As part of our school led Teaching and Learning CPD programme, I decided to focus on how best to support the lower attainers within my KS5 drama group. Working collaboratively with a group of KS5 teachers across several subject areas with this focus in mind, we were looking to explore if when we explicitly support and structure the transition/development of lower attaining KS5 students, they are more likely to make expected progress and beyond.
My concerns for the lower attainers in my KS5 Drama class were around a lack of independent learning skills and ineffective collaboration in rehearsals. I decided I needed to consider how to support their practical rehearsal needs alongside the need for more support for the theory phases of the KS5 Drama Curriculum. I realised that I would need to approach these two areas in different ways.
As a KS5 CPD group focussing on KS5 lower attainers, we looked at Hattie’s work around Visible Learning. This got me thinking much more carefully about which strategies of support to use. I looked specifically at the effect sizes with KS5 students in mind and the strategies I decided to focus on were around these three areas.
Formative evaluation- 0.90
Supporting Classroom discussion- 0.82
Metacognition strategies 0.71
The key message I took from Hattie’s research into my own classroom based research was: “What is important is that teaching is visible to the student, and that the learning is visible to the teacher.” (Hattie, 2009)
As a CPD group we also looked out at some school based research focusing on KS5 and came across an interesting action research study that focused our thinking further. The findings of this action research posed a series of questions on how effective our teaching was for our lower attainers in KS5 - (Hazely Academy: Student Support, Intervention and Monitoring Procedure.) http://www.thehazeleyacademy.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/KS5-SIM-04.03.13.pdf
Key points that arose from this school-based action research were:
Are we explicitly teaching independent skills for effective KS4/5 transition?
The effective use of mid band models/examples
How to ensure clearer, firmer boundaries/expectations to help support transition from KS4 to 5
Step-by-step guides - let them see success
Carefully structured support for home learning
Carefully planned and supportive questioning
I decided to focus on the top three strategies and to track this by looking at the progress in detail of three of my lower attaining KS5 students. Having completed a baseline test, I then tracked the progress of these three students in each unit, looking at both progress data and improved learner scores. I also used student self-perception questionnaires to try and triangulate my evaluations and assess the impact of my interventions.
My personal reading of TeachingBackwards by Andy Griffin and Mark Burns made me question how we as teachers can guide lower attaining students to redirect themselves back onto the right route, ensuring effective transition after a long summer break?
Using Griffin’s and Burns’s ingredients of a good teaching below as a guide.
High expectations- starting points
Defining and demystifying the destination
Looking for proof or success
In order to ‘demystify the destination’for my students when writing long pieces of reflective coursework, I decided to explore how modelling could be used as a means of supporting the lower attainers in my group. I worked hard at using models more effectively, by having a range of examples which were not all top band. I ensured I planned activities that forced engagement with these models; breaking down each step of thinking around the coursework by revealing the model in sections and talking through the thinking behind each section in more detail. I made students highlight how they had used the model in their work and also used them as checklists before handing in drafts.
I order to support the practical rehearsal phase, I looked at how best to structure group work for these students and used the work of David Johnson and Roger Johnson’s work on Assessing in groups and Kagan’s Cooperative Learning to support this.
Kagan stresses that theessential elements of effective group work are:
I tried to ensure that I put this theory into practice when planning any group work tasks. I started by using The Belbin Test to determine their personality, weaknesses and learning preferences. This helped my students see their strengths and know which areas they needed to work on when taking part in group work. It also supported my grouping choices. I ensured that within all group tasks expectations for roles, timeframes and responsibilities were much tighter in order to motivate ALL students to contribute equally. I put in explicit teaching methods to facilitate the group to evaluate and account for the quality of ALL contributions made to support the rehearsal process and as a teacher held those students to account for any poor contributions made.
I was pleased with their overall progress of my three targeted students. Learning Scores showed an improvement for all three students by at least one grade and two out of the three students met their aspirational target by the end of the year, with one student achieving one grade above. Pupil self-perception questionnaires showed that students appreciated the structure to the group work and recognised that this improved the quality of their final performance. However, questionnaires showed that students were less clear on how the use of models had improved their work.
The research I engaged with definitely supported my practice when dealing with lower attaining students at KS5 and made me question my practice more deeply for this group of students. Working collaboratively as a group on this topic was really powerful, as we were able to share ideas and discuss the research we discovered.
Assistant Head/Director of Teaching School
Saffron Walden County High