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Published in Using HOW2s and The HOW2 tools

Adapting HOW2s

The context-free HOW2s are not templates to be mindlessly followed. They are designed for the teacher to add their own context to their planning. Part of that process may involve making some adaptations.

There can be no guarantee that any specific teaching approach will have the anticipated effect.

helen timperley, 2011, realizing the power of professional learning, oup

Interpreting evidence and putting it into action

Helen Timperley gives it to us straight: evidence is no panacea. It doesn’t work like chemistry, applying the formula precisely for a guaranteed, perfectly predicted result. It’s just not like that in education. 

It takes a teacher’s judgment whether a technique — high-ranking effect size or not — is appropriate to their students. Furthermore, there might well be a degree of adaptation needed to ensure the best fit to the classroom situation. 

Teachers have to be professionals, deciding for themselves whether the research is applicable in this particular context with my particular students in the context of what I’m teaching them.

dylan wiliam, 2011, formative assessment with teacher learning communities

The HOW2 process

This model for using the HOW2s has the adaptation stage designed in. It is an integral part of the internal feedback loop you can see in red below. 

Recognising and building in the adaptation phase is a powerful acknowledgement of the role of a teacher’s professional judgement. At this stage, teachers reason that certain tweaks should, if all goes well, result in a specific impact. 

These teachers’ guesses — or to give them their full title, theories of action — are then put to the test during the lesson. And depending on the feedback the lesson reveals, there may well be some fine-tuning of the first adaptations. 

This feedback loop is what Helen Timperley calls thinking in circles” and is one of the hallmarks of a reflective practitioner. 

We focus a significant amount on getting participants to construct explicit theories of action and to assess these theories against the realities of their work

city, e. et al, 2011, instructional rounds in education, harvard education press

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Cognitive Load

We all soon become overwhelmed by too much information. Our working memory is our weakest cognitive link. Knowing how this happens and how to avoid it gives teachers more control over the impact of their work.

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