What is preventing the higher attaining children from taking on the chilli challenge in maths? Why is Charlotte afraid to put her hand up in class? Why do pupils in Year Four believe Florence Nightingale came before the Ancient Egyptians?
It is easy to make assumptions in such situations. The higher attainers do not want to get things wrong, Charlotte is shy, disengaged etc…
Post Lesson Pupil Interviews can shed light on what children really understand and help us to plan accordingly. In the case of the higher attaining pupils in maths, the simple answer came down to the children’s lack of understanding of key mathematical vocabulary used in the chilli challenge. The children could all answer the calculations but the use of such words as simplify, justify and explain threw them and prevented them from taking the challenges. Lesson Study and subsequent Pupil Interviews clarified what the problem was and a focus on mathematical language meant this was easily resolved. It’s easy to assume the children understand the mathematical terms as they are used so regularly however, the interviews revealed otherwise.
In Charlotte’s case, a Post Lesson Study Interview highlighted the problem. Charlotte’s father, with the best of intentions no doubt, had told his daughter that in class it was important to get things right. For Charlotte this advice acted as a real barrier to her learning. In a growth mindset classroom environment parental influence still held sway and it was fantastic to see the change in Charlotte once the teacher had taken the time to speak to dad who recognised the issue. She changed from being a child afraid to contribute for fear of failure to one keen to engage and learn through discussion and collaboration.
The fact that Year Four pupils studied Florence Nightingale in Year Two led them to believe she came before the Ancient Egyptians they were now studying. It highlighted to us the importance of developing historical timelines and a clear understanding of chronology. It is important to regularly question the children on their learning and their understanding of lessons. Post Lesson Pupil Interviews are often very revealing and insightful, they can provide a platform for real pupil voice and lead to changes in curriculum delivery, for the better.