Skip to main content

Teaching and Learning

At Woodchester Endowed Primary School, we believe that Teaching and Learning is at the core of our business.   We strive to ensure that the quality of teaching is at the highest level as our children deserve nothing less.

Teaching and Learning is ongoing focus and remains at the heart of school improvement.  The impact of outstanding Teaching and Learning is evident in the achievement of children, their behaviour and reflects the effectiveness of Leadership.  The impact on children, we believe, goes beyond the school and influences their achievements and quality of later life. 

Teaching and Learning, at Woodchester, is designed to Make Memories for LIFE.  Our pedagogical approach aims to be a key way in which we strive towards our vision, by supporting each element held there within:

Learning: Learning is at the heart of everything we do.  We aim to make children independent and active learners.   Teaching should facilitate opportunities for children to make progress not only with curriculum content but also with the features of effective learning.  As learners ourselves, approaches to Teaching and Learning must be fluid and responsive to factors that can improve the learning process for children.

Inspiration: We believe that Teaching and Learning should be inspirational, in order to have an impact on our pupils both now and in the future.  Flow (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi ) is part of our 4 features of Outstanding Teaching and Learning.  It allows us to focus on how we engender high levels of engagement and enjoyment; in other words, how we inspire our children in their learning.

Faith: Learners must have Faith in themselves and in each other.  The research of Carol Dweck in Growth Mindset, provides an underlying principle which guides our Teaching and Learning.  We believe in learning as being a journey and have high expectations for all learners, whereby success is expected of all and achieved through application and resilience.

Everybody: We are all part of the learning process at Woodchester Endowed Primary School.  Children, peers, teachers, staff and parents all have a role in learning, providing feedback and ensuring improvements are made.  As leaders, we look globally to finding the most effective pedagogies and incorporate them within our practice.

This is regularly being updated, to reflect how we are improving our approaches to Teaching and Learning.  We encourage teachers to constantly develop their practice, as we believe the quality of teaching and learning is something that can always be developed and refined.  The latest research is used to inform our practice, feeding into staff development and CPD.  Therefore, this policy is revisited each year, to ensure it reflects improvements and innovations.

The 4 areas of Outstanding Teaching and Learning

The approach to Teaching and Learning takes the work of Burns and Griffiths as its starting point.  It clarifies 4 distinct areas of Outstanding Teaching and Learning.  These are:

  • Challenge
  • Feedback
  • Independent Learning
  • Flow

Through these four areas, we create principles by which we approach Teaching and Learning.  Challenge, Feedback, Independent Learning and Flow are identified as being both necessary and sufficient when developing Outstanding Teaching and Learning.  They create a common language by which we can explore and discuss pedagogical approaches and their effectiveness.

By identifying these distinct areas, we aim to increase our accuracy in identifying strengths and areas for development.  In this regard, staff development is focused on a specific area and feedback following evaluations of teaching relate to each of these areas.  This affords teachers and the school a clear understanding of the area that they need to focus on to develop and where there are strengths to disseminate.

The following was developed alongside staff, as principles to be followed in delivering effective teaching.

Challenge

All children’s learning should provide challenge appropriate to the individual, to ensure all learners make progress.  The level of learning should be precisely differentiated to meet the needs of all learners.  Challenge is inextricably linked to Feedback, as it is through effective feedback that the level of challenge can be matched accurately to the needs of children.   All aspects of Challenge are designed to be fluid and are therefore often adjusted within, as well as after the lesson, to ensure progress is rapid and sustained.

Differentiation through outcome

Learners are provided with a goal in their learning, with consistently high expectations for all.  This ensures that they know how to be successful in their learning.  This is achieved through a Learning Objective and a Success Criteria.  The Learning Objective helps children to understand where their current learning fits into a “big picture” and is non-contextual.  This is accompanied by a tiered Success Criteria.  This is differentiated to provide the specific next steps in learning for groups of children within the class.  The Success Criteria should be aligned to the attainment of the children, providing the next step based on formative assessment.  Success Criteria is tiered through using SOLO taxonomy. It is presented in a way that is understood by the learners that it relates to, verbally, visually, in text form or all three.
In addition, children are provided with a specific target in Writing.  This is personal to the learner and aimed at a significant next step and is known and understood by the child.  Teachers design the targets to be transportable and therefore transferable to writing in other subject areas.

Differentiation through Resources or Task

The level of challenge is matched to children through the addition, or indeed removal of resources.  The resources should be designed to support the understanding of the Success Criteria.  Learners, at particular times, will benefit from “hands on” practical equipment to enable concrete understanding of new concepts.  Word banks, key vocabulary, writing frames, high quality examples etc. are used to aid the learning process. Prompts, as part of a rich learning environment, should be on display and accessible to learners.
Often, a different task is used for different groups of learners.  In this way, the task is designed to be matched precisely to the Success Criteria. This may then be further accompanied by learning resources. 

Differentiation through Support

The level of support provided is a further way to ensure the level of challenge is precisely matched to the needs of the learner.  This may come in the form of teacher, LSW or peer support.  When support is provided, the level of challenge is also raised i.e. through the teaching of new concepts.  At all times, support is provided in the setting of Quality First Teaching but, when appropriate, groups or individuals may be withdrawn for specific tasks.  The timing of support is always designed to increase independence and may be a very short conversation as part of the teacher’s global role. 

Differentiation through Pace

The pace of the learning process is a further way to ensure challenge is appropriate to all learners.   At times pace is speeded up, to accelerate learning.  This is particularly the case when children are able to access and understand their next steps regarding their depth of understanding independently.  In contrast there are occasions when the learning must be undertaken in a step by step manner, such as in highly detailed or complex learning outcomes.

Differentiation through Questioning

The use of targeted questions ensures that learners’ understanding is constantly being checked and stretched.  A range of open and closed questions are matched with the pupils they are addressed.  Through the use of assessment criteria, SOLO taxonomy and higher level thinking skills, questions are designed to ensure the level of challenge is matched to the needs of the pupil.

Depth of Learning

Challenge does not mean moving through the curriculum in a linear manner.  Whilst a tiered Success Criteria is used to give steps to individual children, the overall learning objective for children is the same.  When children are at a point to “move on” in their learning, teachers are responsive to this, be it within or at the end of a lesson.  However, this readjustment in the level of challenge is provided by deepening and broadening children’s understanding.  Application, differing contexts and explanation are all used in order to increase children’s depth of learning before any vertical strides through curriculum content are made.

At Woodchester, we use SOLO taxonomy as a research rich basis for how we plan, deliver and assess deep learning.  It is applicable through all aspects of the curriculum and so, by its nature, supports a cohesive approach to Teaching and Learning.  The stage that a child is working at dictates to the teacher task design, the pitch of questioning as well as targeting specific skills of learning for that individual.  The structure of SOLO is as follows:

Pre-structural - at this stage children are unable to access knowledge, skills and understanding at their Age Related Expectation.  When children are at this stage, they will have objectives from previous year groups personalised to them .

Uni-structural - at this stage pupils are able to pick up a single skill or piece of knowledge.  This single piece of understanding will be explored in a range of contexts to support understanding within a range of contexts.  Uni-structural learning is the basis of all subsequent learning through their combinations and relations.  When children remain at this stage, they will have a sharp forgetting curve whereby previous learning is lost quickly and must be retaught even after a short gap.

Multi-structural - at this stage pupils are able to pick up a number of uni-structural concepts.  They are simply added to each other, with no connections being made between them.  For pupils to move onto this stage, they must have a regular forgetting curve and so can retain previous uni-structural learning. 

Relational - at this stage children are entering deep learning.  They are able to make links between the uni-structural concepts that they have learnt and retained.  This enables the application of understanding in a range of contexts and tasks that involve relational links to be made within the subject area.

Extended Abstract - at this stage the children are embedded in deep learning.  They are able to make relational links within the subject in question but also to other subjects.  Drawing on their understanding of a range of concepts in different subject areas, they are able to apply skills to answer broad investigations.  Learning is related to real life contexts and children select what to apply.  

No child sits within any one stage.  They encounter them all over a sequence of learning, so as to encourage progression within the depth of their understanding.  Over time children will start at the pre-structural, with no knowledge of a new concept.  The secure acquisition of a uni-structural concept provides the foundation for further learning, as they learn a new skill.  These skills will then be combined to form multi-structural learning.  These will then be applied within a context and combined to build relational links.  Ultimately, this learning will then be stretched to being applied to extended abstract tasks. 

However, each stage does not “wait” for a time period before it is exposed to the children.  Even at the earliest stages of uni-structural concept learning, children who are ready to be stretched will be given tasks and questions that require relational and even extended abstract thinking.

Feedback

Effective Feedback is consistently being referenced in research as having a positive impact on learning.  It involves the setting of specific goals, articulating how successful the current learning is in achieving the goal as well as clearly defining the next steps.  Feedback is inextricable linked to Challenge, as it informs the level of challenge each learner needs and when it needs to be adjusted.

Feed Up

Feed Up involves providing a clear and specific goal in the learning.  Pupils know what they have to do to be successful in their current learning.  This involves knowing where their current learning fits into the bigger picture of the learning journey, through the non-contextual learning objective and having an understanding of the purpose and relevance of their learning.  Feed Up also involves them understanding their specific goal in their current learning, through the use of a tiered Success Criteria.  To support this, excellent examples of what they are learning should be provided, as should clear modelling.  For example, children should be provided with a high quality example of a portrait, in art, as well as being shown the precise skill of shading, to show light (for that ability group).  This should result in pupils knowing what their finished outcomes should be aiming for, as well as them being able to know specific skills to reach it.

Feed Back

Feed Back involves pupils receiving information as to how successful their current learning is in meeting their goal, for example their step in the tiered Success Criteria.  Effective Feed Back needs to be systematic, so that the level of understanding of all children is checked, so as to ensure the Level of Challenge is correct.   Feedback can be verbal, or written.  It needs to be precise and specific to current learning (which is understood through the Feed Up process.

Feed Forward

Feed Forward is the process of articulating to the pupil what needs to be done in future to improve their learning.  It can be seen as closing the loop between Feed Back and Feed Up and it is responsive to the outcomes of the learners in the process of learning, therefore it should be present both within as well as at the end of lessons.  It involves providing a next step, or an even better if comment.  Feed Forward comments must have a clear impact on subsequent learning, to be deemed to be effective.  The feed Forward comments will often involve the reshaping of the Success Criteria that the child is working on, through assessment criteria or Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Pupil to Teacher Feedback

This is the process of the child providing the teacher with feedback as to their current level of understanding, often against the Success Criteria.  It is often ascertained through questioning, looking at outcomes or simply observing.  This is a “spot check” and results in the teacher evaluating the level of challenge given to the child.

Teacher to Pupil Feedback

This is where the teacher provides the pupil with feedback following pupil to teacher feedback.  The teacher clarifies current successes in their learning as well as feeding forward the next steps to improve their current learning, or their next step in the learning journey.

Peer and Self-Directed Feedback

Peer feedback is the process of peers providing a range of feedback to each other.  To be effective, this needs to be precise and based upon the goal of their current learning.  Pupils need to be trained in this process as a metacognition activity.  The ultimate goal of feedback is to ensure that it is an ongoing internalised process that is supported and trained by teachers and peers.


 

Independent Learning

Our interpretation of Independent Learning is very closely associated with Active Learning. Learners should have full ownership of their learning experience and should not be passive recipients of a knowledge transfer, rather they should be helped to become effective learners in their own right.  In the exponential times of the digital age in which we live, new understanding is being reached at an unprecedented pace.  Our children need to be equipped with the knowledge, skills and habits in order to thrive in the future world in which they will live and work.  Through our pedagogy, children will be supported in making progress in both curriculum content and the habits of effective learners.

Active Learning

We believe that children should be active in the learning process.  Whilst direct instruction (or learning by teaching) is, at times, the most appropriate way for children to learn, children are always encouraged to take responsibility for their learning and not be passive.  Wherever possible, we encourage learners to be actively doing, within their learning.  Our pedagogy supports children in giving them their learning goals (through the Success Criteria and Learning Objective) and involving them fully as part of the feedback approaches throughout their learning.  Approaches based on Vygotsky’s research into the role of language on learning, such as the use of talk partners to ensure that questioning involves all members of the class, as well as talk for learning are an integral part of classroom practice.

Meta-Cognition

Understanding how to learn is a highly significant aspect of learning, as shown by Guy Claxton and John Hattie.  At Woodchester we believe that ensuring progress in the characteristics of effective learning should not end at the end of Early Years.  We aim to ensure that learning is visible within the class - not only the content of learning but also the learning skills that are being used at that time.  These are highlighted as being transferable across subjects and also to the wider world.  Responsibility for times when children are “stuck” in their learning, lies with the child themselves, in the first instance.

The Learning Environment

An effective learning environment needs to do more than highlight outcomes of learning.  It needs to support the learning process.  The classroom resources and displays are designed to be used by the children to support their independent learning.  The use of learning walls, displays of high quality examples, learning menus, target resources, feedback on previous learning and further resources are there to be an interactive element of learning, where children are free to use these in support of their current learning.  Prompts, in the form of visual displays around the class, such as “banned words” are as import ant as any other aspect of feedback and are most effective when they are clearly visible to all.

Assessment
At Woodchester, we aim to make children fully aware of their goals and this means that they must be aware of assessment criteria.  This means that new approaches to assessment are child-centred.  At age appropriate levels, key assessment criteria are made aware to the children, such as through the use of targets as well as assessment sheets.  Self and peer assessment is built into our approaches to teaching and learning, both at the end of a piece of work as well as at the midpoint.   Through this, we look to support critical thinkers, who are able to reflect on their outcomes in order to edit and improve as part of an ongoing process.

 

Flow

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined the phrase Flow in his work “Flow: the Psychology of Optimal Experience”.  It is defined as being the state of being completely immersed in what an individual is doing or learning.  This is achieved through the finely tuned balance between challenge and enjoyment.  Through the provision of challenging, yet fun activities , the motivation of pupils should be triggered to the highest degree.

Motivational Triggers

In order to fully engage the learners, lessons must be designed to capture the imagination and excitement of the children.  Teaching at Woodchester is designed to use motivational triggers in ensuring the “magic moments” in teaching are not happened upon by chance.  The ten triggers are: choice, competence, challenge, curiosity, fun, fantasy, feedback, relevance, relationship and thrill.  Through using these and matching them to the personalities of children, groups and classes, we aim to ensure high levels of engagement.  Teachers aim to include at least one motivational trigger at all times to promote a sense of Flow.

Attitudes to learning

Children’s attitudes to learning must be high.  Children’s full engagement in learning is the consequence of achieving a state of Flow in lessons.  This is not as simple as just ensuring consistent approaches to behaviour.  This must be accompanied by lessons that offer the correct level of challenge, independent learning and fun.  In simple terms, the better the quality of the lesson, the better the attitudes to learning.

Learning Environments

What are the most significant learning memories that our children will take with them from school? Do they all take place within the classroom?  Our Vision says that we want to make memories for LIFE, which means that we need to be highly aware of the ways in which learning is made most significantly and most powerfully to our learners.  Outdoor Learning is a crucial component of this.  At Woodchester, we aim to ensure that learning does not always take place within the classroom but in a range of situations that are best suited to that particular learning.  Learning outdoors brings a sense of vitality, relevance and enjoyment to learning.

Personal Learning

Learning is designed to be personal to children.  The curriculum aims to provide a learning experience that is enjoyed by the particular children involved and is made relevant to them.  This is made possible by teachers ensuring that they know the interests, needs, strengths and next steps of the children in their class.  This is then planned into the curriculum planner and also informs pedagogical approaches of staff to suit their class.

Curriculum

More than with any other key principle of Teaching and Learning, the quality of the curriculum has an enormous influence on Flow.  The curriculum needs to be both purposeful and relevant to the children.  This is then developed and magnified during individual lessons.  The Curriculum for LIFE, goes hand in hand with our Teaching and Learning for LIFE approach.  Through this approach to the curriculum, we aim to provide a broad and balanced experience that has a clear purpose.  Individual lessons should follow suit.  A stand alone “extract of learning” approach is discouraged.  Lessons should be designed to make clear where the current learning sits within the wider learning journey.  Outstanding teaching and learning must be complemented with an outstanding curriculum