How we teach is a complex mix of our values, context and emotions. It is deeply influenced by our knowledge, understanding and beliefs about pedagogy, our subject and what is of value to learn. No two teachers are likely to be the same.
I’m deeply passionate about the education of both young people and teachers. I now spend a lot of my time educating the latter after fifteen years in the classroom. The building of professional capital, improving the quality of teaching and as a consequence affecting young people’s life chances, for the better, are all part of my new role. These areas are important and significant to the academies within our newly formed trust. I think people working in schools all over the World would nod their head at these priorities.
Paradigm Stick & Shift
I’ve spent part of the summer writing a resource for a voluntary professional development programme I will be leading across the trust’s academies. It built on the #OutstandingIn10Plus10 programme from last year, the evaluation of it and my reflections. My assumptions about the importance of the quality of teaching & learning and the professional development of teachers are unchanged. This paradigm is stuck and is likely to remain so.
Last year’s professional development programme was genuinely collaborative and collegiate but the language was inspectorial. This is the paradigm shift that has occurred in the production of this new resource. The first chapter or booklet in the series is available for you to download. The link is at the bottom of the page. The others will be released over the coming weeks and months.
The original table that I used as a route map for last year’s journey is below. The grading system will be familiar to many people who work in the English education system as will the process of grading lessons. It places the original posts and the background information, in the new resource, at a point in time. Schools are beginning to move on. The teachers who helped formulate my original thinking were all from St. Mary’s Catholic College. I spoke with them as a consequence of their examination outcomes, positive student voice returns (consistently scored in the upper quartile of responses across a number of measures) and classroom observations.
I’ve since revised the table but retained some of the original structure and ideas. The classification of the quality of teaching has changed moving away from Ofsted gradings. This is an important paradigm shift. The table is now a little more comprehensive including a strand on student behaviour. The table should be read as a set of potential signposts rather than a definitive statement about improving the Quality of Teaching and Learning. There is always so much more that could be said or done.
Microcosm of the Classroom
In writing the #DIYTeachingCPD resources and planning the programme, I’ve followed the processes which are rooted in my teaching background. I still teach. My students are professional teachers.
This root is centred on the creation of knowledge, knowledge which can add value to a teacher’s life.
The resource isn’t an academic study about the quality of teaching though it has theory within it. Its aim is to help improve the quality of teaching and positively affecting young people’s life chances. It is on these measures that I will judge the worthiness of what I’ve and not the time it took me.
The programme starts at the beginning of October and will consist of pre-reading, a number of face to face sessions across the academic year and in lesson activities. Following the first session, focussed on what makes great teaching & learning and big ideas, staff will undertake a series of guided peer lesson observation.
The criteria we will be using to help us focus on the quality of teaching are grouped into three categories: Planning, Practice & Follow Up. More information about the process is available in the post #FormativeLessonObs by @LeadingLearner and @TeacherToolkit.
There is an element of judgement in these observations in terms of what the teacher already does well and which areas to focus improvement on. This is the important baseline assessment we need to guide a learning journey. Evidence will be sought from the teacher’s planning documents or schemes of work, observations in the class room across a number of lessons, the work of students and discussions with them and Student Voice Data. However, it will be for the teacher to determine which area s/he wishes to focus on. Do less better will be the mantra.
I mention in the resource that the second half of the programme was a bit of a disaster. It never really happened. Lesson Study potentially provides a powerful alternative. It is likely to produce a greater focus for the staff and a more definite outcome.
Damned By Faint Praise
One of last year’s participants was telling me that staff had been asking what the course had been like. The staff are wondering whether to join the voluntary programme this year. Her response was, “It was brilliant” but in response to another question added, “No I didn’t learn anything new.”
Here’s my take on what was said. Most of the programme was very teacher centred. It enabled the participants to move forward from their own starting point. Our staff have undertaken hours of professional development around teaching and learning. I consider them to be very knowledgeable. The concern is that they have lots of random pieces of knowledge about various aspects but not always a coherent whole. The critically important and the peripheral can appear of equal value. What is needed is some time and guidance to reflect and organise the knowledge and experiences into a coherent whole.
Bring Out the Genius from Within
Expert teachers have a deep understanding of their subject and their pedagogy. They have a core understanding of what and why they are doing certain things in the classroom. They develop an automaticity in their practice that makes their teaching look effortless.
The challenge for me leading the programme is to help a teacher bring out the genius from within. To develop a schema around teaching and learning that works well for them in the classroom. It would be great if you wanted to use the resources to go on the journey with us. I’m sure not all of the information is right, some you may not agree with but hopefully enough of it will be useful to help guide your improving practice.
Thanks to a few people for their thoughts and feedback on some early drafts of this section:
This resource contains the following information:
A PDF of it is available for you to download here:
The other posts and booklets in the DIY Teaching CPD Series are:
DIY Teaching CPD: Pedagogy & Practice