The Big Four – the key to improving teaching

big four may 2014

Feedback – Since Wiliam and Black’s Inside the Black Box was published, assessment for learning has been high on school agendas.  Feedback consistently is ranked as having high impact on student progress, but only when it is done well.  This module focusses on developing the KASH of both teachers and learners so that feedback has maximum impact on learning.  Both teachers and learners need to have clarity about the learning ‘gaps’ that exist between the current position and what success looks like. They also need to know how to close these gaps.  Without this knowledge, learners remain dependent and can ultimately become de-motivated.  High quality feedback also relies upon both the teacher and all learners having a growth mindset, craving feedback and using it to adapt what they do next.  Strategies are shared about how to train learners to give and receive high quality feedback so that they look at their own work and others in the same way an expert assessor would.  Finally, this module examines the routines and habits in lessons to reflect on whether sufficient time is devoted to reflecting on and acting on feedback and how to train learners to do this.

Autonomy – We often borrow Steven Covey’s maxim of “starting with the end in mind”.  This ‘end’ is to build the autonomy of the class so that you’d love to inherit them next September!  This will involve building the knowledge, attitudes, skills and habits (KASH) of learners so that they can be more independent of their teachers.  Utlimately our aim as teachers is to make ourselves redundant.  Redundant because learners have the right KASH to thrive in the next step in their education, be it secondary school, university or the world of work.  In our work we see autonomy as applying to the class as well as the individual.  We therefore see autonomy as interdependence rather than a paradigm of an education system which builds isolated intellectuals with little emotional intelligence.

Challenge – Asking questions lies at the very heart of learning. Quite literally everything in science, human understanding and knowledge began with a question.  Questions prompt learners to think more deeply about key concepts.  Yet questioning within lessons often fails to yield these outcomes.  This module examines the questioning process and practical ways to increase the quality and quantity of questions asked by both learners and teachers.  Furthermore, it explores frameworks to create higher levels of challenge in lessons.  The higher level of challenge that provides richer opportunities for questioning and for generating the proof, or otherwise, that learners have closed gaps. In particular, it provides the teacher with more valuable feedback on where learners are getting stuck or are struggling – feedback that can help the teacher to quickly reshape the lesson to address the problem areas.  Finally challenge is crucial to learner engagement and, because learners are thinking more deeply about what they are being taught, to their ability to remember new learning.

Engagement – Without engagement, teaching and learning is futile.  Some believe that with the technological age in which we live it is becoming more difficult to get learners to engage with learning and concentrate for long periods of time. Yet there are motivational triggers that can be used to engage learners.  This module offers a plethora of practical tools and techniques to increase the levels of engagement in the classroom so getting learners into a state of “FLOW”.  A state where they are absorbed in their learning.  All this can mean more active learning and enjoyment for learners and greater job satisfaction for teachers.



1 J. Hattie, Distinguishing Expert Teachers from Novice and Experienced Teachers. Teachers Make a Difference:
What is the Research Evidence? University of Auckland, Australian Council for Educational Research,
October 2003. Available at (accessed 12
June 2012).

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