Challenge, high aspirations, differentiation and independent learning

During our last teaching and learning meeting staff were asked to bring along examples of resources or activities on one or more of the following:
  • give students greater challenge
  • set high aspirations
  • show effective differentiation
  • encourage independent learning

This fits into our SDP: “All staff to be appropriately trained and prepared to successfully meet the varied and demanding needs of all students – with a specific focus on greater challenge, high aspirations, effective differentiation and independent learning.”

Here are the examples from departments:


Below is an example of independent work carried out by a student on the GCSE Art exhibition. There is a link below with lots of examples of challenge, high aspirations, differentiation and independent learning.

art 2

Examples in Art

Business Studies and Computer Science

Mr Jones – Differentiation by questioning quiz (see attached PowerPoint) is a quiz were students can select which level of difficulty they want to answer.  It promotes challenge as students want to get more points.

The powerpoint is a template that is easily adaptable for use.

Differentiation by questioning

Mrs Larkin – Pass the Parcel

Sit students in a circle

Play some music to the class

Stop the music after a few seconds.

The student who has the parcel when the music stopped unwraps it and has to answer the revision question.  If they can’t answer it, open the question up to the class.

Restart the music and stop it to allow different students to have the opportunity to unwrap the parcel and answer a question

Mrs Welsh – knowledge audits to promote independent study and challenge (other resources attached)

2.1.4 abcdefg units binary conversion Datablast2.1.4 abcdefg units binary conversion Knowledge Audit

Knowledge audit

Miss Welsh – Guess the integration


Business 3Business 4

Miss McLean – Beat the Teacher – Connections

  • Give the class the question, and include certain phrases that they have to use within their answer.
  • Mix up the terms so they are not in any order
  • The highlighted words (red) would indicate difficult terms to include – the challenge is to include them
  • At the same time make it a competition by the teacher writing a version in the same time as students and compare


Stop and Think Bingo

  • Instead of giving students words – you pose a question (which you know the answers for) and students have to come up with answers to complete their grid.
  • Play bingo in the usual way (questioning as you go)
  • Extension – give each answer a score, the easier answers 1 pt etc,
  • Students can then total how many their grid would score – this will reward the students who thought about the whole question rather than just the one, who was lucky enough to have them in the order that you called them out


What went wrong?

Students discuss – what went wrong with an answer, rather than what went well.  As often an answer looks good on the surface but is in fact not worth many marks.

By finding errors shows a better understanding of the topics and make it easier to write better answers.  There is no point trying to improve good answers.

Students then go on to write a correct answer either in groups of individually depending on the question.


More resources: 2.1.4 abcdefg units binary conversion Knowledge AuditBusiness Economics and Computer science T&L resourcesChecklist-ProfStandardsDifferentiation by questioning


  • They teach poetry using the acronym PCSRILE and students are then able to deconstruct/analyse poems independently. To consolidate the process of skill development, they present their own analysis to the class (see the link below).
  • A homework designed to run across a couple of weeks and to encourage independent research.  it was designed for more able students but could be simplified for the less-able.

    Year 7- Background research for the school bell article

  • Homework: Assessment preparation for the week beginning 20.3.17

    The assessment is going to be a letter about replacing bells with music in schools.  You need to do some research for your assessment:

    • Find articles/reports/information about this topic by looking on the internet for information about other schools where this has happened.
    • Try to find an expert’s view (e.g. A headteacher, a school governor or someone whose job is connected to education.)  You could ask your tutor or other teachers to find your own expert’s view.
    • Interview parents and grandparents about it- to find out an older person’s opinion
    • Interview at least one friend or a sibling to get a younger person’s opinion.
    • Write down on your IPad or record EXACTLY what your interviewee says. Make sure that you have a note of the person’s name, age, year in school and role (e.g. teacher, parent of Sam Smith in Year 7 etc)





In Geography they use Top Trump Templates for students to work independently on river flooding defences.Slide1Slide2

Top-Trump-Templates – River Flooding Defenses


Mrs Vianello

Collaborative Learning

Pack of information on two dictators. The class was split into small groups, each focusing on either Stalin or Hitler. The groups then found a partner from the other dictator and shared information. This encouraged independent mastery of their dictator as well as collaborative skills to determine key features of a dictatorship.


Scaffolded note taking to aid students with identifying salient points when making notes at GCSE. Use of key words, pictures, etc to prompt students into identifying key points.


Mr Petty

Stretch and Challenge

Range of lesson objectives at a range of levels. Discussion with class at the start of the lesson to determine what ought to be the lesson objective. This can then be used alongside blooms taxonomy to help explicitly identifying higher order thinking skills. This is a good example of using metacognition in the classroom. This was inspired by reading from a consortium of schools in Perth, Western Australia.

e.g.      What problems were there in the trenches?

Why was illness a common feature of trench life?

What was the main cause of illness in the trenches?

What was trench foot?

Why did some trenches suffer higher rates of illness than others?

Mr Doherty

Encourage independent learning

Teacher presents a flawed argument, supported with some evidence. The role of the student is to use the resources available to challenge that argument effectively.


Miss Main

Encourage independent learning

Entry into a literacy competition ran by the literacy trust using the descriptosaurus facilities. Students have completed a short piece of descriptive writing (350 words) which enabled them to gain a better sense of the past.


Mr Mulhall

Encourage independent learning

There is a challenge in the new A Levels to allow students to have plenty of time to revise and analyse for a two year course. This has led to a need to delivering content intensively.

One technique to allow this was to create a set of questions given to all students. Students were then put into small groups given a different half of the text. The first challenge for students was to discover which questions they could answer using their text. They then selected one of the questions to give a small presentation to the whole class on. This allowed all of the class to identify the overview of the material, whilst maintaining a mastery of a specific item.

Media Studies

Give students greater challenge

Peer and self-assessment of students’ poster campaigns. Compare with professional magazine advertisements to ensure that students’ work has an authentic quality.

Set high aspirations

Sixth Form study exam answers and mark them using a simple mark scheme. Use this to inform their planning of case study answers.

Show effective differentiation

Lower 6th examination preparation for unseen moving image section – give students key answer words (different ones for differing abilities). Students given a choice of questions – they work out what which question their answer words link to then use as many key words as possible to write a response. Students can peer assess and a simple tally of the number of key words used provides feedback.

Encourage independent learning

Students have the opportunity in all years to choose their own topics for research. Year 11 students pick the Television Comedy texts for their examination and are given guidelines to help them research. Sixth form students research different film makers, institutions and theorists to present to the class. This peer to peer teaching can be very effective and allows the students to have ownership of their learning.



Lots of examples for challenge, high aspirations, differentiation and independent learning.



  • Use of board games, e.g Snakes and Ladders to encourage accuracy with translation.  Can be adapted according to ability.  More able students can make their own games in the target language to encourage independent learning
  • Use of groupings to encourage differentiation, e.g an able student leading a less able group/ more able grouped together
  • Use of VI Form Linguists and Language Assistant to come into classes and do speaking work with more able
  • Language Clubs and E15 set up as a study room with extension resources for more able
  • Use of Student Shared Area/Google Classrooms for students to work on exam material independently
  • Use of Quizlet – more able can tackle more challenging vocab and can adapt their learning to suit
  • Sam Learning/Revision booklets for Year 11 students.  Can manage their learning independently.



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