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.

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a-simplistic-lesson-plan-showing-differentiation-and-scaffolding

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

Stage Outcome
1 Visualise Video, image, real-life, narrative
2 Conceptualise Create own definition and a list of indicators
3 Transfer new knowledge Content, theory, principles etc…
4 Challenge new knowledge Questioning (verbal, paper etc…)
5 Apply new knowledge Case study, scenario, poster etc…
6 Affirm learning Challenge 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.

Visualise Conceptualising Transfer Challenge Apply Affirm
Letter Letter Letter Letter Letter Letter
Essay Essay Essay Essay Essay Essay
Defining Defining Defining Defining Defining Defining
Poster Poster Poster Poster Poster Poster
Flyer Flyer Flyer Flyer Flyer Flyer
Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo
Video Video Video Video Video Video
Presentation Presentation Presentation Presentation Presentation Presentation
Narrative Narrative Narrative Narrative Narrative Narrative
Student Voice Student Voice Student Voice Student Voice Student Voice Student 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.

FiveMinLessonPlanMod_V3

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 Assessment Words, Blooms Taxonomy, Objectives and Essay Titles

Part of the Visualising Education Blog Series

Updated: 15th Nov 2016

Please remember that I am not an English teacher and this is an exploration of a quick and dirty method of developing a student’s writing skills.

 

Since the mid 90’s I have been using the mobile comparison table to teach essay writing. More recently, my teaching colleagues have been adopting the same approach to support their students in understanding how to write their assessments or achieve lesson objectives. What is great about this approach is that it is accessible to all and can be used with any subject, as it is transferable. I have outlined my approach below, using learning objectives and tables.

First I identify the phones and keywords (figure one, below) and explain to the students that all their assessed work will include an analysis, evaluation and justification. This creates a growth mind-set by encouraging them to think about higher grades.

 

 phone2 Identify

Discuss

Explain

Compare and Contrast

Analysis

Evaluate

Justify

 phone1

Figure one) Pictures of phones and keywords

 

I explore with the students what each keyword means, keeping it very simple by using the following:

Identify Make a list.
Compare and contrast What is the same and what is different?
Analyse Compare and contrast – which includes the strengths and weaknesses
Evaluate Link the analysis to a context/ scenario
Justify Make a recommendation based on the evaluation

 

Using the following learning objectives, I will demonstrate how I use this approach to scaffold and focus student attention on what is important, thereby increasing the student’s potential to achieve higher grades and improved writing skills. I also regularly reinforce this method within my teaching, learning and assessment.

 

Objective: Identify the features, functions and properties of two mobile phones

I use a very quick and simple process to help the students achieve the objective by creating a comparison table (see table one), which you find on most shopping websites. This creates a visual learning episode for the students and structures their thinking. It also allows the teacher to quickly assess student understanding of the keywords within the learning objective. The activity can be restricted to identifying three items for a) features, b) functions and c) properties. Students can then readily demonstrate their understanding of the keywords.

 

Table One: Identify the features, functions and properties of two mobile phones

Features Functions Properties Phone One Phone Two
Keypad Y
Emails Y
Plastic Y Y

 

Objective: Compare and contrast the features, functions and properties of two mobile phones

By completing table one, the student’s learning has been scaffolded.  This will also act as a reference or checklist which the students can use when comparing and contrasting the two mobile phones. For example, the teacher’s learning instruction may be; ‘From your table, compare and contrast three features, three functions and three properties.’  This might look something like this:

Phone one has a keypad, whereas phone two projects the keys onto a touch screen. Also, phone two can send emails but phone one cannot. However, both phones have a plastic body.

At this stage, I would spend a lot of time talking about how words determine the students’ overall grade. For example, by using the word ‘however’ or ‘but’, you are signalling to the reader that you are about to create an argument.

 

Objective: Analyse the features, functions and properties of two mobile phones

The analysis could be considered as part three and is about adding the strengths and weaknesses to the compare and contrast content. To extend the table (see table two), you can add two additional columns; strengths and weaknesses.

 

Table Two: Analyse the features, functions and properties of two mobile phones

Features Phone One Phone Two Strengths Weaknesses
Keypad Y
  • Can be visually seen
  • Letter on each key
  • Location never changes
  • Keys fall off
  • Key stops working
  • Lettering fades

 

I have learnt/observed over the years that it is important to focus on getting the students to integrate the strengths and weaknesses, rather than writing separate paragraphs. This integration helps the students to develop their writing skills quicker. The analysis may look like this:

Phone one has a keypad which can be seen and felt by the user. The position of the keys never change, whereas phone two projects the keys onto a touch screen which allows the phone to be rotated, or the button size to be changed. However, the use of a keypad could result in the keys falling off, letter fading or even stop working, whereas the lettering never fades on the touch screen, although the screen may fail and prevent the keys from working.

At this stage, I ask the students to use a highlighting pen to emphasise all the signalling words in their own work. This allows the students to recognise the effect of keywords in their own work; prompting them to write at a higher level.  This is a really good peer marking activity.

 

Objective: Evaluate the features, functions and properties of two mobile phones

To evaluate we need a context or situation:  in this case, who will use the mobile phone and for what purpose? This is about two main factors a) the user needs and b) the environmental needs, see table three. The student also needs to consider the strengths and weaknesses of the features, functions and properties of the mobile phone, see table two.

Simply, the evaluation is an extension of the analysis, as the analysis is an extension of the comparison. Using this concept, quickly allows the student to develop and refine their understanding of the required writing skills.

 

Table three: evaluate the features, functions and properties of two mobile phones

User Environment Features Strengths Weaknesses
Blind person Everyday life, Two children, Office worker Keypad vs. touchscreen
  • Can be visually seen
  • Letter on each key
  • Location never changes
  • Keys fall off
  • Key stops working
  • Lettering fades

 

An example of an evaluation may look like this:

Phone one has a keypad which can be seen and felt by the user. The position of the keys never change, whereas phone two projects the keys onto a touch screen which allows the phone to be rotated or the button size to be changed. For a blind user, being able to feel the shape of the key and knowing its position is the strength of the keypad phone.  However, the use of a keypad could result in the keys falling off, letters fading or even failure to work, whereas the lettering never fades on the touch screen but the screen may fail, preventing the keys from working. For a blind user, the lettering fading is not a concern and both phones could experience a failure to accept an input. It is worth considering that phone two can convert voice to text, thus, removing the need to press a key or use a touch screen.

 

Objective: Justify the features, functions and properties of two mobile phones

Justification or recommendation is an extension to evaluation, just as analysis is an extension to the comparison. You cannot recommend or make a judgement without first analysing the two phones. This justification or recommendation can be integrated within the paragraph(s) or written as a separate paragraph(s). For example:

It is recommended that if the user is able to use phone two, with a touch screen, then they should opt for this phone as it offers more features and functions, which can be used to speed the communication process. It also offers a wider range of features and functions, which allow the user to engage with their two children. However, if the user cannot use the touch screen than the keypad is a good alternative.

 

Now consider reading these:

Enquiry Based Learning – A Proposed Framework 2011

Avatar_Dan_Campbell

This article is based on a presentation to Mr N Hackett (SLT, Learning and Behaviour) and the Enquiry Based Learning (EBL) steering committee at Birches Head High School in support of their creation and implementation of a new EBL curriculum.  The purpose of the presentation was to establish a baseline model which the committee tweaked to reflect the schools needs during the transition to student-centred learning.

Based rules

  • Learning takes place in two ways, inductively and deductively
    • Inductively (we define as insight through accessing media (reading and listening))
    • Deductively (we define as insight through experimentation (testing and data gathering))
  • We aim for EBL to be mainly a deductive process
    • We recognise that EBL in real-terms will be a scaled blend of both
      • Subjects like RE and History will offer a greater inductive focus
      • STEM subjects will offer a greater deductive focus

Learning through discovery requires:

  • Acceptance of failure (intrinsically and extrinsically)
  • A planning process
  • A testing process
  • A review process

Key Assumption

When I drafted this model I made some assumptions:

  • There must be a physical product at the end of the enquiry (student achievement)
  • Level assessment is based on the physical product
  • Not all learners are ready for enquiry based learning (differentiation)
    • Some learners will feel unsupported
    • Some learners will believe that learning is a transfer of knowledge and skills
  • Enquiry can be of any length
  • Learning falls below the non-observable line
  • Demonstration of learning is above the non-observable line

 

EBL_Model_Part_1

 

The Big Question

Central to enquiry based learning is the big question.  The big question tells the learner what they need to investigate (discover).

Based on the big question the learners create a list of key questions which form the basis of the enquiry. By finding the answers to all these questions, the learner will answer the big question.  A example of differentiation would be to provide a list of ten key questions and ask the learner to pick five.  To help the students to structure their thinking I propose the following framework.

Question One) This is my question
What do I know I know….
What don’t I know I don’t know….
What am I looking for I need to know ….
Where will I find the answer Wikipedia, Google, Youtube

The Learning Process

Key concerns:

  • How and what do we assess during this stage of confusion and discovery
  • Is it possible to assess attainment level at this stage
  • How will the student and the teacher measure attainment
  • Reviews of success and/ or attainment progress
    • Action plans
    • Journals
    • Diaries
    • Blogs
    • Tick sheets
  • Curriculum or Assessing Pupils Progress (APP) … i.e.
3 Communicating information Evidence
Recognise common layouts  and how these help the intended audience Most of the webpages which I have investigated use the three box layout, some used the four box layout.
Use and explain why you have used the right layout on your product see ‘web_layout.doc’ in my EBL folder

 http://nationalstrategies.standards.dcsf.gov.uk/node/110236 (Jan 2011)

    • Small group review and focus groups
    • Application and assessment of SEALs (Social, Emotional and Learning Skills)
    • Application and assessment of PLTs (Personal, Learning Thinking Skills)

 Measure Attainment – Approach and Needs

  • What approach(es) wll we use
    • Student centred (Independent)
    • Teacher centred (Controlled)
  • Do we need to teach the students to understand and use these approaches
  • Do we need to teach the teachers to understand and use these approaches
  • EBL is about students questioning and controlling their own learning
  • Who will determine success and/ or the success criteria

Preparing for Enquiry Based Learning

Formal & Informal Teaching

  • Whole class
  • Small groups
  • Skill/ knowledge workshops
  • Curriculum workshops (steer learning/ achieve NC)
  • Individual coaching
  • Student leaders (pass on knowledge and skills)

Anticipated Needs

  • Planning (Before Project)
    • Anticipate what information the learners will need (web links, videos, books etc…)
    • Create a list of keywords
  • Real time needs (During the project)
    • Based on feedback from the learning process provide intervention (knowledge and or skills)
    • Link to assessment targets (NC, SEAL etc..)
Enquiry Based Learning - A Proposed Framework 2011
Enquiry Based Learning – A Proposed Framework 2011

 

Download Planning Document – Sample