We’re going to an awards ceremony, and there’s a chance we could win! 2016 has started with a real bang here at LearnMaker as we found out we’ve been shortlisted for the prestigious NAACE Impact Award for our work with technology in secondary education.
The project that is up for nomination started back in January 2015. It was also the first project we commissioned at LearnMaker, so it feels very fitting that it’s the one that’s been shortlisted. We spent 10 days over 10 weeks working with the leadership team and Maths department at Broadgreen International School in Liverpool. Every day was a joy to be with them, and we spent our time there digitising assessment across the Maths department, using their available iPads and using Showbie as the assessment platform.
It was a big change, as it is in any school, to step away from book based marking to a digital process, but the impact that we achieved was huge. Going into the project I was well aware of the power of assessment, and more importantly how there’s only a small window in which feedback is effective for students. This is something that schools need to prioritise because the current marking system is outdated and over stretched. When we started work on the Broadgreen project it took 2 weeks to complete a full marking cycle with only 3 teacher-student interactions (teacher marks, student responds, teacher replies). After 10 weeks, turnaround time was down to 48 hours with an average of 9 interactions in that time. Students were more far more engaged, something which was reflected in the data we tracked.
Many times technology is put into classrooms in order to “improve engagement,” but engagement is only a window of opportunity to improve learning. If you don’t know what you want to target then how will you achieve it. This is what is happening across UK schools.
We used the increased engagement from Broadgreen’s student towards developing independent learning. This was a key competencies that the leadership team had highlighted for development from the outset of the project. We tweaked the classroom content so that tasks where more open ended for students but we didn’t give the Maths teachers any explicit instructions as to what they should be doing in Maths lessons. Instead we taught them the creative skills for how technology can further learning and let them make up their own minds. The impact was significant!
This is counter to the current CPD /training culture across UK education where you hire an ‘expert’ for an INSET day and have teachers replicate their ideas and activities in their own classrooms. This method is incredibly ineffective, so much so that we don’t offer any one off INSET training sessions. It takes around 30 hours of sustained practice, development and reflection to incorporate a new skill into a teacher’s repertoire.
This makes a lot of INSET training merely lip service towards staff development.
The hinge factor
So what’s the better way? Target the hinge factor in your school. In education a process is either adding or subtracting from the final output. I call this a hinge factor, and at Broadgreen School we identified the ‘hinge factor’ as their assessment process. Targeting that alone transformed student performance and freed up countless hours for teachers. In other settings it may be the classroom teaching content, or the lines of communication throughout the school, or student voice, or any other number of things. The key is to focus on one factor, simplify the process and begin achieving more. That is the story of how we transformed Broadgreen’s Maths department in only 10 weeks, and it’s something you can do in your own school.