Transforming Teacher Education – Technology

This was one of the online weeks for our ‘Transforming Teacher Education’ programme and one of the easier weeks for me to engage in. It has made me consider how well our Teacher Education programmes really prepare our future teachers to develop their digital skills though. Through recent engagement with the Jisc’s guide to developing digital literacies, I question this even more.

How do you feel about using Technology Enhanced Learning in your classroom?

I am confident using technology to enhance learning. I recognise it as a tool that can encourage collaboration and creativity in particular. It allows access to lesson content that other forms of delivery prohibit for students. It is just one tool of many though and in working with practitioners, I will discourage its use for merely ticking a box. It should be used in purposeful and meaningful ways- to develop digital skills and/or engage students with learning in improved SAMR is a useful model to follow for the embedding of technology –

What are the  driving forces that would encourage you to use more technology in your teaching?

In speaking to staff about the use of technology though, we’ll often talk about employability skills and how digital skills are an ever-increasingly large part of preparing our students for work. The second thing we speak about is how it can, given a bit of time and input, save time and make work more efficient (especially when it comes to assignments and feedback). The challenges we then overcome with staff are building of confidence and skills.

Some of my favourite tech tools are (all free)-

EdPuzzle – both for flipped learning and in class to improve use of video

Google Forms– for setting quizzes outside of class and units of work for students to work through (results are automatically analysed and feedback automated too. I also use it for end of lesson reflections/reviews for students. Thinking I could input my own teaching reflections using it too…

The range of Google tools– Google sites for out of lesson resource storage and access, Google Classroom for assignment submission, Google Docs and Slides for student group collaboration and Google Communities for closed discussion spaces

Padlet– for discussion and collaboration- basically a tech replacement for sticky notes (one of my favourite tools)

Quizizz/ Kahoot/ Socrative – for in and out of class quizzes to check learning

Class Dojofor giving points to students to manage behaviour (yes- I use it with 16 year olds and adults!)

Piktochart– for my creation of resources

Adobe Spark for posts, pages and video

I could go on…

This is a good site to find new technologies from an ex-colleague @james_kieft

What are the institutional factors that enable or prevent the further use of technology in teaching, learning and assessment where you work?

For me- it’s the lack of devices- Chromebooks/tablets/laptops/PCs prevents further in-class use for me and my students as the WiFi is not overly reliable and students are reluctant to use the data on their phones. Equally, writing essays on a phone is not really the best for developing their writing skills.


Coaching Teachers: Promoting Changes that Stick – Week 1

You can still sign-up to the MOOC here

Learn about Match Education’s case for a student-facing rubric here

A story

Our first video depicts a coaching session for a brand new maths teacher with enthusiasm and optimism in abundance.

The video we’re shown indicates the ‘coach’ doing all of the talking and sharing stories about their own teaching. This kind of approach clearly wouldn’t have a positive impact on her practice; the ideas were in abundance and not organised in any kind of framework for her to follow. It also wasn’t clear what she would work on first to improve tomorrow.

Coaching should seek to change behaviours.

Whilst what we were shown was an extreme example; I have been considering these things within my own practice recently-

  • How often do I speak to someone about their practice and share tales from my own practice? How helpful are these and if they are helpful then am I using them in the right way to help with changes that will be long-lasting in their practice?
  • How often do we talk about several aspects of their practice all at once without prioritising the aspects in any way?
  • How often do I offer multiple suggestions for aspects of their practice without giving a single one time to settle?

I chose to engage in this MOOC because, like so many other educators, I’ve landed in a role where I’m influencing practice, having had little to no real grounding in what it means to coach teachers effectively (bar a one day session involving some role-play 5 years ago and a half day session on the GROW model a couple of years back).

Coaching is challenging in institutions but once it is in place, how do you make it effective? Just having it in place, whilst an achievement, will not necessarily lead to high impact.

Matt Kraft was involved to explore the impact of their coaching model (match residency programme)- access his publications here.

The coaching model was highly intense with full days in several sessions over the summer. There was a focus on aligning teachers with goals that were to be sustained over a long time period. A common language about practice and improvement was established and iteration was important with continual practice and feedback the day after. Significantly, all participants were open, eager and committed; essential for the intense coaching process. A randomised control trial was carried out. The studies are ongoing with a 3rd cohort of teachers participating in the randomised trial.

With the first cohort, they found a striking level of impact- observers, principals and students were all involved in evaluating the teacher and all of those teachers were deemed to be more effective by the end of the year.

The 2nd cohort was a larger group- coaching didn’t move the needle for this group. This might have been related to the fact that the total days and weeks of coaching were reduced (by 1 week out of a total of 4). Each coach was also required to work with more teachers. Their hope is that the 3rd cohort will help them to delve into this effect some more.

The Match Education formula for effective coaching

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)

Teachers will often mistake coaching as being effective when really all it has been is good; merely as it has made them feel validated and supported. It is effective coaching we must drive for; the kind that leads to long-lasting change.

Clarity of Instructional Vision


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Before work begins, the coach and the teacher need a shared vision of what great learning looks like. This vision should be focussed on the students- what the students are doing, saying and thinking at any given moment of the lesson.

Match Education have a rubric for this that will be shared in a future week of the MOOC-

  • Students are on task, paying attention and working hard throughout the lesson.
  • They feel like the teacher notices their behaviour so if they do slip of task for a moment, they’re able to be re-directed without much fuss or complaining.
  • The students also feel like the objective of the lesson is clear to them and it’s rigorous too. It’s something difficult but still attainable.
  • The activities of the class are aligned to that objective and they feel like they’re getting lots of opportunities to practise and get feedback from their teacher so they know how they’re getting on and what they need to do to make progress at any given time.

There are many sports movies with coaches in them that we can learn from. This MOOC uses the Hoosiers movie as the example-

The team in this movie gets a new coach in the form of Gene Hackman. His vision is very different to that of the team and the town. In his first practices, he doesn’t even use a basketball and when he does introduce it, he tells them they have to pass 4 times before they’re able to shoot. This is at such odds with the players’ philosophy that it took time to get his team on the same page. When they did then his practices made sense and the team became successful but this took too long. Ensuring they were on the same page to begin with would have helped.

An effective teacher-coach relationship requires an aligned vision.

Quality of Feedback


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What should actually happen during a coaching session?

The first video did not have any of the expected components of good quality feedback and instead featured the following-

  • Too many areas for the teacher to focus on
  • No priorities set for high-leverage areas
  • No accountability for previous feedback
  • No opportunity set for the practise of new skills

Whilst coaching is a collaborative endeavour, it’s ultimately directive

  1. Here’s what I want you to change
  2. Here’s how we’re going to work together to make that change
  3. Here’s how I’m going to make you accountable so that the change actually happens

Feedback is reasonable in scope.

‘Teachers have a lot to think about. If you’ve ever been yelling the homework assignment down the hall after half the class has already left, then you know exactly what we mean. Given the cognitive demands of teaching a lesson, we tend to think that asking a teacher to keep one focus area in mind when they start teaching is already plenty.’

Feedback aligns with instructional vision.

‘If you’ve defined a clear instructional vision, it will keep your feedback focused and constrained within a set number of topics. You can think about this vision as the yearlong syllabus for your coaching relationship. A teacher might show up with burning questions about the Freire text she’s working through, but a quality feedback session maintains direction and urgency towards your goals around instructional coaching. Might we suggest happy hour for that very worthy Freire discussion?’

Feedback addresses a high-leverage area of growth.

‘Observe any teacher and you’ll be able to find elements of their practice that they could improve upon. Quality feedback, however, will identify the area of growth that is the biggest barrier keeping students from learning. Again, if you have a clear instructional vision, you can probably use it to identify the highest-leverage interventions to move the teacher closer to that vision.’

Feedback is supplemented with modeling and practice.

‘It would make for odd feedback if a basketball coach said, “Hey, your jump shot form is all wrong. Get back out and try it again,” and then sat down on the bleachers. Typically you’d expect the coach to stand up, grab a ball, and model the appropriate technique. We think the same is true in teacher coaching. If a coach is committed to modeling new skills and setting up opportunities for the teacher to practice those skills in the coaching session itself, they’re much more likely to see that teacher executing well in subsequent lessons.’

Teacher is accountable for implementing previous feedback.

‘This is a big one. It’s possible for a coach to have accounted for elements 1-4 above and still fall short of quality feedback if she’s not willing to hold the teacher accountable for following through and mastering new skills. We see plenty of almost effective coaching where teachers lose ground when gains are not solidified by closing the loop with implementation feedback.’

Fixed mindset tax


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Most educators will now be familiar with Carol Dweck‘s teachings on mindset.

Our mindset changes depending on the task we’re faced with. You might be growth about being able to improve one aspect of teaching, you might be more fixed on another. When we’re in a fixed state of mind, we believe that our ability is fixed and there’s little we can do to change it. When we’re in a growth state of mind of then we believe we can, given time and effort, change how good we are at something. An individual’s mindset is not an overall disposition, and can change from skill to skill.

Even if the coach shares a clear vision with the teacher, if the teacher doesn’t believe they can make the improvement then they’re never going to get better.

Fixed mindset tax is therefore in the equation as it represents the learning lost in a feedback session between a coach and a teacher who isn’t optimistic about his or her ability to improve at the classroom skill they are discussing.

‘The Fixed Mindset Tax is 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.’

Final messages

Be aware of the apparent success of ‘good’ coaching rather than ‘effective’ coaching. Teachers can rate their coaching experience highly not because it changed their classroom behaviors for the better, but because interacting with a coach is emotionally validating for them.

A clear instructional vision allows teacher and coach to have a common language about which to discuss effective classroom practices.It will allow for goal-setting and progress monitoring of the teacher’s classroom practice. It will also keep feedback sessions urgently focused on a well-defined scope of potential topics for feedback.

Quality feedback consists of the following three elements-

  1. Feedback is accompanied by the coach providing direct modeling for new skills that the teacher will be implementing.
  2. Feedback that has been delivered is revisited by the coach to ensure that the teacher has successfully implemented previous discussed skills and techniques.
  3. Feedback is delivered with language that aligns with the instructional vision decided upon by teacher and coach.
A teacher with a fixed mindset- “We talked about this in grad school, and I never really got the hang of it. To be honest, I think we’d have more success if we moved on to improving my questioning techniques.”

A teacher with a growth mindset- “I’m actually really bad at this skill. We need to spend a lot of time discussing this so I can nail it down and not stress out about it anymore.” OR “This is one of the hardest things I’ve had to learn to do as a teacher. Everyone says it takes years to master, but I’m willing to give it a shot even though it’s daunting.” OR “I’m not sure that this is the most high-leverage thing we could be discussing. Don’t you think that making sure all students are engaged in the lesson would be even more valuable to discuss?”

Clarity of instructional vision- Regardless of where it comes from or how it is articulated, both coach and teacher come to an understanding about the specifics of the instructional vision.


‘At its core, effective teacher coaching is about change. And change is hard. Especially in a profession as fast-paced and cognitively demanding as teaching. We believe a coach needs to attend to all three variables in our formula in order to drive meaningful, lasting changes in a teacher’s practice that have real payoffs for kids. That’s legitimately rigorous work. But we also believe there is no more powerful lever to change a teacher’s practice than a coach – someone who will meet a teacher where they are, and work relentlessly to take them where they need to go.’

Transforming Teacher Education – Week 2

You can read about week 1 here

In this face-to-face session as part of the Education and Training Foundation funded programme, delivered by a number of University partners (mine being Sheffield Hallam University), we began by exploring the design of an Initial Teacher Education curriculum. What is it that trainee teachers need and how could we enable them to make progress with this?

We were asked to discuss the aspects of teaching we felt were the most important for trainees to engage with- especially those things which the mentor might be best placed to support. Much of our list turned out to be aspects we felt had been missed out of our own teacher training and/or mentor relationship when we started out-

  • The practicalities of the role- managing workload, time and being organised
  • Appreciating ‘impact’ so that strategies can be adjusted/prioritised accordingly
  • Being friendly versus being friends- boundaries
  • Setting ground rules in the form of ‘shared values’
  • Practical classroom management-including assertive discipline
  • Pastoral care side of the role
  • Their expectations versus the reality of the sector
  • Aspects of the role best summed up as ‘teachery things’


Teacher Identity2000px-Fingerprint_picture.svg.png

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As a trainee teacher, it’s important for them to begin defining themselves- what kind of ‘self’ will they bring to the role and their students? Observing others helps them to shape this but they need to be encouraged to reflect on the development of this ‘person’ for themselves. Who are they as a teacher? This is especially important in the post-compulsory sector when teacher identity is so much more complex- they may be an engineer, hairdresser, plumber, veterinary nurse- but is this who they are as a teacher? Stepping into their role as teacher and figuring out how to still be their professional selves as they’ve known it will be the hardest journey for them to take.

They ‘have an expertise and identity from their original vocation as well as a new identity that derives from their role as teacher.’ (Orr, K, 2008) The problem arises in that they are unable to eradicate their preceding identity as ‘their previous experience gives them the credibility required for their new teaching role.’ (Orr, K, 2008)

As we move our trainees beyond this initially challenging journey, the sector then faces the unique challenge of continuing to develop all teaching staff (qualified teachers or not…) towards being tri-professionals. As Dan Williams describes, there is a need for them to continually update industry expertise to keep up with changes in industry that take place once they leave the profession. They must also continue to develop both their knowledge and pedagogy as well as the subject content and knowledge (Williams, D, 2015).

The Curriculum


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From here, we entered initial discussions about the shape of the curriculum. The mentor would be one very important part of this but what of the remainder and would we refer to it as ‘training’ or as education’? WE remained unsure throughout- discussing that it was perhaps training at the start with education later.. but at times we’d need to conduct it the other way around…

We had all of the usual elements you’d expect on a teacher education curriculum. We also spoke about the incorporation of 360 assessments, development of digital skills, discussions about resilience and mindset and engagement with the latest in evidence based practice.

Developing Expert Teachers


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John Hattie

Whilst the core aim of any teacher education programme, developing ‘expert’ teachers would be a longer term aim; establishing the conditions and foundation for them to become ‘expert’ teachers in the future.

‘Expert teachers identify the most important ways to represent the subject that they teach.’

‘Expert teachers create an optimal classroom climate for learning.’

‘Expert teachers believe all students can reach the success criteria.’

‘Expert teachers influence a wide range of student outcomes not solely limited to test scores.’ (Hattie, J, 2012)

Modelling expert teaching then becomes a large part of the job for any teacher educator- engaging trainees in learning experiences and then talking about the decision making involved in getting them there. Why did I choose to do it that way rather than this way? How was that activity beneficial for your learning? Which expert teacher attitude and belief was being used there and what was ‘expert’ about it?

Developing English and maths skills


It’s become increasingly important for all Further Education teachers to develop students’ English and maths skills, both for employment and to pass their courses. Prior to the session, we were asked to complete a Functional Skills maths paper and one for English.

English- practice paper

Teaching English and having taught Functional Skills before, there were few surprises on this paper. I was however surprised that so much of the reading task was multiple choice – the new GCSE English course certainly demands a great deal more of students than the level 2 FS appears to. The jury is still out here as to which qualification currently serves our FE students best (I’m currently inclined to say neither). There’s certainly an opportunity for this paper to develop students’ evaluative and critical abilities far more than it does currently.

Maths- practice paper

The maths paper held an entirely different experience for me however. I had heard it was wordy and that our students were often struggling with the language on the paper before they could even move onto the maths. It is wordier than I had even expected and there are a great number of details to take in before a question can be answered- students’ comprehension skills will need to be well-developed if they are to tackle such papers with success.

In some of the questions I was asked to check my answer and show that I had done my check… I had no idea how to do this. Along with this, it was clear there was certain knowledge that I was particularly rusty with and how highly knowledge features in the paper (conversion from degrees C to F for instance..). I soon found that when I was able to do a question, I felt pleased and motivated to continue. The questions I could recollect how to do were an enjoyable challenge BUT when there was something I didn’t have a clue about, I felt tired out and bored… I decided I would find a question I liked instead! Like, ooh, a graph! I know these!

The reforms to FS will no doubt be welcome for the sector when they arrive; hopefully making them far more functional and far less contrived. How often, really, do our students need to read a timetable for a bus or train these days with apps that will give them the information merely by inputting the times and days they wish to travel to their destination? Whilst being able to apply English and maths skills confidently is key when they enter the workplace we’re preparing them for, there is far more to the education English and maths can offer that we mustn’t forget about – logical approaches to problem solving, curiosity and determination to reach an answer, evaluative skills and approaching unfamiliar situations with curiosity.

So, the teacher educator needs to work with their trainees on how to develop English and maths skills but they also need to develop trainees’ English and maths skills sufficiently well that they, in turn, can develop the skills of their students.

This, in short, requires continual revisiting. Regularly asking at the end of the session, Where was the maths and English in today’s lesson? develops students’ reflective skills as they can explore how well this development was executed but they can then begin to explore how they’re achieving it in their own lessons. Much of the battle is helping trainees to translate how they feel about their own English and maths skills into a) doing something to develop their own skills and b) allowing themselves to appreciate how this affects the mindsets of their students in similar ways.

We’ve been working on a set of English skills (still a work in progress) that all of our teachers need to develop in students and we’ll be working on materials to accompany the development of their own skills too. We will be working on a maths set to accompany this.

English skills
Reading Writing Speaking Listening
Making use of a dictionary to look up unfamiliar words Writing in full, clear and concise sentences Organise ideas into a clear structure for presentation (individually or as part of a group) Listen to questions carefully and respond in a straightforward manner as part of a presentation
Reading to understand meaning (explicit) Spelling key terms correctly Plan language carefully for a presentation (individually or as part of a group) Listen to questions carefully and respond in a straightforward and suitably detailed manner as part of a teacher’s Q&A
Reading to understand underlying meaning (implicit) Make notes in a logical and clear manner Choose words carefully when contributing to a discussion Listen to others’ contributions during a discussion to avoid repeating their points
Reading to locate specific details (searching for information) Plan ideas carefully in a logical structure Structure ideas before contributing to a discussion Listen to others’ contributions during a discussion in order to make a meaningful response
Differentiate between facts and opinions, including ‘fake facts’ Spelling commonly confused words correctly Listen to and carefully follow instructions
Reading for structure- sequencing information Use appropriate punctuation
Make use of a wide ranging vocabulary (find alternatives for words you repeat frequently)
Writing to explain – writing about concepts in a clear manner
Writing to evaluate – writing about ideas in a critical way
Writing to persuade – writing about subjects in a persuasive way (convincing someone of a POV)

Embedding, Promoting, Developing

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Whilst movements have been made to move beyond embedding (an action that became ‘hiding’), a new term has been introduced- that of ‘promoting’. I can’t think of that as anything other than ramming English and maths down students’ throats, willing or not. Beating them relentlessly over the head with the benefits.

‘Developing’ students’ skills works well for me-

  • We’re not including English and maths for the sake of it merely to tick a box.
  • We’re not working on their skills but without explicitly sharing that it’s English and maths so that it’s by stealth.
  • We’re not marking out the adding of two numbers in a level 3 class as ‘maths’ when it’s something most of them could have achieved when they were 6 years of age.

In developing, we are actively reflecting on where their English and maths skills are currently, both in general and in relation to the subject-specific skills that will serve as the foundation for their future success in their chosen industry. We’re then working to create activities that will provide maximum space and opportunity for them to develop a wide range of skills towards both competence and confidence.

Berliner, D C (date unknown) Expert Teachers: Their Characteristics, Developments and Accomplishments, Available at:

Hattie, J (2012) Visible Learning for Teachers, quoted in The Main Idea, Available at:

Orr, K (2008) Dual Identities: enhancing the in-service teacher-trainee experience in further education, Available at:

Williams, D (2015) The Tri-Professional, Available at:


Transforming Teacher Education – Week 1

Last week saw me start a new learning journey- because the journeys of-

  • Teaching new spec GCSE English
  • Doing my job
  • Photography

…weren’t quite enough for me!

The course is a collaboration between the Education and Training Foundation and a number of universities around the country, one of them being Sheffield Hallam.

This is one of four regional projects, funded by the Education and Training Foundation. The ETF commissioned the projects to inform a set of professional standards and a qualification for FE teacher educators. By being involved in this project you are helping shape the future of teacher education in the post-compulsory education and training sector (also known as the FE sector).

It appealed to me because I work with new teachers often through my role and working to develop their practice is something I’ve never had training for. The conversation went more along the lines of- you’re a great teacher, you’re keen and willing, you have a positive demeanour- off you go! As is the way with all things ‘FE’, in at the deep end was the way so having the opportunity to reflect and learn was welcome- even if it did mean some Saturdays and some online activity for the coming few weeks.

This is the first of my blogs in this series and summarises my learning from week 1. There’ll be subsequent blogs for the rest of the programme:

  1. Day 1: Session 1 – From teacher to teacher educator
  2. Day 1: Session 2 – Developing observation skills 
  3. Online: Session 3 – Working with mentors
  4. Day 2: Session 4 – Designing and ITE curriculum
  5. Day 2: Session 5 -Developing English and maths skills within the ITE curriculum
  6. Online: Session 6 – Using technology to enhance learning
  7. Day 3: Session 7 – Making feedback and feed forward effective
  8. Day 3: Session 8 – Safeguarding within ITE
  9. Day 4: Session 9 – Reflection for action
  10. Day 4: Session 10 – Becoming a practitioner researcher


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Qualities and skills of teacher educators

To develop our understanding of the qualities of teacher educators, we were first invited to reflect on the images of ‘teachers’ around the room; what skills and qualities did they possess?

Dalai Lama / Brian Cox / Dumbledore / David Attenborough / Salman Khan / Albert Einstein…

Whilst there were a multitude of differences between them, we identified some commonalities most of them shared (bar them all being men):

  • Their reach is wide
  • They have the ability to make the complex simple, but not so simple that we feel like fools
  • They have tremendous passion and presence
  • They have strong subject knowledge; experts in their field
  • They connect with their audience and build rapport
  • They generate curiosity

So if these are the qualities of the world’s (arguably) best teachers then what of teacher educators?

Our pre-reading was entitled, ‘Train the Trainer: A study of the professional skill competencies and psychological qualities of teacher trainer’

We spent some time discussing this article at the start of the session; exploring its content but also our opinion of it. We spoke about the findings of the study, that:

  • Facilitation skills
  • Pedagogical knowledge
  • Rich experience
  • Good understanding of the participants’ expectations
  • Confidence
  • Self-regulation of emotion

‘are the most essential skill competencies and the psychological needs of the teacher trainers’. 

In addition, ‘a range of ‘critical abilities’ and ‘reflective attitudes’ would also ease he anxieties raised from the trainers’ changing roles during their transitions from subject teachers to teacher trainers because teacher training is a much more complex and demanding job.’ (Yuk-Kwan Ng, R and Yee-Shun Lam, R, 2015)

Although we felt that a lot of the study pointed out the obvious, at least to educators working in the UK, I felt comforted by its incorporation of the psychological demands of the job. I’ve read little related to this whether teachers OR teacher educators and I think those aspects are as important, if not more so, than the skill competencies required. It made me question my own ‘psychological readiness’ when I first entered the realms of teacher education. I’ve certainly developed this ‘readiness’ over the years but having mentored a new teacher educator a few years ago, I realised the level of ‘readiness’ the job demanded. So much of what we spoke about were her approaches to difficult student-teachers and how to lead these individuals towards success in their studies and career.

We were then able to draw some similarities between the two via a venn diagram (what qualities and aspects do they share?)

We then spent some time speaking about aspects of perception and reflection and how they might be important as teacher educators:

Self-efficacy – the accuracy with which you are able to gauge how successfully you can do something

Self-esteem– the attitude and feelings you have towards yourself and your worth

Stepping through a mirror – we need to move past the immediate things we notice and towards the rest; the things we see when stepping through the mirror to see how others see it and interact with it.

A warning about reflection– it can be a monster of our own creation: you will never be ‘good enough’.

As a result of speaking about these aspects, we reflected that often, teacher education is separated from vocational practice – this is how we alienate our trainee teachers. It becomes our duty to know the theory well enough that we are then able to distill that theory into something relevant and accessible. For instance, when we provide trainees with reading, how can we make this palatable? Use of video, diagrams, images, questions, a jigsaw activity to engage with content…

A question cropped up during the morning – how much of teacher training is (and should be) compliance? For any good curriculum design, it’s always the case that the ‘compliance’ aspects and essentials can be incorporated as a part of a much broader or deeper exploration of a subject and my own vision for and experience of teacher education is that it should be just that; resulting in teachers who are prepared as best they can be, not just for the necessary parts of the job, but to make the most of the joys and feel prepared for the varying demands it entails.


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Towards impact

The job of a teacher educator is to help the trainees along their journey towards understanding their impact, which Lidstone and Hollingworth (1992) says takes 2 years. At the beginning of their journey, they focus on their classroom skills; behaviour management, planning, questioning, assessment, feedback and so on. They then begin to move towards subject knowledge; still maintaining a focus on classroom skills but tying this to their subject and considering modelling, explanations, learning objectives and appropriate assessment methods. The end point is to get the trainee to ‘impact’- the final stage of their initial teacher journey and the point at which they begin to focus on how their students are affected by their actions. Teacher educators are to help these trainees towards this ‘impact’ stage where their focus is not on themselves but their students and their learning. This is not the end point of a teacher’s journey though; it is just the start (just as passing your driving test is seen to be the start of you really learning to drive!)

How do trainee teachers learn (Maxwell, B, 2010) – Through a mix between the various components of their experience: their placement / engagement levels in general / their ITE course. Whilst these three components can often be in competition with one another, there are many ways in which they can complement one another (and any future design of teacher education, should allow for this even more). The influences of each can affect another; what they are exposed to on their placement for instance having a huge impact on how they respond to and interact with their ITE course, thus affecting engagement too.


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Observing trainee teachers

This began with us discussing the purpose of these observations and there were certainly conflicting views; although compliance would be one element and assessment of this; there was also development, and yet there was judgement too. There is a tension that exists for the teacher educator; that between measuring and developing.

Our role, although not our purpose, as teacher educators observing trainees is to reveal their tacit knowledge in order to build confidence and increase efficacy; the aspects of the trainees practice that they’re unable to articulate themselves easily as they don’t notice they’re doing it.

So what is it that we’d be looking for during an observation? Well these things are wide-ranging but the trick is – How do we know when we’ve seen it? What evidence can we draw on to avoid our own perception taking over?

After exploring these aspects, we watched a video of a lesson and prepared to give and receive the ‘feedback’. Having moved to a coaching approach for all teaching observations at work, I was able to share that our opening question is not ‘How do you think it went?’ anymore. This is never a good place to start as a trainee teacher is either over-critical of their practice and uses it as an opportunity to beat themselves up OR they do not possess the critical faculties yet to appraise their performance effectively and over-estimate how successful the learning was. Better to begin with a question along the lines of, ‘How did the students develop during that lesson? How were they different by the end of the lesson?’ These kinds of questions place the emphasis on learning and the students; taking the focus away from the trainee and moving them more quickly along their journey towards understanding their impact.

We all concluded that there was no optimum form for taking notes on during an observation; most of us opting to jot down notes and take time to reflect and prioritise themes later.

As a result of the session, we were all asked to contribute our reflections on what makes observation feedback effective on a Padlet wall. I shared the following;

I’d agree that timing is important. This should be mutually agreed so that the trainee is happy with the time, rather than it just being squeezed into an available gap (not always to achieve). I feel it should be between 2-4 days after an observation to allow time for reflection for the observee and for the teacher educator to formulate the key themes to be talked about and the questions to trigger dialogue.

Location is absolutely vital. Ideally a small and private space away from the corridor the trainee would normally work in so that they don’t feel nervous about being interrupted by staff and/or students (or using this as an excuse to escape).

The feedback needs to engage the trainee. ‘How did your students develop in the lesson?’ ‘What was your thinking behind x activity?’ ‘Explain your phrasing of x question…’ This allows the trainee to frame their practice in context and their responses can guide the teacher educator’s approach in response- either more coaching or more mentoring depending on the trainee’s level of self-efficacy. Asking the teacher educator to rephrase what they’ve heard during each part of the feedback is a useful way to check they’ve understood accurately.

The feedback needs to result in some clear actions- share your practice in this way… Observe a peer and look for this… Record yourself teaching and explore the following questions… Try x and record the students’ responses… These actions should be connected to some kinds of measures the trainee could use to check effectiveness but should also lead into a future observation so that there is some continuity with their development.

It is important that the relationship is maintained during feedback; responding to the individual, their context and rate of development is vital so that they are not discouraged from developing and nor do they feel so buoyed that they interpret they have little else to develop in their practice.I was emailed this article the other day and it includes some pointers- I especially liked that as an observer, we have the ability to hold up a mirror to another person’s practice through describing what we’ve seen:

As always, I found the opportunity to discuss my practice and ideas as well as reflect on it of great value (a community has been created). I’m being introduced to a number of concepts I’d like to explore more along the way  (my curiosity has been sparked) and I’m looking forward to the remaining weeks (including online learning weeks via OneNote and other technologies).


Image available from here

Recommended Reading

Bathmaker, A. & Avis, J. (2005) Becoming a lecturer in further education in England: the construction of professional identity and the role of communities of practice. Journal of Education for Teaching 31 (1) pp. 47-62

Dixon, L., Jennings, A., Orr, K. & Tummons, J. (2010) Dominant discourses of pre‐service teacher education and the exigencies of the workplace: an ethnographic study from English further education, Journal of Vocational Education & Training, 62 (4) pp.381-393

Hattie, J (2015) Know Thy Impact, Available from:

Maxwell, B.(2010) Teacher knowledge and initial teacher education in the English learning and skills sector, Teaching Education, 21:4, 335-348,

Orr, K. (2012) Coping, confidence and alienation: the early experience of trainee teachers in English further education. Journal of Education for Teaching: International research and pedagogy, 38 (1) pp. 51-65

Standard for Teachers’ Professional Development


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

Last year, a set of standards were published by the DfE aimed squarely at schools, the teachers and leaders they house and CPD providers. The panel behind the standards is filled with people I have respect for when it comes to effective CPD. I’d be stupid to ignore the standards just because they weren’t labelled for Further Education use.

At an away day with my team, I set aside some time to explore what the standards might mean for our practice. We completed a reflective activity where each of us rated each of the standards as to where we felt our whole College was operating currently (4 being high, 1 being low). After some discussion together, this is where it ended up (the first number from the summer and the second as a recent review):

Part 1 – Professional development should have a clear focus on improving and evaluating pupil outcomes

Professional development is most effective when activities have a clear purpose and link to pupil outcomes. In particular, effective professional development:

  1. Has explicit relevance to participants. This means the activities are designed around: individual teachers’ existing experience, knowledge and needs; the context and day-to day experiences of teachers and their schools; and the desired outcomes for pupils (2 – no change).
  2. Ensures individual activities link logically to the intended pupil outcomes (2 – no change).
  3. Involves ongoing evaluation of how changes in practice are having an impact 
on pupil outcomes (1 – no change).

Part 2 – Professional development should be underpinned by robust evidence and expertise 

Professional development is most effective when informed by robust evidence, which can be from a range of sources. In particular, effective professional development:

  1. Develops practice and theory together (2 – no change).
  2. Links pedagogical knowledge with subject/specialist knowledge (1 – no change).
  3. Draws on the evidence base, including high-quality academic research, and 
robustly evaluated approaches and teaching resources (1 – increase to 2).
  4. Is supported by those with expertise and knowledge to help participants 
improve their understanding of evidence (1 – no change).
  5. Draws out and challenges teachers’ beliefs and expectations about teaching and how children learn (1 – no change).

Part 3 – Professional development should include collaboration and expert challenge 

Professional development that aims to change teachers’ practice is most effective when it includes collaborative activities with a focus on the intended pupil outcomes. In particular, effective professional development:

  1. Builds-in peer support for problem solving (2 – no change).
  2. Includes focussed discussion about practice and supporting groups of pupils with similar needs (2 – no change).
  3. Challenges existing practice, by raising expectations and bringing in new 
perspectives (1 – increase to 2).
  4. Includes support from someone in a coaching and/or mentoring role to provide modelling and challenge (1 – no change).

Part 4 – Professional development programmes should be sustained over time 

Professional development is most effective when activities form part of a sustained programme, typically for more than two terms. In particular, effective professional development:

  1. Is iterative, with activities creating a rhythm of ongoing support and follow-up activities (2 – no change).
  2. May include complementary one-off activities as part of a wider coherent package (1 – increase to 2).
  3. Includes opportunities for experimentation, reflection, feedback and evaluation (2 – no change).

Part 5 – Professional development must be prioritised by school leadership 

Professional development is most effective when it is led well as part of a wider culture of evidence-informed reflection and discussion of teaching practice. In particular, effective leadership of professional development:

  1. Is clear about how it improves pupil outcomes (1 – no change).
  2. Complements a clear, ambitious curriculum and vision for pupil success (1 – no change).
  3. Involves leaders modelling & championing effective professional 
development as an expectation for all (1 – increase to 2).
  4. Ensures that sufficient time and resource is available (1 – increase to 2).
  5. Balances school, subject and individual teachers’ priorities (1- increase to 2).
  6. Develops genuine professional trust  (1 – increase to 2).

We had already known that staff development wasn’t anywhere near in the kind of position we’d want it to be in. It wasn’t seen as being of value to managers or staff and it certainly wasn’t translating into impact on our students and stakeholders. This activity had helped us to identify some areas we wanted to prioritise; some key areas in which we felt we might be able to have significant impact.

What have we put in place already (some highlights)?

  • Into all of our guidance, forms and evaluations, we have embedded reference to ‘impact’ with some indication of the aspects to be considered. This is one way for us to begin raising the level of awareness when it comes to ‘impact’ for staff evaluating their CPD activities (see one example below). I’m not happy with it yet but it’s a beginning.

  • We’ve turned a pilot into the Big Learning Project; a self-directed relevant, reflective and sustained approach to CPD that encourages engagement with evidence as well as measuring of impact; encompassing a number of the standards at once.
  • We’ll be piloting at least one lesson study group this term which we hope will be another way in which we can meet a number of the standards in one go.
  • We have ensured that there is always suitable follow-up activity after any developmental activity so that no event occurs in isolation of any other developmental work.
  • The College has introduced a set of online ‘Expectations’ units along with a new approach to Developmental Observations that leads to coaching conversations and shared dialogue about Teaching and Learning.


So, what next? 

My hope is that through our efforts and actions, more of the scores will be higher than a 1 or a 2 this time next year. I’d like to revisit these standards again with @helenhayes and and the newly inherited Digital and eLearning Team in the next couple of months to place the standards back on the radar and renew an effort towards meeting them. The Big Learning Project encompasses so many of these standards (…almost all of them in fact) and so it’s important for me to figure out a way of making it become more of the way we do things with regards to development, rather than an additional project staff can choose to participate in.

Being able to meet so many of these standards is heavily reliant upon other individuals in the organisation, other teams, College-wide strategies and approaches that it means I need to think more strategically about how I can influence the development of these areas; such as the creation of meeting slots and a shared focus on and ownership of the measuring of impact. With a staff exceeding 1600 in total, it’s certainly not a job for me alone. Harnessing work already taking place by other teams and within curriculum teams themselves will be of paramount importance.

Sharing the following expectations of teachers (tied up with the ETF professional standards) somehow may help in communicating the importance of CPD and what makes it effective to teaching staff:

As the most important profession for our nation’s future, teachers need considerable knowledge and skill, which need to be developed as their careers progress. As the Teachers’ Standards set out, teachers make the education of their pupils their first concern, and are accountable for achieving the highest possible standards in work and conduct. The Teachers’ Standards set out a number of expectations about professional development; namely, that teachers should: 

  • Keep their knowledge and skills as teachers up-to-date and be self-critical
  • Take responsibility for improving teaching through appropriate professional 
development, responding to advice and feedback from colleagues
  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of how pupils learn and how this has an impact on teaching
  • Have a secure knowledge of the relevant subject(s) and curriculum areas
  • Reflect systematically on the effectiveness of lessons and approaches to teaching
  • Know and understand how to assess the relevant subject and curriculum areas

I’m hoping that tomorrow’s day of sharing practice with @TeacherDevTrust will shed some light on how the standards can be met and what we might still be missing.

Click here to read the full standard for yourself. I’d be interested in hearing how your own experience of or leading of CPD measures up to these standards. My own belief is that they will challenge a great deal of current and stagnant practice in the education sector for the better.

The Big Learning Project

After the trial of the Mini Learning Project in the summer term of last academic year, we’re finally about to begin the Big Learning Project: an approach to learning conceived after extensive reading into what makes CPD effective.

The idea of the project is that it can be adapted to whatever role you have; whether that’s manager, LSA, admin assistant, apprentice, lecturer or technician. Leading on staff development across the organisation, and not just for teaching & learning staff, means that I’m constantly focusing on what might work for everyone and not just the minority as we have more business support staff and student support staff than we do lecturers.

In a climate of continuous improvement @sheffcol, it’s necessary for us to seek development that is tailored to our needs, encourages engagement with evidence and research but also consists of a journey that involves a bit of fun.

With just a few days left for staff to register for the first cohort of the Big learning Project, here are 6 reasons why they might want to:

1- A choice– This project is CPD with a difference- although the 6 phase structure exists, what you explore within that and how you decide to do that is entirely up to you.

2- An evidence-base– This project will encourage you to become more evidence and research-informed.

3- A reflective nudge– Throughout the project, you’ll receive nudges (in a variety of forms) to reflect on your practice in new ways and with fresh eyes.

4- An impact evaluation– The aim of the project is to make a change that will hopefully lead to a positive impact and we’ll have a rare chance to measure this properly.

5- An experiment– Although we hope that our challenge solutions will have a positive outcome, they won’t always but you’ll be free to try something out and see!

6- A different crowd– The project attracts staff from all kinds of roles: in curriculum, support and leadership alike. It offers a unique opportunity to meet people beyond the ‘usual suspects’.

Phase 1 (Learning Lens) of the project begins on Monday for cohort 1 and here is their introduction. I’m all for choice so they were sent two videos (a long version and a short version):

Long version:

Inspired by Mr Patel‘s #teacher5aday #photo initiative this month, I have created a far less laborious ‘Learning Lens’ phase (than the Mini Project last term), where the emphasis will be on noticing and capturing in creative ways. Project participants will post their contributions each day on this Padlet wall (technology will be our friend on this project; spanning all College campuses and several months):


This Piktochart gives an outline of the remainder of the project:


Here’s to CPD that holds more meaning and relevance for its staff but also challenges them to alter their practice in line with evidence and research. Now I just have to hope enough people sign-up for it to be worthwhile!

‘An essential element of successful Continuous Professional Development and Learning is overt relevance of content to its participants and their day-to-day experiences and aspirations for’ students, staff and customers. From ‘Developing Great Teaching

‘We aim to take staff away from a tick-box approach with development opportunities. Professionals should drive their own CPD and develop their practice so that it really makes a difference to their’ students, staff and customers. From ‘Brilliant Teaching and Training in FE and Skills’

‘We must prioritise CPD even though it may never be the most urgent thing on the list.’ From Shaping the Future of CPD. Time to Focus on the Important, not the Urgent.

CPD Inspiration and Research

Over the last couple of years I’ve become a bit of a sponge when it comes to reading about CPD; continually seeking more to ensure my practice is as effective as it can be. Below, you can find my collections of reading (some videos, podcasts and images) related to CPD. I use these as a reference point in planning development days; considering new approaches to development and more generally for inspiration for me and my team (click images to access).

CPD Inspiration.png

CPD Research.png


What could you learn from Future Learn? Leanne Loosemore

This post has been written by Leanne Loosemore, sharing her experiences of learning online with Future Learn.

I have completed several online MOOCs with The range of courses available means that they can be used to meet several aims; from taking up a hobby or interest (such as forensic science), learning a new skill (such as a new language) and continuous professional development. I undertook Numeracy Skills for Employability and the Workplace (starting again on 3 Oct 2016) to refresh my Maths skills because I work in Finance. In addition, I studied Smart Advice: Broadening Your Students’ Horizons and Prepare for Career Success at University to assist with future career goals.

I would always recommend online MOOCs because they free, short (ranging from 2 – 8 weeks) and utilise various learning forms. I like that I have to watch a video, read an article, take a quiz and take part in discussions. It keeps things interesting. Furthermore, universities from around the world teach these courses so you become more familiar with other cultures and nationalities.

The courses promote peer learning and there are times when you have to submit a short essay for others on the course to review, which can seem daunting to those who aren’t very confident in their learning. That said, I find the people taking the course very supportive and they only encourage other learners.

Certificates are available upon completion but you do have to pay for these. However your Future Learn account provides evidence of courses completed.

As previously mentioned, I have undertaken a course to refresh my Maths skills and assist with my finance role. The other courses revolve around the guidance and advice provided to students in a College setting. Whilst this helps to develop future career goals, I can also share the information learnt with colleagues in other teams as a way of promoting good practice.

If you’re a staff member at The Sheffield College then you can access a range of recommended MOOCs in our development catalogue. If not, then you can explore all that Future Learn has to offer here:

Leanne Loosemore works for The Sheffield College as a Senior Administrator in Centre Operations and Events.

Investing Time in Development Part 1- Ideas Meetings

December of 2015 not only meant a new job for me but also a new city, a new house and staff to line manage for the first time.

The line management aspect of my role has meant that I’ve encountered a great deal of expected and unexpected challenges, joys and experiences. I’m still learning all that I might be able to offer as a leader of my team but one thing I felt from the start that I might be pretty good at was our development.

In my previous job, the more than fabulous curriculum coordinator for the sixth form, Liz Lang, helped to launch a CPD offer for business support staff, before continuing it with a variety of events, initiatives and workshops. The main challenges we always faced were that the same people always contributed. Where were the rest? It became increasingly apparent that even staff who were interested in participating had been prevented from participating by their managers. What were the reasons? There was too much work to be done. They were far too busy. The time couldn’t be spared and ultimately, it was felt and stated that development wasn’t what their staff should be spending their time on- they needed to focus on doing their job well.

As anyone who knows me will be well aware, I’m of the ethos that if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. To do a job well, I’ll certainly need to dedicate my time to it. To continue doing it well, I’ll also need to learn new skills, knowledge and engage with alternative perspectives. The thing is, that also takes time and with the best will in the world, if I don’t dedicate time to it then it just doesn’t happen. An investment in myself must be made. But this investment has many more benefits besides just helping me to do my job well: it helps me to be happier at work and this feeling should never be underestimated or viewed as a ‘desirable’ rather than an ‘essential’.

I have long since been a proponent for staff engaging with their development and taking ownership but their managers can be integral to this. I don’t believe that staff can feel empowered to invest time in their own development unless their leader invests in their own development AND actively encourages staff to set aside time for their development too.

My new job meant I had a business support team in front of me and I certainly wasn’t going to waste the opportunity. When it came to development, I wanted to demonstrate the importance of investing in yourself by sharing my own learning experiences and by making sure that time was set aside for us to learn together.

One of the ways we’ve achieved this is through our ideas meetings.

In these Friday afternoon meetings, I share a video or blog that will encourage reflection and that would hopefully lead to the emergence of new ideas and solutions. We spend some time in the week (whatever time we committed to putting aside) to engage with the resource and make some notes for discussion. What drives our notes is always, ‘What is interesting?’ but also- ‘How might this interesting thing translate to us, our work, our team? What might we do differently now?’ During our meeting, we share reflections before moving to the possibilities. We don’t always firm up future actions but, quite often, we do. For the purposes of writing this blog and sharing what we’ve been doing, I asked both Chris and Helen to make a few short statements to summarise their main thoughts about each of the resources we explored.

Simon Sinek: Start with Why

What was interesting?

Chris: ‘The Limbic brain reference was very interesting, made sense of why gut reactions happen and are often right! Using ‘Why’ is a powerful way of making sense of what we are asking staff to do for training and other purposes and also in the wider areas of your life.’

Helen: ‘The WHY concept. Why gut reactions happen and why it’s often the right decision Using WHY in everything we do (NLP).’

How has your learning been applied already?

Chris: ‘Staff Development is now using the ‘Why’ concept in all communications to staff, which is having a very noticeable positive effect.’

Helen:Incorporated the WHY concept in messages to staff. Using the ‘WHY’ to encourage staff to take ownership of their own training/learning. Return rate of evaluations drastically improved since we told staff ‘WHY’.

We can’t totally measure the impact of adding the ‘why’ YET but there are some really positive indicators so far:

  • Our new staff who have accepted an invitation to the next induction has gone up by more than 50% since we added the why
  • Our evaluations used to trickle in when we sent out reminders until we added a why and we’ve made a leap of more than 100 evaluations across the college- increasing our % of development activities evaluated by 10%
  • We sent out reminders about essentials training without a why and received 25 in return. We added a why and in the week that followed, we received 73.

How might you apply your learning in the future?

Chris: ‘It has made such an impression on the way I think, that I am conscious whenever ‘Why’ crops up. It makes me question how I approach my role and how I communicate with people – ‘Why’ am I making the request?’

Helen: ‘Continue to incorporate the WHY in Staff Development. Question WHY I do things, how I do them and when I do them.’


#ldcuk16- Unconference

Click here to access this blog

What was interesting?

Chris: ‘A completely different way of viewing a conference. A way of making the day fun and meeting new people. I thought the laws were interesting: being given permission to not to have to stay and listen to conversations that were of no value to you or boring. Would be interesting to do a Development Day around this theme.’

Helen: ‘The whole concept of no agenda/structure; just basic rules to work by for the duration. Icebreaker of creating your own name badges. Make your own breakfast!’

How might you apply your learning in the future?

Chris: ‘Could be a Development Day activity or for teams to use for the Local Day. Cross College teams sharing information/best practice.’

Helen: ‘Possible Development day activity Team/department activity. Circulate to other teams/departments throughout the college.’


David Weston- Unleashing Greatness in Teachers

Click here to view this video

What was interesting?

Chris: ‘David Weston made the subject interesting and inspiring. Gave clear guidelines of how to develop trust from learners. This was interesting even from a non-academic perspective.’

Helen: ‘All of it!! Insightful commentary, made the talk interesting to listen to. Spoke in such a way a non-academic could understand the concept.’

How has your learning been applied already?

Chris: ‘Problem solving for myself and others. Collaborating and working together as a team. Understanding (Google a bit more!)’

Helen: ‘Looked for new ideas to use within the team (add-ons for Docs/Sheets/Forms etc like Autocrat, Choice eliminator etc). Frequent collaboration within the team and colleagues in another department (asking Online College for assistance when needed). Problem solving – working to find solutions (not giving up when trying to find the correct formulae in Google sheets). Understanding/Diagnosing (Google).’

How might you apply your learning in the future?

Chris: ‘Look at future CPD for both staff and myself to encourage knowledge and perception to make a skilful working life more joyful.’

Helen: ‘Future CPD opportunities for self and staff to increase knowledge and skills in job role which in turn increases the spirit and joy in practice.’


Daniel Pink- The Puzzle of Motivation

Click here to view this video

What was interesting?

Chris: ‘The candle problem was interesting as was the fact that rewards narrow your thinking and hinder creative thinking. Engagement is better for creative thinking (self-direction). FedEx day – deliver something overnight was an interesting concept. Interesting that staff are trusted to use their 20% time constructively.’

Helen: ‘Mis-match between ‘what science knows and what business does’. The candle problem (blinkered view), which can inhibit your problem solving processes / way of thinking. Incentives / rewards – narrow the focus and restricts possibilities. Management was invented. Engagement – self-directed (take away rewards but give recognition. If/then rewards destroy creativity.’

What did you agree / disagree with?

Chris: ‘Management -vs- Engagement? Better to do things because you believe in them than to be directed. Agree that carrot/stick method is outdated and that 20% time would be more productive.’

Helen: ‘Agreed: 20% time – self directed = increased creativity and productivity. Carrot/stick method outdated – Motivators/incentives should be tailored to staff/department rather than the organisation as a whole.’

How has your learning been applied already?

Chris: ‘20% time – for reviewing the videos and collating findings. For making use of the concepts discussed.’

Helen: ‘20% time thinking up new concepts in order to assist the smooth running of the department and provide robust information for other teams.’

How might you apply your learning in the future?

Chris: ‘By using self-direction and the 20% time to review working practice and how we approach training and the implementation of new ideas for staff.’

Helen: ‘Continue 20% time.’


Rinsing the cottage cheese: making CPD meaningful

Click here to read this blog

What did you agree / disagree with?

Chris: ‘Disagreed – with rinsing the cottage cheese, it is too indiscriminate – takes out the best bits as well as the worst. Staff who just do not want to be involved seem to be missed out – should the ‘Why’ be part of addressing this?’

Helen: ‘Agreed; One size fits all does not work. Disagreed: Layered approach does not capture everyone.’

What are the next steps for our ideas meetings?stairs-man-person-walking.jpg

A review of the format and frequency and perhaps a change of name too.

Last term, Chris and Helen had already begun to share find of the own and this will be sure to continue as it contributes to my learning too; taking ME away from things I would ordinarily encounter, and you know what they say about your comfort zone, learning’s best when you’re out of it.

I’d like to incorporate some live hangouts with writers of blogs, creators of videos and thought leaders so that we can question them and interact with their ideas more directly.


How about you?

If you’re a member of staff who isn’t supported by your manager to engage in your own development then get proactive:

  1. Share this blog with your manager as well as some of the research into the importance of CPD: click here for some links. State how valuable your CPDis to you, the team and your work.
  2. Bring along interesting things you’ve found to your team meetings and instigate some discussion yourself.
  3. Send interesting materials to your manager and colleagues; sharing your ideas and you’ll begin with connecting with like-minded individuals.
  4. Arrange your own lunchtime sharing groups with colleagues.
  5. If all else fails then raise the issue with your staff development department and/or a senior leader for some support.

If you’re a manager (business support or otherwise) and you’d like to try ideas meetings for your team:

  • Integrate the activity as part of a meeting you already hold.
  • If meetings are difficult then why not create an online community and share resources there?
  • Allocate the responsibility for finding a resource to a different staff member each time.

A rather wise person (Ian Grace, Motor Vehicle Lecturer) once recommended this really great book to me and here’s a little quote from it:

typorama (1)

Mini Learning Project Journal

Between April and July, a number of The Sheffield College staff volunteered to participate in a project that would help us to trial what will become the Big Learning Project from September 2016 (read more about its launch here).

The original motivation for developing this project was to address the need for CPD that would be more relevant and meaningful to each of the professionals who chose to participate in it. The Mini Learning Project presented opportunities for collaboration and discussion. It encouraged creativity and experimentation, as well as reflection and evaluation. It made a move away from ‘traditional’ CPD by being:

  • Open to all staff, no matter what their role
  • Aligned to the needs of the students/ customers/ staff
  • Relevant to the participants’ experiences
  • Impact focused
  • A collaborative and reflective process
  • A sharing of learning experiences

Staff chose to engage with this pilot for a range of reasons and these are just a few of them:

‘I am always keen to find ways in which I can make better use of my skills and improve the service I provide for students. I like to understand how others work and make practical suggestions for ways in which their working practices could be more efficient.’  

‘To have the opportunity to develop my own practice and share experiences with other     colleagues. I think it is important to continually reflect and evaluate your own practice in order to improve/keep up to date with learning pedagogies and drive up standards.’  
‘I see it as an opportunity to make observations, develop/share ideas/experiments and try them out to help make things happen – ultimately to improve the experiences of both our internal and external customers.’  

‘The opportunity to discuss and work with staff from other depts as when otherwise do we have the time? And to challenge my thinking, and to refresh my approaches to teaching.’

There were four phases to the project:

Learning Lens was a two week phase of the project provided participants with valuable reflection time.

Thinking Out Loud was a series of breakfast sessions that enabled conversation and collaboration.

Learning Journey was where participants had a chance to experiment back in their contexts.

Sharing Learning is the contents of this publication (click the image to view).


I was pleased that staff had engaged well with the project, especially given the challenge of engaging in CPD at that time of the year. Feedback so far indicates that staff greatly valued the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues; even if this was just recognising one another’s contexts and the similarities/differences between their areas of work. The experiments had various levels of success and a greater emphasis on their measuring of impact would have been beneficial. I’ve had to give thought to how I’ll create an online community as well as face-to-face one and generate more flexibility throughout the year for project start and end dates.

I’m pleased that all staff had the chance to explore an area of their work or practice most meaningful to them; the whole advantage of running CPD in this way.

What’s next?

Well, I’ve learnt from the pilot and the Big Learning Project will commence with six phases from September 2016, heightening the focus on engaging with existing evidence/thinking/practice as well as later explorations of impact. Staff can register their interest between now and September and the first project-eers will commence their learning in late September.

#ShapingCPD- Shaping a Learning Culture


‘The Mirage describes the widely held perception among education leaders that we already know how to help teachers improve, and that we could achieve our goal of great teaching in far more classrooms if we just applied what we know more widely. Our research suggests that despite enormous and admirable investments of time and money, we are much further from that goal than has been acknowledged, and the evidence base for what actually helps teachers improve is very thin.’

Click here to read the document

Fears often exist for staff where their CPD is concerned- how can they be certain it’s going to be used to empower them rather than to be used against them?

Change is a process not an event. Introducing new approaches to CPD should therefore expect to carefully navigate the fears and lack of trust staff may have. 

Lesson observations can often be a key contributor to the fears staff may have- could they be provided ‘on demand’? Perhaps this approach would help to build trust around what is a developmental process.

Time will ALWAYS be a barrier to good quality CPD taking place. Leaders must carve out the time for it otherwise things will NEVER change.

Be aware that any accountability measures are sure to undermine any culture of learning you’re attempting to create.

Shaping a learning culture

To what extent is the emphasis on what is to be taught rather than what and how well the recipient learns?

How much discussion, collaboration, sharing and verbalising of goals and ideas is a distinct part of the learning process in your day to day working life?

How do we create the time?

How is outstanding learning and teaching modelled, shared and disseminated so that there is deep understanding and consensus of what works well?

How does collaborative learning create opportunities for innovation?

What opportunities are there for learners to reflect with others on how they solved a problem, developed a new strategy or made a successful change in order to evaluate progress and set new learning goals and targets?

School led teacher learning and research

  • It takes place over months and not days
  • The classroom is the central location of the professional learning activity
  • Collaboration between one/more professionals- preferably in the classroom
  • Experimentation and enquiry

Leaders get involved too. This kind of activity results in a co-evolution of new practice. 

A great teacher will solve 30 problems within a 30 year career. Then they die. Usually, none of this is shared. 1000 flowers blooming individually but never enhancing one another’s colour. This needs to change.

In Japan, the lesson studies teachers undertake help to inform curriculum changes: every 5 years universities gather it all up and make sense of it in order to transform what the curriculum looks like. Click here to access the World Association of Lesson Studies

Thinking points

Cultural consistency- how can it be ensured across an MAT or a large college?

How do we provide teachers with meaningful recognition?

Are we providing too many different routes into teaching?

Do too many of these routes (TeachFirst for instance) lead to too great Teach First provides a cliff edge that doesn’t exist in other routes.. Or does it?

How do we get past the need to recruit quickly so that we can enter the more secure world of careful recruitment?

How might we ensure our accountability to our students is placed at the centre of our engagement in professional learning?

How can we ensure lesson observations lead to development, without being fooled into thinking that because they’re not graded, they’ll automatically lead to development? 

How can we structure appraisals so that they contribute to development, as well as valuing risk taking?- What are you going to do? Which area of your practice are you going to master? What activity are you going to engage with in order to achieve this? How will you know you’ve achieved it?

How might we encourage more of our staff to share when things don’t work as more learning can result from this?

Teacher learning and development is important not because ‘you need to’ but because ‘we could do better’. Dylan Wiliam.

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The Best CPD…EVER!

#ShapingCPD- Initial Reflections

#ShapingCPD – The Keynotes

After this event a couple of months ago, I recorded my initial reflections about the day and subsequently shared an account of the best CPD I have ever participated in. What follows are notes on the content of the keynotes part of the day. I’m rather later than intended in typing these up but returning to them after the event has been beneficial for my learning.

Continue reading “#ShapingCPD – The Keynotes”