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Practice

‘Once we have planned a challenging curriculum, expertly explained difficult concepts and modelled what we want students to be able to do, they need the chance to do something with this information: to practise using it.’

Mark Enser, 2019

 

Practice, as referred in the DfE Frameworks, adopts the Education Endowment Foundation interpretation and involves guided practice, independent practice, retrieval practice and spaced practice. The DFE frameworks for ITT and ECTs require that new teachers know about each of these. They also require they know how to increase challenge with practice and how to provide support for students.

There is general agreement that to bring success students need to have repeated opportunities to practise, with appropriate guidance and support. Explicit teaching followed by practice is, therefore, recognised as an important aspect of effective teaching. It is often described simply as the I-We-You approach:

  • I do it first.
  • We do it together.
  • You do it on your own.

In the I-stage the teacher explains a new idea, demonstrates a process or shows students how to perform a skill. They might use some form of visualisation, such as images of a glacial landscape, building up an essay live on screen or watching an animation of the development of a waterfall. A teacher could use a worked example and ‘walk students through’ with labelled steps, for example when drawing a cross section. It is during the ‘I do’ stage that the teacher reviews previous learning and encourages students to recall prior knowledge.

The We-stage involves collaboration between the teacher and students as they work through a task together and review their understanding. This guided practice involves supporting students to practise applying new ideas effectively. The teacher uses dialogue and questioning to involve the students in developing the ideas or building a further example together. This is where students get a sense of using the new idea or get to feel what it is like to do the task successfully. If there are students who struggle at this stage, they will need longer, or smaller, steps to move forward.

The Youstage involves independence and students work alone on a task to apply the new learning. This independent practice does not imply they must work alone. The amount of scaffolding required to complete the activity successfully will vary for different students and the teacher might intervene more directly with those who need extra support.

Through these three phases the responsibility for learning is gradually passed from the teacher to the student. From the teacher-led I do, to the shared responsibility in We do to the full student responsibility in You do.

Afterwards, the teacher returns to review learning. This is often described as retrieval practice, where teachers use a variety of strategies to ask students to recall information from memory, e.g.  practice tests or quizzing, or concept mapping. Spaced practice refers to the strategy of leaving time before returning to a specific topic.

Reading

  • Enser, M. (2019) Making Every Geography Lesson Count. Crown House Publishing, chapter 4.