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Can We All Teach Like a Champion? #TLaC

If developing the quality of teaching is a leadership imperative is it possible for us all to teach like a champion with the right professional development?  I’ve been reading, which is always a dangerous thing, or more correctly re-reading a number of books and documents in order to develop a new professional development programme.

About four or five months ago I floated the idea that we should develop a professional development programme around the Teach Like a Champion 2.0 book by Doug Lemov.  With nineteen volunteers booked on the programme and it starting next week I thought I better re-read TLaC alongside What Makes Great Teaching? (2014) by Robert Coe et al (PDF) and Developing Great Teaching (2015) commissioned by the Teacher Development Trust (PDF).



If you’ve read Teach Like a Champion 2.0 you’ll already realise that it doesn’t actually need messing about with.  Phil Naylor (@AssistHead_stmc) who leads on ITT & NQT provision at St. Mary’s is going to deliver the book pretty much as written to teachers in their NQT year or who are training.  Phil has become the books latest admirer admitting to owning a paper copy, e-version and the audio version to listen to in the car to and from work.  With twenty minute weekly lesson observations followed by some feedback, for every NQT, there is the potential for a linkup between the teaching of the techniques and some class room coaching.

The “So What?” Question

Linking back to a recent blog post, Observing Lessons, So What’s Changed I explained how we had started to develop a more formative element to our quality of teaching assessments.  Each teacher identifies one or possibly two aspects of her/his practice which they want to focus on for the following twelve months from the sixteen criteria upon which we base our lesson observations element.  Having identified an aspect of practice the “So What?” question is important.  Without a process for refining and the deliberate practice to help improve your chosen aspect of teaching you have another pretty system with no impact.

In response to this I am working with a group of more experienced staff and wanted to devise something that started with the sixty two Teach Like a Champion techniques but helped teachers look deeper in order to develop a set of principles or ideas through which to view and enhance their own routines.  This just seemed a more appropriate way to work with colleagues who have many successful years of teaching under their belts.

Building the Programme

In developing the programme, which will consist of a series of six after school sessions over the year plus reading and class room based activities in between, I wanted to build it around some best practice principles.  The Developing Great Teaching publication has a series of helpful headline findings shown in the graphic below:

Great Teaching - Headlines

In terms of duration, the programme gets a tick but time spent on a course or programme is irrelevant if the quality of what is experienced is poor.  The challenge given by the report is for leaders to promote an approach in which staff are encouraged to focus strategically and meaningfully on particular areas of learning and practice over time and to ensure subsequent in-class experimentation and collaboration with colleagues.  The identification of a particular focus area by each teacher, through our formative quality of teaching process, should help here.  A requirement to trial techniques from the book between sessions will be further enhanced by a lesson study style approach in the second half of the programme aimed at teachers scrutinising particular routines, with colleagues, and seeking to enhance or maybe even perfect them.  This rhythm of follow-up, consolidation and support activities will create additional workload for the participants.  Scaling up the programme would challenge us to systematically look at staff workload and require abandonment of things we are currently doing.

This peer supported self-identification and voluntary nature of the programme creates the potential for buy-in with the programme constructed around the participant’s needs.  It’s likely to be a group who create a real buzz between themselves and I’m really looking forward to working with them.

Developing a logical thread between the various components of the programme, what the report terms “alignment” is currently looking quite good, in my head at least.  Reading and discussion of the routines within Teach Like a Champion, seeking to develop a deeper conceptual understanding around guiding principles followed by reviewing, revising and enhancing your own routines with peer support is good in theory.  Conversion from discussion about techniques and routines to the application and practice within the class room, a key component of effective professional development, is planned.  The review of the programme, with a focus not just on improved teaching but greater progress of students, will be the final determinant of its success.  It is the impact not simply the process which matters most.

Great PD

Within the programme thought may need to be given to how the more general discussions and approaches can be refined to ensure that there is subject-specific element to the pedagogies developed.  Beyond wondering whether this might be done by the participants themselves I’ve not got very far.  More thought is required here.

Developing Conceptual Understanding

Until the discussions have started it’s not possible to say for certain what principles we may identify.  A few that I have highlighted for discussion include:

  • Increased Efficiency – many of the routines seek to have the same or greater impact for the same or less teacher effort.  There seemed to be a sustainability dimension to much of what I read.
  • Oscillating Activity – to what extent do a number of the techniques go from “me to you”?  Both the teacher and the student are expected to work and there is a dynamic interaction produced between them.
  • Intervene Early – processes seem to be built in to capture any potential lack of understanding at the point, or soon after, it happens followed by an intervention.  It’s not a close the gap strategy rather a don’t let the gap appear in the first place approach.
  • Goldilocks’ Level Challenge – not too easy and not too hard, the learning is pitched at the next stage and connected to what has gone before.  This is linked to monitoring students’ progress and learning in class and over time.
  • Better Never Stops – there is always a little bit more that can be expected, required or asked for.  The expectation of improvement is relentless.

In developing their own routines it helps if teachers have a mental model, software programme if you like, operating in their brains to help with the planning, implementation and review of any new routine.  To what extent are your routines sustainable, produce a dynamic interaction with students, regularly monitor learning, produce early intervention and provide appropriately challenge?  Each routine won’t necessarily incorporate all elements, though I’m wondering whether efficiency is a golden thread.  Please remember this list is just my first attempt, it is almost certainly incomplete and may well be wrong.

Joining In From Afar

If you’re frustrated that you can’t join in please feel free to join in as part of a satellite group.  Here are your instructions (they have already gone to the nineteen teachers on the programme):

  1. Buy the book and read the introduction and chapters 1 and 2 by early October.
  2. Select one of the first ten techniques that particularly interests you and give a sixty second explanation to a friend about its key elements.  Implement the routine in one of your classes and seek to perfect it over time through practice.
  3. Start to look for common threads that could help you develop a conceptual framework for building great routines.  Make some notes for yourself.

The second session is in November and I’ll blog out some more activities for you to complete.  Can we all teach like a champion?



8 thoughts on “Can We All Teach Like a Champion? #TLaC

  1. A really great blog Stephen! I like how you’ve taken the Lemov approach and looked for alignment with the Developing Great Teaching report. I think it’s also particularly important that your plan has a strong focus around reducing other work-load to make time for great workplace on-the-job learning.

    The DGT report says that we should be focusing on aspirations for student learning. There is a danger with TLaC that you can get so caught up with perfecting the approaches that you move too far away from using them to problem-solve pupil learning issues. The authors (Cordingley et al) found that the key driver of effective professional development appears to be starting with what we want for our pupils and then changing practice accordingly, rather than learning new techniques and then trying to retro-fit these to student needs.

    I can see you’ve alluded to this in your blog, so I’m really just re-emphasising its importance.

    This is linked with the idea that a central element of great professional development is formative assessment – i.e. knowing what it is you want your pupils to learn/achieve and developing your ability to diagnose/perceive how successfully pupils are learning it.

    So a great use of TLaC is to carefully weave the approaches and techniques together with diagnosing/identifying pupils’ learning needs, clarifying your aspirations for their learning, and then applying them to lessons with a strong focus on subject knowledge and subject-specific adaptation.

    Just my tuppence-worth. Keep up the amazing work!

    Posted by David Weston (@informed_edu) | September 27, 2015, 9:51 am
    • Thanks David. Some good reminders for me in this. I think the DGT will come into its own in the post-Christmas phase when it will be teachers looking at their own routines but the need to keep an eye on outcomes is well reinforced by your comments. I’m committed to not losing sight of it. The workload point again is key. It’s crucial enough when just working with volunteers but critical when scaling it up. Thanks. Hope you’re well and enjoying life.

      Posted by ExecutiveHT | September 27, 2015, 1:23 pm
  2. Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

    Posted by heatherfblog | October 1, 2015, 9:38 pm
  3. Thanks for this, Stephen. I read TLaC2.0 over the summer when I was preparing to work with teacher trainees who were going directly into posts in independent schools in the autumn. I was hugely impressed with it, especially its potential to support and to challenge the thinking of beginning teachers. I notices that the Teach First summer school had Doug Lemov speaking. The HMCTT summer programme just had ME talking BUT dOUG lEMOV! (among

    Posted by jillberry102 | October 14, 2015, 5:37 pm
    • Aaarrghhh!!! Am sure I didn’t press ‘post comment’ then! (Though I am typing this on a train….) Can you delete that for me and I’ll try again?

      Thanks for this, Stephen. I read TLaC2.0 over the summer when I was preparing to work with teacher trainees who were going directly into posts in independent schools in the autumn. I was hugely impressed with it, especially its potential to support and to challenge the thinking of beginning teachers. I noticed that the Teach First summer school had Doug Lemov speaking. The HMCTT summer programme just had ME talking about Doug Lemov! (among other things).

      Good luck with your professional development programme, and I look forward to reading more about it.

      Posted by jillberry102 | October 14, 2015, 5:40 pm
    • Our staff just have me lol. Really enjoyed the first session and looking forward to working with the staff over the year.

      Posted by ExecutiveHT | October 14, 2015, 6:09 pm


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