Challenging Directly

Resources, ideas and prompts for discussion related to Challenge and Engagement

Accounting for personalised challenge

As the introduction to this section outlined, we would like to aim to push learners just out of their comfort zone, to experience healthy struggle. This ‘location’ is going to be slightly different for each individual. Accommodating this is not an easy thing to achieve, and nor is it about a different task or worksheet for everyone. There are however approaches that can make it much more manageable over time.

Directed challenge can be a solution, where you simply move around a room and closely observe what the class are producing. Ask questions as you do this that are geared to move them on or to add to their knowledge so that they can add sophistication to what they are producing. A helpful phrase is “Now try…”. Prerequisites for getting this to work is to make sure you have set a task that gets the class all working and you are clear about what the next steps are (that you will guide some toward through your questions and prompts as you move).

As an example you may have set a written task in Geography where the class are answering a question on the impact of tourism. During your tour of the room you notice that they haven’t support points with evidence or data. You might direct them to some data tables in an open text book and suggest “Now try including some of this new information in your answer”. On a return visit in the lesson you could check whether this has been done and if so extend things again with a question that forces an application of knowledge “Now try to consider how poor weather conditions would impact on your figures”.

In essence this a very direct means of differentiation through simultaneous support, stretch and challenge. But is it manageable and sustainable?

  • Consider using this with a set number of learners each lesson only. This is more realistic and over time the whole class will gain the direct challenge.
  • If you want to have the time to circulate and challenge then make sure there is a task for the class to be getting on with for the time given.
  • Consider, at least to begin with, a handful of “Now try…” prompts for a task alongside your planning, you don’t have to make them up ‘off the cuff’ as you walk around for the sake of it.
August 2019 - Short Book Reviews
1. Get to know students as well as possible, as quickly as possible (know their names, their strengths, their weaknesses). 2. Ensure we tend to our subject knowledge and know what ‘comes next’. 3. Maintain high expectations and standards for all = ensuring we can promote challenge for all.

Associated further reading and references:

  • ‘Chapter 1: Challenge’, in Allison, S. and Tharby, A., 2017. Making Every Lesson Count. Carmarthen: Crown House.

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