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Digital Learning Environments Teaching and Learning

The role of Formative Assessment in our return to physical school. Learning Intentions (1)

The more I reflect on my formative assessment practice, the more excited I became about the marriage of two ideas: Our period of online learning has catalysed disruptive pedagogy as a whole profession, and, Our future is now to integrate the goodness of our digital environments to create a new school that is better than the one we left behind in March 2020.
So, how does all this relate to Learning Intentions? Because actively reflecting upon how we deliver Learning Intentions is difficult.

This article: Learning Intention research and my current practice.

Next article: Learning Intention revamp and how I use digital aids to share Learning Intentions.

The more I reflect on my formative assessment practice, the more excited I became about the marriage of two ideas:

Our period of online learning has catalysed disruptive pedagogy as a whole profession. There has never been a period where innovative thinking and practice been so rapidly incorporated into every single teacher’s classrooms, no matter the subject or experience of the teacher. In order to improve student learning, the teacher needs to be in the correct mindset to change (Wiliam, 2017). Whilst online learning was a trial by fire, from those ashes blooms a once in a lifetime chance in September 2020 to change all teachers mindsets your school’s CPD programme (no pressure SLT :p).

Our future is now to integrate the goodness of our digital environments to create a new school that is better than the one we left behind in March 2020.

So, how does all this relate to Learning Intentions? Because actively reflecting upon how we deliver Learning Intentions is difficult. It is a practice so embedded that I have always assumed I am doing it correctly because the students have it written in their books, complete with keywords and smattered with Blooms Taxonomy command terms.

Right?

Spending all your time in NQT colour coding Lesson Objectives because that made them clearer… this was my life.

Well. Although they have written down the Learning Intention, how do I know that my words are clear for every student (Fletcher-Wood, 2018)? Furthermore, how do I check that every student has pulled on their linguistic, formal and content schemata (Jeffrey Czarnec, 2018) to derive a pathway through our lesson in a way that matches my intended schema for them?

Without the ability to link the Learning Intention to their schema, the student will end up lost and confused before they have begun. This shows there is phenomenal learning value in the sharing and clarifying process. What I need to make is a Pareto improvement: A technical improvement by redistributing given resources that benefits everyone in the room (Wiliam, 2017). The resources are the students cognitive load, the teacher time and the lesson time.

This change should not add to an already overburdened lesson. It should “prune” and keep what works and discard tasks that do not explicitly benefit the learning process (Myatt, 2020). I will be looking first at how I used to share Learning Intentions, then exploring how the use of digital platforms can protect all resources in the classroom when sharing Learning Intentions.

How I shared Learning Intentions

There are two aspects to sharing a Learning Intention: the timing and the method.

Timing

A huge part of curating an environment that encourages learning is timing. The “teacher patter” that hooks students in and puts them on the edge of their seat wanting to know what happens next.

Despite my best efforts, my timing for the classic “teacher science jokes” remain awful. Thankfully, timing for my Learning Intentions is better.

As Dylan Wiliam explains, giving the answer away immediately with a poorly timed or poorly worded Learning Intention is detrimental to student engagement. The Learning Intention and Success Criteria should be shared in a part of the class that promotes the lesson flow and engagement (Wiliam, 2020). This might not be right at the beginning.

If you get to the bottom of this post, I have rewarded you with my favourite science joke 😊

Method

There are many ways to share Learning Intentions and Success Criteria to a class. The two I have used the most often are:

Method One: To get them to write them down as a routine start to the lesson.

I’ve upgraded. Colour coded and bold lettering.

Method one protects the resources of teacher and lesson time, however there is no opportunity for the learners connect this lesson to their schema of learning, or to display that there is clarity in their understanding. Although the content is technically there, this method needs to be vastly improved to ensure focus is on the students engaging with the intent and meaning of the words, rather than copying them down as fast as possible.

Method Two: To make the Learning Intention into a “fun task”.

I love purple. You know what makes purple more fun? Gradients.

Method two provides some opportunity for students to use their cognitive skills to “solve” the task. Solving the task and writing down the Learning Intention does not mean that they understand it. This falls into the trap of creating a task out of a formative assessment practice that does not acknowledge the purpose of the assessment in the first place (Fletcher-Wood, 2018). Method two does utilise the students cognitive load on an optimal task.

I must have printed and handed out thousands of starter activities to engage my students. Most of them end up as hurriedly glued in bits of paper. Unless the student takes twice as long neatly sticking it in. I dread to think how much time I have wasted in lessons hunting for glue sticks over the past 8 years! Method two also fails to protect the teacher and lesson time.

What was missing for me was a regular sharing of a model of success so that students can see the link between intention, success and the purpose of learning. (Fletcher-Wood, 2018) and a way of curating reflection to clarify Learning Intentions. In my next post, I will show you how I have laid out my Learning Intentions for next year. As an additional bonus, I will show you how I have done this without the need for any photocopying, glue or handing out of worksheets!

References

Fletcher-Wood, H., 2018. Responsive Teaching. 1 ed. Abingdon & New York: Routledge.

Fletcher-Wood, H., 2018. Sharing learning objectives: Humpty Dumpty changed my mind. [Online]
Available at: https://improvingteaching.co.uk/2018/07/01/sharing-learning-objectives-humpty-dumpty-changed-my-mind/#comments
[Accessed 20 July 2020].

Fletcher-Wood, H., 2018. Showing what success looks like: the magic of models. [Online]
Available at: https://improvingteaching.co.uk/2018/09/02/showing-what-success-looks-like-the-magic-of-models/
[Accessed 20 July 2020].

Jeffrey Czarnec, M. G. H., 2018. Schemata and Instructional Strategies. [Online]
Available at: https://evolllution.com/programming/teaching-and-learning/schemata-and-instructional-strategies/
[Accessed 21 July 2020].

Myatt, M., 2020. researchEDHome Mary Myatt: Back on Track: 10 suggestions to ensure we focus on making a difference. [Online]
Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2NuDwSMAEk&t=2447s
[Accessed 20 July 2020].

Paul Black, D. W., 2010. Inside the Black Box Raising Standards Through Classroom Assessment. Phi Delta Kappan, 80(2).

Rosenshine, B., 2012. Principles of Instruction Research- Based Strategies That All Teachers Should Know. American Educator, pp. 12-39.

Wiliam, D., 2017. Dylan Wiliam Embedding Formative Assessment SSAT/EEF celebration event keynote. [Online]
Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zwGaG1b_T2w
[Accessed 20 July 2020].

Wiliam, D., 2020. What formative assessment is and isn’t. [Online]
Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfAutEWaqOE
[Accessed 22 July 2020].

What should you do when no one laughs at your science jokes? Keep trying until you get a reaction
And this would be my final piece of advice to any science teacher NQT’s this year. Image from: https://www.calpaclab.com/science-jokes/

By Linda Parsons

Author of Digilin Learning.
Follower of Educational Technology enthusiasts, of all subjects. I am an MIE Fellow, Apple teacher and Google Educator. If it can be used as a learning tool, I will be keen for it. Currently a science teacher in the UAE.

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