Helping more children experience those lightbulb moments – in the classroom and at home
April 20 @ 11:00 - 11:45 BST
Teaching is very much like building a jigsaw puzzle. We get all the pieces together. Then we try to make them fit. Some bits fit easily. We know the methods – start with the corners, fill in the edges, then find the obvious blocks and then fill in the gaps. Except there are things we cannot control.
Teaching is the placing of the puzzle pieces. Assessment is how we find which bits of the puzzle are still missing. Communication with the learner and their parents is how we ensure the pieces stick and don’t get messed up again. Sometimes we are too close to the puzzle and we cannot see the big picture. We might miss some of the pieces that fell off. Tracking is our way of checking back in again. Reminding ourselves to go and look for the right pieces and add them to our lesson planning.
Our webinar will look at how we can use assessment effectively to keep building the big picture – and give our learners many lightbulb moments when the puzzle pieces fit!
If you missed the live webinar, take a listen to the recording below:
Matt: Hello, everybody, and welcome to the latest webinar from Learning Ladders, really delighted to have everybody here. I can see from the chat we’ve got people from all around the world already, so that’s amazing. Do post an introduction into the chat. Let everybody know who you are, where you’re from. Always interesting. If you have questions as we go, just add them into the Q&A section and I’ll cover those at the end. Will record the session as well and put it up on the website for everybody afterwards, too. So thanks everybody for coming. I hope the session will be useful for you.
What I’m going to do is just going to go through and do a quick introductions. And my name is Matt. I’m the founder and CEO here at Learning Ladders. I’m going to talk to you today. A bit of a blend, bit of the theory, a bit of things that we’ve learnt from working with some of the world’s best schools. And I can talk in various different contexts. So obviously, as many of you know me, I used to be a teacher. I chair EdTech a Besa. I’m a co-founder of the EdTech Evidence Group, and I occasionally work with the DfE here in the UK to do various different bits and bobs.
So today our focus is around creating more light bulb moments. And this is really interesting because we do these CPD webinars on an ongoing basis and we focus on lots and lots of different areas. This is one that seems to have really resonated with everyone. And it’s that addictive part of teaching that everybody strives to repeat as often as possible. Those beautiful, wonderful moments where a child just get all the things that you’ve been working on come together, and that child just experiences the joy of learning that particular thing that you were teaching them. So that’s what we mean by light bulb moments. It’s those moments where the child really, really gets it. And I think as far as teachers is what what sustains us and what’s keep what keeps us going. So that’s the focus on that.
I have a 45 minute webinar. Quite clearly. This is this is a PhD subject. This is worthy of a whole section in the library on its own. So to attempt to condense it into 45 minutes, I am clearly going to do it an injustice. So what I’m going to do is I’m going to focus on some specific areas where I think I can share some of the things that we know from the schools that we work with already and help you create a repeatable model for generating these light bulb moments more frequently, more often and at scale. And some tips for how you do that in the real world.
So I’ll dive into some actual examples and we will leave time for Q&A at the end. So what do we know, what does the research tell us? I’ve picked out a few key areas which hopefully will be useful for everybody. A lot of you will be familiar with some of these already, hopefully. But I just wanted to highlight some of these areas. So John Hattie, probably the most accessible researcher in this area. I say John Hattie, Dylan Williams, particularly when you’re thinking around assessment of the people to really reach for. If you want to have a look at what research is telling you in this area. And if you look at the work that he’s done, where he aggregated thousands of research studies from all around the world over multiple years and attempted to condense them down into a sort of more accessible format as to simply what works and what doesn’t work. Then, alongside competency of the teacher in relationship with the teacher, it’s visible learning, which is shorthand for making it explicit what children need to do, scaffolding that learning, really getting them involved in their own education, responses to intervention, formative teacher feedback. So whatever you call it, whether you call it formative assessment, responsive teaching, but this concept that you identify children’s starting points, you have a plan as to how you’re going to teach them and move them along. And you adapt to feedback and you adapt to what the children are telling you. They understand what it’s evident. They understand metacognition, obviously extremely popular at the moment. I think you’ll struggle to go to any education conference and have someone talk about that. So all of these areas of learning psychology that we’re beginning to know are really, really important. And essentially we sort of can categorise those as very proactive, involved conversations about learning. So that’s the first thing I would do. So if you’re looking at that, that’s a really good source for information.
Another area, educational psychology. There is lots of this everywhere, but one of the most enduring, simplest and sort of most effective things that people talk about when they talk about learning psychology is Vygotsky Zone of Proximal Development. So you’ll remember this from teacher training. Everybody goes through this. But worth recapping that essentially what we’re talking about here is understanding what children’s starting points are. What is it that they can do at the moment? Unless we identify their starting points, we can’t effectively teach them. And if we’re not effectively teaching them, we’re not going to get those light bulb moments. So the first thing is to understand what can the child already do and then how are we going to scaffold them so that we can get them to these areas that they can do with some support. And in schools that will typically look like very structured lessons where gradually that support is withdrawn by the adults and then the child can do that on their own. And then we build on that and we build on that and we move forward on that basis. So this area is really important. And this idea of scaffolding learning is really important. The concept of a more knowledgeable other, the interactions with a skilful tutor, whoever that might be. And when I say tutor, it’s a shorthand for an adult who’s more skilful than the than the student to observe and practise their skills. So all of that good teaching practise is what we’re talking about here. The critical thing here that will come on to later, as well as the more knowledgeable of the adult or the other child, can be multiple people. So the ‘more knowledgeable other’ can be another child. So group work really, really effective getting children talking about their learning really, really effective. But equally, it can be adults at home. It can be parents. It can be siblings, it can be the nanny, the tutor, the chauffeur, whoever, depending on your context. So really important to get all the adults involved in the children’s learning and go through that.
Ken Robinson summarised it, I think is probably the best, simplest way. Education is a conversation, not a transfusion. So when we’re talking about trying to create light bulb moments, when we’re talking about trying to create learning, what we’re talking about is trying to generate fantastic conversations about learning. And you will hear me talk about this unabashedly, unapologetically on every webinar that we do. Learning Ladders is all about creating fantastic conversations about learning and whether you use Learning Ladders or you don’t. Creating fantastic conversations about learning should be at the heart of your teaching and learning strategy. So conversations in the classroom between teacher, between children, conversations in the staff room. Between teachers, looking across curriculum areas, looking at team teaching, looking at gaps in learning, understanding centres of excellence and conversations between school and home and at home, between children and adults with more knowledge, so that whole area is critical.
If we are going to create more lightbulb moments, we need more conversations about learning and if we’re going to have more conversations about learning, we need better structures to manage those reports on them and really get the value out of those areas. And I’ve touched on this already. And you’ll never come to a webinar forum for Learning Ladders without me mentioning this, I suspect, but particularly in primary and early years, the more knowledgeable other is quite often the adult at home. So when we’re thinking about creating light bulb moments for learning, it’s absolutely critical that we include adults at home in our planning, in our equation, because a lot of the time those moments will happen outside school will be learnt, will be creating the foundations for those lightbulb moments in class as teachers. But the actual moment may well often happen outside school. And a lot of the contextual information and a lot of the contextual attitudes that are being shaped that are critical for children to be effective in their learning will be shaped at home. So it’s that whole process of all of the things we know and we know for young children that this is a significant area. We talk about this a lot. The parental engagement, again, can be calculated, who knows how they do this, but they they estimate that calculated to add two to three years to a child’s education. It’s that significant. It’s the most significant thing you can do. So we know that great conversations about learning are really, really important.
The research tells us that time and time again, psychology tells us metacognition, independent learning zone of proximal development, all of that kind of stuff is really important. And we know when we’re focussed on primary and early years that parental involvement is really, really important. So that’s scene setting, if you like. That’s what goes on in in in the sort of wider context. How can you do this in the real world when teachers are already massively overworked? How are you going to create these lightbulb moments through a more efficient mechanism than simply working hard? Teachers will simply work harder. They are a dedicated bunch and we will do whatever it takes to do that marginal extra one or two percent that we think will help our children in our care. That’s the nature of the job, unfortunately. But there are better ways, there are ways to systemise this. And that’s what we’re going to talk about a little bit today.
So how do we create these areas? How do we go through these moments to really, really sort of systemise? What’s going on is a really important area. And I would say that you can do this in quite a methodical, logical way. Clearly, you’ve got to carefully plan your learning, so that’s your curriculum. What’s your curriculum design? And if you’re in the UK, Ofsted is really picked up on this concept recently, which is your curriculum intent. So what are you trying to get the children to know that will be unique in your context if your curriculum is not pitched right? If it’s not interesting, engaging and relevant for your children, you’re already going to be struggling to create those light bulb moments. Do you need an individualised curriculum? How do you do that? I’ll show you in a second. It needs to be appropriately resourced so teachers can’t be reinventing the wheel. Every single lesson around resources, you need to find the right resources for the right lessons for every single child in a really easy, easy way. Clearly, you need to evaluate it. So we do lots of this at Learning Ladders. And again, I’ll explain how you can do that.
So you need to evaluate that in different ways. How is a teacher going to know every child’s starting point for every single lesson? But then on a strategic level, how is a subject leader going to know where to plan interventions both for individual children but cohorts of children? And how are you going to easily refine your teaching pathways based on feedback from children? How are you going to generate that feedback? How are you going to get them to give you that feedback in an easy, ongoing way? And what are you going to do about it? How are you going to change your teaching? So, again, systemising those are approaches and there’s a number of really obvious wins in this area.
Pupils need to know their learning objectives. This is absolutely critical. They need to take ownership and they need to be used to talking about discussing their learning. And quite often when we go to schools that we start working with, when they look at assessment and they describe their assessment policies, what they’re actually talking about is tracking, its data related to assessments. But there’s a critical part of that that has to come first before the data is of any use or relevant or even very accurate. And that’s the children understanding their learning and the conversation about that learning to establish what their starting points are and what their understanding is. So set out a way that children can have a curriculum that’s relevant for them, but then that it’s brought to life on a day to day basis for them. And every adult in their world needs to know exactly what they’re learning, exactly what they need help with and exactly how to help. When we do marketing pitches at Learning Ladders and we talk about the product. This is one of the ways we encapsulate it that we say to people, imagine a world where every child is supported and knows that every adult in their world knows exactly how to help them with everything they’re doing every day. Wouldn’t that be amazing? Wouldn’t it be amazing for parents to be superheroes to their children and know how to help? Wouldn’t it be amazing for teachers if they were freed up from admin, which tends to sidetrack them but can focus on teaching and learning? That’s the goal. That’s what creates the light bulb moment. That is learning conversations, this is what it is. So how do you do that? How do you do that in a process? Well, what I’m going to do now is I’m going to sort of dive into the system and show you how we do it. I’ll try and do it in a way that’s relevant for schools if you don’t yet have access to Learning Ladders. So it’s not a pure this is how you do it in Learning Ladders area. This is how we do it. You can take some of this learning and knowledge and bring it back to your school, but hopefully this will be useful.
So the first thing is clearly you need a curriculum that is designed for you and that can sometimes seem quite intimidating to design a curriculum from scratch on a school by school basis. But it really needn’t be that complicated. So, again, taking into the way that we do it, just to sort of bring this to life, if you log into our platform here, the way that you would do it in our system, for example, is you would go into what we call the creation zone within ladder’s. This is all curriculum content. The creation zone is where all the curriculum will be that we just take that size for you so you can see it and you can go into this area here. So let’s say I’m having a look at the maths curriculum. The structure that I’m doing here is you have subject aspect, which in our terminology is a Ladder and then objectives, which is a Rung in our terminology. However you do it and I might want to edit some of these areas. I might want to go in here, let me have a look at this and just make this a bit bigger. Let me just make it a bit bigger so you can view it. Here we go. So I can go into here and I can have a look at what’s going on. And I can decide, right? OK, so this is my curriculum and what I’m doing here. Let me just scroll down is I’m starting off with a particular strand of the curriculum and curriculum. Personalisation can be as simple as this. I take a predefined template based on the curriculum that I am teaching. So in this example, I’m using the English national curriculum and I’ve taken a template from a commercial provider which is Learning Ladders. We’ve created this and this template. I can then look at this and I can see what how appropriate is this to my particular context? It may well be that actually it’s really great. And what I all I simply want to do is reorder the teaching sequence, which should be really, really easy electronically. I can go through here and I can say, well, actually, we teach this in a slightly different sequence and it may well be that actually I want to go into some of the areas and I want to bring this curriculum to life. And this is the critical part about generating light bulb moments. You have to give your teaching staff every possible opportunity for success and do that by bringing all your best resources into an accessible space at the point of need. So your curriculum isn’t just a list of objectives. It needs to be more than that. It needs to be brought to life. So you should have a way of doing this.
So you have a mechanism within your curriculum design where you add in useful resources. You add in your school’s moderated work, lesson plans, any other external resources. Are you using commercial schemes? Are you using anything else? Add them into the system. What about in particular subjects where you have a policy relating to a way of teaching things? I used to be head of maths, so calculation policies are a thing of beauty for maths leaders, but they sit on the shelves and nobody reads them generally well during the most relevant part of your policy to life by exposing it to the curriculum design in here. And again, this is how we do this within the system. Have a look for related resources for particular parts of the curriculum. So, again, hopefully you have access to something like this.
We have the Curriculum Lab in Learning Ladders, which is a search engine for online content. So it will find for you the best available resources to help you teach with these particular objectives. And then you can go through you can have a look at these resources. You can decide whether you want to use them, add them into the teaching and learning that way. So create your curriculum. This is the let me go through this. This is the process. Create a personal curriculum, create a clear assessment, policies bespoke to your school that will help make sure you know, when you have achieved those curriculum objectives, when are you likely to get those lightbulb moments? How are you going to describe them? What are they going to be activate children as independent learners? Now, you will probably be doing a lot of this already, but systemise it make it a structure. We talk a lot about structured conversations, about learning. And the reason for that is you need a repeatable process that everybody gets into the habit of doing to do this at pace and at scale. So again, bring your curriculum to life. Our system has publishing technology, which means you can create exercise books. It has a digital platform, which means you can view it online however you do it. Be explicit with children so they know exactly what their learning objectives are, exactly what they need to do to achieve them, and exactly what comes next. That means they can be much more involved in their learning and they can be taught to take ownership and take control of their learning. And that’s critical for them as they develop into young adults and as they develop their learning skills, but is also critical for remote learning and parental engagement that the child and the student is able to discuss their learning in an effective way. So they have a process in here, get the children talking about their learning. So you’ve created the overall conditions for success. You’ve created your curriculum structure. Your teachers are super clear what they’re teaching. They have the best available tool to deliver the learning. And then you’re creating conversations with the children. And those conversations are where the light bulb moments are going to happen. More of those conversations you can have the better. And if you do it in a structured conversational way, you’re not sat there as a teacher waiting for the learning to present itself or you’re not searching for it through proxy cues like people putting their hand up or good work in a book or strong results on a quiz. You’re actually having conversations with the children and you’re then able to validate their learning, scaffold their learning, move them onto the next steps. But those conversations are the light bulb moments. That’s where they’re going to happen. And then feed all this back into your system so teachers need to know their starting points, you have this light bulb moment recorded, move on. That’s then the starting point for the next light bulb moment.
You need a simple, easy way to do that through sort of a Gap Analysis type system, get parents involved. How are you going to get parents involved in this without overloading staff? So, again, use systems. We automate this. This is super easy as you’re having those light bulb conversations with your children. The system is recording them and sharing them with parents. So, again, parents know exactly how to help. This is the parent platform. The light bulb moments shouldn’t stop in the classroom. Get the adults to pick up the baton when the students go home and continue that learning and give you more opportunities for these. So, again, you’re handing back over to the parents. This is what we’re currently learning parents. This is what your child is currently working on. This is in progress and this is how you can help at home. So click through to one of the articles. This is what we’re doing. This is what it means. This is why it’s important. This is how it’s taught in school. This is what you can do as a typical homework task. This is this is what you can do if your child is finding it difficult. This is what you can do in all sorts of areas. And if your family’s English academic English is not their first language, give it to them in a language that works for them. Give it to them in any language. You can do this in a hundred languages on all platforms. So get parents involved in a way that upskill them remotely at the scale. So you are having these lightbulb moments remotely at a scale in a very easy way, with no workload for teachers, no work at all for teachers involved in this. So again, you generating more of these moments in here through that platform.
So we’ve got parents involved and then obviously analytics in the blurb for this webinar, it talked a lot about how you use analytics. I’m going to come onto that now in terms of using analytics to identify where learning is nearly happening or where learning might not quite be happening. And you need to do an intervention so you can then prompt those those light bulb moments. But everything all in one place is is absolutely critical. So. Hopefully I’m not labouring at that point too much and and apologies if you heard me talk about this before, but we do this time and time again. We do this with schools all around the world, a number of the best schools in the world we’ve done research about does it work? And we know that it does work. So it really is important to get these structures up and running. Achieving this in the real world, I’ve touched on that a little bit, but just to give you an idea of how you might use data for this, the way to look at it, I would suggest, is break it down into different types of data for different purposes. So your class teachers, what they need to know for every child in their care is what is their current starting point for every granular objective within your defined curriculum? And how am I therefore going to take them from that starting point in their zone of proximal development to use Vygotsky and take them to learning something more? How am I going to do that? So something like a Gap Analysis is really, really useful. And this is where you also surface the advice and resources and everything else for them. If you’re a subject leader or a senior leadership team member, then you might be looking at a more strategic area.
So you might be wanting to look at the curriculum and think about patterns in the curriculum where things are going well, where are things not yet going as well as you want them to. So analysis like this, this is a grab from the Learning Ladders analytics page. And what’s happening here is we’re looking at multiple cohorts going through the same part of the curriculum over three different years to understand how is the curriculum performing. So school data tends to focus on how are the children performing, and that’s great. And you can do a lot of analytics in there, but it’s just as important to understand how is the curriculum performing. So we know that if traditionally, traditionally, if typically year on year we have a certain number of children who don’t meet the required standard, it all the part of the curriculum in a particular year group, that’s where we should be putting an intervention and that’s where we should be thinking about some team teaching some other intervention where we should be monitoring it, because it’s not the individual children. It’s to do with the curriculum and the delivery, because every single year a number of children are going through the curriculum and not accessing that to the required level. So use data in that way. And if we have time at the end that can go into the live system and show you how that works, use other kind of data as well. So some of you will be familiar with things like dashboards you might use KMGL, NFER, Pass, Pira, all sorts of summative, commercially available data. And this can be really useful when used appropriately in context as well. So this is a data dashboard for looking at things like CAT4 scores against progress test scores, looking at trends, looking at trends in progress, test scores, looking at Pass data, which is the Attitudes to Learning survey that G.L. does, comparing that to your formative data and building a whole picture of the child because. It may be the reason a child is not having any light bulb moments in maths has nothing to do with your curriculum, has nothing to do with your teaching. It has everything to do to a wider contextual issue. There may be things going on in that child’s life which is blocking their learning on a global basis. It may be things in that child’s life that are blocking that learning in a particular area where it may be an aptitude to learning that they feel like they’re being held back or they feel like they don’t have confidence in a subject and just giving them more of the same or slightly easier of the same or slightly more challenging or slightly different theme of the same skill isn’t going to advance their learning. You need a broader picture. You need to bring it out to understand a different approach to generate that lightbulb moments. Your summative data can be really useful there. And as we say, a lot of the time sensitive data can also be really useful when you have children who are I guess stop significantly above or significantly below age related expectations on your formative data. So this is just looking a sort of progress test data over a couple of years, comparing two different groups of these children here. They’re all below 100, which is the sort of average on this particular test so that they’re not where we would want them to be, but they’re improving. So it’s good news they’re heading in the right direction. These children here, on the other hand, on your formative data, will be showing as high achieving children, they’re working at above age related expectations. So there may be a temptation to take your foot off the gas to think they’re doing really well, to think those light bulb moments have happened. But actually, they’re going backwards. What this is showing is they’re less far ahead now than they were a year ago. So is a cause for concern. And again, you can compare all sorts of different sets of data in various different ways.
So. Again, I’ve talked about this in already. Again, it’s about doing the whole thing together, so creating the conditions for success, the environment, if you like, is your Curriculum Lab giving the teachers the best possible resources relating to your particular school. So they have the tools to then deliver that, giving the children the skills to master their own learning and start those conversations, because there is nothing more frustrating than a light bulb moment happening in silence. There is nothing worse as a teacher than having done all this work, having created these conditions for learning and not learning, then happening and not knowing about it. You need to create the environment in school where children are used to articulating their learning, are wanting to share achievements, wanting to have those conversations, and are hungry to know what comes next. They have that intrinsic motivation to learn and that comes from this sort of process. And the more you can increase that and build that momentum, it becomes clearly a virtuous cycle that you can just get children doing more and more and more of that. So start those conversations about learning, create those areas, use systems to help.
Obviously, we’d love you to use Learning Ladders use systems to help reach out. We we’ve been doing this for years and years. We set this up six years ago. We’ve been doing this for six years in schools around the world now. So we know what we’re talking about and super happy to help. So what I’m going to do now is I’m going to pause just because I’ve sort of that given you a lot of information for half an hour. I’m super happy to go back over any of it. I can dive into the system and do something live. I can talk about any case studies if you have anything of interest to post any questions into the Q&A that you may have and I’ll cover those off. Or if you want to start a chat with other people on the webinar, then obviously put it in the chat, make sure that you do it for panellists and attendees and tell me what you think. Does this make sense? Is this kind of something that resonates? Is this something that you can take forward in your particular school? Always interested in in feedback, both for myself as well. So while you’re doing that, let me just put this up. This is our contact details. Given you’ve registered for the webinar already, then you know you know how to contact us. But just in case this is for somebody who’s watching the recording, this is how to get hold of us. I know that that’s useful in terms of doing that. That is genuinely what we have found in creating those conversations about learning, particularly at home. So particularly creating those conversations at home is a new thing for a lot of schools that can be really advanced very, very quickly. But those internal structures as well. And I’m really hoping as well, I guess when we do these webinars, they shouldn’t really be much new in this. There isn’t much new in education. Quite often it’s just an opportunity for a refresher. So hopefully if you’re on the other end of this sort of screen thinking, great, I know this, then that’s a good thing. This this isn’t this isn’t or shouldn’t be, hopefully a complete revelation that you’ve never heard before. It’s really about a reminder about aggregating it, systemising it all into one place. Right. I promise I’ll stop talking and I shall now stop talking. So do post any questions. I appreciate if you may need to leave then. Thank you for joining us and one the rest of the day. If there is rest of the day and you are part of the world and I’ll speak soon, I’ll just hang on for a little while and see if there are any questions on that.