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Attitudes of Successful Learners

August 30, 2015

This blog is about the creation and launch of the “Penyrheol 10 Attitudes of Successful Learners” and is part three of a trilogy (Lucas and Coppola eat your heart out). Part 1 is here and covers how we created a document called “10 features of effective lessons” which highlighted and distilled (some of) the best practice that happens in our classrooms at Penyrheol. The document is here: 20140423-142108.jpg Part 2 is here and is a follow up blog looking at a) how we went on to embed the 10 features in our day-to-day and teaching and b) our plans to produce a pupil version provisionally titled “10 features of effective learners” from a suggestion by Peter Blenkinsop (@ManYanaEd). This blog picks up on the latter strand and I am hopeful that the evidence base for what we are trying to do is strong. What we trying to do hinges on these slides that I showed pupils in an assembly last year (from Nuthall’s paper on Cultural Myths & Realities of Classroom T&L: a personal journey) new slide 2 slide 4 Everyone in the school community must buy into the idea that pupils can improve and that the harder they work, the more positive classroom experience they will have and this will lead to better academic outcomes. This idea has recently been blogged about by Tom Sherrington (@Headguruteacher) here where he describes hard work being the X factor in schools. Tom says ” I’d suggest that, if we could measure it, the range on the scale of students’ default-mode effort level is greater by far than any other factor – teacher quality, for example.”. I think that every school should ban the term “our pupils” as in “our pupils don’t do homework” or “our pupils don’t work hard enough” or “our pupils just don’t want to learn”. The reason I would ban them is because no matter what school you are talking about these statements would be untrue. No matter where the school is these statements are sweeping generalisations and they are also defeatist (and possibly reflect a fixed mindset of the teacher). There is no such thing as an “average” pupil. If we drew a graph of effort in any school in the UK (or further afield) we would probably get something like this: effort standard No matter the school is, the student population would likely fit neatly on to a bell shaped curve. Some schools may have the curve to the left and some schools might have the curve to the right. If the above graphic represents an “average” comprehensive school then as well as securing the best possible set of qualifications for the cohort, the school must look to move the curve to the right: effort shifted In fact, it is a no-brainer. Shifting the curve to the right would mean that the cohort would certainly achieve their best possible set of GCSE results. Easier said than done though right? So, we had/have three jobs. The first was to identify, as a school community, the features that we feel the best learners have (those that mean the make best possible progress). The second is to share these with the whole school community and ensure everyone understands what they are and why we are doing it. The third is to help all of our pupils “embed” these behaviours so they become better learners and they leave our school having attained their personal best (academically) and with an excellent, default work ethic. No prizes for guessing which of the three will prove the most challenging. Job 1 and 2 As a starting point I took this document from this blog by Shaun Allison (@shaun_allison) and took the ideas to our school council: mindset-planner-descriptions The pupils liked a lot of the ideas and came up with some suggestions of their own. From this we got draft 1 of the document which is: original I then took the original document to an SLT meeting and a HODs meeting, as well as discussing it with the Science department. I also shared the idea that we would have a whole school focus on 1 of the 10 “behaviours” each half term. In those ,meetings the following points were made:

  • 10 is too many (though it did match nicely with the “teachers” version)
  • We needed to include something on meeting deadlines
  • There was no mention of setting or striving for targets
  • The term “Behaviours” should be replaced
  • If we focus on one each half term does that mean that it will only be important for that haf term? what about the other 9?
  • The layout isn’t great (i took umbrage at this point as my B in GCSE graphics speaks for itself)
  • There is just too much information there for pupils. Each of the 10 should have 2 bullet points max.

I was really not keen on the last point but one HOD reminded me that I should thrive on feedback…. Eventually we settled on version 7: version 6 This document will be on the wall in every classroom in school. Each department has defined what progress looks like in their area and this will be combined with the 10 attitudes document (idea of defining progress from OLEVI course): Poster It is stating the obvious but just putting these posters up in classrooms will have next to no impact. this is where job 3 comes in. Despite some legitimate reservations we have decided that we will have a whole school focus on one of the 10 for each of the six half terms in the upcoming academic year. The plan will be to repeat these same 6 each year. This will help embed them year on year. Whole school focus for half term 1- Always complete homework.homework pin We have decided that this should be the focus for the first half term so that homework expectations and routines are put in place (and then maintained for the rest of the year). From a subject teacher’s point of view this means setting regular, meaningful homework that adds to the learning experience of all of our pupils without being overly onerous. This means setting homeworks for all of our learners. If we are not setting regular homework for the pupils in lower sets (because of an expectation that many will not do it) then we communicate low expectations to a number of pupils in the cohort which many will live down (arther than up) to. This is why it needs to be a whole school push, to ensure that homework expectations apply for all of our students. It also needs to be a whole school push because the pastoral team will know the pupils that will need support getting into good habits. This might mean encouraging them to attend homework club in the library or contacting parents to discuss what we can do in partnership to ensure homework completion becomes the norm. The pastoral team will also have to assist in the chasing up of late or substandard homework. The hard work we do in half term 1 will reap benefits later in the year. From the pupils’ perspective of course, the onus will be on them to complete top quality homework on a regular basis. If the whole school pulls together then we can definitely shift the bell curve right (no matter where it currently lies): homework both To accompany this focus we will make a short video explaining the importance of homework, our expectations and how pupils and parents should use their homework diary to ensure deadlines are met. The link will then be emailed home to all parents/guardians. Whole school focus for half term 2- Thrive on pin This year sees the launch of our Marking, Feedback and “Closing the Gap” Policy (read about it here). Each department has their own, subject specific version which adheres to the school’s principles. The pupils should certainly see a difference this year as each department actively ensures that written feedback is acted on by pupils so that they “close the gap.” Having read a number of departmental policies over the summer by this stage of the term pupils will be having regular DIRT time (amongst other strategies) in their different subjects to close the gap and take their learning forward. This term will be a focus to embed the importance of acting on feedback and the development of a shared language of feedback. Again, a video will be made and sent home to parents/guardians. We need all of our pupils to value every ounce of feedback and no matter where our curve is, we can and will shift it right. feedback full Whole school focus for half term 3- Take responsibility.responsibility Whilst this has to be on our radar all year, this half term we can have a focus on how responsible pupils are for their books, equipment, learning and meeting deadlines. Hitting deadlines is key for KS4 pupils especially. Again, the pastoral team will assist in ensuring pupils know how to record and meet deadlines. Whole school though, the focus can be on something as simple as ensuring pupils take their books home. If we keep a class set of books, lesson after lesson,  just in case a pupil loses their book then again I think we communicate low expectations. The pupil’s name is on their book so it is their responsibility to carry the correct books and equipment to school each day. Pupils have to be allowed, encouraged and steered into good habits. Again, a video will be made and a link sent home. Whole school focus for half term 4- Support the progress of others.progress of others Again, having read many departmental Marking, Feedback and “Closing the Gap” policies meaningful peer and self assessment will be more consistent across the school this year. By this stage pupils should understand how and why it happens with a drive on kind, specific and helpful feedback. The whole school focus can look to further embed the language and purpose of assessment. Again, a video will be made for the wider community. Whole school focus for half term 5- Be inspired  by the success of your peers .inspired The whole school focus during this term will be to create an “excellence wall” like those found at Belmont School, Durrington High and Les Quennevais: ethic Each department can contribute and the only stipulation will be that the work must represent excellence for the pupil and must be the result of hard work. The idea will be to showcase work from pupils at various stages of current attainment. The idea here is to show the school population what is possible with effort, perseverance and paying heed to feedback. The message to all pupils will be “if your peers can do it then why not you?” Whole school focus for half term 6- Work hard At first glance it may some counter intuitive to have this at the very end of the year, especially as getting pupils to work harder (and shifting the curve to the right) is the whole purpose of the entire initiative. Hopefully, all of the “joined up” work we have been doing during the year in terms of homework routines, use of feedback, being more responsible etc will mean that pupils will be making a more focused and concerted effort in all aspects of their schooling. It means they will have shown more grit to complete homework, meet deadlines and improve their work via feedback. The reason that this will be a focus in the final half term will be because this is when the pupils will be given their reports which includes a final effort grade. It will come as no surprise that there is a strong correlations between the top effort grades and pupils that have hit, or exceeded, that target grade. This is the time to make that link crystal clear. This can be done via the report home which happens during this time. This means that 4 of the attitudes don’t have a focus. I think it is clear that something like pupils having high expectations of themselves would be an everyday part of the interaction between teacher and pupil. It doesn’t need a half term focus because it will be a focus for every single day that our doors are open. There is no additional workload for staff because it is what we would be doing anyway. The only change is to try to pull everything together so we have a common hymn sheet to sing off. There is no magic wand for shifting pupils’ attitudes to their work and the results will not be seen overnight. But long term, if we succeed in helping every pupil work harder as their default then that will mean greater academic success and a willingness to work hard at whatever they turn their hands to when they leave school. I welcome (and thrive on) any feedback…. .


From → Pupil Attitudes

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