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Less distress, more de-stress

stud sup 250pxDane Court teachers work with Oxford University on training students to be less stressed

We are delighted that Dane Court has been selected, by Oxford University, to participate in helping to develop a new programme of study which will hopefully help our students to build their learning power.

Much research has been undertaken which suggests that young people today are more anxious than they have ever been, because they worry too much about their immediate future and recent past whether it be concerns over the next test they will be taking or how many friends they may have on Facebook. These distractions create certain levels of anxiety and prevent young people from focusing on what is important at any particular time. This anxiety creates stress and an inability to concentrate on the present. By removing these stresses, so the research suggests, we can help young people build their learning power by training their brains to think with clarity.

Oxford University's psychology department will be helping a small group of Dane Court teachers to find ways, through their teaching, to develop this ability in our students to be clear thinking and focused, therefore helping our young people to be more resilient and independent in their learning.

As the programme develops, we will be sharing ideas and findings with other teachers, parents and students in our school.

Learning to enjoy the struggle

student mini lesson 250pxStudents need to struggle (and enjoy) working things out for themselves

At Dane Court we have been interested for sometime in the notion that students engaged in active learning may have found the key to helping themselves become more confident in their ability.and ambitious about what they can achieve in education and in life. I have long been a fan of John Hattie and his 'distillation of 800 pieces of international educational research' into effective teaching and learning. His research identifies that a teacher's goal should be to consider:

'It is what learners do that matters. The aim is to make students active in the learning process until they reach the stage where they become their own teachers.'

It is important therefore for students to become aware of the best way, as individuals, they learn. This requires teachers to use a variety of teaching models and ask students to consider which models help them to achieve. Student self-reflection is hugely important if learners are to be active in their learning. as is an ability to become an expert in assessing their own work and the work of their peers. This means that teachers need to let their students into the 'secret' of assessment criteria and help them apply this to their own work.

We have found students love to mark their own work, apply marking criteria and then identify their own targets for improvement. We have found, along with many schools across the country, that students become experts in assessment surprisingly quickly which builds their confidence and of course, their desire to learn and challenge themselves further.

Recently, I have enjoyed watching students design mini lessons which they then delivered to the rest of the class. There is nothing that clarifies the mind more than when you know you have to stand up in front of intelligent people, sound expert and actively engage them! Further, in my experience, when you ask groups of students to design exam tasks and question, they come up with excellent and challenging ideas whilst becoming completely conversant with the expectations and demands of examination papers in a particular subject.

These are all active learning strategies and we mean to keep on developing these ideas.

Seven steps to feedback heaven

MO1L1717 250pxI write this on the train returning home from an Osiris conference on Teaching and Learning. On our CSE course led by myself and Abbey we encourage delegates to identify 'Golden Nuggets' in every session that will be useful to them in their context so here is one of my Golden Nuggets!

One of the Keynote speakers was James Nottingham, his talk, 'How can we know what will make the biggest difference to learning?' focused on how we transform the work of Stivi's educational crush John Hattie into high impact learning in the classroom. As we know Hattie's findings show meta cognition (thinking about your thinking) and feedback as the top two high impact strategies.

7 steps to feedback heavenNottingham summed up feedback in his 'Seven steps to feedback heaven':

Set goals - make success criteria clear and ONLY give feedback against those success criteria.
Students produce draft 1 - make sure they know it is the first draft, call it Draft 1 so they know it will change, be improved upon, will not be graded (yet).
Self and peer assess draft 1 - against the success criteria set in in number 1.
Draft 2 - this could be additions/changes perhaps made in a different colour. This work should be the top end of what the student can produce without your input.
Teacher feedback (verbal only?) - Nottingham suggests forget two ticks and a wish instead; advice, advice, advice. Perhaps; 'leave it, change it, go on to...'
Finalise work - again could introduce a new colour again (this satisfies the 'acting on feedback' that we should all be striving towards).
Grade - this allows all feedback to be taken in and acted upon rather than simply noting the grade and moving on. Nottingham suggests that if you've got the success criteria right in step one, the students should be able to grade each other's work.

Hope this is useful to you, Abbey and I shall be adding to the CSE (Challenging Students to Excel course) many things we have encountered today. Our next course starts after Easter, let us know if you're interested in joining it!

Our Focus for the Year

MO1L1671 250pxWe have been ambitious this year. It is always important to be clear about what we are aiming to achieve in terms of learning and teaching as a school over the academic year. This year we have been focussing on full implementation of The Middle Years Programme into year 7 but we have also been concentrating on developing ways to improve our marking and feedback strategies. To this end, we sparked off the year by asking an expert in marking and feedback, Robert Powell, to spend a day with us (before the start of the new academic year) to get the ball rolling which it certainly did. I am hoping that this blog will be followed shortly by some contributions from other teachers about how they are using Robert Powell's ideas in lessons at the moment.

Learning and Teaching Debate and Discussion

MO1L1706 250pxWe are not interested in rating teachers' lessons by attaching a numerical value to each lesson after an observation. Nevertheless, we are interested in using a lesson reflection sheet which enables observers to make notes about a lesson based on the principles above.
We know students benefit from constructive and purposeful feedback and of course adults feel the same. Teachers deserve and want to enter into a dialogue about their students' learning in their lessons. We encourage all teachers to break out of their departments and go and look at different lessons in a variety of subject areas.
Our learning walks help to encourage this and ensure that a debate and discussion about our teaching philosophies and pedagogy continue to happen. Our next learning walk is to take place just after Easter and will centre on assessment and feedback. It is always encouraging that we have a waiting list of teachers who want to take part in one of these walks.

Year 7 Lockdown Gallery
IMG 1626
Kent Mountain Centre 2019
Sports day 2019
IB Group 4 science fair 2014