Hexagonal Learning

The mantra of all successful lesson observations these days is that students should be seen to be making progress. Perhaps the best way to show that you’re having an impact on their knowledge and understanding is to show that the learning is ‘deep’. By that I mean, knowledge that transfers from students’ working memories into their long-term memories.

Students understand new ideas by relating them to existing ones. If they don’t know enough about a subject they won’t have a solid base from which to make connections to prior knowledge. Students are more likely to remember learning if they “make their own sense of what they are learning, and relate it to what they know”.[i]

Psychology prof Daniel Willingham‘s advice to teachers is as follows:

  1. Provide examples and get students to compare them
  2. Make deep knowledge the spoken and unspoken emphasis
  3. Accept that shallow knowledge is better than nothing

Using SOLO will help address these points:

  1. You can make the differences between multistructutal and relational knowledge obvious so clear that it’s almost impossible for students not to make progress
  2. Relational and extended abstract understanding is always the expected destination – multistructural is never enough but…
  3. …It is absolutely essential – until they know enough about a subject, students cannot see relationships between the things they know.

I’ve been grappling with SOLO for some time now and owe a huge debt to Lisa Jane Ashes who has managed to explain it more clearly than anyone else. I think I’m finally getting my head around how to guide students through the difference levels of knowledge in English lessons.

Why hexagons? Cos they’ve got six sides and when you give a pile of the them to kids their natural response is to start fitting them together and making connections between the  multistructual base, making relationships visible. This is adapted from Damian Clark’s original idea.

You can put whatever you want onto the hexagons, or leave them blank for the kids to fill in. In this, very simple, example we have some words connected to Macbeth:

Macbeth 1

Students use their multistructural knowledge of the play to show the relationships between the hexagons. Obviously, there’s no correct way to do this; the point is that students get to show off their deep understanding by explaining the links they have created:

Macbeth 2

If the hexagons are arranged differently, is the relational understanding different?

It’s almost impossible for students not to start making links and practically guarantees that they will demonstrate a relational understanding of whatever topic they’re learning about.

So far, so good, but to move to extended abstract is always more of a challenge. My ideas is that students need to explore the  nodes at which the hexagons intersect. For instance by examining these nodes students can start to show an appreciation of Shakespeare’s intentions. This almost invite abstracted questions. For instance, How does Shakespeare connect Macbeth with friendship and power?

Macbeth 4

Or, Does Shakespeare use Lady Macbeth and Duncan to show different views of power?

This can work equally well with language analysis.  Here’s an example comparing the language of Simon Armitage’s The Manhunt with Carol Ann Duffy’s Quickdraw. If you ask an abstract question like, ‘Are love and pain different sides of the same coin?’ students can use the cards to explore relationships between the language the poets’ use:

The connections made will depend on how much the students already know about the poems. I like the idea of using this as an introductory activity where students are encountering these lines for the first time. There are some fairly obvious links that can be made and these are a great starting point for getting students to consider the effects of language and to interpret the writers’ possible intentions.

And if you don’t feel like going through all that tedious cutting out, try David Riley’s Think Link
Here’s some photos of hexagons in action:

And here’s some of the impact:

There’s lots of other excellent uses for hexagonal learning. Have a look at examples from Tait Coles and Chris Harte, who has also put together a useful Prezi on this very subject: http://prezi.com/b1s77mnbjqp6/why-hexagons-are-better-than-squarestmne11/

If you want to save yourself some tedious cutting out you could buy some read made hexagonal post-its from Logo Visual or try Think Link, the interactive version which David Riley of Triptico has put together.

Related posts

What’s deep learning and how do you do it?

What is learning?

SOLO taxonomy training

43 Responses to Hexagonal Learning

  1. Lisa Ashes says:

    This is excellent! Can’t wait to make up some hexagons and get started putting it into practice! Thanks. It is interesting that you say I have explained things clearly as my friend say I speak in metaphors. Also can’t wait to tell them they’re wrong!

  2. Helene says:

    Thank you very much, David. I had planned to use hexagons to explore Conflict in a chapter of Lord of the Flies but bottled it… and was actually running out of time to cut all these hexagons in time for the lesson. In the end, I used words on rectangular cards that students had to link together to make, develop and link points, theme and context. Not as good but worked ok.

    This time, I have a whole week to do the planning and cutting. I’m definitely using your lesson! This will prepare the ground nicely for the ensuing debates on the play! (currently doing Macbeth)

    Finally I intend to try the hexagons with year 11 on LOTF. No rectangles this time! I have tentatively used SOLO levels with them, using them to create criteria to help students move to a more analytical reading of Conflict in a specific chapter of the book -that was used both during the group work using the cards and in the follow up writing.

    Thanks again and thanks to the #soloarmy for the inspiration.

  3. GeogJo says:

    Whenever I read your blog I am inspired to push the boundaries that bit further. Thank-you.

  4. [...] There’s lots of other excellent uses for hexagonal learning. Tait Coles, Chris Harte and David Didau are already ahead of the game. These guys have put together a useful Prezi, share Teachmeet videos [...]

  5. Shanti Lall says:

    I love this idea and really want to try it. Thinking of doing it with Tennyson’s Mariana, with my Year 12: hexagons with ‘melancholy’, ‘isolation’, ‘loss’, ‘setting’, ‘refrain’, ‘speech’, ‘senses’, ‘women’, etc.
    I’m wondering, though, whether questions like “Does Shakespeare use Lady Macbeth and Duncan to show different views of power?” is really extended abstract. Might it be a sort of ‘upper tier’ of relational as it requires students to compare, as opposed to simply combining (multistructural) by linking hexagons with each other. It seems to me that to be extended abstract they’d have to see LM & D’s power in the context of different models of power (socio-historical, dramatic character types, etc.) – which of course I wouldn’t be expecting many GCSE students to do.

    • learningspy says:

      Thanks Shanti

      I see your point about my EA question. What I thought was that by having to engage with the writer, a theme and characters would require students to consider contextual issues like Jacobean views on kingship and femininity which Shakey definitely explores in Macbeth. No?

      I guess we can argue about whether this is truly EA but it’s sure as ships A/A*!

  6. Damien says:

    I love this idea! I’ll be using it as a revision activity with my GCSE History class later this year. I thought it would work well on the Interactive Whiteboard as a stimulus for a whole-group review activity thus doing away with the need to cut out lots of hexagons ;)

  7. Laura Suths says:

    Using hexagons tomorrow to discuss conflict in Lear and Merchant of Venice. Thank you David!

  8. [...] Inspector Calls’ piqued my interest and, via a quick tweet, led me to his blog post on Hexagonal Learning as well as a range of references to follow up on SOLO taxonomy from @Totallywired77 amongst [...]

  9. [...] learning had been used so brilliantly by amazing practitioners such as Damien Clark, Chris Harte, David Didau, Tait Coles and Lisa Jane Ashes, it just clicked how this might work. Honestly, if it wasn’t [...]

  10. [...] CSI lesson or this one. It really helped and is a good starting point for anything to do with SOLO. http://learningspy.co.uk/2012/01/28/hexagonal-learning/ as is Lisa Jane Ashes work on [...]

  11. [...] are already a number of fantastic educators out there, Tait Coles, Chris Harte and David Didau, all using this simple and very effective technique to develop student understanding and more [...]

  12. Pamela Manley says:

    Sounds interesting as a teacher of history and modern studies always trying to get pupils to make connections but this is a more concrete way – may help those who hate mindmaps!

  13. [...] I’ve been grappling with SOLO for some time now and owe a huge debt to Lisa Jane Ashes who has managed to explain it more clearly than anyone else. I think I’m finally getting my head around how to guide students through the difference levels of knowledge in English lessons.Why hexagons? Cos they’ve got six sides and when you give a pile of the them to kids their natural response is to start fitting them together and making connections between the  multistructual base, making relationships visible. This is adapted from Damian Clark’s original idea.You can put whatever you want onto the hexagons, or leave them blank for the kids to fill in. In this, very simple, example we have some words connected to Macbeth:  [...]

  14. [...] “in addition to” and so on. (Only now as I’m writing this am I remembering this blog post from “The Learning Spy” on Hexagonal Learning – a missed opportunity in this [...]

  15. [...] Hexagonal Learning Triptico | Think Link [...]

  16. [...] 2. Hexagonal Learning – 28th January [...]

  17. [...] a picture, or sound, anything) and the students make links with them. You can read about their use here. Want to try it out? Helpfully you can download hexagonal templates here. Try it.  Share [...]

  18. [...] originated with Damian Clark on his In Visible Learning blog, though I first encountered them from David Didau’s Learning Spy. In simple terms, they are a physical/concrete means of encouraging learners to move beyond [...]

  19. [...] originated with Damian Clark on his In Visible Learning blog, though I first encountered them from David Didau’s Learning Spy. In simple terms, they are a physical/concrete means of encouraging learners to move beyond [...]

  20. [...] knowledge. This may be less exciting in the short term, and certainly, messing about with hexagons can look really impressive to an observer in a way that learning facts doesn’t but we need [...]

  21. [...] Hexagonal Learning Triptico | Think Link Free Online Graph Paper / Hexagonal This generator makes this type of graph paper. Given length of a side <b>x </b>… <br>Tip to tip across the hex is 2 <b>x </b>. <br>Height of the hex flat side to flat side is 2 <b>x </b>(sqrt(3/4)) or about 1.732 <b>x </b>. <br>Area of the hex is 1.5( <b>x </b>^2 (sqrt(3)) or about 2.56 <b>x </b>^2. [...]

  22. [...] to mine), upload it to Edmodo and the peer assess their work.  from here I will try to use the hexagons and SOLO [...]

  23. [...] Thinking activities: KWL, speed-dating, think/pair/share, hexagonal thinking, master and apprentice, [...]

  24. [...] me suis souvenue d’un article paru sur The Learning Spy qui parlait d’une méthode intitulée Hexagonal Learning. Le principe est simple : donner aux [...]

  25. [...] The Learning Spy on hexagonal learning/ [...]

  26. stevepadget says:

    There are a couple of articles written about the use of hexagons using the LogoVisual Thinking (LVT) core process and practical applications of the approach at http://www.steveslearning.com .

    These give an outline of a methodology that has the capability of taking learners into deep thinking. The approach is incredibly flexible (I have used it with learners from year 4 to post grad and adults) and I am currently using it very effectively in the context of the KS2 creative curriculum. Here it provides a methodology for the exploration of just about any topic. It lends itself particularly well to problem based learning episodes when learners are tasked with thinking their way through problems collaboratively and managing the production of complex outcomes.

  27. […] used to think that getting pupils to demonstrate progress in lessons was the best way to teach. Now I’m aware that focussing on short term performance gains at the cost of longterm […]

  28. […] knowledge. I first saw Hexagon learning on @jivespin’s blog (John Mitchell), which led me to David Didau, NoTosh, SOLO (HookEd), Chris Harte and TheLearningGeek. All explain how these versatile hexagons […]

  29. […] knowledge. I first saw Hexagon learning on @jivespin’s blog (John Mitchell), which led me to David Didau, NoTosh, SOLO (HookEd), Chris Harte and TheLearningGeek. All explain how these versatile hexagons […]

  30. Marc Hayes says:

    Thanks for a great idea: I’m two weeks away from graduating from Durham Uni where I’m studying Primary Education. Today in a maths specialism seminar, I used the hexagons in a mock-CPD session to introduce curriculum planning for numeracy in KS1. Everyone found it very useful to consider the “core objectives” – those which were nodes of learning central to the learning of others – and to map out the “messiness” of learning.

    I’ll definitely be using it to plan for my final placement: and try to find an opportunity to use hexagons with Y1s :D … if that’s possible.

    Thanks again,

    Marc

  31. […] The mantra of all successful lesson observations these days is that students should be seen to be making progress. Perhaps the best way to show that you’re having an impact on their knowledge and understanding is to show that the learning is ‘deep’. By that I mean, knowledge that transfers from students’ working memories into  […]

  32. Adam says:

    This is an amazing idea! Love it! (I’m going to be a brand new probationer teacher in August – always looking for creative ideas!)

  33. […] Learning Spy – English […]

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