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Personalisation and Challenge by Dave Craven

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Personalisation and Challenge by Dave Craven

Today as we sit preparing lessons and thinking about how to challenge the great learners of ASA and enable them to reach for their sky we need to stop and think a little clearer about the level of challenge we provide for the learners in our classroom.

Recently myself and a few colleagues got together to discuss this and we came to the conclusion that to create bespoke challenge there is a need to find common ground before launching into higher order thinking and set challenges that simply don’t let all within the room benefit. As a group we decided to plan effectively for personalised challenge.

Firstly we thought about level ladders which let the learners decide their level of challenge and came up with slides in which learners can choose (with a bit of coaxing) their challenge, this was displayed to classes as challenging outcomes. The learners were asked to choose three challenges.

This research is loosely based upon cognitive acceleration of science education initiatives (CASE) (Shayer, M. & Adey, P.S, (2002).  CASE is about the learners being presented with a thinking task and allowing themselves to make mistakes and learn form them, (meta cognition) and the awareness of development of processes in which progress can be achieved by working out for themselves or in small groups how to meet the outcomes they have chosen (concrete operational phase, bridging phase).

So why challenge? In order for learners to make progress themselves, they have to be able to make choices, meet dead ends and learn from errors and be able to correct them. Personal challenge has been thought to be effective when:

learners are active in their learning, becoming increasingly independent in thought, planning and evaluation; learners experience a variety of patterns of working alone, in pairs and in groups. Whole-class or group teaching will be used to introduce new ideas, or plan an activity. The learners themselves choose the level of challenge.

In my year 8 science class I decided to focus on science skills and wrote a set of challenging outcomes which would enable learners to progress, yet face challenges that they themselves have set. This needed a little explaining to the learners.

All learners were up for the challenge, naming variables, collecting data, constructing graphs, analysing and evaluating their findings. This needed two lessons for all their chosen outcomes to be achieved. The next step is for the learners to peer assess and give feed back against their colleagues chosen levels of challenge.

Points to note are:

Learners who are unmotivated needed coaching in the requirements of this project, a seating plan evoking more able to assist those less able was effective despite differing levels of challenge existing for this group. Some less able learners required a scaffold and breakdown of the scientific process as a prompt. Learners who deliberately chose easier outcomes to pursue where persuaded to change them for more challenging ones. Each learner had a peer review before this challenge began, they knew their science targets and had their appropriate level of challenge before them.

The highs for myself were watching the learners choose an appropriate level of challenge and also to talk some reticent learners into challenging themselves. I also was very pleased by most learners achieving their own outcomes and being very proud of themselves for doing so.

The lows were letting go of the reins and allowing learners to choose for themselves and learn at their own pace. Another low,  personally was that the pace of the lesson was affected by learners moving on at their own rate, also my movement around the classroom was constant due to health and safety and questions from learners at differing stages of the experiment.

I will shortly be re-evaluating and letting colleagues know how my lovely year 8 class get on with their future learning.

Thank you’s go to Lisa Holbrook, Robbie Campbell, and 8A1.


About the Author
VP with responsibility for T&L at Archbishop Sentamu Academy.

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