Yes, Zero Marking!
Big Maths Beat That isn’t like any other assessment and tracking system. It is at the very centre of the school’s entire maths curriculum. It is the engine room of the pedagogy, as opposed to ‘bolt on tracking’. Yes, you can also do Zero Marking! If you were told to throw out all your tracking systems, unless you desperately wanted to keep them for your own purpose, then BMBT would remain. When the curriculum, pedagogy and tracking are one, then you have an easy and natural response to the question, ‘What impact is our curriculum having on our children’s learning?’
Simple Assessment of Progress
The progression and the content of the BMBT challenges are at one with the curriculum design and the age-related expectations from your curriculum. This means that at any moment in time we can see if a child is on track, off track or ahead of track; all through a simple scoring system. If we take the 19 progressive ‘CLIC Challenges’, we can see that if a child is currently on CLIC Challenge 12 (i.e. CLIC Challenge 11 is too easy and CLIC Challenge 13 is, as yet, too difficult) and has attained 6 out of 10, they would score 12.6. If they carry out the same challenge next week (with only slightly different numbers involved in the questions) and score 7 out of 10 their score goes up to 12.7.Continue reading
Cognitive Learning tells us to clean up our ‘Explicit Instruction Act’
You may already be familiar with the three inner dimensions of the brain’s working memory; the intrinsic load, the extraneous load, and the germane load. Out of all of them, the extraneous load appears to be the simplest one to ‘get right’. It is to do with the instructional design of the learning episode, i.e. what you as teacher choose to present to learners. In that sense, you have more control over it than the actual content/nature/subject of the ‘curriculum moment’ and the wiring already present in the learner’s brain as they walk through the door. Generally, the extraneous load is thought of in terms of the medium you use to present your teacher input.
The most basic message is ‘don’t provide busy PowerPoint slides’, but the overarching CLT truth is that anything that occupies the brain’s working memory (that is not an integral part of the teaching/learning process) is taking away precious focus. If we look particularly at explicit instruction for primary school mathematics we see that there are more extraneous load factors to consider than just busy slides and making sure the window cleaner doesn’t suddenly appear just as the kids are hanging on your every word and are about to ‘get it’!Continue reading
The CLT-Driven Curriculum
The implications of Cognitive Load Theory for teachers are becoming well established. However, the end result for busy teachers can end up looking like a list of ‘tips for teachers’ (‘remember not to have unnecessary animations in your powerpoint slides’, ‘remember to wait in silence while learners are processing new information before talking again’ etc.). This would be a serious watering down of the extensive research that has gone into CLT and the profound implications for teachers that has come out of that research. So, can CLT actually transform teaching in the way that it promises, and, if so, how?Continue reading
Using Cognitive Load Theory to Crack Addition (Part 3/3)
This blog follows on immediately from; Using Cognitive Load Theory to Crack Addition! Part 1 & Part 2.
We are picking up on children learning to add two 2-digit numbers together for the very first time in their life, and in the previous blog (Part 2) we looked at using Cognitive Load Theory to ensure that the child’s Working Memory (WM) is prepared for this moment. Here is a step by step guide to what this episode of explicit teaching looks like:Continue reading
Using Cognitive Load theory to Crack Addition (Part 2/3)
There is a day in a child’s life when they first learn to solve ‘2-digit add 2-digit’ addition questions. Every child has this day! The child’s teacher wakes with great excitement. This is what it’s all about. Within this day there is an actual moment when the teacher starts their explicit instruction. This will be a beautiful moment since the child’s life is about to change…well, mathematically anyway! There are a lot of steps to teach in a child’s mathematical learning journey. They don’t all have equal weighting; some are more important than others and some are just crucial. This one is one of those crucial ones; tying shoelaces, riding a bike and ‘2-digit add 2-digit’.
Cognitive Load Theory is a ginormous beast of a pedagogical concept. At times it’s mightily complex and far from being visible in a moment, yet at other times it couldn’t be more simple, more clear and more beautiful. It is CLT that gets us to this beautiful moment!Continue reading
Using Cognitive Load Theory to Crack Addition (Part 1/3)
Rocking up to teach 30 seven/eight year old children in an area of high social deprivation, the teacher walks straight in and presents a ‘3 digit add 3 digit’ question on screen:
Five seconds later, every single student holds up a little whiteboard displaying the correct answer; having processed the calculation entirely mentally.Continue reading
The 5 Megatruths of Great Teaching
How fantastically big is this question, ‘What makes great teaching?’.
It’s quite a scary question for an actual teacher… because it challenges you to answer it! At first it sounds rhetorical, and perhaps we would all feel safer if it was. The question seems to be asking you to explain your professional worth and even your professional qualification. If you are given a few moments to jot down some bullet point answers, then you may struggle. Why? Well, if we listen to John Sweller (the TES referred to him as the ‘Godfather of Cognitive Load Theory’), then we can’t even begin to know about great teaching until we know about how the brain learns. Sweller says, ‘Without knowledge of cognitive processes, instructional design is blind’. In other words, we need to know about the brain in order to teach. No wonder ‘great teaching’, then, is so elusive. The brain is, after all, the most complex structure known to humankind.Continue reading