“Preflection” is a strategy designed as a tool to enhance and enrich the reflection process. It is actually a reflective session that is held prior to the service experience.

Preflection: A Strategy for Enhancing Reflection. Diana Falk, 1995

This blog post is a personal process to keep myself in check for the year ahead. I am hoping it will act as a plan, a prompt and a gentle nudge to keep me motivated in the midst of the mayhem of an academic year.

Just like all other academic years, 2020-2021 will be filled with the usual milestones, from the first data collection, reports, parents’ evenings, Christmas Carol Concert (hopefully!), albeit potentially looking differently to years past. And that’s just the first term!

Along with the familiar signposts of time, is the constant determination to tweak, change, moreover, improve the way in which I work to improve our offering to students.

For several years, our school has operated a ‘disciplined inquiry’ model, which has formed an integral part of our performance management / development. We worked with Huntington Research School to adapt their model to fit our context, which, in essence, involves modifying one area of your practice to tests for its effectiveness and using evaluation points to make this process more robust. Therefore, we are not constantly changing our practice on a whim, with no understanding of what is and isn’t working.

As I have spent time reading edu-lit (is that a phrase?), looking at best bets and utilising findings from my own disciplined inquiries, I have started to narrow down what works for my practice in my current context.

Here are my pledges, plans and ambitions for the year ahead, to further develop my pedagogy. A preflection, if you will, to continue to shape my practice and evaluate it appropriately.

Change ≠ improvement

Throughout my career, I have seen a lot of change. I’ve led a lot of change. But, on reflection, has all of that resulted in improvement? To teacher workload, to student outcomes (however you choose to measure them), to their experience of school? Was it even designed to lead to improvement? I’m taking a confident punt that the answer is no. Some may have improved things through sheer good luck and will than good judgement, a lot probably had a neutral, or even negative impact on all concerned.

When you consider all the people that may be involved in a change initiative, all those it may effect, the time consumed by compliance alone is vast.

I was fortunate to spend some time listening to talks and reading articles from the wonderful Vivienne Porritt (@ViviennePorritt), Jill Berry (@jillberry102) and Kathryn Morgan (@KLMorgan_2), who generously gave up time to talk me through this further.

https://impact.chartered.college/article/achieving-a-professional-learning-culture-issues-improvements-impact/

This article really made think about the disunion between change and improvement, and led me to looking more closely at the work of Viviane Robinson; how being really clear about this in my practice was fundamentally important to me right now.

In their article, Kathryn & Vivienne discuss the Impact model:

Initially, I have been developing my understanding of this model with a view to my role in leading CPD, but, you must practice what you preach, therefore, I aim to use these principles in development of my classroom practice, in effect, that is the intention of this post.

My foci are based on whole school priorities and linking them to areas of my practice I know I need to improve.

Explicit teaching of vocabulary

This is our long term CPD focus. We started looking at explicit teaching of vocabulary 12 months ago, and will continue for at least another 2 years. Followinganalysis of reading ages and GCSE outcomes for our students, this area was identified as a key target.

As a school, our outcomes are in the top 10% of the country, however, for those students missing the benchmark of Grade 4 in English, Maths (and others) there is a strong correlation with lower than chronological reading age. There are no surprises here, however, it is apparent that more work needs to be done to to intervene.

Therefore we have whole school, out of class interventions, alongside in class strategies. These will be an area of development this year, to include:

Using the Frayer model

https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Frayer-model-concept-map_fig7_333855659

I will trial this in its raw form, but may modify it to suit my students’ needs as and when necessary.

Etymology & Morphology

These are powerful strategies in science, as much of our subject specific vocabulary has common roots.

For both strategies, I will use a mixture of pre-teaching ‘tricky’ vocabulary, and contextualised learning with in class reading and comprehension exercises.

Systematic and responsive approach to retrieval practice

Retrieval practice is a winner. We have seen pages and pages poured out on the the effectiveness of the testing effect, the impact on working & long term memory, cognitive load and motivation. I did my own disciplined inquiry on it a few years ago, just to confirm it for myself! Therefore, it is embedded in my practice.

However, I have been really guilty of having an ad hoc approach for the past few years. This is something I want to tighten up over the coming academic year, particular for key stage 3. Ensuring links are made across the year / key stage and areas covered monitored.

To do this I will trial a few methods, both modelled and used in class and subsequently set for independent learning too.

Retrieval grids

I will use these in a multitude of ways:

  • A specific retrieval question in each box (closely linked to current learning to maximise interleaving)
  • A visual stimulus for each section to aid retrieval
  • A no goal stimulus for students to ‘free-write’ (although, I will use this once students are gaining confidence with the process)

Retrieval Roulettes

These has been extensively blogged about, and, in my opinion, one of the best resources contributed to the edu community. Here is a link to Adam Boxer’s et al work on them: https://achemicalorthodoxy.wordpress.com/2018/08/18/retrieval-roulettes/

Mind mapping & blind mapping

This is something I have written about before. It provides a scaffolded approach to self study, aids retrieval and can be used for the no-goal effect.

https://missunderstandingeducation.school.blog/2020/04/10/gcse-biology-mind-maps/

Evaluation

Key to all effective change and improvement is a systematic approach to evaluation, and this includes within the classroom too. The strategies I plan to use for evaluation this year are a combination of:

  • Data analysis of student scores in a range of assessments (compared to a similar previous cohort)
  • Student voice questionnaires
  • Developmental peer observations
  • Documented self-reflection

I’ve found writing this a cathartic process, time will tell whether this time spent has an impact on my practice next year. I am hoping to use this post as a working document, so will update it periodically. Hopefully, that will keep me on track and give me the opportunity to be responsive to my classes’ needs as the year progresses. I’ll keep you (and me) posted!