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Learning and Teaching at Freemen's

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To make a difference, we expect all our staff to deliver high quality, stimulating and dynamic lessons, where all students are supported and challenged to make good progress in their learning. Staff at Freemen’s do this by having a passion for their subject, making it interesting and lively and, very importantly, build positive relationships with their students.

Learning and Teaching is central to our work as educators and it stems from the school’s aims, ethos and vision. Learning at Freemen’s is exciting, full of opportunities for independence, achievement and enjoyment. We have a strong focus on ensuring every student under our care receives the best educational experiences possible, which not only leads to fantastic results, but that students leave with the skills that will allow them to succeed in the dynamic modern world.

What makes great teaching?

“Great teaching is defined as that which leads to improved student progress” (Coe, Aloisi, Higgins, Major, 2014). We want all our teaching staff to have deep knowledge of the subjects they teach, which enables them to be aware of how students may interpret new information, so they can address common misconceptions. Strong subject knowledge must be coupled with excellent quality of instruction, through effective use of questioning and feedback as a formative method of identifying student progress. Teachers must set high expectations, promote challenge and constantly demand more from the students, valuing effort, resilience and grit. The classroom environment that is created by our teachers is a crucial element to student engagement in the learning process and at Freemen’s, this environment should be collaborative, putting the student at the heart of every lesson (Sutton Trust, 2014).

In order to deliver excellent learning and teaching experiences, we follow the Freemen’s 6. We have agreed six principles that should feature in every classroom, irrespective of the subject, age or ability range. For teaching staff and school leaders, it is a reminder of what should be happening every lesson, every day to ensure that our students get the very best classroom experience. We believe that when the six principles are implemented, students at Freemen's learn well, have high aspirations of what they can achieve and in doing so develop into confident and resilient learners. This is what our six classroom principles combined with staff expertise aims to do; however, these must be contextualised to different curriculum areas.

  • Challenge – the driving force of teaching, so that students have high expectations of what they can achieve. Only by giving our students work that makes them struggle can teachers have the highest possible expectations of their capacity to learn This will move students beyond what they already know and can do.
  • Questioning – so the students are made to think hard with breadth, depth and accuracy. Questioning is a master art which has a range of purposes: ultimately, we know that students learn when they are thinking.
  • Feedback – so that students further develop their knowledge. Students need to know where they are going and how they are going to get there. Without feedback, practice becomes little more than ‘task completion’. We give students feedback to guide them on the right path, and we need to receive feedback from students to modify our future practice.
  •  High expectations - the most reliable driver of high student achievement. Even in students who do not have a history of successful achievement, high expectations have been proven to make a considerable difference to learning in the classroom
  • Creativity – take a risk and try something new. We want teachers to feel safe doing so, try out new strategies and then share and discuss these new approaches openly with others.
  • Student-led learning – keep pupils at the heart of the lesson. Lessons should provide students with the confidence and tools to tackle problems with less dependence on the teacher, through explanation, modelling, feedback, discussion and practice.

Embedding formative assessment into the classroom

Formative assessment is a process, it “encompasses all those activities undertaken by teachers, and/or by their students, which provide information to be used as feedback to modify the teaching and learning activities in which they are engaged” (Black and Wiliam, 1998). The bridge between teaching and learning is assessment, without assessment we cannot decide what we teach or what the students have learnt.

In order for formative assessment to be used effectively at Freemen’s, the evidence of learning should be used to adjust instruction, adapting to the learners needs. In order for this to take place five key strategies of formative assessment can be used (Leahy, Lyon, Thompson, & Wiliam, 2005)

  • Clarifying, sharing and understanding learning intentions – it helps to be clear about where students are going, what counts as good work and what the overall success of the task looks like. There are no rules here, it is up to the teacher to use their professional judgement to decide what is appropriate.
  • Eliciting evidence of Learning – simply find out what students know, whether that be at the start of the lesson or during it. The lesson should be equally as engaging for all students using a range of teaching approaches and careful planning.
  • Provide feedback that moves learning forward – Feedback should cause the student to think, creating desirable difficulties. It should be focused and linked to the learning intention, making students the owners of their own learning.
  • Activating learners as instructional resources for one another – harness the power of collaborative learning, allowing students to learn more by teaching each other or through peer assessment
  • Activating Learners as owners of their own learning – only learners can create learning, through their awareness of metacognition, self-regulation or motivation. This takes time, but the better the learner becomes at learning, the more learning will take place and the easier the classroom environment becomes

(Embedded formative assessment, Wiliam, 2018)