It may be somewhat of an unspoken truth that some teachers instantly gauge the students' attention, whether by mastering their own pedagogy or just looking slightly scary, while others are simply swamped by a mass of bellowing noises and propelled objects. Maybe a tad too stereotypical.
In 2009, I was fortunate enough to have a book published – The Coaching Toolkit. At the time I had been doing a great deal of work with my co-author, Mike Harbour, to set up coaching in the school where I was working. We started off with a group of interested staff and then grew it across the school – with a great degree of success.
Four years later, in a new school and a very different context, we are looking to launch coaching again. It will be the main driver for CPD in 2013-14, with a view to using our own staff to develop consistently brilliant teaching across the school. Time slots will be put aside throughout the year for colleagues to meet in pairs to have a co-coaching conversation.
Photo credit: cambodia4kidsorg
The release, on April 16th, of “Departmental Advice on reviewing and revising your school’s approach to teachers’ pay” by the DfE is causing head teachers, senior leaders, teachers, union representatives and governors to rethink the relationship between appraisal, performance management, pay and capability. This briefing references the key documents and offers a research and development opportunity to colleagues who are committed to a sustainable model of school improvement based on self-evaluation and professional development.
By reviewing the key documents below, we are, in effect, answering three key questions. “What is appraisal?” Answering this indicates that interpretations of the appraisal (or performance management) regulations vary. Therefore, as we ponder, “Why do we appraise?” in our school we can identify, “How do we appraise?” In this way the lines between appraisal, pay and capability become clearer.
Some of the comments we hear most from Middle and Senior Leaders in schools today include the desire to ‘raise my confidence in the leadership role’ and ‘think about the bigger picture to make change happen in my school.’
Time is your most precious resource and we understand that Leaders in your school need to get the most out of their learning. Quality, bespoke Middle and Senior Leaders Development Programmes from BlueKiteCoach provide you with confidence that the learning your teams tackle has been specifically designed to inspire, engage and motivate. Indeed, it will be a talking point in your staff room, for all the right reasons, long after your learning event.
Why is there such little open debate and discussion about the impact of the new appraisal regulations in schools? Teachers tell me there is a lot of confusion amongst colleagues and head teachers, so why aren’t the Blogerati and Twitteronis heaving with chats and comments? Why aren’t our professional associations chanting: “What do we want? Appraisal! When do we want it? Now!”
Well there is a history...
Way back in 1985 I co-ordinated probably the first ever appraisal training course for teachers in England in Nottinghamshire, and believe me there were well founded fears around then. Appraisal was seen as a process, for the Michael Gove of the day (Sir Keith Joseph), to “Weed out the weak teachers”. The attitudes and issues have changed little over time as “payment by results” rears its head again. What can we learn about appraisal 35 years ago? Indeed, how is teacher appraisal seen in other countries? (1)
People who have read my #marginalgains blog posts will know I am going over old ground here – intentionally so – as I am looking to dig deeper towards the key marginal gains that have the biggest impact on learning. For me, formative oral feedback and questioning are the two key ‘hinge point marginal gains’ that make for great teaching and learning. My previous #marginalgains blog identified new teaching strategies for these two key area of pedagogy, but here I wanted to use this blog to reflect on what I view as the most high impact formative oral feedback strategies that I have been using in my everyday practice. I want to use my list as a reminder, each time I plan lessons, of the key strategies to use – as it is too easy to forget and slip into autopilot planning, forgetting even our most effective of strategies.
In the latest OFSTED guidance, they have clearly stated that lesson planning should not be inflexible, that teachers should react to the progress, or the lack thereof, of their students. This is heartening recognition of what we have known all along – and that is that teaching and learning are contingent activities. Learning is often problematic, changeable, non-linear, beset by a host of unique factors that cannot be exactly replicated (but with experience we can determine common patterns). We must therefore be constantly tracking the evidence of learning with as much precision and skill as we can. That is why effective teaching hinges absolutely on oral formative feedback and questioning on a lesson by lesson basis. It appears to me that the greatest benefit of experience that I observe in excellent teachers is the recognition of how and when to elicit feedback, with the nuanced understanding of what questions to ask, how and when. I have drawn upon this wealth of experience for my top ten – indeed it is my inept stumbling near the shoulders of giants that is responsible for the whole lot!
Sing Up are holding their next webinar, Winter Soundscapes, on 6th November. The sessions are ideal for schools following the National Plan for Music Education, which called for every school to have a ‘singing strategy’.
Led by vocal expert Lin Marsh, participants will learn how to create and use a variety of songs to help celebrate the winter season. Lin explains: “We will be taking the theme of "Winter" and using literacy skills, music and dramatic ideas to create a performance. I shall be looking at using the voice to create a Winter soundscape which could be used in a Nativity play or as a backdrop to a poem or reading. We'll also try inventing words to make a new song, and lastly, we'll take a well-known winter song and see how to turn it into a piece of Music Theatre".
The work of a teacher is both challenging and complex and requires high standards of professional competence and commitment. However, research shows that formal professional development may not be the optimum means by which such high standards of professional competence can be achieved. The principal reason for this is that traditional CPD tends to be based on one-off events that can often be a solitary activity and can seem remote from colleagues, students and classroom practice in general.
Many teachers have begun to diverge from only using traditional CPD provision and started to address their individual and collective professional learning needs – which can often be perceived as being different by management – effectively by seeking informal professional development opportunities. An alternative model of regular peer-to-peer professional learning meetings – sometimes referred to as TeachMeets or Show and Tell sessions – is beginning to emerge as a more successful, supportive and motivating way of sharing best teaching practice with the aim of improving overall teaching and learning. Such bottom-up professional learning is more likely to be followed up and to result in innovative practices that are successfully embedded and sustained.
In the current political and economic climate schools run the risk of developing a CPD culture that perpetuates the status quo, limits exposure to new ideas; and can lead to a culture of mediocrity. So argues, Steve Burnage, CPD director of simplyINSET.
Steve says: “There has been a shift in culture over the past 18 months. Schools are now less inclined to send staff out on a course that may have little impact. Instead, they are working with simplyINSET to build bespoke packages of training and consultancy that specifically meet their development needs.”
In school boards and districts around the world, teacher evaluations are becoming the norm. The hope is that by evaluating teacher performance, we can improve student performance. Yet there remains much controversy around teacher evaluations. How do you measure and rate teacher performance? Do teacher evaluations provide any real benefit to teachers and schools? And what about the students?
The answer to these questions may lie in the motivation for conducting teacher evaluations in the first place. If your motivation is to rate and rank teachers and weed out the poor performers, you'll likely only succeed in getting everyone defensive. If your primary purpose is to improve teacher performance by supporting development, you'll likely get better results. As with all employee evaluations, the best results are achieved when the goal is to support continuous growth and development.
After watching ‘Road to Glory’, about the inexorable progress of the Sky Pro Cycling team, it foregrounded the mantra of “The Aggregation of Marginal Gains” that is at the core of David Brailsford’s philosophy. In essence, it is the drive to perfect every controllable detail in the process of performance – the ‘marginal gains’ – with the result being a cumulative significant gain. Watching Bradley Wiggins in the Tour de France, as well as the Great Britain cycling team in the 2012 Olympics was nothing short of inspirational – like most teachers it was considering how to harness the idea to make it useful in my teaching.
The other evening, after – ‘Road To Glory’ – I had a fruitful Twitter conversation with @fullonlearning and a fellow teacher @macn_1. We discussed ideas related to the ‘marginal gains’ concept; how it related to learning and how it may be useful for grouping students etc. One idea I was struck by was how it could be used to promote “learner effectiveness”. Throughout the summer I have been thinking about how ‘learning’ should actually be given as much focus, if not more, than ‘teaching’ – a subtle semantic shift. The ‘marginal gains’ model therefore becomes not simply another teacher motivational mantra (which, sadly, too often becomes verbal wallpaper for students), but how it could become a model for nuanced and revealing self-assessment and potent reflective learning.