For a long time I have wanted to devise rigorous medium term plans. The risk with a MTP is when it becomes an entity designed to satisfy the perceived whims of an outside agency.
In my second year of qualified teaching, I planned every lesson for a year for each class. Of course, I was missing the point in personalising the work, and deviated judiciously from the initial plan. However, to have a plan to deviate from made the points of change meaningful.
I’m going to evaluate the generic examples of medium term planning, and then specify the kind of planning that I would find useful now. Speaking with a colleague and friend today, it is apparent that most conversations about daily lesson planning refer to the plans that are produced for observations or outside agencies. I discussed this a few days ago. I think that the best medium term plans can interact with the data you produce with the students, and are shared with the students (although only in terms of supporting their response to personalised targets).
My issues with MTPs are the following:
1) Can be too inflexible. It is no good if it requires content to be followed in a certain order, especially if the links between points of content is not made explicit.
2) Focusses on content rather than criteria. Without an idea of what is being worked towards, or the standardisation of the work, the MTP becomes a bunch of stuff being learned, rather than rigorous tracking of progress.
Some examples of MTPs are:
This is the archetypal content-based MTP. It contains nothing of criteria, or links. Just content. In order. Gak.
This goes almost to the other extreme: it is entirely skills-based. Although thorough in terms of what the students achieve, the extent to which that can be tracked (or whether the students are aware of their learning journey) is dubious. It does, of course, look very impressive.
This is becoming more useful. Differentiated learning outcomes are given, and a variety of work is provided (implicitly covering a variety of learning styles). The bank of tasks is both varied, yet specific to skills. Cross-curricular links and a list of activities to be modelled is also provided (which I think is particularly useful).
As is often the case, AFs are provided but without any explicit link as to what is being done. In addition, there is no explicit links between the well of tasks.
This is the best so far. Differentiation of outcomes for each week is more explicit (and related to levels). AFs are used in a useful way, and relate to the work being done. The sequence of work is more intuitive, too. There is, though, still a space between the work produced each week, and how that data is both recorded, and how it informs the work produced later.
As is so often the case with such plans, the NC criteria (with all its vagueness) is applied in a seemingly rigorous manner. Quite how different NC criteria would change (or help) the pupils is not entirely clear.
Just… bizarre. This medium term plan simply lists all the criteria of the NC at the time, and highlights them. No content, no rubrics, no suggested differentiation or activities or outcomes. Just vague criteria. And this has been downloaded thousands of times.
On the other side of the fence, this medium term plan simply provides a series of generic tasks. There is no criteria. Just stuff.
I think a MTP should:
a) Start with the end in mind. What will the assessment be? What AFs will the assessment focus on measuring? What key-words and terms will the students need in order to achieve in that assessment?
The assessment needs to be at the top. There needs to be links to standardisation, and to the rubrics contained within this.
The assessment needs to reflect the order of skills, and have an opportunity to show where students in each of the different sections. So, perhaps even 1-4 rubrics for the assessment.
b) Reflect how it will respond to the students’ abilities. What opportunities for formative marking will be built in?
As said above, the MTP should reflect my markbook. I think that either copying and pasting aspects of it into my DLP (Daily Lesson Planning) or indicating what has been used will be particularly useful.
c) Offer a rigorous application of criteria. What NC or APP criteria will be used, and how might it be reflected in the rubrics used? Will these rubrics be levelled?
The rubrics should, I think, be created from my experience and the assessment. The NC and APP criteria should be used to ensure that these rubrics are rigorous, and apply to the assessment, too.
d) Offer a righteous range of activities, both by content and by type. How might these activities link?
This is, I think, an important aspect of the MTP. While I am using the raw documents each Sunday, I think links to a variety of tasks (based upon these documents) is a more useful way to go. Linking these activities to said rubrics is, I think, more useful than having sequences of work.
e) Be working documents. That is, something that I can use to inform my Daily Planning easily and rigorously.
In order to be working documents, I think that the MTP needs to link with what the pupils track, and with markbook, and with my Daily Lesson Planning. While there can be a master MTP, there could/should also be one that is progressively edited.
f) Offer expert modelling and scaffolding for students. Examples of prior work and specific extracts is great, especially when linked to rubrics.
This is where the ICT is useful. Being able to link to prior modelled work (through Triptico word magnets and/or pictures/extracts of prior work linked to rubrics) is powerful.
g) Have a ‘learning diary equivalent’. That is, something that the students can themselves reflect on and track their own progress.
The need to create a student-focussed learning diary instigated my desire to redesign our MTPs. While I think students will quite happily think about how they have focussed on their work, and how they have improved.
Giving students a chance to self-assess, and to redraft and focus on specific improvements, is key to outstanding progress, I think. This means that certain pieces of work might need to be marked ‘twice’. With 30-strong classes, this is not always possible. Therefore, I think that rubric marking once, and then returning (and redoing in class or for homework) and then remarking is something that requires rigorous planning.
Such practice (to self-mark and peer-mark work, to understand a target, and to respond to that target/to re-draft) requires modelling and training. The students need to be able to:
Use the criteria specified in the rubric in their self-marking.
Indicate which part of the work they are applying the criteria.
To respond to targets either by redrafting part of the work, or by demarcating a section, or by analysing part of the work elsewhere.
To maintain progress sheets.
And, above all, to allow the freedom to read, to discuss, to engage, and to go off the beaten track within the tightness of the planning.