Last month I wrote a post asking whether there was a point to starters. Luckily for me, Darren Mead got in touch to tell me about what he has termed Learning Journeys. Ever since I’ve been absolutely smitten. The idea is incredibly simple: at the beginning of the lesson, provide students with a visual representation of the learning which will take place during the lesson. That’s it. A visual learning objective.

Geoff Petty in his book Evidence Based Teaching shows that using this strategy along with a traditional learning objective plus an activity which links to students’ prior learning has an effect size of 2.66. For anyone who hasn’t yet encountered Professor Hattie’s research into ‘effect sizes’, the basic principle is this; Hattie says effect sizes are the best way of answering the question ‘what has the greatest influence on student learning?’. An effect-size of 1.0 is typically associated with:

  • advancing learners’ achievement by one year, or improving the rate of learning by 50%
  • a correlation between some variable (e.g., amount of homework) and achievement of approximately .50
  • A two grade leap in GCSE, e.g. from a C to an A grade

An effect size of 1.0 is enormous. An effect size of 2.66 is a veritable mother lode! I’m not sure I want to attempt calculating the impact this amounts to in terms of potential GCSE results: it’s enough to know that it’s clearly worth trying.

The examples on Darren’s site are all hand drawn and, I suppose, remain in view during the lesson for students refer to and orientate themselves by as the lesson progress. Not being an especially gifted artist and having the brief gaps between my lesson punctuated by stairs duty, I decided that attempting to draw these at the beginning of each lesson was unlikely to work. Instead I have been preparing them in advance and putting them on a PPT slide which is displayed as the learners come tumbling excitedly into the lesson like a litter of especially keen puppies. Here’s a few examples:

Film Studies: Introduction to Super Hero genre

Year 9 inquiry based lesson on Dweck

Year 11 lesson on themes in Of Mice and Men

What I’ve found is that after some initial confusion and resistance, students now start puzzling over and discussing what the lesson will be about as soon as they arrive. I’ve experimented with various tweaks such as getting them to write their own learning objectives based on what they think we will be doing in the lesson. I’ve also tried showing them the objective and getting them to draw their own learning journey. This turned out to be a bit too time consuming to want to do often.

Students have been very positive so far. Here’s a couple of quotes from my Year 11s:

Tom: I like it because it makes you think more about what the lesson will be about.

Georgia: When I see the learning journey on the board I start trying to work it out. I think it’s a good way to start the lesson.

Ryan: At first I hated it because it was more effort than copying down the objective but now I think it helps get me more involved in what we’re doing.

I make sure to show the Learning Journey slide a few times during the lesson. It’s a great way into being able to review progress and assess where we are and where we need to go. As Darren himself says, the idea isn’t new but it’s certainly worth trying. Please give it a go and let me know how you get on.