Reflections on Active Learning
Every activity on the site now contains a section called ‘Reflections’. The purpose of this is to suggest, cajole or bully young teachers into thinking through the effectiveness and value of activities. The activities aren’t meant to be ‘one-offs’ or simply entertainment on a flat Thursday afternoon and un-related to the rest of the course. They’re mean to be integral to the course and demanding as well as enjoyable. Therefore it’s worth spending a little time reviewing how an activity went and how you might get more out of it, maybe as part of a departmental meeting.
As a guide to structuring such discussions here’s a thematic summary of the types of questions included in the Reflections sections. I’m not suggesting you discuss the whole of this list, just use it as a menu and adapt your chosen questions to your needs.
a) How effectively did you use space and movement?
b) Did you make the right choices about which students played which parts?
c) Did you learn anything about individual students that would have been harder to learn from more standard activities?
d) What’s the best way of students’ recording or consolidating what they have learned?
e) Are there any ways of streamlining or simplifying the activity?
f) Did you need to explain to A level students that you were using a different style of activity? If so, how did they respond to your explanation?
g) Was this the right time of day or week to use this activity? was its effectiveness affected by students’ previous lesson?
2. Styles of Activity
a) How often have you used this kind of activity (e.g. living graph, role-play) before with this class? Did this affect its effectiveness?
b) Does the frequency of use of a type of activity affect effectiveness and, if so, what impact will this have on your overall course planning?
c) When else in your course can you use this activity (e.g. Mystery-style)?
3. Enjoyment and Motivation
a) Did students enjoy the nature of the activity and what impact did this have on their learning?
b) What was the impact of the activity on motivation to read and effectiveness of reading? [especially A level]
c) Did this have an impact on the quality of discussion among students? If so, how and why and what can be learned from this?
d) Did you enjoy the activity yourself? If so, why – or why not?
e) What are the advantages and problems of using this style of activity with A level students?
4. What did they learn? (concepts and knowledge)
Note – these questions contain examples and can be adapted to fit any type of activity.
a) What was the impact of this activity on students’ later work on World War Two? Did it improve their confidence and overall understanding?
b) What was the impact of this activity on understanding of changes and continuities within the period and students’ abilities to make comparisons?
c) What impact has this activity made on chronological understanding? Roughly how often will you repeat this kind of activity during the course?
d) How did tackling this topic through this physical activity affect students’ learning?
Was this simply about initial interest or was the resulting knowledge and understanding really deeper? e.g. Did they have a better-developed sense of the possibilities for different interpretations?
e) What has this told you about how much students have retained and what they have retained and are there any lessons to be learned from this?
f) What impact did the activity have on specific misunderstandings that happen year after year?
5. Building coherence across KS3 and other courses
a) When and how will you refer back to this session later in your course? Will this reference back be more effective because of the use of active learning (e.g. hot-seating)?
b) How important is this kind of activity for putting the normal KS3 content into context? How long should you spend on this?
c) How else do you or could you help students to see their KS3 course as a whole course, not a sequence of separate bits of the past?
d) What impact does this activity have on your planning back across KS3? Does it, for example, identify gaps in the range of individuals studied?
e) What have they learned about the Romans other than what a soldier carried and wore? Can you link this into broader questions about the Roman empire, such as why they won and were able to keep their empire?
f) What did students learn about power and kingship as well as about the specifics of King John’s reign?
6. Cross-curricular and general
a) What have students discovered about how to learn more effectively?
b) How does this activity or approach mesh with students’ experiences across the curriculum?
c) Were you able to bring out transferable skills e.g. hypothesising, planning the process of the investigation, working as a team?
d) Is there any difference between the styles of teaching you use at A level and those with younger students?