Some members of the working groups found that trying only one or two of the suggested activities was helpful or feasible, whilst others were able to incorporate changes on a larger scale. One History department redesigned a term-long unit of work to foreground reading and writing as the means for developing subject knowledge:
Sheet One shows the initial structure of the unit of work - quite typical, according to the teacher. In each of the early weeks new content is provided by the teacher. By week 5 the content has been covered and the class reviews it before in week 6 and 7 moving on to drafting the coursework essay - the hand-in date for which is much later in the year.
In Sheet Two, the pattern and the allocation of roles is different. The teacher spends the first 2 weeks giving a broad overview of the content, after which students work in groups to explore themes and to share their findings with the class. Short writing and reading tasks take place throughout. In week 4 the class returns to the bigger picture drawing together the themes they have researched. In week 6 and 7 they get down to intensive writing in-class using a writing retreat approach.
Before we took part in this project it was almost like writing in class was almost seen as a misuse of time. Because you know, you're thinking, 'Oh, one and a half hours, you should be delivering, and the students should be working, you should be doing group work, the students should be discussing ideas, not writing'. But of course they're not examined by discussion, or group work, they're examined by writing.
And also it's the skill that they need. This is where it develops their thinking skills, because peace and quiet, and writing, is... you say, 'Well let's do this for fifteen minutes, make a start with that essay', you know, you get the grumbles and groans, and then they gradually get into it, and silence prevails. And they are interested in what they've written, and they're really focusing on the subject.
You could see them taking more time to think it through; to kind of really like learning techniques for how you kind of write plans before you start putting your essay together, and how you start writing and communicating your ideas, bit by bit, and then kind of piecing them together into a whole. So I guess kind of the gradual progress over time is in the fact that they're more confident independent learners, and they're able to demonstrate those skills on their own.
They were achieving like above their target grades, the majority of the class, which is something that they hadn't done in previous years.
What was the impact of this change? Go to next page for some impressions.