Updated: Aug 21, 2021
There are multiple opinions on how to measure the quality of education ranging from the quality and richness of class discussions to the expertise of the teacher to the final exam results of the students.
OFSTED states it will judge schools' quality of education according to the following criteria:
I am going to provide a walk through of how a teacher or subject department might demonstrate these three benchmarks using a series of lessons, planning, resources and reflections.
In order to quickly convey my approach, I am going to tackle the following:
A KS3/National 5 History lesson on the Munich Putsch.
Lesson planning over the course of 4 x 1 hour lessons.
How to reach all students using the UDL framework
The creation of engaging resources.
Assessment - formal and informal.
The slides below show how I would break down and show my intent, implementation and impact:
What I am demonstrating here is that I have thought about what OFSTED regard as the benchmarks of outstanding quality of education and used these to provide examples of my actions or commitment. This ranges from providing opportunities for all students to access the curriculum to building up to support retrieval practice and finally exam style questions.
This is an example of a series of lessons that I have taught, so I want to share my approach so you can see the ideas above in action:
The lesson flow
I started by showing the image below and asking 'What is going on in this picture?' This is a great starter task because they were able to identify Ludendorff and Hitler from their prior knowledge and this then led to questions about why these two men were together and who the other men were:
I began with the following sheet which contains all of the factual points that a GCSE/National 5 pupils would need to know about the flow of events:
I discussed the flow of events and talked to the pupils about the use of dual coding (the use of images and words) and colours to help them visualise and make connections when they will need to retrieve this information again. Many of them were on board with my suggestion that they closed their eyes and tried to see the wheel above in their minds. Some of them were able to remember the images and then work their way to the explanation of each part of the event. We spent around 15 minutes on this sheet, with me talking and asking higher-order thinking questions about the implications or consequences of each event on the wheel.
I moved on to the second task - a paired task in which pupils were required to make connections between the individuals - all of whom had already been introduced. I modelled one example on the sheet:
I also projected the images on to my whiteboard and after 10 minutes I went around each pair and asked them for their best connection - we did this multiple times. I used follow-up questions to draw out their understanding and identify any misunderstandings:
I kept a score to determine which pair had made the most accurate and detailed connections.
Task three required individual pupils to re-consider the events of the putsch and complete a partially completed cartoon strip of the key events. I walked around the room, supervising and asking questions as I chatted with a number of pupils:
The next ask required paired pupils to consider sets of three words and phrases. They were not permitted to use their notes. They had to try to construct a sentence using each word, showing the connections between them. For example, if the word set included, ‘Chancellor Stresemann, the Ruhr and Bavarian’, the sentence could read as follows:
Chancellor Stresemann’s decision to begin passive resistance in the Ruhr was unpopular with a number of Bavarian state politicians.
This took more time than I had anticipated, and yet the results were fantastic. Again, I kept scores for the paired work. The competitive element really fuelled this task and pupils were actively engaged and talking to each other about the task. I don't think I had ever witnessed my pupils so animated.
Pupils were then shown the following slides that were projected on to my whiteboard. They were required to, without notes, construct a number of sentences that included the word or phrase shown. After 15 minutes the pupils consulted their other half of their paired group and worked together to fill in gaps or improve/correct their ideas:
I then went around the room calling upon the pairs to give a sentence. Each accurate response gained one mark and was added to the ongoing tally. I observed how the pupils actually appeared to be enjoying themselves - not something I witnessed with the textbook-comprehension task. Every single pupil was active and engaged.
I then posed a bigger and higher order level analytical question - Why was the putsch a failure? Instead of describing the event pupils had to think about the things that went wrong for Hitler on that evening which resulted in the failure of the putsch.
With notes pupils, in groups of 4, were asked to come up with 6 reasons. They were handed out a diagram of a ladder onto which they could write their 6 reasons:
Many found this tricky, but I advised them that this was a desirable academic challenge and that collectively they could, if they thought and tried, come up with 6 reasons. They accepted the challenge and while most could achieve 4 solid reasons, only a few groups achieved all 6 accurate reasons.
The groups were then asked to rank the reasons for the failure in order of their importance. A follow up whole class discussion ensued and we arrived at a consensus for the order of importance of the failures of the Nazis in 1923. I asked a trickier question relating to the notion that the putsch was not, in fact, a failure. I asked the class how might one justify such a statement. Only a small proportion of the class were able to access this question. I realised that I needed a fair chunk of waiting and thinking time to garner any responses from my pupils.
The final task required pupils to read a short extract from Hitler's official biography and then in their groups of four, discuss the questions provided. I monitored the discussions by walking around the room, prompting and drawing out further ideas where appropriate.
The tasks above took around two hours of teaching time. I set a simple retrieval practice online quiz for homework. The quiz is self marking and I could download an Excel spreadsheet with the results by pupil. This meant that I could pin point any misconceptions or confusions in the next lesson. This is such a useful tool for a teacher and since it is a low stakes assessment for the pupil, the participation rate was high.
When the class came back two days later, their first task was to complete a 'cloze' reading of the Munich putsch without notes. This simple task required pupils to 'fill in the blanks' of the events of the Munich Putsch. After 10 minutes I went around the class asking each pupil in turn to give a response to the missing word. This type of retrieval practice is low stakes and pupils tend to find this fun.
In order to make these tasks accessible (using UDL principles), I created the following interactive e-Book. Pupils could download it, print it, enlarge the pages and click on the embedded hyperlinks to gain a deeper understanding or definitions of words:
Pupils then completed a key vocabulary activity- a list of 10 important individuals and concepts from the previous lesson for which they had to provide definitions or explanations.
I then moved to an examination practice question. I taught the technique - you can find my National 5 Skills Workbook here.
I wrote an original question as follows:
Evaluate the usefulness of Source A as evidence of the reasons for the failure of the Munich Putsch, 1923. (5)
Source A is from a textbook written by a modern historian in 2010
The Munich Putsch failed in 1923 because the Bavarian politicians, von Kahr and von Lossow abandoned the putsch. They also telephoned the police to inform them of the uprising. Hitler failed to secure the army barracks and this meant that he did not have control of the armed troops. Ludendorff encouraged Hitler to carry on and march to Berlin as he was convinced that they could take over the Bavarian government and later, the national German government. If the putsch had been a success, Ludendorff would have been appointed as Commander-in-Chief.
I projected and went through the set technique required for this type of source question for National 5 History (I used the mnemonic 'JTACO' which received a united cringe from the class, but they will probably remember it as a result):
Pupils completed the timed examination practice without notes but I offered a writing frame to all pupils:
With a mark scheme provided, pupils marked their own work and then swapped their work with their neighbour to check their assessment judgements.
A model answer was projected on the screen and explained:
These tasks all proved to be more engaging, active and resulted in a firm grasp, dare I say it mastery (in the long term) of this material.
Why did this work?
I believe this strategy worked because it gave pupils the opportunity to rehearse material that connected to their background knowledge. It also allowed for subtle differentiation as some pupils were able to create more detailed and advanced sentences and connections. Some used the writing frame whereas others did not. Everyone received the same information and attempted the same tasks.
New material introduced was presented in eye-catching and manageable amounts. Tasks were modelled and worked examples and writing frames were provided along with sentence starters, key words, prompts, the teacher helping when errors were made and pupils encouraged to self-correct. These strategies are all in line with the research undertaken by Rosenshine.
Only one of these learning resources introduces new information - the first resource depicting the wheel or flow of events. The rest of the resources simply offer pupils a new opportunity to generate a new version of what they have already learned. The pupils are continually processing the initial information - this all contributes to an improvement in working memory.
Nuthall's Project on Learning found that 80% of information would be retained after three separate re-presentations. This research highlighted that when information is presented in different ways it allows pupils to see connections with what has gone before. I think that this could go some way to explain why the learning was 'deeper' using the tasks above as opposed to the passive 'comprehension questions from the textbook' approach which is what prompted this post. You can read about this here.
If you are interested in discussing this with me, please contact me or comment below.