What assessment means for you in the classroom - the difference between summative and formative assessment.
Our job as teachers is to make sure that all students can make progress. In its simplest terms, we need therefore to decide three things each lesson:
These are also known as summative and formative assessment.
Assessment of learning (summative)
One way to check learning may be to set them homework, or a test – some form of independent work to check they have taken on board and understood all we have taught them.
Tests are a common feature in schools – often in the form of end of module/unit tests, or formal exams.
The downside of using this on its own is that by the time we find out that some of them have not understood something, it is too late! We have moved on to the next topic. And in some subjects, like Maths, if they haven’t understood one concept then moving on to the next one may well be a waste of time!
Assessment for learning (formative)
So the other form of checking is one we need to employ during every lesson. This is known as Assessment for Learning – or AfL for short.
There are a variety of techniques you can use in the classroom to check learning before moving on. Don’t be tempted to move on regardless, just because you know you have to cover certain elements – you will only have to return to those topics at a later date if some of them have not learnt what you need them to have learnt!
Imagine AfL as being a bit like the following...
So what does this mean in the classroom?
It means that you need to build their learning carefully, checking at each stage whether they have learnt it. If they have, you can move onto the next part of your lesson. If not, then you may need to go back over the learning.
If only one or two students have not grasped the topic, then move on the learning with the whole class, but let those students know you will help them.
Assessment for Learning – some strategies you can use.
More next week.
Don't miss the trainee teachers' blog - new posts three times every week.
There are three things to explore here:
The new GCSE grades, P8 & A8 - do you understand them?
This post focuses on the new government assessment criteria for schools and how your understanding of this information impacts on your classroom!
The reason you will need to understand the concept behind these changes is three-fold:
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Is it really week 5?
As a trainee teacher your development goes through many different phases. The first few weeks of your training year will have been full of information – things to read, sessions to attend, staff to meet, children whose names you need to learn.
Now you will be reaching the first turning point of your development.
You are still in Phase one - the phase in which a trainees' main focus is on themselves as developing teachers - but you may now be starting to settle into your training, and just beginning to be aware of how much more there is to learn!
Those of you on a SCITT programme will be starting week 5 in your schools now. Does it feel like you have been there forever?
Are you beginning to find your way around? Are you getting used to routines - and to expectations of you as a teacher?
If you are a PGCE trainee, you may still be at college – learning about all those things I have written in my blog posts to date, and desperate to actually get into school to put them all into practice!
For some of you this is an exciting challenge. For others there is a risk that you will allow the doubts to overtake the experience.
By acknowledging that you are still learning – and that although it may feel like you have been there forever - this is ONLY week 5!
Those of you who come across to others as confident members of the subject team you have joined, may also be finding that your colleagues start to forget you are still training.
Don’t let them!
Keep asking questions; tell them if you are unsure about something; don’t automatically say ‘yes’ to something they are asking you to do, unless you are comfortable doing it.
When trainees struggle...
We were very comfortable giving her grade 1s for most of the standards. She seemed settled in the school, and was asked to support the PE department in some of their fixtures. Of course she said yes – she was honoured they had asked her, and she was pleased because it met the standard for becoming part of the life of the school. She also offered to support the SENCO and worked alongside several students who were struggling in their learning.
These are both fantastic examples of how to get involved - but there came a stage in her training where she was struggling to keep up to date with assignments, marking, planning and preparation of resources. She knew she should really stop going to as many of the fixtures, or see if she could cut down on the amount of additional students she was mentoring.
The trouble was she didn’t want to admit to anyone that she was finding it hard. She thought it would come across badly for her, and that it may appear as though she was failing.
Fortunately, her mentor was very observant! She eventually admitted not only to struggling, but also to feeling that she had to keep it to herself.
The message is...
...at this stage in your training you need to remember you are still learning and appreciate that all of you are learning at different rates.
Don't look at other trainees around you and compare your progress with theirs.
Keep the dialogue open with your mentor and ITT coordinator – they fully understand what you are going through.
Don’t keep things to yourself. Sharing your concerns, doubts and questions demonstrates your ability to reflect on your practice, and talking to appropriate key people shows your professionalism with regard to your role as an adult learner.
It is a chance to ask questions, find out what you should be doing at this stage, and – for those of you who have started teaching (even just parts of lessons) getting much-needed feedback.
This post looks at two of the aspects of your meetings – feedback on your own teaching, and reflection on your mentor’s or other teachers’ lessons.
Things that may affect your recollection of observations
Sometimes your mentor meeting is straight after one of these observations – sometimes it may be almost a week before you meet. Much can happen in between these times! So we have to consider the memory effect.
There is also the obvious aspect of the mentor’s presence in a lesson – whether it is your lesson or a colleague’s.
Students are more likely to behave differently when the mentor is in the room. than when they are not.This could be a happy advantage early on in your training, but not so useful if you want advice on behaviour management!
A final thought is that of your emotional response to your lesson. On occasion you will come away feeling disheartened or even concerned about the lesson. In your mind you may even consider that the entire lesson was at fault! This is not usually the case, but our emotional memory can often surpass our logical recall!
When your mentor is observing you:
When you are observing your mentor:
Why do we do collaborative learning tasks?
I will refer to learning talk again and again throughout the year as there is a lot to think about with regard to this term (my PhD was built on it!).
When do you do the collaborative activities in the lesson?
Think about when in the lesson you would place the collaborative activity – near the beginning and the students will learn together and take on the new knowledge through discussion and the trying out of new ideas - making connections to existing spheres of reference. Near the end and the activity will reinforce and embed whatever learning may have taken place during the lesson.
Some people are still a little worried about group work in their classrooms. Ask your mentor for a few teachers who you could observe who are comfortable and successful using group work tasks. Definitely watch a drama lesson and a PE class if you can. These teachers are fantastic at planning for, coordinating and delivering group work activities. If you are a subject which is taught in a classroom, you should also choose to observe a classroom based subject, to see how you may need to adapt your teaching according to your space.
Look out for:
Watch to see how they manage behaviour in groups. Once again you need to have clear expectations for how they should manage themselves in the group – and share this with the students. This has been made clear to them since primary school, so it just needs reinforcement that you will expect no less in your class!
Listen to each other
Give everyone a chance to talk
Don’t shout over each other
Make sure everyone joins in
Once you have determined the expectations – put them on the board as they suggest them – you have a written guide to return to if any of them fall short!
What questions you can ask in your reflections
What impact do you think this has?
How much input does the teacher have in the group task?
Where does the learning take place in this task?
Talk to the teacher after the lesson
Would they change their strategies with another class / year group?
Using video to increase the power of your mentor meetings!
What makes you a good teacher? Set out your expectations!
When you are observing effective questioning, there are certain things you should look out for:
Let's look first at why we ask questions?
As a young child we are constantly asking questions - it is how we learn best. This stops as we get older - probably because the people around us get tired of answering!
In the classroom the best way of encouraging learning is asking questions - the ideal is for the students to be asking the questions! Our job ultimately is to plan for this to happen. (I will write more about this later on in your training.)
But to start -
Why do we ask questions?
What impact might we have?
Good questioning can...
When you are observing, look out for the following:
For further information regarding questioning ... read on
Think of your own ability to learn
If we have never seen a bike before, for example, or seen anyone riding one, the starting point of the lesson would need to change.
So new knowledge has to connect with our existing spheres of reference.
How does this affect our lesson planning?
Research shows that there are two main areas where learning takes place
- through planned and effective questioning
- through collaborative learning activities
Health warning: It is not possible in a short blog to do justice to either of these. I advise you to read around the subject, discuss it with your mentor, invite me in to deliver a session...!
Presentational talk and Exploratory talk
Presentational talk is easy to spot.
It is seen when the teacher asks a question and a student answers it.
It is seen when a student, or groups of students, prepare and deliver a presentation.
In short, with this type of talk, we imagine that there has to be a right answer. When we put up our hand we want to sound knowledgeable, and to be right – even if we are just asked for an opinion, we don’t want to sound stupid!
The result of this may be that many students just sit quietly and listen to the others. You can sometimes see this in a question and answer session where not all students are involved.
Exploratory talk invariably happens when students are working in pairs or small groups (I advise no more than 4-5 students for optimum group work).
You can hear students trying out ideas amongst each other. There will be hesitations and thinking that appears not to be going anywhere – but this is where the real learning is taking place. They have taken an idea and are literally playing around with it whilst sorting out their own thinking.
Collaborative group activities have to be planned carefully and guidance given to the students to keep them on task – but this is one of the best ways of ensuring most – if not all – students are involved in the learning.
give opportunities for learning talk to occur
While you may not be in a position to do this for yourself at this stage, you are in an excellent position to observe it in others!
This post examines the idea that if you plan well, the students won’t misbehave in the first place!
These tips will help you to plan for positive behaviour – ‘behaviour for learning’
Let’s look at the possible causes and what you can do to avoid them becoming problems!
The problems arise when:
- Students don't know what to do to achieve / succeed
- Share the success criteria with them at the start of the lesson.
- They aren't praised when they do achieve
- Celebrate them moving forward in their learning. This doesn’t always have to be with balloons! Think about how you like to be acknowledged when you achieve something new.
- The work is too hard or too easy
- Plan for all the students to achieve. (Future posts on differentiation)
- The instructions are unclear
- Obvious solution!
- The tasks are too long or not varied enough
- Break tasks into bite-size, manageable chunks. Check learning at regular points (Future post on Assessment for Learning – AfL)
- We don't appeal to the individual's type of learning
- Consider how some of us like to learn visually, others by doing etc… (Future posts on learning styles)
- The tasks are not relevant and would not grab interest
- Find a way of linking the new knowledge to their existing spheres of reference - make it relevant!
- There is more teacher talk than student talk (look out for a later post about this!)
- We learn through talking about the learning. This is a complex study – and one covered in later posts – and includes collaborative group work, discussion tasks, paired learning….
most children want to learn and enjoy learning
Just like a child on her first day back at school after the holidays, I would always prepare carefully to make sure I had everything ready. In those days that meant hanging my uniform up on the back of the door, packing my bag and sharpening all my pencils (this is primary school we are talking about!)
As a teacher I still maintained this preparation - but it would be every Sunday!
The one thing that working in a school gives you is the chance to start over – it’s exciting when each new week begins, but it is also the opportunity, if things haven’t gone as well as you wanted, to begin again.
And this is never truer than going back into a class who you are struggling with. As a teacher though you are also giving permission to the students to start again – to the girl or boy who caused a problem last lesson – that they too can start again.
During this first half term, you will make mistakes – the key to survival is how you get back in the saddle! And remembering that there are plenty of people around to help point you in the right direction.
This is the first time I have offered advice online – up to now it has always been face-to-face! I am hoping you can also give me advice and suggestions to make sure this blog is hitting its mark!
So - please send me comments / like me on Facebook - so I can have the kind of positive impact I am hoping to achieve!
What you can do:
Quiet, calm responses to their behaviour will work far better than shouting and ‘losing it’!
Firstly – match your response to the type of behaviour you see.
1. Walk across to them and quietly remind them to focus on the task.
2. If they continue, go back and remind them you have already told them once. Tell them you are giving them one more chance. Walk away.
3. If they continue – go to them and tell them they have an option – either they will stay where they are and settle to work immediately – or they can move to sit elsewhere. Tell them that this is the last chance (it will be their third warning and most of us work in 3s).
4. If they continue – tell them to move.
Put names on the board of students who are not behaving. This gives them a chance to have their name rubbed off if they settle to work.
If they don’t, it means you will talk to them after the lesson and there may be a sanction (check school policies)
It may be that in some cases the above doesn’t work.
Maybe they are distracted by other things around school, maybe they just can’t settle to working generally.
Maybe they are difficult to manage for others too.
1. Send them to stand outside for a cooling off period. (5 mins. max)
NB: Check school processes – there may be a call-out system to follow
Make plans with your mentor for what to do next time
Remember – you are the adult. Don’t let your inner child come out!
If their behaviour is consistently causing a problem, there will need to be parental contact. Initially you should shadow your mentor when he/she does this so you can learn about the best way to manage parents! (Future blog post on this).
Make sure you talk to your mentor about how to manage this next time.
EVIDENCE - good evidence for your portfolio would be:
- Reflection of the behaviour and what you did about it
- Suggestions for next lesson from your mentor
- Print out this log and annotate what you are making use of for next time
- A reflection of next lesson showing how things have improved!
Two aspects of behaviour management...
1. What to do when students are not behaving
2. How to prevent them from misbehaving in the first place! Commonly referred to as behaviour for learning
These will be covered in this week’s blog posts
First - be clear on your own expectations
This will be your classroom – and it is important that you
- decide your expectations
- share your expectations
- maintain your expectations
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can allow them to be a little more relaxed in your room, or that you can loosen the reins a little. Firstly - this can only happen successfully once you have gained their respect. Secondly – it is vital that you uphold the school expectations.
Students want to know that they are supported in their learning in every classroom in the same way, and that poor behaviour will not get in the way of any student being able to learn.
What all students want:
Hence – a classroom where all are expected to behave.
A consistent classroom makes for a consistent school.
To start with, you may just want to sit and watch to see how the lessons progress. However, there is a wealth of information in front of you, that without a clear focus a lot of this may well pass you by.
You need to learn how to ‘unpack’ the lessons. To do this you will need to choose a focus for each of your observations, and prior to the observation, jot down some questions you will want to answer. Some of these you will be able to answer while you are watching, others you may need to discuss with your mentor later, or look for in another observation.
Some things to consider...
The key to success...
What subject to observe: In addition to your subject, you will also be expected to observe some PSHE classes (in whatever format they are delivered in your school – sometimes called PD, or PHSE, or Values or Citizenship….). You may want to wait to observe these lessons at a later date.
Which key stages? Try to look at all key stages in your observations – initially you will want to see those classes you will ultimately have responsibility for so this may start with KS3. At some stage you will need to observe KS5 – although I would wait until later in the course for this. Equally you will have a primary school visit which will be arranged later in the year.
NB - Please check what your provider considers to be KS4 – although some schools start to deliver the KS4 syllabus to year 9, some providers only consider years 10 and 11 to be KS4 when it comes to their observations of your teaching.
Suggested observation topics for the first few weeks:
What kind of things do you see that may be considered as not behaving? Chatting? Being off task? Rudeness?
What does the teacher do in each case to respond to this behaviour?
Some teachers will have set the expectations in place so that there is no obvious behaviour issue – but this is where you will need to look carefully at how they structure the lesson to ensure all are kept on task.
A later post will give you some suggestions as to techniques you can put in place to prevent behaviour problems from occurring.
What does the teacher do to move from one task to another? – what we call transitions in lessons.
How do they manage handing out books, or going through homework or tests?
3.Structure of the lesson
A final topic for your early observations is for you to plot out how the teacher structures each part of the lesson – what they want the students to learn; how they introduce the learning (starter); how they build the learning; how they check that they students have learnt it.
The best way to get the most out of your observations is to:
- Write notes during the observation
- Write up your notes while they are still fresh in your mind, reflecting on what you can use from what you have seen.
EVIDENCE: all this forms evidence for your standards - a good piece of evidence would be...
- Your notes on an observation on eg behaviour management
- A lesson plan using this information
- An observation where your mentor sees how you have put it into practice.
The blog for the trainee teacher. Everything you need to know to become an outstanding teacher and make the most of your teacher training year!
This blog is a step by step survival guide for the trainee teacher giving you regular advice for what you need, when you need it!
It’s September and you are finally embarking on your training year to become a teacher. All through the summer you will probably have searched the internet for information, made sure you could read all you can find on teaching, and generally prepared yourself for this year. Or you will have enjoyed your last holiday as a student, and waited until your placement until you throw yourself into whatever you need to do to pass this year.
Either way, you will find this blog invaluable.
Most of you will have considered the type of teacher you wish to become – you know what makes a good teacher, and what constitutes a good lesson (more of that in a later blog) and you want to work hard to meet those expectations in yourself. You will be hoping that you build good relationships with the students so they also see you as that good teacher. And it all starts now!
If you can visualise yourself as a good or outstanding teacher, you are probably going to want all the information to help you get there in one go! Logically you know this can’t happen and after your first few days you will be so overloaded with information that all you will want to do when you get home is go to sleep for a week! But I also know from experience that any early criticism students give regarding their provider training tends to be that ‘they wish they had learnt about behaviour management at the beginning of the course’, or ‘why didn’t anyone go through the teacher standards with them at the beginning?’ Chances are that the providers do cover it, but as students you aren’t yet as able to make sense of the information at the start as you will be later on!
This blog – which you can return to time and time again – will work alongside you on the weekly aspects you will need to focus on. Designed to complement the training you receive from your provider, and the invaluable support you will get from your mentor, this blog will offer tips and advice at least three times every week. Its aim is to get right to the heart of what you need, when you need it.
In the first half term we will explore:
- How to make the most of observing others – with suggested focuses for each observation you undertake
- How to make the most of working with your mentor
- How you develop from a trainee into a teacher – understanding the stages you will go through will help you to manage any occasions when you feel under pressure, or that you are not doing as well as you had hoped – and believe me, you will experience this as it is part of the normal cycle of development!
- Behaviour management, lesson planning and classroom management tips
- How students learn and how the brain works - very useful to understand when planning your lessons
- You will also receive regular tips on how to evidence the standards
Dr Sharon Williams
Sharon has spent many of her 33 years in secondary education working with trainee teachers.
She has mentored trainees, trained mentors ... and has developed and delivered mentoring and coaching programmes in schools.
Countless trainee teachers have benefited directly from working alongside Sharon, or the mentors she has trained - and all have successfully passed their training year!
How to make the most of observing.
Behaviour management - there are two ways of looking at it...
Behaviour management - some tips to help you.
It's all firsts!
Planning for positive behaviour for learning.
Where the real learning takes place.
How to observe - questioning.
How to observe - collaborative learning.
Using video to increase the power of your mentor meetings.
Assessment - what does it mean to you? What does it mean to your students?
Lesson planning 1: Learning outcomes and success criteria
Lesson planning 2: Starters and plenaries and why they are so important to the learning process
Lesson planning 3: Differentiation - what is it and how do I do it?
Establish routines for you and the students - and have a calm week
Student routines - another step towards becoming a good teacher
What is learning and how can I plan for it?
Collaborative Group Work
Keeping On Top
Starters And Plenaries
Video Observations: An Eye On Learning