Five ways to innovate teaching and learning through empowerment

James Walton

James Walton is an enthusiastic, dedicated educationalist who believes in inspiring, supporting
and motivating those around him to deliver outstanding thinking and learning. He’s someone who has proven leadership experience, leading effectively through clear communication, empathy and having the strategic vision and creativity to achieve excellent results. James is a firm believer in promoting a growth mindset in all members of the school community. His goal is to inspire and nurture children, and also to empower staff to become active participants in their learning and development, giving them the opportunity to fulfil their potential and become successful individuals with a positive self-image./p>

Follow @MrJPWalton

Website: Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

1. Grade the teacher!

One way we can improve the learning in each lesson is to get the children to openly ‘grade’ the teaching and learning that has gone on in the lesson (pictured above). This allows children to take responsibility of their input into the lesson, and allows honest dialogue between teacher and pupil to take place. it helps to develop the teaching and learning that goes on by allowing the pupil to be in control and take ownership of their effort, something some children find challenging to understand. This method develops a pupil’s understanding of the need to engage actively with their learning opportunities and to allow active thinking to help them learn.

We have found outcomes have been that children have been honest with their engagement and therefore have increased the effort and application during lessons. Teaching can be adapted and feedback from children can benefit future lessons and learning by allowing them the input and control over how the learning is delivered.

2. Self-evaluation – next steps to success!

Giving the children the role of choosing the ‘Next Steps’ in their learning is a powerful tool in ensuring they feel part of the learning process and engaging them in it. Examples can be found both inside and outside the classroom. You can give children control over their learning in a wide range of methods. From the formal use of Success Criteria in the classroom to children choosing the training drills to run on the sports field on reflection of what they need to improve upon from their last fixture.

You can also give children control the development of a topic through ongoing evaluation of learning being undertaken. The teacher can gather information on what the children want to learn more about, and how to provide learning opportunities for them to do so. A flexible and confident attitude is required here by the teacher, with clear guidelines agreed by all to ensure that the learning follows a structure that benefits all and ensures an end result the child can be truly proud of.

The danger of children ‘dumbing down’ their learning by taking the easy route is taken away from them by the structure on developing best practice in a collaborative manner. At our school we represent this through our ‘Purple Octopus’, which has enough arms to explore and grab opportunities, as well as holding onto the zip-line that leads them through school and moves them towards their goals. The safety net is always there and you are encouraged to go out and grab the opportunities around you.

3. TED - Think! Explore! Design!

At the end of every term the children are given a topic they can complete some research on away from school, to their own level of interest and ability. We use ‘TEDs’ instead of hours of mind-numbing worksheets, allowing children to develop their skills at completing research projects.

Beyond the topic title, which is used as a general theme and starting point, the children can complete the TED in whichever way they wish. The TEDs are not graded, but positive comments on the effort and thinking that has gone on help children develop their style of recording and research skills. From QR codes that link to websites, to simple pages with no words and information communicated through a single pencil and page, the children have total control over their learning and input into the task. The results have been amazing.

It has taken time to ensure the parents understand that it is not their ‘project’ but their children’s, and that we will accept whatever results they give to us. The pride and learning shines through and grows each time. Learning is improved as the children develop skills and techniques they can use time and time again in the classroom and beyond. All TEDs are shared, and children have opportunities to say positive things about each one, which helps them gather a broad range of experiences from their peers.

4. Giving them a time to think and verbalise their thinking!

To help improve children develop thinking skills which will help them take control in real life situations and contexts away from school, we build their ability to arrange questions and possible solutions. We do this in every lesson through higher-order questioning and open-ended questions in the form of ‘Thunks’.

A Thunk is a beguilingly simple-looking question about everyday things that stops you in your tracks and helps you start to look at the world in a whole new light. They help develop thinking skills and imagination which children can use in other areas of their lives and learning.

This allows children to have the skills to take control when they need to develop their learning and understanding of different situations both in and out of the classroom. Inside the classroom we have found children are approaching how they complete a task. This goes along with setting open-ended questions and allowing the children time to work on them with the teacher supporting learning by structuring the process at times, but not directly leading learning.

5. Mastering the techniques to share learning and feedback to others.

Getting children to verbalise their thinking and learning is key to helping them become confident in the processes and methods they are using in their learning. Using this alongside the open-ended thinking they use to complete a task benefits and adds value to the time spent tackling a task. The child becoming the ‘teacher’ or person in control of the thinking and learning process in a group, allowing deeper learning and understanding to take place. Quickly children grow in confidence to challenge thinking and (more importantly) adapt their thinking to help them best solve a task.

I hope you find these five tips to improve teaching and learning useful and give them a go. Letting children lead can be a revelation – for both teacher and pupil.

Do you give pupils control over the lesson? Let us know in the comments below!

Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support us.
When you register, you'll join a grassroots community where you can:
• Enjoy unlimited access to articles
• Get recommendations tailored to your interests
• Attend virtual events with our leading contributors
Register Now
Try Later

Latest stories

  • Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2
    Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2

    The Action Pack is back for the start of the brand new school year, just in time for Recycle Week 2021 on 20 - 26 September, to empower pupils to make the world a better and more sustainable place. The free recycling-themed resources are designed for KS1 and KS2 and cover the topics of Art, English, PSHE, Science and Maths and have been created to easily fit into day-to-day lesson planning.

  • Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu
    Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu

    Following the exceptional performance from British breakthrough star Emma Raducanu, who captured her first Grand Slam at the US Open recently, Emmamania is already inspiring pupils aged 4 - 11 to get more involved in tennis - and LTA Youth, the flagship
    programme from The LTA, the governing body of tennis in Britain, has teachers across the country covered.

  • 5 ways to boost your school's eSafety
    5 ways to boost your school's eSafety

    eSafety is a term that constantly comes up in school communities, and with good reason. Students across the world are engaging with technology in ways that have never been seen before. This article addresses 5 beginning tips to help you boost your school’s eSafety. 

  • Tackling inequality in EdTech
    Tackling inequality in EdTech

    We have all been devastated by this pandemic that has swept the world in a matter of weeks. Schools have rapidly had to change the way they operate and be available for key workers' children. The inequalities that have long existed in communities and schools are now being amplified by the virus.

  • EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab
    EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab

    The world is catching up with a truth that we’ve championed at Learning Ladders for the last 5 years - that children’s learning outcomes are greatly improved by teachers, parents and learners working in partnership. 

  • Reducing primary to secondary transition stress
    Reducing primary to secondary transition stress

    As school leaders grapple with the near impossible mission to start bringing more students into schools from 1st June, there are hundreds of thousands of Year 6 pupils thinking anxiously about their move to secondary school.

  • Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?
    Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?

    The K-12 online tutoring market is booming around the world, with recent research estimating it to grow by 12% per year over the next five years, a USD $60bn increase. By breaking down geographic barriers and moving beyond the limits of local teaching expertise, online tutoring platforms are an especially valuable tool for those looking to supplement their studies in the developing world, and students globally are increasingly signing up to online tuition early on in their secondary education schooling. 

  • Employable young people or human robots?
    Employable young people or human robots?

    STEM skills have been a major focus in education for over a decade and more young people are taking science, technology, engineering, and maths subjects at university than ever before, according to statistics published by UCAS. The downside of this is that the UK is now facing a soft skills crisis and the modern world will also require children to develop strong social skills as the workplaces are transformed by technology. 

  • What it’s like to be a teacher with an anxiety disorder
    What it’s like to be a teacher with an anxiety disorder

    We all feel anxious sometimes. Maybe it is going into a new situation such as starting a new job, or having to have a difficult conversation. The feeling of nervousness and anxiousness is completely normal, and an evolutionary necessity. However, for some people, like me, that feeling of anxiousness never goes away. You live with it day in, day out, and it can have quite a detrimental effect on your life and mental health.

  • How Tassomai transformed our school
    How Tassomai transformed our school

    An online learning programme called Tassomai is playing its part in the rapid transformation of Torquay Academy. Reece Broome, who is leading the project at the school, explains.

In order to make our website better for you, we use cookies!

Some firefox users may experience missing content, to fix this, click the shield in the top left and "disable tracking protection"