Rise Academy - How do we believe our students learn best?
We want pupils to be thinking hard, understanding connections, really knowing and remembering.
We recognise that our students need bespoke and specialist curriculum pathways. However, the principles which we believe about how they learn best, regardless of pathway, are set out below.
‘Success is not a random act. It arises out of a predictable and powerful set of circumstances and opportunities.’ Malcolm Gladwell
We believe that learning needs to be logically sequenced in order to ensure that students are able to ‘build the blocks’ that they need in order to understand and remember increasingly complex concepts.
There are challenges in this due to: the length of time that some students spend with us; the amount that they may have previously fallen behind; the special educational needs of students, to name a few. These factors will have led to dysfluency in the curriculum.
To reconcile this dysfluency, we employ a strand-based curriculum model where we consider student attainment and progress between and within the specific strands of each discipline. This allows us to meet the needs of all students within each subject area by providing a model which encourages both mastery and challenge.
Students will not remember disconnected knowledge so therefore our curriculum is planned within overarching concepts or ‘big ideas’ in each subject area. All knowledge within the curriculum underpins these concepts, to support students’ memory. These concepts or threads form the basis of our 5-year curriculum model, ensuring that increasing depth of understanding in each concept or big idea is planned for. This also clearly outlines prior knowledge that is needed to access learning and can allow bespoke pathways or intervention to be planned accordingly.
Cognitive science and ‘how we learn’ forms the basis for this aspect. It recognises an inevitable truth:
“And here’s how you should think about memory: it’s the residue of thought, meaning that the more you think about something, the more likely it is that you’ll remember it later.” Willingham
We know that our students perform best with routine and consistency, so we employ a consistent lesson framework where relevant and appropriate to the curriculum content.
Good modelling is a key part of successful learning. The I/we/you do cycle should be thought of as: ‘I do the thinking, we do the thinking, you do the thinking…’. Teachers should always model their own thinking out loud to pupils, and use formative assessment (eg Q&A) to expose pupils’ thinking. Teachers are the expert in the room.
This means we have to design lessons, including lesson activities, to focus pupils thinking about the things we want them to think about. It is always helpful to ask ourselves: ‘What are pupils most likely to be thinking about in this lesson/activity/discussion etc…?’ This will help us make decisions about the most appropriate approaches.
This thinking needs to be scaffolded expertly to plan small steps to mastery, ensuring that we consider cognitive load theory and deliberate practice.
We know that reading needs to be prioritised to enable students to have access to the planned curriculum. All staff are aware of the sequential approach in reading development and employ consistent universal strategies within their lessons to develop reading, alongside the specific interventions which take place for some students.
Equally, we know recognise that our students need to develop their spoken language and we view this sequentially as well. We give credit to students being able to express knowledge and opinions in any way. However, we scaffold formal and academic vocabulary and expression to develop thinking and therefore verbal communication.
We can look at the impact of teaching through a vast range of evidence:
• Conversations with students and staff
• Exercise books
• Exam results
• Creating successful adults who have choice in their lives
All of this needs to be considered with one subsequent action in mind: feedback. We ultimately want students, once with us at Rise, to keep up so that they do not have to catch up.
“The most powerful single modification that enhances achievement is feedback.” Hattie
The curriculum intent is in place to ensure that teaching is precise and focused. Assessment is used to measure progress against this curriculum planning. Has the intended learning been understood and remembered? (Both in relation to the strand-model and the planned conceptual content.)
In line with these principles, we believe that formative assessment is one of our most important skills as teachers at Rise. We believe that this assessment needs to be forensic, regular and purposeful, so that the information it reveals is used to plan future teaching to close any knowledge gaps.
Summative assessment allows us to standardise the attainment of students across subjects and sites as well as nationally.