Where Do I Belong?

I sit here, on my way back from Cyprus to England feeling a little sad, somewhat excited (I’m going to see my children – it has been a long week in that sense) and slightly comforted. Don’t get me wrong I’m not a great flier, mainly because of the truly horrendous journeys (almost always exclusively to Cyprus) we had as a family when my sister and I were kids. My comfort, however, comes from the words I hear in my headphones. Akala talking about his “Scottishness” and the pull he feels of his Jamaican culture but at times not really fitting in anywhere. Too dark for England to light for Jamaica. Why does this comfort me? I’ll explain all but before I do let me tell you why I feel sad.

I’m leaving my Cypriot family on a small portion of that tiny island behind me. I never know if it’s the last time I’ll ever see my late father’s mum, Yasemin Nene (pronounced neh – neh it means grandmother). She is 88, so they tell me but I promise you no one really knows their age in North Cyprus (pronounced Kibris). She is weak in body but strong of mind. She almost has an ethereal quality a 6th, 7th and 8th sense when it comes to understanding how people feel and why they feel. She has an uncanny way of making you feel better – she makes my life better in a way that is unparalleled. Although my father has 3 brothers and 3 sisters and a multitude of cousins aunts and uncles, my Yasemin Nene is my final real link to my dad. She tells me stories about him and his youth that make my jaw drop. Seriously. It’s genuinely impossible for a human to feel the way I already do about my dad but my grandmother tells me things that make the pride I have in my heart overflow through my eyes. To make me gasp for breath.

When he was young, my father loved school. “His head was always in a book” my Nene tells me. Even during his summer job when working at the department of water, during his teens, he would sit under the olive trees for shade and read. He used to tell me this with his eyes closed and head tilted up, as though he was back there looking through the shade of the leaves at the sunlight flickering between them. He was a truly intelligent man, he was perceptive, worldly. He was the only child out of the 7 brothers and sisters to go to university which back during the early 70’s in North Cyprus was a massive deal. Unfortunately that was short-lived though.

My dad was a Socialist, a Communist, a “Lefty”. He believed in the ideal of power to the people and that all should be equal. He believed in his convictions to the point that he was involved in the Right/Left clashes in Turkey (where he was a university student), he attended marches and was part of mass rallies which would invariably end in bloodshed and death. To believe in a political ideal enough that you would die for it-Wow, I mean would you fight, I mean physically fight for the ideals set forward by the labour or conservative parties? My father was made aware by those higher up in his political movement that a manuscript from the opposition party had been intercepted and it had a list of people they wanted to be dispensed of i.e assassinated. My dad’s name was on the list. Needless to say, he fled Turkey and he ended up traveling to England to work with my uncle who had just set up a business (yes another take away!). The idea was that he would go to one of the universities here then go back to be a teacher in Kıbrıs. He never did, he never became a teacher. I’m truly gutted that he never had the chance of seeing me become a head teacher – I know he would have been proud!

My comfort from listening to Akala’s words comes from a feeling of not being alone. It’s interesting – I mean how many countless people in the last 70 years or so have felt the strangeness of not knowing where they fit, where they belong? They suffered in silence and solitude. Look I’m 40 and it’s taken me 28 years to articulate my feelings because I hear someone else, in a similar position, explain how it was for them growing up.

In Cyprus growing up I was know as the English boy. In England I was known as the ‘Fat Turk’. I am from both. I was born in Leicester (England) but my blood and culture belongs to Cyprus (both my parents were from there) yet both treated me in a less than welcoming way. This I feel can be someway explained by the colonial ruler and ruled mentality. I remember my dad talking to a customer in the shop. He was an older gentleman and seemed nice enough. It was only when he told my dad that he had served in the British army, in Cyprus no less, that the mantra “the customer is always right” was thrown out of the shop like an unwanted drunkard. My dad proceeded to tell the veteran that if the British hadn’t meddled with the country everything would have been better for the island. The man did not get it, to him “you people” wouldn’t have been able to settle your differences if it wasn’t for us. Did they feel the same about Ireland (northern and southern) and India/Pakistan. Cyprus had for centuries had Greek and Turkish Cypriots living side by side. Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t without issue. There was some tension in parts of the country. But on the whole. we lived together. My grandparents and some of my older uncles and aunts can speak Turkish and Greek (fluently) and enough English to easily get by. The food we eat is almost identical and the names of the food we eat are so similar that they might as well be called the same thing. Our way of life, mannerisms, loud (shouty) conversational style and physical appearance are so similar that to the untrained eye they would be indistinguishable. But division, through hook or by crook, was imposed by the British on the island. The effects of which have had a detrimental (mainly financial) effect on the Northern Turkish side of Cyprus.*

My lack of belonging because of my ethnicity was further highlighted at my secondary school. At the age of 13, I remember walking into the canteen (my favourite place as you can imagine) and it was the first time I actually analysed the room. It unsettled me. It changed me and my self perception immediately. I hadn’t realised just how segregated the pupils were. Cliques and groups of people created by the children themselves. But it was visible. White British kids together in a group, black (mainly Caribbean) kids together, Indian children together but separated from the small Pakistani contingent. Damn it! Where do I sit? Seriously it was a real concern. Prior to thi,s I’d sit anywhere with anyone. I still do. But that sense of belonging wasn’t there. I was on my own. The binary of black and white doesn’t help explain this. Because I don’t see myself as either. They saw me as neither. I ended up sitting on my own that day.

For me, now as a headteacher, the hall where children eat is an important place. I don’t allow my children to be segregated in any way; girls and boys sit together, those that have packed lunch and those that have a school dinner sit side by side, and I encourage white children to sit next to the growing number of children of colour and/or different ethnic backgrounds. I am the model for this. I sit with the children and I continually talk to them about their lives, their beliefs their understanding of the world. It’s the best time to connect. Barriers down. I talk to them at length about belonging. It’s one of our four binding words that runs through the School and is part of everything we do (Belong, Care, Persevere, Succeed).

Bring your colour, your culture, your ethnicity to my school they are always welcome, they belong to us all and they will always have a place at my table in our canteen.

Further Reading

*Below is a link to the Economic and social research council “British divide and rule policies pitted Turkish and Greek Cypriot communities against each other, says study” which explains the impact of British divide and rule on Cyprus further.

https://esrc.ukri.org/news-events-and-publications/news/news-items/british-divide-and-rule-policies-pitted-turkish-and-greek-cypriot-communities-against-each-other-says-study/

 

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Action Research – What works?

I have long been a fan of action research, I first engaged in action research in the classroom in the mid-2000s. As a leader or a practitioner, this piece is well worth a read.

The following is written by Mark Quinn.

It can also be found here. https://markquinn1968.wordpress.com/2019/09/20/what-works-teacher-action-research-works/

What was the Teacher Action Research Project?

Between October 2018 and June 2019 I delivered a Teacher Action Research Project – TARP – to a group of 8 secondary school teachers from across England, meeting on three occasions at UCL Institute of Education (IOE), where I work. The project was funded by UCL Widening Access and Participation, whose remit is to increase the uptake of places at leading universities by students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The teachers chose themes and interventions that they judged likely to make a substantial difference to their own students: some focused on aspects of their classroom practice that they wished to adapt; others conducted their action research on an element of their wider school responsibility. The only stipulation was that they must concentrate on outcomes for their disadvantaged students.

Summary of the interventions and outcomes

Three were interested in the process of student learning; they were keen to increase their students’ awareness of how they learn, and to see the extent to which this would contribute to their academic progress. These projects may be labelled metacognitive strategies. The self-regulation of learners was a feature across several other projects. One hypothesised that, to address the demands of new linear exams at A level, teachers needed to address the metacognitive skills of their students and could best achieve this through explicit modelling of written responses; two English teachers conducted projects which focused on boosting subject-specific vocabulary in Key Stage 4. These three enquiries can be loosely grouped as language and literacy. One teacher, whose whole-school role embraces Careers Education, was interested in the link between students’ self-efficacy and realistic career choices; the project of the final practitioner-researcher saw her department take a range of new evidence-informed approaches to teaching Geography at Key Stage 3. These last two come under the very broad heading curriculum development but, like the rest, are complex interventions concerned largely with students’ self-regulation.

There were many common findings across the eight action research projects. Many saw student confidence as a prerequisite to progress; others saw that increased confidence was an outcome of their projects. The same could be said for the issue of teacher-student relationships: some saw them improve, while others identified them as a continuing threat to successful outcomes. Teaching strategies that placed an emphasis on student self-reflection, their metacognition and self-regulation all had promising results for disadvantaged students and others. Likewise, modelling of exemplar answers, emphasis on appropriate subject vocabulary and the embedding of strategies which force students to retrieve prior knowledge: greater focus upon these pedagogical approaches did bear fruit for many of the disadvantaged students whose progress was tracked. Not all projects succeeded on their own terms. Those where the number or complexity of interventions were greatest found it difficult to implement change or to track the impact of the changes they did implement. In some few cases, the participating teachers speculated that their innovation may have in some way hampered the progress of the students they were trying to help, but this was a minority finding. Others were able to reflect upon the extraneous factors which continue to impede the progress of their disadvantage students.

What TARP has to say about innovations that make a positive difference to disadvantaged students

Modelling

Modelling happened in several ways across the projects. In some cases this involved the use of a visualiser in class to highlight features of exemplary practice; in another it included the repeated use of model answers provided by exam boards; one teachers referred to the ‘talking aloud’ strategy, whereby the teacher models their thinking as they construct an answer ‘live’ in front of their class. One found that ‘it was clear that all students, disadvantaged or not, wanted to see what excellence looked like and had a genuine thirst for knowledge.’ The progress of her High Prior Attaining Pupil Premium students improved, but so did that of most of the rest of the two Year 11 English classes in her study. Another – who had analysed the planning and teaching of A level subjects that had performed well since the reintroduction of linear exams – wanted to see what lessons could be learned by those departments whose results had dipped. A student survey identified more modelling of exam questions as the area that would help them improve the most. Teachers in two subjects agreed to a six-week implementation of explicit modelling – specifically of exam board answers and typically within homework – and to track the impact upon the bursary students through internal assessment and mock exams. In maths half the bursary students in the set improved their grade while the rest remained as they were. The picture was similar in economics, where one bursary student improved their grade while the other remained static.

 

Building good relations and a culture of trust

One teacher contended that ‘establishing a culture of trust within a class is central to students making progress.’

Some participating teachers pointed to the trust that was an outcome of involvement in the project. One (who did a lunchtime group intervention focused on the students’ knowledge retrieval skills) saw that ‘as the interventions progressed, the girls started to become more and more accountable for each other and encouraging one another to meet the demands of their courses.’ She spotted a relationship between that burgeoning culture of trust in the group and their regard for themselves as learners, which (for all but one of the group) improved also. Another noted that, the more familiar his Year 13 English Literature students were with simple cognitive processes and the rationale behind the approaches to feedback he was taking, the more they trusted him and the tasks he was setting.

 

Student confidence

For this teacher, this trust in him and his teaching was a contributory factor in the students’ growing confidence going into their exams. One of his students said she had begun to ‘trust my own thinking’.

Among one teacher’s Year 10s, after the four months of her careers and options guidance programme

‘82% of the students felt that they were now more confident to make decisions related to their career paths highlighting that the project has been somewhat successful in breaking down the barriers to career self-efficacy and increasing student confidence.’

She concluded that it was the early and structured nature of the intervention which helped the students be more confident in their decision-making.

A geography teacher, implementing a new Key Stage 3 curriculum, explicitly measured the confidence of her students using ‘feedback circles’ in the lessons. She and her colleagues were alarmed at the high rate of students describing themselves as within the ‘panic zone’ when they were asked to think hard. But, persisting with their innovations – and in particular the demand that their students ‘speak like a geographer’ – they found gradually that ‘most of the students moved out of the panic zone and into the stretch zone’.

Teaching which boosts vocabulary

An English teacher noticed that students, who were unfazed at the prospect of producing two to three pages of work would still feel anxious about giving ‘the right answer’, and this stopped them writing. A ‘heightened focus on relevant terminology’ was one of the factors leading to improved progress for Pupil Premium students with higher prior attainment. The geography teacher’s students, as they moved out of their panic zone, began to expand their discipline vocabulary.

‘This started to finally pay off and after a few weeks teachers and students started to use these words as a matter of course (in the interviews this is something teachers referred to again and again and were quite amazed by.)’

Another English teacher delighted that some of her students had become ‘word hungry’ – asking for vocabulary and prepared to use the thesaurus – but she sounded a warning note too.

‘Students accessed and used a range of complex and higher level vocabulary that they would otherwise either not have the tools or confidence to access… Students are empowered when given tailored vocabulary – however students do not have the skills to be able to build upon this independently.’

They remained reluctant to source higher level vocabulary for themselves, or to transfer the new vocabulary they had learned to other subject areas.

 

Metacognition and Retrieval Practice

Several of the TARP teachers used their enquiries to test their supposition that students make better progress the more they are aware of the processes of learning. As noted already, an A level English teacher found that his students trusted him and his methods the more they recognised that they had some basis in cognitive science. He concluded that placing subject knowledge at the heart of the curriculum yielded significant benefits that seemed to go beyond simply recalling knowledge.

‘The ease with which the students retrieved information decreased cognitive load. It seemed that being able to retrieve knowledge with relative ease freed up cognitive space to concentrate on structuring essays and writing well.’

The teacher of the lunchtime intervention group found that they began to bring in examples of dual-coding they had produced in Science and discussed flash card examples for their humanities revision.

‘It was evident that they had not only taken a more independent approach to selecting and using appropriate recall and retrieval strategies but were also open and willing to share these with their peers.’

Caveats

These were small studies, a few conducted across a department or between two or three groups, most confined to a single class. Within that, the teachers tracked the impact of their projects on the much smaller number of specifically disadvantaged students. It is an advantage of action research that it allows participating teachers to spot the often very small, yet significant, changes that can occur when a modification is made to teaching. The methodology is essentially qualitative, which allows the teachers to report on the attitudes and behaviours which are both factors in and outcomes of learning. But the datasets are necessarily tiny, and the measures of attainment – short of public exam data – are assessed by the teachers themselves. (TARP concluded before the end of the Summer term, i.e. before the release of the 2019 public exams.)

The teachers on TARP were clearly invested in the successes of their interventions, and they were mindful of the pitfalls of bias. Several, in their own reporting, speculated upon the possible negative consequences of their study. One teacher’s English department colleagues undertook a lesson study into the expanded use of higher order language to enable their students to express perspective. She noted that they enjoyed the ‘safe’ bank of vocabulary they were given and asked

‘Are we inhibiting students by providing them with too much? Do we over-stimulate or confuse students with SEN? Some students feel they have to use every new word, which then makes their written responses convoluted.’

 

The geographer in the group also expressed a residual concern for her lower prior attaining students. When she and her geography colleagues rewrote their Key Stage 3 curriculum, they found that their higher and middle prior attainers responded well. But the lower prior attainers – especially those deemed to be at Levels 1 or 2 – did not. She remained confident in the approaches taken by her colleagues but was cognisant also of making too bold a claim.

 

Final comments

The Teacher Action Research Projects have made a positive difference to disadvantaged students in the eight schools. They have also affected the teachers themselves, their confidence as practitioners and their sense of their place in the profession. All intend to continue with the practices they innovated this year, and several have expanded their plans.

Reflecting on TARP, one commented

‘I think that to be effective educators, we need to be able to process, explore and consider the research before it is implemented, so that it can have a more positive impact on our students.’

The final word should go to another, for whom the project has made her think about

‘how small changes can have an impact without adding to workload and that sometimes it is doing more of what already works rather than incorporating something completely new.’

 

The full version of this report will soon be available on the UCL website at:

www.ucl.ac.uk/widening-participation/TARP

How to Build a Culture Around Data

datahammer.pngActivity 1

When I state the word data, which picture do you most identify?

Hammer: Tool

Aaargh: Fear

Heart: Love

Boring: Waste of time

Whichever picture you chose. Be aware there will be people in your team who fall into the other quadrants. Data is a vital part of our roles in schools, leaders should look to become more data-rich and move towards an evaluation and action model.

Data is used regularly in our society. Here are some examples:

  1. Weather forecasters with their barometric charts;
  2. The nurse tracking pulse, temperature and blood pressure before and after an operation;
  3. The accountant analysing spreadsheets and cash flows;
  4. The marketing Director interpreting survey data on market segmentation and
  5. customer preferences to inform branding and publicity strategies;
  6. The football manager reviewing tactics and results;
  7. Teachers tracking and reviewing the progress of each and every pupil performance
  8. to inform teaching and learning;
  9. Education policy makers monitoring how schools and our education system is doing.’

(Charles Clarke, Secretary of State for Education and Skills, June 2003)

Activity Two

Within your own current classrooms, what are the data trends? Over your career, what are these trends?

 

 

Usually, schools will start by looking at:

Socio – economic (PP, FSM, Ever6, etc.)

Gender

Ethnicity

Race

Etc.

These are a great start to identify possible trends within the classroom, department, and school levels.

Warning 

Before I go any further, let me set out the stall. Data should never be used as a bat to beat staff. Data should not be used to judge anyone or anything, data is a tool used to analyse and evaluate. Live by the mantra; data is a tool used to ask more questions.

How to use Data

In all types of schools; it’s found that data was perceived to promote teaching and learning by facilitating:

  • More effective allocation of staff and resources
  • Performance management
  • Monitoring the effectiveness of initiatives and strategies
  • Evidence-based discussions with the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED), local education authorities (LEAs), governors, among others
  • Challenging expectations of staff, pupils, parents, among others
  • Transitions and transfers – particularly transitions between key stages within schools
  • Identification of pupils’ achievements and setting of targets.

 Kirkup et al 2005

Again all of the above are around asking more questions. I know some you are are being cynical. When I previous have held data sessions, people have been very frank and pointed out that this just a game that OfSTED want us to play.

Self-evaluation is the aim, to be better a school for the pupils you serve, OfSTED or anything external should not be your aim. Leaders ensure your vision around data use is centred around these points.

John MacBeath draws a distinction between self-evaluation that is engineered to meet external requirements but is not embedded within the school’s ongoing review procedures, and that which is embedded and within the life of the school.

(School Self-evaluation: A Reflection and Planning Guide for School Leaders, NCSL)

Self Evaluation for External Use Self Evaluation for Internal Use
Accountability focus narrows the lens. ‘What gets measured get done’.

Done to stakeholders.

Completed as a tick box exercise.

School improvement focussed. The lens is all-encompassing.

Completed with all stakeholders.

Part of the school’s culture.

 

Datawhy

 

 

References

https://www.lambeth.gov.uk/rsu/sites/lambeth.gov.uk.rsu/files/Using_Data_to_Raise_Achievement-Good_Practice_in_Schools_2013.pdf

 

https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130402121109/https://www.education.gov.uk/publications/eOrderingDownload/RR671.pdf

 

https://dera.ioe.ac.uk/5951/2/download%3fid=21845&filename=self-evaluation-a-reflection-and-planning-guide.pdf

 

https://www.axminster.co.uk/bahco-hickory-shaft-claw-hammer-ax898831

 

 

 

Things EYFS Practitioners want you to know: Continuous Provision

Guest Post by @Emmccatt 

EYFS always seems to be a subject of discussion on Twitter. It seems that everyone, no matter what phase, job title or area of expertise, has an opinion. With that in mind, I thought it would be useful to write a series of blogs delving into the practice of Early Years. This blog will focus on provision and how it is used effectively in the setting.

What is continuous provision?

When Early Years is discussed on twitter, the subject of ‘play’ often comes up. For some, they picture children running around all day not learning anything. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Continuous provision is essentially all of the resources in the environment that have been provided by practitioners to extend the learning of the children in their care. Children are able to access these resources independently and safely, and use them to explore. They are chosen carefully and mindfully by the practitioner so that even in the absence of an adult the children are able to build upon learning. It is not shoving some toys out and watching the children fight over them. Each resource is carefully considered.

How is the provision planned for?

The provision is planned for with the characteristics of essential learning in mind. Development Matters (Non-statutory guidance supporting practitioners in the implementation of the statutory requirements of learning and development under the EYFS framework) defines the characteristics of essential learning as:

  • Playing and exploring – children investigate and experience things, and ‘have a go’;
  • Active learning – children concentrate and keep on trying if they encounter difficulties, and enjoy achievements; and
  • Creating and thinking critically – children have and develop their own ideas, make links between ideas, and develop strategies for doing things.

Each child is seen as an individual. Practitioners reflect on the ways in which individual children learn and respond to the environment and use this to inform their practice.

The Early Years Framework states:

 “Practitioners must consider the individual needs, interests, and stage of development of each child in their care. They must use this information to plan a challenging and enjoyable experience for each child, across all areas of learning and development.”

An important part of the provision provided is that it is never static and always changing. Good EY practitioners will ensure that the environment the children are accessing is planned for with the children’s interests in mind, as well as planning for next steps to build upon previous learning. The aim is always to engage each individual and move forward their learning. Areas in the environment are carefully monitored for use and engagement. Nothing is there for the sake of being there and looking pretty, engagement and learning is paramount.

How do adults engage with the provision?

Adults respond to the child in the moment, what they are doing and use that to extend the child’s learning. Continuous provision does not mean the adults relax and babysit the children engaging with the provision but rather they go in and be part of it. This is what can sometimes be hard for teachers within other key stages to understand as it is so different to standing at the front of a classroom and delivering! Although it is very different, it doesn’t make it less valid and actually a lot could be learnt from EY (expect a blog in the near future).

Sometimes these engagements in the environment between teacher and child can be planned for, but more often than not it becomes planning in the moment. This might be done via open questioning designed to promote higher order thinking. A child in the construction area for example, might want to make the tallest tower they can with the bricks available. A competent practitioner would ask open ended question to facilitate this, guiding them as they make choices and explore as well as reminding them what has been learned before and how that can be applied to the current situation. Practitioners also use these times for opportunities to model and support language development by referring back to vocabulary and using it themselves in the correct context. Alongside this is the making observations of focus children and using this to inform both the ever growing and changing picture of the child and future planning for the class as a whole. Effective practitioners move through various spaces ensuring they are supporting and developing learning throughout the environment whilst also ensuring each particular area is child ready throughout the day.

How is provision used to enable learning?

The framework tells us that, “Settings should provide a ‘challenging’ and ‘developmentally appropriate’ environment ‘based on children’s interests.” Effective provision allows each child to move at pace appropriate to their learning. Purposeful play means children are constantly challenging themselves in an environment that has been designed for that very purpose. Children are given the time, space and support to engage with a variety of activities that have been effectively planned for to extend their stage of development by both scaffolding and pushing their learning forward.

I recently tweeted the below to highlight some of the incredible provision the reception class teacher at my school provides for children to develop and strengthen hands to aid in the writing process.

EYFS

This activity and others like this are appropriate for the children developmentally, purposeful and engaging. It will provide the foundations needed to write. It is one small example of how purposeful play promotes the necessary skills that create and lay the foundations for school life.

There is a reason why it is called ‘foundation stage’.

GCSE Science Revision

Are you worried about your pupils revising for their science GCSE?

I have secured another deal. Please do direct your pupils to this site for the deal at the end of this blog from @TheScienceBreak

 

In 2012 when I made the first of my GCSE science videos on Youtube, there were very few, if any people are doing GCSE science videos. That fact, combined with students connecting with the teaching style, meant the channel grew fast. 

Fast forward to now, and there is a lot of choices when it comes to getting help for GCSE science. One issue that remains, however, is finding quality resources produced by teachers, for specific exams boards, that have exam question practice as well as good video tutorials that have exact and concise content. 

When building our website, the key for us was doing what we know best. Creating a set of comprehensive resources, all in one place, that can be used to learn and practice everything needed for GCSE science. We are also very aware that students have different gaps in their knowledge compared to each other and that students learn in different ways. 

The Science Break takes these differences between students into account and gives students the flexibility to learn what they need when they need it, whether it is the entire course or just a few topics here and there. There are carefully explained videos, many of which contain exam practice. There are multiple-choice and short answer questions for every single video and revision notes sheets. And coming soon, topic tests that give real exam-style questions, with answers and associated guidance. The Science Break has been created with the foundation of a lot of experience combined with a lot of work to bring you one of the top GCSE Science revision resources on the internet. 

So how does it work? 

All the videos are listed by subject and topic and can be found quickly, easily and can be viewed as many times as needed. Videos can be watched in interactive mode where there are in-built multiple choice questions and short answer free-response questions. Or they can be viewed without the interactivity and at up to 2x speed. It might sound strange to think about watching at double speed, but it is a very highly requested feature! A quick word about the multiple-choice questions. Each video has 6 of them, each with five options to choose from; This was carefully thought out. The purpose of the multiple-choice questions is two-fold. 

1. It gives the student an idea of the content of the video but importantly, it provides the student with learning ‘hooks’ that help maximise recall of the video content. 

2. The questions reappear at the end of the tutorial so that the student has a second go at them, having seen the tutorial. At the end, the student gets a before and after score, an explanation of the answers and a summary of the total score for the video assessment. There is a ton of learning is just doing the multiple-choice questions. 

And furthermore, there are going to be multiple choice questions in the real exam. So this feature alone is excellent practice. 

The video tutorials themselves are carefully planned, recorded and edited by a very experienced and very successful secondary school science teacher. 

This from a parent after the 2019 results: “All 9s! The only 9s she got. All thanks to you.”

and this from a student: “thank you for creating the website, I’ve found it incredibly helpful.” Sudina who got grade 9, 9, 9 in 2019.

Coming very soon are topic tests written to assess, at exam level, whole topics. ‘It’s not good enough to have a test for each video and say that there are exam-style questions. Exam-style questions never test a narrow set of content. They go cross-content, so the topic tests provide real practice for exams. And they all come with detailed mark schemes that include guidance about the answers. 

You can see that there is a lot of help for GCSE Science here. 

But ‘that’s not all. Notes sheets that accompany each video allow students to work along with the video and have a quick reference or flashcards to recap on the topics. 

Excellent teaching, revision notes, practice questions and answers all help to ease the burden of learning GCSE science. 

And there is more. Our awesome revision planner which helps students to plan and keep up to date with their work. 

So, of course, the question is how much. 

The answer, with a discount from this site, is £25 for all three separate sciences and £15 for combined science. At the moment we only have AQA but Edexcel is in the works. 

And no, ‘that’s not an ongoing monthly cost – ‘it’s a one-off payment for a whole ‘year’s subscription. 

So, grab an access code and head over to TheScienceBreak.com and sign up. ‘We’ll send you instructions on how to sign up (although it is very easy).

Good luck! 

 

Communication Skills: Body Awareness

Leadership:

1. When communicating ensure that your position is not threatening, open and positive.

2. Be aware of your eye contact.

3. Use affirming gestures.

What do the above three sections mean?

Teachers are communication experts, and this development is as part of their day to day practice.

1. When communicating ensure that your position is not threatening, open and positive.

Your position is always important. Standing front on, squared shoulders is likely to be perceived as threatening. Towering over the respondent has a similar impact; the converse is also true. Sideways posture and getting below the eye line may be least threatening.

Mirroring is a commonly used tool. Mirroring is where any positive body language is mimicked. Gestures are subtly copied; this increases engagement and connection.

shutterstock_725291137.jpg

2. Be aware of your eye contact.

Important. Ask yourself why we ask anyone to make eye contact? To show they are paying attention. Where does this construct originate?

It is problematic; a multitude of people will find eye contact difficult. There is also a cultural aspect here. Eye contact with people in authority in my culture is rude, be aware of this.

3. Use affirming gestures. (Active Listening)

Listen to the words, sum up and repeat the main points. Support this by:

a) Use gestures to show attention. Head nods, eyebrow raises, etc. Use questions to check.

b) Use open question being careful not to lead.

c) Be aware of feelings and emotions.

d) Confirm understanding regularly.

Beware of Edu-Research.

Teachers before even thinking about approaching any research, we must be humble enough to interrogate our 

  1. Ontology and epistemology. 
  2. Personal experiences.

What is this Pran? Why are you always using terminology that makes us want to fall asleep?

In simple terms, ontology is the stance we take on how we accept knowledge. Epistemology is the method at which we recognise that knowledge.

Examples of Epistemological and Ontology.

Positivistic – This is were we accept knowledge has a definite answer. This object is this big; it weighs this much, etc. 

Relativistic/Post Positivistic – There is no ultimate truth; the truth depends on the different viewpoints and interpretations of the observers.

‘This [Positivistic] approach assumes that reality is objective, transcending an individual perspective, and that it is expressed in the statistical regularities of behaviour.’ (Wildemuth 1993) The positivistic view described is challenged by relativistic view of research, where relativist approaches ‘assumes that reality is subjective and is socially constructed’. 

As a physics graduate, the above resonates. As an educator, I had to accept that we cannot take a solely positivistic stance. Human beings are not objects with fixed attributes. I have accepted that as a result:

‘Evidence in research is always imperfect and fallible’. (Phillips and Burbles 2000 pp 29-34 in Real World Research, Robson p22).

It may be correct to state ‘correlation is not causation’; however, we must have the awareness to back that up with a critical analysis. When working with humans, no correlation signifies causation. We have to create boundaries in what we willingly accept. I’ll write about Karl Popper’s scientific method at some point.

Without acknowledging these boundaries, how do we negate the impact of cognitive biases? Anchoring, group-think, etc. (Great blog on these biases from Ross McGill here)

Personal Experiences

What we accept as knowledge is dynamic. What we perceive is commonly tainted by our previous experiences. The way learner’s evaluates lessons is often through their legacy of teaching they have had. Let me say that again the legacy of a learner’s journey impacts the evaluation of teaching and learning.

Learners have preconceived ideas around delivery from their own experiences ‘Such a mismatch may lead to lack of motivation, adoption of surface learning approaches, resistance to certain teaching activities that do not align with their beliefs, and learning ineffectiveness or discontinuation of study.’ (Brown 2009)

If you have a set of beliefs that around lesson delivery this may impact your engagement as a learner. For example,

‘Students with memorisation-for-reproduction beliefs tend to have negative learning experiences in higher education and are uncomfortable with teaching approaches that do not correspond with their beliefs (Kember 2001).

This has a huge impact on learning and outcomes, this is more important than the curriculum taught and content design.

Looking at the impact of these beliefs on learners is impressive; the misalignment of beliefs, the impact of such can have a more significant impact on learning approaches than the course design. (Campbell et al. 2001).

Teachers, leaders, and learners have a predetermined perception around what good teaching looks like; this means that you may prefer education styles from the ones you received. You may teach in the same fashion and this may end up being at ends with your workplace.

This is the same when we use evidence-informed research. Which research are you accepting as part of the canon?

This is echoed by this EEF rreport,

“This briefing provides a useful indication of current levels of teacher research engagement across English schools. It suggests that academic research still has only a small to moderate influence on teachers’ decision-making relative to other sources and indicates that there is still work to do to maximise the benefits of research in school practices. Results show that there is a willingness among teachers to engage with research evidence and also that many schools have climates which are supportive of evidence use, so it appears that there is a promising base upon which to build. Currently, however, teachers are most likely to draw on their own expertise, or that of their colleagues, when making decisions about teaching and learning or whole-school change. 

How do we disrupt our thinking? 

An interrogation of:

  • Teacher’s own experiences. What have you been subjected to?
  • Their ontology and epistemology. How do accept some research as knowledge and discard other as not knowledge worth knowing?

To appreciate the real value of research – teachers and leaders would ameliorate personal resistance to change – through the above factors in both the journey of the pupils and the journey of the teachers.

Further Reading

Xiangdong Li (2018) Teaching beliefs and learning beliefs in translator and interpreter education: an exploratory case study, The Interpreter and Translator Trainer, 12:2, 132-151, DOI: 10.1080/1750399X.2017.1359764

https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/public/files/Evaluation/Teachers_engagement_with_research_Research_Brief_JK.pdf

It’s OK to be Anxious.

Written by @Joanner79Jo

Originally posted here https://mymusingsoneducationcounselingandcreatingafairersociety.wordpress.com

I have never blogged before but having seen a number of tweets expressing anxiety about the new academic year I thought I’d give it a go.

I am prompted to write my first blog after reading a number of tweets expressing anxiety and nerves about the new academic year. I too experience anxiety at this time of year, despite 20 years of teaching and entering my seventh year as head, so I have been thinking about the reasons why.

I guess really I want to reassure. I honestly believe that being anxious is fine! Our job matters. In some ways it should give you sleepless nights, not because you are worried about your school’s position in the league tables or because this year is an OFSTED year but because you are being trusted to educate young people. It doesn’t matter whether you are teaching in Nursery or Year 13, the job comes with a huge amount of responsibility so if you are going to survive it you need to care. I hope though that your anxiety is also tempered by excitement whatever your current role in school. I can’t wait to get to know my new Early Years Children and their families but am also excited to work with my NQTS and further develop ethical leadership at all levels. Of course alongside the excitement is anxiety but isn’t that the point?

Although it might appear flippant to suggest sleepless nights are okay, I want to make it clear. I do not want anyone to feel so anxious they cannot sleep and their long term health to suffer, but I do want everyone involved in education to be motivated not by their personal ambition but by the desire to make the world a fairer place for all children. This means there will be times when you spend hours thinking and pondering on the child you are finding it most difficult to reach or even how to bring in a balanced budget without yet another restructure. You will occasionally wake up at 3 am in the morning worried about the child with a Child Protection Plan, or with what you think is an amazing idea for a whole school street party, (not realising that that alone is enough to give your long suffering Deputy her own sleepless nights) and the night before results day, whatever level, is likely to be pretty tough. However, what I have learnt and what helps me generally sleep at night is knowing that I generally have done my best. I cannot fix everything and nor can you. I cannot fix affordable housing for my families living in overcrowded and temporary accommodation but I can listen, make phone calls and adapt my policies to recognise what an achievement it is for some children to get to school at all let alone on time. I can’t overcome every challenge and barrier faced by my children with SEND but I can listen to them and their parents, I can try and walk in their shoes and if this means changing my uniform policy to accommodate a child’s hypersensitivity to certain fabrics or bringing in whole school training on attachment and trauma to better understand our Looked After Children, then I will.

I will do all I can to reduce teacher work load but not at the expense of the children. It is a hard job – there are different points in the year when we are all on our knees, but it is also the best job. If my staff come to me with ideas for reducing planning I will of course listen, but nor will I just go down the route of doing something because it is easier for staff. Our curriculum needs to be responsive to my community and relevant to their experiences and interests. This year we are working on children seeing themselves in the books they read and the history they study and this has of course created work for class teachers and subject leads. I make no apologies for this. I do all I can to provide time for leaders to lead and teachers to teach but ultimately, well our kids get one shot at this so it needs to be the best it can possibly be.

I guess in conclusion, what I am trying to say in my clumsy way, is that it is okay to be anxious and nervous. I’d be pretty surprised if you weren’t. However, find ways to live with yourself and look after yourself. You’re anxious because you are in a profession that cares passionately about getting it right for our children. If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed talk to someone, anyone. But also, embrace the nerves and the worry, it’s what drives us all to keep getting better.

Trauma – Death of a Pupil

Guest Post: Anon

I have wanted to write this for a long time.  In reality, finding the strength has been the problem.  I have been teaching for over 20 years and I thought I had seen it all. You should also know I set my standards really high and have had an impeccable career. I truly loved being a teacher, I was rarely ill.  However, one incident at school left me with PTSD, a breakdown and having to leave the job I love for a while to give myself time to recover. At one point I didn’t know if I could return to the profession again.

In my pastoral role, this was a year I wouldn’t wish on anyone: sadly, two students attempted to take their own lives.  I have PTSD now as a result of a child’s cry for help.

Immediately after the events had taken place, I was offered initial support and took it.  However, over time I found I was suffering from post-traumatic stress as I was reliving the experience and having flashbacks day in day out.  I asked for help from those above; nothing came. At the time, I felt there was a lack of understanding, I needed specialist support in PTSD and trauma. I do not blame the school, they were managing a very unusual situation and doing what they thought was right. However slowly my mental health was deteriorating. I was not sleeping, not eating well and probably having far too many G and T’s.

On reflection, there were tell-tale signs I wasn’t coping, and I am reminded of a time before I was signed off. I was supporting some students during break and lunch who were having a hard time, offering them a safe space to be, as I often have done throughout my career.  We were sat in the classroom, I was doing some work and I hadn’t realised I was humming, until one of the students asked, “Are you alright Miss?” It was at this point I thought I had a problem.  Then in a matter of weeks, the shakes began, and my body physically began reacting. I was also reacting to loud noises; I would jump and shake.

I remember the day I broke down. I just couldn’t go on and the tears fell and fell and fell.  The only way I can explain it was everything just fell out of me. I was sent home and didn’t return.  The guilt was tremendous, I felt so guilty that I had let everyone down, and in particular, the students down as I wasn’t there to support them. But what I really needed to do was put some intense support for myself.

I financed my own specialist support as this wasn’t freely available.  At first, I couldn’t leave the house. I couldn’t hold a cup of coffee without making a mess: the shakes would be constant. A lot of the time all I could do was sit.  The recovery has been difficult, at times seemingly impossible. But I am happy to say I am now in a much better place.

My family were amazing and after a long, while I started to feel better, my sleeping improved, and the flashbacks stopped.  I still have triggers, but they are rare and from what I understand from PTSD and professionals, this is a normal occurrence and I have the knowledge to put things in place when I need to, and I do.

This isn’t an experience I have chosen to tell lightly. However, I feel it is so important that Senior Leaders take heed, listen and put support measures in place.  Since this has happened, I have spoken to other people in different professions, all of whom get support when serious traumatic events happen. From Social workers, employees in hospitals and people who work as reporters at child hearings.  When there has been a serious case that they have been dealing with they have supported both during and after the case; they are offered specialist counselling, time off and support to continue in their work.  What I am disappointed most by, considering our profession is all about caring for others, is that we do not have a standard process for supporting staff when they are on the frontline of supporting our young people through very difficult times.

As a Head of Year, a job I adored, it was a privilege to support young people from all backgrounds and experiences, and I have treasured memories of the differences I have made to young people.  There were many times I would go home and hurt for them: the disclosures of abuse I heard, the traumas they had been through.  The wait for social workers to come to provide the necessary support or indeed working with the police to support our young people.

 

Reflecting upon what I have been through, I realise that throughout my career I have never been offered any form of counselling or support to process what I, along with all teachers, have been dealing with at the time. What I am arguing for is a set process for the profession that needs to be followed to make sure we support the mental health of our staff as well as our students.

 

Now some people will say there is counselling you can access if you want it, often via a telephone, but for trauma, you need specialist help, and this isn’t always on offer.  I think there needs to be more trauma-informed practices that are set processes, meaning we are supporting staff to a gold standard.  The US leads the world having national policies in trauma-informed care and other countries worldwide are catching up.  I think that England needs to become more ‘trauma aware’.  Ultimately, we are educators, but we also provide a wealth of other support as well, something that often goes unnoticed by anyone who isn’t working in the profession.

 

 

 

Guest Post: Teacher Ear

This is a guest post, well sort of…

As I am not supposed to be posting over the summer, I’m allowing people to catch up.

Today I’m posting something different. Darren Chetty’s ‘Beyond the Secret Garden’ at The Royal Opera House #ThrivingChild Conference is below. Chetty explores issues around identity and representation as they relate to how children thrive at ‘The Thriving Child’

He literally moved me to tears, tears which should have been cried years ago.

 

Change is in your hands. One teacher, one lesson and one pupil at a time.