Reflections from Reading
I’m currently about half-way through reading John Hattie’s Visible Learning for Teachers (Routledge, 2011). It’s a comprehensive overview of ‘what works’ (and what doesn’t) based on the evidence from the meta-analyses outlined in Visible Learning (Routledge, 2008).
There are a couple of key take-aways from it, but I think the most important is about teacher mind-frames and expectations: ‘the teacher’s view of his or her role is critical’ (Hattie, 2011: 18). This idea is a driving factor throughout the book.
One of the most useful ideas out of the book (so far) has been where Hattie talks about the learning strategies that students use, and the importance of the way students and teachers are adaptive in the way learning is conducted. Hattie lists the effect sizes of various meta-cognitive strategies students might employ (ibid: 117) and stresses the importance of teaching these strategies to students explicitly in the context of the domain. In my role as Head of Year, I had thought of creating a generic study-skills programme for my year group in preparation for starting the GCSE, but reading this caused me to take pause and re-evaluate.
Assessing Self-Concept, Motivation, and Learning Strategies in English
I have instead begun to develop a pre-assessment tool to administer to my classes in September, that asks students about their attitudes to learning and their self-concept in English, as well as their proficiency at using some of the meta-cognitive strategies that Hattie outlines in Chapter 6: ‘The flow of lessons: learning’.
Students will use a RAG scale to self-assess their proficiency and attitude to learning in English, and have the opportunity to describe other processes they use, as well as to tell me about a time they successfully overcame a challenge in English. This serves a few different purposes:
- As a teacher new to the school, it will give me an overview of the learning profile of students, so that I am not reliant on pre-conceptions/stereotypes.
- It will allow me to get to know students individually
- It will help me to implement opportunities to explicitly teach and model the independent learning strategies so that all students can become more successful learners
- It will help me to identify students who are already proficient and successful learners, with more highly developed self-regulation, to offer peer-tutoring opportunities to.
Planning for Implementation
In starting a new role in September, I am presented with an amazing opportunity to consolidate the past 4-5 years of teaching experience and start from a strong point. In the first weeks of teaching, I plan to focus heavily on teaching and modelling classroom expectations and procedures to support behaviour for learning, and more importantly: attitude and talk for learning.
The self-assessment tool is a great opportunity to open a dialogue with students about the importance of these. The assessment will be administered in an early lesson, probably lesson 2 or 3 of the year. This will inform my medium and long-term planning, with the objective of having all students be able to independently select and apply at least five of the learning/metacognitive strategies (outlined below):
To assess the impact of this explicit teaching of a range of meta-cognitive strategies, I plan to re-administer the test mid-way through the year, which will hopefully give me information about the learning strategies my students use, and valuable feedback about my teaching (in concert with formative and summative assessment data).
Now, I’m not (yet) an expert on self-regulation and cognition. I’m a pretty effective teacher of English, and an expert learner. I plan therefore to enlist some help when it comes to developing (or choosing) the best teaching and learning resources to assist me with this task. One of the first ports of call will be the brilliant Learning Scientists Dr Megan Sumeracki and Dr Yana Weinstein. They have a huge selection of blogs and advice for teachers on how to implement these strategies, as well as downloadable posters and guides with lovely designs by @OliCav (Oliver Caviglioli), who also contributed to the illustrations in Carl Hendrick and Robin Macpherson’s What Does this Look Like in the Classroom? (my review).
I anticipate that, particularly in older classes, there will be some students who already demonstrate a high degree of self-regulation and who can use and even select appropriate learning strategies in English. These students will then be well-placed to tutor their peers in effective ways of implementing some of the target strategies, such as memorising using mnemonics or flashcards, or self-quizzing. Peer-tutoring is well established at having a positive effect on learning for the capable/proficient tutor as well as the novice, as it further promotes self-regulation and development towards mastery.
- Administer the test and analyse the data, to create a ‘learning profile’ of each class.
- Identify novice, capable and proficient self-regulators and adapt seating plan/peer-tutoring groups to reflect this. (NB: This is not necessarily tied to achievement or attainment in English)
- Identify appropriate points in the SoL to teach each skill explicitly. This will be governed by the content and learning intentions.
- Model and teach the skills
- Provide time for students to practise in lessons and with peer-tutors (where appropriate)
- Set homework tasks that involve deliberate practice of the content, using the target skills E.g. self-quizzing
- Measure the impact using Hattie’s guidance and re-administering the self-assessment tool.
Potential roadblocks and flaws
- I may need to select a specific class to conduct this experiment with, and seek to collaborate and develop the experiment with colleagues in order for it to be successful.
- I am not yet embedded in the school: there is going to be a lot to learn (especially in the first three months) and I may be over-estimating my ability to keep on top of the new things I want to implement, as well as just dealing with the new procedures, policies and ways of doing things I will need to adapt to.
However, I am fortunate to be joining a school and a department with a positive culture and one that I think will be conducive to implementing ARPs.
I have included the Self-Assessment proforma as a download below, and will be updating this with the results as Term One progresses. I invite readers to join or collaborate on the experiment with me, which will keep me accountable! Please let me know if you’d like to get involved or collaborate by getting in touch or leaving a comment below. Or alternatively, tweet me @A_R_zanetti
Stay tuned for future lesson plans, reflections and updates!