On a warm summer’s day in July, 150 teachers gathered together for the Chartered College of Teaching’s Third Space event. The theme for the day was ‘Developing effective learners’ and our thanks go to the Oxford Spires Academy and the Oxford Teaching Schools Alliance for hosting the event.
Marianne Blake, Principal at Oxford Spires, opened the event by welcoming guests and reminding us that students should always be at the forefront of every teacher’s minds and, therefore, teachers are a precious commodity. The programme was structured around three keynote presentations and several parallel workshop sessions, featuring many of the authors published in this term’s issue of Impact.
The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF)’s Eleanor Stringer, one of the co-authors of the report Metacognition and self-regulated learning, began the day with a keynote focused on the first recommendation from the report: Teachers should acquire the professional understanding and skills to develop their pupils’ metacognitive knowledge.
She noted that while for many learners, applying metacognitive knowledge can happen naturally – you have a task, you think about how you’re going to tackle it and where you might find further information, and update your knowledge as you progress and adapt accordingly – other learners need this explicitly modelled. The importance of metacognition being grounded in subject discipline was also highlighted, and for many in the room, this presentation really helped to bring the process of ‘learning to learn’ to life.
Will Millard from LKMco followed, sharing the added importance of talking about, and in, learning. His article in Impact introduced key principles of oracy, its benefits and its use in the classroom. He was clear that all types of teacher talk are important, from rote and recitation to discussion and dialogue, but that decisions on which to use and when should be thoughtful and intentional.
The wide-ranging benefits of oracy include subject retention and academic attainment, along with personal and social gains. Will provided guidance for improving oracy in your own classroom, including, setting ground rules, modelling the talk you expect, thinking about your own speech when talking with pupils, asking great questions and helping scaffold your pupils, providing them with feedback. The session provided a really useful introduction to oracy, referencing freely available resources from School21 and Voice21.
After a short refreshments break, delegates split into parallel workshop sessions which explored vocabulary, developing knowledge, active learning and teaching SEND in ordinary classrooms. I joined Sonia Thompson, Deputy Headteacher at St Matthews CE Primary School who was celebrating her birthday by leading a session on robust vocabulary instruction. This session explored the article published in Impact entitled Deepening knowledge through vocabulary learning, which featured a number of authors sharing their practice in this area.
Back in April, The Guardian reported on a ‘vocabulary deficiency’ across primary and secondary classrooms. Sonia’s workshop focused on how her school have increased the breadth of reading and have strategically exposed their children to more vocabulary. Her passion and commitment to this area of learning was infectious. At St Matthews, they lead shared and guided reading, with plenty of time for reading for pleasure. When the class is about to read a new fiction novel that may need some background reading, they identify non-fiction resources to interweave with this.
But it doesn’t just stop there. When new words are taught, the whole ‘family’ that word belongs to is taught. Teachers also engage with vocabulary across all academic subjects so that, for instance, when teaching maths, new vocabulary is taught around calculation laws and decimal fractions. The impact of this work is impressive, with strong reading results across the school, which serves an area of Birmingham with a high index of disadvantage.
Over the lunch period, attendees were able to participate in #UKEdResChat live discussions. There were several groups discussing a variety of topics covering teacher recruitment, online learning, and effective approaches to professional development. Shortly after, the parallel sessions reconvened with a more detailed look at oracy and metacognition, as well as relationships for learning and engaging prior knowledge.
Mary Taylor from Family Links: the Centre for Emotional Health led a session in the afternoon to explore why relationships for learning were so important. She began by quoting Danielle Mason, Head of Research at the EEF: ‘Evidence suggests that the best things schools can do are things that really impact on the relationship between teacher and pupil in the classroom.’ In this session, we explored why emotional health may be so crucial for learning and looked at tools and strategies to regulate how we respond in different situations.
Dr Victoria Randall, a Senior Fellow in Knowledge Exchange at the University of Winchester and subject coordinator for Physical Education across teacher education, concluded the day with a presentation on developing teacher knowledge. She set the scene by referencing Hegarty (2000): What sets education and teaching apart from other professional contexts is that the knowledge required must be geared towards learning and knowledge creation.
She highlighted why professional networks are so important, particularly for encouraging rich and purposeful reform and being advocates for professional reform, and explained how teachers’ knowledge now goes beyond Lee Shulman’s seven categories of professional knowledge. Teachers are encouraged to know more about their own teacher identity, as well as policy, scholarly engagement, and child development.
As part of her work with the Physical Education Expert Subject Advisory Group, she has developed a Professional Knowledge Model with an explicit focus on developing teacher knowledge to promote effective learning. Her model maps out reflective academic engagement, alongside case knowledge, content knowledge and subject pedagogy. In issue 3 of Impact, Victoria has presented a non-subject specific model for all teachers to be able to use and map their professional knowledge against.
This term’s Third Space event once again brought together an engaged group of teachers to discuss the research and practice of effective learning. For me, a key theme that came out of the day was that to be effective, these proposed approaches should not be seen as another thing to add to the ever-growing list of things to do, but should be integrated as part of the fabric of the school – and in many cases, already are. The challenge is in working out how to harness this and implement it in the most effective way.
If you want to find out more on this topic, view our Twitter highlights from the event and check out the following resources for further background reading:
- Quigley, A and Stringer, E (2018). Making sense of metacognition, Impact, Issue 3.
- Developing effective learners CPD pack
- Oracy CPD pack
- Alexander, R (2001). Culture and Pedagogy: International Comparison in Primary Education, Wiley-Blackwell.
- Beck, I; McKeown, M; and Kucan, L (2013). Bringing words to life, Guilford Press.
- Quigley, A (2018). Closing the vocabulary gap, Routledge.
- Claxton, G (2002). Building learning power, TLO Ltd.