Practitioner Enquiry

We’ve not posted on here in quite a while! We have just moved into a new school building so last academic session was hectic to say the least:)

As part of the process of moving into a new building, we took the opportunity to rethink our vision, aims and values. The consultation process involved staff, pupils and parents and has proved to be a great piece of evidence of our improved learning and teaching culture.

Our vision statement is Learning and Growing to Achieve Success.

From the pupils, parents and staff, there were very clear values consistent across us all – SUPPORT, RESPECT, TRUST & RELATIONSHIPS, INDIVIDUALS and LEARNING THROUGH PLAY. It is our goal that these values underpin all that we do here at Roslin.

As we start a new session in a new building, staff shared what areas of learning and teaching they will be researching and developing this year. We are looking to improve our process of practitioner enquiry and this is a good start. Our EPS have a fantastic Spotlight document, as do the GTCS and Fearghal Kelly, which have supported us in our discussions.

There are a variety of ideas being explored:

* P4 are looking at building on effective feedback in writing, using their VLAT experience

* P6 are exploring open-ended investigations in maths and numeracy

* P5 are experimenting with flexible seating

* P7 are also developing their understanding of feedback and understanding how it can improve their peer assessing

* P1 are exploring play-based learning

* our Learning Support teacher is going to be working on developing the way in which we evidence our nurture approach within the school

This is just a flavour of what has started! We will keep you posted as to what people learn and experience throughout the session.


Visible Learning Conference in Scotland

I was very fortunate to present with two Midlothian colleagues at this conference, sharing how we are using the VL tools to evidence and reflect on learning and teaching within our own schools. It was a fantastic day for all those who attended.
As many will know, John Hattie was the keynote speaker. I have to admit, I was quite worried I wouldn’t like him. However in meeting him on the eve of the conference and then listening throughout the day, I was not disappointed. I admired how unapologetic he was in his comments, all backed with a vast amount of evidence and research. He challenged us to think about Scottish education and how we will continue to move forward.
I don’t want to make a long list of the things I took from that day so I encourage you to look through Sarah Philp’s storify. You can find it at It was so nice to see some familiar faces and meet new ones. The VL network is certainly expanding!
It was an uplifting day as so many professionals came together to get better at being better. A massive well done to Sarah and her team for a successful day!

Real life examples

So 5 weeks today is Christmas – how did that happen?! Hopefully in the New Year my posts will appear more frequently.

I just wanted to share the impact some of our recent visitors have had on our pupils here at Roslin.
First, we had David Gray (captain of Hibernian FC) join us with the Scottish Cup as part of the club’s Persevered Scottish Cup Trophy Tour. The cup visited many schools in Midlothian but we were lucky enough to have David join us as he’s a former pupil of Roslin. Whilst we had a few teachers claiming his success in scoring goals was down to their teaching of angles, the rest of us knew there was a great message about perseverance and mindset to be shared. David did an excellent job sharing the story of winning the Cup and was asked some interesting questions. When asked, ‘David, have you ever made mistakes in football?’, his response was ‘Every week!’ What an important message for our children – to be playing at that level of football and to recognise and embrace making mistakes, is exactly the message we want our pupils to listen to. The key is in their tour title – Persevered….success isn’t instant, it takes hard work and effort and this is what our visitor shared. Along with David was Scott Quin, a Paralympic silver medallist swimmer who shared how watching the Hibs journey to the Cup win inspired him to do well at the Olympics.

Second, we had Caitlin McClatchey visit us (and many other Midlothian schools). She is a three time Olympic swimmer, double Commonwealth champion and 5 time world medallist. Caitlin’s talk with the pupils was nothing short of inspiring. I actually felt quite emotional listening to her. As she described her journey, I couldn’t help but think, this could be ANY of these children sitting in here right now. She spoke of feeling rubbish at PE, getting picked last for teams, only starting in a club at 12 years old and the numerous injuries she has faced. She spoke of racing the ‘golden girl of swimming’ when in Australia and the silence of the room when Caitlin beat her. She spoke of falling flat on her face in front of the media. She spoke of missing a race for being one minute late. And in the face of all this, she has persevered and found success. You could have heard a pin drop in the hall, the children were captivated. These real life examples are so important to share with children and encompass everything our visible learning work is trying to achieve. No, we don’t expect them all to become Olympic swimmers, but we would like to help them develop the skills to give it a pretty good go! Jade Nimmo, the Scottish national record holder in the long jump, joined us as well and shared how she is working towards being a heptathlete.
Setting learning within a real life context has always been important but having visitors like these makes it that much more ‘real’. I look forward to the next one!

Midlothian Learner in action

As mentioned in our previous post, schools across Midlothian are working to develop the qualities and attributes we feel all learners should have. Here is a reminder of the graphic we are using:


One of our teachers, Mr Burt, has introduced this graphic to his class of P6s in a really interesting way. Here is how he described the process:

  • As a class we spoke about what could make a ‘Midlothian Learner’.
  • The class came up with a number of words – this was all done orally and nothing was recorded in books or on the board.
  • Children were then introduced to the brick wall and asked if they could work out the phrases.(click attachment below)
  • a-midlothian-learner-brick-task
  • They were given a large sheet to glue the phrases on; the sheet already contained ‘collaborates’.
  • Children had to create the words and then try to create sentences using the learner language.
  • After the above task was completed a second task was then offered to the children (following day) to see if they could match the statements they had made with the actual meanings. (click attachment below)
  •  a-midlothian-learner-match-phrases-with-content

Mr. Burt’s feedback on this task was that initially the children found it challenging to put the bricks together to create words as some were unknown to them. However, their perseverance and dedication to the task demonstrated a huge step forward. Mr. Burt also commented that the following day, when matching the words to their meanings, the children  demonstrated a greater understanding of the key words.

This is a great example of how our slow, but measured, steps forward are beginning to make a difference with our learners. Not only in the way they approach a task, but the language they are using whilst doing it.

We will continue to engage with our Midlothian Learner graphic across the school throughout the year.

A new session at Roslin…

midlearnerA new academic session has begun at Roslin and it has been a really positive start!

It’s a bit of a weird year for us – in August, our annexe in Bilston was officially demolished and the new primary school opened. This meant some of our pupils moved schools to attend the local school in their community. For us at the main building in Roslin, our playground is a building site as our own new school is set to be complete for next August. Amongst all of this, you will find a staff and school of pupils ready for another year of learning and progress.

Our School Improvement Plan has been finalised and features some important areas of improvement for us this session. As we worked to put this plan together, we tried to ensure the foundations of visible learning were evident throughout. As a result, I feel we have a School Improvement Plan that highlights our focus on PROGRESS being made for ALL pupils and that our continued use of data is both purposeful and effective. Our plan links closely with cluster improvement plan – one which includes the three other local primary schools and high school.

For myself this session, I have set some professional goals in terms of things I want to improve on in the classroom. The use of our outdoor environment, how I go about teaching science and I want to continue improving on my use of feedback.

Across the authority, we are continuing our work in improving learning and teaching in all schools. I do hope you spend time looking at the other school blogs that are out there and the various Twitter accounts that share the high level of professional engagement taking place in Midlothian.

One of the most important developments this session is our Midlothian Learner statement, shown in the image above. All schools are working this year to develop these qualities within their learning communities  – a task that is not taken lightly and will certainly take time, effort and perseverance.

One of our authority’s strengths is the amount of opportunities that are made available for professional development. We have two more teachers this year taking part in the VLAT programme which will be an added bonus for our school visible learning working party. Myself and our DHT are taking part in the leadership network created by Midlothian this year, where across ten sessions we will be focusing on the work of Andy Hargreaves in the book  Uplifting Leadership. We are looking forward to sessions this year with Shirley Clarke, Guy Claxton, James Nottingham and this upcoming week, Sir John Jones. At Roslin, we look forward to welcoming the Principal of St.Andrew’s Primary School in Australia as he comes to talk to us about what we are doing to improve the learning and teaching in our school.

A busy and purposeful start to the session – we hope yours has been too! Here’s to another year of sharing and learning from one another.


Small steps, moving together…

It’s been awhile since my last post so I thought a wee update was in order!

In the past couple of months, we’ve had a lot going on around Roslin, but also around Midlothian.

  • In March we had visitors from all around the UK come and visit Midlothian and Roslin was one of the schools they could visit. If you’ve read Kerry Dolan’s summary of that day, you’ll know it was very successful! At Roslin, we were very nervous – we feel we are still so early on in our journey that we didn’t know if our work so far would really stand out. We were wrong. It was wonderful to have visitors speaking to the pupils and staff and the feedback we received reflected all of the effort staff and pupils have invested. I was quite proud that day, of both our school and our authority.
  • We are continuing to develop our work on learner dispositions. Our upcoming CAT session in May will look at what teachers have developed in terms of ideas for implementing Guy’s work and how we will use that to start next session. An interesting thought from Carol Dweck recently (as mentioned by James Nottingham this week) is that perhaps we need to be thinking about ‘good learning’ instead of a ‘good learner’….food for thought:) At our CAT session, we will be spending time looking at what some of the other schools in Midlothian have been doing in relation to learner dispositions and using their ideas to help move us forward.
  • Our Learning Council have been carrying out observations across the school, with a particular focus on feedback, learning intentions and success criteria. This directly relates to the areas in which teachers were trying to improve. The Council have their own special stickers that they can give pupils that show they found ‘evidence of good learning’ or ‘evidence of fantastic effort’. We will use their notes at our CAT session to help us improve further.
  • May is the month of self-evaluation for most schools and Roslin is no different. The SMT have already been working on how we will successfully incorporate the National Improvement Framework, HGIOS 4 and the visible learning school matrix into our self-evaluation. We’ve also spent time thinking about how our next improvement plan will reflect our visible learning culture. I would really like to see/hear how other schools have approached that! At a time of year when the energy levels are starting to dip, these are the things we need to focus our energy on to ensure progress and improvement are at the forefront of our thinking.
  • Our cluster of schools will be meeting in June to decide action plans for all of our working parties for next session. Visible Learning will be a key focus of that – with a main priority being the transition to high school and how we link the work we have been doing.
  • We finally found time for Kat Mathers to share her very thorough notes from the Visible Learning Conference. It was a great staff dialogue and it was so great to see people going away and trying things out the next day. There was a definite buzz following that meeting! One of Kat’s most important messages from the conference was how important the teacher is and the quality of our practice. This aligns itself so well to how we have approached VL at Roslin – continually trying to get better at being better.
  • It’s also the report writing season – I have noticed a huge difference from last year to this year in how I write my reports. The language I am using is different and the way in which I describe the pupils as learners has greatly improved.
  • This week in Midlothian, we were lucky to have James Nottingham join us to share his work on Challenging Learning and the Learning Pit. It came at the right time as I think we were all needing to understand this idea more clearly and learn how to approach challenge more effectively with our pupils. I took a lot away from my time observing James and from his talk to all of my colleagues. What I like the most is that what I’ve taken away, I can try on Monday – immediate impact from quality research and sharing of knowledge. He talked about finding the balance between WHAT and HOW to learn and the need for a deliberate focus on how to learn. He discussed the importance of creating opportunities for cognitive conflict and how we need to move away from getting them to ignore one side of the argument. James is so easy to listen to and I know so many people left his session yesterday feeling inspired and in the pit about the pit!

It will be a busy last 8 weeks of term and I look forward to updating you on our next steps. I cannot speak highly enough of how much the power of blogging and Twitter has impacted on not only my own practice, but those around me. The importance of sharing and helping each other move forward should not be underestimated!

Thanks for reading:)

Evidence of progress at Roslin

Last week we held our annual Pupil Conference where every child in the school has an opportunity for their voice to be heard. If you’ve not read about our conference last year, this is something I learned about whilst working at Hawthornden Primary a few years ago.

The conference is centred around key questions that all relate to our School Improvement Plan. Children work in their houses, in small groups, to answer and provide evidence for each of the questions. An adult helps lead the group and this year it was fantastic to have six parents from our Parent Council come and join us. We use a carousel technique to get an idea of what the majority agree or disagree with. Adults are under strict instructions to not give any help answering the questions – if they don’t know, then we need to know that!

Our key questions this year were:

  1. How do you use your maths and numeracy skills in other areas of the curriculum?
  2. How are pupils supported in this school?
  3. What is skimming? What is scanning? How have you used these skills in your learning?
  4. What makes a good listener? What makes a good speaker/talker? Describe some opportunities where you have used these skills.
  5. What makes a good learner?

As mentioned, these all related to specific aspects of our improvement plan and the information gathered at the conference will be used to help inform the next plan. Every child having a voice is quite powerful!

My focus, in particular, was the good learner question. I was so curious to see what would come of asking this question. I didn’t need to look at the responses though – several members of staff came to me straight away and said, what a difference Andrea, big improvements! And they were right. The last time we asked that question to our pupils was Dec 2014 and no one had even mentioned visible learning. We are now just over a year down the road and there has been a marked change in their responses.

I wasn’t sure of the best way to present this change and then remembered ear-marking a page in ‘Visible Learning into Action – International Case Studies of Impact’. Within Hodge Hill’s case study, there is an example of how they showed the different responses within their videos when children were asked the same question. Page 166 if you have the book – check it out:) I’ve compared the two times we asked this question of our learners – you can see it here: conferencecompare

We now need to build on this and further develop our work on learner dispositions – which is exactly what staff are working on as mentioned in a previous post. We also look forward to welcoming visitors to our school on Friday as part of our #vlnetworkUK Midlothian event:)

Pupil conference 022.JPG

Reflecting and next steps…

One of our staff members, Kat Mathers, was lucky enough to attend the recent World Visible Learning Conference in London. To say she was excited would be a huge understatement! I asked her to write a brief reflective statement regarding her two days at the conference and these were her thoughts:

There were many themes that emerged over our two days in London; deep learning, independence and self-regulation, thinking skills, learner dispositions and metacognition, to name a few. But the overriding theme for me, was the importance of the teacher in making learning visible.  Indeed John Hattie informed us that ‘collective teacher efficacy’ is now the influence with the most positive effect on learning.  Hattie argued that it is the teacher, more than the curriculum, teaching, school and student that makes the difference.  This view was supported, over and over, by the presenters at the conference, including in evidence from case studies.  Visible learning requires a committed, well informed, evidence-based, reflexive and collaborative profession.  In short, we need teachers who believe in their impact, know it and act on it.

I would imagine many of our fellow Midlothian colleagues would agree with Kat but also have taken away their own impressions and ideas. By the end of day one, she had already sent me a text saying how proud she was of Roslin. What a lovely feeling that was! We are so lucky to be working within an authority where we can all engage in professional dialogue related to visible learning and Kat said this was evident at the conference as well, seeing as many schools are embarking on their journey alone. I think our VLNetworkUK will be getting stronger!

Following on from our In-Service day in January, where we revisited the importance of learning intentions and success criteria, staff received a summary document of all the major points they identified within the research. I can see this on display now in some classes and is a great way of reminding us of our responsibility to get these key parts of learning right.

Last week, across the school, staff took part in trio peer observations. Learning intentions and success criteria were a primary focus, however the dialogue that ensued from all trios was reflective in all aspects of the teaching observed. In working closely with our EPS colleague, we are now looking at what the impact of this experience will be. It’s great that teachers found it an enjoyable experience and learned something from each other, but what will the long term impact be? We are looking to incorporate mindframes into this trio observation process and be able to share with each other how we’ve developed over time.

Staff are working in groups this term, to plan how we will go about teaching the learner dispositions as outlined by Claxton. This is supported by the evidence we have and is a clear next step. I’m looking forward to seeing what each group pulls together. In the meantime, our Learning Council are working on delivering a shared language of learning across the school. We want to ensure pupils and staff in every class are engaging with similar learning phrases and key words. Do all pupils understand ‘reflection’? Do all pupils understand ‘success criteria’? Learning intention, success criteria, assessment, feedback, reflection, next steps, peer, mistakes, traffic lighting, mindset and learning pit are all terms we feel are critical in understanding the learning process. Context and plenary are also on the list! So our Learning Council are currently thinking of the best way to emphasize and highlight these key terms.

Our most recent Visible Learner Survey has highlighted feedback as an area for development. Instead of launching straight away into work on improving this, we want to gather more evidence to support our thoughts. Our management team are going to carry out focus groups over the next few weeks and our EPS colleague will be doing class observations. Once these have been completed we will be better placed to decide how to go about developing our use of feedback.

Throughout this whole process we have been actively using our Evidence Into Action plan and referring back to our baseline and aspirational statements. Personally, it has been a huge help in keeping me on track and with purpose. Looking forward to what comes next…

A new year and the journey continues..

Happy New Year everyone! Hope you all had an enjoyable and restful holiday and are looking forward to the year ahead.

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a blog post as we have been allowing time for sharing practice, professional dialogue and embedding the work we have done thus far. It’s been great hearing staff talk about the dialogue that is taking place within their classes now and wanting to continue this work on visible learning.

Before Christmas, we worked together as a staff to look at the most recent evidence gathered and what it was telling us. Hawthornden had done something similar, so taking their lead, I asked staff to reflect on the strengths that came out of the evidence, the areas we need to improve and what our next steps should be. Two of the main pieces of evidence that were used were the Visible Learner survey that all pupils completed, as well as the Relational Trust survey. It was really encouraging for us all to see how the learning we have developed so far has had an impact. We were all in agreement that our next step across the whole school is to make it much clearer to pupils, what makes a good learner.

Around the same time as this, the headteacher and myself attended Day 2 of the Evidence into Action course. We were really pleased with what we were able to accomplish that day and valued the professional dialogue with other schools. From that session we have created a clear action plan based on evidence and research. We also are beginning to see how we can ensure VL is woven through our School Improvement Plan next session.

That led us very nicely into today’s In-Service session where we had two main areas to focus on.

The first was learning intentions and success criteria. Yes, we know what they are and when they should be used, but are we doing it effectively? No was the easy answer. It was time for a refresher!  So, pairs were given different sections of Shirley Clarke’s work (from 2 books) and were asked to highlight the main points. They were to then spend the last 5 minutes identifying 2 or 3 key points that should be shared. We had a good discussion about how this was an area we all needed a bit of revising in! We are going to use those key points now to create a document we can all have to hand, that acts as a wee reminder of What A Good One Looks Like:)

We then moved on to the bulk of today’s session which was looking at what research has shown to be the qualities of a good learner. For this we turned to the work of Guy Claxton.


We started with the above mind map task. This was a key question that Claxton asks in his texts and was one I felt was valuable to answer before looking at his work on Building Learning Power. It was interesting to see which ones came up in the 4 Rs.

I spoke to staff about how easy it is sometimes for us to resort back to what we know works best. We know it works, we know it’s been done, we know it will take less time. So I shared with them the points Claxton makes about why it is so important for children to leave school with a better understanding of their skills and how they can use them. When you read through these reasons, you are reminded of the different world these children are growing up in and the importance of us making a change to our practice.

Tables then worked together to match each of the learning capacities to one of the four learner dispositions. Staff found this tricky – in a good way! It was a valuable use of time to just have teachers talking about these capacities as discreet skills. I then shared with the staff some of the ‘Quick Wins’ written by Claxton for those who were keen to get away and try something straight away.


So the big question was, how are we going to transfer this research into our learning context here at Roslin? How will we lead this? How can we ensure the pupils here will get the most from what we have learned here? Staff felt strongly about moving slowly and moving together. It’s kind of been our mantra since day one and seems to be working. Time to reflect on the research and think it over for themselves was what staff wanted and then move forward. It would be so easy for staff to say, just tell us what to do and we will do it. It’s great to work with a team who value their own understanding of the research and are willing to put the time in to do so.

So, staff are going to work in teams, as we did before, each one taking a different learning disposition and break down each of the capacities within it to provide suggestions and ideas of how to teach these skills to children. We will then bring this work together and reflect on each team’s effort and deliver it across the whole school. This method worked really well in our establishment phase and we have seen the long term impact of that effort in our everyday teaching. We will keep you posted on our developments!

Learning Walks at Roslin

Hope everyone has had a great week – hard to believe it’s only 7 weeks until the Christmas holidays! At Roslin, things are going well – though having a full moon and Halloween in the same week, made for an interesting few days:) In terms of VL, we are continuing to gather evidence in preparation for our Evidence into Action Day Two workshop. We held another school working party meeting this week and I shared our gathering plan with the staff. We had an interesting conversation about effect sizes as I showed them some of what we have gathered thus far. We looked at the results of our Relational Trust survey where we had 22 out of 28 responses. We identified clear strengths and were able to discuss how we can improve one or two of the areas. On a personal level, it was great to share the results of my teacher feedback survey. A few of the teachers are now interested in doing it themselves and that is what I hoping to achieve! The teachers are noticing more and more within their class, how pupil dialogue is changing and have asked for a jotter to be put in the staffroom so that they can record it. Each of these are small pieces of evidence, but help create the bigger picture of how we are developing.

A few people have asked me about the Learning Walk we held last week. Quite a few schools do Learning Walks, with similar formats, but I thought I would write a quick post to let you know how ours went. The information below has come from Mrs Wilson’s summary document of the week.

The SMT, class teachers, learning assistants and Learning Council went on a series of learning walks and shared classroom experiences, in nursery to P7, over the course of the week. The purpose was to gather evidence of where we are in our Visible Learning journey. Evidence was gathered through: direct observation of displays and resources accessible to pupils, discussion with pupils and LAs, direct observation of teaching and direct observation of areas outwith the classroom (corridors, halls, office etc). Evidence was recorded using photographs, notes (using a VL master sheet as a moderation tool), a master sheet for observing shared classroom experiences, notes from jotter moderation and talking to pupils. Class teachers and SMT met at the end to identify examples of best practice and agree on recommended next steps. One of the most important pieces of feedback that came out of our staff reflection was that teachers noticed the progression of VL across the school. It’s clear that staff are beginning to integrate VL into their daily practice more and more and are doing so at the appropriate level for their learners.

Some examples of the evidence recorded in nursery to P7 were: nursery planning and policy folders reflect VL research, visual displays of ‘what are we learning’, floor planning books, using post-it notes for pupil dialogue on displays, changing your mindset phrases, questions cube, effort scales, thinking about learning question cards, reflection/metacognition words, visual timetables, LI and SC on display, brain work, peer feedback phrases and development, artwork in relation to brains, mindsets, mistakes and VL reading.

Evidence outside the classroom/across the school was: school improvement plan on display for all, quality indicators, HGIOS quotes, VL mind maps, professional reading resources, reading books for children connected to VL and wider achievements of pupils across the school.

When the Learning Council came together to reflect on what they had observed, their comments were:

  • they recognised the differences in how each class are looking at things
  • stated that it was now important that we integrate these key concepts of VL into our everyday learning
  • ‘the school is using VL as a strategy for all subjects in school’
  • ‘you can use the strategies in everyday life’
  • ‘growth mindset helps us not to give up’
  • ‘the learning pit is a series of events in learning’
  • ‘learning feels very different now’
  • ‘it is a major change’
  • ‘it allows you to take on challenges’
  • ‘it has had a big impact in a good way’

I was lucky enough to observe P3 in action as they were applying their understanding of food chains to a cooperative learning task. Sitting and watching a pupil of that age turn to another pupil and say, ‘why don’t you have another attempt at that, you’ll get it, keep trying’ was just lovely to experience. I know it’s small, but we’ve only been at this a short time and to see dialogue like that taking place, just makes us very proud!

We are now working on prioritising our next steps and look forward to the next part of this adventure!