Some ideas to try

A Taste of PEEL - extracts from PEEL resources

When is the best time to review learning?  by Darren Mead  posted 24/04/2017

In this article by Darren Mead taken from PEEL in Practice, Darren explains how he encourages students to review their learning throughout the lesson.

Like all good assessment for learning strategies,  I believe an effective review should start at the beginning of the lesson establishing what the students already know, giving them something to measure their success against, something real to reflect upon. This is why the PEEL strategy of the "Semantic map" is so effective. Students are given a topic broken down into smaller concepts. They quickly bullet point their knowledge at the start of the lesson, it is important that at this stage all responses are welcome. Teachers may want to phrase this task as "write down what you think you know"  They then return to it later using a different colour pen and add new learning and correct any misconceptions they originally had. It is vitally important that the new learning is made obvious to everyone. It helps the student see their success and highlights the areas students have missed to the teacher informing future planning.

As a modification to the Semantic map I came up with a graphic organiser that does a similar but more structured job, which has assumed the title the "time" review. The desire was to identify for students when they had learned something, in an attempt to assist their meta-cognitive process.

Semantic map

The benefits of not back loading the review section include a possible way of tackling the problem of getting students to review. Avoiding a teacher led review is imperative so that the review has meaning to the learner. Obviously a student who has the skills to review will do so more effectively, although this is dependant upon two key dispositions of the student. Firstly their "sensitivity" to the need to reflect upon their learning must be high, thinking along the lines of "I m getting a little confused about this topic, I should pause and try to make sense of it" would exemplify a learner "sensitive" to this need. Secondly not only do they need this awareness but also the "inclination" to do something about it, almost a motivation to do it. Without explicitly trying to develop these traits, we will always have less effective reviews. My immediate thoughts on how to tackle this focus relies upon the regularity of reviews where they become part of the norm and hopefully sensitizing them to the need to review. The "time" review graphic organizer also highlights to the student their progress so hopefully increasing the motivation to review. To capitalize upon this it is important to feedback on their reviewing.

Time review

In using this over a couple of years I have found that it only takes  a few minutes every 20 minutes or so for students to reflect upon what they have learned scribbling down the key points. A longer period of time is beneficial to the "what s new?" and what was wrong at the beginning?" section at the end. This can lead to a very interesting discussion about how they know they were wrong or have learned something. This in turn helps the students complete, what they often find the most difficult thing to do and comment on how they learned. This meta-cognitive thinking could also influence these dispositions especially if they identify the method that helped them most was the reviews during their learning!

In summary reviewing every lesson is useful in the development of our learners, but regular reviews during our every lesson is better still.


How exactly can we build good student reflection  by Ian Mitchell   (Posted 10/04/2017)

(Members of the group whose ideas are used below are Amy Coath, Sarah Foley, Judie Mitchell, Nicole Murnane, Sam Scheele, Damien Toussaint, Deborah Taylor and Tracey Van Gemert)

Since the first year of PEEL we have been trying to get students reflecting on their learning and on lessons. There have been many successes reported, but it is not simple to achieve, Tracey wrote:

Reflection has always been a challenging area of teaching for me. The main areas of challenge are

1.       Coming up with meaningful reflection questions

2.       Engaging the students in the reflection as part of their learning, and not just the end of the class.

3.       Encouraging the students to Take a Risk and contribute to the reflection even if they were unsure about the relevance of their comments.

The phrasing of the questions is vital, they should embody the kind of thinking you require of them and, ideally be phrased in such a way that students can see where this might go in the short term - that the reflection will be of some value to them.

At a recent meeting of the sharing pedagogical purpose group, we looked at an analysis of articles written earlier and pooled ideas on specific teacher questions/prompts that had been found to be likely to be successful. We were pleased with where we got to, although of course this is an incomplete list:

What prior knowledge did you have that was useful?

If the lesson has been one where some students have rethought their ideas, use the stem

Now I think .......

To get students focusing on the big ideas that underlie your tasks ask

How does today s lesson link to our big ideas?

Later, as students get used to linking to big ideas Judie asks

Why did we do this activity? and builds an expectation that the answer must be in terms of big ideas

How does today' s  activity/lesson link with previous lessons?

Is particularly useful  if the lessons involves different types of activities such as theory and practical work, but for students to see that this is going somewhere useful, the teacher needs to show how this can (for example) help them write up their practical activity

How is [a piece of content] different from [a similar idea dealt with earlier]?

e.g.  how is dissolving different from melting? How was the invasion of Iraq different from the crusades? The payoff for students here is if they can see how they are likely to confuse the two (similar) ideas

What sort of thinking did this procedure get you doing?

Again the students need to see that understanding this will help them use this procedure, or help their understanding of an idea, or help them do something better (it depends on the procedure).

Sam has reported a trio of questions that she might stop a class to ask after a good question (or some other good learning behaviour).

Why do I love Jarryd 's question?

What did Jarryd show me by asking that question?

What was Jarryd linking back to by asking that question?

One agenda here is to raise Jarryd s self-esteem, but Sam is also showing how his question can help learning. Sam wrote that it is not until they have unpacked the question that she actually addresses it. She deliberately shows a lot of enthusiasm, even excitement as she unpacks the question to convey how important it was to her.

Did your plan help you structure your work?

Other questions relating to (say) writing can get students thinking about how to do this better

Are there other ways we could have done this?

Is a question that can help build a sense of shared intellectual control

A more sophisticated question, appropriate after students have understood that the teacher has an agenda of improving learning is

Why am I asking you to reflect on this in this way?

In an earlier meeting Sam made the point that An activity that promotes higher order thinking is only worthwhile if we take the time to talk it through with our students.

To do this you need the right questions, ones that relate to changing students ideas on learning being more than recall and, critically, coming to value this

So far this article has been about debriefing on a lesson but at an earlier meeting, Amy pointed out teachers need to stimulate reflection at the end of a unit or extended task, and that this was often missing. This led to discussion that teachers often do not think carefully about how to finish a unit in ways that generate reflection about what was done, why and what has been learnt. This is a strength of focus questions; at an earlier meeting

Nicole made the point that a good focus question will cohere the sharing (this actually provides one criterion for constructing focus questions). However once again, the teacher needs to keep the focus question prominent throughout the unit, not just use it to get things going.

To sum up, good reflection involves high quality learning and students need to learn to do it, but the journey of doing this has to be one which they see worth undertaking and well framed teacher questions as well as linking the reflection to things that the students see value in doing better are important.


Debriefing with Year 12 by Damien Toussaint    Posted 3/04/2017

In this article Damien encourages his students to reflect more deeply about the content of the lesson. He is getting his students to think rather than looking for instant 'right' answers.

This is a heavily annotated debrief from a recent Year 12 Literature class. My learning agenda involves highlighting a variety of good learning behaviours, building my students understanding of a range of teaching procedures and valuing different types of thinking. I decided to debrief with this class after a particularly tense discussion -the students wanted answers and my interpretation relating to a particular poem and I continued to withhold judgment during the discussion. They were clearly frustrated so I initially intended to relieve that frustration. The debrief naturally evolved into something more complex as it created opportunities for me to share some other agendas and purposes.

At this point of the Year (Term 1) I 'm conscious that these students still see me as the provider of the answers and interpretations. This is especially noticeable with Year 12 students. My experiences tell me they don t want to waste time -they want to get to the point and want  answers With these needs comes a reluctance to notice, reflect, discuss and confront ambiguity.

One aspect of my learning agenda and my pedagogical reasoning involves affecting a shift in my students perception of their role as a learner . This debriefing session was a starting point.

What happened


T (Teacher): So, I'd like us to start today's class by debriefing about what happened towards the end of yesterday's class. (pause by T to give the students a chance to remember what happened at the end of the class)

T: Sinead, what do you remember happening at the end of class yesterday?

Sinead: Well ... we were discussing the poem ( The Little Black Boy by William Blake).

(Sinead stops and smiling, looks to the other students and Phoebe sitting next to her)

T: Yes, that's right, but what else happened while we were discussing the poem?

Phoebe: We were giving our ideas but you weren t  giving much back.

T: What do you mean when you say that I wasn 't giving much back?

Phoebe: Everybody was sharing their ideas about what they thought the poem was about ... but you didn t tell us what you thought it was about.




T: And how did that make you feel?

Phoebe: (Pause) Frustrated ... it felt like you were getting us all to share ideas but I didn' t know whose idea was right.

T: (Smiling) I could feel the tension in the room! Did anyone else feel frustrated?

Most of the students nod.

Sinead: (Suddenly animated) It was like you liked all of our ideas .. and you were nodding a lot .. but I wasn't sure which idea to go with or which one was the right one ..

T: So whose idea is right ? Is interpreting art about being right? (T gestures inverted commas when he says right )




T: (considers Sinead s contribution). You know, each of your ideas about the poem was valuable. Michelle, you drew our attention to  the background of the said that even though the little black boy envisages loving the English boy, he still wants to be like him.  (While he is speaking T annotates the poem on the IWB, also indicating  Michelle s idea  on the board. He does the same for the other students) This drew our attention to the important distinction between background and  foreground in the poem and the boy's adoption of his mother's perspective.  Phoebe, you pointed out that the little black boy sees equality in heaven, which was important .. (pause) Emily, you noticed that the poem starts with the .the maternal figure .. and ends with the Father as in the heavenly Father.

T thinks about each idea, turning them over in his mind and grappling with them.

T: All of your ideas are important and we need to consider each of those before we can reach any kind of interpretation (long pause).

T: What we are doing is at the heart of this subject...

T: So why didn t I tell you what I think the poem  means (T places emphasis on  means and uses a finger gesture to suggest inverted commas)

Extended wait-time by T.

T changes his mind.

T: Actually, it's an important question that I'd like you to think about for a moment. Lets' do a Think, Pair, Share

T: Why would a teacher, during a discussion, deliberately withhold their judgement, or as in our case, their interpretation?

T gives the students about 2 minutes to individually reflect and respond to the question in their journals.

T: Ok, pair up and share your thoughts.





T goes to the Interactive Whiteboard and writes.

T: Shaye and Keiran .. one idea from you guys please?

Shaye: We both think you want us to make up our own minds ... instead of waiting for you to tell us, we have to listen to everyone else and think about what they have to say ... (pause) But that's going to be so annoying!

T: Well said Shaye ... I appreciate your honesty ... It s  going to be frustrating at times ...  I am trying to encourage you to explore different possible interpretations ..Blake's poems are highly ambiguous and this is going to be made more complicated by the way that I introduce ambiguity. In other words, when I say it could be or it may be , I am encouraging you to be more active than passive - instead of memorizing or regurgitating an interpretation, you are trying to make sense of the ideas yourself. Doing this will lead to you being able to build connections and turn ideas over in your mind that you will be able to, at a later stage, transfer to other situations and poems.

I decided to debrief about this situation and the students frustration at the start of the next day's class. Building a language of learning with my students involves developing their understanding of procedures like debriefing and their purpose.




Sinead was clearly uncomfortable and frustrated during the previous class when I was withholding judgment. I want to be sensitive to the students feelings, so I don't press Sinead.



At this point I am conscious that my students still see me as the provider of the answers and interpretations. This is especially noticeable with Year 12 students. My experiences tell me they don't want to waste time - they want to get to the point and want answers . With these needs comes a reluctance to notice, reflect, discuss and confront ambiguity.

One aspect of my learning agenda and my pedagogical reasoning involves affecting a shift in my student perception of their role as a learner Today s debriefing session is a starting point.

Building trusts, especially at an early stage of the year, involves exploring the affective domain. With a Year 12 class - where high stakes assessment and anxiety go hand in hand -







Asking these questions capture an initial attempt to encourage my students to understand my purpose (promote and model mindfulness looking closely, exploring possibilities, introducing ambiguity), my long term agenda and a some key words that will form part of our language for learning - interpretation, noticing (One of my key questions is what do you notice? ) justification, evidence, credible and so on.

I place value on three student's  ideas to build a sense of collaboration and learning together and plan to use these ideas to create future lesson, sharing intellectual control with my students.

















I model my thinking in action and think aloud. I change my  plan at this stage, verbalise this and decide that spending time pondering my question is an important and worthwhile question at this point in the year. Pedagogical reasoning does not end when the teaching begins.

I encourage my students to think about the behaviours of a teacher - again related to the long-term journey of shifting their perceptions of my role and their role in learning. I also introduce the term withholding here I share an aspect of my practice with my students; a practice that will be central to interpretive discussions about literature. Finally, I scaffold the thinking about my question through the Think, Pair, Share We have already discussed the purpose of this procedure, its place in our learning agenda and the good learning behaviours that it promotes. This is part of me building a language for learning and encourage the students to react and refer to each other s  ideas and understand one of my long term agendas related to collaboration.

I use the IWB to document all discussions. In this way they are a living artefact; a record of my students thinking -and something that can be revisited to aid reflection as well as reflect on the changes in our thinking. The IWB in this way can be used by me as a tool to connect lessons that could otherwise be seen as episodic and unrelated in the minds of my students.


Community circles   PEEL procedure F33   (Posted 27/03/2017)

This is a PEEL procedure which encourages students to reflect on what has been happening in the class.

The concept of the Community Circle originates from the Tribes program, a program developed in the US by Jeanne Gibbs, to promote development of an inclusive, reflective learning community in all classrooms. The Tribes program is based on the classroom agreements of Mutual Respect, Attentive Listening, Personal Best, Showing Appreciations- Not Put Downs, and the Right to Pass.

The Community Circle is a powerful Tribes procedure, in that it promotes all of the Tribes agreements. To create a Community Circle students are simply asked to sit, with the teacher, in a circle in a large space in the class room. Students may sit on chairs or the floor. It is important that all students are part of the circle. Students who hang back are always asked to move into the circle, others are asked to make room for them, so that all are seen to have an equal position in the circle. This aspect of the Community Circle is most important as it creates a true sense of inclusion and equality  - no one hides and no one dominates. 

The rules of Community Circle are simply that we always obey the classroom agreements, and students may need to be reminded of these. The most important aspect of the circle is that everyone is invited to contribute and/or participate in the activity. This usually happens by passing from one student to the next, in turn, inviting a comment or contribution from each. While students are extended the right to pass, they will always be encouraged to contribute, be given a second chance to do so, and also be shown appreciation for their contribution. This helps promote the idea that all students thoughts and ideas are valued by the class. The teacher must model the "no put downs" agreement by not responding negatively to any silly comments made by students. If a comment is less that you might hope for you simply say "thank you" to the student and pass to the next student. A comment that has been given careful thought by the student can illicit a more generous appreciation by the teacher. The most important aspect is that all students listen to others, and show that they are listening by looking at the student who is speaking. Students do not interrupt other students, and show respect by not speaking whilst another person is speaking. The teacher also needs to take care not to interrupt the student who is speaking, even if they are not entirely happy with what is being said. An object can be passed around the circle to show whose turn it is to speak a soft toy can often help illicit appreciations in this manner. (Even from year 10 boys!) The main feature of the Community Circle is that it takes patience and care on the part of the teacher to develop a classroom environment where students respect and value the process. This will need to happen over a period of time.

All of these rules provide a landscape in which the community circle can be used very powerfully for many different purposes related to learning. At the start of a lesson, the Community Circle can be used to focus the students and bring them into the lesson. An energiser activity can get them thinking about what has been covered in previous lessons and introduce the focus for this lesson. There are many activities that can make use of the Community Circle in this way.  Many are outlined in the Tribes Manual, but the idea is simply to include all students and focus them on the tasks for the lesson often in a fun and energetic way. A simple but effective one is to say a letter to each student, and ask them to think of a word starting with that letter that relates to the material or ideas that have been covered in recent lessons in that class.

Possibly the most powerful use of the Community Circle is as a means of reflection at the end of the lesson. Again this process can be carried out in many ways. It might follow a period of written reflection where students have been given a set of questions about the lesson, their work, what they have learnt etc. It might use a reflective activity such as "two truths and a lie" where students are asked to contribute two true and one false statement based on the work covered in the class, and another student invited to respond as to which is the false statement.

Often it will simply be a chance to sit together and reflect on the lesson. This can be done quite openly students simply make a statement about something they have learnt in the lesson (content reflection), someone they have worked well with, assisted or who has assisted them in the lesson (social reflection) or a comment on how they felt about the lesson (personal reflection). It might be the students choice the type of reflection they offer, or the teacher might ask a question such as "Kim, how do you think your team went on this problem solving task today and why?" Alternately the teacher may ask each student a much more directed question, to allow that student to contribute something that the teacher knows was relevant to the student during the lesson. "Tim can you tell us what you discovered today about finding the y coordinate of the turning point of a parabola?" It is important that all types of reflection (content, social and personal) are equally valued by the teacher. The teacher might frame a more metacognitive question by asking a student to explain how they were able to learn a specific skill or concept, or to explain the thinking that they used to develop an idea or solve a problem. The reflections should not be long winded as students will become distracted, so the whole reflection should take no more than about 10 minutes in a class of 25 students that s less than 30 seconds per student. Students should be invited to offer an appreciation at the end of the session if there is someone in the class they wish to thank.

The power of the Community Circle cannot be underestimated, but the process needs practice and refinement by both teachers and students in order to develop it as a powerful learning procedure.

Ideas archive - (click to find many previous posts including language for learning)