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Interactive teaching and learning blog

Flow Learning

June 9th 2018

Have you ever played the game 'AA' one your phone? If not, download, it. Have a go before you read on.



How was it? Were you quickly addicted? We have tried this with around 140 of our teachers across 3 schools and the effect was the same. A bit of fear from some around mastering the technology quickly, collaboration to work out what to do and then .... immersion. A mix of silent concentration, laughter, fun and challenge. A determined effort to reach the next level , hopefully beat the colleague nearby and total .... addiction. 

A state of flow had been achieved.

Game designers understand what is required to achieve this. Not so much challenge that people give up, not so little that they find it too easy and therefore boring. In educational terms, we might be talking about the Zone of Proximal Development (Vygotsky). 


There have been many blog posts about achieving 'Flow'. We found this clip useful in summarising the theory:

Flow theory by John Spencer

The journey didn't begin with an attempt to achieve 'Flow'. It began with the desire to bring together teams from across our newly formed multi-academy trust to form a common language for what we aimed to achieve in the classroom. We were determined to base our new 'policy', not on a tick list from an Ofsted inspection handbook, but on what the research says works. The approach has been collaborative and as such has been time consuming. It has led to a restructuring of how we collect data from MAT schools, to promote 'responsive teaching'. We now only require schools to provide summative data twice per year. This has meant that some schools are reducing data collection points from six across the year, to two. We are creating a system that empowers teachers to do what they have always wanted to do. Know their students well, through building strong professional relationships, inspiring and challenging teaching with regular formative assessment and responsiveness to their needs that requires flexibility and confidence.

At the same time as designing the new policy, or guide, we are designing the CPD programmes to support teachers improve their pedagogy and practice over the year. Each school across the MAT using their expertise about their stage on the journey to create the most effective pathways. We have created a new role, that of 'Subject Architect', to bring together colleagues from across the academy trust, to share their expertise and love of the subject, to collaboratively plan the best lessons and resources and to design multiple choice tests, exit tickets and more, to facilitate responsive teaching and reduce teacher workload. Finally, we are working with the Surrey Teaching School Network to facilitate a bespoke version of the NPML for all our middle leaders. 3 cohorts will work together over the year to learn and plan together on how we can embed 'Flow learning' and achieve maximum impact.

How do you achieve Flow in the classroom? We have designed our T&L guide with Flow in mind. It is not a tick list of what we as teachers need to to do in the classroom, rather a menu from which we make rational choices, recognising that we need to use our professional judgement. From it, we create the correct recipe for the learner in front of us, based on the rich information we have gathered about them. 

The guide has been put together based on research and the experience of our team of teachers and leaders. 

It is based on 3 key pillars:

- Subject passion and pedgagogy

- Responsive teaching

- The power of explanation

The foundations of which are:

- Professional relationships and behaviour for learning

- Professional relationships and high expectations,

From this, came our logo.


What comes next is the policy or guide. Within it are references to some of the research on which it is based or other sources of information or images (such as blogs by David Didau).

Subject Passion and Pedagogy

Research Base:

(Pedagogical) content knowledge (Strong evidence of impact on student outcomes).

‘The most effective teachers have deep knowledge of the subjects they teach, and when teachers’ knowledge falls below a certain level it is a significant impediment to students’ learning. As well as a strong understanding of the material being taught, teachers must also understand the ways students think about the content, be able to evaluate the thinking behind students’ own methods, and identify students’ common misconceptions.’ The Sutton Trust

Teacher leaders

Student learners

  • Teaching should be based on research into the most effective pedagogy, current and inspiring.
  • Technology should be used where possible to facilitate learning.
  • Learning is contextualised.
  • Confident planning for progression based on in-depth subject and curriculum knowledge.
  • Planning identifies common errors and misconceptions demonstrating very well developed pedagogical subject knowledge.
  • Facilitates the building of subject based vocabulary.
  • Promote the value of scholarship.
  • Promote high standards of literacy, articulacy and the correct use of standard English, whatever the teacher’s specialist subject.
  • Students are interested, stimulated and captivated
  • Students should have the opportunity to visit museums, theatres, places of interest.
  • Students develop a broad subject based vocabulary.
  • There is a sense of flow.
  • Students understand why they are learning something and why they are learning it in the way they are (meta-cognition)


The power of planning and explanation

Quality of instruction (Strong evidence of impact on student outcomes)

‘Includes elements such as effective questioning and use of assessment by teachers. Specific practices, like reviewing previous learning, providing model responses for students, giving adequate time for practice to embed skills securelyand progressively introducing new learning (scaffolding) are also elements of high quality instruction.’ The Sutton Trust

‘What will improve a student’s memory?’ Daniel Willingham

Collaborative learning, home learning and metacognition Education Endowment Foundation

Principles of instruction  Barak Rosenshine 


Teacher leaders

Student learners

  • New concepts are explained clearly providing students with the knowledge they need in order to think.
  • Model (answers) and discuss thinking (metacognition)
  • Scaffolding enables student thinking in increasingly challenging circumstances & supports metacognition).
  • Provide opportunities for deliberate  practice through planned problems of increasing complexity.
  • Challenging students to identify the reason why an activity is taking place in the lesson
  • Facilitate collaborative learning opportunities (e.g. THINK-PAIR-SHARE)
  • Home learning is planned to enhance learning within the cycle.
  • Probes and checks understanding using effective questioning
  • Spacing-out study or practice on a given topic, with gaps in between for forgetting.
  • Teaching will be responsive, including meeting the needs of all students.
  • Students are thinking hard.
  • Students think in increasingly challenging circumstances due to scaffolding.
  • Students build a subject vocab base & cab use in context.
  • Students practise by tackling problems of increasing complexity in an effort to move from competence to mastery.
  • Students regularly and deliberately practice using the skills and knowledge they have acquired.
  • Students work collaboratively to solve problems and think hard. 
  • Students complete home learning tasks to a high standard.


Responsive teaching

Quality of instruction (Strong evidence of impact on student outcomes)

‘Includes elements such as effective questioning and use of assessment by teachers. Specific practices, like reviewing previous learning, providing model responses for students, giving adequate time for practice to embed skills securely and progressively introducing new learning (scaffolding) are also elements of high uality instruction.’ The Sutton Trust

Feedback Education Endowment Foundation


Teacher leaders

Student learners

  • Teachers know students well, show belief in their potential and are caring and respectful toward them.
  • Systematically and effectively check students' understanding throughout lessons through formative assessment, anticipating where intervention maybe needed with notable impact on the quality of learning.
  • Formatively assess students’ progress regularly and work with them to accurately target further improvement and secure rapid progress.
  • Regular diagnostic testing e.g. making students take tests or generate answers, even before they have been taught the material
  • Multiple choice testing and exit tickets inform planning and feedback
  • Whole class feedback e.g. for summative assessments
  • High level Blooms questioning
  • Spacing out study in lessons with gaps for forgetting with knowledge retrieval testing
  • Hinge-point questions/ knowledge
  • Live feedback e.g. using a visualizer
  • Students take tests, generate questions or answers even before starting a topic
  • Students respond to all questions e.g. through use of technology, verbal, written
  • Students act on feedback e.g. DIRT
  • Students practice key skills
  • Independent retesting of self-using technology such as multiple choice tests
  • Students ‘have a go and take risks’


High Expectations and Professional Relationships


Teacher leaders

Student learners

  • Teachers have high expectations, which inspire, motivate and challenge.
  • Teachers know students well, show belief in their potential and are caring and respectful toward them.
  • Teachers have embedded routines that allow for learning to be the sole focus of the lesson.
  • Learning objectives for all reflect this.
  • Teachers establish a safe and stimulating environment for students, rooted in mutual respect.
  •  Teachers set goals that stretch and challenge students of all backgrounds, abilities and disposition.
  • Teachers demonstrate consistently the positive attitudes, values and behaviour, which are expected of students.
  • Teachers are proactive in seeking out opportunities to contribute in a significant way to the wider life and ethos of the school.
  • Teachers deliberately seek out opportunities to develop own professional learning and respond positively to all the feedback they receive.
  • Students actively participate, show enthusiasm for learning, and contributions support the learning of others.
  • Work is consistently at the highest standard achievable.
  • There is a high level of mutual respect between teacher and student.
  • Students show resilience, confidence and independence when tackling challenging activities.
  • Students are proactive in seeking out opportunities to contribute in a significant way to the wider life and ethos of the school


Exceptional Behaviour for Learning and Professional Relationships


Teacher leaders

Student learners

  • Teachers manage behaviour effectively to ensure good and safe learning environment.
  • Teachers have clear rules and routines for behaviour in classrooms, and take responsibility for promoting good and courteous behaviour both in classrooms and around the school, in accordance with the school’s behaviour policy;
  • Teachers have high expectations of behaviour, and establish a framework for discipline with a range of strategies, using praise, sanctions and rewards consistently and fairly;
  • Teachers manage classes effectively, using approaches which are appropriate to students’ needs in order to involve and motivate them;
  • Teachers build and maintain great relationships with students, exercise appropriate authority, and act decisively when necessary.
  • Students fully engage with WMAT learning expectations
  • Learners think about their own learning explicitly. Students themselves goals, and monitor and evaluate their own academic development.
  • Students manage their own motivation towards learning and build a repertoire of strategies to choose from during learning activities e.g. revision or home learning.
  • Learn to take positives from failure experienced (Growth Mindset)
  • Remember to follow directions
  • Get to work right away rather than procrastinating
  • Remain calm even when criticised
  • Allow others to speak without interruption
  • Be eager to explore new things
  • Ask and answer questions to deepen understanding
  • Actively participates
  • Shows enthusiasm
  • Invigorates others
  • Recognise and show appreciation for others
  • Recognise and show appreciation for their own opportunities
  • Be willing to try new experiences and meet new people
  • Pursues dreams and goals
  • Identifies and develop new ideas
  • Finds solutions during conflicts with others
  • Demonstrates respect for feelings of others
  • Know when and how to include others
  • Is polite to adults and peers
  • Is aware of pressing global issues, and contributes to leading society.


When launching the new guide to staff, we shared this thought: 

think hard

And we showed this great clip about neurons and synapses

The guide requires professional judgement. it isn't a tick list. If we get it right we will achieve this:


Follow us on Twitter @TeachWeydon 

Filed under: Teaching Posted at 18:01

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