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

The Deployment Of Teaching Assistants Within The Classroom, A Teachers Perception

For all stakeholders the deployment of the teaching assistant within the classroom is critical but even more so to the success of the teacher’s performance management in relation to the the ‘lesson observation’ against the Ofsted performance grade as outlined in the Ofsted: School Inspection Handbook (2013).

Quality of teaching grade descriptor – good

Teachers and other adults create a positive climate for learning in their lessons and pupils are interested and engaged.

Quality of teaching grade descriptor – outstanding

Teachers and other adults authoritatively impart knowledge to ensure students are engaged in learning, and generate high levels of commitment to learning across the school.

Statistically speaking a teacher is 80% likely to have a teaching assistant within the classroom during an Ofsted lesson observation (ATL survey of teaching assistants (2013)).  This means that it is the teacher’s responsibility to ensure that the teaching assistants are using their knowledge and skills to creating, developing and maintain a positive learning climate where pupils are engaged within the learn experience.

The knowledge and skills which the teaching assistant brings to the classroom was highlighted by teachers as a major concern (Neill (2002)) arguing that the teaching assistant lack of subject specific knowledge creates more issues than they solve.  I would argue that it is not the responsibility of the class teacher to train the teaching assistant within the subject rather it is the school’s responsibility to ensure that the teaching assistant has these skills, knowledge and drive for the subject.

Bourke (2009) suggested that training should reflect a collaborative process which focuses on “reflection on learning” and “sharing meanings and understandings about effective support of all students.”  However, it is assumed that the teaching assistant has the subject specific knowledge and that the teaching assistant is given time to participate within shared planning.

Interestingly, Farrell et al. (2010)) found that the deployment of teaching assistants needs to be carried out with specific focus to the individual learning needs of each student rather than a small group of children scattered across the classroom.  This suggests that the deployment of the teaching assistant should be focused on sitting with an individual student or a small group sitting together within the classroom.  Where the teaching assistant would be responsible for the creation and maintenance a positive learning climate where the student is engaged and interested.  However, if the teacher assistant does not give the students time to work independently during the lesson then the student will become reliant on this support creating a situation of learned helplessness.

To support this Blatchford et al. (2011) concluded that teaching assistants need to undertake training which focuses on the pedagogical skills as these are the critical skills which teachers rely on when deploying the teaching assistant within the classroom.  The teachers assistant application of their pedagogical knowledge and skills are vital in establishing the engaging and interesting learning experience which teachers are required to deliver to achieve a ‘good’ during an Ofsted lesson observation.

Therefore, the deployment of the teaching assistant within the classroom is influenced by the subject specific knowledge and (pedagogical) skills which the teaching assistant brings.  Once in the classroom the teaching assistant needs to be placed in a location where they can target intervention without moving around the classroom whilst offering an opportunities to foster independent learning skills within the students. In doing so, allowing the teaching assistant to apply their pedagogical knowledge and skills to maintaining an engaging and interesting learning experience.

Visualising Intervention – Pre & Post Assessment

How can we show that non-teacher intervention is working in school

Note: this article is based on working practice during 2005

Part of the Visualising Education Blog Series

It is clear that current and future developments within the education system are focused on using data to prove that change has taken place.  However, the question is what change or changes will support influence judgments about support staff. Personally, I believe that support staff should not be solely judged on the learners’ academic performance.  Support staff deliver a range of interventions aim at different areas of the learner’s holistic development e.g. behavioural, social and educational development (BSED).  Thus, the support worker performance or impact should be judged against the stated needs of the learner, creating three categories of performance or assessment which inferences three core skillsets wrapped in a clear understanding of pedagogical practice.

The biggest issue facing government, schools and support workers is how to show that the taxpayer is getting value for money from the pupil premium fund.  All too often this falls back on to the academic changes of the learners who have been supported by a support worker(s) which is funded by this pot of money. However, research from across the developed world shows that this is not a valid method of proving support workers impact.

There is a shift, back to the pre and post-baseline assessment of learners to show that intervention has made a difference to the individual child and young person.  The approach is a simple idea and can show progress in the learner’s development, which in turn can be used to argue that these developments have contributed to any academic improvements of the learner and those learners who share the learning environment, especially if the principal issue is behavioural or disruption.

Figure one shows the mean average of all intervention over one-half term (about six weeks) of 80 students using the Jane McSherry  Coping in School Survey. The graph has five sections and each section has five bars (columns) where the first three columns are indicator columns and the last two columns indicate the mean scores for pre-intervention and post-intervention.

Average Intervention Gains - Mean
Figure1) Average Intervention Gains – Mean – CISS Assessment

It can be seen that all sections or skillsets have achieved a mean increase after the half term intervention, except for the skillset ‘self and others.’ This was a consistent trend and only showed a marginal increase over the year. Even after focused changes to the intervention methods used to targeting this skillset. I would also like to draw your attention to the ‘self-management and behaviour’ skillset. The gains in this skillset were always consistently low.  Suggesting that intervention in these two skillsets needs to be specific and enduring which in turn needs to be reflected in any performance assessment of support workers.

This overarching data can inform areas like:

  • The deployment of support workers (based on the support worker skillsets) in relation to the learners specific needs
  • The training and CPD needs of the support staff to target weak areas
  • The overall impact or difference that the support team has had over that half term

WARNING: Finally, take a moment to consider which assessment you are using to show the impact of the support team.  There are many different assessments which test many different aspects of the learner and equally have different copyright conditions. Be very clear about what you want the assessment to show.  For example, if you want the assessment to show the learners attitude to school and learning then there is no point completing a self-esteem test.

Once you have selected an assessment you now need to consider the ethical and moral issues around implementing it. If you have chosen an assessment used by health professionals to support mental health assessment and your data shows that the learner is severely depressed, what will the school put in place to support that child to guard against liability or even worse, self-harm. Also, do you have the (ethical) right to implement the assessment without informed consent from the parent and/ or the child.

Part of the Visualising Education Blog Series