#BDONE Part 7 Learning with Laughter

Following his highly amusing keynote Dave Keeling shared his thoughts on creating the right climate for learning. The whole theme was relaxed but challenged; his weapon of choice for keeping a relaxed atmosphere is humour but he also shared the challenge question technique and some reflections on creating the right classroom climate for thinking.

Learning is all about thinking, we need to focus on the deep thinking, but to get them willing to engage in the powerful and profound you need to get students willing to take a risk. Ask them questions they can answer to get them used to sharing their thoughts. Then you can ask them to take a risk on thinking and get them hooked.

Challenge questions

Get them to try and argue what’s best, Daddy or chips, fire or ice? The key is getting them used to giving reasons and building an argument. Or even go for who would win; shark or rhino? Again it’s all about giving reasons and building arguments.

Other Reflections

Curiosity + Passion = Intelligence

Utilise the strengths of others, tap into the skill base of those around you. If you know someone has a skill you need why not just ask them for help, you might even have a skill they need. Can you get students to start using these tactics in the classroom?

Give students reasons to be motivated, tell them why they’re doing things. It gets more passion than just going through the motions.

Start asking real questions, find out new stuff, ask about real world issues.

Get them challenged so that they get to feel “Moments of sudden glory” (Thomas Hobbes) when they figure things out.

Get them to make connections, think in a different way.

Give them answers and ask what the question is. “If this is the answer, what is the question?”

If they’re stuck get them to look for someone who isn’t to explain it to them.

Video Challenge

After the final session delegates were challenged to make a video to share their learning. These can be found here. The link is to the first one and the rest are there on YouTube once you start watching.

Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE

Advertisements

Lesson Study 101

Lesson Study is a professional learning cycle where 2 or more teachers identify a challenge to learning, research possible solutions, plan a lesson together using this knowledge, observe the lesson and reflect upon their findings. This cycle is then repeated until all members of the group have delivered a collaboratively planned lesson and their finding are often delivered to colleagues or others to share their learning.

Dudley (2010) identifies the process originating in Japan in 1872 and due to this it is a significant proportion of the researched written by practitioners in Japan. He identifies this as a “highly effective form of collaborative, classroom-located teacher learning which focuses upon improving and innovating practice knowledge.”

Process

1) Identify an aspect of teaching to improve.

2) Research approaches to improving this aspect.

3) Plan a lesson collaboratively.

4) Lesson is taught and observed.

5) Target students interviewed.

6) Group meets to discuss findings.

7) Cycle restarts.

8) Next steps; presenting findings and forming new groups.

Identify an aspect of teaching to improve

This is a crucial aspect of the process, without determining the focus for improvement this would become a generic lesson observation; Lesson Study is about targeted teacher research making a difference, not measuring a teacher by their performance in a one off lesson. Dudley (2014) recommends looking at the needs of individual students (or groups of students), teaching strategies, the content or curriculum strand to be developed. These give a sound basis to form an area of focus for a Lesson Study project.

From a practical point of view, you may know which areas your students perform less well in due to test or examination results. If you’ve got specific teaching and learning targets for your performance management this could be a personal focus for your project or you could look at whole school priorities to identify a target group. You may wish to choose your target students by sticking performance data for one class in a spreadsheet and filtering those with the lowest progress giving an objective measures for identification.

If you and your colleagues are fortunate enough to teach the same students and either have non-contact periods at appropriate times or your school is supporting your project and willing to cover lessons to allow the observations to happen you could target exactly the same students for each cycle.

Research approaches to improving this aspect

Once you have identified the focus aspect it is important to research possible approaches to improving this. This can be from reading academic research, books and blogs, observing skilled colleagues, discussions with experts or going on an appropriate course. The key is to spend time looking at and reflecting upon what you find rather than rushing in to write a lesson, what you’re really after is a finely crafted lesson based on your research and your identified need. It’s about application of knowledge to your context to see if it works. If you end up with more questions than answers you’ve definitely picked a valuable focus for your enquiry.

Plan a lesson collaboratively

The initial part of the process identifies who we want to learn what and the research gives some ideas about how that might happen. The collaborative lesson planning means that as a group you explore what this learning experience might look like. The aim of the planning is to take joint responsibility for the lesson and give all members of the group ownership; it’s about working together to find ways of making the students learn what you want them to. Each aspect should be discussed thoroughly and critiqued until all members of the group are happy with the result.

This could be explored on a micro-scale by looking at one activity, focusing on starters, plenaries, progress checks, questioning, thinking skills or any other aspect for a targeted short period of time. This can create a lesser time requirement for the planning and observation phases if you wish to focus intently on a short section of learning.

Make sure you’re planning your lesson with your key aspect as your focus, after all “Memory is the residue of thought.” Willingham (2010); indicating that students will remember what they were thinking about. Make sure they’re thinking about what you want them to remember.

Lesson is taught and observed

The lesson is then delivered by the lead teacher for the cycle and observed by the other members of the Lesson Study group. The observers focus should be on the identified students and their learning. Nuthall (2007) identifies the huge significance in student peer dialogue in the learning process either supporting or sabotaging comprehension and learning and this has made observing student dialogue a focus in my classroom practice and when observing others.

If as a group you have difficulty finding time to observe each other there are various video recording packages available such as IRIS or the VEO App which could be used to record lessons for later viewing and discussion. (Please note there are other packages available.) Personally if doing this I would leave the microphone with a table of targeted students to focus on the peer dialogue of students.

A variation on the traditional process could be to have an expert coach watching the live stream from another room providing prompts and support to the teacher delivering. This would require clear ground rules and signals in place but would allow the deliverer to access expert support immediately during the lesson. This could even be a pedagogical strategy which you could explore with your Lesson Study group.

Target students interviewed

Following the lesson the target students should be interviewed regarding the relevant aspects of the lesson. I tend to focus the dialogue around three key questions:-

What did they learn?

How did they learn?

What were their challenges to learning?

The first two allow me to identify what successes there were and what process got them there. The final question allows me to reflect on what to do next, supporting the identification of the focus aspect for the next Lesson Study Cycle.

Group meets to discuss findings

Dudley (2014) identifies the importance of this process being about the learning in the classroom, not the judging of the lesson. It is essential that the dialogue within the group is focused on learning, processes, observations and pedagogical strategies. It is creating this climate which reaps the greatest benefits in Lesson Study Projects. The skill of the group to self-regulate these discussions or of a facilitator leading the group can significantly impact on the professional learning of the participants. So, to reiterate, it’s not about the teacher, it’s about the learning.

Cycle restarts

The intention being that each member of the group delivers a collaboratively planned lesson building each time on the knowledge gained from the Lesson Study cycle. I have referred to this as a Lesson Study project several times throughout this piece as I consider a series of cycles the complete project. Once all members of the group have delivered a lesson it is customary to share findings and, if desired, form new project teams.

Next steps; presenting findings and forming new groups.

Traditionally once a Lesson study Project has been completed the teachers share their findings, often with colleagues but sometimes in journals, blogs and at Teachmeet events. Allison (2014) provides information on these and a selection of other ways in which teachers can share their findings from research projects. If only your group gains knowledge from your project it has value, but if you share that knowledge it has far more.

Once you have completed a Lesson Study Project if you wish to continue with the practice you could begin again with the same group or you could each form new groups, academic splinter cells if you will, where the more experienced member can share their understanding of the process as part of the project.

Things to consider

As with any research project it is essential to consider the type of information you wish to gather, qualitative or quantitative, both? What are you going to gather the information about? Which ways will you gather this data? What questions will you ask? What are the ethical ramifications of your research and methodology? If you’re really committed to the Action Research aspect of teacher led research I strongly recommend Baumfield, Hall, Wall et (2012) as an excellent starting point for practitioner enquiry in education.

Getting Started

All that’s really needed to begin a Lesson Study project is a friend (a colleague will do), access to the materials on the Lesson Study UK website (link here) and a openness to investigate the learning in your classroom in a different way. If you really want to go deeper into the thinking behind it I recommend Dudley (2010), Dudley (2014) and Allison (2014); all of which feature easy to follow summaries of the process.

In an ideal scenario each group would have a skilled facilitator who has been through the process previously as Dudley (2014) identifies the huge importance of the dialogue between teachers in this process and that the quality of that dialogue improves with experience in Lesson Study. Hence the suggestion of founding new groups shared above.

Why Lesson Study?

Most significantly it’s a teacher led approach to improving learning in the classroom, the intrinsic motivation comes from making our own discoveries. It makes us engage with other sources of knowledge when we are planning and preparing our lesson. It encourages us to talk about learning and pedagogy with our colleagues, always a wonderful thing. It provides an opportunity to reflect on our practice in a non-judgemental way with our peers. It sharpens our focus on things we could improve and students we could better support. It opens up dialogue with students about their learning, informative for us, an opportunity for metacognition for them. The only downside I see with the process is the investment in time, this isn’t about quick fixes, it’s about honing our classroom craft.

What if it goes wrong?

In real terms lessons can, and sometimes do, go badly. The purpose of Lesson study is to be a collaborative action research project built around dialogue and micro-research. The consequences of it going wrong are the same as any other lesson, the students don’t learn as much as you’d like and you need a new strategy.

In terms of the group going wrong through conflict and not adhering to roles or expectations, there are two real options, talk through the issue like reasonable adults or realise that your particular group aren’t going to gain from working together. Sometimes it’s good to know when to let something go.

References

Allison, S (2014) Perfect Teacher Led CPD, ITL Press

Baumfield. V, Hall. E, Wall. K (2012) Action Research in Education: Learning Through Practitioner Enquiry, SAGE

Dudley. P (2010) from: McGrane. J and Lofthouse. R (2010) Developing Outstanding Teaching and Learning: Creating a Culture of Professional Development to Improve Outcomes, Optimus Education

Dudley. P (2014) Lesson Study: Professional learning for our time, Routledge Research in Education

Nuthall. G (2007) The Hidden Lives of Learners, NZCER Press

Whillingham. D (2010) Why don’t students like school?: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How The Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom, Jossey Bass

Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE

Featured image created using the Typorama & PhotoFunia Apps.

Update, links to Lesson Study Reports:-

Lesson Study UK

Study Cam
Thanks to @lessonstudyuk for sharing these links.

#BDONE Part 6 – Keynotes

Just in case we weren’t brimming with enthusiasm next up were two powerhouses of positivity to give their keynote speeches – Will Ryan & Dave Keeling.

  
Will Ryan – Dare to be different

Will started by boldly stating that maybe things are alright.

“Teaching in this country is at the highest level ever; if we were left alone maybe they would be better than alright.” 

We should look for the best bits, enjoy the richness and vivid nature of the English languages. We should teach children how to think. We should have school pride for all the wonderful things that are happening in our schools. We should be enjoying the things that are going well.

Will then suggested we should treat ourselves to a really special experience; a 3G lesson. Every once and a whole we should craft a lesson of such magnitude that not only the learner experiences it but the go home and tell their parents about it. So finely crafted that one day they will tell their own children. You can’t do it every day, but try and add a little magic where you can.

Final thought – Think this on the way out on a Friday:- What was the best thing that happened in my classroom this week? 

(Personal note:- You could also share it on #PedagooFriday.)

Dave Keeling – Make ’em laugh, make ’em learn

With great with and a few gentle nudges into innuendo Dave shared his thoughts on what makes learning memorable:-

Relevant

Interesting

Naughty

Giggle

By playing round with these ideas it makes the concepts you share more memorable. Then, once they have that knowledge, do something with it.

“Knowledge without action is just storage.”

What do we need to do to get students learning?

Relaxed and happy students learn. Humour is a form of social self esteem. When we laugh together confidence grows and learners engage. We need to make them want to get involved in their learning. They need space to get things wrong, otherwise they’ll never take a chance. They need the confidence to take chances to dig deep in their learning.

Challenge: Conflict & Controversy

“We spend so long in The Pit we should put a sofa and a drinks machine in it.” – Former Student

I’m a fan of cognitive conflict in the classroom. The idea of thinking hard to me is a greater thing of beauty than dawn in the mountains, a Rembrandt masterpiece or music that would make angels weep. It took me over a decade in education to realise that nothing was more important to me than thinking hard. I value all of the other parts, developing them as well rounded, caring and thoughtful individuals is good for them and society, passing exams opens up life chances in terms of career and further education, I even like them to have fun when possible because I think that happiness is a good thing. Thinking is the thing that drags me in on a bad day, that excites me even in dark moments, that makes me obsess over education.

It’s because of this I’m always looking for ways to make them think hard. My favourite idea on thinking hard in the classroom is The Pit by James Nottingham. Simply put you should introduce an idea they feel confident about, get them a bit confused and questioning their knowledge, provide ways to solve that confusion and ideally have them more knowledgeable and satisfied with what they have achieved and learnt at the end. (That’s super brief, the video link above is a detailed version.)

There are many ways to create challenge or cognitive conflict; questioning, hard sums, appropriately pitched tasks. The one I’d like to share a little thinking on today is using controversy and conflict. To do so I’d like to share five techniques (dirty tricks) I use to intentionally challenge thinking and create disruption in students thinking.

Ad Hominem

This amusing deceit attacks (or supports) an argument or point by pointing out the flaws (or strengths) of a person. It’s a great way to invalidate perfectly logical and well developed arguments or shore up something a bit fluffy with a big name. 

A great example is the way people use quotes on the Internet next to a picture of some legendary figure. No-one ever uses historic villains to back their arguments. Try this one…

“Anyone can deal with victory. Only the mighty can bear defeat.” 

If that makes you feel motivated Google it’s originator.

If we call the character, appearance or any other aspect of the arguer or their source into doubt we unravel their arguments unjustly. Unjustly, but very easily. Give it a try.

Appeal to Emotion

This is the superb method of using emotive language to manipulate those hearing the argument. Appealing to the emotions of the reader or listener by directing how you want them to feel. 

This has become fabulously enhanced in recent years with the use of imagery to support it. Call it propaganda, or marketing, if you will but some nice words and a pretty picture doesn’t make something true. It can convince people that it’s true though.

 

False Dichotomy

Giving them a choice of two options as if they were the only ones in the world. It’s the “Daddy or chips?” question tactically applied to your subject matter. I’m led to believe people rarely actually have to choose between losing a parent or never again having access to deep fried potato products.

The idea that they have to choose is easily accepted by most, students and adults alike. The obvious counter to this fallacy is to offer another option or expose the absurdity of the limited choices they’ve offered. You could, if you feel particularly feisty, challenge their authority to enforce such a choice.


Slippery Slope

An almost charicature escalation of the situation to make their point or argument sound like the beginning of the end. 

The process is simple, suggest the worst thing that can happen that still sounds within the realm of reason based on their idea. Then repeat that for each step of escalation. An example floating around the ether on Twitter is how forgetting your pen for lessons can cause your death.

No pen = no study = fail tests = no job = no money = no food = die. It’s absurd to assume forgetting your pen will guarantee your death; if I thought that was the case I’d probably let you borrow one. 

Straw Man

Set up an argument which has enough gaps that you can take it apart to strengthen your own argument. It’s the structure of many an essay. Argument, take apart argument, other argument, conclude.

The trick is to make your straw man (sometimes called a straw dummy) convincing enough that they buy in to it just before you take it apart. It’s a very dramatic and simple trick to make your point seem more valid by proving the weakness of an alternative. In reality it doesn’t mean your argument is good, just that you’ve found a bad one that it sounds a bit better than.


Final Thoughts

“There’s a war going on for your mind. If you are thinking, you are winning.” – Flobots

As borderline insane as it may sound I see using dirty tricks and deceit as a moral duty. Training them to keep their guard up; much like one of my old kickboxing instructors who would slap me around the head every time I dropped my guard, when they stop thinking throw in a sneaky trick. It might sound a little cruel but it prepares their minds for the real world where not everyone will be honest or playing fair. If you don’t believe me go watch some adverts or read the news.

If you want to keep the game fair, teach them these techniques to use against you; it makes it even more fun.

Keep thinking, keep winning.

Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE