changing cultures have an ongoing project in a very successful Coventry secondary school. Rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted, the school wanted to look at how it could support its most Able, Gifted and Talented students, increasing the ownership of their learning. We were asked to work with selected members of staff to look at this, particularly at planning to move away from differentiating with this group by giving them more work, to providing these children with greater challenges.
Working with students at the beginning of the programme in years nine and eleven, and posing the question, “What is your role in the classroom, that is, why are you there?”, the overwhelming response was, “So the teachers have someone to teach”, almost as if they were merely providing the staff with gainful employ.These children were extremely keen to do well and succeed, and had a great deal of respect for the teaching staff, but struggled to acknowledge that their active input was crucial in raising standards and increasing enjoyment of teaching and learning. This was echoed by staff who expressed a desire for the pupils to, “…. meet us half way.”
Teachers involved in the project were already of a high calibre, their lessons well planned and delivered, however to the outside eye, it was apparent that it was the teacher who was doing all the work, rather than the pupils. Staff were extremely willing to collaborate with us to find modes of curriculum delivery which would put the onus more on the students to drive the lesson – and with some startling results.
At the beginning of the project, as we implemented this new style of lesson, it was the Gifted and Talented students who struggled, and the rest of the class who made the most progress. This was disconcerting at first for the higher ability group, although in our ongoing consultations with them, they stated that they preferred the new style, as it offered them fresh challenges and kept them engaged. We had taken them out of their comfort zone which was hard at first but this challenge impacted positively on their attainment in their subjects as well as on all of their classmates.
The staff were very open for the change in the classroom, working in partnership with us to look at and try new approaches. Their enthusiasm and commitment helped to make huge advances in a very short period of time, which they immediately saw the benefits from as well as enabled them to learn new things about their students learning styles that they could utilise, providing challenge and support as needed.
Ultimately these children rose to that challenge and told us, “If you’d have come into the class before, you’d have known who was G&T. . . . after the change [in planning] you couldn’t tell”. This was offered in a positive spirit and with pride that this had been achieved.
That Gifted & Talented students shy away from open-ended challenges as they have a fear of failure – they want to give answers and receive the gratification for being correct. Through this programme the students were faced with having to problem solve and work with others. This way of working challenged everyone’s learning in the classroom and impacted on everyone’s engagement and progress, creating group cohesion as all became involved.
92% thought that lessons were more creative, that they were made to think more in lessons and enjoyed lessons more. 89% said that their problem solving skills had improved and that they understood the importance of strategy for solving problems. 89% said that there had been a real impact on their learning and that they had greater confidence.
They also said “(the teacher) worked more equally with us than she usually does, asking more questions rather than telling us what to do.”
changing cultures are currently working in Humanities to support the staff in implementing pupil-designed assessment procedures – so more on that later . . .