Hattie and Nottingham on Learning: Visible, Measurable, Effective

article written by guest blogger, John DiMaria (Director of Innovation and Technology at Stiftelsen Viktor Rydbergs skolor)

Every teacher, student, parent and school leader has their focus on learning. Whether it’s grades, feedback, problem-based or individualized; the goal of schools is to empower students to learn. James Nottingham and John Hattie reminded our principal group this last Friday with their powerful and thought-provoking seminars based on their research, but in this, they also reminded us to continue to ask the right questions about learning.

Hattie’s story of his daughter-in-law resonated with the audience as he told of her journey into the teaching profession. He described an individual motivated by a strong desire to impact young people’s development, but who soon encountered the pitfalls of a shifting focus from student learning to something else entirely. All too familiar to many in the profession, Hattie explained the desire to create learning resources, to ensure marking was complete, to demonstrate that “I, the teacher” can be independent. Teachers are arguably one of the most vital factors to generating student learning, but in their essential role are they encouraged to ask the fundamental question: What do my students need?

What do students need in the learning process?

Hattie argued that affording teachers and students opportunities to work together on defining their impact on the learning process, developing common understandings of success, welcoming teachable moments for learning, and varying between surface and deep learning are methods to building this process. He collected these concepts under what he defined as “collective teacher efficacy,” but “how do we accomplish this” is perhaps the next question to ask ourselves. What Hattie’s research speaks to is a culture of sharing, of collaboration and of collegial learning to increase efficacy within an organization and the profession as a whole.



Measure growth, not grades

Grading and summative assessment are crucial elements to a student’s education. They provide students with information about their results, but how do we measure student learning? James Nottingham’s research deals largely with this question, though he defined it as measuring “progress” or “growth.” A student’s progress speaks to where they are now in their learning and where they will eventually be later on in time. Track growth, not grades felt like Nottingham’s mantra that day. It resonates and lies at the heart of the formative process that is our educational system.


Difficult to measure, but not impossible

Nottingham’s lecture also reflected upon the contrast between a system based upon letter values and end result and what society values most: happiness, sociability, curiosity, literacy and numeracy, it-literacy, health, creativity, resiliency, and possessing high ethical and democratic values. These societal values Nottingham mentioned are certainly difficult to keep track of unless we have the right tools to do so. Tools that stimulate the concepts of collaboration and the culture of sharing that John Hattie had discussed are not tools for the future but are within our grasp today. Digital tools aren’t necessarily a silver bullet to all issues we might encounter in education, but they are promising methods to reducing the administrative elements to the profession. Our current work with tools like Canvas and G-Suite have already demonstrated their abilities to assist us in sharing pedagogy and measuring student growth. It’s now to continue this focus into the future.


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Creative learning in French

Year 1 students at VRG recently put their French skills to the test.  It was not a written test, it was a creative test.

After visiting the Old Town in Stockholm and reviewing travel vocabulary, students were challenged to create a film showing their skills.  In small groups, students researched, wrote scripts, created storyboards, filmed and edited.  They were coached by their teacher, Nathalie.  The results were impressive.  Here is one example:

Nathalie ParmegianiWhat do you students learn in this type of assignment?  French, yes, but also how to manage creative processes and how to work together.

What happens now?  We will share these films with a school in Paris. #sharingiscaring

Thanks, Nathalie, for creative learning in French.


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3-steps to blended learning – an example from Geometry

Originally published at:

innovatemyschoolwww. innovatemyschool.comarticle3

article 1Read a true example from our Geometry class. article2

The entire blog article can be found  here>>

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Media and Information Literacy – our VR Librarians are hard at work!

IMG-4925Guest blogger:  Maria Axelsson and Anja Vikingson


This is a busy fall for our libraries and our librarians.  There are many activities and a lot of development happening. And, with that, a lot of transformations, just like outside!

First, we have opened up a brand new, small library in our new school in Sundbyberg, where Maria will welcome students on Tuesdays. The focus will be digital but the shelves are slowly filling up as younger students need physical books too!

IMG-4885Secondly, we are changing our library system – a big step towards easier navigation for our students and for keeping track of all our books that go between schools. This has meant a lot of hours cataloging and making everything work, and we are just now starting to see the benefits of the change as the students find their way around the libraries.

To keep up with the new curricula directives on digital competences, we have both attended engaging professional development courses focused on source criticism and media literacy: Bokmässan, Scener & Samtal, Nobel Teacher Summit and Nationell Sammankomst kring medie- och unnamedinformationskompetenser (Media and information literacy) are some of the events we have or going to attend. To share our knowledge with our teachers we also held a workshop at our annual VR Workshops – So much fun! Teachers participated in discussions, speed dating and tried out new lesson plans on media literacy. This also resulted in some new resources on our web page focusing on MIL for teachers.

bibliotek3Meanwhile, we have been busy with our regular activities; library introductions for new students; tons of workshops and guidance on how to search for scientific sources for Diploma Projects and other activities; book talks; film screenings (about space!); book clubs; LGBTQ+ group and also a Sprint reading group which is new for this year – a group consisting of Sprint students teaming up with Swedish speaking students to learn even more Swedish.



We are also planning for “Klarsittning” (a 


teacher+library supported study hub), author visits for junior classes, and meeting with our student library council in the coming months. All in all, an exciting fall for us! 

All in all, an exciting fall!

Maria Axelsson & Anja Vikingson

Follow us @vrg_biblioteket

vrg library


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Using Word Feud to build vocabulary

Our Lead Teacher, Robin Smith, explains in this article how he uses Word Feud to build vocabulary.  Need the article in English?  Open the link and translate the page in Chrome.

robin article word feud

Click here>> to read the full article.


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VRG and Stockholm University work together to improve the learning in Physics


(Guest blogger: Lead Teacher, Patrik Friggebo)

New school year and our physics project at VRG Odenplan is starting its second and last phase, exciting!

physics project.PNG

physics 1.PNGThis year, we will focus on Physics 2. For those who do not know, I can explain that the project, which is a collaboration between the physics teachers at VRG Odenplan and Jakob Gyllenpalm, from the Department of Mathematics and Science Education at Stockholm University, focuses on developing lab activities that allow students to learn about the characteristics and the ways of working in Physics. There is research  that suggests this is a better way of working rather than using lab work primarily to learn about the concepts of Physics.  Additional evidence can be found here>>

Last year, we developed activities related to the course Physics 1a, and today we have a series of labs, which we think provide the students with good opportunities to learn about the characteristics and nature of Physics in this course.  We have to be careful not to draw conclusions about educational benefits too early, yet based on a limited number of students’ feedback, it felt that Physics 1a students were more skilled in the lab methods than they usually were.

This year, it is time for us to take on Physics 2 in that same spirit. A key feature will be to develop lab activities that, in combination with theory, teach students a method of quantitative error analysis. This will, in addition to giving students the opportunity to reflect on the concepts of sources of error and accuracy at a completely different level than before, give students the tools to compare different methods and discuss how relevant and reliable their results and conclusions are. Developing students’ understanding of hypothesis is another challenge we intend to meet this academic year.

If you think this sounds interesting and would like to know more, you are welcome to contact me. I would like to tell you more about our work and the activities we have developed.

Nytt läsår och fysikprojektet vid VRG Odenplan går in i sin andra och sista fas, spännande! Detta läsår fokuserar vi på kursen Fysik 2.

För den som inte vet kan jag berätta att projektet, som är ett samarbete mellan fysiklärarna på VRGO (Elena, Fredrik, Mats, Tobias, Ulf, Åsa samt undertecknad) och Jakob Gyllenpalm, lektor i naturvetenskapsdidaktik vid MND*, fokuserar på att utveckla laborativa aktiviteter som ger elever möjligheter att lära sig om fysikens karaktär och arbetssätt. Det finns vetenskapliga rön som föreslår att detta kan vara en bra idé snarare än att använda laborationer främst för att elever ska lära sig om fysikens stoff (den intresserade kan läsa om detta med mera här och här).  Förra läsåret utvecklade vi aktiviteter tillhörande kursen Fysik 1a och idag står vi därmed med en serie laborationer som vi tycker ger eleverna goda möjligheter att lära sig om just fysikens karaktär och arbetssätt i denna kurs. Man ska vara försiktig med att dra slutsatser om pedagogiska satsningar utifrån ett begränsat elevunderlag, men visst kändes det som att Fysik 1a-eleverna i slutet av förra läsåret var lite vassare laboranter än vad de brukar vara.

Detta läsår är det alltså dags för oss att ta oss an kursen Fysik 2 i samma anda. Ett centralt spår kommer att vara att utveckla laborationer som i kombination med teoriundervisning lär eleverna en metod för kvantitativ felanalys. Detta kommer, utöver att ge eleverna möjlighet att fundera över begreppen felkällor och noggrannhet på en helt annan nivå än tidigare, att ge eleverna redskap att jämföra olika metoder samt diskutera hur säkra deras resultat och slutsatser är. Att utveckla elevernas förståelse för hypotesbegreppet är en annan utmaning som vi tänker anta detta läsår.

Om någon tycker att detta låter intressant och vill veta mer är ni välkomna att kontakta mig; jag berättar gärna mer om vårt arbete och de aktiviteter vi har utvecklat.

*Institutionen för matematikämnets och naturvetenskapsämnenas didaktik

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EK3 students use art as inspiration for their UF companies

At VRG, we believe, “Art and Science go Hand-in-Hand.”  Yet, what does that really

sse art intiative

SSE Art Initiative explores and develops transboundary knowledge exchange through Art and Humanities at the Stockholm School of Economics. 

mean for students who study business?


To kick-off their senior year, students in VRG Djursholm Economy program visited the Stockholm School of Economics (SSE) Art Initiative.  Guided by Robert Stasinski, students were offered a tour of the art collection of the university.  Designed to help students see and better understand the cross-curricular relationships between subjects and topics, students were challenged to reflect on what they saw and how it made them think and feel.

douglas stark

Douglas Stark blir vd på SSE Business Lab där bland annat Klarna startade sin resa. “Startups skapar framtidens jobb”, säger han till Realtid.se. Foto: Pressbild & Handelshögskolan

In addition to visiting the Art Initiative, students were also allowed to visit and listen to Douglas Stark and Patrick Siegbahn (VRG OPL alum) working in the Innovation Hub and the SSE Business Lab.

Patrick-i-t-shirt (1)

Patrick Siegbahn har civilingenjörsexamen i Teknisk fysik från KTH. Efter tre år som kvantitativ riskanalytiker och senare fyra år som hedgefondanalytiker ledde ett spirande samhällsengagemang till en anställning på Finansinspektionen. Steget från byråkrat till småspararrebell togs sedan genom satsningen på Småspararguiden. http://www.smaspararguiden.se/vilka-ar-vi/

Students also met Tom Liljefors, founder of PTOnline.

During these presentations, students learned more about the LEAN process and the characteristics needed to be a successful start-up.

All of these experiences were designed to inspire students to think bigger, think further, think deeper when designing their own start-up companies this term.  Following the morning visits, students were given the assignment to reflect on the influence of art on the business process.  Students were asked to write short novels about how art influences them.  They worked in groups to ensure dialogue about what they had seen.  Through creative writing, they were asked to “Remember the Future.”

IMG_1307.JPGAlthough it is extremely appropriate for seniors to visit colleges to better understand the expectations of the next step,  (Always fun to visit, it didn’t take long before they ran into many former VRG students!) this kick-off was far more than that.

This study trip offered VRG seniors to see, experience and reflect upon how Art and Science can and will affect their senior projects.

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Att anpassa laborationer och praktiska moment efter syfte: “linjärt” eller “blandat” upplägg

Lead Teacher, Hanna Forsberg, shares tips on how to “blend” the learning during labs.
#blendedlearning #VRSkolor #CanvasLMS
Need to translate this page? Open the page in Chrome and click “translate”. If this option is not available, you may need to turn on translation in Settings>>Advanced>>Language.

Hannas skolblogg

Jag har länge funderat på hur man kan öka delaktighet och möjlighet till diskussion i laborativa moment. Tiden för laborativa och praktiska moment är ofta begränsad, så det gäller att ta vara på den. I år skrev jag om instruktionen till en laboration där eleverna undersöker sambandet mellan organiska molekylers (alkoholers) struktur och deras egenskaper. Laborationen består av tre olika moment: undersökning av (1) brännbarhet, (2) löslighet, och (3) struktur med hjälp av molekylmodeller. Som alltid inleder jag med att föreläsa om de kemiska processerna på lagom nivå för att utrusta eleverna med de begrepp som de behöver behärska för att kunna diskutera sina observationer utifrån ett kemiskt perspektiv. I originalutförandet av laborationen gör alla elever alla tre moment, och skriver en rapport med metod och analys, ett upplägg som är brukligt i laborativa sammanhang. Vi kan kalla förfarandet “linjärt”. I det nya utförandet delas eleverna istället upp och arbetar…

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“Brain Breaks” give students better focus

Jonas KärnströmGuest blogger:  Jonas Kärnström, Lead Teacher at VRS Djursholm

Can we improve student focus and, ultimately, their academic results by having them “move more”? I have been thinking about this notion for some time.  I have read studies about just this idea – and am testing some ideas at VRS Djursholm.

Three years ago, two colleagues and I attended a conference for physical education teachers where a Swedish teacher named Martin Lossman (teacher at the Östra Gymnasium in Huddinge) told about a study in Naperville High School in the suburbs of Chicago, USA where the school worked with the moderate to intense activities daily with the students.   



This school had successfully incorporated moderate to intense exercise each morning before reading and math class and that gave better academic performance in school. The students improved their results on standardized tests and in classroom attention rates.  The school engaged students both in early morning exercise class and Brain Breaks during class help students stay focused.


Brain Breaks are a quick and effective way of changing or focusing the physical and mental state of the learners in your group. They are also a useful tool for students to use to help activate, energize and stimulate their brains.


Not long after this conference, Pernilla Hemmingsson (Head of School) and I had the opportunity to attend a lecture where two teachers from Naperville presented how they worked with pulse training and how they had conducted brain breaks.  

Brain Breaks should take place after about 25-30 minutes into the lesson.  The teachers introduce some type of activity to help the student brain that might be starting to turn off – “reboot” /  restart. The effects of a brain break should be that the students, pulse1with a little movement, restart the brain through cross lateral movements so that they will be able to hold focus the whole class and thus perform better.

We even got to test it for ourselves.  Based on this experience and further reading, we decided to introduce this approach at VRS.

Last year, we started with one 7th grade class who had 30 minutes more movement each week before the math lessons to improve their performance, and we began to introduce Brain Breaks in the theoretical lessons.  This year, we will continue the work with the same class (now in 8th grade). They will have an additional sports class.  We are also starting with a new 7th-grade class. They will have 30 minutes extra before math x 2 additional sports classes each week.

In addition, when VRS students have their national tests, we will offer training in the morning before the tests to give the students the best chance to succeed.

We have held information and training workshops for teachers and students on the effects of movement and the benefits of exercise prior to learning and Brain Breaks.

brainscanThe idea of “more movement” is being expanded in other ways as well. Some teachers have tested Walk and Talk methods when having their individual development discussions with students.  I am thinking of testing this approach with my year 9 students when we have our development talks later this term.

Even if the effects may not be felt immediately but we believe that increased movement and Brain Breaks will eventually lead to better student results.

Every week, we post three new brain breaks that teachers can use in their lessons on our school portal.  Here is one example:

Hands Brain Break  (from Brainbreaks.blogspot.se)

1.  Stand Up.Hands

2.  Start by waving your right hand in front of you –  left to right.  Your palm should be facing away from you while keeping your hand with your fingers pointing up. 

3.  Now stop that hand and have your left hand in front of you waving it up and down.  

4.  Now practice moving them at the SAME TIME.  Do not move your hands going diagonally.  

5.  Now switch to have your right hand up and down and your left hand left and right.  Do this faster and switch often to make it more difficult.

6.  Lastly, to increase the difficulty, have your arms crossed while doing this. 

Other resources for Brain Breaks:

Energizing Brain Breaks

Brain Breaks restore focus



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The staff that runs together stays together #WeareVRSkolor



Last week, more than 230 VR Schools staff members met up to run or walk the Bellmans Race in Stockholm.  This is the largest relay race in Sweden.

After an intense school start week, this was just the boost the staff needed to “kick-off” the new school year.



With so many new faces joining our organization each year, it is important that we meet each other to talk and laugh and network.  As each team completed their race, the rest of us cheered them on!

This was the first year that teams were able to walk the Bellman’s Race.  In teams of five, they could walk the whole track together.  This change made it possible for every staff member to join.

On Wednesday night, our organization had the largest number of participants and were featured in the press the following day:  Bellmanstafetten slår alla rekord! 


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We believe it is important to promote the well-being of our teachers … healthy teachers lead healthy schools.  In our group, we had participants of all ages, 19 – 67.

With more than 60 teams, every school participated.  Each school did “top” one team.  This made for some stiff competition.  In the end, VRS Djursholm team won!

Thanks to VRS Vasastan for organizing – a great night had by all!



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