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Upskill Parents, remotely, on demand
12/03/2021 @ 08:00 - 09:00 GMT
In this webinar Learning Ladders’ Founder and CEO, Matthew Koster-Marcon guides schools to consider quick wins in school improvement planning in these challenging times.
Despite many students returning to teaching and learning in schools, a significant number continue to learn remotely or in a blended learning environment.
Matt returns to the fundamentals; what the research tells us about improving progress, what actually makes a difference and how this looks in context.
High on the agenda for Learning Ladders, is how to bring that to life to make it real without overloading staff.
And, it wouldn’t be a Learning Ladders webinar if parental involvement was not included as part of a conversation about improving student outcomes. Matt considers the critical role parents continue to play in supporting learning at home, both for those learning in school and at home.
Take a listen to the recording of the webinar below:
Welcome to the Webinar. I will get started, we’re on time and I’ll let people join as we go through. My name is Matt Koster, I’m the founder and CEO here at Learning Ladders. I’m going to talk you through for about half an hour, a few ideas and things that we picked up from schools that we worked with around the world, which hopefully you can apply to your setting and will be useful.
I’ll go through it fairly quickly. I think everybody now is probably familiar with Zoom and how it works, but there’s a Q&A in here, so if you have any questions, anything you want to, I will leave some time at the end and pick them up as we go through. So, without any further ado, let me just go through this here. So that’s me. If you want to get involved, we have a hashtag #beyondtracking. If you’re on Twitter, that’s my Twitter handle.
We have the website, Learningladders.info as well. You can find everything that we’re talking about today, along with other case studies and all sorts of other blogs and information, too. So today, quick wins in school, improvement, planning in challenging times, clearly challenging times in lots of different environments, lots of different settings around the world. Lots of children are now back in school, but in others, there’s a lot of remote learning going. And I think in a lot of territories there’s an expectation that we may well be in for a period of change of blended learning and all sorts of different things going on.
So how on earth to manage longer term school improvement and possibly get some quick wins in these challenging times where most of the schools I know are obviously spending a huge amount of effort just getting the children through the door? Well, it is possible. So, I’m going to cover a few things. I’m going to cover a little bit of research. So worth just reminding us what the research tells us about improving progress, what actually makes a difference? How does this look like in context? So, bring that to life now to make it real without overloading staff. Staff at the moment are clearly exceptionally busy, even more than they ever have been. So how can we do this without overloading staff? And ultimately, the goal of everything here is what we talk about Learning Ladders all the time.
Every adult in a child’s life needs to know exactly what they need and have the best tools to help them. It really is as simple as that. So how do we make that real? I’m not going to focus on these hugely, but it is really important to mention these because these foundations need to have been thought about and done before you can really think about anything else. So just in terms of context of what I’m talking about, just because I’m focusing on other things, don’t think in any way I’m undervaluing these areas. These are the building blocks that you’ve got to do. So, we know securely attached children learn better.
We know about anxiety. We know that we need to create time and space for relationships and rebuild routines. Here in the UK, for example, there’s a lot of discussion around a catch-up agenda and there’s a lot of nervousness, a lot amongst practitioners that maybe will rush into this too quickly. And there’s a real danger of doing that if we don’t allow the children to re-establish routines, to re-establish friendships, to be comfortable, simple, practical things getting up in the morning, not having an adult who’s constantly available to sort of help them, not being able to snack completely throughout the day to energy levels. You know, being at school is more tiring for most children. You know, the commute, the uniform, everything else is going to take a lot of adjustment. So, all of those things clearly need to be done first.
But we also know alongside those things that parents continue to play a critical role. So, there’s been a huge focus in the last year on the role of parents, particularly around remote learning, obviously. And now is a brilliant time to build on that and make sure that parents are still involved in their learning. We know about metacognition. We know that we can explicitly scaffold ways to learn. And we know that children who are used to taking ownership of their learning and who are used to understanding what their objectives are, they’re better in this new environment. They’re more resilient. They’re more flexible. So how do we manage all of those things?
The one starting point here is if there’s nothing else as a sort of take away from the session, there remains and always has been one single influencing factor that continues to be significantly more important than any other factor for success in children’s education at primary school. This has been the case before, remains the case now, and this is the involvement of adults at home. Parents, be any adults at home, this can be older siblings, grandparents, tutors, whoever it may be. The adults at home in primary are absolutely critical. And it seems ironic sometimes talking about parental involvement in getting parents more involved in learning when we’re just coming out of lockdown and parents are desperately enthusiastic that they don’t have to do it anymore. And traditionally, parental involvement has seemed a very difficult thing to do. But now really is the time to sort of grasp that nettle. If you can continue to have parents actively involved in children’s learning, it will have a greater impact than anything else that you can do in school. And we know from the research that we do in broader research that the majority of parents say they don’t get the help they need to support their child. We know from this period of remote education that whilst a lot of schools understandably focused on the practicalities of getting children online, giving them access to work, having Zoom calls, teams meetings, whatever, that actually in primary age children, what’s really needed is the adult home to understand how to support the learning. Not merely enable to log in and supervise that they’re actually doing it with primary aged children. Supervising the learning isn’t enough. The adult at home needs to in some way be able to scaffold that learning.
So, we talk about parental involvement in learning here. This is about parents being involved in detail in the regular objectives, even when children are back in school. And how do we manage that? Well, if we can do it, the prize is great, so it’s well worth doing. If you look at the research in this area, it consistently comes out higher than anything else that you can do. And if people like John Hattie talk about it, adding two or three years to a child’s education, if you can get parents involved, and it’s not just about the practical side of things. Obviously, it’s the attitudes to learning. It’s the encouragement. It’s the softer side of things as well. We know that this is an area that parents struggle with. We know from lock down as well. But a lot of parents have really struggled with understanding how to teach their children. A lot of the realisation from parents during lockdown has been the complexity of teaching and the difference in terminology from when they were at school, the difference in techniques and how to help that. Some schools have been extremely successful at sharing that with parents and upskilling parents. And this is an area that really is the biggest sort of quick that you can do at the moment, hopefully without massively increasing teacher workload. So, we have seen schools where there’s been an expectation amongst parents or amongst sort of senior leaders that staff will create these huge amounts of support resources and support materials, which has been an unfathomable amount of work for teachers to try and do for remote learning. And there really is no need because those resources exist already.
What our argument here is, upskill parents remotely, on demand, at scale without increasing workload for your teaching staff and the way that you do that is very simple within the Learning Ladders system. We have tutorials and explanations for the entire primary curriculum embedded within the system. And if you can do this and you can link to parents, this is what your child is specifically working on right now and this is how to help. And in our particular case, if you want to consume that advice in a different language, it’s all in 100 different languages, then that’s clearly incredibly powerful. So, a big, big part of quick wins is getting parents involved at scale on demand and using these kinds of systems, and it makes life an awful lot easier. And now is obviously a fantastic time to continue that parental engagement with broken the back of parental engagement for a lot of schools. The parents have had to be involved. Now we can continue that. But the reason that we still bang on about it, we’ve been talking about this for years and we still do it now really is the moment to push forward on that.
Obviously, parents are last year’s teachers. So, in a lot of schools that are now coming back to sort of full-time face to face education for every child, then we need to have some discussions. We need to share achievements and gaps in learning with parents explicitly alongside sort of action plans and things that schools that we work with are doing really, really well, and be really specific about this and really open with parents. So, sharing with parents, we believe from the information that we have that these are the gaps in the child, in your child’s learning or sharing it explicitly with the children. Do that using pupil reports. So, the normal pupil reports that you might do at the end of term or the end of an academic year, why not do them early? Why not do them at a different time this year for a slightly different purpose? Again, at Learning Ladders you can automate that, so it doesn’t take any time for teachers. You can make those automatically.
Find out about children’s learning, there’s a lot of discussion about catch up and gaps in learning and stuff, but are there actually gaps in learning? You know, a lot of children have been learning extremely successfully, remotely. The gap in learning is that we haven’t yet had a chance to formally assess the learning in the way that we would traditionally do. And it may well be that when we have that chance and we build that into our routines, we pick up the children have actually learnt an awful lot. So, there’s a big conversation around and a lot of pressure from governments and regulators with this sort of catch-up idea. But we don’t know that to be the case until we’ve done it. And the best way to find out about this is lots of low stakes online quizzes. And again, you have the access to systems that will do this as self-marketing quizzes. They’re really simple. They can be pushed out to children at any time.
The other area, the other thing that we talk about here is so you’re finding out about what children know, clearly that’s the starting point for any teaching that doesn’t change. And because the parents are last year’s teachers, the process may be slightly different, but you’re essentially trying to find out the children’s starting point. So, you’re having discussions with them. You’re having discussions with parents remotely. You’re being very explicit and very specific. You can also use existing data that you have to predict gaps and predict likely challenges. So, another area that’s been really interesting over the last year is to look at how you can look at historical patterns of learning within your school, use your data system to get ahead of likely challenges and likely interventions. Yes, you probably have some really choppy data for the last year that’s not as accurate and complete as you would normally have, but you do have prior year data and you can build up some patterns in learning. And I’ll show you how to do that in a second. And the final point, I suppose, is clearly creating the conditions for success. We need a lot of flexibility at the moment. So, if we’re saying to teachers, we want you to do all of this new stuff, we need to give them the flexibility in the time to do it. So that’s a sort of fairly obvious loss.
Last point. So, what can we do? First and foremost, obviously, a high-quality bespoke curriculum. So, we talk about this a lot, policies that teachers can access at the point of need. So, this is something that crops up again. I’ll be head of maths in my school. I will have created a calculation policy that I loved that I spent ages on, that I was very proud of. But it will probably sit on the head teacher’s shelf in their office and class teachers won’t access it on a day-to-day basis. You need a way to bring your policies to life and bring your curriculum to life. So, it isn’t just a sort of checklist of objectives. So, use systems like Learning Ladders to do that.
We have what we call the Curriculum Lab within Learning Ladders. If you’re a member, you can have a look at that, that kind of search engine within it which will search the Internet for related resources. So, if you have a curriculum objective and you want to find what’s the best objective from Oak Academy, what’s the best lesson plan from BBC Bitesize, from Twinkl, from whomever it might be, you can do that automatically within the system to have a look at that within the system, select those resources to fit your school’s need. Upskill people so they know how to do that is a really important thing because teachers are going to be moving at pace more than ever. Teachers always move at pace, but this particular year, the broad range of gaps in the school is likely to be wider, and the pace at which teachers are moving is likely to be faster than ever. So, the more we can provide those resources accessible, then that’s obviously clearly a good thing.
We talk a lot about flexible, independent learners, so empower them, tell them what’s going on. And again, this is something that we do a lot to be explicit with the children. These are your objectives for the next period of time, for the rest of the academic year, for the rest of the term, your teacher is going to break these down into the teaching sequence. We want you to take ownership of when you think you’ve achieved them. Take the pressure off teachers. If teachers are standing in front of 30 pupils trying to establish what skills, knowledge, what gaps in learning there are through proxy cues like hand up and work and conversations, it’s going to be a lot more work and a lot less accurate than if you can have great conversations with the children themselves. But you clearly can’t have 30 conversations every single lesson.
So, you need a mechanism for managing that and giving children ownership of their own assessment and giving them clarity around their objectives and explaining to them that you have an expectation that they will prompt those conversations, makes the whole process of collecting that information and making those professional judgements much, much more effective and much, much clearer. And of course, that’s the first step as well to effective remote learning.
One thing that a lot of people have found with remote learning is you can’t just switch it on. It needs to be part of a whole school process. So, schools that have been using Learning Ladders for a while because the children have been trained to be a bit more resilient, take more control of their own learning when it comes to remote learning. And there are conversations like, well, what are you learning today? What do you need to do next? What you need to do to achieve it? They’re used to having ownership of that. If children are not used to having ownership of that and parents are not supported to know how to support the children, the remote learning process falls apart very quickly. What are we doing today? We’re doing number bonds to 10. Why? I have no idea. What’s the next step? I don’t know. How do you take control of your own learning? I don’t know. What’s a number bond to ten? I don’t know. It is a very common situation, a lot of people have faced in lockdown, but if children understand these objectives as part of a wider process that they used to having conversations about it, and critically, parents have access to resources, they have been upskilled. So, they know what a number bond to 10 is, why it’s important, how it’s taught and stuff. That remote learning process is clearly going to be a lot more effective. So that’s creating the conditions for success.
And use your data. We obviously run a data company, so I’m always going to say this, but data is your friend, so you will be able to tailor your algorithms and stuff. You will be able to tailor your curriculum. And if you want to go into more detail about how to do that, at Learning Ladders we run sessions on this, but your system should be your friend. It should be giving you accurate information about your children in your context. So, yes, of course, you should be able to personalise it to your curriculum objectives, to your assessment policy. But you should also be able to personalise your algorithms behind the calculations. If you’re stuck using a system that believes assessment and progress is a third, a third each term, or believes that every subject is assessed in the same way and can’t be tailored by term and can’t be tailored by subject, you’re always going to get inaccurate data, and particularly in the next couple of academic years, because things are in a state of flux. So, you need those settings to be your friend. And if you can’t do that or you’re not sure how to do that, then then then let us know. We can help you with that. Look at patterns in learning, simple patterns. This is how we do it.
This is what a Gap Analysis looks like in Learning Ladders, really simple. You have the children along the top. You have the objectives here, maybe some teaching notes or KPIs. And it’s a really simple Gap Analysis. You can identify really, really easily within a class where those gaps in learning are. And when I talk about gaps in learning here, what I mean more specifically are elements of the curriculum we have not yet been able to formally assess as teachers. It may well be that these have been taught with remote learning, but for whatever reason, you haven’t been able to make a formal assessment on it. When you come to do the formal assessment, you may well discover that the majority of children have got this to the level that you’re comfortable with and you would want them to have, which is great. So that’s about being specific about what we’re talking about here. These are parts of the curriculum we have not yet been able to assess, and we do not know whether the children know this or not. We are identifying those, and we are working through them in a methodical, strategic way. So that’s your gap analysis type analysis. But you should also be able to do some curriculum-based analysis.
So, again, if you’re using Learning Ladders, this is within the Insight section. This is the cohort comparison. What this is enabling you to do is say, OK, we don’t have much data for the last 12 months, but let’s have a look at what’s been going on over multiple years. So, what’s happening here is I’m looking at the maths curriculum and I’m looking at, well, how did the current year six do when they were in year four? How did the current year five do when they were in year for? And how did the current year four do in year four? And what I’m able to do in my school is then identify elements of the curriculum, that it may well be we have a consistent number of children who don’t reach the expected standard by the academic year, and that has been the case for the last few years. So, it’s a reasonable expectation to think it will be the case this year. I can get ahead of that. I can be proactive. I can put an intervention in place in anticipation. This is likely to be an issue and get ahead of it, take some of the burden off the staff, take some of the burden off the children and as a subject later and say, I’m really on top of my game here. So, for example, looking at our own schools, we may well find some common patterns. So, some obvious ones, like something like times tables, you may well find that there’s consistently every year 20, 25 percent of children in that year group who don’t reach the expected standard by the end of the academic year. Well, something like timetable’s is an area that really lends itself to an intervention.
There are loads of great products out there. There are opportunities for team teaching. There are opportunities for all sorts of stuff. That would be an obvious area to be proactive. Look at data like this and say, right. I’m pretty confident that we’re going to have some children who are going to struggle with this. Let’s get ahead of it. Let’s put an intervention in place and then you can track that intervention, obviously, as you go through the year to understand whether it’s something you might want to repeat. So, use data is your friend. Use it as something that will help you get insights into what’s likely to happen that you can get ahead of, rather than seeing data purely as an audit tool, that somehow you have to collect enough data to prove the inspectors or the board or whoever it might be that you’ve done your job. Data should be your friend in terms of feeding back to teaching and learning and improving learning. If you use it in that way, everything else will obviously follow.
Looking in more detail, when we talk about data, some schools will be using external analysis and external tests and stuff as well. So, if you’re using summative assessment data, use that data in an intelligent way. This is a screenshot for a couple of relatively new features. So, these are GL data dashboards. This is looking at CAT4 schools, Pass scores so attitudes to learning Progress test results over multiple years, comparing them to your formative assessment. This is a very simple sort of regression analysis for scale schools and your progress tests.
Are children traditionally performing or have they historically on these tests before performed above average? So, in that sense, they’re sort of high achieving, if you like, the want of better terminology. But which direction are they heading in this particular example? Then you’re identifying children that, yes, they may be below where you would like them to be, but they’re making great progress. So that’s positive. Conversely, there may be children that are actually in a really good position, they’re high achieving, but they’re going backwards. They’re becoming less high achieving. So that’s an issue. Can you use your data to identify attitudes to learning and changes in patterns, in attitudes to learning some really interesting stuff that you can do here within the systems? So, again, use it as your friend, I would say moving into that area. And again, we do webinars on this specific area that you can have a look at.
Final thing is, all of this needs to be clearly in one system, so those views in Learning Ladders will know this. Those of you not, this is how we do it. It has to be part of a complete system. So, your own curriculum, your own assessment policy, activating the children as independent learners. We do this digitally through the platform, but we also do it through publishing technology. You can create your own exercise books in the system for the children, which they really love in primary, so tools that can save them time. And everything’s done within one space. No work arounds, everything’s at your fingertips, everything’s linked.
Upskill parents, so they know exactly how to help out and then get the data and use it as a continuous cycle. Your curriculum should be alive. It shouldn’t be a document that you spend a long time on one year and then it’s static for five or 10 years. You need to be using these insights so that you can then evolve your curriculum, put interventions in place, change focus. Do team teaching, understand areas of expertise so that continuous process is really, really important because ultimately this is what you’re aiming at. This is this is all sort of marketing blurb, if you like. But this is what we believe that the child is basically needs to know what they’re working on, what they have to do and what comes next. They’re in control. They feel like they’re succeeding. Whatever they’re working on, wherever they’re going, the teachers just know what every child needs. It’s there for them. It’s simple, it’s quick, it’s easy to use. And they have all the tools they need. This is the foundation stuff that we’re trying to create here. We’re creating the conditions for learning, so the teachers are not focused on admin.
They’re focused on the high value add interaction with children and parents. They understand what their children are learning, and they’re shown how to help. We are demystifying primary education and early is education for parents, so they know how to help. They know what’s going on and clearly ss senior leaders, managing that whole process, understanding what’s going on and supporting the school improvement is what we’re aiming for.
So, this has been a real whistle stop tour. But we did this webinar a while ago and it was really, really popular. So, we wanted to do a refreshed version of it. What we’re seeing with schools around the world is that continuing to try and get parents involved is massive. So, there are review sites. We know from our own internal research that this approach works, which we do studies on this and we look at it. And the difference that it makes, we know from less formal feedback in terms of schools that it works, that it improves attainment and stuff. Whether you use Learning Ladders, obviously, we hope that you do and if you are. Thank you. And if you’re not, let us get you sorted. But however you do it, get parents involved in granular level learning, really, really detailed learning, upskill them so they know exactly how to do it and don’t accept any compromises with your systems. There are now systems out there like ours (well there’s no other system like ours), but there are systems out there that can be this detailed and this specific and this individualised what you need, create those great conversations out there and reach out, even if it’s just to have a conversation, even if you have no intention of changing systems or you just want to know what’s going on, reach out to us. We’ve been doing this for years. We know a lot about it. We’re super happy to help. So that’s the website. There’s loads of information on there. That’s my email. Feel free to drop me an email directly as well. That’s my sort of Twitter handle. And we do lots of stuff through LinkedIn as well with a name like my name, relatively easy to find to reach out and help.
We will send through a copy of this to everybody who’s registered and participated. We have a few minutes left for any Q&A. If anybody wants to talk about anything, if you want me to show you anything, I can dive into the system and show you how we do it. Particularly I can talk about it in a wider context. But other than that, just in the summary, that hopefully is useful. Obviously, I wish everybody good luck and stay safe. And I hope that’s helpful. I’m just going to have a quick look through to the Q&A section. But in the absence of any questions, I’ll draw this close.