Student completion of the planning task was consistently slower than expected in each lesson, though improved from lesson to lesson by the alterations made in materials design and lesson delivery.
Paradoxically a significant proportion of problems students encountered in completing the task were as a result of rushing the preparation segment in order to move on to the computers.
This was compounded in many cases by poor organisation of the learning aspects of the work. A wide range of students focused their energy on the wrong aspects of the task at the wrong time. This slowed down the completion of work considerably.
In what ways will this change your teaching in the future?
Clearer explanations need to be made to students at the beginning about the need to complete work using the correct approach. This needs to be backed up with reference materials identifying the required sub-tasks.
Assessment points for student work need to be clearly built in with students aware that successful assessment at these points in necessary before the next sub-task can be completed. Breaking work down into clearer sub-tasks is something we need to look at in the subject area.
It was noticeable to lesson observers that there was a definite mismatch between students need for help and requests for that help. That weaker students would ask for help even without enough attempt to complete the tasks themselves was to be expected but surprising how more able students did not recognise when they were misunderstanding the task.
The style of the task suited some and not others, not always the more academically abled students could complete the creative aspects of the task.
In what ways will this inform your future practice?
There is a need to be more proactive in differentiation of input into lessons in two ways:
Focus on students who need help but are reluctant to ask for help. This needs to be more proactive at the planning stage. Develop questioning to ensure that targeted students understand task before they begin.
Present tasks in different ways for students to self-select. (This worked well with different planning sheets in lesson 3). This needs to range from the blank sheet all the way to highly structured
It is noticeable that in discussions we began to realise that even though in discussion we began with a focus on the students and their skills/responses we came to quickly realise that what we ended up discussing was our necessary response to their range of responses.
An equally obvious point is that as observers of lessons staff noticed a wider range of student reactions than the teacher of the lesson. This is hardly surprising given the nature of the roles but a useful lesson for all of us.
How will this change your teaching in future?
Since the study the staff involved have traded ideas on how to overcome the practical obstacles in the way of noticing all students and responses in the limited classroom time we have with them in the subject (targeting different geographical areas of the class forest times during the lesson, recording on a classlist students directly spoken to in each lesson and building this up over time to see if any patterns emerge that need to be altered, specific use of Initiative commendations to encourage planning and design focus in students). In this area the main change seems to be a drive to be more experimental in trying to find good evolving answers to a constantly evolving problem-set coupled with a more actively collegiate approach.
All Computing project work requires planning skills from students but these are not the same for each project. Teacher-planning to overcome these obstacles needs to be re-balanced in favour of planning work as well as in creation. This needs to be supported with the introduction of a separate assessment point for planning work early in the process. This requires the planning/design work to be seen as a work-in-progress by staff and students. This fits in well with the new assessment system as it creates a defined point for students to:
The range of issues that students have in dealing with is wider than we have hitherto assumed in Computing where the issues with creation of work using new software each time have been traditionally a stronger focus this requires a much wider range of responses from us as teachers. Much of that response is not in the development of materials prior to the lesson but in micro-interventions during the lesson.
The differential learning focus needs to be applied as much in the high-end academic students as in the low-end ones the focus however is less in the prepared materials and more in the classroom interaction
A number of points became clear to us during the process:
Creation of differentiated materials should be a way of giving choice and responsibility to students.
The time spent on creating materials is less important in the differentiation process than the flexible responses made in the specific lesson interactions between teacher and individual students.
Dots/ticks on a simple checksheet (printed classlist) helps the teacher to keep track of which students have, and more importantly have not yet, had some interaction/feedback or simply been observed during individual lessons.