Alphabetical Signposts to Teacher Excellence – D

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Data drops – The term given to a point in time when teachers enter summative data into an analytical system to give leaders a perceived insight into progress of pupils over time. They can be a big workload driver and many argue that the data that is produced is pretty much worthless. What is done with the data is more important (see diagnostic formative assessment) Summative assessments are not designed to be formative. Summative data such as a GCSE grade is useful to gain an idea on the number of pupils on track to reach targets or to analyse attainment gaps at particular points but this should happen sparingly. Less data drops and more formative assessment in lesson by the teacher and more action on areas for student development would be more desirable for me. Tom Sherrington offers his view here. “Garbage in, garbage out” is an excellent article from Daisy Christadoulou.

Daniel Willingham – One of my educational heroes. Daniel is a psychologist at the University of Virginia, where he is a professor in the Department of Psychology. His book, “Why Don’t Students Like School?” has had a profund impact on my teaching (see cognitive principles). His website has an array of excellent ssections including articles, videos, books, learning styles FAQ and his Science and Education blog. What I like about his writing is that it often has practical implications for us as teachers. He often writes articles for the AfT. I particularly like his “Ask the Cognitive Scientist” articles – here is one of my favourites about improving a student’s memory.

Debate – there are lots of debates in education from different stand points. People seem to be able to find research that backs up what they want to say. We must be wary of this and always ask ourselves where this evidence comes from. This is where confirmation bias often comes into play where people tend to gather or interpret evidence that confirms their original hypothesis. There are lots of debates I could mention but the main ones that spring to mind are progessivists vs traditionalists, testing vs stress, is group work effective? Is technology in the class room a good thing? Should mobile phones be banned? Does Ofsted drive workload?

Deans for is an American organisation that is looking to elevate teaching through evidenced based research. Their Science of Learning report is particularly useful for us teachers.

Declarative knowledge are facts or information that are static in nature. Following the 80-20 principle – what is the most important declarative knowledge in your subject and how can you ensure that students remember it over time and transfer it to new contexts?

Deep, durable knowledge is desirable when teaching. This is different to wrote learning or fingertip flash facts which are neither deep nor durable but are necessary before deep, durable learning can take place. Peps McCrea talks about this is Memorable Teaching. See flexible and inflexible knowledge under F.

Delegate like a pro – article here from Rebecca Foster. This is also a great article on the art of delegation from Leadership forces.

Deliberate botheredness – I love this quote from When The Adults Change, Everything Changes by Paul Dix. He refers to this as being a key driver behind developing excellent relationships with pupils. Show an interest in your pupils, notice everything, remember the things that are important to them and ask them about it and value their contributions to your class.

Deliberate practice – The book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell looks at why people get so good in certain domains. One of the main ideas is deliberate practice. That is not just practising for practising’s sake but deliberately practising a skill or part of a skill. In his study, he claims that “the best group” practised at least 10,000 hours over their lifetime then the next group 7,500 and the next 5,000 hours. How does this apply to teaching? Well we can deliberately practise lots of things as teachers such as behaviour management, delibrate botheredness, questioning, feedback techniques, modelling, explanations, structuring pair and group work and so on. We can also provide opportunities for students to deliberately practise part of a question, an introduction, pronunciation of words, spellings, times tables, exam questions, being silent and the big one…. use of tier 2 and 3 vocabulary.  A great article from Geoffery Colvin, “the secret to greatness” is here. Dean’s for Impact blog here. Blog here from Harry-Fletcher Wood on practice based teacher training based on Teach Like A Champion. Paper called the Making of An Expert here. More extensive paper here. Deliberate practice paper in a variety of contexts including music and sport here.

Department policy – be brave and follow the evidence. Adjust your department policy in line with this evidence to reduce work load. You are accountable to Ofsted for following your policy and staff being consistent. If your policy says mark every page, then you will be held to account. Be sensible and pragmatic. Ensure that what you value most is present in your department policy – that which will have the most impact on your student’s deep, durable, long lasting learning with considerations to teacher energies and work load. Opportunity cost people!

Desirable difficulties – Robert Bjork uses this phrase to state that learning should be just the right level of challenge so that students have to think hard with a good chance of success. Daniel Willingham echoes this in his book,  “Why Don’t Students Like School?” where he explains that people enjoy solving problems but only when they can be solved. Kris Boulton’s worry is that teachers will hear the phrase, “learning should be desriably difficult” and spin in it on it’s head to read, “difficulty is desirable so we must make learning hard. If students are struggling, then they are learning.” We must be careful not to interperet desirable difficulties in this way and we must try to follow this idea of making students think hard about and attend to the important concepts, while still giving them a good chance of success. Memory is the residue of thought – we remember what we attend to and success is a key driver of motivation.

Detentions – The idea of detentions can often separate teacher views in education. My view is that there is certainly a balance to be found. I have read that some schools dish out detentions like carbon dioxide, meaning some students accrue that many detentions in a week that it is simply impossible to impose the sanction. Some schools have no detentions and use a complete restorative meeting approach where by staff and students meet for 15 minutes to discuss a series of scripted questions to help the student reflect on their behaviour and how it affects them and others. Here are some different systems and viewpoints…. Here is a blog from Rosalind Walker on why she thinks centralised detention systems are a good idea. Here is an article from behaviour tsar Tom Bennett and another on why you are possibly wasting your time here. Here are some restorative approach meeting questions to ask from Pivotal Education. Hear Paul Dix talks about his “Pivotal Approach to Behaviour management.”

Diagnostic formative assessment – “Formative assessment should be a medical, not a post mortem” Dylan Wiliam. We should not be using assessment simply to confirm that a student is struggling. The question should be, “what are they struggling with and what can we do to improve them quickly?” What we want is to ensure there are hinge points in the lesson where you can gather as much data as possible simultaneously to gain an insight into pupil performance in that moment, i.e. do they ‘get it?’ Multiple choice questions are an ideal way to gather this either using whiteboards or students using their fingers to show which answer they have selected. Multiple choice questions should be carefully designed with distractor answers. Students should not be able to answer correctly while still holding a misconception – the diagnosis we are looking for. Here is an excellent blog  from Tom Sherrington on this matter and here on how to check for recall and understanding. 5 strategies here from Dylan Wiliam. “What is teacher assessment bias?” blog by Daisy Christadoulou, as well as “What makes a good formative assessment?” – one of Craig Barton’s best pieces of work. A FREE website with a collection of diagnostic multiple choice questions, originally for maths but now has spread to other subjects such as English and humanities. There is a student app, you can create classes, set quizzes, track progress and view explanations as to WHY students chose that answer so you can diagnose the misconception and inform future planning. It self marks so it is a big time saver and I believe there is an EEF project looking into its effectiveness. Watch this space, this is one of the most important websites in education and should be shared with colleagues.

Didau (David) – An English teacher of 15 years, David is a highly influential blogger with his views well informed by educational research and cognitive psychology. His award winning blog is One of my favourite things he has done is work with the Ofsted to remove the grading of individual lessons. He has written many books, including “The Secret to Literacy”, “What If Everything You Knew About Education Was Wrong?” and “What Every Teacher Needs To Know About Psychology”, co-written with Nick Rose. Two of the main things we can glean from David’s work are that, one, progress in a lesson is a poor proxy for learning – sparking the learning vs performance debate and, two, making the implicit explicit in terms of identifying what makes teachers highly literate and allows them to do what they do – this will make teachers more effective at teaching reading and writing.

Differentiation – one of my real bug bares. Let’s not have four worksheets for four different ability groups. Let’s set expectations high and then scaffold down. Let’s keep our class together in the initial knowledge acquistion phase and not presume that just because higher prior attainers have covered basic content that they will remember it. Ensure you are assessing students prior knowledge accurately and start the learning from where they students are. We can also differentiate by time, a form of differentiation that is often given no thought – more time in the curriculum for certain groups, or give the students more of our time in a lesson. Not all of this needs to be evidenced. Some students *do* require different resources due to their special educational need provisions but these are *special* circumstances. We can of course plan to use different scaffolds and manipulatives to enable students to meet desired outcomes. It is bad practice in my opinion to provide these scaffolded worksheets or resources immediately just because of your bias towards that students ability. There are many times that we differentiate “on-the-go.” We can differentiate our behaviour by simply glancing at a pupil in a certain way who is rocking on their chair because we know they would over react if we raise our voice. We could see Charlotte struggling to start a sentence so we provide her verbally with a sentence start and ask her to write it down. David is struggling with paragraph structure so we offer him a structure strip in his margin. Alice wasn’t here yesterday so we sit next her and offer her some worked examples and ask her to complete one. Sarah is flying but she is over using certain connectives so we point this out and ask her to list some alternatives and then alter her work. Greg makes lots of spelling mistakes so we get our highlighter out and intervene immediately, asking him to use the”key spellings list” on the board. Tanya forgets to underline her date and title so we slide a ruler next to her and give her a wink. You get the point. Constant formative assessment and responsive teaching is key. Leaders please stop driving over-burdonsome policy to please other adults in the room. There is an opportunity cost with the amount of time teachers spend creating/looking for differentiated resources. “Invisible differentiation” blog here from @missdcox. Teacher Toolkit asks us to “pop the differentiation bubble.” Differentiation ideas here from “Teach to the top, support at the bottom” from David Didau. Misunderstanding differentiation here from Greg Ashman. Ten tips from Sue Cowley.

Direct Instruction – blog here from Paul Kirschner. Visual summary of Rosenshine’s 5 meanings of direct instruction that I put together with Oliver Caviglioli here. Full paper here. Kris Boulton directs us to the best places to learn about it here. This includes Shepard Barbash’s Clear Teaching which is summarised in this infographic.

DIRT time – Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time. A period when students are given time to take action on the feedback they have been given regarding their work. We must remember it what the students DO with the feedback that is the most important thing. “Feedback should be more work for the receiver than the donor.” Dylan Wiliam. Blog here from David Didau. UKEdChat feed here. Closing the gap blog here from Harry Fletcher Wood. Mrs Humanities DIRT resources here. Tom Sherrington’s feedback as actions blog. My blog on Polishing the DIRT – Symbol Marking here.

Disadvantaged pupils (general) – The term disadvantaged is given to pupils from lower income households, who historically don’t achieve as well academically compared to their non-disadvantaged peers. This is a very complex issue and something as a Pupil Premium Co-ordinator that I have thought long and hard about. My current school actually won the National Pupil Premium Award in 2014 in my first year as Pupil Premium Co-ordinator. The problems with this cohort stem from parental engagement, self efficacy, opportunities, aspirations and vocabulary. The attainment gap is actually closing at primary school level according to the EEF but the gap gets gradually wider at secondary. There are many reasons why but it has a lot to do with poor academic transition practices and a lack of communication between primaries and secondaries but it also has something to do with the idea that the more knowledge you acquire in a certain domain, the easier it is to acquire more of that domain-specific knowledge. This has been named as the Matthew Effect – in terms of knowledge, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Disadvantaged pupils often arrive at secondary with less vocabulary and knowledge and this effect begins to occur. The best way to ensure we help this cohort is quality first teaching and ensuring that the additional pupil premium funding is ring fenced fr these students and managed effectively. Info from DofE here. The Sutton Trust-EEF Toolkit has been designed to find evidence around effective teaching and learning practice to improve outcomes for disadvantaged pupils. Article here from SecEd on pupil premium spending. Here is an excellent article from Headteacher Update on best practice. Blog here from the excellent John Tomsett.

Disadvantaged pupils (classroom teacher) – Here is what I think you need to think about as a class room teacher. 1. Explicitly identify the disadvantaged pupils 2. These students need consistency and routine more than anyone 3. Provide effective feedback as soon as possible during practise 4. Have high expectations and show deliberate botheredness 5. Instill a growth mindset by allowing them to feel success by setting desirably difficult tasks 6. Immerse them in tier 2 and 3 vocabulary and encourage them to deliberately practise it – insist they use it to answer questions when you cold call 7. Ensure they have had breakfast if you are a form tutor 8. Encourage them to get involved in extra-curricular 9. Provide alternative dates and times for parents evening meetings 10. Contact home often right from the outset and form good relationships with their family and send the same messages of high expectations, belief and aspirations to parents/carers. You will notice that all of these things are what we should be doing for all children but ESPECIALLY for our most disadvantaged. Read here for effective CPD that closes the gap.

Disciplinary knowledge is *how* an academic discipline accrues knowledge of that discipline (experiments, source analyses, proofs etc.) Students have a pretty good idea when they leave school of the disciplinary knowledge of science through “experiments” but what about other subjects? There are suggestions that trying to teach disciplinary knowledge and substantive knowledge simultaneously is not a good idea due to cognitive overload (see cognitive overload).

Discovery learning is an inquiry-based, constructivist learning theory that takes place in problem solving situations where the learner draws on his or her own past experience and existing knowledge to discover facts and relationships and new truths to be learned. The problems with this approach come from inducing cognitive overload. Cognitive load theory suggests that novices learn best from worked examples. There is a seminal paper named “Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work” by Clark, Kirschner and Sweller, which has been really powerful for me. A summary here from Nick Rose. Richard Mayer suggests there should have been a three strike rule for pure discovery learning here.

Distributed practice is the idea of not blocking practise opportunities all at once but spacing it out over time. This has more benefits for the effective of retrieval of information from long term memory over time, strengthening it each time information is revisited.

Distributed leadership equates with shared, collective and extended leadership practice that builds the capacity for change and improvement. The idea is that it is not only leaders that lead but there is a buy-in from all staff in some capacity for leading and driving change and improvement. Here is an article from Sec-Ed.

Drills – The idea of practising a skill in isolation using  small time frame in the lesson, often timed. Drilling gets bad press in a lot of areas because of its fast pace time-pressured nature, which may induce anxiety in pupils. I like to provide purposeful practice via drills to increase the automaticity referred to earlier which is essential for increasing working memory capacity when problem solving. Dani Quinn’s blog, Drill and Thrill, is useful.

Don Steward – no creditable maths teacher can not mention the letter D without mentioning Don “The Don” Steward’s blog Median. He has an uncanny ability to turn maths problem creation on its head and think of maximally alternative ways to present problems, sorted by topic.

Doug Lemov – most famous to UK teachers of being the American author of Teach Like A Champion 2.0. Doug’s has travelled far and wide observing teachers, taking field notes, videoing teachers in action and then sharing these strategies in his book using catchy names. He has also authored Reading Reconsidered. His CPD is supposed to be world class and his approach of “see it, name it, do it” means that teachers can take his practice and apply it and talk about it after the CPD session has finished. He believes in deliberately practising the strategy – rehearsing it many times before you go “live in the classroom.” His podcast with Craig Barton here is great listening for all teachers.

Dual coding – another of the Learning Scientists 6 Principles of Learning. Originally developed by Allan Paivio in the 1960s, dual-coding theory is a theory of cognition according to which humans process and represent verbal and non-verbal information in separate, related systems. Blake Harvard blogs about its use in the class room here.

Dunlosky’s “Strengthening the Student Toolbox” review into effectiveness of different study strategies. Practice testing, distributive practice, interleaving, self-explanation come out on top, with highlighting and re-reading being named as less effective but most commonly carried out by students.

Dunning Kruger Effect – Novices over-estimate their efficacy in a certain area due to their lack of knowledge of the area. We are poor judges of our own ability when we are novices. This leads to the perverse situation in which less competent people rate their own ability higher than more competent people. It also explains why actual competence may weaken self-confidence: because competent individuals falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding. “Thus, the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others.” This has major implications for us as teachers in terms of ensuring we are, ourselves, well informed and gain regular feedback around our practises and also when asking students to self assess their work with no support or success criteria. Some interesting commentary on why some people reject this idea here.

Dylan Wiliam is a British educationalist and Emeritus Professor of Educational Assessment at the UCL Institute of Education and lives in Bradford County, Florida. What Dylan doesn’t know about educational research probably isn’t worth knowing. He is refered to a lot in this series of blogs. I particularly enjoyed his podcast with Craig Barton and his work is excellent, particularly Embedded Formative Assessment. He is releasing a new book soon in 2018, “The Schools Our Children Need – Why What We’re Doing Now Won’t Help Much (And What We Can Do Instead” – very exciting.

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