Sunday, February 19, 2017

Know thy impact

I attended a course recently that brought Hattie's work to the forefront of my mind again. I have returned to his Visible Learning book a few times since a teachmeet friend (JP) related Hattie's work to his own forest school work. It made a lot of sense. 

As far as impact goes, Hattie has done all the hard work for us, with extensive research to tell us what works best in education. By ranking 195 influences and their effect size, Hattie is pointing us in the right direction of what we should be taking notice of and what we should not waste our energy on. I'm not going to analyse that here - time is short and I'm sure if you google it you can find much better blog posts than I would write. What I wanted to share was my 'so what'. 

In this recent course we were told how research shows that the greatest impact on learning is student self belief / expectations of themselves. I know that there are lots of things that I do to promote this already. I traditionally start each year with Trevor Hawes optimal learning approach, whereby (in a nutshell) children learn about their brains and how they learn (metacognitive strategies are ranked at number 4), then recognise their smart areas and liken themselves to someone famous that they can aspire to be like. 

As a school we promote growth mindsets - that effort is valued - and we use strategies such as Austin's butterfly to show children the value of critique, feedback and effort. 

I ask the children to rate their effort during and at the end of lessons, using their fingers (this was another teachmeet tip) and they are very honest. I ask them to congratulate themselves if their effort has improved by the end of the lesson. Sometimes I ask them to show me by putting their thumbs up if they have improved, but mostly it's about them acknowledging that great work is often linked to effort. 

Despite my efforts, some children still do not possess that self-belief or 'can do' attitude. So here's what I intend to do next term to support them further:

1. Reinstate #proudofmyselfie so that children acknowledge when their effort has led to great work

2. Trial a weekly genius hour. I am half way through a blog post about this, which I will finish soon. Basically I will support children to develop the skills to use their hour wisely, to pursue their own questions / learning. I hope that high interest will mean greater success, leading to that self-belief that some lack. This idea is based on the 80/20 work model. If it appears to be a gimmick with little impact, I will drop it at the end of the half term. 

3. Ensure that children continue to develop their confidence and self-esteem through forest school type activities. This really does enable them to learn (and apply) so many important skills. 

4. Continue to be honest with my feedback and ensure they all buy into the notion that failing / 'breaking' things is a great way of learning (they will say they agree with this, but I know they don't all believe it. Yet!) 

5. Continue to provide challenges that develop their resilience and problem solving skills, particularly in maths and ICT/computing

I will review what we have done at the end of the half term - particularly genius hour - and will ask children to review their learning too. My children are very young (7-8) and measuring the impact may end up being anecdotal.

Update 25.02.17

The idea of genius hour has been well received by my children. To establish good habits, for the first couple of weeks I will give them a theme. After that they can choose their own questions (within reason - I did have to explain to one child this week that she would learn how babies are made when she gets to year 5 ...). So to start with, their questions will be inspired by our science topic of humans and other animals. I have read all of their questions and completed an online resource, linked to their class blog, to help some of them find information quickly. A few are asking similar questions, so will be encouraged to work together. At the end of last week they went to the library to see if they can find a helpful book or two. I'm looking forward to seeing how this goes!

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