Time to Reflect

‘Memory is the residue of thought’

capture-reflectWe all know that a teacher’s favourite month is August…for obvious reasons!  That said though, there’s something strangely satisfying about September.  It’s a time to reflect on the year that has just gone and think about what went well and what you want to focus on over the coming year.

With this in mind, reflect on these three questions, from Robert Coe, Durham University:

  1. How long do students spend in each of your lessons thinking hard?
  2. Do you really want students to be ‘stuck’ in your lessons?
  3. If your students knew the right answer but didn’t know why, how many of them would care?

These are brilliant questions that require honest reflection from all teachers.  In the words of Daniel Willingham, ‘memory is the residue of thought’ but in reality, how often do we really require our students to think hard?

There is no easy way of doing this.  To do it effectively, you need to

  • Know your students
  • Know how far you can challenge them
  • Get them used to being ‘stuck’ and accepting that this is OK, resisting the temptation to jump in and rescue them too soon.

capture-think-hardBefore the lesson, consider some ‘think hard’ questions that you can pose to the students, to challenge their thinking.  The third question, adds an extra dimension to the idea of ‘challenge’ – getting students to think about their thinking.

We then looked at nine things that Dylan Wiliam claims, every teacher should know about:

  1. Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care
  2. Learning is a change in long term memory
  3. Memory is the residue of thought
  4. Learning requires forgetting
  5. If you don’t know where you’re going, you might wind up someplace else
  6. The answers of confident students is a bad guide to what the rest of the class is thinking
  7. The only thing that matters with feedback is what students do with it.
  8. Effective group work requires individual accountability
  9. Students have deep insights into their own learning

This list is a great summary of the huge amount of educational research that is out there and provides teachers with much to think about.  Some of the key takeaways from this list:

  • Take the time to build strong relationships with your students – show them you are passionate about your subject and their learning.
  • Learning takes time – it doesn’t happen in a lesson.  It happens when students have to think hard and keep coming back to things – having to retrieve things from their memory, supports learning.  So, a recap at the start of every lesson, really works.
  • Use hinge questions to check if all students are understanding the key points – not just the brightest students
  • If you are taking the time to give students feedback, make sure that they do something with the feedback.
  • Think carefully about group work

Student 1 – Does 99% of the work

Student 2 – Has no idea what’s going on the whole time

Student 3 – Says he’s going to help but he’s not

Student 4 – Disappears at the very beginning and doesn’t show up again till the very end

We think that our six principles, when implemented effectively, support many of these points


What we want our teachers to do is to consider these reflective points and then use them to plan how they will implement the 6 principles in their own classroom.

Time to reflect –ClassTeaching

For pdf version click here

About tlateam

This blog is managed by the TLA team at New College Durham to support staff in improving teaching, learning and assessment. The purpose of the blog is to find and share the good practice that exists within our own college and elsewhere.
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