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:
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.
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):
- Buy the book and read the introduction and chapters 1 and 2 by early October.
- 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.
- 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?