4 Nov ’19 Teaching 0

Teaching is messy and learning so difficult to pinpoint, that teaching has to be responsive is my humble conclusion. Securing and holding (a nod to desirable difficulties and cognitive load) students attention, essential. From there on in, the list of potential variables that may / or may not influence a student learning quite probably inexorable.

And so the phrase “best bets” appears to be emerging within our evidence informed and enthused conversation. Even that phrase, “best bet” may be a gamble given that expertise is specific to a domain, and to particular contexts in domains, and is developed over hundreds and thousands of hours, Berliner (2004).

Despite my reservations, one variable that continues to prod at my thinking is the relationship between motivation and success. Or as I now understand it now, success-motivation-success.

All students in my classes were provided with a Knowledge Organiser (KO). Compiling the KO was my professional learning and preparation for teaching the text.

Low stakes quizzing in the form a “Retrieval Roulette*,” (again contributed to my professional learning and preparation for teaching the text) the routined lesson “Do it now” task with questions drawn from

  • the identified vocabulary
  • contextual information (available on the KO)
  • the language and literary devices employed by the author (available on the KO)
  • textual references; plot, character, theme

Six questions are displayed for six minutes. First time through the students must attempt all the questions they are able to, before turning to their KOs or the text for to find as many answers as possible in the time remaining. After six minutes, I display and go over the answers with students recording and highlighting only the answers they do not know or needed to correct.

It would be fair to say that motivation / reception to this “newtesting quizzing routine was at best, modest. However, after 20-25 quizzes, towards the end of week three, beginning of week four, students started to regularly achieve higher scores for both the first time, and second time through the quiz. Experiencing success on the quiz, started to change their opinion of the it and their motivation for it. Students then started tagging short textual references (often question answers from the roulette) and contextual tip bits to their verbal in-class responses in lessons. Yes, they misfired on the some of the language and literary devices they were re-learning / learning but they were using the subject specific language. It would take a further two weeks before this confident-competence transferred to their written responses and it is still only just emerging. What is clear, their English confidence is rising. The driver?

In my humble opinion, success was motivating. In the first instance, their motivation was, as I said “modest.” Increased motivation lead to greater investment in their learning, improved attention, more pride in their written work, arriving at class towards the end of break, rather than the start of lessons… (though I accept that this is anecdotal of course) which redeemed greater success. The success-motivation-success cycle was turning.

Class averages on the six questions have increased. With more correct answers first time through, students now have more disposable time to find the missing answers. The find the right answer / positive scoring model, most definitely contributing to their sense of attainment. Week one class averages of 1.7 have peaked at 4.8, partly because the second set of three questions are always new content.

Is now the time to raise the bar? Or do we wait for more students to hit 4, 5, 6 out of 6? The obvious incremental difficulty is to add more questions but do we maintain or extend the six minutes? Will students accept the additional challenge? We will find out soon.

For more on retrieval routines connect with @adamboxer1 or read his latest post here

We now have a challenger to the roulette – AnkiApp. Anki is web and mobile app memorisation tool that delivers spaced retrieval learning (which I am using to deliver learning, re-learning and revision). My account tells me that I first encountered Anki three years ago, it has resurfaced now because of the mock exams focus. More over here.


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