Sheringham Primary School

Teaching and Learning Guidance; August 2018

Please Note: This document is designed to to support understanding of the principles laid down in the Teaching and Learning Policy

Teaching and Learning is so BIG, where do we start?

During the 2016-17 academic year, we spent a lot of time reflecting on the values of our school. We thought we could find a few key values that would sum up what we collectively hold most dear. We thought that this would help people understand what we stand for.

But the more we looked into why we made particular decisions, the more we realised that particular values have priority dependent on the context. The only values that always trumped other values, were ones that were universal to all school in the country (e.g. children’s safety).

At that point we felt a bit rubbish.

However, we didn’t feel that it had been a wasted year of soul searching. What we had found was that the more we asked, “Why do we do that?” the more we were able to explain what was most important given the context. This is what we stand for. The more we were challenged to link actions with purposes, the more we could identify which habits had become disconnected from their purposes.

We realised how much we valued asking why? And in a manner, this is the value at the very heart of teaching and learning at Sheringham.

The diagram above Brian Male in The Primary Curriculum Design Handbook, is accompanied by the following explanation (Click here for the full explanation):

When you think about it, most curriculum planning in schools is about the 'What?' We spend our time thinking about what it is we want the children to learn. We are in the outer circle. Planning meetings are often about taking the programmes of study and organising them into programmes and lessons to answer the questions, 'What have we got to cover?' and 'What are we going to teach?' Then we spend a bit of time thinking about how we are going to teach the 'what'. But we seldom get to the `Why' which is at the centre of things. Why do we want them to learn these things in the first place?

From Brian Male The Primary Curriculum Design Handbook Pg 17-19

This idea applies at all levels at Sheringham; from lesson planning to bush pruning. Sometimes we start with the why. Sometimes we start with the what to help us understand the context, before we go back to the why, which then may lead to us changing the what! Here’s some examples:

Regardless of the order, asking why and getting a satisfactory answer is central to learning and teaching at Sheringham.

How do we teach the ‘Sheringham Way’?

We believe that the culture of our school is in complete harmony with our vision for teaching and learning. In the staff room, and in the corridors and classrooms, the term the ‘Sheringham Way’ has become a commonly used term. New teachers talk of ‘being Sheringhamised’.

We don’t know who came up with these phrases. However, in a way we do know where they have come from. In short, people who are new to the school have created them. On arriving at Sheringham, they sense such a strong commonality of approach, that it simply needs to be given a name.

Fundamentally, we appreciate that teaching well, and learning well are difficult things. If things are difficult, then we need to work together on them. Only through constantly talking about learning, can we choose the most effective daily teaching practices. Only through sharing our successes and failures can we learn to become even better teachers.

Essentially, this is the ‘Sheringham Way’. It’s the BIG answer to the question, “How do we teach the ‘Sheringham Way?”

There are two other answers to the question. They are:

  1. Responsive Teaching, which is a collection of high impact teaching practises gathered around the central notion of being responsive to what we see and hear in the classroom. Responsive Teaching builds on a strong history of Assessment for Learning at Sheringham.
  2. Subject, group and developmentally-appropriate pedagogies, which have been chosen because they harmonize with Responsive Teaching, but offer detail about teaching particular subjects or children.

What is Responsive Teaching?

Responsive teaching is all about responding to what you’ve seen and heard during a lesson, in order to choose what and how to teach next. We have borrowed this phrase from Dylan Wiliam, but we are developing our own understanding of what it means to us.

In order to be effective responsive teachers:

  1. We use teaching practices (which we term ‘ingredients’) which enable us to see and hear evidence of learning happening (or not happening). To borrow a John Hattie phrase, these practises allow learning to be ‘visible’ to teachers.

  1. We respond in calculated and meaningful ways to alter the direction of learning, based on this evidence.
  1. We may choose to alter the direction of learning for one child, a pair or the whole class.
  2. It may happen during the lesson, or when planning the next lesson or series of lessons.
  3. The decision we make relates to both what we teach next (the next teaching point that we choose) and how  we teach next (the approach we use to help children understand).

  1. We also respond in order to alter our teaching practice, based on this evidence.
  1. We evaluate the effect our teaching has had on pupils’ learning, and get better at making choices about what is likely to be effective in the future.
  2. We throw out what we think is working, and replace it with what we know is working. We often share the evidence we gather with our colleagues, because by talking about learning we get better at evaluating our teaching. To borrow another Hattie phrase, everyone seeks to know thy impact.

The ingredients of Responsive Teaching are summarised in this diagram:

It is important to understand that none of these ingredients stand alone. For example, if children do not understand what success ‘looks like’, it is very difficult for them to self assess. The following table defines and clarifies each ingredient.



According to Carol Dweck, a Growth Mindset is “the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your effort.”

According to John Hattie (2011), Learning objectives describe what pupils should “be able to do/understand/care about as a result of the teaching.“

Children learn best when teachers and children share a common understanding of what success looks or sounds like for a given learning goal.

Quality Talk refers to what the teacher says to children, what the children say to the teacher and what children say to one another. Words are needed for thinking.

Evidence of effect

Research by Good et al. (2003) and Blackwell et al. (2007) suggested that having a Growth Mindset belief enables pupils to work harder and achieve better results.

Hattie (2017) lists the following effect sizes:

Goals: 0.58 (high impact on student achievement)

Teacher clarity: 0.75 (high impact)

Hattie (2017) lists the following effect sizes:

Goals: 0.58 (high impact on student achievement)

Teacher clarity: 0.75 (high impact)

The EFF conclude that collaborative learning has a moderate impact for very low cost. Hattie (2017) lists classroom discussion as having a 0.82 (very high) effect size.

How does it help us be responsive?

Children with a Growth Mindset will be open about what they have not understood, and will seek challenge because they are not afraid of being incorrect. Therefore their learning is more visible; they generate lots of high-quality evidence of learning (or not learning) that we can respond to!

When we’re clear about what the children are learning, then we can respond when we see and hear that learning not happening. If children are clear, then they can let their teacher, or a peer know and get some feedback. Challenging learning objectives create lots for us to see and hear about children’s learning. Easy objectives often lead to silence.

When teachers really unpick what success looks like, then it’s easier to decide how to respond to what you see and hear. You know what to teach next, you’ve just got to figure out how . If children really understand the components of success, they have a language they can use to talk about their learning. Then all teachers have to do is to listen.

The words that children say in the classroom are little windows to their brains. Once we’ve heard what’s happening in their brains, we can choose what and how to teach next. However, we’ve got to get children talking about meaningful things, challenging things, things which engage them, or all our listening will be for nothing!  

Which other ingredient does it link closely with?

Links closely to: Teacher and Peer Feedback. The type of teacher feedback that children are given (e.g. outcome vs process, effort vs intelligence) has a strong impact on children’s learning mindsets.

Links closely to: Understanding success. Really understanding learning objectives is difficult for children, they often need to see what success ‘looks like’ before they really appreciate the learning goal.

Links closely to: Self-assessment. Children often self-assess by identifying their strengths and points for development. This is really difficult if they don’t understand what they were trying to achieve in the first place.

Links closely to:  Effective questioning. Most children’s talk in the classroom is prompted by teachers’ questions.

One way we can get it wrong

We can get it wrong by: Praising the product children create, rather than the effort it took to get there.

We can get it wrong by: Simply describing the activity children are doing.

We can get it wrong by: Modelling a successful example, without helping children understand the ‘secret’ of your success.

We can get it wrong by: Talking more than we listen. Our job is not to say clever things, but to get our children to say clever things.

Example teaching practices

  • Give feedback on effort and learning rather than outcome.
  • Cultivate a culture where mistakes are welcomed and shared. Avoid labelling children e.g. “You’re very clever.”
  • Talking about what children are learning with colleagues during planning.
  • Talking with children about what they are learning during lessons.
  • Co-construction of success criteria
  • Modelling
  • Building skills in named strategies over time (e.g. in DR)
  • Consistent expectations (e.g. expectation of multiple methods in Maths)
  • Learning partners
  • Cold calling (often using lolly-pop sticks)
  • TPPP (teacher, pupil, pupil, pupil)
  • A, B, C (Agree, Build on, Challenge)



Asking children questions is at the very heart of teaching. The value of a question lies not solely in the the answer, but in the thinking that the question prompts.

Children are taught together in the same classroom, and sit in mixed attainment partners as standard practice. Focus groups are decided upon dynamically.

In their review of marking (2016), the EEF write that feedback, “...provides information to learners about their performance and how to improve it.” This differs slightly from the one educationalists favour (e.g. Hattie etc).

According to Dylan William, self-assessment, “activates students as owners of their own learning.” Through insight into their own learning, children can improve their learning.

Evidence of effect

Hattie (2017) lists the overall effect size of questioning as 0.48 (medium impact). It’s important to note that the effects of questions vary dependent on their type.

EEF conclude that ability grouping has a negative impact on lower attaining students, meaning that they fall behind by an additional 1 or 2 months a year.

EEF conclude that feedback is a high impact,  low cost strategy equating to 8 months of additional progress during a year.

EEF conclude that metacognition and self-regulation strategies have a high impact, equating to 7 months additional progress during the year.

How does it help us be responsive?

Questions generate the great majority of what we see and hear in the classroom. They get children thinking, talking and writing. Often, a question is the response to what a child has said; we probe further, or ask for others’ opinions. Using effective questioning is a difficult skill; it’s important that we monitor the types of questions we are asking and their frequency, and reflect on the quality of children’s responses.

When we attainment group children in the classroom, or by set, we can begin to make assumptions about what particular children may or may not be able to learn. Instead of being responsive to what we see and hear, we can make assumptions. In a mixed attainment class, we are able to be dynamic; grouping children as and when the need arises.

Very often, giving feedback is the way we respond when we see or hear learning happening or not happening. However, giving quality feedback often leads to quality talk, which gives us even more evidence about learning happening or not happening!

With many children, the best way to gain insight into whether they are learning, or not learning, is simply to ask them. Some older children may even be able to suggest what would help them learn better. It would be a mistake to suggest that learning to self-assess effectively is easy, but with time and effort the information teachers can get about learning is incomparable.

Which other ingredient does it link closely with?

Links closely to: Mixed attainment teaching. Asking challenging questions, but to which all children can respond at their (different) levels, is an incredibly important differentiation strategy.

Links closely to: Growth Mindset. By being given the opportunity to be successful at challenging tasks, we encourage the belief that attainment can be improved through effort.

Links closely to: Self Assessment. When children develop self-assessment skills, they are able to give themselves feedback about their learning. To self assess they need to understand what success looks like.

Links closely to: Growth Mindset. If children have a fixed mindset, they won’t be able to meaningfully self-assess; the only next step will be to ‘get it correct’!

One way we can get it wrong

We can get it wrong by:  Only looking for answers that match the one in the teacher’s head.

We can get it wrong by:  Always working with the same low attaining focus group in certain subjects.

We can get it wrong by: Hijacking children’s learning, by ‘jumping in’ at the first sign of struggle.

We can get it wrong by: Only asking children to self-assess at the end of a lesson.

Example teaching practises (in MNP, in DR/Phonics, In EYFS)

  • Shirley Clarke templates: A range of answers, a statement, right and wrong, starting from the answer etc.
  • Using Bloom’s taxonomy to help generation of questions.
  • Dynamic in-class grouping.
  • Teaching up (planning for the higher attainers and then scaffolding for the rest).
  • Pupil champions.
  • Collaborative improvement of writing.
  • 1:1 conferencing.
  • Children’s work shared under visualiser.
  • Mini-plenaries.
  • Modelling our own metacognitive thinking e.g. “What do I know about problems like this?”
  • Thumbs up, middle, down.
  • Asking, “What did you learn today?”

While these ingredients will often be found in Sheringham classrooms everyday, many in every lesson, we believe that there is no recipe that will have the maximum impact on student learning, for all students, at all times. There can be no rules about frequency.

For example, our school has a very high proportion of EAL children, SEN children and children with a wide range of barriers to learning.

In some cases, children are not working on the age appropriate curriculum (these have been assessed as PITA 1 or 2). We use our professional judgement, with reference to research evidence, to decide when teaching with mixed attainment peers is of most benefit and when this may not be case. For a number of the highest needs children at our school we have decided that their needs will be best met in a SEN class, where we can design provision appropriate to their needs.

What are the “Subject, group and developmentally-appropriate” pedagogies?

While the principle of Responsive Teaching underpins all teaching at Sheringham, there are specific additional approaches which we use to support achievement in particular subjects and for some particular developmental stages and groups of pupils. There are also approaches targeted at particular individual children. These approaches have all been chosen because they harmonize with Responsive Teaching. Indeed, as soon as we identify an approach that will help our children be even more successful (e.g. Destination Reader), we begin to change and adapt it for our pupils. In this manner these approaches remain completely responsive.

The following are examples of some of these approaches:

What is our approach to planning?

Planning at Sheringham is considered to be a process rather than a product. Planning conversations are at the heart of the ‘Sheringham Way’. Although there are formats available to support teachers in structuring their units and lessons, there is no minimum expectation of written planning as long as it is clear that teachers have considered:

Based on DuFour (2004)

Sheringham has a strong collaborative culture and there is an expectation that, while written planning is not always essential, shared learning discussions take place on most days. We believe that regular articulation of intended and actual learning in the classroom, in addition to colleague support and challenge, ensures more responsive and consistent teaching, than that done in isolation.

What is our approach to improving teaching and learning at Sheringham?

We believe that we need to use evidence to inform our decision making, so that we make the best decisions and invest in areas most likely to lead to improvements in pupil outcomes. This is why we refer in this guidance to the evidence gathered by the EEF and John Hattie. Please refer to the EEF’s Five Step School Improvement Cycle for further guidance. In this spirit, we dedicate three years of our school improvement plan on our biggest priorities, in order to ensure that we have time to make the right decisions, implement them effectively and evaluate the impact we have had.

Which other policies does this guidance relate to?

This guidance does not stand alone. To be effective it must be embedded into our classroom practice and integrate with our other policies. Therefore, teachers should also refer to:

- Behaviour Policy

- Feedback and Marking Policy

- English, Maths, Reading, RWI and Learning Challenge guidance

What further reading could I do?

Please follow these links for additional reading about all the ingredients of Responsive Teaching:

Know Thy Impact

Growth Mindset

Clear and Challenging Learning Objectives

Understanding Success

Quality Talk

Effective Questioning

Mixed Attainment Teaching

Teacher and Peer Feedback

Self Assessment