Challenge

This is another version of a post you can find on the main Full On Learning site where it includes full explanation of how it came about. The reason I’ve included it here is that it also fits brilliantly well with the Marginal Learning Gains approach. Remember, the concept behind the MLG approach is that by making one apparently small change in your practice in a focused, deliberate way, the ‘gains’ you get from employing just one approach can be seen in many related areas.

The ‘More Than 1’ approach might be something you want to try as a part of a focused and deliberate Marginal Learning Gain to increase a different sort of challenge in your lessons.

So, if you want to focus very deliberately on creating a culture of high challenge and expectation in your lessons, you might want  to try one of the ideas included in the ‘More Than 1’ VideoScribe below. The key to ‘More Than 1’ is to set it up from the beginning of a lesson or a unit of work and make it clear to your students that their work will be seen by an audience. By doing this, you will immediately introduce a high level of challenge. You can then invite your students to agree and commit to the quality criteria for their work. This can then be used to drive and sustain their progress during the unit.

The More Than 1 approach also works if you are considering how to prepare your students for linear exams, where there is inevitably, like it not, an element of ‘performance’.

So, once you’ve watched this VideoScribe, go through the Marginal Learning Gains process:

IDENTIFY what you already do to offer different forms of challenge to your students

ANALYSE this by assessing its impact and reflecting on how you might integrate consistently high level of challenge in your lessons

DEVELOP one of the 9 ideas included in the scribe and see if you could tweak, adapt or adopt it to increase the presence and level of challenge to communicate high expectations in your lessons.

Offering challenge to students comes in many forms. It can include the use of creative thinking starters, open questioning, higher order thinking activities, less scaffolding, complex texts or concepts, independent work and un-stuck strategies, the application of acquired knowledge in a new context…the list goes on. This post attempts to take one of the most powerful elements of every real project-based learning and looks at how one particular aspect of these, the opportunity for public critique, explained brilliantly by  Ron Berger’s in “Ethic of Excellence” and his now very famous ‘Austin’s Butterfly’ video example, might be integrated into a regular part of lesson design. The marginal learning gain involves taking the principle of creating an audience of more than 1 and identifying just one strategy that might provide the necessary level of challenge from the outset of any given piece of work.

Often, the greatest challenge any of us face is the challenge of experiencing an unfamiliar audience. The way in which we create unfamiliar elements in lessons is down to the way in which the lesson is designed. What is unfamiliar and, therefore, challenging, to one student, may be very different from unfamiliar learning to another. For some students the challenge might be found in suddenly being required to answer a series of higher order questions rather than just answering the first one. For another, being required to undertake a piece of quiet reading for a significant period of time might provide the greatest challenge in the day or week.

The ‘More Than 1’ approach to challenge ties in very closely with the MLG concerned with EXPECTATIONS. To make the most of this approach and ensure it generates the highest level of challenge, the lesson must be deliberately designed with the audience-element in mind from the outset. This must be communicated to the group and used as a reminder of what quality looks like and what the expectations for the end-product are.

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