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Challenging Yourself as a Teacher or Leader #ThursdayThunk

There’s a restlessness in many of us that drives us to keep improving.  It’s a good thing but something that needs channelling if it is not to become disorientating, exhausting and eventually self-defeating.  Excellence may well be a habit but it’s a disciplined habit.


Photo Credit: Gian Luigi Perrella via Flickr cc

Photo Credit: Gian Luigi Perrella via Flickr cc

Increasingly these days, courses require participants to pick a focus – an area for improvement; self, department or school – and pursue it in a rigorous and disciplined way.  Last year’s leadership development programme at St. Mary’s had participants looking at the effectiveness of whole school CPD, Pupil Premium: Year 7 Readers, Year 9 underachievers in English, GCSE, AS and A-level Media projects and diagnostic assessment in Year 10 Mathematics.

Each participant chose a real issue, rooted in evidence, which mattered to them.  It makes so much more sense to allow people to pursue something they are passionate about rather than force something on them.  People invariably come up with really sensible and important projects that make a difference to our pupils.

This is not about surviving but thriving within the profession and developing good practices.  It’s about getting that little bit better each year.  I’m sat musing what the school would be like if every teacher or pairs of teachers took on this “Make a Difference” project based approach every year.  Transformed comes to mind.  Hope you’ll take on the challenge.

If you would like to focus on a real issue in a disciplines way, this year, the proforma is below.


Making a Difference Project Proforma – Word (could be useful for NPQML or NPQSL projects; modelled on SSAT proforma for its Leadership Course projects).

My advice would be this:

  • Root the issue you pick in evidence.  Schools are usually swimming in data at this time of the year.  What would be a really important issue for you to focus on?  Choose only one otherwise you’ll be overwhelmed with everything else you have to do.
  • Most projects suffer because the focus isn’t tight enough.  Think about narrowing your focus to a particular cohort of pupils and a specific intervention.
  • Make sure you get baseline data.  I’ll say that again; make sure you get baseline data.  It may be you can use data you already have available, that’s the best kind.  It’s very difficult to evidence improvement if you haven’t got a starting point.
  • If you can buddy up with someone that really helps.  You can keep each other on track over the six months or so over the project.  Alternatively a coach or peer review during a leadership programme can work effectively.

The write up is deliberately limited and is completed in sections over the months the project takes.  Here are a couple of examples with thanks to Laura, Katie and Simon for allowing me to share.  Things don’t always go to plan but that sometimes can be the best learning.

Making a Difference – Laura – Y9 PP English

Making a Difference – Katie – Y7 Prefect Readers

Making a Difference Project – Simon – Y10 Diagnostic Assessment in Maths

You may want to have a look at the #5MinResearchPlan to help guide you through the process.

#5MinResearchPlan for Flipped Learning R&D Community

#5MinResearchPlan for Flipped Learning R&D Community

#ThursdayThunk is based on something I’ve been thinking about, discussing, working on or has been topical that week.  The thunk is designed to be bite sized and will deliberately be kept short.  It will take one small issue or an aspect of something much bigger.  The intention is for it to be read in two/three minutes as you’re busy running around at the end of the week or relaxing on your day off.



4 thoughts on “Challenging Yourself as a Teacher or Leader #ThursdayThunk

  1. Hi Stephen, at Millfield we have a Teaching and Learning group which guides departments on specific programmes of action to improve their own field of activity. These are often relative to a particular department and on completion, the ideas, results etc are disseminated so that other departments can emulate them. As in your blog, this is a brilliant way to develop and share individual ideas for development at individual, departmental and whole school level.

    Posted by Stuart Robathan | September 17, 2016, 7:18 am
  2. As always thank you for pushing me to rethink and at time redefine how I approach my role. I have used the simple message of the link below to guide me approach and to have others I work with try to as well. Your Thunk highlighted that even more!


    Posted by Joe | September 18, 2016, 2:39 pm


  1. Pingback: 6 Steps to Getting It Right (More Often) | @LeadingLearner - September 17, 2017

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