Schools all want to have great communication with parents. They know the value and impact of partnerships which help to meet a child’s needs 24/7. It isn’t always easy to manage, however, as there just isn’t the time in the day, or even the week, to meet regularly with all parents. So what often happens is a stream of information coming from school to home, often with very little coming back the other way, even with the best of intentions.
Have you ever had a song stuck in your head for what seems like days? The same words and melody looping over and over again? While it might be frustrating, your brain is actually doing some really amazing things as you recall Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance for the hundredth time that day. When a song gets stuck in your head it may have something to do with our involuntary memory, which encodes music in many different ways, helping us to remember a tune we’ve only heard once at our niece’s 11th birthday party. It’s a powerful concept; try applying this to an educational setting, and we can achieve considerable results.
A major presence at this year’s Bett conference will be Show My Homework, where the online homework software will be announcing publicly, for the first time, their new partnership. Visiting teachers will be able to meet the Show My Homework team at Stand C449 from 20th - 23rd January at the ExCeL London. The company has been shortlisted for three Bett awards: ICT Leadership and Management Solutions, Secondary Digital Content and ICT Innovator of the Year.
Despite the frequent, outstanding advances in edtech we see daily, there are still certain areas of education that have stayed mostly unchanged for some time. Here, veteran teacher Jim Baker discusses the problem that he sees with the traditional lesson format, and how it can easily be changed for the better.
From my biography, you’ll see I’ve been in the classroom for 43 years so am speaking from first-hand experience, not to court votes or to agree with what is ‘flavour of the day’. My presentation ‘The Way Forward’ will give you an idea of what my passion is: to educate students into becoming independent learners. I don’t like the word ‘teach’ so I avoid it whenever possible. When asked my profession I say I’m an entertainer. Check out comment #42 in my guestbook by a former colleague back in 2005, who was pleased to see I was “still blurring the boundaries between teaching and entertaining”.
At the risk of sounding unprofessional, homework has always been a thorn in our side. The children dislike it, teachers can have workload issues around it, and both the school and the parents can have unrealistic expectations of it. It is an entity in which no one has a common opinion. It is also an incredibly emotive subject; if you open any teaching publication there are hosts of opinions for and against homework. In research completed in 2006 Cooper, Robinson, and Patall noted:
'With only rare exceptions, the relationship between the amount of homework students do and their achievement outcomes was found to be positive and statistically significant. Therefore, we think it would not be imprudent, based on the evidence in hand, to conclude that doing homework causes improved academic achievement'
For some time now I have been toying with the idea that grading student work might just be one of the biggest barriers to improving student performance. Sound strange? Let me explain.
My theory is that we have all been programmed by society to look for a grade, result or classification on anything important we do in life. This system informs us of our level of success. What we aren't good at processing, however, is appreciating what to do to improve.
Take for example your driving test – when you heard the words 'passed', did you pay any attention to your 'minor faults' or what you weren't that good at? Or did you just want to grab the keys and get going? My point is that students rely too heavily on their grades and view these with far more importance than their comments and suggestions for improvement.
When work is marked, it usually only includes a single grade with a sentence of constructive criticism. However, the benefits of using categorised marking ensures that the student is totally clear on where his/her strengths are, where they need to improve, where they lack understanding and any parts of the exam criteria that they have missed.
Ah, the dreaded red pen. Students, parents and SLT often cringe at the sight of the red ink used by a teacher. Maybe because it's a symbol for blood?
I think it's more likely to be linked to the idea that teachers from a previous age would use just a red pen to mark work and would be likely to mark negatively; pointing out mistakes or circling poor work.
However, when a teacher marks their books now, they are usually (or hopefully) better trained into what marking works and what will benefit their students' learning.
Too often, students see the grade that they receive and do not take enough notice into the written feedback that is given during marking. Dylan Wiliam's suggestion of not giving the grade to the students works but I've been wanting the students to engage with the success criteria when it comes to their exams and they really are incredibly motivated by seeing the grades, or even a number.
Something suggested by a colleague, which I've started to implement with exam classes, is 'predictive grids'. These are success criteria grids (usually using the exam board language as much as possible) which the students highlight according to what they think they achieved in the piece of work. This can either be done directly after the piece of work is finished or the lesson after which is what I usually prefer to do. When the work is marked, the teacher can then see where specifically the students are not achieving, but also see if the students know if they are not achieving in that particular area.