Session 2 #educationfest

me at Tom sherrington

The second session I attended was ‘Rigour, agility, awe and joy – the essence of great lessons’ with Tom Sherrington and a packed Spiritual room (note for next year – please don’t put big names in small rooms!)


The session began by stating that teaching should be varied and offer students a variety of experiences (think, pair, share / drilling / co-construction / using students as experts / film / responding to texts using one specific multiple intelligence / peer assessment of previous work as a starter) and that many of these techniques can work in conjunction with each other.  Students should be taught to expect the unexpected!


Tom then identified 10 key qualities of great teaching (which I have summarised below)

1) Probing – good quality questioning.  This is something I want to look into further and develop within my faculty.  Tom spoke about how a significant number of questions used within the classroom are not probing enough.  Questions such as ‘Why do you say that?’  ‘Do you agree?’ ‘Which one is the best answer?’ ‘Can both be right?’ ‘How did you know?’  ‘Why did you think that was the right answer?’ are far more challenging in getting students to discuss and explore their points of view / answers.

2) Rigour – a combination of classroom management, subject expertise, pedagogy and drive.  Tom argues that it is essential that our knowledge and expertise is up to scratch in order to engage and develop our students learning but also that it is necessary for us not to accept work that is mediocre and to be specific about our expectations in getting the best work from our students.

3) Challenge – there needs to be a continual increase in the level of challenge (difficulty was a recurring theme in today’s edfest).

4) Differentiation – The advice was to find the most able and prepare the lesson for them to make sure that we are raising our expectations for the students in our class.  Students’ mindsets should be ready to accept challenge and increasing levels of difficulty within the classroom.

5) Journeys – Tom stated that lessons should be seen as being part of a bigger process.  We should be asking ourselves what is occuring inbetween lessons to ensure the learning journey continues and develops, and that we, as teachers, really need to harness life beyond the classroom.  Homeworks should encourage students to make connections between lessons so that we are equipping students with the tools to study for themselves and develop their own learning.  It is entirely possible to show students expectations of work (without levelling or grading) to enhance what we receive from them.

6) Explaining – there are a wide variety of resources that are already readily available that explain concepts really well.  We need to ask ourselves ‘What do we explain?’ and ‘How do we explain it?’  The clarity of our explanations is essential.

7) Agility

8) Awe – we need to be responsible for creatimg moments of awe within our classrooms

9) Possibilities – modelling – the ability to give students exemplar pieces of work to show them the possibilities of what can be achieved

10) Joy – Tom’s message was clear: If you are not enjoying it, chances are the kids aren’t either.  Plan for your own enjoyment. 


I enjoyed this session and a lot of what was said made sense.  I definitely think we, as a faculty, need to focus on our level of questioning and I am going to start looking further into this area.  However, I am also really interested in the learning journey and, even more so, the use of homeworks to a) give students the opportunities to make connections between our lessons but b) create independent learners who engage with the curriculum on a different, and more personal, level.




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