Aim: To improve teaching and learning through activities both in and outside the classroom to continue to raise achievement in Modern Languages.
Background: Students enter the school with attainment that is well below the national average and the proportion of disadvantaged students is above the national average. Effective feedback had been identified as an area for development from the school’s Ofsted inspection in 2013.
Feedback: Existing feedback strategies were evaluated. Following research, different methods were trialled. In the second year of the project, codes for feedback were refined for each year group to reflect particular areas of language (topics, tenses) as well as specific skills (resilience in higher listening and reading). In year three, work scrutiny and staff evaluations indicated the value of grounding feedback in the reality of Mastery Statements or GCSE criteria.
Home learning: Following school INSET on “Takeaway” Home Learning, projects were redesigned to offer students greater choice and flexibility in task and presentation. Listening and reading tasks were developed to include songs, adverts and TV clips. In year three, each class had a lesson in an ICT room to sign up to their group on Duolingo.
Attitude to Learning: This encompassed six separate key areas for helping students develop responsibility, resilience and other important learning habits. The Modern Languages department produced subject-specific descriptions for use in day-to-day teaching and at assessment points. In year two, the monthly projects for Key Stage 3 focused on cultural awareness and research skills. Twitter accounts were introduced but were not well supported by the students. Using Tweets in the classroom proved to be more effective in engaging pupils. In the third year of the project, the new demands of the GCSE specification required the students to ‘deal with difficulty’ and ‘practise to improve’.
Evidence: Student voice, MFL staff evaluations, work scrutiny, parental feedback.
Feedback — There was greater consistency between MFL colleagues in the quality of feedback given, as well as a wider range of strategies being used. Students felt more involved in identifying and improving their strengths and areas for development.
Home learning — Monthly cultural projects had several advantages; students enjoyed the choice of activity and parents could see the tasks set on the school’s VLE. However, it was apparent that students’ home learning needed to prioritise clearly the specific skills needed for success in MFL. Successes included the promotion of Duolingo and Memrise to enhance students’ independent learning.
Attitudes to learning — These were effectively embedded into the MFL teaching and assessment procedures.
Reflections: As a department, we are able to be analytical and self-critical. When reviewing this project, we agreed that having three separate strands made the project too broad. Our progress as regards effective feedback has been significant and continues to develop.
The challenges have been trying to get our ‘foot in the door’ as it were, in terms of delivering the sessions at other schools and teacher training institutions. Schools are busy places and it isn’t always possible to arrange dates and times to fit in with everyone.
Contact: Helen Kelly, Head of MFL, email@example.com