During Phase 2 placement, a schools advisor visited for a day to observe teaching in each year group and provide CPD with suggestions from other local schools displaying good practice in a range of areas.
Some of the key areas for improvement were as follows:
– How are you challenging all the pupils, including the higher ability?
– Is there any room for pupils to challenge one another?
– Pupils largely don’t like to make mistakes- can this be changed?
– If a pupil’s work is marked with ticks all the way throughout, what have they learnt?
The concept of challenge is one of the key points we chose to action immediately, and introduced a new strategy of ABC (Agree, Build, Challenge) with hand signals. This is used in all aspects of the classroom but largely during class discussions and very often during the shared input on the carpet area. The pupils are encouraged (and expected) to use the gestures to show whether they agree with what has been said, would like to build on an idea, or would like to challenge it (followed with an explanation as to why!)
We have found that this has greatly helped to motivate some learners to contribute to class discussions as they are eager to challenge other people’s ideas (particularly the class teacher’s, which is also encouraged).
It has also helped children to become much more critical learners as they are challenging their own and other’s thinking rather than mindlessly absorbing information. They are also engaging in the practice of justifying their ideas with deeper explanations of their thinking.
It has been interesting to notice that lots of pupils will take for granted what they are told by teachers, and even more interesting to see children change their mind about an answer when asked “Are you sure?” as they often perceive this as meaning that they have made a mistake. In an attempt to encourage children to justify their thinking, I often respond to answers given by asking “Are you sure?” which is supported by the rest of the class gesturing with their ABC.
A further unanticipated effect of the ABC strategy has been its impact as a behaviour management technique. If they are to Agree, Build or Challenge any ideas shared, they must listen carefully and pay attention. When a child is not able to show the gesture for A, B or C, it is immediately clear that they were either not engaged in the lesson a=or need further clarification as they are unsure.
There is, of course, the potential issue that some children will simply sit with their thumbs up to indicate that they agree, without actually engaging in any thoughtful process. Where this isn’t noticeable from expressions and gestures, this can be overcome to an extent by occasionally asking pupils to explain why they have chosen to agree.
- I plan to carry this system through to future schools, anticipating that it may need to be adapted to suit the needs of different pupils/classes/schools etc. In my NQT classroom I would like to make this a display to be accessible by all and I would like to display possible questions/sentence starters to encourage deeper thinking within the ABC system.
“What do you mean by?”
“I would like to challenge X because…”
“Are you sure?”
“Can you prove it/convince me?”
“Can you tell me why this is wrong?”