Making New Skills Stick

Having read Practice Perfect twice now, it is clear how the framework described within it is useful for the development of student learning. While in the past I have spoken about how this can be used with pupils to embed and feedback on new concepts (see the following blogs: Modelling, A Culture of Practice, Feedback), for this post on “Making New Skills Stick” I have decided to approach it from the point of view of helping staff develop as teachers.

When working with a member of staff trying to improve the quality and range of their questioning, we discussed a variety of techniques that could be practiced and then checked for within observations. After providing opportunities for these techniques to be practiced in various lesson, and with the class in question, I would then drop into a lesson and Look for the Right Things (the questioning techniques) in action.

Before dropping into lessons with this member of staff, we came up with a series of cues for us to communicate with each other, through simple thumbs, nods and signs of encouragement to allow me to Coach During the Game. We ensured nothing new was taught here, just reinforcing and encouraging ideas we had already worked through and practiced. As we had named each of questioning techniques that we wanted to use within lessons, we could Keep Talking about them post-practice and post-drop in. The shared language allowed for clear feedback to be given; feedback that would lead to direct improvements. This had the added benefit of avoiding seeing feedback as helpful advice, instead framing it as a requirement for improvement. This allowed me to Walk the Line of being an evaluator of the member of staff, and as always being the person to help the member of staff develop.

Over a period of time, we could Measure the Success of the techniques we used to practice. Through reflecting on video observation, drop ins and self-reflection we could plot the next steps on what was left to practice, leading to further improvements.

The processFocus on …Be wary of …
Look for the Right ThingsAllow the student sufficient time and opportunity to practice a skill

Post-practice, ask the student to set a goal for their teaching, and observe the skills required for these goals

Observe and provide feedback on the skill in actual performance
Providing feedback on discrete skills that were practiced

Using an observation tool aligned to the practiced skill

Allowing leaders to practice observing for the specific skill
Providing generic feedback

Using a checklist of multiple skills for observation, or one that is generic and not specific to this skill

Assuming observing one skill is the same as observing all skills
Coach During the GameCoach skills that have already been taught and practiced during performanceUsing cues and reminders to refresh students of what they have learntTrying to teach sometime new during performance; this will lead to confusion
Keep Talking and Walk the LineName the skills that need to be practice

Be transparent about your role as an evaluator
Using these names to keep talking about the skills and their application

Rewarding hard work

Communicating a sense of urgency for improvement
Talking about ideas that needs work in a generic way; be specific so the skill can be codified

Framing feedback as helpful advice: feedback is a requirement for improvement
Measure SuccessUse performance over time to evaluate the effectiveness of practiceUse multiple methods of data gathering; self-reflection, observation etc.Preventing the refinement of practice by not plotting next steps for practice
Adapted from Practice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better
by Doug Lemov, Erica Woolway, Katie Yezzi

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