Archive for the ‘IDL’ Category

Last week I had the pleasure of assessing 17 genuinely excellent solo talks from my S1 class – every pupil worked extremely hard and delivered an engaging, confident talk on the topic of ‘My Favourite Place’. At the start of the process we all agreed on appropriate success criteria and, remarkably, every pupil met each specific target. How is it that I managed to achieve a 100% success rate? By being incredibly blunt about the quality of earlier presentations.

In Arran High School we are currently experimenting with an embedded IDL course for first year pupils – since August S1 timetables have featured one period a week dedicated to interdisciplinary, cross-curricular learning delivered by a small team of teachers from several different subjects (you can read more about it here).

A few months ago one of the two classes were studying The Slave Trade, and were tasked with preparing and delivering group presentations on a range of aspects of the topic.  As an English teacher it fell to me to provide feedback on the presentation skills (as opposed to the content) of each group. Put simply, the presentations were terrible – every group simply typed everything they wanted to say into a Powerpoint, projected it on the Promethean board, and then read it out to the class (without even looking at the rest of the class). All of this was made even more frustrating by the fact that explicit instructions had been given throughout the preparation progress to encourage them to avoid such mistakes! I am of course well aware of the prevailing opinion which dictates that feedback should always focus on the positive, but to be honest I think that there are time when anything but complete honest simply doesn’t cut it.

So, I told them the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth:

“Your presentations, to be entirely honest, were awful, and I expect much better from each and every one of you.”

OK, so this approach is admittedly rather full on, and isn’t something I would do with someone else’s class (the pupils in front of my were the same class that come to me for English and we have an excellent relationship); however, this was a problem that I had seen time and again. We increasingly – and correctly – expect our pupils to be extremely accomplished speakers, yet so much of the time we accept a level of mediocrity which would – or at least should – never be tolerated in their writing. I decided to address this problem once and for all (with this group at least) and the blunt feedback was a big part of the process. The next stage involved detailed teaching of the important aspects of good public speaking (including a demonstration from me about my own ‘Favourite Place‘) followed by an extended period of planning and preparation.

And the end result? As I said at the start of this post every single pupil delivered a superb solo talk which met every single one of the agreed success criteria (as well as eight of the Level 3 E&Os). I also heard from a colleague that a couple of the pupils in question had asked prior to a recent presentation in their class whether they had to “do it the easy way, or the Mr McEnaney way?” I am confident that these pupils will never again thing that the sort of presentation they delivered in that IDL class is acceptable in any situation, which is exactly the outcome that I was aiming for.

Of course, I’m not arguing that every piece of feedback that students receive should be blisteringly critical, but sometimes – in the right situation – there is a lot to be gained from simply being blunt with our pupils. Sometimes we need to focus on the positive to drive progress, but there are also times when honesty is the best driver of success.


Inter-school IDL

Posted: January 21, 2013 in CfE, Curricular development, IDL

A few months ago, two of our outstanding S6 pupils visited Poland thanks to the Holocaust Educational Trust. Whilst the experience was incredibly difficult for them (we really were a bit worried when we saw them the next day) they learned a huge amount and bravely agreed to deliver a presentation to a whole school assembly on the subject.

This was such a success that, today, we went even further – we asked them to deliver an entire lesson to our S1 Interdisciplinary Learning (IDL) class. To clarify, the IDL class is delivered once a week to S1 pupils by teachers from across the school (English, History, Maths, RME and SMT) and has so far explored The Slave Trade, Gaelic, Festivals of Light and – now – the Holocaust. We decided to experiment with this idea as a means of encouraging pupils to view their own learning and cross-curricular, and so far have had some significant success in this area.

The lesson today was also a huge success – our two S6 Holocaust experts (assisted by another prefect) planned and implemented an entire lesson with the whole S1 cohort, incorporating drama, discussion, detailed questioning, personal reflection and media. All of our staff agree that the current first years are a ‘lively’ group but today they sat transfixed by the first hand accounts of their peers – it really was a terrific experience. I also had a pleasure of confirming to one of the two S6 girls that I thought their lesson had gone extremely well when I passed her in the corridor a few hours later.

To make things even better, our Head Teacher stopped by to have a look at the work being done in the IDL class and was suitably impressed by the students from both year groups.

Having passed on their knowledge to a younger year group, the S6 pupils will now help them to develop a presentation for an assembly on Holocaust memorial day, thus completing a cycle that proves that when you really trust students they will almost always exceed your expectations.