Action research: Teaching and Learning Communities: Jan 2017

Approach: Lesson Study in planning teams

Line of enquiry: Differentiation when teaching whole class (and without ability groups) to ensure all pupils progress.


● ‘Marvellous mistakes’ approach supportive of all pupils and very effective method for exploring the learning.

Use of Talk Partners , changed weekly and with well-established routines   supportive of all pupils and also promoting  greater  autonomy.

 Use of pre-teaching of key skills/ concepts to pupils who might lack confidence highly effective at setting them up for success in the lesson to come.

● Sentence starters can be very helpful scaffolding for pupils when they are attempting deeper lines of enquiry.

 ● Providing opportunities for pupils to pose their own questions from a prompt (patterns seen, puzzles, questions, ideas) can empower them / help them become more autonomous.

 ● Dynamic use of visualiser to demonstrate learning mid lesson again supportive; again involves building on mistakes (or strengths) ; again allows for in depth exploring of the learning. 

●Careful choice of low threshold high ceiling challenge very important.

 ● Importance of awareness / planning for possibilities to extend/adapt the learning mid lesson.

 ● Important of pupil understanding mathematical (or other) language and supporting pupils to understand this- as a way into learning/ as an important success criteria  for the learning.

 ● Importance of using different question types. Importance of both explicit  targeted questioning and more open ended questioning to ensure both support and autonomy.

Action Research – The Plenary

My teaching practice has changed dramatically over the last 8 months as a result of the Shirley Clarke action research project. If someone said rewind and teach the way you did before… I would leave teaching and open a bookshop (my back-up plan!). I feel invigorated, inspired, supported and excited for the next phase.

This was our final poster – we were tasked with reporting back on Effective Questioning. As part of our presentation, Alison and I got Gloucestershire heads taking part in a ‘Is cheating ever ok –  debate’ as well as a 16 x 25 mental maths number talk. If you can’t do it in under a minute…ask a KS2 Minchinhampton pupil! Top tip halving and doubling is the way to go!


Next steps: To pour our new skills into our school book project (A Portal in Time) with Patron of Reading, John Dougherty. Publication March 2017 by the History Press and book launch 10th June 2017.  See our School Book Project blog for further details.

Best reads: Outstanding Formative Assessment by Shirley Clarke, Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler and Number Talks by Sherry Parrish.



Effective questioning


‘The kinds of questions teachers ask determine how far the discussion deepens children’s learning and understanding.’ (Wiliam 2008)

After embedding metacognition through learning powers, growth mindset and the learning pit, we worked on higher level questioning.

We trained ourselves using these question sets, a week at a time, until we were fluent in questioning. We team taught in lesson study groups, Japanese style,  to hone our lesson delivery.

Effective Questioning

eg. In P4C

Is cheating in the Olympics the same as cheating in tag?

  • Can you justify your opinion?
  • What would someone who disagreed with you say?
  • What is the difference between that view and your view?
  • Is there another point of view?


Heated discussion prevailed. Opinions from the two camps included:





Effective questioning

… guides the direction of a lesson and planning for individual needs.

… essential for good learning.

… allows us to respond to needs quickly.

… allows us to find out what they know, understand and where they make errors, and have misconceptions, when they are not engaged.

… allows learning needs to be evaluated at every stage to ensure all children are making progress and for next steps need to be informed.

… guiding questions through use of P4C can lead to deeper understanding on the part of the teacher or pupil.

As Wiliam said ‘We need to activate learners as instructional resources for one another.’. An unexpected outcome has been the children taking the questions from us and using them on each other. Pupil autonomy in action and of course they listen to each other more than they listen to adults!

… never dodge a good question…



And now the next stage!

Today was an excellent opportunity for all the participants of Shirley Clarke’s Action Research Project to celebrate what they have learned and achieved with the children over the past year.  The open sharing of findings amongst schools has been a unifying and humbling experience and has been a great source of inspiration.

We were proud to deliver our results to our guests today in such a positive and growth-mindset environment. And now we are all so excited to continue to spread the word!

Alison, Shirley, Clare and Nick
Alison, Shirley, Clare and Nick

Han Solo for: “Have a go!” Learning Power No. 5


Han says:

“Chewy, my ship is fixed! Let’s get outta’ here. I’m excited to try new things, see new places. Don’t worry if it goes wrong! We’ve learned from our mistakes haven’t we Chewy? We just won’t get involved with The Rebellion again.

Get a growth mindset about you. Don’t just be a walking carpet Chewy. C’mon!”

BB8 for ‘Enjoy Learning’ – Learning Power No. 8


Rey says to BB8:

“You have listened well to my training.

Feel proud of your achievements little BB8. Feel your neurons connecting. Imagine your intelligence growing by the minute!

Use what you have learned in real life to face all of the challenges which lie ahead.

Know what you can do if you have input and if you practice.”

Children can be encouraged to think about pieces of the stiry that might help them enjoy learning!

General Grievous for Use Your Imagination – Learning Power 6


The unveiling of Learning Power 5 coincided with our Japanese style whole-school Lesson Study. This event, which is set to become a termly fixture due to the awesomeness of the experience, took place in week 7 of Term 5. All teaching staff met in our Key Stage groups on Monday after school. Our mission, which we chose to accept, was to plan a problem solving based maths lesson pulling together as many features of growth mindset, Philosophy for Children and formative learning as we could muster. Putting our golden year of staff development towards a cutting edge formative learning experience for the children – and as it turned out – for us.

The Japanese model
‘Japan has succeeded in developing a system that not only develops teachers but also develops knowledge about teaching that is relevant to classrooms and sharable among the members of the teaching profession… When Japanese teachers plan a lesson collaboratively, they treat the result as a joint product whose ownership is shared by all in the group. When one teacher teaches the lesson and the others observe, problems that emerge are generally attributed to the lesson as designed by the group, not to the teacher who implemented the lesson. It thus becomes possible for teachers to become critical without offending their colleague. The discussion can focus more pointedly and deeply on the merits and deficiencies of the lesson and on the process of revising and improving it.’

Co-constructed Success Criteria


Shirley Clarke says that: “Success criteria are internalised and used by pupils if they have had a stake in their generation“.

success criteria picture

Strategies we’ve used:

We have both tried using a number of strategies for co-constructing the open and closed success criteria (SC) for Maths and English (& other subjects).

Having compared our notes, we have found we have approached their creation in very similar ways, with the differentiation across the two cohorts being from our approach in facilitating and guiding the pupils talk.

SC maths

In Y3/4 Maths:

The model we use which has developed over the year, is to get pupils to spend time working on skill fluency and then practice applying the skill in reasoning and problem solving.  Following this period of embedding and investigation, the pupils, with the help of their Talk Partners (TP), discuss the SC they feel are important.  This is then shared amongst the class and discussed.  This is an invaluable Formative Assessment tool, as at this point, any misconceptions are able to be analysed and skill fluency revisited.  A ‘master’ SC list is agreed by the children (guided by the teacher) and typed on the IWB so that the pupils can see their ideas are used and valued.  This is sometimes printed off to put into their books, and sometimes the class one is used as a starting point for the children to edit and improve using their own words and ideas which they can write into their books. This is usually done towards the end of the unit, when they have all become familiar and confident with the skill being taught.

Sometimes, they have written the SC down on paper when discussing with TP at an earlier point in the unit, and a copy has been kept to refer back to later in the unit (or when the topic is revisited later in the year).  At this point, the pupils are able to add to the SC they originally created, in another colour, as a clear indication of the progress in their understanding.

In Y5/6 Maths:

Having spent time teaching and applying the skills needed for a unit of work, the Y5/6 class are given a blank slip of paper where they create their SC list during working through the unit, using their TP to verbalise their thinking and reasoning, and changing and updating the slip as they go.  They approach it as if they were writing to teach it themselves.  At the end of the work we share our SC with the class – the pupils adding on any criteria they feel they missed off, and I as the teacher type up a ‘master’ copy on the IWB, to save for when the topic is revisited, and for revision.  The pupils glue their own copy into their books, at the end of their unit.

In both teaching cohorts, the maths SC are generally closed criteria as they refer to the process of the skill.  Obviously, when using the skill in a problem solving activity, it is the problem solving that needs the SC. It is at this point that the criteria becomes much more open, as the children are able to ‘choose from’ a range of techniques/approaches that they have at their disposal.

SC English

In Y3/4 and Y5/6 English:

We have both taken a very similar approach here.  When writing a particular section of the story/non-fiction piece, we use our Toolkit created earlier in ‘Imitation’ week when studying the class text.  Using our TP, we remind ourselves of what we need to/want to include in the Shared Writing that day.  A continual dialogue is being had during this time and at the end of the Shared Writing, we create a ‘master’ list on the IWB together.  It is at this point that we split the SC into Open and Closed criteria.  For figurative language techniques, the pupils usually decide that these are open criteria and come under the optional “Choose From…” column.  For the key ingredients that make the writing that particular genre, or that particular section of a story, the pupils decide these need to go in the closed criteria, (“Remember to include…”) column.  This is done as a TP, then whole class, discussion.  It doesn’t take very long at this point in the lesson as it follows the continual dialogue about it during the shared writing.

This SC table is visible on the IWB throughout the lesson, but also printed off, copied and handed out to the children so that they have their own copy to stick in their books, and mark off as a kind of ‘checklist’ to support their writing.

SC Outcomes



Year 3/4

Realistically, the process has not been as seamless as the above description would suggest. The last go at co-constructed success criteria was more like the above but the first couple of attempts required much hand holding and teacher input to end up with a coherent set of skills. The children have embraced it as the year has gone on and the process is much swifter now than our early bumbling attempts.

It is an extremely useful formative assessment tool. You can see exactly what the children have understood and used.

Year 5/6

The older children were able to assimilate the idea of what I wanted them to contribute pretty much immediately.  SC coconstructedIn English, they could see from the outset that I was recording what had already been discussed by them in class and they found the print out of the SC table to put in their book extremely powerful as a tool in itself.  In maths, they have always been trained to ‘teach it’ in their explanations and to justify and clarify all the way through any explanations.  Writing up the co-constructed SC at the end of the unit and sharing our findings as a class seemed a very natural process to them.

I have found it a very powerful contribution to my Formative Assessment of the learning. The ownership they feel over it, and the talk that it generates and requires, is a very powerful thing in embedding the learning.