Exploring what matters

Welcome to the IRIS Connect blog space where you can join conversations and discover free resources, tips and summaries. We hope you find something useful for your professional development and learning.

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TeacherTales: Improve literacy by bringing meaning to words

Guest blog by IRIS Connect user, Israr Shah - Science teacher and Assistant Head with responsibility for Literacy at Co-op Academy Grange, inner city Bradford.

One of the greatest challenges we face as educators is closing the literacy gap. A gap which has worryingly widened over lockdown. At my current school over 60% of students started secondary education below their chronological reading age which means they are unable to access the KS3 curriculum. 

If children leave school unable to read, write and communicate effectively they will face future challenges in learning, earning and effectively supporting their children’s education if they become parents. One analysis of UN data has claimed that over 50% of all children who turn 10 this year will be unable to read a simple sentence.

It is my hope that this blog will share ideas and experiences so that we can learn from each other and more importantly develop ideas that work for our students so that they become word rich and confident in recognising and using words in all contexts.

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TeacherTales: Building educational resilience in pupils

Posted by Guest blogger Dr Maria Jagiello on 16 April, 2021

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again...

I have been interested in understanding and building resilience in educational aspects of teaching/learning for a long time, however nowadays it seems like a very current and almost trendy topic. Especially in the light of recent changes caused by the pandemic; resilience has become a necessity. 

When I reflect on my own educational history and adult life experiences I have always been determined to prove my abilities. As far as I remember, whenever I faced any obstacles, challenges or someone doubted or dared me, I felt the fire and ignition to prove them wrong, thinking ‘you better watch me now’. A big part of this attitude was shaped by my upbringing, educators and idols to ‘seize the moment’ and always try to do my best, to carry on and not give up. This manifested in my personality and became a valuable life skill. Not only does it help me in achieving goals but it sets a good example for my students too.  

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Closing the gap: How to improve your assessment & feedback skills

Posted by Alexandra Spalding on 4 December, 2020

Formative assessment, along with effective feedback, is one of the most impactful parts of teaching and when done well, it can foster significant improvement. 

What is formative assessment?

Formative assessment is any learning activity which reveals information to teachers and learners which can be used to improve learning. This is distinct from summative assessment, the intent of which is to provide terminal grading. Formative assessment allows teachers to understand where a learner is currently 'at', so that the teacher can a) adapt future instruction to better meet learning needs b) consider differentiating their support, and c) enable effective feedback to and between learners.

 

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Dialogic teaching & classroom talk: How to improve dialogue and oracy

Posted by Alexandra Spalding on 27 November, 2020

“Dialogic teaching harnesses the power of talk to stimulate and extend pupils’ thinking and advance their learning and understanding.” - Prof. Robin Alexander

Is great dialogue taking place in your classroom and across your school?

It’s well worth taking the time to reflect on this given the robust evidence that dialogic teaching (more broadly known as classroom talk) is key to improving formative assessment of pupils.

Research shows that there is a direct relationship between dialogic teaching and improved individual and collective academic outcomes. A report recently published by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) shows that spending more class time on meaningful dialogue that encourages pupils to reason, discuss, speculate, argue and explain, rather than simply give the expected answers can boost primary pupils’ maths, science and English results.

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Questioning in the classroom: How to improve your skills

Posted by Rico Patzer on 5 October, 2020

Teachers use hundreds of questions every day so it's important to use them with purpose and know which questioning techniques have the biggest effect in which situation. From a pedagogical point of view questions serve two crucial roles:

  1. To check for understanding i.e. to identify misconceptions and provide corrective feedback.
  2. To invite dialogue, that is, to help students develop a better understanding of themselves and their progress, share their deeper thinking and to make deeper connections within the content.

Some teachers consider these two purposes to be at odds with one another; they are not. The trick is to strike the right balance between the two and to use them strategically and at the right time within the learning process. The outcome of a good question, whatever its purpose, is that it encourages thinking.

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3 steps to great instructions: How to avoid cognitive overload

Posted by Alexandra Spalding on 30 September, 2020

First things first, what is cognitive load theory? Cognitive load theory describes how the human mind processes new information. The more we have to process at once, the harder it becomes to complete a task effectively. When dealing with new information, the brain can process anywhere from three to seven elements at once. This becomes even harder if those elements are interactive.

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