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Five Things We Learned About... supporting students and parents with Tom Sherrington's Learning WalkThrus

Learning WalkThrus: students and parents - better learning, step by step with Tom Sherrington

In partnership with John Catt Educational: publishing professional development books and resources to support great teaching and learning in schools around the world. Happy reading!


How can students best study at home? That's where Learning WalkThrus comes in - a visual guide to key aspects of learning and studying at home and at school.

This John Catt book features 70+ five-step techniques devised by Tom Sherrington and illustrated by Oliver Caviglioli, with guest authors including Sarah Cottinghatt, Peps Mccrea, Sara Milne Rowe, Christopher Such, Emma Turner and Jennifer Webb.

Learning WalkThrus helps students with a guide to how we learn and how to study effectively, and helps parents in their vital role supporting their children's education. Our host Hannah Wilson spoke to Tom Sherrington about Learning WalkThrus, and from the discussion we picked out five things we learned about better learning, step by step.


1. What are the myths around student learning?

The myths of learning styles

"If you have a student starting their GCSEs, what are the main messages you want to give them?" Tom Sherrington

In Learning WalkThrus, Sarah Cottinghatt wrote about myths and weaknesses in student learning (among other things). These include:

  • Everyone has a preferred learning style - forget about it!

  • Intelligence is fixed - it really isn't

  • Re-reading is sufficient - too many students glance over their notes without 'doing' or 'generating' anything

  • It's okay to cram - spaced study is so much more effective

(The vast majority of) teachers understand these to be myths, but some students and parents still believe some or all of the above - so a book like Learning WalkThrus is important to dispel these myths to as wide an audience as possible.


2. How can we build resilience and motivation among students?

A young girl standing in front of a blackboard with muscles drawn on

"Since Covid-19 children are less resilient than before... they can't fail if they haven't tried" Hannah Wilson

The attendance data shows that fewer children are attending school compared to before the Covid-19 pandemic. The best thing teachers can do is make their core practice more secure and teach as well as possible to make sure students feel like they are doing well. It builds a virtuous cycle - children feeling successful motivates them to take on new challenges and increasing their effort further.

Where do parents come in when it comes to motivating children? It's easier said than done - if there were a magic bullet, we wouldn't be talking about it. Peps Mccrea tackled it in Learning WalkThrus. It all starts with 'just showing up' - don't worry about being good, just be there. It's like going to the gym; half the battle is getting through the door!

One way to build motivation through good habits is by looking after your physical health. One way to tackle this is through the SHED Method:

  • Sleep

  • Hydration

  • Exercise

  • Diet

Sarah Milne Rowe wrote about the SHED Method in Learning WalkThrus. Making students aware of the importance of these four aspects of physical health is vital as a way of promoting more effective learning. Tom and Hannah discussed one way to help students get more sleep - a 'phone amnesty' where students agree a cut-off time after which they will send no more messages until the next day, helping to tackle the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).


3. How can we get students to use feedback to evaluate their own learning and make improvements?

The word 'feedback' held up by eight hands

"Knowing what you're aiming for is key" Tom Sherrington

Tom and Hannah are both fans of success criteria. Hannah's first Year 7 Art lesson involves students spending one minute drawing a house, then awarding points based on different criteria (got a window? Five points. A chimney? Ten points - but if there's smoke coming out of it, minus 20!). Presenting the criteria after the task makes students realise the importance of following success criteria when they are presented before a task.

One way to think about success criteria is to present students with two versions of the same 'finished product', then ask them to explain which one is better and why. This allows the teacher to set the standard they expect of their students. Students can also compare the 'finished product' to their own to evaluate the quality of their own work.


4. What are the best ways to promote independent learning?

A piece of paper structured according to the Cornell note-making structure

"I don't think I learned about Cornell notes until much later on, but they are good to know about when you're younger" Hannah Wilson

Cornell notes and referencing are two specific inclusions in Learning WalkThrus as a way of saying, 'don't just copy things off the Internet'! Independent research and giving presentations are very important competencies for students to develop (particularly those in older year groups) and without instruction on these, students will struggle to do them well.

Tom has sat through many a terrible student presentation as a teacher. He explained that, as presentations don't happen very often in schools, the practice rate is low which leads to a 'sea of mediocrity'. Two things which can improve the quality of students presenting material are rehearsal and taking it seriously.


5. How can schools best engage parents to work in partnership?

A person representing 'home' shaking hands with a person representing 'school'

"Make [parental engagement] part of the fabric of the way you do things" Tom Sherrington

Tom's top tips for getting parents to 'buy in' to a school's way of doing things include:

  • Making engagement routine and predictable: running regular sessions in schools helps parents to know how to engage with the school - for example, a Parents' Forum every term

  • Making parental engagement part of the fabric of the school: even if only five parents turn up to an event, make them feel as though their presence is truly valued

  • Making information available: parents will digest this in their own time. For example, shorter rather than longer formats, recording sessions to be viewed online, and punchy content


Thanks to Tom Sherrington for joining us on Teachers Talk Radio. Catch up with the whole episode below!

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