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Sir William Ramsay School

Empowering Everyone to Achieve

Teaching and Learning

At Sir William Ramsay School we have used research and professional experience to develop a rigorous Teaching and Learning Pedagogy. At the heart of this is Thinking Hard, the idea that in order to learn students need to really think about what they are learning!

Professor Robert Coe in his paper ‘Improving education’ states that learning happens when students have to think hard, although at heart this seems simplistic, it is what makes the difference for true learning to take place.

With this in mind as a whole staff we have developed the Ramsay 5, which forms the basis of teaching at our school:

Thinking Hard has been developed in a number of forms by many teaching professionals across the country and in turn we have used it as the starting point to create our own version in order to meet the needs of Ramsay students. Thinking hard has three main parts:

  • The thinking hard devices - these are activities and methods of learning which make students think hard
  • Thinking talk - this is the way students are questioned and develop oracy in order to truly think hard about a subject or topic
  • Thinking for memory - using a variety of techniques in order for the learning to be remembered, (linked to psychological research into memory)

Thinking talk is so powerful because teachers today ask between 300-400 questions each day (Leven and Long, 1981).  “We have known for a long time that talk is essential to students thinking and learning, and to their productive engagement in classroom life….We now have additional evidence, from over 20 major international studies, that high-quality classroom talk raises standards in the core subjects as typically measured in national and international tests.” (Robin Alexander, Cambridge University 2012).


Thinking hard devices:


Thinking talk:

Thinking talk is so powerful because teachers today ask between 300-400 questions each day (Leven and Long, 1981).  “We have known for a long time that talk is essential to students thinking and learning, and to their productive engagement in classroom life….We now have additional evidence, from over 20 major international studies, that high quality classroom talk raises standards in the core subjects as typically measured in national and international tests.” (Robin Alexander, Cambridge University 2012).

Below are the key documents staff use to plan and aid students in developing their thinking hard through talk:


Thinking for memory

“Memory is the residue of thought.” (Daniel Willingham). This means:

  1. "How a student thinks about the material determines what will end up in long term memory."
  2. "It is our job to get students to pay attention to the material that must be learned, which means taking approaches that get students to think hard about the meaning of the material (Daniel Willingham 'Why Don’t Students Like School' )"