Before Before After After – a framework of differentiated questioning

I am currently reading The Secret of Literacy by David Didau and was very taken by his Before Before After After technique of questioning to allow students to access higher order thinking. This looks especially useful when tackling a source and thinking beyond the surface features of a source, question or a specific issue.

The structure of questioning works as follows –

Before Before – focuses upon what happened a long time before the source was produced.
Before – focuses upon what happened just before the source was produced.
Now – looks at what is happening in the source ‘now’.
After – asks students to speculate what happened next in the source.
After After – asks students to consider what might happen long after the source was produced in relation to the event it is looking at.

This framework of questioning taps into many historical and thinking skills. Quite clear, what is happening now is the easiest question as this is essential a comprehension question that asks students to describe the contents of the source. However, the other questions allow for students to consider long and short term causes and consequences, application of knowledge as well as giving students to the opportunity to apply their knowledge in an increasingly complex manner. Using this framework to question sources, I feel, encourages students to look more deeply into the sources beyond the surface features and helping them to think about long and short term causes while applying the nature, content and purpose of a source and placing the source in a wider context. Also this framework allows you to have a set of questions that are differentiated.

A worked example – a painting of the trial of Charles I


Potential responses while using this framework could be –

Before Before – Charles becomes King in 1625, Parliament and Charles fall out, English Civil War begins, Charles defeated on battlefield.
Before – Parliament unsure how to deal with Charles, Parliament with army backing put Charles on trial.
Now – Charles now on trial.
After – Charles found guilty, Charles is executed,
After After – Interregnum, Cromwell Head of State, Monarchy restored in 1660.

Looking forward to trying this framework of questioning out. Looks like a winner.

Never Mind the Inspectors Here’s Punk Learning by Tait Coles – a review

Punk Learning – something I had seen mentioned on Twitter and had heard mentioned at some of the conferences I have attended but knew little about. Tait Coles, the creator of Punk Learning, has assembled a philosophy and a vision that (rightly) rejects the constraints placed upon teachers by a whole variety of sources using the ideas of the punk movement as a vehicle to put across a compelling series of ideas.

Punk Learning puts students at the centre of their learning and allows them to take control of how and what they learning. In many ways this vision offers the purest form of independent learning and allows genuine creativity for the students. Here the teacher relinquishes control and allows students to explore any given topic. The most interesting element of this vision is how students formulate their own questions which they then have to research and answer. Although, you will have to read the book for the full details on this, what Coles offers is a template which can be used for any topic for any lesson and firmly hands control over to the students. So often, students do not get the opportunity to set their own questions until they are approaching A level study. Here allowing students to set and assess their own questions clearly prepares them effectively for higher level independent study.

There are elements of Punk Learning which ring true to my thinking. The rejection of the real value of work scrutinies and the questioning of the uses of exercise books as an indicator of holistic learning really tapped into my experiences and epitomises the Punk Learning rejection of many of the creativity limiting process within education today.

Although the book cleverly taps into popular culture as a vehicle to put across its vision and there are some brilliant quotes peppered through the book, the philosophy is rooted in educational research and theory, which it wears lightly. One of the highlights of the book is its coverage and application of the SOLO taxonomy. Quite frankly, this is the clearest and most accessible overviews of SOLO taxonomy I have read and how Punk Learning utilises this certainly gives food for thought and areal path to follow.

If you are looking for a series of teaching ideas and strategies then this book is not for you, although there are a few strategies that can be stolen in true punk fashion. The heart of this book is that it offers a new approach that challenges and can take you out of your comfort zone – never a bad thing in my view.

Highly recommended.