The primary objective for any lesson at GCSE or A level is to ensure students are prepared for the examinations. Therefore, everything you do in that lesson should point towards students achieving their potential in an exam. That’s not to say there isn’t a place for awe and wonder, for the love of learning, but ultimately lessons need to prepare students for exams.
There is a misguided belief that “challenge” is teaching beyond what is written in the specification. Some proclaim that it is about stretching all learners, and in particular the most able. About not having glass ceilings and not limiting learning. We believe in that too, providing we also recognise that students need to know what body of knowledge will be required for examinations. There is a risk that too much challenge clouds the specification in a student’s mind, and therefore they don’t prepare adequately for exams because they are no longer clear about which aspects of the lesson were most important.
Of course having a broader understanding of the subject helps to link concepts together and begins to help you ask deeper questions about the subject. However, we have to remember this is a very, very high level skill and will not be necessary to achieve well at GCSE.
Therefore, to ensure absolute clarity for revision, Craig’n’Dave create resources that focus on the specification, and do not attempt to go beyond that. Students can be adequately challenged within the body of knowledge they need to know without going too much beyond it. This prepares them for exams in the best possible way.
The activities in the Craig’n’Dave workbooks are not intended to offer challenge. Instead, they are intended to give students reassurance that they can complete the work, opening their mind to greater challenge in the programming tasks. Workbook activities embed core knowledge. Watching the video, making notes in a book and then completing simple activities gives students three opportunities to understand the subject matter. The goal here is to create meaningful, straightforward classwork that can be used later for revision. The aim for the first part of the lesson is not stretch and challenge, it is retention of knowledge.
If your lesson is observed, take the observer with you around the classroom, don’t allow them to sit down. They need to hear the way students are being challenged otherwise they risk not understanding the teacher’s intent, implementation and impact.
Having freed up time in the lesson by adopting the flipped classroom approach, the real challenge everyone is looking for comes in the second half of the lesson. Rather than dictating the pace of progress with programming, we believe that students should be given a range of problems to solve, and make progress at their own pace. This means that students are all challenged and are probably working on a different problem to their neighbour.
In conclusion, challenge needs to be applied where it makes the biggest difference. Not to all phases of a lesson. Retention of knowledge is often a key goal, simply because of the way the examination system works. Challenge comes from the teacher interactions, questioning, and student led programming.