Monday, 21 November 2011

Secondary Geography - Demonstrating Progress

Using Continuum lines to Demonstrate Progress
(Note - This post refers to ideas from Geography lessons but could be adapted for many other subjects)

There is always that worry about different ways to demonstrate progress at the end of the lesson. If you are being observed it is obviously a key element. Even when I am not being observed I like to use the plenary to check on my student’s progress. Self-reflection is an important aspect of any lesson – was the lesson a success? Did students enjoy it? Have they achieved the objectives / outcomes? As a Head of Humanities with a large team, I observe lessons frequently and I am frequently surprised at how often teachers fail to show that students have made progress. The rest of lesson may be good but it is important to allow students to clearly understand the progress they have made and also to reflect on their understanding.

One way to this is by using continuum lines at the end of the lesson. Continuum lines allow students to choose a point of view based on what they have learnt during the lesson, reflecting on their learning and it allows me to question them about that choice – allowing me to assess their progress and understanding

Continuum lines work in any lesson that is issue based and work particularly well where there are two points of view. The basic idea is that you write two viewpoints up on a piece of paper and stick each viewpoint either end of the classroom. Students then have to line up where they stand on the imaginary line in terms of their own view based on the evidence / learning from the lesson. This activity takes no more than 5 minutes of lesson time but achieves so much. You just need an unobstructed stretch across a classroom where students can line up. Failing this a corridor also works.

Below are a couple of examples:

Y10 GCSE Tourism (AQA A) – students spent the lesson learning about the impacts of tourism on Antarctica. At the end of the lesson, on one side of the classroom I put “Tourism should be allowed to continue in Antarctica” and on the other “Tourists should not be allowed to visit Antarctica”. Students then lined up according to their viewpoint. It was interesting that there was a real mix of where students stood - with only a very few choosing the extreme ends. I then asked all students to write a justification of their position on a post-it which they stuck on the desk in the rough position they were stood. Students and I then read these post-it notes and discussed some of the viewpoints.

Y12 AS level Population Change (AQA) – Population theorists. I stuck a picture of Malthus at one end of room and a picture of Boserup at the other. Students then lined up according to who they agreed with most. I then asked them to justify their decision. This lesson was observed by my Headteacher and he was really impressed with their responses and the fact that they actually spent a few minutes working out where to stand. Students not only justified their decision by referring to the theories but some also had thought of present day examples.

This idea can easily be extended. In a KS3 lesson on the Haiti Earthquake, where the students were investigating the question “why did so many people die in the Haiti earthquake”, I used the continuum line idea. This time though I had 4 points in the room: Poverty, Buildings collapsing, Population density and Aid taking too long to arrive. I asked them to decide which they thought was the most important factor and stand at that point. It was interesting that some of the most able students stood between two points (despite me telling them to stand at one point) and then justified this by saying that there wasn’t a most important factor because they were linked! I was so pleased that they had determined this point themselves and obviously thought long and hard about where to stand.

This is only one suggestion for demonstrating progress and there are many others but I believe that this activity ticks a lot of boxes for what we want to achieve and best of all it take no time to set up and takes very little time to conduct at the end of the lesson!

Tania Grigg
Head of Humanities & Senior AQA examiner
Clyst Vale Community College

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