Think Learning 4

SRC Learning and Teaching Newsletter

Making Progress

The newsletter seeks to promote discussion on learning and teaching issues and provide quick reference material for colleagues on the sharing and transfer of good practice.

This issue puts the spotlight on assessment for learning – one of the most effective ways of boosting learner achievement. It focuses on what happens in the classroom. It focuses on the learner. It informs the learner on whether there are gaps between what he or she knows and what the teacher expected them to have understood.

There are some interesting ideas on Edward De Bono’s Thinking Hats, which are a good way to think about challenge and stretch.

Graded observations of learning, assessment and progression

The second cycle of graded observations commences week beginning 18/11/13 – 20/12/13. You will be advised at least one week in advance of the week in which you will be observed.

What is Assessment for Learning

‘You assume students remember what was covered in

the last class, so you begin today from where you left off.

When a student stops you in the middle of class and asks

you to define a term from the last class that you’ve been

using casually throughout the lecture, you hesitate. Was

this student absent, or has the class missed a key term?

How will you know for sure?’

Assessment for learning, as opposed to merely of learning, looks forward as well as back. It is designed to give teachers information to modify and differentiate teaching and learning activities. It acknowledges that individual students learn in idiosyncratic ways, but it also recognizes that there are predictable patterns and pathways that many students follow.

When students are active, engaged, and critical assessors, they make sense of information, relate it to prior knowledge, and use it for new learning.

When learning is the goal, teachers and students collaborate and use on-going assessment and pertinent feedback to move learning forward. When classroom assessment is frequent and varied, teachers can learn a great deal about their students. They can gain an understanding of students’ existing beliefs and knowledge, and can identify incomplete understandings, false beliefs, and naïve interpretations of concepts that may influence or distort learning. Teachers can observe and probe students’ thinking over time, and can identify links between prior knowledge and new learning.

Three elements to AfL:

1. gathering information from learners about what they know and can do

2. clarifying the success criteria so learners are clear about what they are being judged against

3. using formative feedback to let learners know how well they have done and what they need to do to improve


  • Create the right conditions for learning
  • Carry out on-going checks on learning
  • Use praise
  • Use verbal and peer feedback
  • Put the onus on the student to explain their vision
  • Exercise flexibility to evidence knowledge
  • Use post it notes
  • Share success criteria
  • Share learning objectives
  • Peer assessment
  • Self assessment
  • Experiment more: lollipop sticks, traffic lights, use of music, mini-whiteboards and pens

Ensuring quality

  • accuracy and consistency of observations and interpretations of student learning
  • clear, detailed learning expectations
  • accurate, detailed notes for descriptive feedback to each student

Using the Information

  • provide each student with accurate descriptive feedback to further his or her learning
  • differentiate instruction by continually checking where each student is in relation to the curricular outcomes
  • provide parents or guardians with descriptive feedback about student learning and ideas for support

Six thinking hats adapted as a learning activity – A top tip from Karen Gordon

Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats is a parallel thinking process that is used to help people be more focused and to participate more mindfully.

It is used to separate thinking into six functions and roles. Each thinking role is given a different coloured "thinking hat." By mentally wearing and switching "hats," you are able to refocus your thoughts. This is useful in management, business and problem solving. Examples include the White Hat which asks what information is already known or is needed. The Green Hat looks at creativity; the possibilities and choices available. The Red Hat is about feelings regarding a situation. Of course an actual hat is not worn (perhaps it might look silly in a business meeting). Instead it encourages different perspectives on an issue.

Innovation & Creative Thinking Guru - Edward De Bono

I adapted this to use in a much more basic way in a classroom setting for a level 3 unit in public health. We were looking at public health throughout the 19th and 20th and into this century. It was used to look at contributions of key figures such as John Snow and the Broad Street Pump; Aneurin Bevan and the introduction of the NHS and Octavia Hill and social housing.

In pairs the group were given a hat with a name on. They were asked to research not only the person’s contribution to public health but also their background – did they come from a privileged position or not? The idea was to bring back more than just the basic facts about the individual. It was more unusual for a woman to be in the public eye in those days, so who was Octavia Hill and how did she come to get so involved in the plight of the poor and vulnerable in society? The students then came back and shared and discussed the information for their character.

On the whole it worked well. The positive feedback from the group was that it was fun and that it made them think a little more about the person and how they might have viewed the world around them. There were no negatives expressed but some students did not like to wear the hat, so possibly a sticker would be better. We used pairs, as I wanted them to focus on certain figures for an assignment. It would perhaps have been better done individually - as long as you have enough roles or points of view to make a ‘hat’ for each student.

There is scope to use this activity in a more in depth form for problem solving and ethical dilemma scenarios in the class room. This would help students to consider all sides of a problem or situation.

November Staff Development

Click on the link to see a list of what is coming up in November - sessions on behaviour management, roles and responsibilities of tutors and learning support assistants and questioning strategies. (If you are clicking the link from outside college you will have to log onto the VLE to see the document).

November CPD

SRC Learning and Teaching Facebook Group

Don’t forget the college Facebook site for teaching and learning - it is packed with ideas from colleagues. We can really improve this page with your help ….

Contributions welcome

Please feel welcome to contribute to the development of "Think Learning" by sending your comments to me for inclusion. Contact Madeleine Massey on 5579 or alternatively email her at