“Brain Based Learning” and“Highly Effective Feedback and Assessment Strategies” By Glen Pearsall (translated by Sun and Belinda)
Three parts of the brain …The Neocortex is logical, sophisticated, thinking and reasoning.The Limbic System deals with memory and emotion.The Reptilian Complex is the instinctive part of the brain wherefight or flight decisions are made.To learn we need to move students from thinking in theNeocortex to the Limbic System because it helps students tolearn when they have a strong emotional connection.
So … How do we move studentsthinking from one part of the brain to another ?
The role of the teacher …To be a facilitator who creates opportunities,learning experiences and activities that willevoke an emotional response.Give students with time to think and time toreflect upon their answer or “to link and tothink”.On average …• Teachers wait 3-5 seconds for a response.• 7 students answer 90% of the questions.
Questioning … We need to ask good questions that …provoke higher level thinking eg open questionsand inverted questions (giving them the answerbut asking them if they agree and why, eg rather than asking “John, is 7 a prime number ?”, ask “John, 7 is a prime number, can you tell me why ?
Survey STUDENTSAs simple as …Reflection Time (discussions).No more complicated than …Reflection Sheet1. What was the most significant lesson of the week ?2. What lesson did you enjoy ?3. What do you think we will do next week ?
Survey YOURSELF1. What do students know ?2. What do they understand ?3. Where do they make errors ?4. Where do they have misconceptions ?5. When are they not engaged ? Knowing these answers enables us to provide opportunities and activities that improve the learning experience for students.
So … What are those opportunities, learningexperiences and activities ?
Competition …Buzz Handy for times tables, prime numbers, etc.9 letter Like from the newspaper but a wordWord from the topic being covered W T F A A E L L R
Cheat sheetsAsk students to write on ½ an A4 sheet all the notes theythink they would need in preparation for an assessmenttask.All sheets are then displayed and students can walkaround the room, reading each others’ sheets.They then make a choice about which cheat sheet theythink is the best and put a sticky note onto it. By making achoice it is tapping into the emotional part of their brain.Glen then photocopies the top 4 student choices (onto 1A4 sheet back to back) so all students have great notes tostudy from. Interestingly, they have already done the hardwork as they have created their own sheet.
Line debateProvide students with a topic (for example,Democracy is the best form of government).One side is affirmative, the other is negative.Students all need to come up with an argument fortheir side of the debate. They speak in turns, and iftheir argument is acceptable to you, they get tochoose a team member from the other team to jointheir side.Students make an emotional attachment to theirside, and then have to change sides, and rethinkthings.
WordleProvide students with a Wordle taken from an articleabout a new topic you are introducing.Ask students to work in small groups to determine whatthe new unit is about, and then ask them to justify theirdecisions.Great for helping the less inclined student to tune in.You can give them the article on the back, and then moveto discussing it.Students can make a Wordle of their oral presentations,and distribute it (helps tune some students in)
Up and DownAsk students true/false or yes/no questions, and ask them to showtheir response with thumbs up or down or by standing up and sittingdown.For example, when discussing nouns, give them examples. Thenchallenge them with words like sit, which could be a noun or a verb.Ask students to explain their responses.To make lots of these, ask students to take a piece of paper and writeone truth and one falsehoodabout a topic. Read them to the group inturn, and see if they can differentiate.(note: the teacher must read them – do not aska student, as sometimes what is written not accurate).
ExactoAsk students to record a 13 or 21 word summaryof what they have learned. This makes themchoose their words and refine their ideas.Students can also write lists of concepts fromwhat they have learned, for example, a list ofinventions. It is great to then ask them to cuttheir ideas into strips of paper and organisethem in order of importance ie the most to leastimportant inventions, or into time order.
Mini bookletsTake two A4 pieces of paper and fold them inhalf, stapling in a spine.Illustrate a book with what students see as thekey things students need to know from the unit.Great for choices and for clarification of ideas.Great for the most important quotes from abook, or lines from a poem or scenes from aplay.Remember that each page should be illustrated.
“Cold calling”Do not be afraid to “cold call” students. They should getused to being wrong.If a students does not know an answer, ask two studentswho do know, then ask the original students to choosewhich answer they think was best. Choices again !!OR ask the original student to rephrase the answerOR ask them to provide an example.Do not allow “glossing” when studentsgive half an answer and teachers ‘dress it up’or accept it.
Race to the BellTo fill small time spaces before the bell (6-7minutes first time, but it gets quicker)Students ask a question to the class on a giventopic. For example Colonial Australia (they mustknow the answer too). If the question isanswered correctly, both students sit down. Thegoal is to have the whole class sitting before thebell goes.
Proofing Guarantee SheetStudents assess their own work on a set of criteria.Glen Pearsall uses …• Shown all my working out• Put the answer in its simplest form• Answered all questions asked• Checked calculations for simple errors• Presented work clearlyAt the end, he has a section where students sign …“I have read my work and hereby testify that it meets theabove criteria”It can then be checked by another student and co-signed.
I used to think …Have students complete sentence strips with thetemplate being … “I used to think _____________ but now I know_______________”
Fist to FiveAn assessment of approximated confidence with a given topicby raising their fingers (or fist).0 = I have not mastered it at all1 = I can sort of do it but need practice2 = I can sort of do it3 = I can do it in familiar situations4 = I can do it in any situation5 = I could show others how to do itTeachers (or students) can outline what each “finger” means.Students are signalling the extent of their learning.Other variations are “Traffic Lights” and “Face ExpressionCards”.
The Worst Response in the WorldGreat for when students just will not do whatyou are asking them to do (like check spelling).Ask students to do the worst job possible. Thismakes them evaluate what the best thing is (sothey can do the opposite).The difference between playing naughts andcrosses to WIN, and playing it to LOSE. Creates ashift from reactive response to mindfulresponse.
KW(H) L ChartWhat I Know What I Want to How will I find it What I have know out ? Learned
We should assess …Every lesson not at the end of each unit or term.Assessment must be Fast, Formative and Frequent.But how can we do that ?Many of the activities already mentioned are great for assessment … but we also need to be mindful of …
Ambush CriteriaWe should make sure students know ourlearning intention and criteria for successBEFORE the lesson.Give example to draw a … Is it fair ? How do we get around this ?
Step Ladder RubricProvide students with a partly filled in rubric andask them to define the blanks. This requiresthem to actually read and comprehend thecriteria. It helps avoid the student who leavesout an entire section.For example … High Medium Low Not submitted
Rewrite criteria …Students rewrite given criteria as questions …For example, “Correct spelling” becomes “Did I use correct spelling ?”
How can we tell where the gaps are ?One of the most challenging things is getting students toindicate their misconceptions. We can’t ask “What are yourmisconceptions ?” because if they knew what they were, theywouldn’t be misconceptions.There are three feedback strategies that help studentsrecognise and address their misconceptions.1. Show them exemplary work = seeing excellence.2. Have an interim submission date (this is where you assess Hattie and Timperley’s Four Levels of Feedback – A to C. At the end assess D.3. Ask them to define what an excellent answer should have.
Other ways to work out misconceptions …• Sequence Strips (already covered)• Speed Sequence Game (give students three minutes to rewrite the steps of a process for an audience of peers (students from a year level below are great). Students can then compare their lists of steps with the person next to them and give a further one minute to revise their list before submitting.• Exact Summary (similar to “Exacto” but where students have to summarise the key learning/idea from a topic that has been studied in a certain number of words (21 works best).
Great references• “Thinking Fast and Slow” by Charles Kahneman• “Classroom Dynamics”• “Inside the Black Box” by Dylan Williams and Paul Black• Dr Judy Willis’ webinar “Working Memory”• “The Power of Feedback” Hattie and Timperlay• Classroom Dynamics on tln.org.au