Friday, 17 October 2014

Beginning with the end: planning for learning

When we plan to do stuff it might make sense to start at the beginning.  Building a house, for example: lay foundations, build walls, add wooden bits, stick roof on top.

But really we start with a vision (this is how we want the house to be) and plan steps that lead toward that vision.

With the completed house the success criteria are the waterproof roof, solid walls, light-admitting windows, homely ambience, and so on.
Vision: providing warmth and shelter, admitting light, exuding homely ambience.

It's the same with planning for learning.  Teachers' core product is learning, so teachers' lesson planning needs to start with a vision of what pupils will have learnt by the end of the lesson. 

What learning looks like is indicated by success criteria.

You need success criteria in order to judge whether the shift (in skills or understanding or knowledge) that you envisaged has actually taken place.  Success criteria can be expressed in terms of what pupils are doing, saying, writing, etc.: broadly, in terms of how they are behaving - behaving in the sense of human behaviour, rather than good/bad behaviour.  

Some examples:

At the end of a lesson on division, pupils will be using a new division method to find answers, checking their answers (and peers' answers), talking with confidence about the method they've used, articulating what they are struggling with, expressing the progress they have made in the lesson.

At the end of a history lesson on Florence Nightingale, pupils will be talking about Nightingale's life and work, describing significant events, making comparisons with their own experiences of health services, identifying and expressing the new understanding and knowledge they have gained in the lesson.

Once you know what you envisage pupils doing at the end of the lesson, think about the experiences/opportunities they'll need to get there successfully.  In the division lesson they'll need to practice, make errors (if they're not making errors it's not challenging enough), identify the errors and understand why they're happening, explain the method, think about the progress they're making.  In the Florence Nightingale lesson pupils will need to encounter resources which tell them about Nightingale's life (books, videos, images, objects), have opportunities to sequence events, make decisions about the relative importance of events, consider their own experience of hospitals, articulate their ideas, think about the progress they're making.

Then think about what input is required from you.  In the division lesson you'll need to get an idea of pupils' existing understanding (What do you know about division?), model the (new) method, discuss with the pupils how they can check their answers, clarify your expectations about collaboration and self- and peer-assessment, and encourage them to reflect on the progress they're making.  In the Nightingale lesson you'll need to identify what pupils already know (What can you tell me about Florence Nightingale?), discuss with pupils how they might find out more (using the resources you've provided), clarify your expectations (including what you want pupils to be able to present by the end of the lesson), and encourage them to reflect on the progress they're making.

In summary:

1. Identify the vision/ success criteria – how will you know that they’ve learnt what you wanted them to learn?
2. Identify what pupils will need to do achieve the learning you envisage
3.  Identify the input that you’ll need to provide (during the lesson intro and throughout the lesson)
At the end of the lesson pupils will be… using, checking, articulating, comparing, identifying, describing, etc.
Practice, make mistakes, identify the mistakes they’ve made, use/ encounter resources, compare, prioritise, explain, make decisions, think about progress, etc.
Identify existing understanding, model, manage discussions, clarify expectations, encourage reflection (on progress).

Planning this way round means you focus on pupil learning and progress.  Activity relates directly to learning.  Lessons won't become lectures. 

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