Using Learning Continuums

After reading How to Teach the Perfect Ofsted Lesson by Jackie Beere, I came up with the idea of the Learning Continuum. The idea is that the learning objective for a lesson should be viewed as a journey. Students can achieve outcomes that meet the objective at different levels.

Aha, I hear you say, isn’t he just talking about differentiated outcomes? Well, yes, but the difference here is that the emphasis is placed on students continuing on through the learning journey over the course of the lesson.

Learning continuum 1

Learning continuum 1

The diagram above is a useful way of explaining what I mean. If your objective is to develop your ability to diversify the AfL techniques you have in your armoury, then the three outcome boxes provide a useful checklist for you to monitor your progress in meeting the objective. The objective is written within an arrow to represent a clear sense of progress and direction: this knowledge is going somewhere; this skill can be developed to different levels of expertise.

The first box could be viewed as a baseline or starting point; as the ALL part of a differentiated outcome; or as the first check-point at which learning is reviewed. I have been using the outcome boxes as review check-points to attempt to show students the progress they have made so far with the expectation being that students should try to reach the third box by the end of the lesson.

The example below is a continuum I used with my mixed ability Year 9 GCSE class. As you can see, I have link the outcomes to GCSE grades so they can relate their success against performance criteria with which they are familiar.

Learning continuum 2

Learning continuum 2

In the third example I have gone further and attempted to link these grades to the language of Bloom’s taxonomy. This helps students to consider the thinking skills required to progress on their learning journeys.

  • Explain shows understanding (C grade)
  • Explore shows the ability to interpret (B grade)
  • Analyse shows the ability to make links and connections (A grade)
  • Evaluate show the ability to consider the effectiveness of something
Learning continuum 3

Learning continuum 3

12 Responses to Using Learning Continuums

  1. […] Here is the PPT I used in the lesson, complete with learning continuums. […]

  2. […] No review of techniques used to introduce learning objectives would be complete without at least one less using the learning continuum. I’m a big fan of this idea and have been since basically nicking the idea from Jackie Beere’s How to Teach the Perfect Ofsted Lesson. If you’re interested in reading about the principles behind this technique, I’ve written about it here. […]

  3. James Michie says:

    Hi David, I really like the way you have presented the learning objectives and successful criteria – fab example of visual design improving the meaning.

    It should easy for me to adapt the way I currently present mine to use the arrow idea. Just switching from going down the page to across instead.

    Also, like that you have written them from the students perspective. I do this a lot too – makes sense.

    Have you considered putting the objectives with empty boxes on laminated sheets so that the students can plan their own differentiated criteria? Or the boxes filled in but the objective blank?

    Regards, James.

  4. […] low expectations and thus is to be avoided. My advice is to use something along the lines of the learning continuum which allows students to make progress without suggesting a point at which they can opt […]

  5. Really enjoyed reading this and the comments from James Michie. I used it in all my lessons last week and as we’re currently trying to improve the use of objectives/intentions, especially the language associated with them I’ve suggested that this is a version we could use whole school. It’s on the agenda for tomorrow’s SLT mtg. I’m determined to get it through!

    In my own teaching it really helped me clarify how I can get students to demonstrate learning at different points in the lesson. Without doubt it removes the lowering of expectations that come with the all,most some approach–currently standard (enforced!) practice at my place. I also sought the opinion of a teaching and learning consultant who happened to be visiting us on Thursday. She reinforced my view and experience of using it with my students. As for my students? They certainly responded well as they were all able to produce something that ‘hit’ the objective that was appropriate for their ability. The notion of the arrown allowed each outcome to act as stepping stone to the next for some students. Thanks for drawing my attention to this.

    • learningspy says:

      Glad you found it so useful Gareth. Hope you can get you school to move away from the all/most/some heresy. It always lowers my spirits to hear that schools ‘enforce’ this sort of thing. And THAT’S why we need WHY TO guides instead of HOW TO guides…

  6. […] with David Didau, the Learning Spy, who has written posts on Creativity, Analysis and Comparison, Using Learning Continuums, Zooming In and Zooming Out, and 40 Ways to Introduce Learning Objectives (now 50). I found these […]

  7. Andrew Currie says:

    Hi David been reflecting on the use objectives in school and reading up on your thoughts on objectives -seems I am roughly 2 years behind you ! Just wondering in terms of using solo taxonomy across a unit of work would you advocate having objectives for each session .Or would you suggest taking a wider view and having objectives for the whole unit which are achieved at different levels on the continuum based on the depth of their understanding ?

    • David Didau says:

      I have come to the considered conclusion that while reading about and experimenting with the SOLO taxonomy has been helpful for me to understand the outcomes I want students to achieve, it’s not really all that helpful to teach it to students. As to whether it’s helpful to always introduce learning objectives, I think that probably depends on what you want to achieve. On a lesson by lesson basis I think about the following:
      – how will this lesson links to last lesson?
      – what will the activities force students to think about about?
      – how will we know if progress is being made?

      Does that help?

  8. David Lyness says:

    Workable, elegant idea which ties in with the whole purposeful learning ethos.

Constructive feedback is always appreciated

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