Lessons for the Future

By Alex More

In a weeks time, the ‘Future Classroom’ will open. The project has taken a year to create and is a culmination of my research and thinking around education. I have been experimenting with two models of teaching which I feel have the power to transform the learning experience within the space.

Models of delivery

I refer to the structures as ‘models’. Initially, I wanted to use the term ‘Mode A, Mode B’, but these have been popularised by Tom Sherrington and have a different meaning for educators.

Pre-Learning

I advise pre-learning or flipped learning for both models. If students can access the learning ahead of the lesson, it will improve their knowledge, retention and understanding in the lesson. If you are new to Flipped Learning, I would recommend a quick read of the following blog posts;

https://educationalhipsters.com/2018/04/15/students-the-main-actors-in-the-learning-process/

https://educationalhipsters.com/2017/11/29/from-hip-to-flip/

Model A – 27 Minute ALT

Concept, research and rationale

John Hattie in his seminal Visible Learning (2011) book first wrote about 27 minutes being optimal ALT (Academic Learning Time). The idea intrigued me at the time as I had often wondered if there was a mean average time learners could engage for.

Academic learning time (ALT) is the amount of time students are actively, successfully, and productively engaged in learning relevant academic content. Academic engaged time and student engagement are typically used interchangeably. Each is a broader term that encompasses not only the quantity of time spent on an academic task (i.e., learning time), but also related cognitive and emotional learner-centered variables such as self-motivation, initiative, and self-regulation (Gettinger and Ball 2008)

ALT studies show a variation between 9 minutes (for students who require the most support to learn) to 45 minutes (for the most able learners). This range places the median ALT at 27 minutes.

In 2018, I completed a research thesis on flipped learning. One of the main findings aligned with the 27 minute ALT findings. Students self-regulated their flipped learning time to 26 minutes, very close to the 27 minute ALT model. This intrigued me so I started the experiment with the design in my lessons and found students were more attentive, motivated to learn and liked the two-phrase structure.

How to use the 27 Minute ALT Model

The First 27 Minutes

  • Set a pre-learning (flipped task). I record my own YouTube videos for students to watch and take notes on.
  • Start with a way to engage students with the research they completed at home. I use SOLO taxonomy to assess knowledge and as a form of ‘entry ticket’.
  • Direct Instruction. Teach content/knowledge. Students take notes, record ideas and question their thinking. This tends to be teacher led but uses evidence-based practice to inform (spaced repetition, dual coding, interleaving etc)

Break

  • I allocate this time for students to check notes, stick loose paper into their books, highlight key ideas and respond to any teacher feedback comments. It is like DIRT time and students get a cognitive break before getting back into it.

The Last 27 Minutes

  • Start by testing the main theories/knowledge from the first 27 minutes.
  • The purpose is to embed knowledge into LTM (Long Term Memory), elevate threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge to achieve mastery in the topic.
  • This part of the lesson is active and students create, engage and embed the content in a plethora of ways.
  • Lesson ends with an ‘exit ticket’ and suggested next steps

In the coming months, I plan to record demo lessons using this model. If you would like to sign up to receive a free demo lesson, click on the subscription box on the main menu

Model B – Collaborative Working Teams

This model is the tried and tested collaborative teams approach which places the teacher as ‘the guide on the side’ rather than the ‘sage on the stage’. If you are comfortable with that, read on.

I use SOLO taxonomy (Briggs & Collis, 1982) to set differentiated lesson objectives. Students select their own individual/team starting point, a concept I adapted from Paul Lavis’s model. In terms of mapping individual student progress, it’s the best model ever!

Lessons are about learning. This model works in direct opposition to the traditional classroom set up, and it can get messy! Students will experiment with ideas, fail, find the solutions and grow. To use this model is to subscribe to a mindset, let go a little and become the ‘guide on the side’.

To give the lesson structure and make the learning meaningful, I would advise adhering to 3 golden non negotiables:

  1. Have a clear objective for the lesson. I share this with students via a flipped learning task so they know what the focus of the lesson will be before they arrive. It helps!
  2. Design learning teams, adjust your seating plan/class charts accordingly and allocate clear roles. I have found teams consisting of 4 students to be the most effective but have experienced success with teams as low as 3 and high as 5. You know your students so adjust your team size to suit.
  3. Separate the lesson/s into two clear learning episodes. I would recommend the first 27 mins as discovery time (more on this below), a brief break to reset then presentation time for the last 27 mins.

The Future Classroom has lanyards, colour coded with roles allocated. I have gone for the following team roles as I feel this aligns neatly with industry;

  • Team Leader
  • Assistant Team Leader
  • Scribe
  • Speaker
  • Research Analyst

You can customise the roles to suit. As a guide, I inform students of their responsibility based on their role. For example, the team leader leads the team in relation to the task/lesson objective, whereas the scribe takes notes and the speaker presents the groups ideas to the audience.

To make Model B meaningful limit each team to 5 minutes (or less) presentation time in the last part of the lesson. Limit their research time to the first 27 mins and give them access to technology, content, ideas and a balance of thinking on the topic. This will give a balanced range of presentations.

To read more about creative teams and roles, I would advise reading the brilliant Guerrilla Teaching by Jonathan Lear or check out his blog https://geducation.tumblr.com/archive

To read more about how to align teams with industry, or how to prepare students for future work have a read of the excellent Education With No Limits by Steve & Paula Kenning. Nesta blog: https://www.nesta.org.uk/blog/no-limits-curriculum-for-success-in-the-21st-century-aspirations-academy/

Lastly, why should lessons be restricted to 60 minutes? The beauty of Model B is that you can span it over 2 or 3 lessons and make it more of a project-based approach to learning.

I have created lesson plan formats for both models. To request a copy, subscribe to the blog and we can arrange to email it over.

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