That Was The Year That Was

With one exhausting year at an end, with another on the way with my first foray into exam board marking alongside my efforts to complete my History Education MA, my sanity demands a brief ‘taking of stock’ of the year that was.

Highlights

  1. Although not immediately related to teaching and learning I had the pleasure of being invited to host the Dartford constituency hustings at our school in May 2015. This was an exhilarating experience, and stands out in my mind as a great personal accolade from 2015. The deeper point to take from this though, is that my students have had an excellent range of enrichment offered to them this year, topped off by the visit of Lord Professor Peter Hennessy to deliver our annual humanities Christmas lecture, where we also raised over £240 for Crisis at Christmas.
  2. Collaborative Teaching – This has been my third qualified year in teaching. As such, I’ve developed a lot of great (and not so great) resources and lessons. This has been the year where I’ve managed to consoldiate them into reasonably solid historical enquiries and have been able to share these with non-specialist colleagues and other time pressed colleagues within the department. It has helped our department standardise our offering, improved non-specialist teaching & laid the foundations for a more collaborative department approach to teaching as we encounter new GCSE and A-Level specifications.
  3. Challenge for All – In brief, I have been working on a few strategies to challenge the most able students. I was then given the opportunity to co-plan and deliver a CPD session on challenging the most able students, in new ‘Personalised Learning Groups’ where staff have signed up to work in a development group based upon one of the school’s High Impact Teaching Strategies as we seek to understand and embed David Weston’s principles of diagnosing areas in our teaching requiring development and refining one new teaching habit rather than making short-term use of a wealth of ideas thrown at us in a scattergun approach in whole-school CPD sessions. I enjoyed the challenge of this, have shaped my thoughts into a Teaching History article proposal and can see the seeds of where I want to take my History Education MA. I have a clear steer for how keep growing in 2016 – that’s the main thing!

Areas for Development

  1. Making feedback work.
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading these ideas about feedback by Tom Sherrington in a CPD session in my school in February. They seemed like the perfect way to follow up on my experimentation in the winter 2014 term with marking every KS3 book every lesson (and in this I was particularly influenced by Harry Fletcher-Wood). I learned a lot from this. In essence, marking every book every lesson was a bit of a waste of time but I have come to cherish the principle “plan what you will mark, how you will mark it & how kids will make use of that feedback.” I have not yet strategically thought about planning my marking beyond a week to week basis. This needs to change in 2016.
  2. Sixth Form Independence.
    As I battle teaching the second new history A-level specification in two years without a textbook, I have found my time, energy and efforts being absorbed entirely by ensuring that lessons and homeworks are well resourced. This has left no time for developing meaningful structures for promoting independent learning by sixth form students or wider reading by students. I have found it much easier to do with my government & politics class, where wider reading is easier to identify and co-ordinate for students and I’m quite proud of the thorough unit guides I’ve made for students which they have found most helpful in supporting their independent endeavours. I need to do the same for KS5 history – ideas on what effective independent learning by sixth form students looks like and how to achieve it are most welcome!
  3. Testing for Memory
    Teaching discourse in the last twelve months or so has come to focus much more on low-stakes testing. It is certainly present in my teaching and is increasingly so, but this is not yet routine and I would be loathe to suggest that it is ‘systematically’ deployed in my schemes of learning. I’d also like to further understand and try out the idea of ‘cumulative assessments’ as set out by Michael Fordham here. At present, my feedback & assessment strategies are to look at a piece of work mid-enquiry and then mark/assess a core task at the end of a historical enquiry. There is a more meaningful testing and feedback structure that could be woven together (see making feedback work above).

Wishing all readers a Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year.

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