributions from the teachers present. Biased for sure, I struggle to think of a better way to enhance our own classroom pedagogy than through collaboration with other teachers who possess a wealth of knowledge and experience that is different from our own. Surely gathering as a group of professionals to wrestle with these complex but game-changing concepts could potentially have significant impact on the lives of our learners.

My Starter for Five Contribution: SEN at Secondary

My Starter for Five Contribution: SEN at Secondary

Starter for Five is a UK based advice blog for new teachers. You can find it on twitter here. Each post gives 5 quick pieces of advice on a particular topic for new teachers and trainees submitted by experienced teachers.

Here’s mine:

Name: Josie Mingay
Twitter name: @JAMingay
Sector: Secondary
Subject taught (if applicable): English and Literacy
Position: Literacy leader / Lead Learner
What is your advice about? SEN at Secondary

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1: No SEN label should cause you to lower your expectations of students. Do all you can to remove specific obstacles to learning in order for students to reach ambitious goals.
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2: Be explicit about praising students for effort and hard work, rather than achievement. Students with SEN need to see that the journey to the destination is rewarded too.
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3: Make use of your SENCo/Learning Support dept – a great resource, often with a wealth of knowledge. Utilise their expertise to aid your planning/teaching.
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4: Talk to your students! More than any official document listing suggested strategies, students usually know their obstacles best and can tell you what support they need.
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5: Model using metacognitive strategies. One of the best tools for students with SEN is the ability to think about their learning and select strategies to apply to given tasks.
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If you have a topic you’d like to contribute advice about, click here.

Vocabulary Matters – My contribution to ResearchED Literacy, 7th Nov 2015

Vocabulary Matters – My contribution to ResearchED Literacy, 7th Nov 2015

Next Saturday, I will be one of a number of gathered teachers and researchers who share a common aim – hopeful that, through organic grass roots events like @researchED1, it might be possible to reduce the considerable chasm between educational research and classroom practice.
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Attending this event for the first time last year, I was surprised by the number of delegates present who had sacrificed a day of their weekend to travel, ready to participate in the workshops on offer and be willing to engage in educational conversations with others there. It was refreshing to experience an approach to teaching and learning so rooted in research and, after a powerful day, I left feeling positively challenged.

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That’s why this year I’m really pleased to have been invited to lead a workshop at the @researchED1 Literacy event on Saturday 7th November at Swindon Academy, run by event directors David Didau, Tom Bennett & Hélène O’Shea.
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As Literacy Leader in my school, and also recently appointed as a Lead Learner in research too, I will be delivering a workshop on the importance of teaching vocabulary in order to enhance students’ understanding across the curriculum. Incidentally, the session itself is far more interesting than the somewhat tedious title I gave it: “Improving students’ understanding through direct vocabulary instruction”.
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Many months ago on my blog, I wrote Part 1 of a 2-part post on the new vocabulary programme we were soon to implement in my school as a result of the research we had carried out called ‘Root Planner’. See here. It was always intended that the second part of the duo (‘Root Map’) would be published soon after, outlining the implementation of the programme. For a number of reasons this failed to transpire and, so, albeit a year later, I will be posting Part 2 of this post following my presentation next Saturday.

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A great colleague of mine, Phil Stock, has shared the journey of this whole-school language intervention with me and has recently written about this on his blog here, following the presentation he gave at #TLT15 earlier in October.
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I’m very much looking forward to the day; to hearing some super speakers, to reflecting on my own practice and to embracing the possibilities an event of this nature can bring to teaching and learning.

Hope to see you there!

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.
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Blog Posts
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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

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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

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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.
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EFFECTIVE FEEDBACK: My ‘Top 10’

  1. Effective feedback often happens most DURING lessons, not after
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  2. LA sets will not benefit from long streams of marked written comments
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  3. Symbols over work, work best – be careful not to give them the answer
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  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
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  5. DIRT (Dedicated Improvement & Reflection Time) – Build time into lessons for valuable drafting & redrafting focus sessions
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  6. Model high quality work – show outstanding examples and feedback as a group
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  7. 1:1 conversations – be specific, giving high quality feedback
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  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
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  9. Make peer/self- assessment valuable … model what effective feedback looks like
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  10. Maintain highest expectations and don’t accept less than their best