The heart of learning
We all know in our educational hearts that the skills and qualities that make up the PLTS form a student’s emotional, cognitive, social and strategic approach to learning. As such students and teachers ignore them at their peril.
The six clusters of qualities are more than skills that can be trained. The real point is to cultivate them over time into becoming dispositions or habits of mind: they will come to mind and be used whenever needed.
Cultivation of these qualities, so that they run through the curriculum, life and ethos of the school like lettering through a stick of rock, is the challenge that many schools are working on.
The bigger challenge
Perhaps even more challenging is finding a user-friendly way of supporting and assessing progression. Teachers, quite rightly, have shied away from simplistic tick box solutions and summative packages that attempt to 'level' learning skill development. What they seek is a manageable way of assessing progression in the PLTS that helps students and teachers get under the skin of these qualities and supports their understanding, desire and ability to develop them further.
A way forward
Blaze PLTS is a web-based self assessment package that is designed to capture students’ perceptions of their current use of their PLTS and to use this information to support the development of these habits over time. It offers:
- a student friendly quiz
- immediate encouraging learner feedback
- detailed feedback notes for teachers
- group results
- progression tracker
This intriguing package has many uses...
- to raise students awareness of their use of PLTS
- to prompt and support students’ self reflection as learners
- to deepen teachers awareness of students as learners
- to provide teachers with a rich pool of information to scaffold critical learning dialogues
- to track students’ changing perceptions of themselves as learners
- to contribute information for students’ eportfolios
- to provide an accessible dimension for reports to parents
- to provide management data to focus the development of PLTS
- to monitor the impact of whole-school development in learning
- to inform the school’s SEF and show evidence of progression to Ofsted.
But the most important use.
The information becomes especially valuable when it is used to enrich, motivate and extend students’ learning through critical dialogue between teachers and students. Such learning conversations are framed to the students’ responses to the Blaze PLTS quiz and feedback statements.
How do I use it ?
- The Blaze PLTS user guide provides outlines how Blaze PLTS can track the progress of your students
- This short video details the product and it's benefits
From using the quiz
- Students gain an insight into the skills and attitudes that underpin effective learning
From using the student feedback
- Students understand how they are currently using those skills and attitudes, their relative strengths, and their areas most in need of development
From using the teacher coaching notes
- Teachers gain a deepened awareness of their students as learners and have access to a carefully structured, flexible set of coaching notes with which to hold a learning conversation with individual students
- Students are encouraged to reflect on how they are currently using their learning skills and, most importantly, how they might strengthen them both in terms of frequency and range of use
- Schools have reliable data with which to set and report targets for learning development for each individual student
From using whole school level feedback
- Schools gain valuable monitoring data to track and evidence progression and to evaluate the impact of whole-school developments in learning.
Blaze PLTS is easy to use. It is web-based, accessed online, and requires no installation on to your network. It does, however, integrate fully with your school’s admin system to allow the ready transfer of data both from and to SIMS, CMIS etc.
Consists of 31 statements which capture all the qualities and skills that make up the PLTS. The quiz aims to capture the scope and frequency of the students’ use of the PLTS.
A learning profile
On finishing the quiz students receive immediate encouraging feedback in the form of a learning profile. The profile gives an overview of their use of each PLTS, an indication of which quality/skill they are using most frequently and the one which seems to be used least and in need of development. After the students have finished the quiz teachers can generate Learner Report and Teacher Coaching Notes as pdf files.
The Learner Report page one duplicates the one screen feedback at the end of the quiz. Page two offers the students prompts to stimulate self reflection on how they might strengthen their use of their least used PLTS quality/skill.
The teacher feedback is the resource for conducting a learning conversation. It offers the overall score for each of the six PLTS, a radar diagram graphical display of the scores, the feedback the students received and finally suggested coaching statements for use in framing a learning conversation around the quality/skill in need of development. This coaching script is differentiated in several ways. The script is different for each of the 37 qualities that make up the six PLTS. Each quality has three different coaching levels which depend on frequency of use. The aim of the critical learning dialogue is to support and encourage the student to increase their level of skill and independent frequency of use.
The group profile offers the following features
- the name of the group and date of the quiz
- average scores for the class/group for the six skills
- average scores for the boys and girls
- the same scores shown on a radar-diagram display
This facility offers teachers an overview of the dispositional attitudes in the class/group and can form the basis for planning a whole-class development focus ie concentrating as team working for some time, or focusing on reflective behaviours in some subjects.
Progression reports are available for each group that have taken the quiz. These reports offer the scores for each Personal, Learning and Thinking Skill for the most recently completed quiz, together with a marker which shows the score from the previous time the quiz was taken.
- Example of 'Learner Reports' and 'Teacher Coaching Notes' generated after a class took the quiz (pdf).
- Take a shortened demo version of the quiz (6 of the 31 questions) - complete with learner feed back at the end.