NCEA TEACHMEET Jan 2014 and the concept of DIRT!

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What an excellent meet this was, Jon Tait spoke of opening up Skype in the global classroom, Susan Coles gave an inspirational and silent presentation about visual literacy and Louise Gatti showed us the Wheel of wonder. There were so many other inspirational teachers sharing their craft that I spent most of my time scribbling notes furiously. But without doubt the most energetic speaker I have ever had the pleasure to witness was Shonette Bason who held the meet. PlayDough Disco was just hilarious, I got a bottle of permissions and a magic wand, but above all I got a wake up call and a load of laughs. Thank you to Northumberland Church of England Academy, Brad Rhodes and Carly Cormack for arranging it.

Philip Smith a Science teacher at NCEA school in Northumberland introduced us to the concept of DIRT and I have to say it was a lightbulb moment. You can follow him on twitter: @PSMBiochem

Directed Improvement and Reflection Time takes assessment and puts it back where it belongs; in the minds of the students rather than in the hands of teachers writing repetitive comments on work over and over again.

Alex Quigley, an Assistant Head in York writes an excellent blog on teaching and learning and he explains the process of DIRT in detail here:

To quote him from his site he says: ‘Too often we spend a great deal of time marking student work and giving them excellent feedback to improve. Crucially, however, students often spend a relatively short amount of time scanning the feedback for a grade or a level and then move on. Similarly, with a draft of their work they give the feedback a cursory glance, but they hurry on with supposed improvements and make the same mistakes once more. DIRT is about redressing that issue.’

Pioneers of this process are Jackie Beere in ‘The Perfect OFSTED Lesson’ David Didau the ‘Learning Spy’ on his blog and Ron Berger’s book ‘An ethic in excellence.’ Ron used the following to describe the essence of DIRT and its value:

“Most discussions of assessment start in the wrong place. The most important assessment that goes on in a school isn’t done to students but goes on inside students. Every student walks around with a picture of what is acceptable, what is good enough. Each time he works on something he looks at it and assesses it. Is this good enough? Do I feel comfortable handing this in? Does it meet my standards? Changing assessment at this level should be the most important assessment goal of every school. How do we get inside students’ heads and turn up the knob that regulates quality and effort”

DIRT is certainly one of those methods that I will be using from now on. Not only will it save me a massive amount of time but it will actually improve learning. So instead of writing loads of repetitive comments on books over and over, you can just compose a rubric of targets, stick it in books and write the corresponding code on the work. Next lesson they have DIRT time to review your code and update their work in light of your advice. Simples! Thank you Philip, it just shows you that you can teach an old dog new tricks.


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