One of the challenges we face as a profession is that we are much better at using the word “and” as opposed to the word “instead”. We’re better at “yes” than “no”. It leads to initiative and implementation overload.
(Another attempt at a Video Podcast)
This post is aimed at good teachers who just want to keep getting better and better. Dylan Wiliam’s proposed, “Every teacher needs to improve not because they are not good enough, but because they can be even better”. This challenge requires teachers and leaders to decide which practices should be abandoned and which should be kept, enhanced or possibly the odd one or two added. We tend not to be particularly good at abandoning some of our practices even those which are less effective.
Crossing Thresholds – From Missed Opportunities to Achievement & Beyond
In the Year of Great Teaching post I shared my own schema for great teaching. In this post I want to look at the threshold for good and then great teaching, learning and student outcomes and how we might cross them. The first threshold I want to focus on is from missed opportunities to achievement. This is the start of the good to great journey.
Crossing Thresholds – Expected Learning Gains & Assessment
If you believe the primary purpose of assessment is to enhance learning then it is important the expected learning gains and assessment strands are considered together. When assessment is an afterthought, even when as an afterthought it is consistent across a year group, the failure to define curriculum excellence will limit the impact of your teaching and students’ learning. Are you prepared to abandon the afterthought approach to planning assessment?
For assessment to have a powerful impact on teaching, learning and outcomes it must be pre-planned and focussed on challenging success criteria. Together these help define excellence in the curriculum and direct teachers and students towards it. This planning helps lead to high achievement for students.
To enhance assessment further and take it to the next level there needs to be an analysis of students’ work and any gaps between current and expected learning closed. This can be done through feedback and the requirement for students to respond to it. Students must improve their work to a higher level which more closely meets the expected standard.
There is also a need for teachers, who having marked a particular assessment as part of her/his current practice, collates the marks for each question or skill area and analyses individual students and patterns in learning and learning gaps. This is easily done in a spreadsheet. It is important to identify areas which the whole class, groups within it or individuals need to be retaught, to close the gap between current and expected knowledge. This re-teaching of certain aspects of the scheme of learning tightens the expected learning gains – they are non-negotiable. Whilst this can appear extra work for a teacher if it is mentally repackaged as planning for the next lesson it actually is a different way of planning rather than more work. The focus now is clearly shifting to the learner. Make sure curriculum time is planned in for re-teaching both during and at the end of the scheme of learning.
This backward design of the expected learning gains through pre-planning of assessments has significant impact on teacher clarity in the classroom. It enables a far more efficient and greater focus on the required learning and when it has been achieved. The pre-planned assessments become the milestones or way markers guiding the journey and the steps in between them the actual learning required.
Think about a topic you are going to teach in the near future:
Have you defined excellence in terms of success criteria for the expected outcome of the particular scheme of learning? Are they specific, extensive and challenging?
Have you deconstructed this end point success criterion to consider the different elements of learning which will be required?
Have you defined success for each of these different elements (milestones or way markers) of learning?
Have you set the terminal assessment and a series of milestone assessments so you can check students’ progress during the teaching of the scheme?
How do you intend to assess students’ starting points? What do they already know? What can they already do?
Have the expected learning gains between these assessment points been appropriately structured and sequenced?
Have you built in time to reteach elements of the scheme that students don’t master first time?
Do you analyse assessments by student and question/skill to identify what students do and don’t know? (Think about transferring students marks for each question, in an assessment, into a spreadsheet and look for what has/hasn’t been answered correctly).
Do you use this data to identify aspects of the scheme students haven’t yet grasped & reteach them?
How would you organise your classroom so students could focus on what they didn’t know if this differed for groups of students?
Redefine Departmental & Team Meetings
It’s time to abandon packed meetings which focus on the peripheral or administration. Focus on fewer, higher impact issues in meetings. Administration is important to keep things running smoothly but it can be done at the end of meetings from a written memo circulated in advance. It’s time to enhance our use of meeting time:
Schools Must Not Be Exam Factories
High achievement is a good thing, in fact a very good thing. However, it is not enough. It is too easy to forget in a purely achievement orientated target driven culture that “skilled psychopaths and educated Eichmann’s” are not what we want from our Education System. The ability for our students to grow in knowledge and skills but also wisdom is the ultimate outcome we should seek. I explore this in more detail in the post: Education for Wisdom.
The follow up post to this is:
Pedagogy and Student Behaviour #Great Teaching
Links to Other Pages & Posts
#DIYTeachingCPD – the page consists of a series of links to posts on improving the quality of teaching and learning with a number of free downloadable resources.
#DIYTeaching Resources – the page consists of a series of free downloadable resources on improving the quality of teaching and learning plus some planners which can be used to plan the learning and lessons.
Coe, R., Aloisi, C., Higgins, S. and Elliot Major, L. (October 2014). What Makes Great Teaching? Review of the Underpinning Research. Sutton Trust Report
Absolutely agree that one of the key questions we should perhaps be asking is, ‘What are we going to STOP doing?’
It’s relevant to the whole area of extra-curricular activity too. You might have heard this before, but five years into my headship we spent sometime thinking about workload in my school. We counted up all the things we were doing that we hadn’t been doing five years before. It was quite a list. Then we tried to think of things we WEREN’T doing that we had been doing five years before. There wasn’t much. We knew we had to redress the balance or it would become unsustainable.
This wasn’t just about educational initiatives which had been foisted on us – this was an independent school so we had more autonomy/choice than our state sector colleagues. Often it was because someone had a bright idea, we tried it, it worked, and then it became a regular fixture. I have to stress these weren’t ideas that had come from me as a new head – they were ideas that came from a range of sources, but as I was head who tended to say ‘yes’, we were adding more and more to our annual calendar and not taking much out.
So even if people came forward with good ideas – things they thought students and staff would enjoy and get something out of, and parents would like, we started to consider whether they were sufficiently relevant to our core purpose, or whether they were ‘extras’, things that were ‘nice to have’ but which might mean we were spreading ourselves too thinly. If we were to introduce something new, what might it replace? Or could we alternate it with something else and do each every other year? And what could we stop doing/rest for a while?
It wasn’t easy, and not all staff were happy, but it was something we really needed to do.
Thanks for the post, Stephen.
Great comment as always Jill. I’ve never done this – I think the outcome would be frightening. Maybe I should!
I think perhaps ALL heads should, Stephen!
Reblogged this on Reflecting on Education and commented:
Lots to digest in this