Archive for the ‘AoMG’ Category

First applied several years ago by Dave Brailsford, the ‘Aggregation of Marginal Gains’ (AoMG) is the theory that has allowed Team GB to dominate the Olympic cycling, and helped Bradley Wiggins’ Team Sky to the Tour de France title. Put simply, the approach demands the relentless pursuit of small (seemingly insignificant) improvements in order to enhance overall performance.

Crucially, the theory’s effectiveness is not restricted to the sporting sphere – the world of education can also implement it to make great strides.

Of course, this is not news to most of us: PLPs, ‘2 stars and a wish’ and comment-only feedback are, in many ways, predicated on the assumption that encouraging pupils to focus on small, individual improvements can significantly enhance their overall performance. My recent experiences suggest, however, that there is value in explicitly explaining AoMG to pupils as a means of encouraging them to approach their education in manageable, bite-sized chunks.

My current Intermediate 2 class entered S5 fresh from attaining some of the worst S4 results my school has seen in years. Consequently, they were not particularly confident in their abilities (something not helped by the fact that Standard Grade really does not prepare them for the structure and expectations of an Intermediate course). The majority of them are capable of doing very well, but the gap between where they were and where they wanted to go seemed huge and unbridgeable. Consequently, they had become too focussed on overall improvement in their work (specifically critical essays) and were therefore making the same small mistakes over and over again. Time, then, for a new approach.

A couple of months ago I spent around 15 minutes explaining the background to AoMG and making clear how I believed it could help them – focus on one small thing every time you undertake an essay task, successfully achieve a series of marginal improvements, then connect them all together to improve your performance as a whole. The feedback sheet my class use has always encouraged this (breaking the critical essay down into lots of small requirements rather than one all-important grade) but I had never really stopped to explain in depth how the process should work.

So, what happened? For the most part, a little bit of improvement.

The class were set the initial single target of improving their ability to explain the technique and effect being employed, with less attention being paid to linkage, reference to the question or personal response (not that those things no longer mattered, they just weren’t the focus on this particular occasion). The end result was extremely encouraging – the pupils were able to demonstrate the analysis skills that they had already proven they possess during class discussion and annotation exercises. To my surprise, I did not see a significant fall in the quality of other aspects of the essays either, proving that the focus on one aspect of the task would not necessarily lead to a decline in the quality of the rest of it. Over the course of last term we continued this process, picking up on specific areas of essay writing and challenging the pupils to focus on making marginal improvements.

So where are they now? Well I’ll find out soon as they sit their prelim examinations in three weeks. For the two weeks leading up to the exam we will revisit the whole arch of AoMG improvements achieved so far this year, taking them through each development in their abilities to show them that they have all the skills needed to succeed in a subject that they understandably find very challenging.

Of course I’m hoping to see a set of impressive prelim results but even if they don’t quite hit their individual targets, enough momentum has been built up so far to convince them that we are on the right road.