DIRT - Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time

March Blog

DIRT – Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time

What is DIRT?

John Hattie is a world-renowned researcher in education. His research on the Visible Learning theory states that pupil self-assessment is one of the most effective tools teachers have for accelerating the learning of their pupils. This is further supported by research from the Educational Endowment Foundation which recognises the positive impact of high-quality feedback in improving learning outcomes for children.

Providing feedback to pupils through verbal and written feedback is integral to effective teaching. Equally, gathering feedback on how well pupils have learned something is important in enabling teachers to clear up any misunderstanding and provide the right level of challenge in future lessons.

To strengthen the impact of our marking and feedback in accelerating the children’s progress in learning, we introduced DIRT to the school timetable in September. DIRT stands for Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time and these sessions give children a daily opportunity to:

  • reflect on their learning and progress
  • make improvements through reviewing and editing processes
  • tackle further work to either consolidate their understanding or extend them towards mastery of a given skill.

So what are the benefits of DIRT?

DIRT is an effective way for children to act upon the feedback given by their teacher. Teachers spend a significant amount of time every day marking books and making comments. DIRT ensures that the time teachers have invested in the marking process is maximised as the children have to actively engage with the feedback. Making the time to review feedback within the classroom routine helps to focus the children’s minds on improvement and enable it to be a meaningful component of the children’s learning journey. Valuing the process of improvement also teaches children to continually strive for their very best and puts them in the driving seat of their learning.

DIRT allows children time to reflect/act upon the comments that have been written, as feedback. Therefore, we are ensuring the feedback is being put to good use and is supporting the progress of the children. Children initial teacher comments to acknowledge they have read them. The general idea here is that children don’t accept that the first draft is the only and final draft of a piece of work. Whilst we are not striving for unrealistic perfection, we are encouraging the children to find ways in which they can improve on their first attempt in learning. Making mistakes is proof that children are trying; if they are not making mistakes they are not trying hard enough. We celebrate mistake making – it encourages the children to take risks in their learning, build their resilience and dismantle their fear of ‘failing’. As Thomas Edison once said, ‘I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.’

Children need to be able to view their own, and other’s, work with a critical eye. By giving them dedicated time for this, regularly and often, we are enabling them to improve independently. Can they improve anything? Have they missed anything out? Can they identify what they found difficult and what they found easy? Can they attempt something more challenging? Not only do the teachers have high expectations of the children, but the children are encouraged to place high (and realistic) expectations on themselves.

DIRT sessions can take as long as teachers feel necessary. As well as specific slots on the timetable, they can form the starter of a lesson or for longer pieces of work (such as editing and redrafting stories) may take a whole lesson. This dedicated time allows children to get the most out of chosen learning activities; embedding and extending knowledge skills and understanding.

A great way to show the progress of the children and enable them to see the improvements that they have made, is to get children to complete the ‘DIRT’ work in a different colour. We use a ‘Purple Polishing Pen’ to demonstrate easily where children have responded to their teacher’s feedback.

What has been the impact of DIRT on the children?

A recent monitoring exercise in school by governors involved a pupil conference where children were asked specific questions about how teacher feedback helps them to learn. The children understand the purpose of DIRT and could explain the types and range of activities they undertake each week to improve their learning. The children’s work was also shared with governors and it was clear to see the on-going dialogue between the children and their teacher and the impact this was having on improvements in learning.

We shall continue to monitor the impact of DIRT on the children’s progress but hope you have found this a useful explanation of the purpose and benefits of a rather ‘unusual’ acronym on your child’s timetable!


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