Well, the summer holidays are finally over!
Today, I was, once again, at Al-Ashraf Secondary School in Gloucester, this time to deliver a CPD session to all staff that focused upon ‘differentiation’ (providing effective intervention/support and sufficient stretch and challenge). The overall aim was to address the suggestions for improvement outlined in the school’s recent Ofsted report in relation to strengthening the quality of teaching and learning and improving pupil outcomes.
The session began by re-visiting Ofsted’s full report and identifying what the school needs to do to improve further in terms of strengthening the quality of teaching, learning and assessment and improving pupils’ outcomes. I then made use of a KWHL grid to determine how much individuals knew about differentiation already, what they wished to know and how they might find this out. Participants were very willing to contribute when asked to do so and some interesting points came to the fore. I gave a brief overview of differentiation and projected a clear and concise summary of what it is and what it is not, which I discovered when viewing the Teacher Toolkit website (https://www.teachertoolkit.co.uk/2018/03/05/what-is-differentiation/).
Next, I dispelled a few myths by delving into elements of Ofsted’s School Inspection Handbook, in particular those relating to lesson planning, evidence for inspection and outcomes for pupils (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-inspection-handbook-from-september-2015/ofsted-inspections-mythbusting). I felt it also appropriate to look at some of the answers to FAQs that appear on NACE’s (National Association for Able Children in Education) website (https://www.nace.co.uk/), not only to provide guidance to the Head Teacher and SLT, but also for the benefit of teachers when planning lessons for more able students.
It was then time for the teachers to do some work! They were set the following activity to help them identify MA and LA students within their school:
- Think about the students that you teach.
- What makes a LA and MA student within your subject area?
- Can you identify the LA and MA students within each year group that you teach?
- Create a list of LA and MA students to submit to the Head Teacher/SLT (this may need to be added to/revised after your first week or so of teaching).
In order to support participants in attempting the above task, I demonstrated how I might embark upon this as a geography teacher. I referred to the Geographical Association’s (GA) excellent progression and expectations framework (https://www.geography.org.uk/Progression-and-Expectations-in-Geography), in addition to relevant school data and explained how I could use this to help me make informed decisions. After a few minutes of thinking time, I chaired a whole group discussion to promote dialogue and the sharing of thoughts and ideas among staff.
I allocated some time to look at differentiation in lessons in more depth, focusing on four important elements in turn, namely planning, teaching, resources and students’ needs. This also touched upon pace, scaffolding, Blooms Taxonomy and mastery, aspects that I would like to see SLT and teachers considering and incorporating into future curriculum and lesson planning.
So that individuals were kept on their toes, I launched a further activity, challenging participants to think about how they cater for LA and MA students within their own subject area:
How do you support LA students within your subject area?
How do you ensure that MA students are challenged within your subject area?
Note down any intervention strategies that you regularly use or opportunities for stretch and challenge that you frequently provide.
Share these with the person next to you.
Then, join up with another pair and talk about what you currently do.
The whole group discussion that ensued focused on two key questions:
- What intervention strategies and stretch and challenge opportunities do you deem to be most effective?
- Are there any that you wish to try out in the classroom later this week or next week?
I also revisited a number of lessons that I had taught to Year 8, 9, 10 and 11 students over the period of a term at my previous school and selected a number examples of intervention/support and stretch and challenge that I had employed. These included the use of word clouds, video clips, writing frames, infographics, sample exam question answers, multimedia presentation templates, case study outlines and tasks with word limits imposed. I showcased several other examples of best practice that I had found during my trawl of the Internet as well to ensure that I covered all subject areas and was not just promoting the virtues of geography! Individuals will, hopefully, be able to pick and choose websites that are most relevant to them and explore these at their leisure.
I brought the morning to a close by referring back to the final box on the KWHL grid, which asked teachers to consider what they had learnt today. Afterwards, participants were encouraged to complete a priority pyramid and concluding comments box to help them identify what steps they now need to personally take and provide feedback to the Head Teacher and SLT about the CPD session. A few of their completed sheets can be viewed below. As you can see, it appears to have been a well-received, informative and thought-provoking session. I look forward to carrying out some lesson observations in the not too distant future and witnessing differentiation in action – effective intervention/support strategies being utilised and plenty of opportunities for students to be stretched and challenged.
What I have learnt? (KWHL grid)
‘Learnt new plans. Especially concentration on less and more able students. Encourage students with art resources – we need outings to museums to help with artists’ works.’
‘Differentiation is not confined to challenging a student via a worksheet. Rather it is a proactive process that includes differentiated planning, differentiated teaching and learning via activities, e.g. group work; wonder wall. Many resources online. Seating plans. Pace in learning. Allowing time to think is even more important than the pace of teaching.’
‘Strategies to differentiate during lessons in terms of resources and work given. How to stretch the more able well and provide interventions for the less able.’
‘Identifying less and more able students. How to help less able students. Differentiation is not limited to worksheets/activities. Seating plans to benefit less and more able students.’
‘Lots of stuff I know/do already, but look at suggestions on PowerPoint presentation. Teach middle of class and focus more on getting at lower attainers in Year 8.’
‘Will look at the websites given in the presentation.’
‘Differentiation is not only limited to worksheets. Seating plan useful for less able. Different types of activities. More independent learning for more able.’
‘Tips and challenging students. Helping the less able and more able.’
‘How to differentiate work. Different methods of assessment. Identifying less able and more able.’
‘Useful tips for different ways of differentiating. A lot of reading to be done!’
‘A very good, informative session. Gave us an insight into differentiated teaching strategies.’
‘Exceptional training/planning with Emma. With encouragement for my subjects – the arts. Learnt about new websites.’
‘Keep up the good practice. Keep trying new things. Incorporate STEPS more to integrate planning and assessment.’
‘Use suggestions for improvement and adapt them into lesson plans.’
‘A very informative and beneficial talk/training.’
‘Interactive, engaging, informative. Has left me feeling more confident/inspired to plan for differentiation, etc.’
‘Planning, differentiation, evidence for Ofsted.’
‘Very informative and beneficial.’
‘Research more tips and ideas from others, social networks and websites.’
‘Will take time to assimilate all the information.’
‘Firstly, thank you for coming in yesterday and delivering an extremely informative and enlightening session on differentiation. The comments clearly demonstrate the session had a positive impact and benefit on staff. Hopefully, we will see the fruits of this in their teaching.’ (Head Teacher)