Feeding back the results from last blog. “DIRTy SOLO and marking-every-lesson”. I was trying anything to get a difficult year 10 group to successfully pass GCSE science at the end of Y10. They had already failed in in Y9 (14 D grades and 10 E grades).  This summer the group made an average improvement of one and half GCSE grades (equivalent to 2 years progress in a year).  The final tally was 1A, 6B and 17 C grades. So I would count that as a highly positive outcome. And I didn’t go insane -bonus!

So taking each of the three strategies in turn….

DIRT – I loved  this and it worked really well, after a little training, the students responded to the next steps or corrections they were directed to.  They looked forward to getting their books back, to see what they need to do as their next steps. I have kept this going this year with all my groups and every class seems to gain a great deal from the reflective practice.

SOLO, I still love this but I mainly used it as an aide-memoire for myself, targeting the style of questioning. Closed factual recall (they really needed to improve recall), linking ideas together or expanding to relate the topic to other areas.  So SOLO was very helpful, but much more helpful for me than for them. Just the mental image of the SOLO graphics was enough for me to consider how to phrase my directed questions.

Marking Every Lesson.  Students loved this, on the few occasions where I let this slip they were quite forgiving but clearly disappointed. There were occasions when I just couldn’t keep up with the demand on my time, but generally speaking I tried to ensure their work was marked after every lesson. No matter how briefly – just asking for a final summary sentence – if I had precious little time to offer between lessons to tackle the marking.  I still try to do this, as it is highly motivating, but I am more careful to use other activities on occasion to give myself a break from the task.  OR just award a quick CODE so if a student gets an “X” they do this task, a “Y” means do this task etc. Not an ideal solution and far less effective than using a directed sentence. But students preferred this brevity of marking to no marking at all.

WAS IT SUCCESSFUL?  well yes, spectacularly so BUT it’s complicated! Half the students were moved out of the group and another half moved in around Easter time, so the new bods were a little behind the whole initiative.  However, they responded quickly.  What I was extremely pleased to see, was the original students had gained a great deal of resilience due to the strategies that I had been using, and the students new to the group could see the difference between themselves and the way the others got started on working straight away in lessons. The original students were more self-directed and able to use other sources to move their learning forward while waiting for me to get round the room.  Therefore the new bods had good role models of more responsible learning and they caught on as quickly as they could.

The average increase of one and a half GCSE grades in one year, was actually nearer to two full grades for the original half of the group that I had taught since October, and nearer to one GCSE Grade for the half joining me at Easter.  The gains in learning skills will remain with these students in year 11 and so my hard work last year, will also help the teachers that have these students this year.

This research is far too convoluted and complex to disect into the component parts. Therefore I cannot say if any one strategy was successful over any other one.  Probably students responded differently to the three initiatives.  My gut feeling was the carefully structured directed writing (in silence) at the end of the lesson made students responsible for ensuring the content of the lesson had been learnt well enough to be articulated clearly in writing in a new context. This followed by marking every lesson and providing DIRT at the start of each lesson, helped me address any redirect any remaining problems, before moving on.

DIRTy marking every lesson.  Is the FUTURE for me.