Planning lessons is an occupational hazard for teachers as is writing schemes of learning. It is important to make sure time spent planning impacts on students’ learning and isn’t a waste of your time.
This is a second post in the #DIYTeachingCPD programme series. The second resource can be downloaded using the link at the bottom of the post. The series is predicated on the simple belief; as the quality of teaching increase, including the planning element, so will students’ learning. Consequentially, when planning, it’s important to increasingly focus on what you expect students to learn.
The journey from a focus on getting students to complete a sequence of activities, to consistently high quality teaching, is defined partly by increasing clarity about the expected learning gains. This needs to happen in both the teacher’s and the students’ minds.
Some Knowledge About Knowledge
Many teachers are familiar with Bloom’s Theory of Knowledge – Factual, Conceptual and Procedural dimensions with the Metacognitive dimension added in 2000 by Anderson & Krathwohl.
Bloom’s provides a useful schema about the different forms of knowledge, though all categorisation is flawed to some extent. Learning in one dimension can support learning in others. However, Bloom’s is not a theory about learning. This produces a natural limit for its usefulness in the classroom and in constructing the learning sequence.
Declarative Knowledge (expressed through words – written, spoken or signed) is divided into five types by cognitive psychologists (Hattie & Yates 2014). There is a hierarchical element to these types of learning. Sequences and ideas are needed to build concepts (schemas). Concepts are linked together to form mental models. This has implications for sequencing what students learn and implications, for future learning, if they have gaps in their learning. The five types are:
- Sensory: This is the knowledge you hold in your visual memory. Faces of people, places & buildings, names of objects etc. Over time our ability to make increasingly precise and fine judgements about what we see improves. This affects what we can subsequently describe.
- Sequences: These are short strings and associations of information that help us function in our everyday life – PIN for cards, telephone numbers, addresses etc. We need the right information in the right order. In our academic work there are time tables, number bonds and short literary quotes. There is no real requirement to elaborate this type of knowledge, it just is.
- Ideas: This is a new level of complexity as we gain knowledge that links together “discreet entities”. We begin to have a more conceptual understanding of our World but it is built on factual information. If we can link our developing ideas to our prior learning the acquisition of new knowledge is easier.
- Concepts: These are also referred to as schemas. This is where sequences and ideas become linked together into structures or frameworks of learning – the Big Picture. In time a number of concepts can be linked together to form an even greater schema allowing a deeper understanding of the subject to develop.
- Mental Models: These are like the software programmes in the brain that allow us to do “what if” hypothetical type thinking and solve problems. It is how we extend our knowledge and engage in more original thinking. Concepts and schemas are the pathways which facilitate this type of knowledge development.
A much more extensive description of these types of knowledge is given in Hattie, J & Yates, G (2014) Visible Learning & the Science of How We Learn.
The most useful learning taxonomy I know is the SOLO Taxonomy. This relates directly to the types of declarative knowledge described above. SOLO is quick and easy to learn for teachers and students. The SOLO Taxonomy was devised by Biggs & Collis (1982). It categorises students’ work into one of five different levels dependant on the level of learning it demonstrates. These “stages of learning” were found to be replicated, with remarkable similarity, across students’ work in different subjects and age groups. Students and teachers have been found to both be able to use the SOLO Taxonomy to assess students’ work with a high level of accuracy and consistency.
It provides a robust and reliable means of planning learning and assessing students’ work. The great thing about the SOLO Taxonomy is that it is rooted in class room practice and students’ outcomes. Both of these are a part of a teacher’s everyday life. Once used you soon become a SOLO convert. It becomes a schema that helps you to operate effectively in the class room.
“When teachers use SOLO it provides a powerful framework for determining prior knowledge, setting goals, planning learning intentions and learning experiences for deep, surface and conceptual understanding … and designing formative and summative assessment of student learning.
When teachers share SOLO with students, it provides them with a powerfully explicit model of learning (and a common language of learning) for what to do when you don’t know what to do next and for supporting student relationships.
It shows students that their learning outcome is due to something they did to bring in ideas, connect ideas or extend ideas – their learning outcome is the result of their effort and use of strategies, not luck or fixed ability.”
Reference: Hook, P. (In press). SOLO taksonomi. In Vinther, A. M. (Ed.), Målstyret undervisning og taksonomier (English: Goaloriented Teaching and Taxonomies). Dafolo Forlag.
Whilst I’ve heard some people knocking the SOLO Taxonomy, on occasion, I’ve not yet heard anyone offer a better way of structuring the learning. I’m not a great fan of an idiosyncratic “I think this” type of approach to planning and structuring the learning. The individual’s schema doesn’t often stand up to consistent scrutiny or allow a structured discussion to take place with a colleague. There is a lack of a common and shared understanding about the learning process on which to base the discussion. Structuring the learning is best done in collaboration with colleagues. It would be great to see it more often as the focus of department/phase meetings.
Plan Learning Not Lessons
To become increasingly expert in our teaching we need to develop our own schema about how students learn, the implications of this for our planning and how best to deliver the learning within lessons. These schemas form the core of a mental model for teaching. Teaching is a complex activity.
This schema (which I think might be more successful than the first one) is an attempt to pull together a coherent process for planning the learning. Planning learning is likely to serve you well, throughout your career, as what we require students to learn doesn’t change massively over time. The starting point is the best that has been thought or said or done as this is the
The Big Ideas
There are always difficult decisions to make in deciding exactly what can and can’t be in a curriculum. Not everything will fit so include the big ideas and concepts of a subject not the peripheral. These big ideas and key concepts help focus your teaching and direct the learning journey.
Producing a conceptual curriculum map for a subject is the start of the planning process. What are the big ideas, key concepts or best that has been thought or said or done in your subject?
This resource contains the following information:
A PDF copy is available to download here:
Thanks to a few people for their thoughts and feedback on some early drafts of this section:
The other posts and booklets in the DIY Teaching CPD Series are:
DIY Teaching CPD: Structure & Sequence
DIY Teaching CPD: Pedagogy & Practice
Anderson, L. W. and David R. Krathwohl, D. R., et al (2000) A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Allyn & Bacon
Hattie, J (2012). Visible Learning for Teachers. London: Routledge
Hattie, J & Yates, G (2014) Visible Learning & the Science of How We Learn. London: Routledge
Hook, P. (In press). SOLO taksonomi. In Vinther, A. M. (Ed.), Målstyret undervisning og taksonomier (English: Goaloriented Teaching and Taxonomies). Dafolo Forlag.
Principles & Ideas of Science Education (2010). Edited by Wynne Harlen, Gosport: Ashford Colour Press Ltd
Robinson, M (2013) Trivium 21c Preparing Young People for the Future with Lessons from the Past, Independent Thinking Press