Learning happens when people have to think hard


Prof Coe has got me thinking about classroom observation. Particularly the idea that the common indicators we use to make judgements about learning taking place might not be reliable (students are busy, lots of work is done, students are engaged, interested, motivated, etc). Because learning is invisible. Prof Coe suggests that

learning happens when people have to think hard

In response to this I've been trying to find ways in which to make students think hard with a focus on low planning load and easy implementation. This led me to collate a list of questions or prompts to do this which can be used at any point during a lesson.

- … is the answer, what is the question (e.g. Water is the answer, what is the question?, The Queen is the answer, what is the question? 2x is the answer, what is the question?)

- ... is the question, what is the most common incorrect answer? (see Diagnostic Questions for inspiration)

- Create your own question to challenge your peer / teacher / parent (you must know the answer)

- How can you change … so that ... ?

- Show me an easy and a hard example of ….

- How would you explain … to an alien / student who is absent / your parents?

- What is the same and what is different about ... ?

- Is it always, sometimes, or never true that … ?

- Order from easiest to hardest (first to last, small to big, ...)

- Make up 3 questions to show you understand …

- Show me two ways of finding / solving …

- Explain connections between … and …

- Is it ever false that … ?

- Change one aspect of … so that …

- How can we be sure that … ?

- Give me an example of …

- Why do … all give the same answer?

- Create two truths and one lie about…

These may lend themselves more to maths but I can see them being useful in other subjects. Thoughts?

Now to work out what this means in terms of how we record and feedback lesson observations... 

Author Profile

Emma McCrea

Emma McCrea

Teacher PD, learning design & culture and maths ITE. Member of team Staffrm. In short, maths geek by the sea.

11 stories


Janet Symonds Janet Symonds @jsymonds 1 year ago
A lot of these questions would be great in Computing as well. Will certainly use some of these for homeworks to consolidate the learning from the lesson, or during the lessons! Perhaps they could write them on post it notes and the class can move them about and rank them as to how good they think the question/answer is?
[Retired Colleague] [Retired Colleague] [Retired Colleague] 1 year ago
These are great! I have used some of them but not thought of the others. I think lots of them would work for science too. Maybe they could be laminated to be reused in lessons. They could come up with their own questions for a partner to answer during revision.
Emma McCrea Emma McCrea @emmamccrea 1 year ago
Great idea @teachfabphysics. I was thinking about getting copies for all staff to stick to their desk so that the prompts are easily accessible during the lesson
Becky Walters Becky Walters @beckyiwalters 1 year ago
Great idea about Qs stuck on desks, teachers don't need a Bloom's Taxonomy diagram or a criteria forget Higher Order Thinking, they need stuff they can use straight away. Rob Coe's list of what may look like learning but isn't (at the top of your post) was spot on. Great post, thank you.
Emma McCrea Emma McCrea @emmamccrea 1 year ago
Thanks @beckyiwalters. I spend a lot of time supporting teachers to improve their practice and find having stuff to hand that they can use straight away is very effective.
Tim Jefferis Tim Jefferis @tjjteacher 1 year ago
Yes these questions would be brilliant for really unpicking problems in computing. I feel a series of lessons brewing...
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