Resources, ideas and prompts for discussion related to Challenge and Engagement
Making challenge the status quo?
Often we can unwittingly stumble into the trap of planning a challenging lesson, or challenging activities for a lesson, both of which are probably a misunderstanding in considering the impact challenge can really have. ‘One offs’ probably won’t cut it if we want to reach those heady heights we aspire to for our learners! Much like top class sports people and athletes have a considered, challenging, long term training and preparation plan to improve their performance over time (complete with precise feedback), they don’t succeed because they really went for it on a given day. Lessons are our equivalent, those building blocks along the way to our mid or long term goals. It doesn’t matter if plans need to be adjusted or even torn up on the way so long as the destination remains the same; in essence this encompasses teaching and learning and the assessment, feedback and planning that goes with it.
Suggestions for implementation
- Simply saying to a learner “you really should aim to get an A*” probably isn’t going to help them much. It has the ‘long game’ in mind but give concrete examples of what that looks like or what behaviours and actions are needed to get there (see Promoting Excellence in the Classroom).
- Keep looking ahead and referring forward in your messages; when a class master a skill or grasp key knowledge state exactly how that ‘thing’ can and will help to achieve the longer term aim. In Science for example “Brilliant, you know the steps of cloning well, you could use this to answer the 6 mark essay style questions” or in English, “Now that you are all able to vary sentence structures to create tension, you can apply this skill to your opening paragraph of your Gothic horror piece”. This links the surface and deep learning too.
- Find opportunities to regularly get learners to reflect on their performance and recognise where they need to ‘up their game’. It could be through asking simple questions like Do you think this work is as good as you can produce? Does it match your goals? If not, what needs improving? If we note, as the expert in the room, that the student themselves are setting expectations of themselves too low then we intervene. This can be done as a logged task too following more formal assessments or mocks but provide guidance on ‘how to reflect’ and refer back to whatever students said as the course progress (hold them to account on their word).
Associated further reading and references:
- ‘Chapter 1: Challenge’, in Allison, S. and Tharby, A., 2017. Making Every Lesson Count. Carmarthen: Crown House.