Bob Powell Training session

Tutors from a range of providers enjoyed the CPD day on 9th September, delivered by Robert Powell. Robert Powell has spent a lifetime in education, as a classroom teacher, Head of Department, Head of Year, Deputy Head and Headteacher. Robert Powell Training and Publications was set up in 1996, and he is the author of a number of handy, accessible guides for teachers, for example: Outstanding Teaching, Learning and Assessment: The Handbook

On the day Robert shared key messages based on what Ofsted are looking for when they observe sessions, and some practical ideas about classroom activities…and entertained us with a few anecdotes and displays of IT wizardry such as getting Jamie Oliver to deliver the session aims! Keep reading for some ideas that we have put together for putting Bob’s suggestions into typical adult learning situations.

Key messages:

1.       Classroom management

2.       Use of groups

3.       Clarity and aims

4.       Language -Key words, access to vocabulary

5.       Participation

6.       Understanding

7.       By task and must/should/could

8.       Use of scaffolds/modelling

9.       ICT/technology

10.   In marking and feedback


Classroom management and use of groups

Manage group work in any discussion activity so that all learners can participate and are engaged– for example, in a discussion on Internet Safety nominate roles within group eg the loud confident leaners as the scribe, the quiet but confident learner as the chair etc. You could also have a supporter and an observer. This will help to encourage the shy learners to speak within the small group, and to keep control of the more vociferous learners!

Use Jigsaw or Snowball set-ups for group work. Jigsaw activity for a childcare session – split learners into group A, group B, and group C. Group A make a list of what baby equipment new parents will need to get, group B make a list of what support groups are available for new parents, group C makes a list of what health care a new parent can expect. After a short time for discussion, reorganise the groups into group has one A, one B and one C, and learners share with their new group the findings of the original group.

Snowball activity – learners start by discussing the topic in pairs, then they join with another pair so they put their ideas together as a group of 4.

Peer coaching – get learners to declare their own area of expertise so they can support others. For example in an IT session where the outcome is to use Word or Publisher to design a poster, learners who are already confident with Word Art or embedding photos could display a little card to say this, so other learners can ask them for support if the tutor is busy elsewhere in the group.

Clarity and aims

Clearly state the aims of the session – think about engaging ways to do this that reinforce learning eg visual presentation of aims and outcomes in a mindmap, this could be for 1 session, or even for a whole topic to highlight progression from one session to the next . Or use an engaging photos to elicit questions from the learner about what the topic might cover. See powerpoint ideas here:

LanguageALL tutors need to be language tutors, and actively teach subject-related vocabulary (technical terms or jargon) and encourage learners to use the correct terminology. Embedding English is a key focus for Ofsted and helps your learners with their skills overall as well as consolidating new subject learning. Think about games to practice new vocabulary – card-based games, Blockbusters style quiz, definitions games, dominos-style matching eg give each learner a card. They need to find the learner who has the matching term/definition. The cards should make a chain around the room – see example on FENC here.

Encourage learners to use new technical vocabulary by giving each item of vocabulary a “score” and when they do a piece of writing you can add up the scores to see how many they used.

Mentoring short answers homework – vocabulary score card


Peer = 2

Coaching = 3

Growth = 4

Reflection = 4

Goals = 3


Reality = 3

Obstacles = 3

Questions = 3

Active Listening skills = 5

Envisioning = 5



Get the learners involved by challenging them to ask the questions – they have to know the answers in order to ask the question, so this reinforces learning and it challenges the learners asking the questions and those answering them. Eg in a language lesson learners are practising giving personal information in pairs. One pair are quick and finish first. Ask them to write 5 questions about other members of the group or the tutor to challenge the next pair of learners to finish. They could ask questions like: is Jane married? Does Anita have children? Where does Joe live?

Or in a craft lesson, a learner finishes quicker than the others. They could draft a set of questions to ask other learners about their projects eg how could you make this item cheaper? What would you charge for this item at a craft fair? What alternative materials could you use? How could you make this item suitable for children?


Look for deep understanding of a subject . Be aware of the level of questioning you are using. Compare these 2 questions for example: A) Name 3 plants suitable for a shaded garden? B) I need to choose a plant to position near a shed and an existing large bush, in a north facing spot. What is suitable and why?

Question B is much more challenging and learners will show much deeper learning by analysing the situation and applying their knowledge. For question A they could simply be repeating an answer they have memorised without understanding.

Set tasks that ask for application of knowledge. Eg in a Money management course phrase the question as “what is the price you pay for a coat with a price tag that says £30 – 20% OFF today only!”

This is more challenging than laying out the sum for learner s 30 divided by 100, times by 20 etc.

Differentiation and scaffolding

At the same time you might want to set up scaffolds to break down a task into manageable chunks for learners. So if they are doing a series of questions to practice percentages you would do one example with them, and leave the example displayed so they can refer back to it. The same applies for more complex tasks. If you are asking learners to write a report or do some research you might give them subtitles to help frame their writing.   If you are asking them to plan a project you might give them the structure of a mindmap to help ensure they consider all aspects of the project etc.


A key focus for Ofsted is: how is your feedback impacting on what learners do? Find ways to evidence oral feedbackget learners to make a note of it, record it, jot it down on a post-it, get learners to record it in a learning log or in ILPs. For example in a family learning session you could use post-its to jot down a quick comment for the adult learner and hand it to them during the session. They can collect the comments to help their own self-reflection when they are doing their ILPs. Take and print photos of craft or art projects as they progress and ask learners to jot down oral feedback from tutor or peers next to the appropriate photo.

Information Learning Technology

Use technology to engage learners and make it easier to give feedback to individuals and manage the classroom.

Recommended apps / IT software to try out:

Promethean – clickers for immediate individual feedback, quizzes, surveys etc Socrative is an alternative that only requires mobile phones / tablets

HUE camera – to display on a smartboard a close-up of things from around the classroom eg learners’ work etc

Morfo – crazy app to make photos (eg of Jamie Oliver or your cat!) say anything you like!

Tarsia – A tool for creating the activities in the form of jigsaws or dominos for later use in a class.

Splashtop – for linking learners’ mobile / tablet devices and the PC / smartboard in a classroom.

Key recommended reading:

Ofsted report: What works and Why 2014

John Hattie:

Other writing about Hattie’s findings:

Please bear in mind that Hattie has updated his original data so you might find variations.

Finally, we ended the day by writing our own action plan, to try out a new idea from the day.  We are already receiving feedback from tutors who have successfully implemented ideas from the session; we’d love to have more.  Please leave a comment below when you try something to let us know how it went.

Thanks to Robert Powell for his inspiration, and thanks to all who attended – we look forward to hearing what you’ve ideas you’ve been able to put into practice.



One thought on “Scientifically proven : learners talking about their own expectations and being challenged to exceed their expectations – this is what has the most positive impact on learners’ progress.

  1. Hello Claire! Hope you’re well.

    Thank you very much for keeping this bulletin coming.

    I have a request. I tried to register with FENC to be able to look at Mr Powell’s PowerPoint ideas but I was not able to. The server would not connect me.

    Would it be at all possible to send a different link so I can see them?

    Thanking you in anticipation and wishing you a good week.

    Kind regards



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