What are you waiting for, asks Geoff Petty? It’s a new year and the perfect time to adopt the advice of Professor Dylan Wiliam and experiment! Geoff Petty is the author of ‘Teaching Today’, ‘Evidenced Based Teaching’ and ‘How To Teach Even Better.
Here we go again! And this time of year is perfect for a little experimentation with new teaching methods. Your students don’t know what to expect from you, so why not exploit this freedom? You’ll be amazed by what you can get away with if you do it with confidence and style. But what to experiment with?
I’m a great fan of Professor Dylan Wiliam, and his latest book, Embedded Formative Assessment, is a stunner. It has some brilliant teaching methods for you to try. Formative assessment has a gigantic effect on student learning and achievement and benefits the weakest learners most. But, as a profession, we don’t do it well.
Prof Wiliam’s methods are usually easy to use, and require your students to work harder than you do, which I think should be our goal for this year. The first chapter is a gem, making the case that the best way to improve our education system is to improve teaching.
The evidence Prof Wiliam quotes is overwhelming, and anyone interested in improving education should read it. Professors Paul Black and Wiliam have dropped the term “Assessment for Learning”, though they invented it, because it has become corrupted by the Government’s education department purloining the term to describe summative practices that have nothing to do with formative assessment, or with Black and Wiliam’s careful reading of research.
If we and our student teachers got formative assessment right, then students would learn about twice as much as they do from conventional teaching. So try these powerful methods, talk about your experiences with colleagues and adapt them until they work.
You’ll need to use them five times to discover whether they will work for you, and about 25 times to get them working 80% effectively. Contrary to popular opinion, Prof Wiliam shows there is strong evidence that education has improved very markedly over the past 50 years. Students do much better on objective assessments such as IQ tests.
Fifty years ago only the top 15% did as well as an average student does now on the same test. So standards have not slipped. Instead, expectations of parents, employers and
governments have risen faster than education has improved. I feel a letter to the Daily Mail coming on. In the meantime, happy experimenting!
Imagine you have 14 lessons to teach a topic or unit:
After a topic has been completed, students write assessment questions, along with some means of assessing their answers, such as assessment criteria and mark scheme. The students don’t mark each other’s questions, but the teacher can grade each student’s questions and assessment guidance.
While students are working in class they are asked to consult three peers before asking the teacher for help: (‘see three before me’ = C3B4M)
Each student is given three cardboard cups: red, amber, and green. As the lesson progresses, each student shows the level of their understanding by displaying the appropriate coloured cup on top on the desk in front of them:
The teacher can say to a student displaying an amber cup “what don’t you understand?”, and then ask a student displaying a green cup to answer the student’s question. When the teacher judges it necessary, because there are some amber or red cups being displayed, she says: “Okay, red cups over here with me, those with an amber cup find a student with a green cup and ask them for help.”
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