Setting the Standards

Resources, ideas and prompts for discussion related to Modelling

Knowing where they are going

If students are not aiming for a high standard, and indeed don’t know what this looks like, then they are unlikely to achieve it. They need to know this in advance. This method from ‘Teaching Walkthrus’ is all about doing just that; setting the standard with quality exemplars before work is completed:

  1. Make expressing “What does excellence look like?” an embedded routine: As part of instruction make it a standard part of your practice to discuss the nature of excellence in relation to whatever it is that is being set (for example a quick reminder of the features of excellent writing, of excellent compositions, of excellent practical work, of excellent performance pieces, and so on). Make it so routine that if you forgot a student would ask “sir/miss, how do we make this excellent?”!
  2. Deconstruct exemplars: Present excellent exemplars (see Promoting Excellence in the Classroom) but engage students in a process of evaluating what is good about them, what makes them successful? Exemplars could take the form of pieces of writing, art work, exercise book notes set out effectively, maths solutions done efficiently, performances in Drama or PE live or recorded etc.
  3. Co-construct the success criteria: Make a list of the features that make the exemplars successful as you go along through discussion, as mentioned before, these two things combined go on to become the success criteria moving forward and the students could have been involved in this process.
  4. Make reference to contrasting exemplars: A useful approach is to position high quality exemplars alongside those of varying quality. Explore and discuss the differences, can they identify what it is that makes one better? Often the qualities of a piece of work only becomes most evident when it is compared side by side to something else (the power and strength of comparative judgement).
  5. Blending teacher and self-assessment: When the work is complete, provide and base your feedback on the exemplars as a comparison. You are then modelling an approach that students can use themselves as you are asking “is yours as good as the excellent example? if yes, in what ways? if not, why not? what could be improved?”. This helps build capacity for self-improvement. It also works really well in practical subjects where the outcome is a product; the ‘finished’ physical piece could be compared to an excellent example or demo piece and students can then plan for how it could be improved (aiding their evaluation skills).

Do models and exemplars have to be made by a teacher?

Realistic role-models have a key impact in influencing someone’s personal belief about their self-efficacy and whether they can achieve a task. At times a peer exemplar or model can be a more realistic exemplar than one created by a teacher expert that student views as someone who “knows the subject easily”. Students find it quite easy to relate to someone of similar age and social group. Some of the ways you could get students to find inspiration through the success of their peers are discussed in Chapter 3 of ‘Making Every Lesson Count’:

  • If you have an excellent exemplar from a past student, keep it and use it! Use the same approaches of deconstructing and evaluating it for success criteria but emphasise that it was created by someone who started from the exact same point as the people sat in the room.
  • Pause lessons to read out and exhibit great examples of work from the class. You and the students can then collaborate in discussion as to why it was read out to highlight the successful features.
  • An alternative to the previous point is show work on screen using a document camera or visualiser if you have access to one and follow the same processes.
  • Once students seem comfortable with a piece of writing or work based on modelled success criteria, and if the relationships and culture in the class allow, you could permit a number of them a chance to ‘magpie learning’; going around the room to find you the best examples.
  • Consider the use of Walls/Halls of Fame as discussed in the Challenge section.
  • Celebrate exemplar learning behaviour too, rather than the end product of the work you could highlight and emphasise attitudes, planning and approaches to problem solving that a student has shown in a lesson in order to create their outcome.
  • Keep copies of draft stages of work if the task involves making improvements to writing, particularly for learners whom you know lack self-belief and confidence. Then use each stage of their draft to show them their progress and display them side by side so they can see the comparative improvement and that the can and have got better.

Associated further reading and references:

  • Sherrington, T., and Caviglioli, O., 2020. TEACHING WALKTHRUS. [S.l.]: JOHN CATT EDUCATIONAL LTD.
  • ‘Chapter 3: Modelling’, in Allison, S. and Tharby, A., 2017. Making Every Lesson Count. Carmarthen: Crown House.