CLF Teaching Framework | empowering teachers to teach

It is probably true that when teachers are empowered to play with pedagogy, informed by assessment, within an inspiring curriculum, children learn and flourish.

It is also probably true that within a Trust or collection of schools a shared teaching framework offers the opportunity to deeply collaborate and develop approaches to pedagogy that accelerates learning.


What if this Teaching Framework is delivered by experts to secure a shared inspiring curriculum that is designed and evolved by experts (3-19 Curriculum Curators) and supported by assessment that is used by experts to adapt pedagogy that follows the learning?


What if  Pedagogy Developers from across the Trust build a shared Teaching framework? What if this Teaching Framework is built on a deep understanding of how we learn and how we construct our understanding of the world?

What if  it is important to understand what underpins the framework…

Basing the CLF Teaching Framework on How We Learn..

What if we teach, discuss practice, collaborate, investigate and play with our pedagogy against a deep understanding of how we learn? What if this is how we learn?…


What if learning happens when we form and solidify connections in the brain; connections that are reliably fired as long term memories through the wrapping of myelin? A process that requires focused attention, deliberate practice and repetition within an interleaved curriculum. (see How we Learn)

What if this acquisition of knowledge requires application to build understanding that leads to an individual finding meaning and then developing a new sense of self? What if this goes from few connections (local; knowledge) to connecting schema (regional; understanding) to connecting across centres of the brain (national; finding meaning) to connecting across all areas of the brain (global; change in a sense of self; personal growth)


What if the following underpins the purpose of teaching…


What if the key outcome of teaching is also to achieve attainment mobility: “Enabling children to attain higher than would be expected based on their starting points.” … reversing delayed attainment, linguistic under-privilege and lack of early opportunity, so that children self select (not self de-select) and accumulate advantage (not disadvantage) through life?

What if collaboration, discussion and development of teaching across schools is hampered by not having a shared understanding of learning? What if this provides a good definition for learning? (from Hattie and Donoghue, 2016)

Slide7(Hattie and Donoghue, 2016)

Perhaps then the following provides a shared definition of learning…

Slide8What if we should also see it as a process by which we more fully understand our place in world, have an increasing sense of self and grow personally?

What if underpinning the teaching framework is an understanding of the different ways the brain works? …

  • Up to 40% of what we do is automated – triggered automatically by the subconscious as a response to routine triggers. This is how we cope with a small working memory and a complex world – this automation frees us to survive and think (it is everything from patterns of thinking, talking, emotional response, vocabulary, mannerisms as well breathing etc.). What if we understood better what we need children to automate?
  • Our frontal cortex is a logical, top down problem solving area of the brain. It runs scenarios about the future (what ifs). It comes up with multiple solutions and scenarios – the vast majority of which we are not conscious of because our brain is highly selective of what makes its way to our consciousness (it would otherwise be over-whelming). This internal censorship increases with age; reducing our creativity and adaptive thinking (and interestingly increasing our susceptibility for organisational blindness and being obstructed by our historic assumptions of what is possible. What if we support children to have the tools for logical thinking and the knowledge and understanding to solve problems… so that they know what to do when they do not know what to do?
  • Elastic thinking is bottom-up. It is what happens when we engage all parts of our brain to see a our world a fresh. This requires the development of connections across all areas of the brain. It is often what happens when we are not thinking specifically about a problem, or when we are engaged in thinking about something else – we get, what is often described as, light bulb moments. This critical aspect of our thinking is ever present (not always conscious due to the self-censorship). What if we consider how we can develop this thinking in young people to support connection between topics and ideas… seeking to support children to run what if scenarios, find connections (in the world and in their thinking), seek meaning, build a sense of self and their place in the world? What if this is enhanced by cluttering the corners of young minds with knowledge and increasing the development of connections across schema in the brain?

“While a bee brain has one million neurons, a human one has one hundred billion, … we’re privileged in another way too: not only in the quantity, but the organisation of those neurons. Specifically, we have more brain cells between sensation (what’s out there?) and action (this is what I’m going to do). This allows us to take in a situation, chew on it, think through alternatives, and (if necessary) take action. The majority of our lives take place in the neural neighbourhoods between sensing and doing . This is what allows us to move from the reflexive to the inventive.” (Brandt and Eagleman, 2017)

What if connections and schema are built over time and are the result of opportunity and the support of a knowledgeable other over time? What if this early architecture and opportunity is the key to early advantage and disadvantage? …that fuels our unhelpful cultural views of innate talent?

What if this means that ordering content, building understanding in logical sequences and securing a foundation of knowledge (connections) is key to building schema in children through our teaching? What if this is why story telling is so effective at supporting understanding and developing meaning? (and explanation and modelling etc.)

What if the proximal zone is key to understanding how we learn and the importance of how we teach? What if we need to experience cognitive conflict (ideally with others) to create connections and assimilate new connections within existing schemas (groups of neurons connected together).


What if we need to keep children in cognitive conflict as often as possible? What if it is also important to consolidate understanding and to build fluency and to extend beyond the proximal zone to offer a sense of awe and wonder?

What if we need to attend to things with a high level of focus to assimilate new knowledge or ideas? Then classroom climate becomes key. What if our emotional state also limits or increases are ability to attend to learning? What if tapping the emotions and teaching with passion, conviction and a sense of purpose increases a learners ability to make deep connections across the brain – learning becomes stickier?

What if concepts and misconceptions become the key ingredients in building coherent and helpful schema for children? What if explanation, modelling and logical construction of learning informed by key concepts will increase a child’s ability to find meaning and grow personally?

CLF Teaching Framework

What if this understanding of how we learn is considered within a teaching framework: one that considers the key interactions of teacher-learner and learner-learner within a learning episode. What if this is demonstrated circularly to emphasise the role of on-going assessment and the need to follow the learning between the key teaching elements of I DO, WE DO and YOU DO (what if this is remarkably intuitive in application). The order, length and interplay of these elements are not defined and vary over time (the framework should not be viewed as a lesson). What if this provides the structure, framework and vocabulary to discuss and consider teaching, learning and progress across the Trust?



What if this teaching framework provides the basis for securing the key elements of How Children Learn?


  • I DO: What if teacher explanation, modelling, instruction, use of language, development of knowledge directly supports the development of connections and grows schema? What if this builds on previous knowledge, exploits story telling and narratives to trigger interest? What if teachers expertly dance in and out of the proximal zone so that it … consolidates and builds the fluency of key knowledge and understanding already acquired AND creates cognitive conflict in the proximal zone with new knowledge, examples and build new connections AND touches on ideas beyond the proximal zone to generate awe and wonder, seed future learning and seek connections across the brain? What if this is key to the WE DO aspect of the framework?…
  • WE DO: What if this is the most important aspect of the framework? Where learning is a social enterprise prompted and provoked by questioning, debate and discussion facilitated by the teacher? What if this is often the area that has the greatest variability and where expert teachers shine? What if this is where teachers facilitate the co-construction of knowledge, understanding and thinking out loud (full response and precision of thinking)?  What if this is where learning predominantly happens in the proximal zone, where teachers support the learners to explore, debate and argue about the learning? What if this is also where students try a bit, get feedback and try a bit more? What if this is how connections are made, understanding built, meaning is sought and children have the opportunity to evolve their sense of self and place in the world? What if this is consolidated and developed in the YOU DO aspect of the framework?…
  • YOU DO: What if this is where children work in their proximal zone balancing between consolidating/fluency (within schema), developing (in cognitive conflict) and exploring (beyond the proximal zone) … balance of individual and paired working? What if this is meaningful work that maximises the use of time?
  • YOU DO : WE/I DO: What if teaching follows the learning during YOU DO, being alive to opportunities? What if teachers intervene with impact to support more children to be in cognitive conflict more often and for longer? What if this can be individual, group or whole class intervention to seize learning opportunities, follow the learning and use time purposefully? What if this is informed by conceptions, misconceptions, identifies links between learning and uses peers to support peers in their learning?
  • CLIMATE/CULTURE: What if culture (high expectations) and climate (attitudes to learning) are essential if children are to focus and attend to their learning? Wrestling in cognitive conflict to assimilate new knowledge or insight requires a non-distraction environment? What if cognitive (over) load drastically reduces are ability to learn … the brain cannot multi-task … when we try to do two things the brain has to power up and power down every time you switch focus?
  • PRE DO: What if planning for learning episodes is based on teachers following the learning? The careful and precise selection of content (in the right order) and approach to support acquisition of knowledge to build understanding and support children to seek meaning? What if this is an ever-onward within as well as between learning episodes?
  • Follow the Learning: What if the circular nature of the framework underlines the importance of formative assessment and the need to follow the learning? What if this is the art and craft of teaching? What if this is where the most effective teaching secures greater learning gains over time?

Maybe then…

  • We will share an understanding of what learning is, what teaching aims to achieve and how we learn.
  • We will share an understanding of how we learn (cognitively) that allows us to plan, teach and evaluate the impact on children.
  • We will have a shared teaching framework and vocabulary to deeply collaborate around teaching.
  • We will deepen our understanding of the teacher-learner and learner-learner relationships in the classroom through I DO, WE DO and YOU DO.
  • We will link these aspects to how children learn and deepen our understanding of the cognitive mechanics of learning.
  • We will empower teachers to have a shared framework that allows experts to play with pedagogy to follow learning.
  • We will have a standardised framework that seek to support teacher to have enough autonomy to follow learning and seek mastery in their practice.
  • We will support teachers to use the framework and underpinning cognitive science to develop their practice collaboratively; without greater specificity of approach or strategies.

We would have teachers who are empowered to play with pedagogy, informed by assessment that allows all children to learn and flourish.

September 2018 | Dr Dan Nicholls




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s