The making of a MOOC

The scenario of being asked to use a virtual learning environment, a set of laptops or devices, or indeed an interactive whiteboard is likely to be a familiar one to teachers. More familiar still might be the expectation that this technology is used in your teaching and the research evidence supporting its effective use is an afterthought.

On Monday 11 March, a free online course, entitled Using technology in evidence-based teaching and learning launches on FutureLearn with the Chartered College of Teaching and this course will prompt ways of thinking about uses of technology to support evidence-based teaching and learning so that education technology becomes the ‘final piece of the process, not its starting point’ (Neil Selwyn, 2019).

 

What has informed the design of this course?

From previous roles and a number of months working on online learning for the Chartered College of Teaching, I knew the lack of easily accessible research evidence that pointed towards effective uses of technology in schools. Much of what I’d encountered in the past was only really relevant in Higher Education contexts or was presented in a way that aligned to visions of transformation, and innovation, but not to inform the practical application teachers were attempting on a daily basis in the classroom, nor the large decisions being made by school and college leaders every year. This, in the main, drove the vision for the course.

Teacher Online Learning Development group

During my first few months at the Chartered College of Teaching, advertising for and recruiting volunteer members into our Teacher Online Learning Development group took place. From the outset, I’ve been keen that practising teachers and leaders have the opportunity to inform my work and so, with expertise assembled, they set about providing feedback on the various aspects of our online work, including what this course might contain. Once we had a structure in place, it was tested again on the group, before a final draft emerged to be reviewed. I am now as confident as I can be that this first run of our online course will provide a valuable learning experience to its participants.

Research engagement

Engaging with research can be a discomforting experience. We can read something that makes us question our practice; ‘was everything we though correct actually wrong all along?’ We can sometimes dismiss a finding too quickly when it doesn’t align with our own existing bias and perspective. Approaching existing research in a more measured way to decide whether or not it holds answers for our particular context will be encouraged on this course. It was important that the course began with the research evidence so that our exploration of education technologies would be anchored in that, rather than floating beyond grasp in the weightless universe of ‘transformation’ in which education technologies so often find themselves.

I have purposely used language of may and might in the course, not to sit on the fence but to be transparent that not all research has the answer for every eventuality but that it might point towards a possible avenue to explore and experiment with. I’d be glad to hear that a participant who’d been teaching for years had grown more curious about an area of their practice as a result of engaging with research evidence on this course that provoked new thinking.

Impact

If you’ve not accessed any of the articles from the special issue of Impact then you can do so for free online here. Additional articles are available to Chartered College of Teaching members. Many of these articles made their way into the course design because they pointed to the kinds of principles we wanted the course to cover. They were balanced, grounded in effective practice, and made connections between theory and practice. You’ll learn, for instance, about designing better slides and resources that align with learning from cognitive load theory and dual coding, as well as ways in which technology can support metacognition, assessment and feedback in the classroom.

Case studies

One of our biggest jobs, in a short timescale, was to ensure representation across the course from primary, secondary and SEND settings. Whilst I’ll continually work to improve this representation for future iterations, our reviews so far indicate that participants should find something to suit their context throughout the course. Each week, there are a range of video and written case studies to follow the learning from our academic contributors. One of my core aims for the course was for participants to hear directly from academics who would make the research evidence more accessible but for the voice of teachers and leaders to be strongly represented too. I believe that we can only make improvements to practice when we gather all of this influence together. Across the four weeks, I feel as though participants will have heard from voices representing a variety of contexts and perspectives (especially if they also complete the course for leaders once it launches).

What will you learn?

I’m pleased to say that we’ve passed FutureLearn’s quality assurance process and I’m now making the final edits on the course, so what can you expect to learn over the four weeks?

Each week, we begin with a focus on what research evidence tells us about a specific area of practice. Then, through written and video case studies from schools across the country, we explore how technology can be used in a way that aligns with what this research evidence suggests might be effective.

Week 1 – Understanding technology use in educational practice (3 hrs)

This week sets up the learning for future weeks by engaging with the why of technology use; we’ll consider barriers, challenges, and evaluation. You’ll be exposed to your first set of academics and a number of case studies too.

  • Why might we choose to use technology in education?
  • What are the challenges and opportunities in technology use?
  • How can we best evaluate the impact of technology use in our own context?

Week 2 – Building new knowledge and understanding using technology (3 hrs)

This week focuses on research evidence about how we build knowledge and understanding in the classroom. We’ll then see and hear from teachers making use of technology in their variety of contexts to support such practices.

  • How might concepts such as dual coding and cognitive load theory help with presenting learning effectively?
  • What makes effective pupil collaboration in the classroom?
  • How can the presentation of learning and pupil collaboration be enabled with technology?

Week 3 – Technology to support learning that sticks (3 hrs)

This week focuses on aspects of retrieval and elaboration for learning; learning that sticks. Once more, course participants will have the opportunity to select from a range of case studies that demonstrate how technology can be used to support these practices should they wish to use it.

  • How can we support pupils’ long-term retention of content learnt using retrieval practice, elaboration and spacing?
  • How might technology effectively support the retention of learning?
  • In what circumstances might we choose to use (or not use) technology as a tool to support learning that sticks?

Week 4 – Developing technology supported assessment and feedback (3 hrs)

The final week explores assessment and feedback, and the place of technology there. Participants will choose from a range of school case studies to inform possible solutions for their practice.

  • How can assessment and feedback approaches be made most effective?
  • How might technology support effective assessment and feedback approaches?
  • How might technology and research evidence support changes to marking workload?

Whilst FutureLearn’s model is for course content to be completed in each of the designated weeks, you will have access to the content for a little while after it finishes so that you can catch-up on anything missed, which is handy as there’s a school holiday just after the course finishes. There is an upgrade fee to get longer access if you’re not a Chartered College of Teaching member (£52) but the course content will be made freely available after the course run for all members (£45 per year) within your membership platforms.

Learning together

I’m keen that a learning community is established during the course where practice, experience, and reflections are shared openly. We have a number of mentors supporting the programme who will support the discussions taking place. So often, it can feel lonely learning on a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) and whilst we’ll be doing what we can on the course, I recommend the following if you can achieve it back in school:

  • Gather together a group of colleagues who will undertake the course at the same time. This could be done by you, a senior leader, or a CPD leader.
  • Arrange a weekly meeting time on a morning, lunchtime, or evening best suited to you all where there will be sustenance of some kind (tea, coffee, breakfast, biscuits, cake…)
  • Discuss the learning from the week. Use some of the discussion points from the course or the reflective questions posed at the end of each week.
  • At the end of the 4 weeks, each select something you’ll try in the term ahead and maintain the group to discuss progress (except perhaps reduce the frequency of the meetings).
  • At the end of that term, get together to share your findings, preferably inviting wider colleagues along to learn from your use of technology in evidence-based teaching and learning.

If you do this, I’d love to hear from you. If the above isn’t possible in your setting then take to Twitter or a blog to reflect for yourself and connect with other course learners at the hashtag #FLEducationTech

I hope to be learning with you over on FutureLearn soon!

 

Selwyn N (2019) Teachers and technology: time to get serious. Impact (Special Issue 1). Available at: https://impact.chartered.college/article/editorial-education-technology/

Monthly Twitter Collections

Each month, I collate blogs, research papers, and reflections from the education community on Twitter. I began doing this for participants and mentors on the Chartered Teacher programme with the Chartered College of Teaching so that we could share interesting content that aligned with their areas of work at each point of the programme. We were also aware that many of them were new to Twitter and we appreciated how challenging it can be when you first join social media to find useful people to follow and identify relevant content to curate for later reading.

Each of the collections created since March 2018 are shared below. Whilst the collections are always based on areas of practice that might be of interest to our pilot programme cohort, there’s likely to be much of relevance to you and your colleagues too.

  • Browse the collections for personal CPD purposes; locating the research papers and blogs that may support your development.
  • Locate a useful piece of content to be read during a team meeting or as part of school/college CPD. Use the paper, blog, article, video, or podcast as stimulus for further discussion and development around an area of practice.
  • Share the collections in your school or college bulletin to promote the use of Twitter for CPD. Some collections can only be accessed with a Twitter account but others can be accessed freely.
  • Incorporate the use of this content as part of a wider approach to CPD, perhaps integrating their use as part of lesson study or small-scale classroom experiments.

 

Teaching collections

The following collections contain all things evidence-informed practice, research engagement, curriculum and CPD.

nov dec twitter moment

These months’ collection features posts from Professor Robert Coe on why assessment might tell you less than you think, Lia Martin on being strict AND warmRuth Rosalind Walker on curriculum and Ben Newmark on using a booklet and a visualiser, and more! Nov and Dec 2018

 

drepbtlx0aiechkThis month’s collection features a paper on memory shared by Efrat Furst,  a thoightful blog from Miss Sayers about the implementation of knowledge organisers, a podcast with Pooja Agarwal on retrieval practice, and a post from Adam Robbins on the trouble with target grades, and more! Oct 2018

 

September Twitter Moment CopyThis month’s collection features blogs from Tom Sherrington on expectations and questioning, thoughts from Annie Brookman-Byrne on desirable difficulties, Shaun Allison on how retrieval practice can be supported by Cornell note-taking, and more! Sept 2018

 

August Twitter Moment

This month’s collection features great places to find research from Alex Quigley, over 100 useful links for evidence-informed practice from Adam BoxerBec Tulloch on the one piece of research she’d choose to improve T&L, a piece on forgetting from Efrat Furst, and more! August 2018

 

July Twitter MomentThis month’s collection features From cognitive load theory to collaborative load theory from Paul Kirschner, a podcast with the Learning Scientists about retrieval practice, the truth and beauty of curriculum from Claire Stoneman, and much more! July 2018

 

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This month’s collection features a guide on setting up a journal club from the Education Workforce Council, a blog summary of a ResearchEd presentation from Dan MacPherson about making good memories, an interview with John Hattie from Ollie Lovell, a post on responsive teaching from Harry Fletcher-Wood, a range of posts on curriculum from a variety of authors, reflections on what it means to work in an evidence-informed way from MirjamN, and much more!

June 2018*

 

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This month’s collection features a paper shared by Dylan Wiliam, which examines the impact of teachers’ cognitive skills on student achievement, a post from Adam Boxer examining novices, experts and everything in between, research into lesson observations from Ofsted, a blog from Dawn Cox on what it really means to make progress, Amjad Ali sharing a paper from the National Council on Teacher Quality about what every new teacher needs to know, and much, much more!

May 2018*

 

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This month’s collection features some sketchnotes from Oliver Caviglioli about Professor Becky Allen‘s work on measuring progress, 7 recommendations from the Education Endowment Foundation about developing pupils’ metacognitive knowledge and skills, a curated guide to metacognition from Anoara Mughal, an account of how Mark Enser has applied Rosenshine’s work to how he teaches, and much more!

April 2018*

 

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This month’s collection features an Expert Teaching paper from Peps MccreaResearch Bites from Durrington Research, a blog on storytelling for better memories from Paul Moss, Sketchnotes from Kathyrn Morgan about Developing Great Teaching, a #UkEdResChat Reading List from Karen Wespieser, a downloadable education research terms poster from the Chartered College of Teaching, and much more!

March 2018*

 

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This month’s collection features a trio of blogs on knowledge organisers from Miss Sayers, a post on feedback, explanation and practice from Pritesh Raichura, a report produced by Wellcome Trust and CUREE on Developing Great Subject Teaching, a school’s guide to implementing evidence-informed change from the Education Endowment Foundation, a set of Sketchnotes about Lucy Crehan’s Cleverlands from Impact Wales, and much more!

February 2018*

 

 

Coaching & mentoring collections

The following collections contain all things coaching, mentoring and evidence-informed, practice-rich professional development. After September 2018, the coaching and mentoring content became combined with the main collection for the month.

Mentors September

This collection features Issue 5 of working papers on practical aspects of coaching and mentoring in schools from CollectivED, research outlining the characteristics of effective professional development from Sam Sims and Harry Fletcher-Wood with further thoughts on the piece, as well as instructional coaching from Robert Coe and others, the Teacher Development Trust, and Jim Knight. Jack Tavasolly-Marsh shares some reflections on the use of video coaching, whilst Laura Mackay shares her reflections on implementing coaching in school.

September 2018

 

Mentors - July Aug Twitter Moment Copy

 

This collection features Sam Sims sharing a research paper that suggests that highly effective teachers are more likely to seek advice from their colleagues but are no more likely to be approached for advice than their less effective peers, ‘The Effect of Teacher Coaching on Instruction and Achievement: A Meta-Analysis of the Causal Evidence’ from IEE York, thoughts on mentoring the newcomers from Cherylkd, an interview with Christian Van Nieuwerburgh, and much more!

July and August 2018*

 

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This collection features Issue 4 of working papers from CollectivED, top tips on how to run a good teacher-mentoring programme from Iesha Small and others, Sketchnotes from Oliver Cavigliol of a ResearchED talk from David Weston and Bridget Clay, handwritten sketchnotes from Joy Vega on the Impact Cycle, an update on professional learning groups from Deborah Netolicky, 5 strategies for building relationships as an instructional coach from Teach Boost, and much more!

June 2018*

 

 

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This collection features an interview with Thomas Toch about the successes, failures, and future of teacher evaluation reforms, IRIS Connect asking ‘what might you learn if you reflected on your practice using video?‘, some practical tips for mentors supporting early year career teachers, from Affirm Consulting, 10 ways to generate more thinking from Margaret Barr, an episode of the Coaching Habit podcast from Ayse Birsel, and much more!

May 2018*

 

 

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This collection features Issue 3 of working papers from CollectivED, a cognitive science reading list from Doug Lemov, an experimental comparison of centralized training and in-classroom coaching by Jacobus Cilliers and others, psychological perspectives on expertise shared by Peps Mccrea, a reflection on the worth of mentoring from Sophie Bee, tips for effective listening during coaching from Newby Coach, and much more!

April 2018*

 

 

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This collection features a meta-anlysis on teacher coaching from Matthew Kraft, a blog from Simon Feasey on a CollectivED event, an article from multiple authors about the journey and relationship of instructional coaching, some sketchnotes from Kathryn Morgan on a paper by Papay and Kraft, introductory videos to the growth coaching approach from Andy Buck, notes on effective professional development from Harry Fletcher-Wood, and much more!

March 2018*

 

 

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This collection features Issue 1 of working papers from the CollectivED community.  An article on the emerging evidence about coaching as a PD strategy from CPREresearch, a research paper shared by Rolf Degen that suggests merely watching others performing their skills gave viewers the false impression of themselves having become better at these skills suggests, a podcast from Growth Coaching International, and much more!

February 2018*

 

 

*Only available if you have a Twitter account

Where can teachers and educators locate existing research?

Open access unless otherwise indicated. An ever-growing list.

 

BES (Iterative Best Evidence Synthesis)

The New Zealand Ministry of Education’s best evidence synthesis iterations draw together, explain and illustrate through vignette and case, bodies of evidence about what works to improve education outcomes, and what can make a bigger difference for the education of all our children and young people.

 

Bristol Document Summary Service

Available to Chartered College of Teaching members

In an information and data driven age, and with the huge increase in education policy and guidance, the service was born out of a need for a one stop source providing timely, relevant and condensed overviews of key educational documents. Each month, access 2 page expert summaries of key pieces of research and policy from DfE, Ofsted and key research bodies such as Sutton Trust and NfER.

 

Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications

An Open Access journal that publishes new empirical and theoretical work covering all areas of Cognition, with a special emphasis on use-inspired basic research: fundamental and theoretically relevant research that grows from hypotheses about real-world problems.

 

Curee

CUREE’s core purpose is to translate large scale and technical research findings and resources into materials teachers and policy makers can use in their day-to-day work. They search regularly and comprehensively to find the most useful research, and constantly gather and use evidence about effective learning processes to inform and enhance teaching and learning.

 

Directory of Open Access Journals

DOAJ is a community-curated online directory that indexes and provides access to high quality, open access, peer-reviewed journals. DOAJ is independent. All funding is via donations, 40% of which comes from sponsors and 60% from members and publisher members.

 

Discovery (UCL)

UCL’s open access repository, showcasing and providing access to UCL research publications.

 

EBSCO Research Database

Available to Chartered College of Teaching members

Membership of the Chartered College includes access to an education research database providing full-text access to over 2,000 journal titles and ebooks, covering international publications across a range of themes and subject areas.

 

Education Development Trust

Every year, Sutton Trust co-ordinate a programme of research projects designed to support their aim of transforming lives by improving education around the world. To extend their reach, they partner with like-minded organisations such as Save the Children, UNICEF or the British Council.

 

Education Endowment Foundation

The EEF supports teachers and leaders by providing free, independent and evidence-based resources – summaries and practical tools – designed to improve practice and boost learning. As well as reviews and guidance reports, it provides a Teaching and Learning ‘Toolkit’ and an Early Years Toolkit which summarise the results of trials in education.

 

Education and Training Foundation: Research Portal

A site for educators working in Post-16 settings to help with engaging with and using research to develop professional practice. They state that all practitioners are encouraged to develop their judgement about what works in their practice to ensure the best outcomes for all learners – research is key to this process.

ERIC (Institute of Education Sciences)

This database can be filtered by country, education level and other fields. There’s a ‘full text article available’ tick box so you can just look for open access articles on a subject you’re interested in.

 

Frontiers in Education

The aim of Frontiers in Education is to provide an international, scholarly forum for discussion of research-based approaches to education – particularly to PreK-16 education that leads to the flourishing of all human beings. Articles are intended to provide the entire education community with new understanding and offer insights informed by sound theoretical frameworks and evidence-based inquiry.

 

Google Scholar

Google but for scholarly and academic content.

 

Impact

Available to Chartered College of Teaching members with some open access content

This termly print and online journal, Impact, connects research findings to classroom practice, with a focus on the interests and voices of teachers and educators. It supports the teaching community by promoting discussion around evidence within the classroom, and enabling teachers to share and reflect on their own use of research.

 

Institute for Effective Education

The IEE are an independent charity working to improve education for all children by promoting the use of evidence in education policy and practice. They support (along with the EEF) the research schools network; produce ‘Best Evidence in Brief’ a free fortnightly e-newsletter focusing on stories with practical implications for schools and policy makers; provide the Evidence 4 Impact evidence summaries database; and the Evidence for the Frontline (E4F) support service for schools.

 

International Journal of STEM Education

The International Journal of STEM Education is a multidisciplinary journal in subject-content education that focuses on the study of teaching and learning in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). It is being established as a brand new, forward looking journal in the field of education. As a peer-reviewed journal, it is positioned to promote research and educational development in the rapidly evolving field of STEM education around the world.

 

NfER

NfER’s mission is to generate evidence and insights that can be used to improve outcomes for future generations everywhere, and to support positive change across education systems. Search and access the full range of NFER publications from research reports to practitioner guides and consultation responses.

 

Research Bites

These bitesize summaries of existing research are produced by the Research Schools Network and make research more accessible and easily digestible for busy teachers.

 

Research Schools Network

The Research Schools Network aims to create a network of schools that will support the use of evidence to improve teaching practice. Access events, newsletters, and blogs from each of the research schools in England.

 

Sage Open

SAGE Open is a peer-reviewed, “Gold” open access journal from SAGE that publishes original research and review articles in an interactive, open access format. Articles may span the full spectrum of the social and behavioural sciences and the humanities.

 

Sara’s List of Ed Resources

This list is curated by Sara Hjelm and contains all kinds of interesting research papers and evidence-informed articles and blogs on a range of teaching practice. Use the translate button on the right to translate it into English.

 

Sutton Trust

The Sutton Trust work to raise aspirations of young people from low and middle income backgrounds and to increase their chances of accessing top universities and the professions. They do this by delivering programmes, evidence-based research, and influencing public policy.

 

Taylor & Francis (open access)

Taylor & Francis publish high quality, rigorously peer-reviewed open access (OA) research across all disciplines and host a searchable database of these journals.

 

Useful bits and pieces for evidence-informed teaching

Adam Boxer has developed this useful, curated list of resources on a variety of areas of teaching practice. The links are to things he has found interesting for his own practice and have helped him to develop as a teacher. It is a work in progress and is updated.

 

What Works Clearinghouse

This USA-based organisation is similar in aims and approach to the EEF. They aim to build a central and trusted source of scientific evidence on education programs, products, practices, and policies.

 

Wiley online library

Access over 1600 journals, 200+ reference works, and 21,000 online books.

An Experiment within an Experiment, Informed by Evidence within Evidence #CPDinFE

The feeling I experience at this moment in time will be familiar to many an educator. It is the end of the first half-term of the academic year. For an educator in a Further Education College, this means that most staff have been in College since the end of August. Our half-term is a week later than seemingly everyone else in the country and so this makes it at least 10 weeks since the start of term (closer to 12 weeks for many, including me). That’s a long slog when it’s involved new classes, timetable clashes, fresh faces and names to learn, room changes, new syllabi, as well as the usual high levels of decision making, pace of activity and load of teaching in a normal week.

It would seem that I have enough left in my batteries to eek out a short (actually not so short now I’ve written it!) review of the very first day of our exciting #CPDinFE project as I feel the need to consider, reflect and contemplate before true rest and relaxation can take place.

The day’s activities began with me asking participants to answer the question,

‘What challenges are your students experiencing with their learning?’

We had purposely framed the question in this way so that students would be at the forefront of practitioners’ minds and therefore the shaping of their projects throughout the day. Beyond the numerous external factors, some themes emerged –

  • Independence
  • Study Skills
  • Literacy skills
  • Challenging behaviour
  • Confidence

I’d like to explore these challenges in greater detail and see what other themes could be pulled from them. It was soon clear that many of the challenges listed were either structural, procedural , or related to the practice of the teacher rather than the learning of the student. I wonder that if we ran the same activity at the end of the project, the responses would be the same. I’d hope not. My hope is that we’d see practitioners even more in touch, at a deep level, with the challenges their students face in their learning.

This activity, after hopes and expectations were shared, gave us a platform for Tom Sherrington to introduce the five approaches participants would choose from. His input, and indeed input from Joss and I in the afternoon would focus on ‘effective practice’. Teachers make so many decisions and have so many aspects of practice to consider that this project would provide the space and permission to focus on a single aspect and practise it deliberatel, as well as measure its impact on learning. Phil Stock‘s latest post about why we need to resist the urge to implement all that is new fits incredibly well with our aims.

Tom began his introduction to the five approaches with – 

Retrieval Practice and Knowledge Organisers

He began by asking, ‘What is Learning?’ He shared that it was something you do in the long-term. He could teach us how to tie a knot today. We could follow his instructions and do it there and then. That’s performing only. He can see us doing it but it doesn’t mean we’ve LEARNED it.

When he referenced a chapter of Daniel Willingham‘s book titled ‘Why do students forget everything I say?’  there was a murmur of recognition around the room so palpable I could almost hear their eyes roll back in their sockets as smirks spread across their faces.

We need to develop the skill in our students to process knowledge from their long-term memory into their working memory. There’s limited capacity in our short-term memory and so what works its way quickly into our long-term memory needs to be secured with clear links and connections so that it can be retrieved when needed rather than left to fade altogether. I need to read much more on this to understand it a deeper level as it’s a complex process that would be valuable to understand better. The odd blog or tweet just won’t achieve that.

We need to plan, not just for our input (in fact, we spend far too long planning that), but on our students’ learning – leaving time for them to forget and recall until they can retrieve knowledge quickly and easily. This might seem as though we’re planning solely for knowledge; prioritising rote learning but in fact, we’re preparing our students for problem solving in the future. 

Tom gave the example of chess players. They study moves and games and learn them. When they’re presented with a scenario. A game. A problem to solve, they are then able to draw on all of this knowledge and apply it to the problem that sits in front of them-

This question, how do chess experts evaluate positions to find the best move, has been studied for decades, dating back to the groundbreaking work of Adriaan de Groot and later to work by William Chase and Herbert Simon.  de Groot interviewed several chess players as they evaluated positions, and he argued that experts and weaker players tended to “look” about the same number of moves ahead and to evaluate similar numbers of moves with roughly similar speed.  The relatively small differences between experts and novices suggested that their advantages came not from brute force calculation ability but from something else: knowledge.  According to De Groot, the core of chess expertise is the ability to recognize huge number of chess positions (or parts of positions) and to derive moves from them.  In short, their greater efficiency came not from evaluating more outcomes, but from considering only the better options. [Note: Some of the details of de Groot’s claims, which he made before the appropriate statistical tests were in widespread use, did not hold up to later scrutiny—experts do consider somewhat more options, look a bit deeper, and process positions faster than less expert players (Holding, 1992). But de Groot was right about the limited nature of expert search and the importance of knowledge and pattern recognition in expert performance.]

In de Groot’s most famous demonstration, he showed several players images of chess positions for a few seconds and asked the players to reconstruct the positions from memory.  The experts made relatively few mistakes even though they had seen the position only briefly.  Years later, Chase and Simon replicated de Groot’s finding with another expert (a master-level player) as well as an amateur and a novice.  They also added a critical control: The players viewed both real chess positions and scrambled chess positions (that included pieces in implausible and even impossible locations). The expert excelled with the real positions, but performed no better than the amateur and novice for the scrambled positions (later studies showed that experts can perform slightly better than novices for random positions too if given enough time; Gobet & Simon, 1996).  The expert advantage apparently comes from familiarity with real chess positions, something that allows more efficient encoding or retrieval of the positions.

Click here to read more

This example has resonated with me so much and has left me contemplating how we treat knowledge in the Further Education sector. Not with disdain but perhaps something akin to it. Skills are prioritised – study skills, English skills, maths skills, digital skills, collaborative skills, reflective skills, technical skills, vocational skills… Whilst these are clearly important to our vocational learners, how much do we spend time thinking hard about the knowledge that will underpin the acquisition, development and mastery of these skills? One for me to continue contemplating…

At the time of teaching, we need to avoid over-loading working memory. We need to stress the main things. There are too many things to remember and that’s where knowledge organisers and micro-testing come in.

We do first have to define what it is that the students need to know about a particular topic. What do they need to retain? Apply in an assessment? Apply to a problem or challenge in the workshop? Once we’ve decided on this then we gather all of this necessary knowledge in a one page A4 ‘organiser’. We have structured the information in a logical way for students. We have likely included some icons, drawings, pictures… to accompany text so that there are visual cues to support the learners.

Tom shared this Twitter account as they manage a Dropbox where practitioners can place organisers @knoworganisers These two have been shared by this account and give you an idea of what they look like-

  1. Give students a knowledge organiser
  2. Teach a lesson.
  3. Tell them what they’re going to be tested on (give them the questions)
  4. This is what you’re going to be tested on.’ ‘You need to learn it.’

If we test students in this way then it builds their confidence and sells the concept of working hard. Revising. Learning. If they do a test one week and don’t do well, we’ll talk not about the content again but about how to revise better and then we’ll try again. Every week, content is revisited frequently and over time in low stakes quizzing (usually best placed at the start of a session). This regular quizzing should have a routine around it. A pace. It should feel celebratory rather than a chore. Use whiteboards or paper rather than something that looks and feels like a test or an exam. Success and confidence will both build over time. It’s a cumulative process. The retrieving needs to be slick and business-like so that you can move on to teaching new content without fuss.

TOP TIP – Invest in good questions that you can use repeatedly. Work with peers to develop a list.

 

Redrafting for Excellence

We need to focus on teaching students to the highest level. Have you defined what excellence looks like in your subject and considered how re-drafting might help students to achieve excellence?

No matter how many times I watch this video, I see more in it every single time. The main lesson from Austin and his teacher’s use of critique is that it teaches an important lesson and sets a high standard for learning – it’s not a case of ‘good, you’re done.’ Or, ‘thanks, that will do’. It’s about a constant challenge to improve in a climate that fosters perseverance. 

As teachers, we must believe that our students are capable of much more than the first thing they offer us. The butterfly was always inside Austin, he just didn’t know it was

Some questions for any educator to begin developing this culture –

  • What does excellence look like in your subject? Can you articulate it easily? How is it communicated to students?
  • Do you provide students the chance to practise something, receive feedback, and redraft it enough before they’re assessed? What needs to change about the design of your curriculum to achieve this?
  • Do they need to redraft the whole or is it possible to break down the parts and encourage the students to practise just the one part to build their skills?
  • How often do we replace jargon-filled success criteria with multiple examples of both mediocre and excellent so that students have models to follow and points of comparison for their own work?

Once students feel and experience ‘excellence’, they never want anything less. If they aren’t given the opportunity to achieve this then they just see themselves as a ‘pass student’ eternally. Once more, I could hear the murmurs of agreement around the room.

 

Responsive teaching through questioning and checking for understanding

Yet more of Tom’s content resonated with the room when he shared this next approach. ‘I’ve taught something but I’ve no idea if anyone’s learned it so I’m going to spend a lot of time checking it.’

He referenced some of the pre-reading participants had been asked to do – The principles of Instruction

In it, more effective and less effective teachers are described. Less effective teachers ask fewer process checking questions and they don’t seek answers from multiple people in the room.

One of Dylan Wiliam‘s biggest regrets about the launch of assessment for learning via ‘Inside the Black Box’ was that it was interpreted as testing and assessment in a high stakes way. He wishes he had called it ‘responsive teaching’.

  • Have a destination in mind.
  • Constantly take bearings and consider how you need to adjust in relation to how the students are responding.
  • What does excellence look like? How are are we going to achieve it?

Tom modelled the kind of questioning I see (and I’m certain I use) on a far too frequent basis. It’s important that all of our students are able to demonstrate their learning during the lesson. Tom references an abseiling analogy used by John Hattie. Before abseiling down the side of a cliff, you don’t just take a look at one person’s carabiner, discover it’s fastened correctly, and say , ‘Everyone cool? Thumbs up. OK!’ Translate this to the classroom and it’s, ‘Everyone ok? Nod at the students. OK, then let’s move on!’

If we rely on reading the room in this way then we’re doing it wrong and we won’t receive the information we need to about learning. Body language tells you zero about learning. Even students who self-report positively, might be wrong. Whilst they may THINK they’ve got it, their knowledge could contain all kinds of inaccuracies and misconceptions that won’t be revealed until we ask them and we don’t want the first time we ask them to be their summative assessment.

We obviously need to generate questioning strategies that work for a whole room. It can be too time-consuming to go around everyone one by one and it’s not a beneficial use of students’ valuable time for their learning. Make use of peer assessment and peer critique so that students become resources for one another. We need to develop our students’ capacity to assess their own performance accurately too. They need to learn to self-correct.

Whiteboards can be a good solution but are they being used correctly? Use them  Every. Single. Lesson. Ensure the students hold it up until you’ve really seen, absorbed, praised and probed their responses. Like other techniques it’s useful to hone over time this can be yet another punchy, dynamic, and proficient part of students’ learning.

There are many other questioning techniques that can be utilised. Mainly from Doug Lemov. These include-

  • Cold Call – Always individuals. Never hands up. Removes the ‘does anyone know the answer to…’
  • Think, pair, share or turn & talk – Provide the opportunity for students to build their answer together before reporting back to you
  • Right is right – Continue to question, clarify and probe until the answer that returns to you is as complete and knowledge/understanding-filled as possible.
  • Student-led demonstrations – Show the rest of the class how you did…
  • Information checking questions – I learned this on my CELTA course (to teach speakers of other languages). State an instruction. Ask specific individuals to repeat back what you’ve asked them to do. Check with a couple of people before proceeding. Don’t just ask, ‘Does everyone understand?’ Ask – ‘What are we doing next?’ ‘Explain it to me.’ ‘June- do you agree?’

You can access a range of resources related to these methods (including mini whiteboards) here-

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Click here to view this collection

Modelling and Metacognition

This was one of the key moments of my day. It was all in Tom’s analogy of the ‘mystery of excellence.’ We often reveal a great piece of work to students as just that. Here’s one I made earlier! The mystery of success remains and achieving excellence remains an inaccessible achievement for our students.

Live modelling is best so that it fits with a responsive teaching approach. Consider the content of the session and think about what those students will need to practise to move them on in their learning. Model that part in front of them and as you do, talk your thought process through. ‘I’m putting this here because…’ ‘I’m going to write it in this way, and not that way, because…’

We need to remember not just to give students the answer but talk about why it’s the answer and how it’s been arrived at. If we just give the answer without any of the reveal then we reinforce the mystery of learning. We should also ask students to articulate their own thinking so that it can be brought to the surface, aired, and reflected upon.

A perfect example of this occurred when I went to the Estates office to ask for the air conditioning to be put on in the room we were in as it had become a little warm. We chatted for a while about random things and I returned to my original question to check if that was ok. The reply was,

Yeah. It’s already done.’

‘Oh really? That quickly? But… you didn’t move from your PC… Is it just some sort of button?’

‘Oh, I couldn’t tell you that. You’d be far too dangerous with that piece of information.’

I’m not quite sure the level of havoc he imagined I would be capable of (he does know me so perhaps he was accurate) but he had created a mystery over the success of the air con. And that was ok because I have no need to be able to do that for myself. But when it comes to our students’ learning, we need to own the secrets of success a little less.


Evidence-based revision strategies

These 6 strategies are not intended for teachers but to be used by their students. 

When it came to selecting the approach they would focus on, none of our project participants chose this approach. In reflecting with Tom about why this might have been, I felt that it was related to the original challenges they had shared around study skills and independence. This strategy would be far too high risk. It sets out complete reliance on the students, when the other approaches each provided an element of control for the teacher still. They could really be in charge of how successful these strategies would be. 

However, it’s not a strategy I want to let go of and would like to explore how we use it with tutor mentors and the development of their study skills.

We need to get students to focus on the most effective rather than what’s easiest.

Two of the key elements Tom highlights as part of the above video and 6 strategies from The Learning Scientists are the following two things – 

  • Make links and connections between the parts of knowledge so that they’re not just reciting but ‘making useful’
  • Use visuals alongside text

We ended Tom’s session by leading into lunch, where practitioners would be asked to select one challenge their students experience that they wanted to address. This wouldn’t be about implementing everything at once with carefree abandon but exploring one idea carefully and considering its impact on students.

 

Setting a question and considering data collection

Joss made use of Nancy Kline’s thinking environment philosophy to set out enough space in the afternoon to set up some quality time for reflective thinking.

‘The quality of everything we do depends on the quality of the thinking we do first.’ Nancy Kline, 2012

We would be referring throughout the project to it being ‘practitioner-led research’-

  • It is called ‘practitioner-led’ to emphasise that the questions, the methods and the meaning of the results will be determined by practitioners
  • Extends reflective practice by moving from ‘gut feel’ to an evidence-base, making it easier to argue a case or justify the need for change
  • Can be about very small-scale change and achievable within the constraints of everyday work
  • Is more likely to involve research via: the internet; talking to colleagues or learners; following-up ideas gained during a training programme; etc …… rather than researching ‘learned journals’
  • Does not require sophisticated statistics: simple data collection and presentation in tables, bar/pie charts are fine; qualitative data such as feedback from colleagues or learners can be summarised into key points
  • Does require a common sense understanding of what data means and whether improvements are likely to be ‘real’ or due to other factors
  • Does require a ‘mature level’ of critical thinking and reflective practice.

These definitions led to a deep level of discussion between participants in relation to their own experiences of research.

As we moved into forming the project question, Joss shared that The chance of finding out something useful depends on the quality of the question that is asked in the first place.

She introduced practitioners to the PICO model @DrGaryJones and they were all given the opportunity to shape a PICO question once their approach had been selected.

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We encouraged a small-scale change with a single group of learners that would have 2-3 data measures included. 

We explored the varying pros and cons of different data measures available to practitioners and they had the chance to explore these in relation to a couple of case studies of already-implemented research.

We discussed the importance of context, perspective and how we ensure our data is as reliable and valid as possible. One colleague raised a shared question which was, ‘How do I know if it’s this action that has had the impact’. Well, ultimately, the answer is that we won’t. But we can attempt to demonstrate impact if a variety of measures are used and data is gathered in an appropriate way.

  1. We have encouraged a data collection before the intervention is put into place
  2. The intervention will then be put into place
  3. The final data measures (whether quantitative or qualitative) will be taken before findings are produced by the end of February

Practitioners left the day with an approach they want to try, a fully formed or somewhat-formed project question, and an idea about measures they may wish to use.

 

What Next?

Online materials will be shared with participants and we’ll ask them to share final questions and plans for implementing their project with us. This will undoubtedly lead to another blog as we gain a better sense of the kinds of interventions they’ve each selected to run in their contexts.

More practitioners will be recruited from the College so that we have enough to make the project more viable.

We’ll plan for the 8th of December day when project participants can get back together and share how their interventions are progressing so far.

Support and feedback will be provided during this time to ensure practitioners can progress with confidence.

Further excitement as we see where this experiment within an experiment, informed by evidence within evidence, will lead us.

Final reflections

I’m left reflecting on the parts of the day that have already left an early impression –

The approaches we’re experimenting with, at their heart, are really all about heart. They are about providing students with the best possible chance of success and believing in their capabilities, without conditions attached.

As teachers, we must believe that our students are capable of much more than the first thing they offer us.

Body language tells you zero about learning. Even students who self-report positively, might be wrong.

‘The quality of everything we do depends on the quality of the thinking we do first.’ Nancy Kline

Revealing the mystery of success and learning is an image that has stuck with me from today, not least of all because of the Wizard of Oz magic required to get Tom’s slides walking by disappearing to the PC in the cupboard behind the screen. Teachers need to own the secrets of success a little less.

Developing Evidence-Informed CPD in FE and Skills Settings

When I read about the CPD taking place with staff at Oldham College and the fab Rachel Irving (read about it here), I was thrilled to bits for a number of reasons-

  1. It was CPD and I’ll read anything that will give me ideas about CPD
  2. There were some graphics created by Oliver Caviglioli
  3. Tom Sherrington was leading it
  4. Austin’s Butterfly was involved

The most important feature of it was that it described CPD taking place in Further Education. I read so much about the development of teachers in schools that I soak up anything related to the FE and Skills Sector with extra enthusiasm. In many ways, we are a different beast altogether. We are –

  • A space in which school-leavers and adults returning to study gather together to seek a route into work, pursue long-held dreams, and find a purpose. From the 16 years olds with little clue about where to head next, to 17 year olds who tried another year at school but sought a more diverse and independent learning environment instead. From 18 year olds setting on a new path after going off the rails, to 40 year old parents looking to do what they felt they should have done when younger; taking brave new steps into an entirely new life as a nurse, plumber, or teacher.
  • An eclectic mix of staff, most of whom have held numerous careers before stepping into the shoes of a teacher. Over the years I’ve worked alongside a rocket engineer, a Michelin starred chef, a flight attendant, a dancer, and multiple business owners. These staff are often professional first, and teacher second, which brings its strengths and challenges in equal measure.

Yet we share a number of similarities with schools –

  • At a basic level, we all have a group of people sat in front of us who are looking to learn something (whatever their motivation or aspiration).
  • We all employ a variety of tactics to help these people make progress: explaining, modelling, questioning, assessing, feedback…

No matter what sector you work in, read anything written about teaching practice over the last couple of years and it won’t be long before you come across the importance of being ‘evidence-informed.’

Tom Bennett’s ResearchEd movement has a great deal to do with this in gathering educators together to share research they’ve either conducted or engaged in themselves.

The Learning Scientists are working hard to get all students and teachers thinking about what makes learning most effective.

The Education and Training Foundation‘s Professional Standards highlight reflective and evidence-engaged attitudes-

  • 1- Reflect on what works best in your teaching and learning to meet the diverse needs of learners
  • 2- Evaluate and challenge your practice, values and beliefs.
  • 8- Maintain and update your knowledge of educational research to develop evidence-based practice.
  • 9 – Apply theoretical understanding of effective practice in teaching, learning and assessment drawing on research and other evidence.
  • 10 – Evaluate your practice with others and assess its impact on learning

The Chartered College sets out in its vision that –

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The DfE’s Standard for Professional Standards created by the Teachers’ Professional Development Expert Group, including some CPD superstars – David Weston, Helene Galdin-O’Shea, Philippa Cordingley and many others, states- ‘Professional development should be underpinned by robust evidence and expertise.’ It’s asserted that CPD should ‘draw on the evidence base, including high-quality academic research, and robustly evaluated approaches and teaching resources.’

With all of these prominent voices selling the benefits of engaging in evidence, it would be easy to get blinded into thinking it was a good thing to do just because they said so. I believe that the benefits of engaging more heavily in evidence can be summed up as follows –

Educators, whatever their sector or context, make thousands of small decisions every single day that they judge will improve their students’ learning experience. Engaging in how other experts and practitioners have solved a specific challenge, overcome a barrier, or enhanced an approach will only improve our own practice and maximise the impact we have. Educators are first and foremost learners. Engaging with evidence challenges us, injects joy, and encourages us to experiment; allowing us to easily model the learning process to our own students.

So, now that we’ve established that ‘evidence-informed’ is particularly en vogue AND it’s for a good reason, shall we begin?

A project proposal on a gloomy day

I’m at work on one of those days where the meetings stretch endlessly into the distance, I’ve inherited an entire other team ‘temporarily’ because my boss left and wasn’t to be replaced, and I was questioning the impact anything I was doing was having. Cue an email from Joss Kang that went something along the lines of-

I’m getting in touch to see if you would be interested in… YES! Anything!… Wait, what is it? (Remember this lesson Hannah – you weren’t wrong. The power of networking is strong…)

It’s a tender for what ETF are calling a Professional Exchange (Special Project) and I think the topic may be of interest… Developing evidence-based CPD in FE and skills settings. If successful it runs until next March. We would be looking at approx. 25 teachers carrying out mini R&D projects, lasting one term, testing 5-7 interventions. I know the action research approach is one you advocate and are doing anyway. You had me at ‘CPD’. And yes to anything related to research!

Tom Sherrington has agreed to undertake… Say who? What? Really? Where do I sign? (sorry Tom! I know you’re just a human but I really was this excited!)

I’m wondering if you would like to be the FE College project partner? Well, yes, quite obviously I would!

My day suddenly had that awesome butterflies in the stomach feeling to it. The warmth of a project that fits with my values, will engage me in collaboration and reflection, and provides me with the rarely needed excuse to experiment with a new approach to CPD.

The project evolved over the coming weeks and after years of reading Tom’s blog and seeing him speak a couple of times, I got the chance to speak to him via video call…! So plans progressed – Joss was the organiser and research knowledge, Tom would be our learning expert, and I became increasingly nervous about what I could actually offer this dream team. Ok – staff. I could offer that. Then the realities of recruiting enough practitioners to register in the first few weeks of a brand new term immediately after a restructure hit and led to some sleepless nights. After all my excitement, could I actually hold my rather straightforward side of the deal and get enough staff involved?

Day 1 has arrived… almost!

A few months later and we arrive at Day 1 (on Friday) with enough practitioners to go ahead.

The project will allow practitioners to engage with FIVE approaches that hold promise for the FE and Skills Sector. They’ll select ONE of the approaches and test it out in their own context before reporting the findings in early 2018. The FIVE approaches selected, after discussion, by Tom and input from the ETF are as follows –

  1. Retrieval practice and use of knowledge organisers
  2. Redrafting for excellence and Austin’s Butterfly
  3. Responsive teaching through questioning and checking for understanding
  4. Modelling and metacognition
  5. Revision techniques supported by cognitive science

Participants’ reflections will be based on the challenges their students’ face with learning so that we begin from the right place of what really matters.

For me, the success of this project will not be in whether the approaches are successful or not (whilst I believe significant success will be achieved). The success will come from College staff and those from further afield having the opportunity to engage in some high quality CPD that involves research, a focus on impact, collaboration with colleagues, input from an expert, and all with explicit relevance to their own context and students.

Ahead of Friday, many concerns fleet across my mind. Most of these, as usual, involve my pesky gremlin so there’ll be lots of dealing with that. The remainder are mostly logistical – Will I remember to find batteries for my clicker? Will everyone turn up?

Yet there are many hopes too and not all of them centre around how much of a fool I might make in front of the two superstars that are Tom and Joss. My hope beyond all hope is that this event can be a further part of our journey towards a culture of professional learning at The Sheffield College and as usual, if we can make a difference to one person and one of their students then it will have been worth it (perhaps a few more than one this time… Tom is having to catch a painfully early train, after all!)

Kathryn Morgan shared this journal article with me last week –

Staff Development and the Process of Change by Thomas Guskey

It’s a cracking read for any leader in education, and indeed for any educator interested in taking charge of their own CPD. One thing it suggests is what I believe this project has the potential for and it makes me look forward to Friday all the more –

‘Research indicates that teachers generally engage in staff development ‘because they want to become better teachers’ and crucially believe that ‘their students will benefit’ as a result. The best kinds of CPD can not only ‘combat boredom’ but they also present ‘a pathway to increased competence and greater professional satisfaction.’ (Guskey, T)

Working with ‘Novice’ and ‘Expert’ Teachers – David Weston

This is a rather delayed write-up of my notes and reflections on David Weston’s (@informed_edu) workshop at The Telegraph Festival of Education. Having heard David speak on several occasions, I felt certain that he’d live up to everything good CPD should and I’d leave with disrupted thinking and things to be curious about. I wasn’t disappointed.

Within a few weeks, I had shared my new learning with senior colleagues as well as fellow leaders at College. This has been learning that has locked itself firmly in my thoughts and will hopefully lead to more effective CPD approaches for colleagues.

Many of us used to facilitating CPD or introducing fresh approaches in our colleges and schools will be accustomed to colleagues often presenting with the rolling eyes of,I’ve been teaching for 20 years. What will be different about this new learning that I won’t have experienced before?’ And why blame them? Much of education policy seems to take a cyclical motion. Something experienced 6 years previously appears again but those crafty politicians have disguised it to look like something else, assuming that we’ll all be fooled into thinking they hold all the answers to our prayers. Alas, we are not as stupid as we clearly appear and we can see through their thinly veiled attempts at revolution. So when teachers pitch up at yet another workshop or coaching session claiming to ‘revolutionise their practice’, there is little surprise many present with an initial cynicism. 

So how can we approach teacher learning in a way that lands with novices as much as it does with experts?

I mean, apparently the inclusion of a brain or the word ‘science’ could get us pretty far…

But seriously, what answers might science hold for us?

Please excuse any inaccuracies in what follows and please feel free to leave feedback on anything you think is scientifically awry. It’s not especially my strong suit and it’s new learning for me!

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The images used are ones I created – I’m sure David Weston (@informed_edu) wouldn’t appreciate you thinking they were his handiwork!

Schemas formed the basis of the first part of David’s exploration of teacher learning. For those of you who don’t know what these are, they’re essentially ‘packets of information that help us anticipate what we’ll find when we encounter a certain concept, category, person, or situation.’ (The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Psychology)

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When we encounter a new situation, our senses pick up on aspects of this new situation and add to the packet. For instance, we learn at a young age how to tell if things are hot and how best to respond to this situation in the future – ie. don’t put your hands directly into fire. In fact, remain a safe distance from it.

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It’s important that things are discarded from the packet or placed in a different packet at times though. For instance, when we learn what a dog is, we recognise it has ears, 4 legs and a tail. As we come across more dogs we learn that they’re furry and bark. But what happens when we come across a cat? They’re furry, they have 4 legs, they have ears and a tail. But they don’t bark… If this information were to be added to the existing dog schema then it may cause some considerable issues… Luckily, we check this thought with those around us and they confirm that what we’re seeing is not a dog. As we learn and form schemas, there is a continual adjustment to what our senses are presenting; causing equilibrium and disequilibrium as our schemas adjust and are formed.

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So, our brains respond to sensory information and begin to form associations; constantly causing this shifting movement as our schemas form and adjust based on our responses to the environment we find ourselves in.

Let’s translate this to the teaching environment then. Think back to being a brand new teacher. How did it feel? An assault on the senses? New things, faces, people, process, approaches, knowledge… You can see where this is going! A serious sense of disequilibrium and one can easily imagine the impact this might have on our learning.

 

When working with ‘novice’ teachers, it’s important that we help them to navigate the choppy seas and their feelings of being overwhelmed by the assault on the senses and their confused attention trying to make sense of everything they’re coming across.

How many of us when we first started teaching (especially in Further Education) were plunged straight into a classroom on day 1 with no training and a full timetable (my hand is up!)? How many of us were sent to observe more experienced colleagues to see how they did things? How many of us left those observations thinking all teachers were gods with magic powers and presence we couldn’t work out how to get our hands on?

This is the point at which I realised that what David was sharing could be absolute dynamite for the profession if we all took it on board.

Novice teachers have few relevant schemas already formed and no real clear idea of what a good lesson looks like. Lessons lead to confused attention and there is a sensory overload but they struggle to make connections and associations as they have no existing schemas in this area to help. It’s an exhausting experience and their working memory becomes overloaded as what they’re experiencing is in a brand new domain of expertise.

Novice teachers are unable to make sense of what they’re seeing in a more experienced colleague because they don’t have existing schemas yet. They see students engaged, attentive and working well. They see a teacher in command of the room and seemingly effortlessly involving each and every student in answering questions. The novice teacher sees only the end product and conclude that there’s just something magic going on or they try to piece together what they’ve seen based on little knowledge of teaching and form incorrect schemas.

If they were to have a colleague or mentor with them whilst watching the session then that colleague could act as the translator of the effective practice- ‘They’re reacting in that way because of the teacher’s position in the room, their stillness, the routine they’ve established with the ‘do now’ activity and meet and greet at the door.’ ‘She’s getting every student involved and boosting their confidence by taking a look at their work first, and spotting which ones have the answers before asking them to share with everyone else.’

You get the idea. It’s essentially a walkthrough of what a teacher has achieved so that the work of a teacher is demystified for a novice and made to seem far more achievable. That it’s not just down to experience. Most things written by Doug Lemov achieve this kind of thing perfectly, see this example of cold calling. (I might be a little obsessed by Doug Lemov at the minute).

The dangers that exist if we leave novice teachers to their own devices is that they begin to form schemas that won’t lead to effective practice in the future or a continued sense of being overwhelmed that ultimately leads them to leaving the profession.

So what might help?

Well, the paired observations would go far to support the formation of effective schemas. As a result of a paired observation, novice teachers could then benefit from clear procedures to follow for just 1, 2, or 3 aspects of their practice at a time so the disequilibrium is reduced. We shouldn’t be asking them to develop all aspects of their practice at once or expecting them to; this will only increase their feelings of being overwhelmed.

After recalling my own start in teaching, I feel some of these approaches could have seriously reduced the negative impact of being thrown in at the deep end. When I recalled what I’d heard from the Head of Michaela earlier on in the day speak about how their new teachers receive feedback on specific aspects of their practice 4 times a day, I made the immediate connection and my schema about effective CPD for novice teachers had expanded.

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So what of expert teachers?

As experts (experienced teachers and not necessarily effective ones), we have a lot of relevant schemas to make use of and we can therefore direct our attention effectively to whatever needs it the most. What we choose to pay attention to is easily decided upon as we’ve become accustomed to the classroom environment and have well-established schemas to help us respond.

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The issue with well-established schemas is that ‘unlearning’ is not easily achieved and whilst learning something new, we are easily drawn back to old habits and existing schemas. We demonstrate bias and reject the unfamiliar. Learning and change becomes a much greater challenge.

What biases should we look out for in our ‘expert’ teachers?

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Most leaders, coaches, mentors, and facilitators of CPD will undoubtedly recognise some of these biases in colleagues they’ve worked with at one point or another.

This is the curse of ‘knowledge’. We have an inability to remember what it’s like being an overwhelmed novice.

So what might help?

  • Get ‘expert’ teachers to articulate existing thinking- ‘What are you doing now and why? How does it impact your students?’ (In order to change or at the very least challenge their existing thinking).
  • Leaders being more transparent about their learning and the journey taken, including their own biases they had to challenge along the way. All the better if they can demonstrate, too, their evidence-based decision making proving that whilst their experience had taught them to make one decision, they routinely choose to check this against what other sources of evidence have to say.
  • Encourage expert teachers to gain a new perspective on existing thinking by following a student around for a day to see learning through a different pair of eyes, a different lens. A colleague to join them help them reflect on this experience would surely help them to correct and form new schemas just as it would for a novice?
  • As a leader, use social connection to change and overcome resistance. Form connections and make relationships. Admit your own failures and reassure them.
  • Experimentation, a sense of agency and high quality feedback are all essential.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember about expert teachers is that it’s vital to sustain the change over time on order to suppress and replace incorrect or ineffective schemas. Short interventions mean that existing schema will just reassert themselves so it needs to be continuous.

Once more for the cheap seats…

Development must be continuous for expert teachers. One offs can even be actively harmful for experts as they might reinforce schemas we already have- ‘It looks similar to something I already do so I’ll just continue doing that as there’s nothing long term to influence my thinking in any other direction.’ There’s no depth to one off experiences and so the learning has all the stickiness of a sticking plaster ready to fly off at any moment.

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Novice to expert is the journey that we want and we want it in its most effective form. Just repeating procedures won’t make us great teachers. We need a higher level of expertise than that. We need an adaptive approach. Responsive teacher learning will support this so that a teacher’s learning is pursued based on the classroom happening in front of them.

This session from David at the festival has seriously disrupted my thinking about teacher CPD and, along with the online Match Education course on coaching, has already had impact on my practice and approach to working with teachers.

Now that’s the level of impact we want from CPD.

If only it could all be great as this.

I believe it can be.

We just need to listen to David!

How to Build a Culture of Professional Learning-Bridget Clay- #EducationFest

Seeing Bridget Clay was the first action of the first day of this year’s #EducationFest. Whilst some slots during the Festival posed a next to impossible choice, this one was easy. Bridget Clay it would be.

I’ve long since been interested in the work of the Teacher Development Trust and have heard David Weston speak at several events. Their work resonates with me and my role and so what better place for me to begin the two days of my packed Festival experience?

Culture eats strategy for breakfast

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Image available from here

This is why one approach to CPD that works well in one context, won’t work in another. A culture of ‘professional learning’ is far more crucial for long-lasting culture than ‘doing CPD’.

A  vital component of this culture formation and development is explicitly connecting CPD to the needs of students; it should, after all, be inextricably linked if it’s to have long lasting impact but it also supports a culture of professional learning. In a culture where CPD is for the staff and for their learning then it will more quickly drop off their ‘to do list’ and it will feel as though it’s on a to do list to begin with- this is not where we want learning to be. We should be working towards a culture of professional learning where staff see that the actions they engage with can have real payoff for their students; their confidence grows from this and they can see and feel themselves becoming better practitioners.

Warning!

In a school or college culture where there is a significant drive for consistency and drastic improvement (for instance- although not exclusively- where Ofsted have made a judgement of ‘Requires Improvement’ or ‘Inadequate’), staff feel less confident to experiment and innovate. Professional learning is clearly affected as a result as they place less worth on it and this is certain to have an effect on the quality of students’ learning as a result over time.

What leads to a high quality teacher environment where students are making good progress?

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  • Culture
  • A shared vision
  • Resourcing
  • Relationships and trust
  • Evidencing and monitoring

Useful questions to reflect on- Staff view of professional learning

  • Do your colleagues value professional learning? Does it sit separately to their normal job and not at the heart of what they’re doing?
  • Do your colleagues understand what high quality professional learning is? Are they checking impact for themselves? Are they discerning?

Useful questions to reflect on- Leadership plan for professional learning

  • Is adequate and suitable time and space provided for professional learning to take place? Has workload been considered so that it doesn’t encroach?
  • Is it iterative throughout the year?
  • Is the time for professional learning preserved? ie. timetabled learning spaces for staff are completely protected and are not replaced by anything else. We need to demonstrate the importance we place on this time and space for them to engage in their learning.
  • Whilst it’s important to generate ongoing learning opportunities for staff to engage in their learning with colleagues, we must not forget the part that external expertise may have to play in this iterative approach.

It’s the (not so) small things

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Image available from here

All leaders should consider the following points as aspects of developing a professional learning culture-

Tea and toast can help the development of a culture for professional learning. There’s little evidence to indicate how effective it makes the learning taking place (action research project anyone) but its incorporation sends an important message- we value you enough to feed you. We value this space for you to learn and we encourage you to spend time in this space.

Staffrooms are important and recent years have seen us lose them. I can testify to offices rather than staffrooms in colleges for years now and staff in schools are spending more and more time in their classrooms and far less in the staffroom. They’re important for wellbeing as relationships and downtime are essential throughout the school day but they also aid collaboration as well as conversation about practice. It is here that a culture of professional learning can formulate naturally and informally; developing the kind of honesty and trust that makes more formal forms of CPD run much more smoothly.

Modelling professional learning is a significant action for leaders to take. We know this already from Vivian Robinson’s work, citing that the single most effective activity a leader can participate in (above Planning, coordinating and evaluating teaching and the curriculum, Establishing goals and expectations, Strategic resourcing, and Ensuring an orderly and supportive environment) is Promoting and participating in teacher learning and development (Robinson, V, 2005). As part of this modelling, are leaders modelling vulnerability? I’ve heard Professor Robert Coe refer to this as ‘reciprocal vulnerability’. Being vulnerable is a central part of learning and if leaders are able to model their vulnerability then staff are encouraged to so the same. In doing this, they’ll be sharing their own learning journey- what aspect of their role are they looking to develop, how are they going about this and what misconceptions have they already begun to address and feel challenged by? I believe this to be about sharing the facts and detail of the journey but also the feeling- learning is often uncomfortable and it’s important not to just run around how great learning is- sometimes it’s damn difficult.

Engaging with evidence and not basing all of our decisions and approaches on it but certainly using it as one aspect of being informed. Through this, and explicit sharing of this approach with staff, we’ll be modelling for them how we’d like them to engage in more evidence-informed practice. I once heard Dr Gary Jones speak about evidence-informed decision making for leaders where he spoke of the need to use multiple sources of evidence so as not to lead by bias too heavily.

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If staff can see leaders operating in this way- regularly questioning things, challenging themselves and each other and being open to checking the evidence- then it helps them to do the dame; aware that we don’t have all the answers and we need to work hard to challenge our thinking. On the other hand, how damaging might it be to a culture of professional learning to make decisions they think is right, relying on nothing but gut and actively dismissing all evidence to the contrary? So- when making decisions, think about how you’re using an evidence-informed model AND consider how you’ll be making this process more transparent to staff in order to generate a culture of professional learning.

Assessing teachers is a particularly significant of the professional learning culture of a school or college but it’s difficult to do reliably, so what’s the answer? What’s the purpose of teachers being assessed? It should lead to continual adaptation, refinement and improvement if it’s effective. Most schools and colleges now understand that high stakes observations don’t lead to development and have removed grading but what next? How can we get to the point of our staff requesting an observation to support their learning- stating, ‘I’m trying this out in order to see if it will impact x students in y way- could you come in to provide another perspective of how it’s going?’ How does it become ‘done with’ rather than ‘done to’, even if we have moved away from ‘done in’?

The myths about performance management need to be understood by leaders attempting to generate a culture of professional learning. It is often an annual process with humongous targets and numerical outcomes. This clearly doesn’t aid development. Imagine sitting with a student at the start of the year and setting 5/6 large targets for them to work towards. Leave them for 4 months and then have a review- how’s it going? Well, they likely won’t remember what the targets are and will find it difficult if not impossible to identify progress towards them as they had no measures to check against. This is no different for any of us. We need narrower targets, clearly linked to students (not necessarily numbers) and receive regular feedback. This leads to longer lasting impact and higher engagement in learning as staff know what they’re working towards and how they’ll know they’ve got somewhere… or not- and not is ok too as this generates learning also. How about something more experimental that will develop a love for learning as well as have impact on students? I’m currently concerned about these students for x reason, I’m going to improve the quality and quantity of work they’re producing. The how will change as the experiment takes place and the teacher engages with various modes of learning to inform their practice. Reviews of these are always future focussed with the intention to build on the learning that has taken place.

Click here to read, ‘Re-Engineering Performance Management

Warning!

CPD has become more about fixing problems.

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This is not helpful for the development of a culture of professional learning, in fact, it’s actively damaging. We need to focus on a more optimistic model for development centred around effectively meeting the needs of the students in front of us.

No-one asserts the concept of ‘every teacher can improve better than Dylan Wiliam

‘Every teacher needs to improve, not because they are not good enough, but because they can be even better.’

“I think the only way that we can improve teacher quality is to create a culture of continuous improvement. That is given lip service in many districts, but nobody is really facing up to what it really means in practice. You see, I think that every teacher needs to get better. In many districts they target help at the teachers who “need support”, who need help, who are having difficulties.

Every teacher fails on a daily basis. If you are not failing you are just not paying attention. Because we fail all the time.

Many of you will walk out of this room absolutely convinced I said stuff I know I didn’t say. As teachers we fail all the time. We teach these brilliant lessons. We take in the notebooks and look at what the kids have written and we wonder what planet they were on when we were teaching the stuff.

Our daily experience as a teacher is a failure. Which makes it the best job in the world. Because you never get any good at it. At one time, André Previn was the best paid film-score composer in Hollywood and one day he just walked out of his office and quit. People said ‘why did you quit this amazing job?’ And he said – because I wasn’t scared any more. Every day he was going into his office knowing his job held no challenge for him.

This is something you are never going to have to worry about. This job you’re doing is so hard that one lifetime isn’t enough to master it. So every single one of you needs to accept the commitment to carry on improving our practice until we retire or die. That is the deal.” (Wiliam, D, 2014)

Click here to watch the video

Plan for Culture

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Image available from here

So often, when planning CPD, we dive straight into the end point we want to reach; professional learning communities, peer observations, reflecting on videoed practice together, lesson study…

We need to plan far more effectively to build the right kind of culture for this to take place first.

If we want to get to lesson study for instance- what might we need to do first to build the level of trust required for it to be a success?

  • Sharing practice on display boards for a period of time
  • 15 minute lunchtime forums for the sharing of practice
  • Tip of the week to test out in practice
  • Paired peer observations and/or walkthroughs
  • Journal clubs to engage with evidence

Doing some or all of these things incrementally might help to build a firmer foundation for effective professional learning to take place than just diving straight into the end point.

  • We want to get to here
  • Are we ready for that?
  • What might we need to do to build up to it and get staff ready to engage?

 

What next?

I have always been committed to ensuring that my learning turns into action that can influence the staff and students I work with. Bridget’s session has most certainly confirmed some ideas for me and introduced a new emphasis for the coming year. I have shared some of her messages with our Senior Leadership team and now also our middle managers. Whilst I’ll inevitably be incorporating as much of my learning into many aspects of my job, I have highlighted, in particular, the need for our leaders to model their professional learning more and I’ve been less mulling this over.

Transforming Teacher Education – Reflective Practice and Research

This is the final set of notes from my Transforming Teacher Education course at Sheffield Hallam University, in partnership with The Education and TRaining Foundation. You can read about the other weeks here-

Week 1- From Teacher to Teacher Educator and Observation Skills

Week 2- A Teacher Education Curriculum, Teacher Identity and Developing English and maths skills

Online session- Use of Technology

Online session- Mentoring

This final session began with a focus on reflective practice.

‘Experience is the teacher of all things’ – a proverb

If this were true than our most experienced teachers would be our best? As we experience, we reflect, whether formally or informally. Reflection in isolation is dangerous though as we usually just confirm our existing beliefs.

An initial experience takes place and effective reflection involves deliberate effort to articulate and codify key lessons from the experience.

Recommended reading- Making Experience Count – The Role of Reflection in Individual Learning

So- how can teacher educators and mentors help?

  • Provide reflection models to structure their thinking and promote that they use one other than what they’re immediately drawn to.
  • Model reflection in your own practice and share this process with them rather than just the actions taken as a result of reflection.
  • Teach them that it’s about stepping through the mirror to gain perspective- reflection is not about beating yourself up and dwelling but gaining a fresh view and using that for learning

Recording practice via video and using that to reflect can help all teachers but if it begins early with trainees then it can build good habits. Build their confidence with watching themselves by encouraging them to record just their voice instead or just film parts of a lesson instead.

Whatever tools and models are used to encourage reflective practice, it must be translated into action- Place 1 things in focus, encourage deliberate practice and set review points.

We can use 1 minute free writing to encourage reflection- the words won’t get shared with anyone but it can provide space for some teachers to process their thoughts.

We all shared how reflection usually happens for us and soon realised the mismatch there was between how we all reflect (informally) to how they might (formally). However- whilst training, it can be a luxury they can afford. One they will benefit from in the early stages of their career. I’m unsure that it is the best way to build habits that will last for the remainder of their career though – would it not be better to establish habits it’s more likely they’ll able to keep up though?

Bain’s 5 Levels

Reporting and Responding happen more frequently

Relating, Reasoning and Reconstructing can get lost

Explore other models of reflection here

So if reflection is time intensive and difficult to do effectively on our own- what are the possible answers?

  • One minute free writing
  • Journaling
  • Pair and Share
  • Action Learning Sets
  • Communities of Practice
  • Coaching triads

Critical Incidents

These are any major incidents that happen in our practice that challenge our own assumptions and make us think differently. These major incidents don’t have to be something negative, they can be positive too. Kold can work well here- plan, do, review. For some critical incidents (the more negative ones), it’s useful to try and spot the signs before the fire breaks out- we need to look to prevent the fire before it needs to be extinguished.

For instance- we can spot the signs of a trainee’s disorganisation affecting them over time- Their relationships with colleagues disintegrating, Behaviour management becoming an issue, Students getting behind with their work, Signs of stress.

Sometimes, we can intervene as a mentor purely because we have different approaches to organisation- we believe our approaches are ‘better’ but we shouldn’t let this cloud our judgement of others.

We should focus instead on facts- what have we noticed and how do we think students have been affected? There are points within this when we have to move the trainees from reflection and towards action.

Becoming a Practitioner Researcher

Research and evaluation can often be used interchangeably. We can evaluate a programme, a process or an approach. Research is taking local data and applying it more widely.

We need to encourage our trainees to be interested in enquiry – to delve into reading with intrigue and curiosity. Be clear about the purpose of research and connect it to the impact on students. Share, with clarity, how vital the analysis and choice of data is.

Research doesn’t have to be carried out on what’s not working well- yet it usually is. We should encourage our trainees to research what is going well and to build on their strengths. This way, they won’t expect development to take a defecit approach in the future either.

So what data can be used and what are the advantages of the different kinds of data collection?

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Research ethics are important and we should share this with trainees- Gaining permission, Anonymising data carefully, Securing the data whilst working, Consider position and bias.

I couldn’t help but think, during this session, how distanced we make research from practice. How academic we make it. How seemingly difficult. I’m keen to open up research to practitioners and make it relevant to their daily lives, experiences and students. Approaches like Lesson Study can help with a narrower focus on practice, and more focussed upon impact on students.

Transforming Teacher Education – Mentoring

A few weeks ago now, I completed the ‘Transforming Teacher Education’ course with Sheffield Hallam University and the Education and Training Foundation.

Week 1- From Teacher to Teacher Educator and Observation Skills

Week 2- A Teacher Education Curriculum, Teacher Identity and Developing English and maths skills

Online session- Use of Technology

One of our online weeks covered the topics of effective mentoring and these are my notes.

Trainees’ areas for development may consist of any or all of the following-

  • Acquiring teacher expertise
  • Understanding different situations
  • Understanding how an institution works
  • Acquiring a new approach to learning
  • Overcome setbacks and obstacles
  • Adjust to change
  • Understand appropriate behaviour
  • Develop personally

Trainees have a wide spectrum of development areas as they have the dual role of being both a student and a teacher.

Tutors on teacher education courses have a more coaching than mentoring role; they’re concerned with the tasks trainees need to complete and there’s an emphasis on feedback to enable them to perform better. Tutors will typically address their short-term needs.

Mentors of trainee teachers are focussed on capability and future progression of the trainee. It’s a relationship for life, or at least has real potential to be.

Tutors and mentors should ideally be working in tandem to help a trainee to adjust personally and professionally, as well as adjust to the context and culture they find themselves in.

Developing an effective relationship

Being mindful of ego states will be helpful for all parties in a mentoring relationship.

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Image available from here

Whilst we will strive for an adult-adult relationship, there are moments we where we fall into being more of a parent, or even a child.

Communication levels

  • Common niceties
  • Sharing of information
  • Sharing of opinions and ideas
  • Sharing of beliefs and values
  • Peak rapport

The levels have to be taken one at a time- we can’t skip to peak rapport; the relationship is built over time.

In order to bring a trainee along, we need to take the step first before other trainees feel it’s do-able for themselves. Once we share opinions and ideas for instance, then other people will feel it’s safe to do so.

Clear boundaries need to be maintained. As a teacher-educator, we don’t have to share everything so we should set boundaries in advance about what we’ll choose to share.

What might the consequences be for providing too little support to a trainee? How about too much? We need to work to get the balance right

Trainees will require different levels of support at different times. We won’t always get it right but it’s important to continue reflecting to get it right

Mentor-teacher educator relationship

When discussing the progress of a trainee, it should be discussed within an evidence-based model so that it doesn’t become about their personality.

It’s vital for each party to share honest and open feedback and thoughts about the trainees so that the trainee can be supported in the best way possible by both parties.

Forming a directive and stretching environment is important and can be achieved through coaching- we know what they need to do and help them achieve it. The relationship could be more nurturing at times as we’re moving them towards a future goal. At a point of high emotion (good or bad), it’s important to provide a nurturing and empathetic, non-directive manner. Our decision about what approach to use (coaching, guiding, empathy, networking – whether directive, non-directive, stretching or nurturing), should be based on the specific context at the time.

We watch a couple of observations from a secondary school to learn about different mentoring approaches. When observing trainees, making a minute by minute account of a lesson gives you things to speak about and demonstrates a thorough approach.

Some comments are more directive (where there’s something REQUIRED). Other comments are just much more coaching and stretching to help him think.

For me, the mentoring conversations I saw could have focussed far more on a teacher’s fixed mindset but also a range of areas were discussed with no single area of development prioritised- likely to lead to trainees being unclear about what action will have the greatest impact on trainees (see my learning from Match Education here).

Feedback

Adjusting to change is as important for trainee teachers as skills and knowledge development.

Feedback is avoided- we’re often in denial. It can feel confrontational. It can also be difficult to hear- we respond emotionally but can be reluctant to share how we feel. BUT- if feedback doesn’t take pace then there is no change; no longer-term development takes place and teaching & students suffer.

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Balanced
Observed
Objective
Specific
Timely

  • Pick your moment
  • Make an accurate and short statement
  • State the general (evidenced) case
  • Say how it makes you feel
  • What you want to happen
  • Ask the trainee to respond

‘John, today, I noticed…’

‘I noticed’ can introduce evidence but also demonstrates to a trainee that we’ve been paying attention.

‘It makes me feel…’ demonstrates empathy

Share what point you want them to get to- through a coaching conversation
Do they feel like they can respond/act in the way agreed or not – if not, then what else might help?

Self-evaluation questions can help trainees to evaluate their progress

  • What do you like about what you did?
  • If you had the opportunity to teach this again, what might you do differently?
  • What help do you need from me? (Take care not to fall into a parent-child relationship)

My concern with these questions was how far they focus on impact upon students (not very). I see it as vital that student teachers, early on in their career, are able to identify the impact they have on students. This way, their continued development and actions taken to improve their practice are more closely connected to impact on students.
A model that can be used for coaching rather than mentoring within the relationship is ‘GROW’, but it may also be helpful for trainees to use as self-assessment too.

Goal – what will success look like?
Reality– What have you already tried?
Options– What haven’t you tried yet?
Wrap up– ‘So what are you going to do?’

We were then give a trainee to respond to who had emailed us about workload and how far behind he felt he was on everything.

Hi Sam, 
 
Thanks for contacting me.  
This email is an important first step in getting back on track and so I appreciate your honesty.  
 
This is not a unique situation to be in and whilst it is far from ideal, there are positive steps you can take almost straight away to feel more ‘on top’ of your workload. 

 
1- Visioning for success 

I’d like you to first of all take a step back and consider what ‘success’ looks and feels like with your workload. What point would you like to get to, by when and why? (It’s important to be realistic as well as hopeful for this activity). This exercise should get you into a state where you can see light at the end of the tunnel. It may also be helpful for you to think about times when you have felt this way before- what has lead to success in these situations? What approaches did you try that worked or didn’t?

2- Prioritise 
It will then be helpful for you to write down all the things that are causing concern for you currently and prioritise them according to the level of urgency and importance (the Covey time management matrix shared on our VLE at the start of term might be of use here). 
 
3- Reflect 
What have you tried already?- Make a list of everything you’ve tried so far (whether it’s worked or not)  

4- Problem-solve 

What else could you try?- Now make a list of anything you’ve yet to try- consider where you’re trying to get work done, how you’re prioritising it, what time of day you’re working, distraction factors, how to de-stress so that you’re in the right frame of mind to work. 

Support from me 

Hopefully you should arrive at some short-term steps you can take. If not then let me know as I have some availability tomorrow afternoon and we could work through some approaches together. 
 
Thanks, 
Hannah.

Coaching Teachers- Promoting Changes That Stick- Week 5

This was to be the final week of my Coursera course from Match Education. I knew when I began this learning that coaching was an area of my practice I felt that it was vital for me to develop. I don’t think I could have chosen a better way for me to begin this journey and having applied some of the approaches to my practice already- I am beginning to see how transformative these things might be for me, fellow leaders, coaches and our colleagues- and therefore how transformative for our students too.

Read week 1 here (an introduction to the coaching equation)

Read week 2 here (fixed mindset tax)

Read week 3 here (clarity of instructional vision)

Read week 4 here (quality of feedback – currently missing)

As it’s the final week, we’re able to see that Mr Good Coach has now graduated to Mr Effective Coach!

He is clear about the teacher’s last big takeaway before he goes in to observe and this is clear and specific- ‘Improve student time on task by more quickly noticing and responding student misbehaviour, particularly students having side conversations when they’re in group discussion.’ There’s clearly some actions to be expected from the teacher in relation to this being observed but there’s also clarity about the behaviours we can expect to see from the students. He’s clear about the ineffective practice seen in a previous lesson and he’s also clear about the impact this has on the students’ learning- when the side-conversations are taking place – the students are not able to hear the feedback she’s giving to their peers therefore there are wasted opportunities to learn.

After the observation, he’s able to provide a summary easily as he knows what he’s been looking at and for. He has also ensured that the debrief is 20 minutes after the observation to give each of them some time to take notes and reflect but not so long that the learning opportunity has faded away.

The coaching session begins with a ‘let’s dive right in’. There will be no time wasted on chatting but the relationship between them is warm- they’ll achieve what they need to in this session. What was your big takeaway? The teacher is prompted to share the takeaway and he asks her to reflect on how it went. The teacher reflects and is able to reference the things they had clearly practised together in their previous session.

He is able to prevent the teacher from diving into a fixed mindset by referencing solid evidence of what he’s seen. He’s able to compare the number of side-conversations last lesson with the number this time around. She still believes that she’s not ready to move onto another target as she feels she hasn’t mastered this one. He is able to point this out as an ‘unhelpful moment’ and says, ‘I want you to think about it differently.’

‘You didn’t miss one side-conversation you went from missing 7, to missing 1.’ He asks the teacher to repeat that back to him in order to help her out of her fixed mindset. She’s now ready to move on and so he asks her to remind herself what strategies they had discussed to address the side-conversations. She is able to recall these and now the coach is able to share how many times he saw these approaches displayed; when, with whom and their effect on student learning. Specific moments of the lesson are referenced continually. He’s then able to give her his implementation score for how well she implemented the approaches (and the impact on the students).

He gives her some praise for something else he saw (positive praise of a student) as he felt it was well worth noting and he moves on to the next big takeaway.

He’s able to reference the Kraken (their shared instructional vision) and which category within that they’ll be moving into- student practice. ‘Remind me, in a nutshell, what our vision is for student practice?’ The teacher is now able to share what she understands about this area of practice so that they can continue to move onto the next big takeaway in partnership.

He had been able, during his observation, to calculate the number of minutes students had spent on independent practice (9) and he’d also observed that during group discussions, there were maybe 5 kids engaged. He asks her, ‘What are some problems with that?’ This is where the coach is working to elicit what the next big takeaway will be for the teacher and the focus is on the students and their learning at all times.

After she’s articulated the problems for learning with this, the coach is then able to provide her with an action- ‘You’re going to turn 3 of your discussion questions from discussion questions into ‘stop and jot’. 

He was able to quote some of the approaches she’d taken to these questions during the lesson- ‘Which was the most rigorous and why?’ He’s encouraging her to use cold call and she can see that this will help her students to engage and therefore learn but also stop and jot at other times so that she’s able to assess their response to provide feedback and all students will have the opportunity to practise.

Now to the teacher’s opportunity to practise- he discusses what she’s teaching tomorrow and asks her to note a string of questions she’ll ask tomorrow.

He makes it authentic by getting her to stand up.

She begins, ‘Johnny, what effect…’

The coach questions her about the effect of saying the name first and the focus is on the impact on students of questioning in this way. Feedback is immediate and helpful.

She says ‘think about’– he repeats, ‘Think about?’ She says, ‘Write about!’ They go on like this for some time until she’s written an effective question. The coach keeps the session to time so he asks her to script another moment and practise them in lessons before he will see her next in a week’s time.

The next steps for me will be to-

  • Try out the coaching approaches for myself with staff I work with
  • Introduce the approaches to our leaders
  • Produce some quick guides and resources to support us
  • Explore more coaching learning from Match Education and elsewhere

Explore ‘Match Minis’ here for yourself to support the development of your own coaching skills.

Coaching Teachers- Promoting Changes that Stick- Week 3

Clarity of Instructional Vision

A reminder of the equation- Teacher change as generated by coaching = clarity of instructional vision of the coach X quality of feedback delivered by the coach X (1- fixed mindset tax)

Read week 1 here (an introduction to the coaching equation)

Read week 2 here (fixed mindset tax)

After the first two weeks of this online course, I was really excited to begin week 3. Even better that I could learn sat on a deckchair outside in the sun. For me, this week was all about diving to the depths of what ‘effective’ practice looks and feels like.

The first video this week is back in with Mr Good coach and a new teacher he’s working with. The teacher is taking on board all of his feedback about improving students’ learning. He’s got so caught up in watching all of her new teacher moves, that came from his advice that he’s forgotten one crucial part of the picture: the students.

The fundamental question should always be, ‘In what way did her new teacher moves impact the students?’ ‘Did it change their experience in any kind of meaningful way?’

Students actually have a lot of expertise on great teaching; after all, they’ve been ‘subjected’ to plenty of it in a variety of guises.

Read the article below about ‘measuring’ effective teachers-

Ensuring fair and reliable measures of effective teachers

Whilst we may feel good because a teacher has effectively implemented strategies you’ve discussed with them, it’s the equivalent of a teacher feeling great because the students in class were ‘highly engaged’ – (a poor proxy for learning).

As a teacher coach, our job is not just to get the teachers changing their behaviours but to promote changes that will have a real and meaningful impact on students’ learning experiences.

Clarity of instructional vision is therefore not just a vision of what the teacher is doing. We mean a clear vision of what students are doing, saying and thinking. We need to help teachers to make the connections between what they’re doing and students’ optimal levels of behaviour and thinking.

Ultimately, a coach needs a student-facing vision.

An effective teaching rubric is the starting point for our relationship with our teacher. It defines the language we’re going to use to discuss instruction in our coaching sessions. A rubric will also add a level of urgency to those sessions; we have a finite amount of time we’re able to spend with our teacher and a rubric helps us to use it effectively.

The rubric is like a syllabus; it constrains the relationship and defines the paraemeters of what we’re going to talk about when we sit down in our coaching sessions.

It can be quite common for teacher coaching sessions to turn into a grab bag of topics related to teaching. Whilst spending time speaking about education philosophy and politics may be really interesting, sessions are best spent focused on skill acquisition. Defining the skills the teacher will need to achieve the instructional vision laid out in your rubric.

If we can bring focus and urgency to coaching sessions then we can shorten skill acquisition loops (see the snowman effect from the last blog).

Match Education’s rubric is just intended for analysing classroom instruction to set out a teacher coaching session. By no means does it capture all the aspects of a teacher’s job.

Their rubric is named, ‘The Kraken‘- Named after teachers voted on what to call it so that it wouldn’t just be ‘Match Education Resident Teacher Evaluation Rubric‘…

They’re looking for students who are working hard throughout the class; consistently putting forward real effort on rigorous thinking tasks. Those thinking tasks are well-aligned and ordered to help the students achieve a bigger goal from the lesson. They’re getting lots of opportunities to practice and the teacher is assessing that practice in order to give them really meaningful practice so that students know where they are at any given moment and how far they have to go to improve.

 

The Kraken

Daniel Willingham has shaped many of their beliefs for the rubric.

Specifically, two principles for learning that he lays out in, ‘Why don’t students like school?’

Principle 1- Memory is the residue of thought

The longer you spend thinking about something, the more likely you are to commit it to long-term memory. This informs their beliefs about practice in a lesson. The more students are practising a set of coherently aligned thinking tasks, the more likely they are to commit that content to their memory.

Principle 2- Learning is memory in disguise

What we perceive as learning, is really just memory at work. So if we can get students to remember the content that we teach, we have real, genuine, learning coming out of lessons.

The rubric is student facing so the best way to explore the particulars is to look at learning through the eyes of a student.

Kraken 1

 

Kraken 2

Kraken 3

Behavioural climate

What teachers are doing to set the necessary conditions for lots of learning to take place in the lesson.

  •  Time on task- to what degree are students engaged, focussed and working hard throughout a class period?
  • Teacher radar and student response to questions- the degree to which students feel like their behaviour is noticed by the teacher. If the teacher does notice the behaviour, how does the student then respond to those corrections.

Target task mastery

A task the teacher expects all students to be able to master by the end of class. There’ll be something each of the students is required to complete independently to indicate they’ve met the learning goal in a given lesson.

  • The rigour of the target task- the students feel it’s challenging but not so challenging that they couldn’t achieve it during the lesson.
  • Thinking tasks- once the student knows what the target task is, the end destination, the next question is, ‘What’s happening to get me there? What are all the inter-related thinking tasks, activities, prompts and questions that are helping to build me up to accomplishing that target task on my own? This is one of the most challenging parts of a teacher’s job but ultimately for the students, ‘Do the activities make sense to me, in light of the destination task of the lesson?’

 

Student Practice

If the teacher is giving the students lots of opportunities to practice content throughout the lesson then they’re doing more of the mental heavy lifting than the teacher. Of course teachers need to explain difficult content and make connections between ideas but ultimately they need to get out of the way to let the student try to do the work on their own.

Students require space to try out new skills but they’ll also be able to give the teacher lots of information about their learning, which allows the teacher to give students meaningful feedback to help them improve their practice.

 

Teacher Feedback

This is a broad category as feedback takes on many forms; directed at individuals, or to the whole group; the teacher writing notes on student work or whispering advice as students practice something on their own; how teachers respond to a student answer during a discussion that isn’t quite correct.

  • Students get lots of feedback- individually and as a class
  • The teacher is strategic about the feedback given so that it’s actionable and pushes students along towards mastery of the target task

Once all teachers aligned with the same instructional vision and language; feedback can take place.

 

 

 

Coaching Teachers- Promoting Changes that Stick- Week 2

A few weeks ago, I completed week 1 of the coaching teachers MOOC from Match Education. I’ve known for some time that I need to more formally develop my coaching skills but I wasn’t entirely sure how to achieve it. Technology has a crucial role in enabling lifelong learning and development for all, and often for free. The timing of this MOOC has been perfect as I embark on some new coaching relationships with individual staff. The skills I’ve already practised have, admittedly, felt a little too conscious and forced but that’s no bad thing; it’s an indication that deliberate practice is taking place and the more of this that happens, the more my approaches will become automated. Consulting my coachees and observing the impact our relationship has on their practice will all help me to ensure that what I practice is worthwhile.

I completed week 2 of the MOOC the weekend before last and and the content was asking me to consider the vital role of the ‘fixed mindset tax’ component of the ‘effective coaching’ equation we had been introduced to. I think that this week is potentially going to be the one with most impact on me, especially as the learning has real implications for working with students too.

A reminder of the equation- Teacher change as generated by coaching = clarity of instructional vision of the coach X quality of feedback delivered by the coach X (1- fixed mindset tax)

The first video of this week relayed how Mike Goldstein had been interviewing a candidate for Match Education and it came to the feedback part of the day.

‘Now I want you to open up your brain so I can drive a truck through it.’

He was preparing the candidate for feedback. This candidate was open to the feedback but it’s still important, for teachers we work with, to also prepare them for it- open them up to hearing the feedback (perhaps not in exactly this same way!). Staff we work with won’t necessarily be open to the critical feedback, at least, not all the time. They’re human and reflecting on how I’ve responded to feedback in the past, I know that my response is highly dependent on the timing of it and my state of mind.

When we talk about fixed mindset tax, we’re talking about the kinds of behaviours people exhibit that prevents them from hearing information that tells them they have to change in some way.

Effective coaching is all about ‘sticky change’ and if the person you’re coaching doesn’t truly believe they can make a change then you’re not going to get anywhere.

‘The Fixed Mindset Tax is therefore the penalty a coach pays in a feedback session where the teacher is being coached on a skill that they’re not confident they can develop. The teacher with fixed mindset may demonstrate a number of behaviors that deflect the feedback a coach is delivering, or undermine the potential solutions that the coach offers. In these situations, the coach loses tons of valuable time supporting the teacher emotionally, justifying their perspective, or convincing the teacher to take ownership over barriers to student learning.’

Teaching is multi-faceted. Just because a teacher has a growth mindset about one thing, doesn’t mean they won’t have a fixed mindset about something else. Mindset also changes with a teacher’s mood. They might be growth about an aspect of their practice one day but fixed the next. I guess that explains why progress made can be so variable. Why teachers, and humans(!) ‘hit the wall’.

An effective coach won’t just coach a teacher in the areas they have a growth mindset already. An effective coach has license to coach a teacher in any area that will have payoff for students.

Effective coaching is about promoting growth mindset no matter the task or day.

Mr Good coach has been using the learning from this MOOC- especially the learning from the ‘Instructional Vision’ week of the course- he now has clear goals for his teacher and a rubric for what’s going on in the classroom. He and his coach now have a shared language. Quality of feedback is good too- he’s now learnt just to focus on one area and the thing he’s picked will have great impact on the students. He’s modelling the skill for the teacher and giving feedback along the way so they know how to implement it for themselves. It’s still a warm relationship but the actions are much more focused.

So- with the new teacher who’s keen to learn from everything, coaching is deemed to be effective. But what about with a teacher who’s not quite so enthusiastic?

The example we’re given is a teacher who is apprehensive about all kinds of aspects of teaching- in fact, he’s beginning to question whether he has the talents to actually stay in the profession.

Even the directed feedback and clear goals is lost on this teacher. The teacher is presenting all kinds of behaviour that prevent him from hearing and internalising the feedback.

As a coach, you can’t just say that you’ll only be effective with teachers who have a growth mindset, just as it’s not ok for teachers to say they’ll only be effective with certain students. Whilst the job is harder, it’s not impossible and we can’t just give up…

Being proactive is the answer and often the first step is getting the person to admit they have a problem with fixed mindset.

The four horsemen of fixed mindset

Apocalypse_vasnetsov.jpg

Image available from here

We’re first of all given the example of Orin being asked by his wife to get a check-up with his doctor regarding his health and weight. He goes to the doctor in the end as a wheezing basketball coach is never good.

The doctor tells him what the results have shown. The patient responds by saying, ‘I’m in great shape – look at me- you don’t know what you’re talking about.’

‘Look, the numbers don’t lie. It’s all here.’

The patient responds by saying, ‘I know. I suck at taking care of myself. I’ve let my family down. I’m setting a bad example to my kids.’

‘Ok, don’t get too down. There are steps we can start taking today.’

‘I just find it so difficult- what with managing this that and the other. Fast food is just so cheap.’

‘Well that might be true but…’

‘Actually, I’m not all that worried. This has happened before and I’ve always sorted myself out.’

‘But you really should…’

‘Thanks- bye!’

This is reminiscent of coaching sessions I’ve facilitated with teachers in the past, although this is a much more exaggerated version. At these times, I felt as though the teacher was doing all the talking but not in productive ways and I was a passenger to their monologue; attempting to steer it. It never felt as though we really got anywhere fast or anywhere at all.

In this example, Orin (the patient), has displayed the following behaviours-

  • He was defeatist and pessimistic about being able to change his habits.
  • He was overly optimistic and rejected the doctor’s sense of urgency.
  • He blamed factors outside of his control for his poor health.

It’s easy to see why these behaviours may not exactly be all that helpful. We need to move beyond the teacher deflecting the problem or the feedback is never going to stick. And ‘sticky’ feedback is, after all, what effective feedback is aiming for.

Establishing some common language for naming these behaviours is an important step. This normalises the fact that we all feel fixed mindset at one point or another.
This isn’t something we tend to discuss openly but we’ll have to if we want to make progress with our teachers, as coaches.

Once this conversation is had, it can allow the teacher to be more mindful of behaviours and work to self-correct them.

The next series of clips we were presented with all involved a teacher who was working on how she notices and responds to misbehaviour. The coach had given her several strategies to work towards this- including use of demerits as a minor consequence for students not meeting her expectations.

In the feedback session, the teacher displays 4 common fixed mindset behaviours- the 4 horsemen of fixed mindset.

You’re right, I suck

This is a teacher who responds with a fixed mindset by talking about all of the things they’re terrible at and unable to do. Teachers in this mindset take feedback as commentary on themselves as a person rather than as advice on how to improve their practice.

The fixed mindset tax is paid in that the coach is required to take on the role of therapist- spending their entire time building the teacher back up.

You’re wrong, I rule

This time, the teacher responds by disputing the feedback. They’ve done things because you asked them to or they thought things were great when perhaps they didn’t.

The coach then spends time paying fixed mindset tax by justifying the data and observations they have in front of them.

Blame it on the rain

Third period, right after lunch. That student was out of control and completely derailed everything- he’s not usually that way.

The problem the coach wants to discuss is not something they can solve. They have no urgency solving the problem. They’re blaming it on everything other than the approaches they’ve been working to develop.

The fixed mindset tax is paid here in that the coach spends the entire session getting the teacher to focus on things that are a problem and convincing them that they do have the agency to change these things.

Optimist without a cause

This is a tricky one- they’re mostly agreeing with the feedback and they’re not disputing the narrative the coach brings to the session BUT they’re not placing the right level of urgency on solving the problem. They’re dismissing the complexity of the issue to the point that they’re not internalising what they have to do to make the changes. They merely assume that other factors and time will make it all fine in the end!

The fixed mindset tax is paid by the coach in the time spent trying to move the teacher’s general observations into practical and achievable actions that the teacher believes in the cause and potential of.

View the videos for yourself here.

The videos alone are recommended as a really positive growth mindset intervention. They help teachers to see what’s ahead in a year of critical feedback but they also help them to see the issues with the kinds of language this teacher exhibits in each of the fixed mindsets. During coaching, our coachees are then often able to stop themselves during a feedback session when they see themselves exhibiting that behaviour and say, ‘Hold on…that’s not productive. Let me consider my response again.

I have already implemented the approach of explicitly speaking to a future coachee about the important part mindset plays in how we’ll work together. She loved being introduced to the 4 horsemen of fixed mindset and, like me, could also see the significance to her work with students as much as our work together.

Recognising and calling the mindsets out is only the first step though. Let’s see how ‘mindset’ plays out in the context of a full coaching cycle.

The snowman effect

Robert Pianta researched interventions that could potentially shape a teacher’s expectations for their students.

He knew that teachers with high expectations for their students were more likely to have high student achievement.

Group A of teachers got direct instruction about high expectations whilst group B received coaching about basic teaching skills.

Group B were the more successful group of teachers where resulting high student achievement was concerned. Pianta and his researchers believed this was because this set of teachers saw, more quickly, evidence that students could learn and display positive learning behaviours (ones that had previously struggled). This lead to them having those higher expectations because they had evidence to support it- they weren’t just told to have high expectations.

The mindset effect was two-fold in some ways- it affected their mindset about the students’ ability to learn but it also affected their mindset about their own ability to grow- as they saw that coaching was helping them to improve their practice. They were then more hungry for feedback and for growth.


A Hannah Tyreman original (I know, it’s pretty special!)

The large circle of the snowman is the skill the teacher is trying to develop.

  1. The top of that circle is the first feedback session where the 4 horsemen are likely to be present. The coach must slow down their coaching to identify these behaviours. Time will also be spent developing common language to defeat some of those behaviours.
  2. Once some of the horsemen are back in the stable then feedback can take place- the kind that is internalised by the teacher. The teacher clarifying detail and processing- leaving the room with an idea of the way ahead.
  3. Imperfect implementation- Implementation takes place where the teacher is working to implement strategies and approaches. It will be imperfect at this point in the journey.
  4. Then improved, but sub-optimal, feedback sessions- because the teacher’s mindset has not yet been transformed.
  5. Then improved implementation and refined feedback
  6. Then acquisition of the skill

Having achieved this skill, the teacher can now see that they’re one small step towards achieving the vision of excellent instruction the coach has laid out for them. She now has evidence that she’s able to change and improve.

Skill B is the next part of the torso. The circumference is significantly shorter than it was for the first skill- this is because it takes significantly less time for the teacher to acquire the skill (without all the common language agreements and fixed mindset hurdles).

It’s shorter also because the most important thing that happened in A was not the acquisition of a new skill but the development of a growth mindset. If she can take that mindset and bring it to subsequent coaching sessions then the loop of acquisition will be much tighter.

  1. It will begin with a coaching session with fewer appearances of the 4 horsemen. Feedback is processed and internalised.
  2. There’s still imperfect implementation as it’s new skill development BUT there’ll be more confidence and optimism about acquisition.
  3. Improved implementation and refined feedback takes place
  4. The loop ends with the teacher feeling confident that the acquisition of this new skill will have real payoffs for his students.

For skill C, the feedback loop is even tighter.

So what are the implications of not developing a growth mindset or pushing our teachers to fully acquire a new skill?

You’ll end up pushing the Skill A snowball uphill and not really getting to anything else- the loop of feedback for Skill A just gets larger, picking up more and more horsemen along the way. What we want is a downhill trajectory where momentum is gained.


(Another Hannah special. You’re welcome!)