Challenging the most able students – Research 2017/18

Last year, Deputy Headteacher Deb Norrish carried out research into how we can further stretch and challenge our most able students. This is her summary of that research.

Research Question.

How can ‘conflict’ improve more-able boy’s performance? Can competition through well-structured debates translate to improved outcomes in students written discussions in their formal written assessments?

Method

  • Implementing a strategy where Post 16 lessons are focussed on ‘oracy’ and the critical development of ideas/ concepts to deepen higher level thinking skills. No notes are taken during lesson time, the expectation is that all reading and preparation is carried out during personal study time.
  • More-Able students (Boys) were identified to lead debates by given differing interpretations to convince, through credible evidence as either the ‘prosecution’ or ‘defence’. Each team were encouraged through ‘competitive incentive’ to research extensively to ‘out flank’ the other team to provide evidence ‘beyond reasonable doubt. Identified students have been encouraged to lead ‘opening speeches’ and closing remarks to improve the quality of introductions and conclusions.
  • Students have had to reflect and use appropriate language to evaluate, convince and argue their key points. Language has been analysed and improved to convey key lines of inquiry. Students have been  given more independence in preparing the sub headings for debate and to work towards modelling high quality essay responses.

Summary of what you did to adapt your practice

  • Increase expectations of home learning by enforcing a ‘no notes’ rule for Post 16 lessons. Active learning and testing used to clarify, consolidate and develop critical thinking, using appropriate vocabulary.
  • Use ‘More Able’ lead learners to increase higher level thinking in debates and to clearly evaluate evidence before reaching a conclusion.

How did you test and review the impact of your research?

  • Observation and prior controlled testing of identified students learning behaviours.
  • Observation by colleague mid-way through research.
  • Data comparison (Review (4) 2017- Review (4) 2018. Personal Study internal moderation and final grades in A Level results.
  • Student feedback and suggestions for improvement.

Summary of impact so far

  • Students independent learning skills have improved significantly along with their ability to complete quality, ‘deep’ home learning tasks based on research and wider reading. Concise notetaking based on key headings and evidence has also sharpened their ability to take effective notes.  The quality of additional evidence researched and debated by the high ability students identified was sharpened by the approach taken.
  • The standard of critical evaluation and quality of evidence required was ‘up skilled’ by the identified, competitive male students involved in the project. Adjustment to alter the dominance of this dynamic had to be made to give other students the leadership experience that they had seen being modelled.
  • The overall value added score of this group has improved from being significantly below expected to ‘in line’. All identified students have achieved an ‘A’ or ‘B’ for their personal study and in line or above their target grade.
  • Increase expectation of post 16 learning by encouraging a ‘no notes’ rule for lessons. The expectation should be to read and learn in personal study periods and clarify and discuss/ debate in lessons.
  • Boys thrive on competition and debate. Carefully structure the headings of the debate to increase focus and model a potential essay structure. Carefully manage this debate so that it does not compromise other’s progress and creativity!
  • Ensure constant modelling and evaluation of student language to encourage sophisticated discussion and debate that is highly critical and persuasive by approach.

 

Presentation of Work – Research 2017-2018

Last year Language Teacher Nicola Pugh carried out her Action Research project. This is her summary of what she found out.

Research Question

Does focusing on the presentation of work lead to better note taking and revision in boys?

Method

I have been trialing a departmental technique called ‘Presentation for Learning’. Our Head of Languages began a presentation competition to be reviewed each term; the best presentation and the most improved presentation for learning would receive a prize. Taking this idea, I trialed dedicating a lesson to note taking, organisation of notes and strategies for showing a thought process through their work. Throughout the term, students then worked through their books and chose particular pages or work in their exercise books that showed their best thinking or best learning. Each term, a nominated student would look through books and judge the best thinking.

Summary of what you did to adapt your practice.

Dedicating time at the beginning of the research period to note taking, presentation and demonstrating how to show thought processes allowed a better understanding of what I was looking for and what students were aiming toward was something that I have not tried and it proved successful. Also, embedding this as a routine every few lessons to check their progress of their best work and see if they can top it, and also giving ownership to the student about their presentation and not taking.

How did you test and review the impact of your work?

Taking photos at the beginning of the process and regularly assessing progress. Student engagement has been a great factor in judging it as students have actively been trying to beat their best work each term.

Summary of the impact so far.

Start early and maintain the momentum. It is difficult to keep on top of the administration involved initially which is when I developed the role of student judges and the ownership was on them. Ensuring time is built in for regular updates to maintain the momentum and maintain engagement is key.

Motivating Boys – Research 2017-18

One of our English Teachers, Victoria Gilbert and Progress Manager, Leisha Pentlow carried out an action research project looking at motivating boys in lessons. This is a summary of their project.

Research Question

Does using positive relationships and encouragement to build self-esteem improve progress in boys?

Method

Use of Boosters.

Boosters are self-belief, learning focus, value of schooling, persistence, planning and monitoring, and study management.

Summary of what you did to adapt your practice.

Teachers adapted styles of learning through one-to-one and small intervention groups, using encouragement and a growth mindset to build self-esteem and confidence in preparation for GCSE exams. planning differentiated resources and further encouraging students to feel comfortable to ask for individual support, guiding students to manage their studies by independently devising their own revision timetable, and attend after school revision sessions with mentor.

How did you test and review the impact of your research?

Impact of research is evidenced through teacher peer observations of using strategies to improve engagement and learning outcomes. Also, student interviews that revealed further strategies which were implemented, and students fed back as successful at motivating them to engage with the learning. For example, use of praise and reward cards home, and instant phone calls when class learning outcomes had improved.

Summary if impact so far

To summarise, although there have been clear signs of improvement to self-esteem and attitude, students developed limited independence. For example, when attempting exam responses independently in exam conditions, they relied heavily on support and encouragement. The impact on their self-esteem and attitude to their own success has increased. Working with other students as a whole has improved, and also their attitude towards staff.

Recognise lack of progress can come from a lack of self-esteem and belief in own abilities. Boys sometimes have a fear of failure and can self-sabotage. Impact of strategies may have been greater if students have been identified earlier.

 

Extra-Curricular Clubs – Research 2017/18

Last year Matt Jarmen, one of our teachers looked at using extra-curricular clubs to encourage disadvantaged students to engage in learning. This is his summary.

Research Question

Can attendance at an after school club break down barriers of learning for PP students?

Method

Generally, I aimed to work with the students already attending the Badminton Club and attempt to break down any barriers and get to know more about them. This allowed me time to Q&A with them on hobbies, areas they find hard at school. The results of this meant I could use feedback to influence how I engaged with them in any encounter in the school.

Summary of what you did to adapt your practice.

I have tried to remember their feedback and use it to allow me to engage with them and aid their learning or development where applicable.

How did you test and review the impact of your research?

Generally, I have found it hard to assess this as some students I have not seen in lessons and others are a one off. For those I have seen, my observations are that they feel less awkward or unhappy to ask questions or get involved. I also know how to push them to get them focused.

Summary of impact so far

Creating positive engagement with students help to break down some barriers with students for both learning and engaging.

Inspiring Disadvantaged Learners – Research 2017-18

English Teacher Rachael Davison looked at how we she could inspire disadvantaged learners in her English lessons. This is her summary of her project.

Research Question

How can increased communication positively impact on disadvantaged students’ engagement and progress?

Method

  • Increased one to one and small group conversations with disadvantaged students about their understanding of the learning, their progress etc. during and outside of lessons.
  • An increased number of postcards and phone calls home.
  • Setting students catch up work to complete independently following absence or at least one to one/small group discussion regarding what the class have covered when students have been absent.
  • Student participation in every lesson – disadvantaged students always questioned, invited to share their learning, their used for teacher modelling of self/peer assessment etc.
  • Increased verbal feedback during the lesson so students receive instant feedback that they can respond to in the lesson.

Summary of what you did to adapt your practice

  • Disadvantaged students are always selected to answer questions, to share their learning, read out loud etc. throughout the lesson.
  • I have adapted my practice by ensuring that these students receive clear and focused verbal feedback alongside lots of praise and encouragement within the lesson and not just written in their books during a marking cycle.
  • I have tried to catch up/meet with the students following a period of absence so that they know what they have missed in class. I have also tried to engage the students in taking ownership of the missed work by giving them tasks to complete at home.

How did you test and review the impact of your research?

  • Observations of students’ engagement in lessons (engagement in tasks and motivation to achieve), summative assessment outcomes, discussions with the students themselves and their feedback.

Summary of impact so far.

Make students more accountable for the learning they miss due to absence (or discuss what has been missed): give students tasks to complete at home to catch up.

Provide disadvantaged students with regular verbal feedback opportunities throughout lessons.

Increase the number of postcards sent home, phone calls home, sending copies of completed work home.

Increased student participation in every lesson – all disadvantaged students answering questions, sharing work, responding to others’ ideas etc.

Use disadvantaged students’ books on the visualiser to model peer/self-marking – the students get instant quality feedback from their peers and the teacher.

Direct Questioning with Disadvantaged Student – Research 2017/18

Last year one of our Maths teachers, Matt Sims, carried out research into improving the performance of disadvantaged students. This is the summary of his project.

Research Question

Will direct questioning of Pupil Premium students and increasing parental contact improve their performance?

Method

More questions were directed disadvantaged students during the lesson. At the same time the Connect Ed app was used to try to engage parental engagement.

Summary of what you did to adapt your practice

A laminated seating plan was produced highlighting Pupil Premium students and kept out of view of the class. This help to remind me which students to easily identify key students when asking questions. Resources and revision material was sent to parents via the MyEd app.

How did you review the impact of your research and what is your summary?

Summer GCSE results were used. In addition lesson observation showed an increased involvement from the students and the feedback from the parents was positive. Students were more involved and as a result their confidence increased. I would recommend the use of laminated seating plans and My Ed app with parents.

Motivating Boys Research 2017/18

We have included examples of the research carried out by staff last year looking at improving the performance of boys.

Teaching Assistant Rhonda Lawry-Griffiths carried out the following research with the aim of identifying ways of removing the gender gap in English lessons. This is her review.

Research Question

Will the use of visual stimuli help to sustain and increase motivation in boys?

Method

Use of visual prompts to help engage interest in lessons, eg students drawing, computer images and maps.

Summary of what you did to adapt your  practice.

Use of visual stimuli wherever possible in lessons.

How did you test and review the impact of your research?

Accelerated reader testing was used for Year 7 students. A staff peer debrief was used to reflect and evaluate at the end of the research project. Discussions were held with students that were in the class.

Summary of the impact so far

The Year 7 students, especially the boys, were more willing to share plot summaries from previous lessons. They were able to recall main events from the material and read more carefully, confidently and accurately. Where a map was used to plot countries from a story-line the boys eagerly participated.

Performance of Boys Research 2017/18

We have included examples of the research carried out by staff last year looking at improving the performance of boys.

Technology teacher Tris Rogers carried out the following research with the aim of identifying ways of removing the gender gap in performance. This is his review.

Research Question     

Does using regular testing and feedback raise performance?

Method

Regular weekly testing, peer or self assessment and feedback. Time given for students to make corrections.

Summary of what you did to adapt your practice

Students were given a spelling test of key words once a week; there has been no expectation of practice or revision at home. The same words but in a different order were repeated approximately four times or until a noticeable improvement was seen in the results, at this point new words were added to the bank of words which they were expected to know. Students marked their own or peers’ work and then had to make corrections before moving on to the main lesson task.

How did you test and review the impact of your research?

Results of the test were recorded on a spreadsheet, which was shown to pupils. It was colour coded to show any increase or decrease in performance which makes it easier to see from the back of the class. It is also a quick and simple way to reward Vivos (behaviour points) for consistency or improvements from their previous results.

Teaching assistants and a technology technician have all commented on the way the pupils have taken to the regular tests and often remind me when it’s test day.

Summary of Impact so far

There is a definite pattern showing improvement for most pupils, in a class of 25 there were two who showed little improvement or drops in results if given a week or two off. Retention of knowledge for most was good and even after a ‘break’ the results were still showing improvements over the original data.

 


 

Raising the progress and attainment of disadvantaged students.

A priority area for most schools in the country is the performance and  attainment of disadvantaged students, these are the students that fulfil the Pupil Premium (PP) descriptors. At Tor Bridge High the PP students are attaining above that for similar schools but crucially there is still  gap that we are adamant to remove. Clearly this is a huge question in education and there is a large amount of information that is published on it. What were are concerned with is how we distill the vast amount of nationally published research into what works for our students at Tor Bridge High.

The action research leads for this area are Ian Goldsmith (Head of Humanities) and Robbie Williams) Teacher of PE).

One of the difficulties staff encountered when researching this area is that the term ‘PP’ does not describe a homogenous group of students, in our school it is roughly one third of all students. Some of our best performing students are in this group. It goes without saying that each one of  our PP students is a highly valued individual and getting to know them is the key.  However, there are also some general considerations when reviewing the progress and attainment of PP students that are widely discussed in research.

What we found out from the action research projects carried out from staff are some approaches that are more likely to work in our school setting.

What makes a difference?

Classroom based strategies.

  • PP students have increased engagement and understanding through challenging and differentiated tasks.
  • Marking the work of PP students can lead to enhanced feedback and understanding.
  • Collaborative work between PP students and suitable peers can increase engagement and understanding.
  • Collation and display of class performances for class tests, can motivate high attaining PP students, whereas low attaining PP students can lose confidence and then engagement.
  • Seating placement of high attaining PP learners with high attaining non-PP learners enriches metacognition.
  • Visual resources and strategies enhances the understanding, confidence and reduces the anxiety of PP boys in the research group.
  • Freedom of writing choice and topic does increase enthusiasm for the writing task in PP boys.
  • Self esteem of PP students is generally enhanced when working collaboratively with similar ability peers.
  • Metacognitive strategies can support KS5 students with extended writing.

Out of classroom based strategies.

  • Attendance at homework clubs improved reading ages.
  • Proactive parental dialogue resulted in end of unit assessment performance in line with or above PP students target grade.
  • Participation in mandatory and optional fieldwork trips has seen a greater uptake following positive home communication.
  • Parental engagement has supported students progress.

Whats next?

The action research that was carried out raised almost as many questions as it did provide answers. Areas for further action research projects are.

  • How do we overcome language barriers to improve progress?
  • How do engage all parents?
  • What opportunities can we build at lunchtime for students to develop cultural capital?
  • How can continue to improve students mental health?
  • How can we adapt teaching to promote good attendance and proactively support missed lessons?

 

 

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