Tuesday, 31 March 2015

We've got the evidence now need the action

Our senior leadership team met with Craig and our collaboration schools at the end of term.
It was great to establish how far we had come and established our priorities as a whole school for next term.
I've re read sections of this book today.  It's definitely helped to focus my thoughts on our next steps.


 Visible Learning.. when teachers see learning through the eyes of students and when students are able to be their own teachers

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Learning club... Focusing where it matters

Learning club started from the initial student focus group.  This was a group of random pupils from year 1 to year 6 chosen to do a baseline assessment. I met with them first in January to ask them the baseline questions. There was nothing remarkable about their answers then off they went back to class.

A couple of days later, one of the year 3 boys asked when Learning Club was meeting next.
He had come up with the idea to continue meeting as a group and seeing how they could help other children learn.  

Now bearing in mind the initial group was basically 2nd and 12th on the register, it truly was a random group and by no means chosen.

Since then we have met about four times.  

They gave their opinion on some ideas for visual feedback before I had discussed it with the staff.  Now this was quite interesting because the Learning Club had shown such insight into visual feedback that the teachers could not argue against its implementation.  Although I knew they wouldn't have objected anyway.

We met this week to discuss Learner Awards and how they could further promote dispositions.  They wanted to choose the 'Learner of the Week' this was too happen each week.  I asked how they would choose and they said they'd be on the lookout for good learning that week.  I asked about the pupils who aren't easily picked.  They said they'd keep a record of who had won.  If they felt there was someone missing out, THEY would encourage them to be a good learner that week by supporting them with learner dispositions.  That was a moment when I had a tear in my eye.
I'm not easily moved in school but that was a moment I'll remember for the rest of my career.

Learning club weren't overly impressed with the current Marbles in the jar reward system and wanted house awards for learning.  They asked for four jars, and when the children displayed learner dispositions they would win a brain token.  One said he'd be happy to cut out lots of little brains as awards but I think we'll stick to counters.

Learning club have made their own badges and are ready to roll after Easter.

The power of yet....

Alongside Visible Learning, we have focused our attention on growth mindset.  As you come into school, you'll see a display explaining growth mindset and we have started using Disney characters so our learners can put the features into context.

This is a video by the legendary Carol Dweck that we have used as part of our staff training

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Parents...they complete the jigsaw

At school we have done two cycles of Families and School Together, funded by Save the Children.

This has resulted in great relationships with our families.

Out Fastworks group were also given a baseline assessment with similar results from the children.  So developing parents knowledge of Visible Learning became a priority.

At parents evening, some classes gave out the learning dispositions in a handy booklet and all parents received a leaflet showing where their children were in their reading, their next steps and how they could help.

The feedback was 100% positive.  The parents appreciated the focus on learning and which dispositions their children had.  It made a refreshing change to focus parents' evening on learning.  

We are planning to have a Visible Learning day in June, organised and delivered by the Learning Club to further improve links with our parents and community 

And so it begins

Baseline evidence was bitter sweet. The children really lacked understanding of where they were in their learning and their next steps.
We had previously judged excellent by Estyn for Assessment for Learning but what do they know?

The answers some of the children gave were hilarious.  What makes a good learner? Someone who eats healthily, someone who wears glasses

So we started with really focusing on learner dispositions and explicitly teaching them.

We also had a Learner Focus Group, two pupils from each class.  I met with them to discuss learning and their role in helping drive learner dispositions.  They renamed themselves the Learning Club.   More about them later

Teachers also had a personal target which formed their impact cycle.  We set up impact partners but success was limited due to time restraints.
But like good learners, mistakes we made with impact partners meant we learned something.

We had a few areas we could work on quickly.  Displays in the corridor were changed, stickers were bought

And the magic began....

Into the pit we go....

After training in January, we became somewhat overwhelmed by where to start

Learner dispositions?
Success criteria?
Progress matrices?

I could go on.  But like a good learner, I used my own dispositions to help us get out the pit! I phoned a friend
I sought the wisdom of Simon Feasey, head of the inspirational Bader Primary in the north east.

They are about six months ahead of us in their journey so wanted to know what they had learned so far.

We decided on a three pronged approach, which without realising looks like a school appraisal plan, although everyone knew there was absolutely no accountability to the approach.  Now there's a thought, performance management without accountability, it may catch on!

So we went for whole school explicit teaching of learning dispositions and learning environment to support.  Each teacher then had their own development plan that was their impact cycle and we did short activities for areas we could quickly change.

And so from January 2015 we were off

September 2014

Back to school.  Holding back the reins, we decided to wait until we'd had our Foundation Day training before making any changes.
Foundation Day was great, all staff involved in developing a collegiate understanding of what makes a good learner.  Effect size was explained..the new mantra became 0.4 

Next came SLT Evidence into Action day 1.  We couldn't wait to get started, on reflection, it would be interesting for John to measure the effect size Christmas has on schools 😉

All staff had a role in collecting baseline evidence and what fun we had.  It really focused everyone on how little we had involved our learners in all our processes.  How much had been done TO them instead of WITH them.

Teacher day 1 was excellent in January.  Impact cycles at the ready and 2015 was going to be the year that was going to have unrecognisable and unprecedented impact

Our Visible Learning journey May 2014

From January to May, much work had gone on behind the scenes to scrape together the funding to buy in the Osiris Visible Learning intervention.  Three other schools had joined us in our journey and we went to London to the Visible Learning conference and heard not only John but other inspirational speakers all focused on learning.  We were inspired by James Nottingham and the Learning Pit

      Here's our Learning Pit at school 

Everything had been booked, our trainer Craig Parkinson was on board and we were ready and raring to go.
We had our scoping day and although we thought our learners had a good understanding of learning, basically, they didn't 
But we were on our way......

Our visible learning journey

January 2014
Part of my role was a part time secondment to the regional school improvement service.  Colleagues were presenting on pedagogy and good practice they had seen.
Again, it was professionals telling me what works and things they had seen which looked great.

Part of the presentation touched on the work of professor John Hattie
Effect sizes were explained showing that EVERYTHING I knew worked now had research behind it.

I immediately went to Amazon and bought John Hattie's book 

Our Visible Learning journey

All through my career, my experience was telling me I was being asked to do things that I knew didn't work. I did a five day training in 2003 where brain based research was first introduced to me.  I was a year 6 teacher in Cheshire 
I went back armed with 'mistakes are good, being stuck is how we learn' etc but also visual, kinaesthetic and auditory learning.
On my own in year 6, I was trying to encourage these dispositions until a senior leader told me to stop because it was time to revise for SATS.
So back to giving the pupils mountains of past SATS papers hoping a miracle would happen and they would start getting more questions correct and I could justify my salary by having more level 4s than the previous year.

Roll on to 2011 and I was given the utmost privilege of leading Ysgol Merllyn.  I inherited a team that all had the pupils at the heart of their work.
We decided on the vision, Making a Difference Every Day, and then aimed to realise this vision.  It soon became apparent that I lived by this.  When they asked for anything I asked how they could measure impact.  I told them that I wouldn't ask them to do anything if it didn't make a difference to our learners, and if I did they had the right to say no.

This resulted in a real team effort and a culture of allowing to try things out to see if they worked and continuing or stopping during reviews.  For example, we opened a nurture unit.  This was excellent and made a real difference to learners.  From this our school evolved to have a real goal to ensure our families completed the jigsaw in a holistic approach to our learners.