Visualising Holistic Planning

I am still writing this blog

Part of the Visualising Education Blog Series

One of the principle issues with unit based courses is that there are often similar learning/ assessment objectives which across a range of units. This is due to the nature of the unit based curriculum.  For example, equality and diversity is addressed across all units, ensuring that regardless of the units which are selected by the college (centre) equality and diversity will be covered within the delivery and assessment. From the teachers and students point-of-view, it feels like they are repeating the same work in each unit.

The simple solution is to find all objectives which are linked to equality and diversity from all the units which the college is providing and complete one summative assessment which covers them all.  However, this offers some practical issues.

Someone has got to sit down and sort all these objectives from all the units.  The best solution, which I have found, especially when you are dealing with more than 130 objectives is to create a spreadsheet which will allow you to filter the objectives by keywords, see table one below. Although this takes time to create, it does ensure that all the criteria are identified and it allows the students and staff to view the criteria at any time or even update student assessment at a later date.


Table 1: Filter objective by keywords

KeywordObjective NoObjective
Diversity1:1.1Explain what is meant by diversity
Planning1:1.2Adapt learning plans to meet learners needs


To extend the spreadsheet to aid in holistic planning, two additional columns can be added which indicates a module name and a task number, see table two. This supports the IV (internal moderation) and EV (external moderation) process as the moderator can quickly locate, which modules and tasks the original awarding body objectives are situated. For example, when the student completes a module called Behaviour they will achieve objective 1:1.1 in assessment (task) one.


Table 2: Filter objective by module and task

KeywordModuleTaskObjective NoObjective
DiversityBehaviour11:1.1Explain what is meant by diversity
PlanningPlanning51:1.2Adapt learning plans to meet learners needs


Then it is a simple matter of checking that the task front sheet and feedback sheet have the correct objectives listed on them. However, this is where the process fails. If the spreadsheet is updated but the front sheet is not the students will not achieve objectives. Similarly, if the feedback sheet is not updated the teachers tracking system will be misaligned.

There is a number of solutions to overcome this misalignment issue.  For example, an additional column can be added to the spreadsheet which indicates if the objective has been achieved by the learner. Therefore the spreadsheet can be given to the learner who filters for module and task. Although this will tell the student which objectives to aim for it does not indicate the assessment methods, task question and so on, see table three.   Thus it does not remove the need to have a separate front sheet and feedback sheet. Also, mainly provide required set items on the front sheet and feedback sheet.


Table 3: The student tracker

KeywordModuleTaskAchObjective NoObjective
DiversityBehaviour1Y1:1.1Explain what is meant by diversity
PlanningPlanning51:1.2Adapt learning plans to meet learners needs


In the end, I create a simple web application which does all the processing based on which criteria are added to modules and tasks. An overview of this web application with sample outputs can be viewed here: BTEC Mapping Tool. This application allows the user to create a module (Behaviour) and within the module, the user can create tasks. Using the criteria, which are stored in the database the user can add criteria to the individual tasks. This task can then be printed or copied and pasted onto a front sheet and the list of criteria can be added to the feedback sheet. If changes are made in the web application they must be made everywhere else, as this system is the master version.  I had intended to track and monitor students through the web application but it is hosted on my personal server I would have to adhere to the Data Protection Act and request permission from my employers, which is too much paperwork. This approach also means that a frequency count for each criteria can be completed to ensure that each objective is been assessed at least once, see table four.

Table 4: Criteria frequcny count across provision

Unit One (24)Unit Two (33)Unit Three (12)Unit Four (14)Unit Seven (14)Unit Eight (22)Unit Thirteen (15)Unit Twenty Nine (10)
1:1.1) 1
1:1.2) 1
1:2.1) 1
1:2.2) 1
1:2.3) 1
1:2.4) 1
1:2.5) 3
1:3.1) 2
1:3.2) 2
1:3.3) 2
1:4.1) 2
1:4.2) 1
1:4.3) 1
1:4.4) 1
1:4.5) 1
1:5.1) 1
1:5.2) 1
1:5.3) 1
1:5.4) 1
1:5.5) 1
1:6.1) 1
1:6.2) 1
1:7.1) 1
1:7.2) 1
2:1.1) 1
2:1.2) 1
2:1.3) 1
2:1.4) 1
2:2.1) 1
2:2.2) 1
2:2.3) 1
2:2.4) 1
2:3.1) 1
2:3.2) 1
2:3.3) 2
2:3.4) 2
2:3.5) 1
2:4.1) 3
2:4.2) 1
2:4.3) 1
2:5.1) 1
2:5.2) 1
2:5.3) 1
2:5.4) 1
2:5.5) 1
2:5.6) 2
2:5.7) 3
2:6.1) 1
2:6.2) 1
2:6.3) 1
2:6.4) 1
2:6.5) 1
2:6.6) 1
2:7.1) 1
2:7.2) 1
2:8.1) 1
2:8.2) 1
3:1.1) 1
3:1.2) 1
3:1.3) 1
3:1.4) 1
3:2.1) 1
3:2.2) 1
3:3.1) 1
3:3.2) 1
3:4.1) 2
3:4.2) 1
3:5.1) 0
3:5.2) 0
4:1.1) 1
4:1.2) 1
4:2.1) 2
4:2.2) 1
4:3.1) 1
4:3.2) 1
4:3.3) 1
4:3.4) 1
4:4.1) 2
4:4.2) 1
4:5.1) 1
4:5.2) 1
4:5.3) 1
4:5.4) 1
7:1.1) 1
7:1.2) 1
7:2.1) 1
7:2.2) 1
7:2.3) 1
7:3.1) 1
7:3.2) 1
7:4.1) 1
7:4.2) 2
7:5.1) 1
7:5.2) 1
7:6.1) 1
7:6.2) 1
7:6.3) 1
8:1.1) 1
8:1.2) 1
8:1.3) 1
8:2.1) 1
8:2.2) 1
8:2.3) 1
8:2.4) 1
8:2.5) 1
8:3.1) 1
8:3.2) 1
8:3.3) 1
8:4.1) 1
8:4.2) 1
8:4.3) 1
8:4.4) 1
8:4.5) 1
8:4.6) 1
8:5.1) 1
8:5.2) 1
8:6.1) 1
8:6.2) 1
8:6.3) 1
13:1.1) 1
13:1.2) 1
13:2.1) 1
13:2.2) 1
13:2.3) 3
13:2.4) 1
13:2.5) 0
13:2.6) 1
13:3.1) 1
13:3.2) 1
13:4.1) 3
13:4.2) 1
13:5.1) 1
13:5.2) 1
13:5.3) 1
29:1.1) 1
29:1.2) 1
29:1.3) 1
29:2.1) 1
29:2.2) 1
29:3.1) 1
29:3.2) 1
29:3.3) 1
29:4.1) 1
29:4.2) 1


Alongside this, a full list of awarding body criteria can be printed with the module and task number so that the IV and EV process can be quickly achieved, whilst ensure quality management across the system, see table five.    Ideally, the system would be used by the student to download the assessment front sheets and by the staff to completed the assessment feedback and thereby making a centralised system.


Table 5: Full list of awarding body criteria against module and task

UnitSub ValueObjectiveModuleTask NumberTask Title
11.1Analyse the application of pedagogical principles in own area of specialismCreating Sharing Learning ResourcesTask 2aResource, Inclusion, Pedagogy and Instructional Design
11.2Evaluate the effectiveness of use of creative and innovative approaches in own area of specialismCreating Sharing Learning ResourcesTask 2aResource, Inclusion, Pedagogy and Instructional Design
12.1Use initial and diagnostic assessment to agree learners’ individual learning goals and learning preferencesPlanningTask 5Assessing student learning to inform planning
12.2Devise a scheme of work taking account of:PlanningTask 2Write a rationale for a scheme of work
12.3Design teaching and learning plans which take account of:PlanningTask 3Create a scheme of work and associated lesson plans
12.4Identify opportunities for learners and others to provide feedback to inform inclusive practiceCreating Sharing Learning ResourcesTask 2dTheories of Feedback
12.5Explain how own practice in planning inclusive teaching and learning has taken account of theories, principles and models of learning, communication and assessmentCreating Sharing Learning ResourcesTask 2aResource, Inclusion, Pedagogy and Instructional Design
12.5Explain how own practice in planning inclusive teaching and learning has taken account of theories, principles and models of learning, communication and assessmentPlanningTask 3Create a scheme of work and associated lesson plans
12.5Explain how own practice in planning inclusive teaching and learning has taken account of theories, principles and models of learning, communication and assessmentPlanningTask 4Analyse planning for inclusivity and theories of communication, learning, assessment and minimum core

Visualising The Importance of Learning Objectives

Part of the Visualising Education Blog Series

Learning objectives are at the centre of the lesson in the same way the sun is in the centre of the solar system. Learning objectives are about helping the student to understand what they will be learning during the lesson (progression) not their attainment (outcome). Learning objectives are also there to guide the creation, implementation and assessment of the student’s progression (lesson planning), and as such clear success criteria need to be established or created with the students. Also, learning objectives help to inform differentiation and scaffolding which teachers put into place to ensure learning takes place. However, it is not the learning objective(s) which determines the learning episode (pedagogy or andragogy approach), rather it is the teacher’s skillset and understanding of class dynamics, which is offset against the development of, arguably, secondary requirements such as: a) personal, social and emotional development, b) employability skills, c) numeracy, literacy and ICT skills and d) equality, diversity and British values.

1) Interdependency of the Learning Objectives and Learning Activity/ Episode(s)


Figure 1) Interdependency of the learning objectives and learning activity/ episode(s)

The learning objective and learning episode are interdependent: the learning episode must help the student achieve the learning objective, otherwise progression and or attainment will not take place. For example, if the learning episode is to watch a video and the learning objective is to critically evaluate, you as the teacher need to know what information/skills the video will provide for the students, which will enable them to achieve the learning objective (critically evaluate). It may be that there are several learning episodes (video, group discussion, fact sheet) which scaffold the learners’ understanding and potential to achieve the learning objective. Therefore, teacher assessment will need to take place.

2) Interdependency of the Learning Activity, Assessment and Learning Objective


Figure 2
) Interdependency of the learning activity, assessment and learning objective(s)

To ensure that the learning episode has achieved its desired outcome in relation to the learning objective, as teachers we need to have a set of indicators which can be used to demonstrate the student’s new level of knowledge and understanding. This could be based on teachers’ questioning, class/ group discussion (level of explanation linked to Bloom’s Taxonomy) and so on. However, ‘new knowledge and understanding’ implies that there must have been previous knowledge and understanding; thus, progression is the difference between a student’s understanding before learning (or before the learning episode) compared to knowledge and understanding after learning. For example, students in small groups, undertake a starter activity which requires them to complete a critical evaluation of mobile phones. The teacher then listens to each group’s discussion during the learning episode (teacher assessment), and supports and directs students’ thinking (questioning, feedback, feed forward).

At the end of the learning episode, each group feeds back to the whole class (teacher assessment, peer assessment, consolidation of learning). If the students clearly understand the critical evaluation, some learning episodes could be skipped as they are not needed (adapting the lesson based on teacher assessment). However, it is likely that the class will be divided in to different groups, e.g. those who have little understanding and those who know roughly what to do. This is a make or break moment: how will you differentiate learning for these two groups of learners? (For example, adapting the lesson based on teacher assessment, classroom management, learners on task.) It is inappropriate to leave one set of learners sitting waiting for teacher direction, whilst directing the other group. Equally, you cannot use a throwaway activity to keep the other group entertained whilst they wait.

Suggestion: separate the class into learning groups, either

  • mixed learning levels to encourage peer support, or
  • grouped based on current knowledge and understanding (those who know roughly what to do)

The group who know roughly what to do could have the ‘apply new knowledge’ activity: they have five minutes to review the activity and make a list of questions or a writing frame. This will give the teacher five minutes to set the group with little understanding of critical evaluation, the next planned learning episode. See section 4 for more detail.

3) Students’ Understanding of the Learning Objective is Critical


Figure 3) Aligning the students understanding of learning objective and lesson

Challenging the students’ understanding of the learning objectives is critical: it is imperative that students understand what work they need to complete during the lesson or learning episode. Teacher questioning – challenging the students’ understanding –  can be used to assess student readiness for the coming learning episode/event.  It is also used to align the students’ understanding, their perception of the topic and knowledge of core information. This is a critical stage, as the students begin to build success criteria or a list of ‘things’ they will need to do to achieve success.  As the teacher, you could make this explicit by asking the students to create success criteria.  This could be completed as a whole class or individually, followed by feedback to the whole class, enabling students to improve their own list. Alternatively the teacher writes the list on the board. It is important that the teacher aligns the success criteria with the assessment requirements, thus helping the student to achieve their potential and maximising progression.

A great alternative is to show exemplar work of a very high standard and quality and ask the students to create success criteria based on the exemplar work.  This will also give the students something to aim for. I often say that this exemplar work is at merit level (average) as this gives the low achievers something to aim for and the high achievers something to supersede.

4) Learning Objective, Learning Activities and Inclusive Curriculum

Now that the teacher has considered what learning activity they will use to foster learning and how the learning objective can be assessed using this learning activity, the teacher needs to consider an approach to inclusive learning, see figure 4. It is important that the learning activity is suitable for the range of learners within the class, and that all have the same chance at achieving success (attainment) and progression in their understanding.


Figure 4) Inclusive curriculum, learning objectives and learning episode

Typically, teachers plan a lesson for most learners and then differentiate for the students who need more support, and those labelled as gifted and talented. However, it does not matter which approach the teacher uses to plan an inclusive learning experience they need to consider the following:

4.1) Learning and personalisation

First I make a distinction between personalisation of learning (allowing students to internalise information/ learning in a meaningful way) and individualisation of learning (each student has their own learning plan and learning materials). Personalisation could be asking each student to take the information and explain it in their own words or explain it in a different context. It could also be allowing the students to situate their own learning. For example, instead of expecting everyone to present on the subject of multiple personality disorder, you could give the students a list of conditions and disorders to choose from.

Personalisation is about allowing the student to connect with their own learning in a meaningful and authentic way. This leads to increased motivation, resilience and output quality, continued below in learning and scaffolding

4.2) Learning and scaffolding

See, Differentiation and scaffolding

Allowing students who have chosen the same cognitive disorder to work in groups, will foster peer support (scaffolding each other’s learning): information and research will be explained at a more appropriate level for group members. They will check each other’s work to make sure it is correct and support other group members in creating the required output (poster, presentation etc…).  This takes the pressure off the teacher, allowing more time for assessment, feedback and questioning. Critically, it also fosters independent learning skills, collaborative learning, social (soft) skills and friendships.

4.3) Learning and differentiation

See, Differentiation and scaffolding

Differentiation, in this scenario, is closely linked to the personalisation of learning. For example, by allowing students to choose the output (poster, presentation etc…) the teacher encourages students to play to their strengths.  However, there are other ways in which differentiation can be provided. For example; initial learning resources are easy to engage with and offer just enough information for the learners who have additional needs. The teacher could provide web links which are categorised into a) core knowledge (pass), b) understanding the topic (merit) and c) challenge yourself (distinction).  Other items such as writing frames, templates, videos and discovery questions could be provided.

4.4) Learning and independent learners

With effective scaffolding and differentiation the teacher is creating an environment which fosters independent learning, leading to independent learners. However, when the teacher is helping students to engage with independent learning they will need to differentiate their support.  Some students will need some guidance in the form of questioning e.g. “How does X interact with Y?” Whereas other students would need much more support.

Other techniques include the ‘three before me strategy’, which puts a requirement on the student to ask three other students for support before they ask you (the teacher). However, it is important that the teacher enforces this otherwise the students will stop using it.  This could be something as simple as asking the student which three students they asked before they came to you.  Also, this will tell the teacher that at least three other students do not know the answer and it may be necessary to provide whole class intervention to address the issues (teacher assessment).

As suggested earlier, consider providing exemplar work of a very high standard and quality, indicate that the work is at merit level (average), this gives low achievers something to aim for and high achievers something to supersede.

4.5) Learning and the real world

I used the term ‘real world’ to cover everything from real world examples to embedding cross curriculum requirements such as numeracy, literacy, employability skills, equality and diversity. One of the most effective ways I have used in the past, when completing project work, was to integrate cross curriculum requirements in the assessment criteria, encouraging the students to complete and write notes on the assessment criteria in real-time.

An alternative is to create a criteria list which is permanently on display and ask the students to look at the list and identify how many criteria they have hit that lesson. The benefit of addressing cross curriculum requirements in this way, is that it reinforces to the student that they are using these criteria implicitly, and it informs the teacher about the usefulness of the embedded curriculum within their lessons, converting student/ teacher assessment into student feedback.

5) Summary

I have summarised how the learning objective is pivotal to the teaching, learning and assessment process whilst suggesting that there are four discrete, mutually dependent components when planning a lesson, see Figure 5.


Figure 5) Visualising the importance of learning objectives

Voting Systems – Metrics in Teaching and Learning


The purpose of this theoretical case study is to explore the three main approaches to using voting systems within the teaching and learning process and how the metrics can be used to explore an inclusive curriculum design.

The findings indicate that the critical factor in selecting the correct voting system is linked to the collected data.  For the university to data mine, allowing them to identify student support opportunities, the data needs to be linked to a specific student which means using own software or a third party.

In terms of value, the most cost effective and accessible method is approach two, which uses QR codes and Google forms. However, other issues such as data ownership and teachers performance need to be considered and litigated against.


Voting System, Metrics, Teaching and Learning, Pedagogy, Andragogy, Higher Education in Further Education, Inclusive Curriculum Design, Diversity, Fostering Learning in Large Groups


Using technology within the classroom has promised to revolutionise the teaching and learning process.  From the humble calculator to the computer to the interactive whiteboards and the virtual learning environment; state schools has been serving this mantra for many years. However, this shift to technology driving teaching and learning has led to a paradigm shift in teaching, from teacher centred (pedagogy) to student centred (andragogy) as explored by Pollard (2010, p.11). The HEA (2011) framework supports this shift (K1).  Setting aside the pedagogy and andragogy debate (Davenport & Davenport 1985; Delahaye et al. 1994; Holmes & Abington-Cooper 2000; Samaroo et al. 2013). Each education sector has had to come to terms with the constant demand for integrating technology within the teaching and learning process from students, governments and other stakeholders. One such solution for integrating metrics within teaching and learning is the student voting system (K2).

Scope and Development

To limit the scope, a student voting system for this case study is any electronic system which allows students to cast a vote.  Although it is important to recognise that there are other voting tools such as students raising their hands to agree or disagree with a question (K2, K3). Before the development and general acceptance of the ‘bring your own device’ movement, voting systems were integrated into the chair or table or clickers were issued to every student. However, prolific use of mobile technology by students has provided a cheap alternative, where the university provides software (Phone App) and Wi-Fi and the students use their own mobile device (K4).

Where this case study will refer to theories and practices such as Thomas and May (2010) four-pronged typology for student diversity (educational, Dispositional, Circumstantial, Culture) and theories of inclusive design it will not exclusively refer to particular theories (K2, K3, K5). Instead, key terms and concepts will be used, where appropriate, within the case study. The principle higher education thematic area of this case study will be fostering learning within large groups.

Common Approaches to Mobile Voting

Approach One: Most mobile voting apps require the students to install the app (software) onto their personal phone before they can place a vote. Once installed the students’ needs link their account with the university, often this is achieved by activating a provided account by the university. Now the student can use the voting software (Wi-Fi dependent) to interact within the learning experience. The advantage which this approach, is that individual students performance can be monitored and tracked during the module, year or length if the course. As a side benefit, the student’s engagement and the teacher’s ability to share new knowledge in a meaningful way can be gauged (K2, K3, K4).  However, this system is dependent on the student, their technology and their willingness to engage with a system which allows the university to track and monitor their performance. Linked to this, is how the university and teachers actually use the collected data, in respect to the DataProtectionn Act.

Often this approach does not integrate fluently within the presentation process, having to swap and change between different software and interfaces to view the incoming data; making the lesson feel disjoint (K1, K2, K3, K4).  However, more recent attempts, such as PollEveryWhere (2016) have provided plugins which allow the student responses to be directly displayed in presentational software, like Ms PowerPoint. This approach is focused on student centred technology which promotes greater independency and thus a student centred learning approach which supports the andragogical demands (K2, K3, K4, K5).

This approach offers inclusive curriculum design as it allows flexibility, accountability, collaboration and to a large extent transparency and equality. It also offers reasonable adjustment, technology enhanced learning and foster student engagement. Financially, this approach can become costly due to the constant updating of the app and server related hardware (K1, K2, K3, K4, K5, K6).

Approach Two: can be considered a quick and dirty approach as it relies on online survey software, for example, Survey Monkey, Google Forms or quizzes via the VLE. A principle issue with this approach is presenting the question behind a login function, such as using the VLE.  Although this allows the university to track which students have engaged with the process it does not, necessary provide an instant whole class graphical profile of the student responses (K2, K3, K4, K5, K6).  Also, the students quickly disengage with the process, as they dislike having to login to a system to cast their vote or response (K1, K2, K5, K6). However, software like Google Forms offers an instant profile of all responses allowing immediate feedback to the teacher and students.  This approach does not require additional software to be installed on the students’ mobile device as a web link to be provided via the learning materials, VLE or via a QR code.

This approach offers inclusive curriculum design as it allows flexibility, collaboration and to a large extent transparency and equality. However, there is little accountability as the lecturer holds the data. It offers reasonable adjustment, technology enhanced learning and foster student engagement. Financially, this approach can be minimal as the software and hardware are provided through a free online service, which is linked to the lecturer, not the university (K1, K2, K3, K4, K5, K6).

Approach Three: removes all technology from the student and places the burden on the university and lecturer.  Using Apps which employ the mobile device camera and pre-printed vote cards the lecturer scans the pre-printed voting card of each student who rotates the card to give different answers A, B, C or D (1, 2, 3, or 4). Although this reduces the number of variables, like the students’ devices and operating systems, it brings in additional issues such as having voting cards for each student (K1, K3, K6).

This approach offers inclusive curriculum design as it allows flexibility, accountability, collaboration and to a large extent transparency and equality. It also offers reasonable adjustment, technology enhanced learning and foster student engagement. Financially, this approach can become costly due to the cost of licence agreements and printed artefacts (K1, K2, K3, K4, K5, K6).

Value of Voting Systems

Students’ feedback on their current understanding of the presented materials is critical at informing lesson development, pace and future learning (Stewart et al. 2013).  Knowing where additional support is needed can inform workshop and tutorial development or allow the teacher to provide additional real-world examples to foster the learners understanding (Roth 2012). This supports student engagement, collaboration, flexibility and anticipatory needs of inclusive curriculum design (K2, K3, K4, K5, K6). Typically this is achieved through class questioning and teacher observation. However, this becomes problematic in a large lecture theatre. The issue of Socratic teaching (engage students with questions) within this context has been addressed by allowing the audience to post questions during or post lecture which can be answered the lecturer as they pop up on the screen or by other experts in real-time.  However, these posted questions can direct the lecture off topic,  cognitive overload for the lecturer and often the same question can be posed in multiple ways, requiring a filtering process (K1, K2, K3, K4, K5).  More importantly, a loss of anonymity by the student promotes a more authentic students engagement as they are less likely to conform to peer pressure due to the private response (as explored in Ash’s classical line experiment (Asch 1951)) (K1, K2, K3, K5).

A more controlled method of student engagement within their learning process is to pose carefully crafted question(s) which the students respond to (Cline et al. 2012).  Based on the students’ response the teacher makes an informed decision about the moving on or readdressing the previous content (within the lecturer or in the associated workshop/ tutorial).  The student response could also be displayed back to the students allowing them to compare their response to the group. Allowing the lecturer to make judgements about the constructive alignment of the students understanding in relation to the learning objectives as outlined by Biggs & Tang (2011, p.281) (K1, K2, K3, K4, K5, K6).

Voting Systems Analysis

There are many voting systems which can be integrated within the teaching and learning process. However, there are certain critical requirements which need to be considered when integrating mobile (phone and tablets) based voting systems into the learning process  (K1, K2, K3, K4, K5).  For example,

  • Student device ownership/ brings own device (inclusion/ exclusion)
  • Power levels of student mobile device
  • Student requires installing App on own device
  • Will app work with student device (hardware and operating system)
  • Most apps require an internet connection for the student to register their vote
  • Most apps require the student to register before voting (setup time)
  • Teacher computer requires the internet to view students vote

Mobile device ownership in the USA is 85% of students, similar results are presented for the UK , where mobile phone ownership is 93% across the UK (Ofcom 2015, pp.10, 65). However, is it reasonable to assume that all students own a mobile device which has the capacity to install a voting app and connect to the internet or is there a case for reasonable adjustment?  Wi-Fi access across the university is fairly standard, although there are some areas with poor or no access to the university’s Wi-Fi. On the whole, it could be argued that reasonable adjustment has taken place in terms of access to free Wi-Fi. With reference to devise ownership, a bank of tablet devices could be provided, allowing students to chose between using their own device (power levels, app installation etc…) or the university’s’ device (K1, K2, K3, K4, K5, K6).

The issue around installing and using applications on mobile devices can be an emotive one, where students using iPhones cannot access the voting app as it is designed to work on Android and Mobile Windows only.  The university cannot govern this, as the app is not own by the university. However, in recent years, the sector has recognised this as an issue and there has been a shift in multiple operating system software developments. This leads into the “Camera vs Voting App” debate (K1, K5).  The premise is based on the concept that by using the camera there is no software or hardware conflicts thus removing the voting app issue.  Also, QR code reader apps are freely available across all mobile operating systems and short hyperlinks (or hyperlinks can be embedded within the learning materials or VLE) can be provided for students who do not want to install additional software.  Therefore, the students mobile device needs access to Wi-Fi, free QR code reader,and a camera. All of these requirements can be provided via the university tablet devices. This approach also removes the need to register or log into a voting account. However, it will not be possible to automatically monitor specific students’ performance (K1, K2, K3, K4, K5, K6).

Application of Student Voting

The use of student voting is diverse and offers many opportunities to work more efficiently and effectively.

  • Poster Feedback (QR code – Google Form)

The students’ posters were displayed along with a poster number and a QR code.  Students were asked to review and provide feedback about the posters during a 30minute period, choosing to use their own device or the university iPad. All students elected to use the iPads provided by the university.  The online review form mirrored the requirements presented to the students at the start of the assessment. Alongside this peer review, was the teachers marking, where four faculty members marked the posters using the same process. Due to using Google forms the data was anonymous, only differentiated by either student or staff. By the end of the 30 minutes there were 120 responses across all posters. When the students return to the classroom the overall results were displayed via the projector allowing students to make conclusions of their peer marking against the teacher marking, which were very similar increasing transparency and equitability within marking.  The financial cost is very low whilst offering technology centred learning and different approaches to learning and assessment (K1, K2, K3, K4, K5, K6).

Due to the use of rating scales within the feedback form, the results were converted into grades which reduced the marking workload. However, a recommendation would be to include a declaration statement which asks the students and staff to agree a marking boundary (fail, pass, merit, and distinction) for the poster (K2, K4, K5).

  • Lesson Progression

Presenting questions to the students help’s the lecturers to make judgements about the current knowledge and understanding of the class. However, these need to be carefully crafted to avoid drifting off point and to ensure that the student responses are specific and relevant to the taught materials (Cline et al. 2012). The questions can be presented at any point during the lecture.  For example, asking students to respond to questions at the start of the lecture can act as a diagnostic tool (identifying areas of learning which are high and therefore increase the lesson pace) or as a baseline, followed by an end of lesson assessment to show how much progression the students feel they have made. Using the voting system within the mini-plenary process will also allow lecturers to gauge the lecture pace and knowledge transfer (K1, K2, K3, K4, K5, K6).

Within small groups there appears to be little advantage to using voting app’s as teacher questioning can be used effectively. However, through the voting systems students’ progression can be tracked allowing for the identification of students who are at risk. This is important for satisfaction levels, retention and belongingness whilst addressing student diversity (K2, K3, K4, K5, K6).

  • Lesson and Teaching Feedback

Using the voting system within the lecture provides valuable data which can be used to inform teaching, learning and planning.  For example, in the final plenary students can indicate what topic(s) they want to focus on during the workshops or request additional reading or support.  This process can also be used to make informed judgements about the suitableness of the examples and images using within the lecture.  Supporting elements of Thomas and May (2010) typology for student diversity (K1, K2, K3, K4, K5, K6).

This could be extended to identify which areas need addressing or improving for a given lesson, helping to refine the learning process and maximise learning potential. Critical issues like cultural diversity and personal experience are likely to influence the relevance of explanations and images. This could also link to teaching style and approach (K2, K3, K5, K6).

  • Student Engagement

Controversially, voting apps can be used to track student engagement, in the same way as the university virtual learning environment. Knowing which students are actively engaged with the learning process and how successful they are (number of correct vs incorrect response) can help to target support and intervention (Roth 2012). It could also be used to identify the gifted and talented students and provide specific intervention.  This will increase the added value potential and authentic learning experience of these students.  However, this could also be used to identify students who will achieve a high success within their dissertation, allowing staff to cream off the best students for themselves (K1, K2, K3, K4, K5, K6).

This information can also be used to tackle complaints and retention issues, see student voting and teacher’s performance, below.

The Pitfalls of Student Voting

  • Student Voting and Teacher’s Performance (remote observation)

Arguably, student responses can indicate the teacher effectiveness of explaining concept and critical information. The response can also indicate the level of student engagement and active learning within the teaching and learning process. These metrics can be data mined to create a normalised comparison of lecturers and student experience (K1, K2, K4, K5, K6).

  • Student Not Engaging Within The Learning Process

Using technology within the learning environment is always open to abuse. For example, using a laptop to type notes during lectures could lead to students updating their Facebook profile, checking their emails or placing bids on their eBay items, which all distract from the learning intention (K2, K3, K4, K5, K6).

  • Accessibility, Cost Of Software and Hardware

A university controlled system would be very expensive to implement and maintain compared to using a third party app and allowing the students to use their own mobile device.  In effect, the major expense would be the Wi-Fi and the licence agreement of the voting software (K2, K4, K6).

  • Technology Failure

Technology failure, when allowing the user to bring their own device would be focused on a) Wi-Fi issues, b) their party app and c) student and their device. However, if the university implement a university controlled system additional issues such as a) server access, software updates and security, c) software compatibility and d) usability and accessibility legal requirements (K5, K6).


In conclusion, the use of a student voting system offers many advantages which can be used to support the student engagement, constructive alignment and an inclusive curriculum design. The critical factor in selecting the correct voting system is linked to the collected data.  For the university to data mine, allowing them to identify student support opportunities, the data needs to be linked to a specific student which means using own software or a third party. Other issues such as data ownership and teachers performance need to be considered and litigated against. The most cost effective and accessible method is approach two, which uses QR codes and Google forms.


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Applying Milgram’s Findings to Teaching and Learning

Milgram’s classical experiment into obedience led to some surprising revelations, putting the ethical and bias issues to one side.  Milgram developed the Agency Theory (1974) which indicates that people will obey and take responsibility for their own actions (agentic state).  For example, those students who show concern, guilt and/ or remorse for their actions within school.  Whereas others will indicate that they were told to carry out their actions by another (autonomous state).  This is often been referred to as been deputised and thereby taking on authority. For example, “it’s not my fault, you put me in charge” or “John told me to hit him.”

Another way of interpreting this is when a teacher asks a student to act on their behalf, by acting as a teaching assistant (peer support) or collecting the bank of computers from the classroom next door.  This is all rooted in the concept of legitimacy (legitimate power), that is the person carrying out the activity (student) believes that the person who is making the request (teacher) as the authority to direct them, thus any consequence is levelled against the legitimacy of the teacher, not the student. However, there are other factors which influence the students’ obedience and conformity.

During the experiment, it was discovered that if the experimenter (person giving the instructions) was not wearing a lab coat (uniform) obedience drop by 20%. This indicates that legitimacy within the classroom is linked to the way a teacher dresses.  For example, physical education (PE) teachers wear sportswear whilst other teachers wear professional clothing such as a suit and tie. Some teachers refer to this as their professional armour.  What is interesting is that when the teacher (experimenter) was not present obedience dropped and the subject/ respondent cheated or attempted to circumvent the experiment to avoid giving the electric shock.  This is reflected in the classroom when the teacher leaves the room.  Students typically relax and start chatting, what Milgram discovered was that the proximity of the legitimate power (teacher) influenced obedience. For example, in the classroom, simply moving closer to a student who is talking will result in that student refocusing due to the perception of consequence (verbal reprimand) of their action (talking), behaviour management by proximity.  Other factors such as the number of students who are showing inappropriate behaviour can result in reduced conformity, leading to a poor learning experience for the whole class.  However, Milgram’s experiment suggests that if you can reduce the negative behaviour in one student, it is likely to reduce the negative behaviour in other students too (social modelling).

Finally, Milgram’s findings suggest that the location (classroom) has an impact on obedience and conformity. Indicating that the classroom and school is a teacher’s power based, linked to the students perceived value and prestige (high regard) of the school. Thus, if a school and/ or a teacher can build prestige within the classroom, students are more likely to follow and achieve the learning expectations. Along with other factors like a sense of identity and belongingness, this is one of the reasons of a student uniform.

A recent review of the Agency Theory (1989)

Visualising Learning: Differentiation and Scaffolding

Part of the Visualising Education Blog Series

Differentiation is another one of those terms which teachers interpret in many different ways.  For example, differentiation by outcome, differentiation by input, differentiation by learning level to differentiation by activity/ task.  Thus a simple definition of differentiation could be what will you do differently for each student/ group.  When I teach differentiation I use the RAGTOP acronym (Resource, Assessment, Group, Task, Outcome and Pace) as this gives the trainee teacher a framework to reflect and develop their personalised approach to differentiation within their specialised teaching domain. However, there are many items missing from this, such as questioning, modelling, and personalisation. Other acronyms have been presented such as PROMPT (Pace, Resource, Outcome, Modelling, Personalisation and Task). What is clear, is that these acronyms are starting points which aid the teacher in developing their own unique approach to differentiation for their students, classes and specific learning domains.

Each student brings their own needs and expectations to the classroom and the teacher needs to recognise and address these needs and expectations within the planning and delivery of lessons. The process of planning for differentiation is just a subroutine within the lesson planning process.  For example, based on student data the teacher could differentiate by assessment, where students produce different levels of work.  This is like the BTEC courses where the student(s) aim for either Pass, Merit or Distinction. (Ignoring the debate about how this type of provision results in reduced motivation and aspirations.) Similarly, differentiation by outcome, for example, can group one explain which muscles are used during the squat thrust, whereas, group two may be looking at the internal mechanism of the quadriceps during the squat thrust.  Semantically, it could be argued that the real difference between these two types of differentiation is that one has assessment criteria (BTEC) and the other is about establishing or consolidating knowledge.  However, at some point, the students will have to undertake an assessment to prove that learning has taken place and thus achieving the requirements of the qualification. I have provided a simplistic top-level view of this process in figure one. It is at this point where the confusion between differentiation and scaffolding starts to develop.

Simplistic Top-Level View of Differentiation

Figure One: Visualisation of differentiation within a lesson

Scaffolding (Wood, Bruner, and Ross’s (1976)) is about dripping information to allow the students to progress, which leads to attainment. For example, use capital letters and full stops, then moving on to capital letters, full stops and compound sentences and so on. Thus, Scaffolding is linked to the concept, ‘zone of proximal development’ (ZPD) which is attributed to Vygotsky and his theories of learning.  I will purposefully avoid the debate about who coined the phrase ZPD. However, in simple terms we can visualise ZPD as a journey to becoming a Master, with many hurdles along the way, I will refer to these hurdles as ‘points of frustration.’ When a student becomes frustrated it is because they ‘do not know what to do,’ they have hit a point of frustration and require additional input from the master (teacher, knowledgeable peer or video) to move to the next stage. This input may need to be differentiated based on the student’s needs, skills and knowledge. However, as the student begins to develop mastery of the subject they hit fewer points of frustration as they have more knowledge and skills to draw against, see figure two.

ZPD as Learning Journey

Figure Two: Visualisation of the ZPD as a learning journey

The key message is that differentiation supports the scaffolding process, although there is an argument that they are not mutually exclusive, thus, are dependent upon each other. Another way of looking at this is, how will you differentiate learning to avoid points of frustration, whilst move learning forward.

To visualise differentiation within lesson planning I have provided a simplistic lesson plan below, in figure 3 (for a discussion about lesson planning click here). Remember that progression is about identifying any improvement or the creation of skills and/ or knowledge (what does the student know now which they did not know before?). From the simplistic lesson plan example, figure 3, differentiation is based on the students learning level (Pass, Merit and Distinction) and their outputted work (Assessment). The objective is the students learning target and the visualise progression, is how the student will see that they have progressed. Scaffolding is achieved at two levels a) by completing each learning episode, which in this case is separated by the teacher’s input and b) within the learning episode where students can progress through the levels. Similarly, a group of students could spend the full lesson just completing the first learning episode, on the assumption that this is the core learning for the assessment and you need the pass students to achieve all the requirements for all levels (Pass, Merit and Distinction).

Notice that in the lesson plan, learning episode one leads into learning episode two. If during the first teacher input, the teacher’s assessment (Assessment for Learning) shows that some or all of the students achieve that requirement the teacher can skip the first learning activity. Making students who already have this knowledge and skillset, complete the first learning episode, is not progressing their knowledge, understanding or skillset and therefore no progression is taking place.



Figure Three: A simplistic lesson plan showing differentiation and scaffolding.

Visualising Planning By Learning Events

Part of the Visualising Education Blog Series

In 2011 I reviewed all my lecture presentations and teaching materials for reoccurring patterns and discovered that over a six month period. I went from having presentations which were inconsistent, illogical and all but ineffectual to developing a consistent repeatable cycle. This cycle can be summarised and is displayed in table one, below.

Table one:  Traversable Learning Cycle

1VisualiseVideo, image, real-life, narrative
2ConceptualiseCreate own definition and a list of indicators
3Transfer new knowledgeContent, theory, principles etc…
4Challenge new knowledgeQuestioning (verbal, paper etc…)
5Apply new knowledgeCase study, scenario, poster etc…
6Affirm learningChallenge and confirm new insight

If we assume that the hierarchy is traversable, a teacher could be in stage four (challenging new knowledge) and realise that some students have missed key points of the concept.  The teacher could jump to stage one and ask ‘do you remember the video at the start of the lesson, why did I show you that?’ or stage two, ‘what was your definition at the start of the lesson? …. (stage three) how does that link to this theory?’ This ability to traverse across the planned lesson and its content, allows the teacher to quickly locate, where within the scaffolding process, the miss-concept took place and therefore, address it at the correct location.  Critically, it is the process of helping the student(s) to make links between the information at the different learning stages and thereby restructure their understanding. What I have outlined is linked to concepts within the instructional design domain.

I realised, I was planning lessons based on learning activities.  The process was based around the following key questions.

  • What do I want the students to learn?
  • Which activity is best to transfer this knowledge?
  • What activity will promote maximum student engagement?

Based on the answer to these questions, a best-fit sequence of pedagogical or andragogical activities is identified. These activities are integrated to generate a planned lesson.  Figure one, below, provides a very simple illustration of the stages of the Traversable Learning Cycle highlighted in table one, above.

Student VoiceStudent VoiceStudent VoiceStudent VoiceStudent VoiceStudent Voice

Figure One: Lesson segment by activity

It is worth highlighting that for this approach to lesson planning to be successful, the teacher needs to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each activity in terms of learning.  Of course, there are practical considerations as well.

Now read: Visualising Learning: Lesson Planning

Visualising Learning Through Lesson Planning

Part of the Visualising Education Blog Series

Lesson planning is one of those issues which never seems to be resolved and is often associated with questions like ‘this is a waste of time,’ ‘I don’t have time to plan lessons,’ ‘what are Ofsted looking for,’ ‘why can’t we use the five minute lesson plan,’ and ‘they don’t plan like this in my friends school.’  However, this blog will not directly address these questions, rather it will take the standpoint of ‘how does a lesson plan visualise learning.’ Through visualising learning, teachers can explicitly show the key learning steps, associated assessment and student outcomes during a given lesson.  After all this is the fundamental purpose of a lesson plan.

Taking the five-minute lesson plan, presented by McGill at TeacherToolKit in 2010, see figure one below. It is clear this process is about visualising, in an explicit way, the intended learning for a given lesson.  However, Ofsted expectations have changed over the years which has led to the ‘leading to’ concept.  The ‘leading to’ concept simply means that everything you do is leading to something else, in this case leading to an increase in learning, through progression and attainment.  For example, upon completing activity one the learners will have the knowledge/ skill to tackle activity two. This infers that there must be some form of assessment at the end of activity one to make sure that the learners have successfully mastered the knowledge/ skill. In old school money, this is the ‘mini plenary’ where the teacher would formally challenge and check learning has taken place, using quick and simple assessment activities like questioning and quizzes. This would be the informal, yet explicit, monitoring of learning gained through teacher observation and student intervention and support.

SampleFiveMinLessonPlanFigure one) Five-Minute Lesson Plan, McGill 2010 (access from)

This highlights the critical element which good and outstanding teachers do autonomically and that is, using learning (reflective) cycles.  For example,  a) Plan, Do, Review or b) Teach, Try, Apply, Test or c) Activate, Share, Consolidate (See Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction). The learning cycle concept is one of the key features which lesson plans are trying to explicitly capture. Thus, any visualisation of lesson planning needs to reflect a learning cycle. The principle issues with this, is that, as teachers, we all have our own special version of a learning cycle. Indeed, I have three core learning cycles which I use with different learners.  For example, if I am working with learners who require more support I would use a learning cycle like: Activate, Tell, Explain, Demonstrate, Try, Address, Consolidate, Test.  For a more able group of learners, I may use the following cycle: Activate, Explore, Consolidate.  This links back to that infamous statement, ‘this lesson plan does not reflect the needs of the learners.’  I will purposefully ignore the sub-debate about the meaning of keywords within a learning cycle i.e. does the word apply infer the word test.

On the five-minute lesson plan, this learning cycle could equate to one learning episode (activity), depending on how the plan is filled in. However, there are some practical issues with this approach.  For example, the learners are completing coursework/ controlled assessment.  It could be argued that a lesson of this nature only has one learning episode (student log onto computer and continue with controlled assessment).  However, if we take a more micro approach, even this type of lesson will have discrete learning episodes.  Teachers do not sit silently, without interacting during the controlled assessment.  There is a continual monitoring and tracking process where the teacher is informally, either directly or indirectly, monitoring the work rate and engagement of the learners. This process, in its self, creates a cycle and therefore, can be explicitly indicated on the lesson plan.

Figure 2, below, offers a restructured and modified five-minute lesson plan which attempts to explicitly express the cycle within each learning episode. Using the coursework/ controlled assessment lesson, it highlights that there is still a repetitive cycle which the teacher is following.


Figure two) Five Minute Lesson Plan – Modified (download Ms Word version here)

Why Is Visualising Learning Through Lesson Planning Important?

Here comes that old cliché, ‘to ensure that the learners are moving forward with their learning.’  However, it is much more than this.  It is how teachers move from novice to good and outstanding teachers, as expressed above.  Critically, it is also how teachers become reflective practitioners. Teachers who recognise the structures which are in play within the classroom are more able to control or manipulate these structures to their advantages e.g. control behaviour, accelerate learning, capture students’ imagination or re-engage learners.

Personally, I would argue, that teaching is the integration of a multitude of cycles or subroutines which good and outstanding teachers do, for the most part, autonomically.  These cycles interact and in many cases act as a symbiotic relationship, as the teacher becomes good these symbiotic relationships are formed and become implicit (hard to explain).  I will write more about this in the future but allow me to illustrate. As teachers, we are continually asking key questions, such as ‘are the students engaged,’ ‘do the students know what the lesson is about’ or ‘does the student know how to be successful.’ A novice teacher explicitly considers these questions because they have not developed a) the skills or knowledge to recognise if a student is not engaged, b) select the best approach to tackle none engaged students and c) integrated these broad themes to create a seamless approach (symbiotic relationship) to tackling none engagement within the learning environment.

I have suggested how lesson plans are used to explicitly visualise learning and assessment, highlighting that this process promotes professional development and learners progression, whilst inferring that these two factors are positively collated.

Visualising Deep Learning

Part of the Visualising Education Blog Series

The idea of DEEP learning has been batted around for mainly years but few people truly understand the implicit knowledge which is being inferred to when it is used. The word DEEP is an acronym based on cognitive brain research, which discovered for learning to be retained for a period of time it needs to achieve one or more of the following: Distinctive (Eysenck & Eysenck (1980)), Elaborate (Craik & Tulving (1975)), Effort (Taylor et al (1979)) and Personalised (Rogers et al (1977)). I will purposefully avoid talking about fast and slow thinking, which is also referred to as parallel and serial thinking. However, DEEP learning and thinking are much more than the long-term ability to recall surface knowledge such as facts, it is how we use this knowledge to critically engage within the world around us.

The brain does not remember information and events in our spoken language, rather it uses pictures, sounds and meaning (semantic) (McGill 2016). Therefore, every time we speak our brain has to translate from the stored format to a language format which creates a pattern specific to the person’s native language.  This is empathised by the statement, ‘we know more than we can say and we can speak more than we can write.’ This statement is often attributed to David Snowdon from the Knowledge Management domain but there are references to similar statements from other domains too. However, the point I am making is that the brain brings together stored memories or information chunks which is used to construct meaning, thought or a response. If the pattern (sequence of sounds i.e. word) is correct the connections between the information chucks, become stronger increasing recall potential. It is important to acknowledge that others have proposed different approaches to understanding long-term memory such as Tulving (1985) indexing, who suggested that memories are group by semantic, episodic and procedure.

There is an argument that the learning process is explicit (easy to explain) in the beginning, as the connections need reinforcement before they become implicit (hard or impossible to explain). For example, when learning to ride a bike we learn to hold the handlebars and push down on the paddles. However, as this action is reinforced and practiced it is refined by considering how hard we hold the handlebars and how much force is applied through the peddles. Then, somewhere along the way, we stop thinking about it and it becomes autonomic.   This is the same for learning to write or draw. These patterns are typically referred to as schemas (the name can vary between domains), which firmly situates the learning process within the cognitive domain.

Piaget (1952 and 1964) is often accredited with the development and application of schemas, however, philosophers such as Aristotle (BC350) and Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) also refer to similar concepts. (Top tip, if you want to know about schemas ask someone with a childcare degree.) In very simple terms a schema is used to recognise objects and events. For example, ‘cup’ is a schema and, for argument sake, a cup has a handle and holds liquid. However, there are different types of cups i.e. mugs, tea cup, fine china cup and so on. The problem is that as individuals we all have our own personalised schemas.  For example, is a plastic bag a cup? It comes down to how the different types of cups are categorised. For a person like me a cup is anything I can drink out of and I have little or no interest beyond this. However, for my wife, there is an extensive range of cups and etiquette around using different cups.  The argument could be made that my lack of specific terms for ‘cups’ suggests that a) my schema is limited by my vocabulary or b) I do not know the difference between the different types of cups. This brings us back to how information is stored in patterns within the brain.  Where the schema is a visual representation of the pattern within the brain and the idea that the brain or knowledge and understanding can be represented in a three-dimensional spider diagram.

For the schema adjustment (change based on new information) or assimilation (integrating new information) process to take place, learners need to challenge their own understanding (effort) through active engagement with the learning process, which Piaget referred to as active learning.  By making the learning or content distinctive and elaborate the learner is more likely to remember and engage within active learning and apply effort, helping the learner to personalise the content. However, to support schema formation and cross-referencing, between different schemas, targeted vocabulary needs to be reinforced. Critically, problem-solving success is linked to a person’s ability to merge or cross-reference multiple schemes (Chi et al (1981), Marshall (1995, pg62)).

In summary, I have outlined the core components of deep learning and situating it within the cognitive domain of learning through the use of schema adjustment or assimilation. I have suggested how teaching and learning can be shaped to consider this approach to promote deep learning.

Link to info Proc Model:

Proposed Behavioural Card System

During my time as the Integration Manager, I was asked to draft a card monitoring and tracking system which would address the issues related to students who were on the behaviour card for a long period of time.  This policy was design to integrate into the inclusion process, which I was responsible for, whilst tapping into the expertise and skill set of the integration team as a whole.   This blog gives a historical perspective (2006) of the card system in a large inner city high school.

The profile of the students who spend a long period on card (more than four weeks) clearly mapped across to students labelled as BSED (behavioural, social and emotional development).  More specifically, nearly all of these students were receiving specialised intervention through the support team for classroom related behaviour. It was clear that the card system had to be separate from the specialised intervention or risk losing the student engagement within this process.  Although, there are clear links between the proposed system and the intervention system. The draft policy can be downloaded from here.


The students just laughed and thought it was another gimmick, until the first parent meetings and the constant phone calls to the parent(s) at work. Within three weeks and numerous complaints about phoning parents at work, most students had been successful and were taken off their behavioural card. Critically, for most students, they did not want me to phone their parent(s) or request a parent meeting.  Student feedback, highlighted that the consistent pressure on the parent(s) had resulted in the students’ losing privileges such as access to digital technology or been grounded.  Also highlighted was the robustness of the policy as there were no loop holes and it was consistently applied with no exceptions.

For the remaining students, it was a consistent application of the policy and support through the support team which resulted in these students settling down to a more manageable level of behaviour. Unfortunately, for a few students, they were asked to find other schools.

Key Requirements

  • The member of staff requires protected time at the end of the school day to contact parent(s), send letters and hold parent meetings.
  • The member of staff requires flexible timetabling in the morning (lesson one) to address any concerns, this is a critical requirement.
  • The member of staff needs to be seen as an authentic person of authority (for student and parent).
  • The system needs to be seen as a robust system which is consistently applied fairly to all students.
  • The member of staff needs to be committed and pro-active

High School Nurture Groups

As part of my role as the Integration Manager at Holden Lane High School I was asked to develop a nurture group system which increased core literacy whist addressing the behaviour, social and emotional development (BSED) of the students. In the following blog I have outlined how we addressed the core literacy requirements. This blog gives a historical perspective (2006).

Provision Map

I created a progression map (see figure 1) which visualised the literacy requirements of the nurture groups and created an assessment matrix which was used to level all student work. The progression map an assessment matrix can be downloaded from here.

Nurture Group Progression Map 2006
Figure 1: Nurture Group Progression Map 2006

Wall Display

One of the key issues which we faced as a team was the students exposure to reading and writing.  To tackle this we introduced read for comprehension using small blocks of text, about half a page.  Any more then this the students where unable to retain the information and engage with the learning activity. To support the students speaking and writing skills I created a range of wall displays which was integrated into the learning process.  For example, when supporting the students during the writing stage we ask the student to speak their sentence.  Then we compared their sentence with the sentences on the wall display which helped the student to visual  and restructure their sentence (up level their work). Below are examples of the wall displays which we used and were language accessible to our students.  These became a critical component within the assessment framework.  We also developed the students ability to level each over work and suggest were improvements can be made.

  • Jim was scared but Linda was not.
  • Jim was scared of the water but Linda was not.
  • Jim was scared of the water but his girlfriend Linda was not.
  • Jim was scared of the fast flowing water but his girlfriend Linda was not.
  • Jim was scared of the fast flowing water but his girlfriend Linda was laughing as they paddled down the rapids.
  • We know that Romeo loved Juliet.
  • We know that Romeo fell in love with Juliet at first sight.
  • The book describes how Romeo falls in love with Juliet at first sight.
  • Shakespeare describes how Romeo falls in love with Juliet at first sight, in act one scene five.
  • Romeo falls in love with Juliet at first sight and we know this as Romeo said “did my heart love till now… I never saw true beauty till this night,” act one scene five.
  • The man casted a dark shadow.
  • The man casted a dark, evil shadow over the boy’s body.
  • The man casted a dark, evil shadow over the boy’s body, which layed face down.
  • The man casted a dark, evil shadow over the boy’s body, which layed face down in the alley.
  • The man casted a dark, evil shadow over the boy’s body, which laid face down, twisted and distorted in the damp alley.

We also used inspirational sentences which were linked to the classroom, allowing the student to conceptualise the meaning.

  • As the light radiated through the window, rainbow coloured beams were projected across the room creating an explosion of colour on the wall.
  • The glorious sunset burnt the night sky to remind us that wars are not confined to the battlefront; they are also destroyers of cities.
  • The whiteboard was sparkling in the sunlight, like a star in the night sky.
  • The yellow walls of the classroom were like large sunflowers, reflecting the children’s energy as a mirror reflects an image.

Mini Projects

Once we had established the core literacy skills we started to integrate mini projects as learning activities. I have outlined two projects below.

1) Design an Actionman boat

This project consumed one full term and the students fully engaged with it due to its kinaesthetic nature. The students used the class time to undertake research and write their reports. As the test day grow near we asked the students to bring photos of their craft into school, allowing the other students to evaluate how successful the craft will be.  This also allowed us to check that the students had started to create the craft.

Project Brief

  • You need to build a boat or a raft.
  • Made from recyclable materials.
  • Support an Action-Man.
  • Research into boats and hull shapes.
  • Design Ideas.
  • Final Idea.
  • Build and test boat or raft.
  • Evaluate your project.

Example of wall display sentences.  These are based on what happened during the testing of the craft.

  • Kristy’s boat tipped over but Liam’s boat did not.
  • Kristy’s boat tipped backward but Liam’s boat stayed balanced.
  • Kristy’s boat tipped backwards as the actionman was sitting at the back of the boat but Liam’s boat stayed balanced.
  • Kristy’s boat tipped backwards as the actionman was sitting at the back of the boat but Liam’s boat stayed balanced because his boat had a large deck.
  • Kristy’s boat tipped backwards as the actionman was sitting at the back of the boat but Liam’s boat stayed balanced so the actionman did not get wet; as his boat had a large deck.

2) Love Story

The second project was an extended pace of writing, which can be downloaded here.  We wanted this project to promote parent engagement with their child’s learning and to use it at parents evening. To make this work I had to contact all the parents numerous times throughout the project life. Critically, during parents evening I compared this writing with the baseline writing activity which the student completed prior to starting the nurture group.  Although the parents were very proud of their child’s work they were expressing how positive they feel about supporting their child during the project.

Nurture Group Evaluation

The one year evaluation was very positive and can be downloaded from here. It was clear that the initial concept was successful and delivered the core literacy skills as required.  However, two key weaknesses were highlighted a) lack of numeracy skills and b) smaller then expected grains in behavioural, social and emotional skills (BSED).