Active Learning on

An Introduction to the Active Learning DVD Extracts on YouTube

The DVD was filmed in 2005. Copies were given free of charge to PGCE tutors and other organizations and also sold to individual schools. We’ve now made the individual units available on YouTube.

But please don't just leap into watching the activities – please read the following introduction, context, points and questions first.

See the activities on YouTube [ HERE ]

Introduction and Context

The purpose of the films is to show the sequence of movement in each activity, how the pupils can be prompted to think through their answers and, above all, how structured and how controlled the activities are - all the features that, otherwise, you have to visualise if you’re reading a text description.

Your first reaction may well be –‘these aren’t real students in a real school’! Unfortunately ‘real’ filing wasn’t practically possible. Ideally I’d have filmed real 11 and 14 year olds but the logistics made this impossible to organize – re-takes are inevitable because of sound problems etc and would have made fitting into a school schedule impossible. In addition, costs dictated filming in two sessions, not spread over a very expensive half a dozen sessions – so this was the best I could manage in budget.

However, as I said above, the aim is to focus on the choreography of the movement and question types – which doesn’t change whatever the age of the students. The students in the films were trainee primary teachers, a few of whom I’d taught two or three years previously but the majority I didn’t know at all and they definitely wondered what they’d got themselves into! This lack of knowledge of the students and their awareness of the filming, mobile microphone etc accounts for at least some of the wooden-ness of their responses. With hindsight I’d have filmed and cut it all somewhat differently but that’s inevitable with any project.

Nearly ten years later I’m also very aware of what else I might have done, what other activities I could have filmed but it wouldn’t be life if I’d got it all right and ideal first time!

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Six activities are shown 'in action' – favourites, washing lines and A-Level:

What Happened in 1066

How to develop understanding of events and sources

Je Suis le Roi, events after 1066

Rebellions: why they happened and why they failed

Change & Continuity after 1066

A washing-line activity making a concept concrete and creating a structure for extended writing

Dissolution of the Monasteries

Focus on the people and the community not the derelict buildings

Big Ideas in Medical History

A timeline activity creating a big picture very simply

Wars of the Roses, at A Level

This activity discusses and demonstrates how Active Learning can be used at A-Level to encourage students to become more independent in their reading of complex issues

Interspersed amongst the demonstrations are interviews with 5 experienced teachers who add practical advice and discuss the benefits and impact of active learning in their classrooms.

The full playing time of all the extracts is 2 hours but they can be viewed individually.

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The Main Points to Consider

Now for the main points to consider while watching the film extracts:

1. What are the main objectives of the activity and what does physical movement or representation contribute to achieving those objectives?

2. What do you need to plan ahead in terms of room arrangements, props and resources, choice of students for roles and planning your own movements and questions as teacher?

3. What would you amend or improve in order to achieve the objectives more effectively?

4. Were any opportunities missed to achieve other objectives and outcomes?

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Questions for Each Activity

And now for some questions specific to each activity.

1066 - Could it have happened differently?

How would you keep the students acting as chroniclers more engaged and involved – e.g. ask them questions as you go along? structured worksheets? [ See the activity ]

Je Suis le Roi

How important is it to give students (especially in the north) time to build homes and arrange their farm animals in the north – to give William’s destruction more impact?

When might you refer back to this activity later in KS3? Which post-2008 themes does it link to? [ See the activity ]

Norman Conquest – Change & Continuity ‘Washing Line’

How else could you use this approach in your course?

What variations could you try with other age-groups?

How important is physical representation of structuring writing e.g. paragraphs and essays? [ See the activity ]

Dissolution of the Monasteries

One piece of feedback points out that only one student is engaged at any one moment (see Feedback section of activity) and suggests an alternative way round this problem. Would this suggestion be of benefit? How else might you increase overall involvement?

Why would this activity or something similar make a good way in to studying Henry VIII and the Reformation? [ See the activity ]

Medicine Timeline

What other variations on this kind of timeline activity could you use?

How often and how speedily would you do this activity? [ See the activity ]

A level Activity

What are the problems and advantages of using this kind of activity with Advanced level students?

How convinced are you by the arguments in favour of active learning at this level?

How effective were the ways you were taught at Advanced level? How much should you pay attention to your own experiences as a student when teaching A level yourself? [ See the activity ]


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Wider Applications

Feedback shows that the uses of the DVD are wider than I ever imagined - departmental CPD and mentoring of trainees were anticipated but others weren't - with the DVD being shown at parents' evenings to show how teaching styles have changed - at whole-school training to show what the history department does well.

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Constructive feedback is always welcome, particularly anything that will help other teachers.

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Finally… Thanks, Nick

Finally – a big thank you to Nick Dennis for not only cajoling me into agreeing to put this material on YouTube but also for actually doing the work in transferring the DVD material to YouTube.

This Page

Introduction & Context


Main Points to Consider

Questions about Activities

Wider Applications