Using DIRT as a Learning Journey

Education is full of acronyms. Some are useless, whilst others are impressive and useful. One such acronym which keeps popping up in the #UKEdChat community is DIRT, which stands for ‘Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time‘, mainly aimed at secondary aged pupils (11+), although some aspects are already embedded within primary practice.

Click here to view further resources and articles about DIRT

In her book, Jackie Beere reminds how important the process of DIRT is:

This is properly trained peer assessment or self-assessment where students measure their progress against the original objective in mini plenaries and think about how they have learned – what worked and what didn’t. They spend time on improving their work, amending it and responding to feedback.

Mainly used by Secondary School English teachers, David Didau (@LearningSpy) has shared how the process is used in their classrooms, at his blog here, but the potential of using a DIRT framework is possible in other curriculum subjects, using the following Assessment for Learning tips:

  • Dialogue – Talking to students is key. Relying just on repeated written feedback is no guarantee that pupils read your comments, so find time within lessons to speak to pupils on how they can improve their work.
  • High Expectations – Not only should the teacher have high expectations of the students, but the students should also place high and realistic expectations on themselves.
  • Keep a focus on Learning Targets – Avoid overloading with too many steps for improvement. Make steps challenging, manageable and achievable.
  • Scaffolding – This method of teaching (developed by Lev Vygotsky) involves providing support to pupils to help learn new concepts. As the skills are developed, the support from the teacher is gradually removed, allowing tasks to be completed with less assistance.
  • Target Feedback – Marking. A job all teachers love!!! Make it matter, and reduce the responsibility on the teacher. David Didau’s school implement a ‘Triple Impact Marking’ policy using three stages: Peer and Self Assessment; Teacher Marking; Pupil responding to Feedback. Make the time to review feedback within the classroom routine as it will help focus minds on improvement.
  • Review your Marking – Check through pupils books regularly looking to see whether they have progressed within the last couple of months. Is your feedback and other assessment strategies making an impact?
  • Celebrate Mistakes – We learn from our mistakes. Encourage pupils to correct your spelling errors (deliberate or not!), and highlight common mistakes in a supportive way.
  • Make the Time – Managing the time, allowing for DIRT time is going to be a challenge, but an essential part of all activities. Discipline yourself to stick to timings to ensure this reflective, supportive and important process is done in as many lessons as possible – build it into your routine.

These are just a couple of ideas and tips for DIRT, with further reading available from the blog links below. If you have any further ideas for the implementation of DIRT, please add in the comments below.

David Didau – Marking is an act of love

Evidence of schools using the DIRT system:

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About @digicoled 446 Articles
Colin Hill - Founder, researcher and editor of ukedchat. Also a bit of a tech geek! Project management, design thinking, and metacognition.

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