The Revision Plan
This year for revision for my middle school classes I created a revision multitouch book with text notes, essay writing instructions, and activities. Each activity is labelled with the level of thinking required – gathering, processing or applying.
The goal was for students to choose what they would like to work on each period and my role was to check their work, give feedback and answer questions. This means their revision was personalised and they revised what they needed to revise not what I thought the whole class should have done each period.
Once introduced, students spent most of the first lesson looking through the book and then selecting which activities they would do. Many students didn’t really understand that they were in charge of their learning so I had to explain it again to those who were struggling with the concept.
I woke in the middle of one night and had a small inspiration to extend some of my students – as you do! Many of my students have Macbooks so I thought that they could create their own personalised multitouch revision books. I wrote the task the next day and students now have the option of doing this if they want to. It’s all about personalisation and choice!
At the end of the second lesson I noticed that some students were spending a lot of time completing the gathering activities but not moving on to the hard graft of essay planning and writing. To deal with this I challenged the class to write one essay per week in the 4 weeks before the exam. When and where they wrote each essay was up to them but every Tuesday I would be looking for essays to mark and give feedback on. The reactions on their faces was priceless! Shock and horror! But I told them that they would thank me when they got their exam results.
Once students had chosen their tasks and started working through them,they came into class and simply got on with their revision without any prompting from me. Each period I zoomed around the class on my roller chair and checked in with each student to see what they were working on and answered any questions.
Year 10 Extension 2014/15 Comparison
It is particularly pleasing to see the number of Excellences for the visual text almost double with this class because I tried a new way of teaching. Check out my blog post about this process.
The number of Excellences increased for the written text also but not to the same extent. We did PBL for our study of The Tempest and also a performance of the play so inquiry based learning definitely played a part in the results being good for this unit of work.
Year 10 2014/15 Comparison
The visual text results for my mainstream class were slightly worse than last year’s. I think this is because the unit of work was not inquiry based but instead involved a list of tasks to work through. I did this because the class needed more structure. Students were able to work at their own pace with me as the ‘guide on the side’ but I would not do this again next year. I will go back to the PBL task that I used last year but provide more structure and feedback.
The written text results were slightly better this year with a slight increase in Merits and Excellences. This year the class completed a Solo/Gardner’s learning matrix which they were very engaged with whereas last year’s class completed a PBL without the matrix.
I handed the class back their exam results and then asked them to reflect by answering these questions:
Reflecting on these questions helped students to see what they need to do to improve for NCEA next year. It also helped reinforce the connection between robust revision and good results.
I also asked them to say whether they thought they had received enough support from me while revising. Most replied that they did have enough support apart from one student who said that she did have some support but not the kind of support that she needed. She wanted me to explain how to write an essay in detail to the class. She also said that not everyone learns the same way and that she wished that I had taught essay writing instead of just having powerpoints to follow in the iBook.
I think that she makes a fair point and I could offer essay writing tutorials to small groups in class time, if needed. I have done this in the past but forgot to do it through this process.
The results from my extension class prove that giving students agency to complete inquiry based learning does improve results! Having them create knowledge to demonstrate their understanding of content was a successful experiment that I will repeat again.
I have discovered that, with a ‘normal’ class, PBL needs to be combined with the structure of a learning matrix. This helps students to stay focussed and engaged but they are still able to have some agency in their learning and create knowledge also.
As Mark Osborne says,
“…sustained higher achievement is possible when teachers use pedagogical approaches that enable students to take charge of their own learning. Such approaches do not leave students ‘to discover’ in an unstructured environment. Rather, they are highly structured in supporting student agency and sustained thoughtful engagement.”