POP Targets

“It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be.” Paul Arden

I’ve been thinking about goals a lot lately, goals for my students, goals for my department, professional goals for myself and personal goals. It’s this time of year I’m looking at student data and thinking about the year ahead and also leading up to my main sporting event of the year The Lakeland 50. (Planning to knock a few hours off last year’s time and finish feeling strong.)

I think that setting goals is an important part of the developmental process; whether long or short term, simple or hugely ambitious. @Learning Spy has written an excellent blog on goals and his tips to make them worthwhile here. He also includes an Ultrarunning story so as far as I’m concerned he hit the target with this one;)

I’ve also been lucky enough to see Dr Ian Boardley speak again this year at the Lakeland Recce Days. He’s a lecturer at Birmingham University and an accomplished ultrarunner. He shared a way of categorising goals in sporting events that I felt had some lessons I could apply to my professional goal setting in education. So the three categories are:- 


This is a focus on the end product of a particular event. Success is determined in very specific terms such as a time goal in running or a specific % of students achieving a specific grade or hitting all of your performance management goals. These are useful for us in terms of long term thinking and really useful to people with leadership responsibilities as these allow tracking of strategic goals.


This focus on the overall outcome of a particular event: usually in comparison to others. Beating a particular rival in a race or in our terms in education getting better results than another school or teacher or getting a better observation grade than a rival. These competitive goals make a lot more sense in sport than education as we’re very much a collegiate and supportive profession. We’re after the best for all not just ourselves.


This is a focus on in-performance goals, what you’re doing during the event. Addressing optimal form, technique and strategy. In race this is about when to run and when to walk (50 miles is quite a long way), getting my eating and hydration right. In school it’s about what to do and when to do it. What time of day do you mark efficiently? What do you need to remember to add to your lessons? (Starters? Plenaries? More questions?) What are the indicators you need to look out for when things aren’t going well and what are your strategies to overcome these? By thinking and planning around process goals in advance it allows me to focus on what I’m doing, not trying to figure out a strategy on the spot. A lot of adaptability comes from having though possibilities through in advance or experience of similar situations in the past. Things rarely go well by sheer good fortune. It’s also good to know what you’re going to do when things don’t go well.

I think all of these have value, process and performance more so in the educational setting. On a day to day basis I feel that thinking about our process goals could make the biggest impact and therefore support us in achieving our other goals. The process goals you set could be about your lesson structure; remembering to use a plenary to check the learning or making sure the class get time to tidy away making the end of the lesson less panicked. It could be setting specific times to do specific tasks; like booking certain slots for marking or putting an hour a week to spend on new ideas that would otherwise fall by the wayside. It might even be specific responses, for example if I see Marmaduke distracted I’ll knock on a table as a prompt rather than yelling – “How ye; get on with yer work.” Make sure the student knows the prompt too otherwise they’ll think you’ve gone wrong.

These small, specific, day to day changes help build good habits; it’s very much the Marginal Learning Gains idea of making lots of little impacts which accumulate to make a big difference. 

So dream big, aim high and know how you’re going to get there.

Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE

Featured image made using the following site:- Dude Generator. 


Big Day Out Newcastle #BDONE Part 5

The Hollywood effect with David Hodgson.

What’s really important in our lessons in what’s going on in the brain. We need to get them excited and engaged; we need to make a Hollywood movie of our subjects. Subject specialists have a rich and detailed vision of their subject; we need to share that film with our students. We also need to think about making the thinking efficient.

Three Big Ideas

1) Mood impacts on performance.

Look at the puppy room experiments where students stroked puppies for four minutes before taking a test and performed better.

In sport; you take time to get yourself in the right frame of mind whether it’s routine, chants, mantras of visualisation. You get yourself focused and in the mood for the task ahead.

Is this a wasted opportunity? We need to spend time making students relaxed, ready and curious. Not nervous and bored. We need to influence the mood of our classes:-

Push them towards it; gentles nudges and prompts.

OR drag them along with enthusiasm.

2) Activate the Learning

Use walk through memory techniques, attach ideas to landmarks. Move it, mark it out. Attach senses to ideas, the more stimuli and links to an idea the greater the recollection.

The example used was people who were good at spelling. 

1) Picture the word.

2) Say it, syllable by syllable.

3) Check gut feeling.

4) If it feels right it is right. Stop.

5) If it feels wrong go back to step one.

Activate your senses to improve learning; look at how the brain experiences the body.

3) Practice

Review at the end of the lesson; remind the brain what stuff is important. Focus on the small improvements.

The more the brain does something the more it will remember it. Make sure they review often and the right stuff.

Then it was time for lunch. (There won’t be a separate blog on the food.)

During lunch delegates were given opportunities for one to one consults with the Independant Thinking Associates. I was really impressed by this extra personal touch; Lisa obviously worked her team hard.

Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE

Visiting The Belmont Learning Hubs

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting @dan_brinton @belmont_school to see his “learning hubs” as part of the package of distributed leadership professional development initiatives implemented at his school.

After sharing an overview of his vision, implementation strategy and long term aims Dan took me on a tour of his learning hubs:

Questioning; how can questioning be used to assess knowledge, challenge thinking and direct learning?

Feedback & Critique; how can we use feedback to promote progress, reflection and pride in our work?

Challenge & Mindset; how can we create a culture of growth mindset where challenge is embraced?

E-Learning; how can we use technology to enhance learning inside and outside of the classroom?

(There was also a Literacy hub which sadly wasn’t on that afternoon.)

These are the five key aspects of learning and culture that the team at Belmont have identified as the key foci to push their school forward and deliver the best for their students.

I’ll not go into detail on the vision and processes as Dan shares a lot about what happens on his blog here. This is one of my favourite five blogs on the Internet and I strongly recommend giving it a read.

What I would like to share was the clear impact that this program had on the staff:-

1) The staff were really welcoming, open and honest about their learning journey. They shared their triumphs, challenges and some great ideas I could take away to use. There was a clear growth mindset in their own learning. 

(My instant takeaways to use in my classroom are at the bottom.)

2) The staff were passionate in their discussions about learning; it seems like an obvious thing to say but putting teachers together and giving them time to think and talk is such an important thing. It not only provides an important opportunity for reflection and development it also clearly defines what’s important in your school. It’s a culture thing.

3) Staff were focused on their legacy and impact. The work they were doing in their hubs was to share with their colleagues to make a difference to all of the students in their school. They knew what they were working on was an investment in the future.

4) Hub leaders and their groups were thinking rich picture; strategically looking at how their work and future plans will impact on all stakeholders. Clearly looking to synthesise with other initiatives in school such as their action research and lesson study groups.

As well as getting a great insight into the workings of the project and experiencing the groups first hand I was also lucky enough to pick up two quick ideas to use straight away in my classroom.

Multi-Coloured PEE

Chris Jones was kind enough to share how he had been focusing his students on scaffolding PEE (Point, Evidence, Explain) paragraphs using 3 different coloured pens. It’s a great, simple to implement concept and a clear way to highlight the paragraph structure to the students.


Lee Ferris shared this tool with me; it was originally designed as an App for language learning but can be used to work on key vocabulary and concepts. It’s easy to use and works around repetition and interleaving the learning by carefully timed reminders by e-mail or alerts on their phones.

I’m not only using it to brush up on my hugely rusty Japanese; I’ve also set up some essential vocabulary for my Key Stage 4 Religious Studies classes and high frequency academic vocabulary using the @LearningSpy list (with David’s kind permission) to develop their comprehension of exam style vocabulary.

Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE

#100wordbookreview An Ethic of Excellence by Ron Berger

A text which lives up to its name; a beautifully crafted narrative sharing an inspirational educators philosophy and principles.

As well as telling a personal heart warming tale of making education purposeful, personal and relevant this book shares how to apply these principles in your practice. Extolling the importance of community, both inside and outside of the classroom, and the impact it has on learning.  Berger is honest about the effort and care taken to make the right culture and meaningful projects happen. He also shows why it’s worth it.

If you’re passionate about education this is an essential text.

Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE

Big Day Out Newcastle #BDONE Part 4 

The real highlight of the day for me was the pedagogy speed date circuit where the ITL Associates were corralled from table to table to share instant impact teaching ideas…


Hywel Roberts

#Poundlandpedagogy A must follow hashtag. In simple terms you go and buy stuff for £1 and then do interesting things in your classroom which you share online. It’s a fun thing to challenge yourself to be creative on a limited budget. 

Example: Cut out people; you can get learners to write key characteristics of characters from plays and books. Get them to to write all they know OR things they’d like to know about the character and stick them up or even in their books.

Bonus share; Gordon from our table shared how he uses wipeable tablecloths as giant table cover whiteboards and lollipop sticks with names written on for no hands up.

Tait Coles

QFT: Question Formulation Technique

Start off by giving them a stimulus then…

1) Give them 5 minutes to come up with questions they want to answer.

2) Refine the questions; which ones are closed/open, or even worth investigating.

3) Share the questions.

4) Pick groups – do this by choosing which “ungoogleable” question to investigate.

5) Students have control of learning to research their question. Enquiry.

Martin Illingworth

Cut & Paste Poetry Challenge

In order to make cutting and pasting from the internet more interesting…

1) Cut and paste an A4 page of text.

2)Turn it into a poem using the following rules:-

  • Can’t add, only move words and punctuation.
  • Can delete.

Dr David George

Finish this sentence:- 

Thinking is… (Feel free to do this in the comments section or on Twitter)

(The whole purpose of education is thinking so it’s worth reflecting on what thinking is.)


Roy Leighton

The self confessed cynic offered 3 questions to make ourselves more effective and waste less time doing purposeless stuff.

1) What shall I keep?

2) What shall I develop?

3) What should I let go of?


  • Intellectually
  • Emotionally
  • Practically
  • Spirituality (inner harvest)

Dave Keeling

3 headed expert: get three students, each one takes it in turn to say one word to answer a question. The challenge is to keep it going. It can either get some great succinct answers or be a fun opportunity to stitch each other up. 

Tattoo Review: write one word to summarise your learning on the back of your hand. (Means they’ll think about it each time they look at it.)

Pick a letter; use as a review challenge for words linked to our topic beginning with ‘?’ Either pick a number or challenge to see who can generate the most.

Reflections: Lots of great little ideas we could take away and play with.

Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE


You’re nothing but a pack of cards

Here’s my latest reflections for the #teacher5aday project. It’s an acknowledgement that our job is a tough one; that fact has been eloquently expressed by @ICTEvangelist in his recent blog: Do Superheroes Cry? He also suggests ways in which we can act in order to have a negative impact on others less often. 

The thing I would like to offer when considering the pressures of our profession (or any other for that matter) is a simple question…

“Will it matter in ten years time?”

The reality is we’re subjective creatures who perceive through a lens of our personalities and past experiences. As the Talmud states “We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.” I’ll admit that may be slightly misquoted from memory but the point is our perception of the world and our situation is always in the context we set. 

What the question offers therefore isn’t a magical cure on those hard days when we are tired, grumpy, hurt or need a cry. What it does offer is perspective. When I’m having a grim day I always ask myself this question and it does help me regain the rich picture. I might still need a moan or tea and biscuits but it pulls me back into reality.

It also reminds me that some things only seem important at the time.

“Look after yourself and each other.” – Jerry Springer 

Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE

Ten More Tips for Questioning

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (Sunderland to be honest) I did my first Teachmeet presenting on questioning. It also ended up being my first blog on @pedagoo which can be found here.

So I thought it about time I added another ten tips for those interested in questioning for the Red House TM. 

1) What’s it all about?

Why not start your lesson with this question. It’s the only time it’s really acceptable to play the guess what’s in my head game. Give them a stimulus; music, pictures, artefacts, a piece of writing, a bag of tat (also known as a bag of wonder.) Then the students have to guess what the lesson is about and explain why they think that. Learning hook, questioning and a bell activity rolled into one. #Bosch

2) Wait Time – For You

When you get their answers you need to have time to think too. We always complain that their first answer isn’t always well thought through; we want them to dig deeper when they give their reasons. Perhaps we should give ourselves time to dig a little deeper when we’re thinking about our questions.

3) Write more questions down

If you come up with a few great questions you can write them in their books as they’re working (or even as part of your marking). It gives them instant personalised challenge, means you don’t interrupt the flow of learning every time you think of a great question and it even provides “evidence” in their books.

4) Edit an answer

When you get a first answer stop. Write it on the board and talk through with the class how you can develop the bare bones into a quality answer. Think about literacy, key subject vocabulary, quality of reasoning and word flow. Get them to add their ideas and use it as an opportunity to model thinking through great answers in your subject.


Keep It Simple Stupid, rather than accompanying your lesson by singing “I was made for loving you baby.” Which I can never imagine being a good thing. I know I’m guilty of it but try to avoid generating questions so long winded you’ve forgotten how they started by the time they finished. If they understand what we’re asking there’s more chance we’ll get the kind of answers we want.

6) Plan your style

It’s easy just to throw questions around as they pop into your brain. To make your questions more strategic think about what you want to achieve. If you want to check knowledge quickly you may want to go for closed questions. You might want to build specific types of thinking through Blooms or SOLO. You may want to unpick deeper meaning with Socratic questions or use wobblers and other dirty tricks to generate cognitive conflict. Questions are powerful tools, use the right ones for the job.

7) Act Stupid

For those of you who’ve met me you’ll know I’ve spent so much time mastering this skill it appears natural. I find acting like I don’t quite get it encourages them to reword and develop better explanations. It’s also quite good fun.

8) Be curious

If one of them goes off on a bizarre tangent go with it; ask them to develop and explain their idea. 

Ask them to make predictions; what if questions can lead to some really interesting thinking.

Ask them questions about things you don’t know; be honest in your ignorance when you’re doing enquiry based stuff. One of the reasons I enjoy teaching Geography so much is because I learn so much from the case studies they pick from around the world. Get excited by your ignorance!

9) Sniper NOT spray and pray

Sometimes we get all excited and start firing questions like a trigger happy extra from a mob film. They fly all over and some of them hit their mark. Next time you’re planning to go for a big question fest get your class list; figure out the kind of questions that would stretch specific students and target them with precision. It’s also helpful to make sure you target students who can avoid you in random question sprays… just when they think they’re out you pull them back in.

10) Measure the responses

Get a load of answers written on the board. Get a discussion going on what makes a good answer. Similar to the editing strategy but you’re looking to prioritise the best responses and dissect why some ideas are better than others in your subject area. I especially like this for generating ideas to use in an essay as each mini-answer can be expanded into a paragraph.

Hope some of these are useful to you in your classroom practice.

Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE

Big Day Out Newcastle #BDONE Part 3

Nick Owen – 10 Strategies of Highly Effective Teachers 

In the second masterclass Nick Owen shared ten strategies of highly effective teachers; he did state there were many more but these are ten of his favourites.

Nick started by sharing his philosophy for education, it’s all about enthusing the child to love knowledge and love learning. The Latin origin of the word meaning “filled with the spirit of God.” Once he had reinforced the fact that education should be something special he drew us all in with a mystery, challenging us to figure it out only using closed, yes/no response questions. Once we had figured out the challenge he talked us through the details with cryptic clues, grandeur, anecdotes and leaving gaps for us to fill in. All this was to suit his purpose, to force us to think hard to recall as many of the details as possible. 

The entire process was a demonstration of the ten strategies which Nick then shared.

Context – Details are more memorable when they are put in context, facts floating around by themselves in the ether. Most people prefer the big picture as having an overview makes things more relevant.

Magic Number 7 – Add or minus 2; chunking information into blocks helps learning as there’s only so much space available in the working memory. Focusing in on a small number of ideas makes the information manageable.

Primary and Recency (BEM) – People remember things from the beginning and the end better than the bits in the middle. Give your lesson lots of beginnings, middles and ends OR make sure that’s where you put the most important ideas.

Van Restorff Effect – Our brains notice things which are different and unusual. Use strategies to make things shocking, controversial or weird and they’re more likely to remember.

Zeigarnick Effect – The brain remembers uncompleted things better than completed ones, it keeps thinking about it after the time.  Unfinished ideas and tasks can force their brain into thinking about them once they’re gone.

Experiential versus abstract – If you’re going to use big abstract concepts give them real world, concrete examples to latch onto.

Principles and Relationships – It’s easier to remember the links between ideas than details or specifics; try and link ideas and concepts together.

Learning by Examples – Most of us learn more easily through stories, narratives, case studies and anecdotes than by just getting dry facts.

Multiple Sensory Encoding – Using sensory encoding to add details,and build a rich and vivid verbal picture and they’re more likely to recall that information in the future.

Consolidation and Support – New learning needs to resonate in the brain to consolidate it; if students have just learnt something get them to share it, use it and apply it.

After summing up these top strategies Nick left us one more thing to muse on…

“Curiosity is our greatest ally” – Nick Owen


What I learnt about teaching from The Godfather

As soon as I discovered that @DKMead and @simcloughlin had decided to go for film themed presentations for their Newcastle Teachmeet I felt it only appropriate to go along with the madness. Not only has the Godfather got a lot to teach us about the importance of fine tailoring it can also give us a few things to consider for our professional practices.

I refuse to be a puppet dancing on someone else’s strings.

It’s important to remember with all of the changes, regulations, accountability measures and fads out there that it’s your classroom. It’s your lesson; not just yours, you share it with the learners in your room but your SLT, the twitterati and Ofsted aren’t going to make it special for you. This brings about two important ideas for me…

1) Accountability; it’s a lot bigger than what other people think about your lesson when you realise it belongs to you. It’s about whether you can take pride in what you do; there should be no greater critic than ourselves.

2) It’s up to you to make it special. It might be through the positive learning relationships you’ve built up, or your technical knowledge of learning. It may be your love of controversy to create cognitive conflict, your sense of humour or your superfluous (but fun) selection of props. Whatever makes your lesson special… don’t let it get swept away in a tide of mediocrity while you’re only worry is the boxes you tick. 

Never hate your enemies. It affects your judgement. 

It’s never personal; well, it’s rarely personal. There’ll be hard days where you’re feeling a bit mean and grumpy; other people feel that way too. The difference is our students aren’t as grizzled and resilient as we are. They can take out their personal circumstances and teenage angst on those around them; it’s important to remember this and not take what they say in their darkest moments to heart. I’m not saying ignore their behaviour; schools have consequences for young people when their behaviour fails to meet expectations for a reason. I’m saying not to lose sleep when they’re venting; use the systems and remember that holding a grudge isn’t great for you or their learning.

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

You can’t put the problem people out of the way and hope they’ll magically change. You need to connect with them regularly and make sure they’re where you can see them. It might be easier going for “out of sight, out of mind” in the short term but you’ll pay for it later. Whether it’s in terms of results, relationships or intervention; and this applies to your colleagues as well as your students. Don’t put off getting the dirty work done.

Whilst making sure the problem people get the time and support they need to direct them you can’t lose sight of the stars. Whether students or staff people like to be acknowledged for their successes and given opportunities. Those doing great work shouldn’t be forgotten; they should be praised and given opportunities to develop further. Celebrate and challenge your star players; they deserve it.

Make him an offer he can’t refuse.

I love a false dichotomy; presenting a situation where they only have two choices. Do what I want OR unimaginable doom, or maybe a detention. My actual point being rather than using the hairdryer method to manage behaviour in class, once it’s moved beyond eye contact and gesticulation, give them clear choices. The majority of students make the right choice when they’re given one. 

My one caveat here is once you’ve set out a consequence, no matter what you need to carry through with it. If they think you won’t carry through there is no choice.

There are things that have to be done and you do them.

It’s an uncomfortable truth but regardless of whether we like it or not there’s some parts of the job that need to be done whether we like it or not. Don’t put off the things you don’t like doing; get them done and do them well. 

Once you’ve got the bits you don’t like out of the way it frees up your working memory to focus on developing the stuff that you’re really passionate about. All the time you spend focused on things you don’t enjoy is a waste of good thinking.

Never let anyone outside of the family know what you’re thinking.

It’s natural for us to disagree as professionals; especially at high pressure times of year when we’re all focused on getting our students the best possible results. There’s nothing wrong with this; we are all grown ups and entitled to our opinions and have different personal and departmental priorities. When we are going to disagree we need to make sure we do it behind closed doors. 

The students need to see the staff as a united front; who follow the rules and support each other. With all the pressure they’re under they don’t need ours spilling onto them too. If there’s something to deal with, leave them out of it.

Great men are not born, they grow great…

There’s a lot of impressive and inspirational people out there; they were once not so impressive and inspirational. It’s easy to be dazzled by the big show and people at the top of their game that make it look easy. This doesn’t just apply to teaching, every profession has its greats. What we don’t see when we watch greatness in action is the countless hours of effort, the relentless drive and the sacrifice that carved out that greatness. 

I find it genuinely disheartening when I hear teachers put themselves down, whether they realise they’re doing it or not, by assuming they can’t be great. I’m not saying being great is going to be easy but I believe it’s something we can aim for. If I manage it I’ll let you all in on the secret;)

Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE (AKA Dunn Corleone)


The Next #EduBookChatUK

I’m hugely excited to be a guest host for the next #EduBookChatUK a real favourite of mine on Twitter. One of the privileges is to offer up some suggestions for which book we should discuss. I’m suggesting four options that you will be able to vote on using the link near the bottom. I also give a brief reason for each suggestion.

The prices quoted for each book is the Amazon price, accurate at time of writing.

Teaching: Notes From The Front Line by Debra Kidd (£12.99) This one has been hugely controversial and could lead to some powerful discussions on the purpose of education.

Learning Futures by Keri Facer (£24.99)  This one came recommended by @dan_brinton and explores what we are preparing students for and how to prepare them for this future.

The Beautiful Risk of Education by Gert Biesta (£20.99) Exploring the issues with risk aversion in education and how we should be embracing risk instead.

Creating Outstanding Classrooms by Oliver (£24.99) An investigation into developing whole school models of teaching and learning.

(Or at least that’s what I’ve heard; I haven’t read these which is why I’ve suggested them for the chat.)

The book chat will be at 8PM GMT on the 08/07/15 and I hope to see a lot of you there.

Voting has now closed: our chosen title is “Building Outstanding Classrooms” by Knight & Benson.

Happy Reading.

Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE