There are many crucial elements in education.. This is in no way to suggest that things like assessment and feedback are not important. In my opinion, there is just one thing that is MORE important within my teaching. The thing that never seems to fail to engage the students and help them to understand how to create and improve their work every time… My WAGOLL’s.
Maybe it is because I teach a practical subject, or maybe it is because students just like to be able to visualise their learning.. Kind of a Blue Peter style ‘one I made earlier’, whatever the reason, they work. The image on the left shows a snippet of the WAGOLL table at the front of my classroom – a developing area in my room that is set up for students to use as a constant reference.
When I first started using practical examples (usually a selection taken from previous students as well as my own versions of the project too) I tended to focus on the good ones – what a good one looks like.
I very soon realised though that for some students, the WAGOLL made them feel that the learning was out of their grasp. On reflection, just displaying the really good examples as a positive, sort of ‘ethic of excellence’ motivational learning tool within lessons made them panic. Using differentiated examples instead visually explained the possible outcomes to students without the fear of the unobtainable WAGOLL. In most cases, the students easily identify the example that matches up with their own current level of working, then look towards the next level up for inspiration. I have found that it makes no real difference what the age of the student is – using different graded sketchbooks works just as well with exam groups too. Students usually feel more comfort in understanding what the next ‘step up’ actually looks like. Even if we do want the students to get to an A grade eventually, I have found that starting at a steady pace and supporting the students in making progress to improve their grade outcomes using the differentiated examples has worked better overall rather than just using ‘perfect’ full mark examples.
…on the flip side of this theory, this year I have used what I have affectionately call a ‘WACOLL’ (for my own amusement of course, not necessarily shared with the kids!) ..it stands for ‘what a crap one looks like.’ I used this after my year 10 photographers had gone through the initial skills boot camp over the first term. To give the students confidence in their ability I created a VERY rubbish version of their mini coursework project – I made sure that all of their little bad habits from the early stages of the course were included. We then spent a lesson analysing the example given and providing feedback based on the assessment criteria. Initially, they were too polite to be critical (one of my lovely girls said she didn’t want to offend me but she thought it was really rubbish!) they did soon get into the swing of it though and were able to really accurately assess the work given before identifying the key things that they needed to avoid in their own work.
In short, the use of visual examples, whether they are good, bad or differentiated – is a total winner for me, regardless of the group. I can actually genuinely say that the time spent preparing examples is the best use of my PPA time. The practical and visual examples drive the learning forward in my lessons, they help students to clearly understand how they can leap to the next level as well as supporting them in solidifying their existing knowledge by analysing the work of others. Even though I am known for banging on about assessment, if I had to pick just one thing that makes the most impact in my lessons, it is my WAGOLLs. Watch this space for more virtual examples to be uploaded to support students in developing their learning outside of the classroom too!
Mrs Arty Textiles