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As the New Year arrives we reflect on our lives and our expectations of the year to come. Teachers and students think about the challenges they face and resolve to do better. To raise their game and expect more.
I don’t recall ever hearing a teacher talk to me about aiming low and expecting little, but actions speak louder than words and sometimes what we say in school and what we do are in conflict.
What does it look like when we say we have ‘High expectations for our students’ but our policies and practices add the invisible subtext: ‘... but not for all of them!”?
Grouping children with other children we believe are of similarly limited ability, and giving them simplified materials and tasks so that they don’t encounter too much challenge and become discouraged.
Not everyone has had the same opportunities to develop the values and attitudes they need for success nor to learn the cognitive competences to tackle more challenging work. High expectations would expect, and believe, that they can rise to the challenge if we provide these opportunities both frequently and regularly. Low challenge plus low skill equals boredom.
Rewarding some children for staying on task all lesson and not shouting out and rewarding others very rarely because their work is always of the highest quality.
Children’s expectations of themselves are shaped, in part, by our expectations of them. High expectations recognise and reward the steps towards high performance and challenge children to move beyond simple compliance.
Choosing to study “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” with the top group and “Of Mice and Men” with the middle group.
Having high expectations would expect all our students to enjoy the greatest stories and the most beautiful language. We know some might need support to develop the skills to do this – but that’s our job!
Talking about “middle-ability boys” and thinking about how we might help staff to identify and support them.
High Performance Learning assumes that ability is not fixed and we have, therefore, to assume that potential is limitless. Having high expectations assumes that whatever ability we see now can be augmented by our teaching and students’ learning.
Eliding predictions and targets so that children, based on where they are now, spend several years under our care working towards a “target” that’s below the expected standards.
Children attend school for at least 11 years. High expectations assume that over that period, we will have a profound and measurable impact on the values, attitudes and attributes and cognitive performance characteristics that a child arrives with. If we don’t target success, and plan for it with each child, we are, in truth, expecting little of ourselves.
Teachers talk about high expectations of children is because we all know it makes a difference. Research demonstrates time and again that:
What we expect = what we do
What we do = what we get
(see this link to The Pygmalion Effect: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJymYT_AkIc).
When what we expect is to be disappointed, that affects what we do every day in how we plan and deliver education in school.
When we expect high performance, then we plan for it through our practice and our policies.
As a result, we get what we thought we’d get… and so do our students.
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6 ways to make yours a high performance learning home
Parents can play a huge role in helping their kids to fulfil their academic potential, and advanced learning expert Professor Deborah Eyre and education journalist Wendy Berliner, authors of the new book Great Minds and How to Grow Them, believe they know just what parents need to do. Here are Berliner and Eyre's tips to help your child to fulfil their academic potential.
As Eyre and Berliner explain, the latest neurological and psychological research shows most children are capable of reaching the high levels of performance previously associated only with the gifted and talented. They stress that IQ and potential isn't fixed - evidence shows it can be grown, and the key is developing the right learning attitudes and attributes.
The vast majority of children could do really well at school, but unless parents play their part and help them learn the habits of high performance, they're far less likely to get there. Here are 6 practical things that parents can do:
1. Encourage resilience
Children who do well at school aren't put off by failing - they keep trying until they get better. Your job when a child says they're rubbish or can't do something is to make them believe in themselves and keep going.
Don't say: Let me do it for you.
Do say: I know it's hard now, but you can do this if you keep trying.
2. Encourage planning and monitoring
Knowing how they're doing - that they're on track with their homework, for example - and knowing they need to put more effort into improving certain things, is very important to high performers.
Don't say: Just start somewhere and muddle along.
Do say: How are you going to tackle this? Do you know you're on track? How can you tell you're doing it right?
3. Encourage open-mindedness
Being open to new ideas is the hallmark of an advanced learner. Start with being open-minded yourself, and model what it's like to be receptive to ideas that differ from your own.
Don't say: What a stupid idea.
Do say: Isn't that interesting? I never thought of that, but that's such a good approach.
4. Encourage practice
It's the only way to get better. Make sure it's regular, deliberate and planned practice, working towards achievable incremental goals, and that your child practises what he/she can't do until they can do it well.
Don't say: You've been practising long enough now, do something else.
Do say: You're really good at that now, what's the next step up?
5. Encourage curiosity
Curiosity is at the heart of all learning and the link with high performance is compelling, so encourage questions and model curiosity yourself. Your job is to answer your children's questions initially and then later encourage them to find out the answers themselves.
Don't say: Stop asking so many questions.
Do say: I wonder why ...?
6. Encourage critical or logical thinking
The characteristic most associated with academic success is the ability to deduct, hypothesise, reason and seek evidence - Sherlock Holmes is your model for this.
Don't say: Why are you interested in that? Who cares?
Do say: Why do you think that happened? How could you work it out?
Professor Deborah Eyre and Wendy Berliner
originally published on Doha College blog: http://www.dohacollege.com/blog/entry/276
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All schools that embark upon the High Performance Learning journey will, at some point, need to tackle the question of assessment. Any school which is already good or better will, over time, have developed sound and effective systems for assessing progress and performance of students and will be offering feedback on perceived “effort” as well as attainment. Especially in secondary schools, individual subjects can be particularly precious about the marking methodologies which they have established to serve the assessment requirements of their specialist teachers.
The challenge is, therefore, three-fold. Firstly, to move from an assessment system which serves teachers to an assessment system which serves students and expects them to be active participants in their learning. Secondly, to establish a consistent and shared understanding of precisely what any feedback means in terms of current and expected performance and which provides rather more guidance than a recommendation to “try harder!” Thirdly, to develop a coherent approach to assessment in all its forms which speaks to parents and students without increasing or complicating the workload of teachers.
One of the strengths of HPL is the precise language which students and teachers begin to use when talking about their learning. The ACPs and VAAs provide a “shorthand” for discussing performance in lessons as well as those values and attributes which used to be loosely covered by the term “effort.” Replacing formative assessment terminology with HPL terminology is a practical and helpful step for schools to undertake. Using these terms to describe and reward effort is a logical next step along with reporting to parents using the shared lexicon of HPL as they and their children become more familiar with the terminology.
Whilst schools will inevitably need to retain examination grade terminology in the upper years of secondary school, this is about terminal assessment. The journey towards the A* grade is tracked by progressing through the ACPs and the VAAs, which permit students and their teachers to identify the skills and attributes on which they need to work in order to ensure they are exam ready as well as being ready for life and work beyond school.
Tackling the issue of assessment can be daunting since, for many teachers, their current methodology is comforting, familiar and it works for them. However, having two or three assessment systems running in a school is inefficient, and is motivated more by the need of teachers to assess rather than on the need of students to learn... Whilst children are fantastically adaptable, having more than one assessment system is confusing, and parents especially struggle to keep track.
Tempting as it may be to avoid this particular sacred cow, the effective introduction of HPL in your school probably requires that you take the assessment bull by the horns sooner rather than later!
Melanie Saunders, May 2017
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That isn’t the question… although it is one which is frequently asked with regard to HPL. The truth is, it isn’t how students are grouped which is the limiting factor in their success, it’s the way in which those groups are treated and the expectations of their teachers.
If we create two sets and, in the expectation that both will attain high levels of performance, we provide challenging and stimulating opportunities for both, and ensure that we identify and address any barriers to progress, then the setting is largely irrelevant.
If, however, we have differing expectations of the two sets and assume that one set is of lower ability and will never attain highly, and so provide less challenge and make fewer demands, it is unsurprising that the “lower” set lives down to our expectations. They have had a diet of less motivating teaching, low expectation and reduced opportunity.
The research evidence suggests that ability is a measure only of what an individual can do at the current time. It isn’t fixed and with the right teaching and interventions, can be augmented so that new knowledge can be learnt and new skills mastered over time. If this is the case then what we term “ability sets” is a flawed concept since we are, in effect, setting based upon what we understand about a student’s current level of performance. It seems fairly obvious that if we then provide a stimulating and rich learning experience for those whose current level is high, their progress and “ability” will accelerate. If, at the same time, we provide limited, and limiting, learning for those whose current level of performance is in fact most in need of acceleration, we further retard progress and exacerbate the gap.
This is not to suggest that that prior attainment isn’t important as are cognition and attitude to learning (in effect ACPs and VAAs) but, as we all know, these can be taught. Setting or grouping should enable a school to ensure that pupils with differing levels of current performance are both challenged and supported to progress and can help the teacher to provide tailored intervention for students to overcome any barriers to learning so that they move forward.
The question isn’t whether or not to set students, it’s the underlying educational beliefs which underpin the setting arrangements and the way in which they operate either to promote, or hamper, the goal of high performance for all.
Melanie Saunders, March 2017