Think Like A Champion: Ratio
Today marked a big day in the future of my teaching and my students’ learning. It was the day in which I think I saw the holy grail of professional development. Maths conferences that I have been on are superbly run but that’s fellow teachers sharing best practice. This, being led by Doug Lemov, Erica and Colleen of UnCommon Schools, was a workshop where almost every 10 minutes, there was something to take away to the classroom. As my neighbour at the table stated, “not one bit has felt like a throwaway comment”.
The day started with an early train over to Waterloo and a trip up to Camden. The venue was perfect for the event and we managed to get there in time for some breakfast and much-needed coffee! Doug started off with some icebreakers which were a bit less awkward than ones I’ve seen before. Pair off and discuss the story behind this…pair off and think how it applies to teaching. Highly engaging and a good, fast-paced start. This is also the first time that I got my first oneline takeaway…
“With common vocabulary, we can build anything”
A key theme throughout the day was a common culture – this was the start of embedding that idea. When talking about teaching, use the same language and others will find it a lot easier to follow and it aids in all areas: feedback, discussion and learning.
“We’ve all been in classrooms where we’ve had a great workout – now let’s build classrooms where students do the hard work.”
This is the underpinning message behind the workshop. Ratio relates to a lot of things but at its root, it is doing with the ratio of teacher work: pupil work. We have seen recently that Wiliam thinks “feedback should be more work for the recipient than the donor” and now we are extending this to the classroom. Learning should also be more work. I was hooked.
All this stuff about pupils working harder than teachers: it doesn’t mean independent learning. It means RATIO.
That’s what this whole day is about – a proper framework for independent learning.
Participation vs Think
The first session of the morning centred on time students spend participating and time students spend thinking and the balance between the two. Which activities are we setting? Do we know what the purpose of our activities are? Where is the blend between the two which gets us to all participating and all thinking? This workshop led to some great discussion around these areas. We talked about times when actually lots of participating and no thinking might be good and vice versa. One of my key takeaways was:
“if you let a student write straight after a group discussion, you’re testing their listening skills.”
I will endeavour to tailor this to write-discuss-change your answer.
The necessity for prerequisite knowledge
This was the one for me that I was really excited for today. The workshop after a quick coffee break was about the need for knowledge. We did an eye-opening exercise which encapsulated the point so well, I will use it in every single professional development I ever have the opportunity to run. The message of this session was simple: if you don’t know something, how can you solve problems relating to it?
There was a “criticism” of Bloom’s taxonomy in this period which I liked. The main point was it has become socially embarrassing (within teaching) to ask knowledge questions because they are the bottom of the period but actually knowledge must come before the pyramid at all levels. Knowledge is “Bloom’s delivery service”.
Throughout both sessions (and post-lunch), there was lots of video of great lessons and best practice. I loved this and again is something I will push in more development training. The key feature, whatever we were discussing, was the culture is clear in all these classrooms. “Habits of discussion” (hands down when someone is talking; everyone turns and faces the speaker etc) are consistent throughout. There is a clear argument here for a common, consistent culture in schools.
Maximising ratio through writing
One thing is clear from today – these guys love written text! Whether students are writing it, reading it or discussing it; use written text. After all, most of where
“students will derive facts from is written text.”
The afternoon session followed a more practical model and we were discussing the benefits of showing student work and how you can frame parts of your lesson around this. I enjoyed the practicality of the discussion and this is something where I will be focusing more thought towards in my planning as opposed to my pretty ad hoc approach at the moment.
We looked at group worked examples, comparative judgement and a handful of other techniques and what makes them powerful. The whole day was about being effective and efficient. Again, a plethora of video examples ran throughout and there was plenty of time to discuss.
The run down of each session has been purposefully brief here, out of respect for the organisers but I would absolutely recommend this course to any teacher. I was sceptical that I wasn’t in enough of a leadership role but there is so much here to get my teeth stuck into. The course was brilliantly run. The three deliverers spoke eloquently; there was lots of time to reflect; there was lots of personal time and collaborative and it was a room full of people all trying to get better. I’m determined to followed a similar model when we run our own development courses moving forwards. Little things that I hadn’t thought about until just now – fluency with material (page numbers etc), boxes to write reflections on everything; clear dynamic of own table, move table etc.
The first day was inspiring and I am looking forward to heading back into tomorrow morning for the second half. Thanks so much, Dough, Erica and Colleen. Genuinely fantastic.
See you in the morn!