Training for Teachers

Stretch and Challenge

Stretch and Challenge are concepts which occur with increasing frequency in Ofsted and Estyn reports. Teachers know there should be more 'stretch and challenge' but most have had no training in them.

Stretch and Challenge sounds punitive and confrontational – when it should sound and feel more like ‘Encourage and Develop.’  It involves interpersonal skills, good communication and a healthy understanding of Emotional Intelligence.

As a guide, I would suggest that whenever you hear the word ‘Challenge,’ the word ‘Support’ should follow very closely behind. Otherwise, students trying to rise to a challenge might simply fall flat on their faces. 

Mistakes are opportunities for learning. Sometimes those who make a mistake and rectify it will understand their subject better than those who never made a mistake. 

Worse still are those who have to be right ALL the time to save face. Often the most able students are, in reality, the poorest thinkers – they become ‘ego-led’ instead of ‘task led’ – unable to explore situations and consider different points of view. They only want to be fastest, first, best, right and proud. Edward DeBono calls this phenomenon the ‘intelligence trap.’ 

We need lessons where students can make sincere mistakes and feel comfortable about them. Such lessons are exploratory and answers are discovered and constructed by the students rather than given by the staff. This session shows staff exactly how they might construct such sessions. It begins with Lesson Planning.

When a session is led by a tutor who knows how to stretch and challenge the group (and each individual in it) the group become explorers, they make discoveries and they make connections for themselves which give them new ways of understanding their subject. Such information is better retained because the students built it for themselves. There is genuine ownership. This, by the way, is the essence of truly Active Learning.

Ironically, the staff who decide to deliver sessions with more Stretch and Challenge end up Stretching and Challenging themselves. Their sessions become more interesting and this gives them more energy. 

Some staff who say they have 25 year’s experience might actually have one year’s experience which they have simply repeated 25 times.

Genuine Stretch and Challenge addresses the most able as well as the least able under-achievers – and more importantly, it establishes a climate which is highly conducive to Teaching and Learning.

Summary: A session designed to help staff to understand the principles of Stretch and Challenge as well as offering some practical guidance as to how it can be achieved.

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