Improving teaching – focusing development

Case study visits to schools that work successfully to improve the progress of disadvantaged white British boys indicate the barriers the pupils are likely to face.

It was not so much that these schools taught in different ways, more that they engaged in key aspects of teaching with precision and attention to detail.

Active learning

There was extensive use of groups and collaborative learning. Teachers were active in directing tasks and most teacher talk was informal and focused at individual and group level. Skilled questioning challenged pupils to extend, synthesise and develop their responses.

Peer teaching is known to be highly effective as a teaching strategy and some group tasks involved peer teaching where pupils taught and shared their responses and checked these against criteria for assessment. More generally, children were given many opportunities for thinking and discussion with each other.

Pace and accountability

Task setting using groups to develop team leadership skills and, in particular, strategies to ensure that every pupil contributed to development and feedback of ideas were particularly effective. Learning was challenging, fast paced and accountable.

Learning technologies

In some lessons, teachers made innovative use of educational technologies to engage pupils using, for example, a digital camera to record and share group notes or YouTube examples to enrich responses.

Explicit attention to the language of thinking and study skills

There were several examples of teachers paying explicit attention to the language of learning particularly where they recognised that pupils may not have encountered key terms often enough to be clear about their meaning.

  • One primary school included explicit explanation of key vocabulary with links to previous usage.
  • One secondary school provided an annual revision conference and support materials for each year group to develop the skills and practice that underpin success. Other schools provided out of term revision sessions before public examinations and expected all pupils to attend these.

You can find the full case studies below: