A group work activity on development indicators

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Mar 082014

It’s been a number of years since I was indoctrinated by Professor Hans Rosling to no longer refer to LEDCs and MEDCs when referring to the development status of a country. Here’s why…

The AQA GCSE syllabus A requires that students are familiar with the correlation and analysis of development indicators and of course the Gapminder website is a crucial teaching aid. Students have to be mindful of the dangers of using a single statistical measure of development and aware that countries have different development priorities and  perceptions of quality of life. I devised the following activity as a group work task to sum up this aspect of the syllabus.

Five groups were established and the activity introduced via the first slide of the presentation embedded below. (Needs to be downloaded from Slideshare to work as intended)

Each individual was given a table of 2012 development statistics and a commentary. The examples were carefully chosen to represent nations with very different development priorities. Each group was tasked with creating a rank order of the countries based on the statistics, the commentary and their own opinions.

Once the initial task was complete, the groups passed their rankings clockwise around the room, spending a couple of minutes perusing and commenting on each others thoughts. Once the circuit had been completed, each group had to construct a final ranking, taking into account the all the information and their newly acquired understanding of development priorities.

As part of ensuring that everyone was fully involved, certain students were randomly selected to describe and justify their final rank order. Much debate took place, though there was 100% agreement in terms of the top and bottom placed countries. Conveniently, since they all chose Norway as the most developed nation, I was able to introduce the Human Development Index data for 2013 which confirms their finding and illustrates the usefulness of this measure of development.

This is a nice little activity which requires very little planning and develops really interesting interaction between group members. Groups become accountable to each other and nobody can opt out of the final task. Originally it was intended as an “expert groups” activity and the passing on of their work was actually suggested by the students themselves. To my mind it fits nicely with Dylan William’s assertion that group goals and individual accountability can double the speed of learning.

Code-based marking

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Oct 172013

I mumbled through a presentation on marking at the inaugural Taunton Teachmeet last night, still somewhat shell-shocked from a day of HMI. Here’s the presentation I used. I forgot to mention that one of the main justifications for this approach to marking (which I’ve been trialing for a while) is that it avoids the issue of students focusing exclusively on grades, rather than my carefully crafted, formative comments. I also neglected to say that students have their own assessment record sheet on which they record their grade and the main target for improvement. For what it’s worth the strategy seemed to sit well with an inspector-type recently. As noted in the credits, the whole marking strategy is a synthesis of ideas from a number of other people, particularly Alex Quigley, Tom Sherrington and Joe Kirby, and quite possibly David Didau.

Finally, congratulations to Bob Ayres at Bishop Foxes for hosting an excellent event.


Oct 052013

The new term has brought with it a workload of such epic proportions that I’ve just completed 21 full working days without any kind of break. My AST role has finally vanished, so it’s back to the rigours of a full teaching timetable, spiced up with five brand new subjects that I haven’t taught before. Hopefully this excuse adequately covers the lack of updates on the blog.

I’ve just finished teaching a short series of lessons on plate tectonics to year 9. We started by looking at the impact of tectonics on human history using the Deep Earth resource I wrote about last year. I used the 2004 SE Asia tsunami to illustrate short and long term aid (I save the Japan tsunami for GCSE) and finished with the classic Montserrat activity. I wanted to devise a differentiated  assessment that would recap and reinforce knowledge as well as allowing the students to show what they’ve learned. I came up with a simple concept map that is easy to modify for any topic. Students are given a list of key words from the topic, an A3 sheet and instructions to find and describe as many links as possible. There is a selection of bonus words to stretch the most able and a mark scheme. It’s super simple and brings nothing new at all to the world of assessment.

17/10/13 Update: I’ve discovered the hexagon generator from Pam Hook which may well offer a better way to analyse links between keywords.

Using Digimap in coursework projects

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May 052013

Digimap for Schools is a subscription service for OS maps. The service represents exceptional value for money and works seamlessly in all current browsers as well as iPad. With a range of very user friendly annotation and measuring tools and simple printing options, Digimap is far more than just a map viewer. It also comes with some excellent free teaching ideas by Alan Parkinson.

Here’s a short guide for students on how to make the most of Digimap in coursework projects.

New from Gapminder…

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Mar 232013

Want a sneak preview of what my all time geography hero and the Gapminder team have been up to recently? Follow this link and have a look at some exemplar teaching materials being developed to help students understand global development. The resources will be free of charge.

gapminder school

The team stress that this is a work in progress and that they really appreciate feedback. Please help them out!

Closing the Development Gap in expert groups

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Mar 232013

I’ve become a very enthusiastic exponent of “expert groups” recently, thanks to David Didau. Following some interest on Twitter, I’ve extended an idea for encouraging critical thinking on how the development gap between rich and poor countries can be reduced.

The downloadable presentation below, starts with my class organized into home groups. They  move into expert groups to think about the factors they have been allocated,  (following the colour code) The method allows for some subtle differentiation as some ideas are easier than others, and the groups have been carefully created to reflect this.

Returning to home groups, students are given a blank version of the graph to complete (on the final slide)  before sharing their ideas with the whole class and hopefully reaching a consensus.

Reflection on what I’m learning from John Hattie’s Visible Learning for Teachers suggests I need to make some of the learning in my class more difficult. I think this is quite a challenging activity?