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CPD, Curriculum

What Impact Your Half Year of Teaching?

We’ve reached the mid-point of the academic year; the mornings are getting lighter and the days longer.  It’s worth reflecting on what impact your teaching has had in term of pupils’ progress during the first half of the year.

It’s important to understand that this is a question to reflect on not a means for holding teachers to account.  Since the days of pupils allegedly making three sub-levels progress a year we’ve used unreliable data to make invalid conclusions.  There is a lack of precision in the question, as well as any answer, which makes high stakes or even low stakes accountability nonsensical. 

I’d accept and suggest that learning is not linear and doesn’t happen neatly in half year same size chunks; dynamic and steady progress can be interspersed with periods of seeming learning inertia.  There are many reasons why a pupil will or won’t have made progress over the past half a year; not all can be attributable to your teaching.

The Power of Collaboration, Professor John Hattie

However, similar pupils in some classrooms will have made more progress than those in other classrooms; similar pupils in the same classroom may have made very different progress.  This variability is the arch enemy of high equity and excellence for all. 

Speaking to all the teachers in the Trust on Tuesday; my question, adapted from Professor John Hattie, is “have pupils made half a year’s progress for half a year of teaching”.  Hopefully even more; overachievement is not only allowed it’s encouraged.  The days of presenting meaningless aggregated data, sub-levels and grades with a +/- attached, are behind us.  The first challenge is determining what half a year’s progress looks like if not a sub-level/grade?  We have determined it in terms of the curriculum content; what should pupils know or be able to do?  Whilst still embryonic, there’s some interesting thinking and a few examples of a different approach to learning; increasingly most pupils are required to learning the same curriculum content but to differing depths.  Exceptions tend to be pupils with special needs.

The next question becomes; how do you know what progress has been made?  This varies depending on the age of the pupil, our basic approach covers Early Years to Sixth Form; the assessments focus on finding out what pupils should know or be able to do, they have been taught it, but don’t.

Over the past few years our approach to this assessment information has changed significantly.  We use to just move on and then panic in Years 2, 6 and 11 trying desperately to fill gaps which should have been addressed years earlier.  Now we look to fill learning gaps close to the point of first teaching; this means leaving space in the curriculum for re-teaching.  Coverage and mastery provide a curriculum tension that needs explicitly recognising, discussing and making decisions about when to move forward and when remedial work is required.

The other useful question about the impact of half a year’s teaching is what have you taught well and what do you need to teach better?   This leads to a much richer, honest and fruitful debate than lesson grading ever will, with its aggregated outcome and its emotional angst.  Being a good teacher might mean you are great at teaching some aspects of the curriculum but others need to be the focus of your professional development.

Your teaching of elements of the curriculum improve as do pupils’ learning; it’s a win:win; time to stop and reflect.



One thought on “What Impact Your Half Year of Teaching?

  1. This year has surprised; some students have made better progress in learning a relatively difficult topic in the syllabus, when usually nearly all students suffer. Is variability in progress an enemy of equity? Not sure; preferable to think in terms of variability in motivation and effort to be the enemy of equity. The concept of “student X is aiming at level 1 therefore teach this content only” is inherently discriminatory, so it is nice to see recognition that the same content should be taught to all, but depth of comprehension is student-dependent.

    Posted by chemistryinthecity | March 2, 2018, 3:58 pm

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