Monthly Archives: November 2014

Improving Student Performance – Interventions

This well overdue blog post is about the hard part of formative assessment – using the information I’d gained about each student to intervene with them in order to improve their performance.

Before I delve into the details of the different strategies I employed, I want to outline a few points with regards to my own opinions on intervention. In no way should an intervention ever be used or thought of as a substitute for quality teaching during the regular school day. And it’s important that pupils and parents never form this opinion (e.g. “it’s ok to take Johnny out of class to go on holiday because there’ll be a revision session later on”). That’s why I’ve always refused to do after school revision sessions close to the exams, which only promotes an exam/test ‘cramming’ culture and not one of hard work over time (i.e. a growth mindset).  That said, interventions can be a powerful tool, as long as they are used throughout the year, and not just near exams. I also believe that it’s up to every individual teacher to intervene with their classes on a regular basis in order to help students to improve their knowledge and understanding, and to become more reflective about their learning. This year my department has introduced the idea of dedicating one lesson every two weeks to do just that, and so far it’s very positive.

Ok, so onto the intervention strategies. I tried 6:

1. Starters on different topics – while I was teaching the next unit, I used starters based on the topics that most of the class had performed badly in. However it was hard to keep them to 10-15 minutes, and some took over the entire lesson (such as when I tried to go over standard index form in 10 minutes!). I think my mistake was to try to teach a concept in this time instead of practice one, and so this approach was probably best for ‘amber’ concepts, where most students had some understanding of the topic.

2. Homeworks on topics – generally involving using BBC Bitesize and online videos (e.g. my-gcsescience.com). I had some success with this, but it was a battle getting students to complete it (I had to call a lot of parents). So this was quite time-intensive.

3. Some 1-2-1 after school sessions for a couple of students with low confidence in the subject. This was very successful, but again time-intensive.

4. I’d recently bought ‘Talk-Less Teaching’ and used ‘Teach me, tell me (and then tell me more!)’ on p156. This strategy involves students questioning each other using cards with two different questions on them – one knowledge-based, the other application-based. I got the students to write the questions for a random topic (picked out of a ‘hat’). They did ok in writing their own questions, although some needed quite a lot of support. However the students really enjoyed questioning and explaining the answers to each other.

Since then I’ve found that this is also a Kagan structure (Quiz-Quiz-Trade), and for Science teachers there are questions cards already prepared on Daria Kohls excellent blog (listed as ‘Quiz, Quiz, Trade’ cards – these have one question per card and not 2 as in ‘Talk-Less Teaching’).

5. Multiple choice quiz for the whole topic – I used the questions from the BBC Bitesize website for the topic along with a few of my own. After completing it, students collected a mark scheme to mark it, and then filled in an analysis sheet to record their mistakes and the reasons for them (e.g. ‘didn’t understand the question’, ‘didn’t know the science’, etc). Following this they then created a revision sheet for what they needed to revise.

What surprised me about this was how the students responded – they were completely focused for the whole lesson and really seemed to enjoy it. I think this may be because (a) what they were doing was completely personalised to them, and (b) they received instant feedback to the test by marking it themselves, and then used that to determine their next step (so in a sense gamified). Hopefully this also motivated them to use the revision sheet they created at home to revise for the second test.

6. For the second test, I told the students that instead of them getting their results individually, I would publish them colour coded and in rank order on my classroom door window, so the whole class, and everybody else that passed by, could see them.  This visibly got the attention of most of the students! Hopefully it gave them a little extra incentive to revise for the test. That said, I only did this because they are a higher ability group and want to do well. I’d think very carefully about using it with a lower ability class where there may be a certain amount of kudos in underperforming.

Out of all the strategies, I’ll definitely be using the ‘quiz-trade’ card activity (#4) as well as my multiple choice test and mark activity (#5). I’ll also continue to use the starters to revisit old topics (#1), but only those that students have some understanding of and require more practice.

This post is by no means comprehensive in its review of intervention/revision strategies. What do you do? What have you found particularly successful (or not!). Leave a comment below.