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/

Guest Post – Understanding Depression and Low Mood in Young People

This guest post comes from Emma Currie, a tutor mentor who writes about her recent completion of an online course via Future Learn.

After recently completing ‘Understanding Depression and Low Mood in Young People’ (accredited by the University of Reading) I was very impressed by the content and informal assessment strategies, even more so when trialing some of the approaches with my students.

Firstly the exploration of different perspectives; a young person; the parents and those working with young people; gave good advice, prompts and direct questions to use in certain situations to encourage teenagers to talk to someone about their thoughts to ensure their safety.

Suggestions on how to approach the topic of low mood and self harm with a young person in a non judgmental but supportive manner resonated with me as it is something I feel I am coming across more and more within my role.  

Discussion around the connection of low mood, depression and self harm offered  ways and questioning techniques to help better understand self harm. By thinking about:

  • What are the triggers?
  • How does it help with things – e.g does it stop overwhelming thoughts, or block out painful emotions?
  • Are there any situations or people which help you not to self-harm?

The course also examined other strategies which could also lead to considering alternative coping mechanisms.

Finally, the links between depression, low mood, sleep and healthy eating were reviewed offering ways to identify a repeating cycle in order to alter the thought processes and ultimately break the chain of events.  

The course reminds us that we aren’t alone in our struggles and offers many sign posted to specific organisations and charities for help and further information.

I have been a Tutor Mentor at the college since the role was created, I have attended various training events and completed a number of courses that focus on depression and low mood. When given the opportunity to engage in this course online I jumped at the chance, as a way to enhance my understanding and new ways of thinking. I have been working with a young person that is struggling with sleep and I tried a new approach (questioning) as suggested on the course and I was so impressed with how the conversation opened up. I feel the information shared is something I can embed greatly into my role, making me more effective.

I cannot recommend this course enough. It is well worth the time spent.

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/depression-young-people

Guest Blog – Technology: A propaedeutic enchiridion!

One of my favourite things to do if I get a free(!) bit of time at work is to talk to Ken Crow (Games Development lecturer at The Sheffield College) about technology. I asked if he wouldn’t mind sharing some of his thoughts with a wider audience and he kindly agreed.

Technology : A propaedeutic enchiridion! (or adventures with “The Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer”).

“Before you become too entranced with gorgeous gadgets and mesmerizing video displays, let me remind you that information is not knowledge, knowledge is not wisdom and wisdom is not foresight. Each grows out of the other and we need them all.” – Arthur C. Clarke.

If the title of this somewhat meandering guest blog didn’t put you off reading the rest of it (and it probably should have) then I’d like to introduce this personal reflection by recounting an experience that I had with my daughter earlier this year. Being 15 and very much into rock (Daddy’s little girl), my 15 year old Gothic progeny and I attended a rock gig at the Sheffield Arena. While shaking one’s head, gesticulating with obscure hand signals and singing along to some of my favourite tunes while simultaneously trying not to embarrass my daughter, I observed 2 phenomenon that really hit home with how I’ve have been trying to integrate technology in my teaching over the past 18 years or so.

The first was my daughter’s artistic ability to take photographs on her smartphone, edit and filter images, annotate them and send them flying into the ether in a matter of seconds using only her thumbs. She managed this typing faster than I can when sat at a full keyboard and it made me think that perhaps culturally, the term ‘All thumbs’ needed redefining for a new generation.

Secondly was the ocean of mobile phones recording the events of the evening. This particularly struck home in a technological hypocritical moment as I captured the image of hundreds of people using their mobile phones to save their memories… with, as you will have guessed, my mobile phone.

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So why have I recounted these events (other than to prove that at middle age I’m still a little bit cool and can rock with the best of them)? And what impact does this have on the teaching and learning in my classroom? I’ll return to this question later but first I’d like the opportunity to muse on what I consider a significant barrier to those considering new technology in the classroom.

Fear of new-tech in the teaching and learning journey

It seems that these days not a month goes by without someone suggesting new and improved technological ways of teaching and learning. There are apps, links, web pages, theories, cycles, models, grids, tables, VLEs, blogs, tweet-meets, hashtags, learning communities, hangouts, Facebook pages, platforms, applets; the list is endless and it seems to grow minute by minute. I mean, I don’t know about you, but I was under the impression that a taxonomy was a haven where the ultra-rich invested in off-shore accounts while holidaying in the Maldives.

But how do we keep up? This content is distilled, filtered and delivered 24/7/365 at the speed of light down wires and across the ether. It’s not inappropriate to voice what is a fear for all of us, even those that engage wholeheartedly with technology in our teaching.

What is this new fangled learning thingamy and will I get left behind if I don’t use it in my classroom?

I think the answer to this question is really important. Our motivation for using technology in our respective learning environments should follow a priority of teaching and learning need and although the ‘powers that be’ may push some technology priority further up the bullet point list for the need of collating workable data, (at this point I should put in the disclaimer that the points of view of Ken Crow in this guest blog are not necessarily those of The Sheffield College), technology in the learning environment needs to be planned and follow a specific set of guidelines that places the learner and not the teacher as the focus of the learning tool.

So here is a friendly checklist that helps me decide if I’m going to use a new fangled learning thingamy in my teaching.

The Ken Crow ‘C-U-Right’ New Fangled Learning Thingamy (NFLT) Checklist

  1. Does the NFLT link my learners to resources (curriculum and supportive) that help them learn more effectively?
  2. Does the NFLT help to support the learners (those with barriers and without) in their learning journey?
  3. Does the NFLT empower the learner to experiment with new learning experiences that expand the scope of learning?
  4. Does the NFLT connect learning, learners and teachers together?
  5. Can the Learner use or access the NFLT at their convenience, whenever and where-ever they want to learn?
  6. Does the NFLT offer flexibility to learners of running on most hardware and software platforms that can interface with a multitude of environments?

If the answer to these prioritised questions is yes then I will explore an NFLT a little more closely.

You may have noticed that I left a few things out. It is my conviction that if any of the following reasons are used as a priority for using a new tool in a learning environment, there’s a reasonable chance that a teacher is just adding another admin task to (let’s face it) an already huge list of admin tasks.

I tend to shy away from motivations for using a new tool in my classroom if it is made to appeal to me with the following features.

  • It saves the teacher time
  • It collects data together in one place
  • It polices the learners’ engagement
  • It reduces admin tasks
  • It makes preparation easier

Now here’s the trick, although I expect you might be horrified by the statement I’ve just made please let me assure you that in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. The right tool in the right situation that focuses on the learner rather than on other outcomes will always save me time, collect the data that I need in one place, monitor engagement, reduce that amount of admin that I do and make my preparation easier.

Perhaps I should have articulated these ideas in a much shorter statement. If I can trust a new fangled learning thingamy to be entirely learner focused it will follow as a by -product that all of the other features will emerge as an efficient use of the technology.

But not everything is rosy. I would still suggest that the most powerful tools are those where the educator uses a curriculum framework to build content. In my experience with 3 Virtual Learning Environments (Moodle, Google and OneNote) I am using a tool that means I build both structure and content. By molding my VLE to my learners and their qualification specification, all of the additional benefits of using the technology are a byproduct of the process. I believe that there is no such thing as a free lunch; learning to use powerful technological tools in our learning environments will reap benefits but it does require some effort to learn ‘up-front’. Luckily though, you’ve now got a handy checklist to measure whether you should engage with a useful tool for your teaching practice. 🙂

‘The Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer’download

I’m taking this opportunity to break up my guest blog with a book review. I am a huge fan of the cyberpunk novelist Neal Stephenson and in his post-cyberpunk sci-fi novel ‘The Diamond Age’ he detailed a most extraordinary publication. Neal’s novel and the illustrated primer has had more impact on my theories of teaching than any text book I’ve read and although “Teaching Today” is probably my favourite practical teaching text, (sorry all you educational academics that poo-poo Mr Petty’s great contribution to practical teaching), the Diamond Age would go on to significantly inspire my teaching practice.

The interactive ‘Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer’ is a book where the pages are animated and the educational content changes based on the environment that it is in and need of the reader using it. (I’m not explaining how it works here but The Diamond Age is a really good read if you’re interested). The book is stolen from an upper class family and lands in the hands of a young girl from the poor side of society. Through a series of adventures, stories and characters the book first helps Nell survive and defend herself but then goes on to teach her skills that would eventually raise her social status and change her life by helping her reach her full potential. The central inspiration in my own experience of learning and eventually teaching is that the individual journey of learning is unique and is required to move the learner from their unique starting point to a unique finish line, all the while facilitating the development of a formal body of knowledge and skill.

Sometimes I see the echoes and shadows of the Illustrated Primer in tools and apps that I look at across the internet, (even in the internet itself). There is a trend in some of these tools that worries me though. In his book, Neal acknowledges the importance of the personal link between educator and learner. The book is an interface between teachers and Nell, having been hired until the job is done her teachers are motion captured into characters that deliver the learning in the book.

Teaching is a collaborative undertaking between learners and educators, I’m not sure that technology can take the place of that relationship. The internet and technology in the classroom are powerful aids in the delivery of our curriculum but can automated apps and platforms really replace the interface between a formal body of knowledge and a unique learning journey? My opinion on this is no, it cannot.

This is not an excuse for things to remain static as teachers roles may change as technology develops but there still needs to be the foundation of a personal link between learner and subject area. I am extremely wary of one-size-fits-all or automated applications applied in teaching practice. As I’ve already discussed I would suggest that a teacher needs to build their own structure and content, supported by technology in order to ensure their presence remains an important part of the learners’ journey both in the physical delivery and curriculum content.

The Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer will always inspire me as a teaching tool, it’s a technical marvel as only can be conceived in a sci-fi epic but it never aims to replace the relationship between teacher and student.

Technology is so rock and roll.

So going back to the concert and my original question; What impact does my daughter’s snapchat photo editing and hundreds of mobiles phones raised into the air have on my classroom?

Technology is everywhere in the cultural experience of the learner, it is so ubiquitous as to be invisible to those that use it at every scale in their personal and college lives. Learners cannot be separated from their tech-devices, they build their interfacing lives around the devices that they use. This puts every learner in a unique position with regard to the way that they experience college life. What to learn, how to learn, how to interface and how to communicate is all influenced by their choice and use of devices.

Young people (like my daughter) learn skills that while are seemingly completely transient (snapchat picture editing for instance) are still significant in their own right. It’s easy to disregard what learners bring to college in terms of the skills that they have learned personally or at school but if we pause for a minute and acknowledge the shear breadth of IT experience that learners bring into our building, we would have to admit that there is significant skill set there.

Setting aside for a minute that I am interested in technology (no surprise there), if I ask my self, Why do I engage with new technologies in the classroom and keep my skills up to date? I would have to answer that I think it is my job to make learning compatible with the learners’ experience not demand that the learner moves toward what I traditionally know as IT skills. The discomfort that I wish my learners to feel is the challenge of the learning journey, not my demanding that they learn a traditional set of tech skills that they will never use again. If I’m being honest about how I first learned to use the internet and then made my learners use the same tools then I would be teaching Usenet groups, IRC and UNIX.

For me, embedding new technology in the classroom is not a fool’s errand to try and keep up with an ever increasing speed of development but rather is building bridges between the formal requirements of the curriculum and an ever changing, ever modern digital literacy.

See, I told you! You should have stopped at propaedeutic enchiridion!

Guest Blog – What good schools know and do

Monday 6 November 2017 and John Hattie was going to be in Sheffield. It would be an opportunity to meet the man himself. Unfortunately (or perhaps not so unfortunately), I would be enjoying the sun in Lanzarote, but I wanted a colleague to benefit from the opportunity. A prize draw took place and the lucky winners were notified.

What follows are notes taken by Matt Cannon, Science teacher, and a colleague he met at the conference on the day. There will be some questions to reflect upon and notions to consider against your own practice. The hope is that it will challenge existing thinking and the questions might prove productive, alongside some supporting reading or resources, for a team meeting or similar.

The importance of Impact

How teachers teach is irrelevant. We should only care about the impact.

Be cautious about staff who say ‘I’m this kind of teacher’, as we can’t guarantee ‘that kind of learner.’

We are evaluators – How do I know that what I am doing is working? What am I comparing it to? What value/impact am I having? If it’s not working how do we provide reliable evidence and support to encourage staff to change?  

Engagement

We don’t engage children to learn. When children learn they become engaged.

Small vs Large Classes

When we look at staffing groups do we consider who is effective with large / small classes? Do the skills for effective delivery to large and small classes differ? Evidence shows that smaller classes teach more. What are teachers doing differently in smaller classes than larger classes?

Growth Mindset

Growth mindset ONLY has impact when students are in a position of struggle. Only then is it better than a fixed mindset. This is about student confidence, and resilience.

Homework

Time doesn’t matter (5 or 30 mins). The worst homework is a project as it’s ineffective and relies on parental engagement (still applicable to older or adult learners?). Homework to practice what they’ve already learned is good. Assessment of homework is vital for it to have impact on learning.

School Leadership

Instructional leadership approaches are more effective than transformational leadership.

Questioning

Self-verbalisation, peer tutoring and peer influences are especially significant where deep learning is concerned. Against such high impact strategies, on average, teachers talk 87% of the time in class. (esp on deep learning)

Most questions asked in class, staff and students know the answer to and they require less than 1 second of thinking and therefore level of challenge is not high.

Student Questioning

How many questions about the work do students ask that they don’t know the answer to? On average = 2.

Goal Difficulty

Students will invest heavily in challenging goals (as long as they’re not too hard) if it’s engaging. Learning Objectives without success criteria are pointless. Learning Objectives should be linked closely to success criteria. Success criteria should be the same for all – it is just how individuals get there and the time taken to get there will differ. It’s important that the destination is the same. The other vital aspect of success criteria is that they’re centred around what learning will take place, rather than what products will be created.

Classroom Discussions

These are important for a teacher judging their impact as it’s where we hear it articulated.

Learning and Failure

How do we get students to see that when they get things wrong they are moving in the right direction?

How do we allow children to fail?

CPD

This is not about how we deliver it but it’s about teachers better understanding the impact they have on their students. Building a coalition of trust and success around teachers is important.

Successful teachers see learning through the eyes of the student. Successful students see themselves as their own teachers. Students can do this at age 5 but lose the ability by the age of 8.

Metacognition

When students are faced with a problem we need to consider :

  • How they can manage their emotional response
  • How they find a starting point
  • Students need to consider their approach – mathematical, drawing, guess and check
  • Students need to remember their strategy
  • Good teachers will apply that strategy to new problems

**When students find a successful process, how do we explicitly link the process to new problems?

What strategies do we deliberately teach our students?

  • What do students do before / during / after when posed with a problem or task?
  • How does this fit in teaching across subjects?
  • How do we develop mindset in students where pupils actively seek feedback and set own success criteria?
  • What is the link to aspiration?
  • How do we capture students individual learning intention and feedback against that?
  • Do staff model effective use of different strategies?
  • Do staff ensure students have opportunities to use different strategies?
  • Use instructional goals and feedback – not for students to monitor and plan their own learning – they need guidance.
  • Do staff provide opportunities for self evaluation?

**3-5 years to change the culture of a school

Student Voice – Craig Parkinson

Treasure Hunt not witch hunt. 

Trust and not accountability for what students say 

Why do it?

  • Evidence of impact
  • Development
  • Staff have to be prepared to fail (hear criticism)
  • Feedback to staff needs to happen, be honest, supportive for change, impact monitored.
  • How does student voice increase effectiveness of teaching and learning?
  • What tools can we use to capture student voice(SV)?
  •  Is SV primarily to gather good impact? How effective is it for change? Do we triangulate SV with walkthroughs, obs…? What do we then do about it? Where does SV sit in Quality Assurance(QA)? Does it confirm / add to big picture or do we use it to guide the QA? Does SLT ask why certain students have been selected and what questions are being asked?
  • Do students verbalise what they are doing or what they are learning?
  • What is the language of learning we use as staff?
  • Do we (SLT) discuss SV and then summarise this into 4 key actions points to feed back to staff?

Open questions 

What do you want to thank your teachers for?

What would you ask your teachers to change?

Collective Efficacy

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Image available from here

A shared understanding and ethos. Staff believe that through their collective actions they can positively influence outcomes for students.

1) My job is to cause learning. I change students.  

Student control over learning has limited impact unless the teacher guides and acts as the control / expert.

Staff to take credit when progress is good – they caused that learning.

2) The role of expectations 

I explicitly inform students what successful impact looks like from the onset.

Student expectations are more powerful than teacher expectations.

The teacher’s job is to check expectations and help children exceed their expectations.

3) I am an evaluator of my impact 

Evaluation of impact of T&L – Who did I affect, about what, how much?

80% of what goes on in a classroom is unseen/unheard so make sure to evaluate the 20%

Every child deserves to make at least 1 year progress in 1 year.

4) Progress to proficiency  

How do we get to top right? How do we stay in top right?

If you plotted your students on this chart, how could it help you to better support students?

Biggest issue for progress are those students who are above average but cruising!

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Image available from here

5) Evaluative thinking  

Not what teachers do, it’s how teachers think.

I skills

  • Is self-aware
  • Is a learner
  • Can manage conflict through collaborative sense making
  • Demonstrates social sensibility

We skills

  • Collective efficacy
  • Shared purpose to improve
  • Problem solving
  • Trust
  • Strength Based

Social sensitivity is crucial – opportunities to discuss learning not what is being taught; shared across departments and visiting other schools.

Need collective motivators – positive, credible feedback

6) impact  

How do we measure a year’s impact. What does it look like?

What are the early indicators that progress is not being made – these observations should lead to intervention

7) Teachers are to DIiE for 

Diagnose

Interventions

Implement

Evaluate

Do teachers have a common concept of progress?

8) School leaders  

They construct a narrative around impact

They build trust

They move from ‘plans and good plans’ to ‘purposeful practice for all’

They ensure all are involved

They share joint ownership of all students and all successes as a result of the above actions and activity

Key Messages

Visible learners

Inspired and passionate teachers

Know the impact

Feedback

Children just want to know, ‘Where to next?’

Guest Blog – A Day Out at Google HQ

This guest blog comes from Nick Hart, a Lecturer in Engineering at The Sheffield College. He and colleagues have recently made the move to Google Classroom and so we funded his trip to an event that might provide further inspiration. Turns out, it did.

 

Ok so thoughts on Google…

Incredible, mind blowing, inspirational, endless possibilities, potential are all words I would use as an educator for the Google family of software.

As a dad and a human the word I would use is scary!

But with my educator hat on I have to think about the time we could save, the efficiency we could build into our working life, and the positive effect we could have on our students’ experience here at College.

In no particular order:

Forms

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A fantastic way of collating information from different sources. I could see this being a great way of doing all of the following-

  • A plenary. Exit ticket.
  • ‘What a good one looks like’ (WAGOLL) activities for students to respond to
  • The forms could though be used by our technical assessor facilitators to create a record of industrial visits/work completed by student/evidence of knowledge. The information could then be collated through an extension called Autocrat and put into a Google Doc or PDF for a neat and tidy record.

Sheets

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Mind blowing…

Geo charts is a way of evidencing data captured as a heat map (on a map). This can then be linked to a presentation file and remain live and linked.

Something called sparkline which gives a really quick idea of what a graph would look like for one line of data.

Sheets is a spreadsheet with all the functionality of a normal spreadsheet. It will also answer questions which are worded rather than a formula. The Explore button, bottom right, will allow the user to interrogate the data with a written question.

There was mention of a couple of add-ons which I haven’t yet had chance to play with. Goobric and Doctopus both are aimed at automating marking.

Docs

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The use of the explore button was explained here and the link with creating citations which Kieran Briggs had already shown me. The students love it by the way.

If you use tools – document outline it will create an automatic heading menu.

One that I really like and is connected to the comments is the ability to download the document as a webpage. This then includes the comments and links the comments to the text written by the student. This could be useful for when we have an external verifier who can’t use Google (heaven forbid!).

Slides

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The presenting part of the Google suite (that’s what they call it). It is really making sense to switch for me, it’s just the time factor converting everything. A couple of things that I liked were:

  • The link with keep, you can include keep notes in slides and then present them within a presentation. If you change them in keep then they change in slides too.
  • You can insert a YouTube video into a slides presentation and trim the length of the video, change the start or the end point of it.

 

There were a few fun bits too

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  • Google trends – if you search Google trends visualiser it makes a really good starter for classes.
  • My maps – again could be a starter or an ice breaker. (also great for the geography department!)
  • Be internet awesome – brilliant for younger people or people with younger minds for teaching internet safety.
  • The teachable machine – making geeks out of normal people with a camera.
  • Reverse image search, drag an image into google image search and it’ll tell you anything about it. (not people, although I’m sure it’ll do that as well).
  • Google earth time lapse – clue’s in the name.
  • Set timer for – if you type ‘set timer for’ into Google in the chrome browser, it’s an automatic timer.
  • Type in ‘fun facts’ and you get fun facts, which then allow you to talk about them in class. (‘I’m feeling curious’ will do something similar).

 

Really important bits –

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Image available from here

Equatio – it’s an extension which I have nearly got working perfectly in class. You can write an equation in and it will convert it to text which can then be inserted into a doc. I have had a maths teacher using it today and he thought it brilliant and would save him hours preparing documents and resources.

I would also like to use it for mathematical assignments, in conjunction with a chrome book and a tablet (not an iPad type thing but a graphical input), the students could then work on their own document live and write in the text. Equatio then converts it into the document and you then have an auditible trail of evidence.

Realtime board – essentially an infinite white board. This could be superb as you could do a years work on one white board and then frame each sessions writing and be able to refer back to it later in the year. Jamboard, an expensive and small white board. Not for me, the software though could be even better than realtime board and can do handwriting recognition. But it’s the collaboration which may be better.

Forms were being used for all sorts of applications but exit tickets were high on the list as I mentioned before.

 

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.

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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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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.

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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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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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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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.

Teacher Wellbeing- Day 1

On Friday 9th June, I got up at a ridiculously early hour and headed down to Cambridge for the day – all in pursuit of wellbeing. More traditional approaches to improving wellbeing might be a session in the gym, some meditation or a walk in the park to notice nature – not quite the same as an 8 hour round train trip, yet I held the firm belief that it would be worth it.

Ever since @MartynReah launched #teacher5aday on Twitter, wellbeing was placed firmly on my radar. I regularly began questioning what I was doing about my own stress levels and as I entered leadership roles, there was an emerging need to do this more effectively. This was further reinforced over the last few years for a number of reasons and I soon recognised I wasn’t alone in my struggle for better wellbeing. Those around me: teachers, leaders, support staff- were all in battles of their own; better work-life balance, less stress, improved health.

The networks of support I have been able to access over the last few years have aided my learning and made me feel a part of a wider community. First with the #teacher5aday initiative, #ukedchat, #ukfechat, then with #WomenEd and now with the Chartered College. I have already benefitted from access to thousands of journals as part of my membership and their inclusive approach is refreshing; it’s rare that membership organisations do what they say they will in this regard. Soon after joining the College, they advertised a two day wellbeing CPD opportunity that would involve a short experiment in between the two days. I was well and truly sold by their CPD approach that seemed as though it would meet the standard for teachers’ professional development AND I’d get a free book to boot!

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My general aim for the programme was to learn more about wellbeing for myself and colleagues. My hope was that we could learn from the experiment and that we would end up with a clearer sense of how to improve the wellbeing for staff. This had become an incredibly important part of my current job role. I lead on CPD across a large FE College and before we can truly engage staff in their professional learning, we will need to create the right conditions of honesty, trust and integrity. If we can manage this then I believe a further consequence will be that staff wellbeing will improve as they will feel supported, trusted and able to take the kinds of risks that have real payoff for their students.

What follows are my notes on Day 1 of the programme with Dr Tim O’Brien (@doctob), Visiting Fellow, Psychology and Human Development, UCL IoE and Dr Dennis Guiney, Educational Psychologist, Former Associate Lecturer UCL IoE.

Day 2 is next week and I’ll be able to share how the experiment has gone at that point… and I’ll definitely be taking my iPad. Whilst writing this blog from 9 pages of A4 notes (!) has allowed me to reflect further on my learning, typed notes will be far easier for me to translate! I apologise in advance for what might read more like a stream of consciousness than a structured blogpost.

What is wellbeing anyway?

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An activity we were asked to do early on in the day was to consider what 5 things we’d place in a bag for our wellbeing. Having worked with a coach recently, I found that these 5 things bubbled to the surface quite easily for me and this helped me to realise how far my journey has come in figuring out the positive influences on my wellbeing and what I value. We weren’t asked to share the 5 things and were told this in advance – I love it when reflective and personal activities are set-up in this way as it allows everyone to be so much more honest with themselves. That extra layer of having to reveal your thoughts with the rest of the room, as yet unknown, is enormously intimidating and I felt grateful I wouldn’t be asked to painfully expose my introverted self in this way.

Why Wellbeing?

We then spent some time exploring the need for a focus on ‘wellbeing’ at all; sharing personal aims for the day as well as setting our personal aims within a broader context.

  • It would be important for us to look at wellbeing beyond ‘lip service’; something far more sustainable would be sought.
  • Poor wellbeing was frequently, although certainly far from exclusively, a result of relentless journeys out of ‘requires improvement’ and ‘special measures’.
  • Ever-increasing workload is serving to pull the rug out from underneath teachers.

We still live within a world where mental health is viewed as a taboo subject. We need to reach the point in our schools and colleges where it’s ok for staff to say, ‘I’m not doing too great right now’ so that we can have those conversations about what might help. The situation we currently have (one of many) is that staff are endlessly struggling in silence to the point that their work is affected, they can’t see a way to improve things so they take time off sick; sometimes never returning to the profession as their stress has been so high and level of support so low.

Defining wellbeing

‘Wellness’ is seen to reference solely physical health whereas we felt that ‘wellbeing’ was, beneficially, concerned with the whole being. After discussing possible definitions of ‘wellbeing’. There were various themes discussed by groups but there were patterns to be found. The ‘regulation of emotion’ was seen as significant. Someone struggling with their wellbeing might spike between different emotions but moving to a space with fewer spikes was viewed positively. The ‘zone of proximal development’ was referenced too and whilst the ideal would be to enter this zone, we can all too often be balancing on the edge of it, struggling to regulate emotions. Environmental factors can have enormous influence on our wellbeing but we do have power and control over how we respond to these factors (excluding any poor mental health). If staff have better awareness of the signs that their wellbeing is becoming affected and also have a variety of resources they can draw on (both internal and external) then they’re more likely to be stable more often. We debated the difference between pressure (which can be good) and stress (which is not!). We discussed whether wellbeing could be seen as being the absence of fear and panic or perhaps this was too narrow a definition. I believe there to be mileage in further exploring the interplay between values and wellbeing- where our values are compromised then surely our wellbeing will be affected too…

Our facilitators, Tim and Dennis, shared that wellbeing originated from the ‘positive psychology’ movement. ‘A state of being comfortable, healthy and happy,’ was presented as a possible definition and yet this brings its own challenges- what is ‘happy’ after all? Perhaps a state of ‘contentment’ is more helpful than ‘happy’. ‘States of being’ exist and all of these should be noticed – recognised for what they are and embraced so that ‘wellbeing’ becomes more intimate and less of an ethereal and distant something or other. If we are not able to embrace our feelings but deny them then it could be seen that our wellbeing is even more heavily affected.

I could see already that I was moving towards a definition that involved ‘awareness’ somehow – an acceptance of the moments when our wellbeing isn’t ok and seeing this as normal but also the understanding to recognise when our wellbeing has got beyond ‘not ok’, or even better to identify when it’s headed that way so that different resources can be drawn upon before a crisis point arrives.

This discussion was incredibly helpful to begin framing how we all viewed ‘wellbeing’ and the terms of reference in moving forward with the remainder of the programme.

Self-esteems and self-compassion

Self-esteem has been seen, for a long time, as the solution to confidence and happiness. It’s misleading as it’s surely more accurate to view ourselves as having multiple ‘self-esteems’.

Self-compassion is perhaps more helpful for wellbeing- it means recognising a feeling and doing something about it; recognising what you need and meeting that need. I’ve been focusing far more on my self-compassion in recent months and have found this page of short exercises especially helpful- http://self-compassion.org/category/exercises/

Stress and Anxiety

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Stress is externally influenced and is an actual threat; an over-stimulation of the senses.

Anxiety is a perceived threat and is created from within.

We can see pressure as existing as a motivator until the point where our internal resources feel lacking or redundant and it becomes stress. Stress can also originate from an external source that becomes internalised.

What may make stress for teachers different to other professions may be in us metaphorically taking our students home with us (in a similar way to social workers or health professionals perhaps). There is prominent tension, worry and apprehension.

Generalised anxiety is a predictor of poor mental health as it can snowball so that one anxiety leads to another until no internal resources remain.

Free-floating anxiety is of concern as it can locate itself somewhere and emerge with little warning (think of the student who kicks off in a lesson for no apparent reason). As it locates itself at random then it might be the case that what someone feels anxious about or fearful of may have nothing to do with the cause of the anxiety. Hyper-accountability (good is never good enough) can lead to free-floating anxiety.

Allowing staff to speak about these things more openly will help us to see these predictors and take appropriate action and/or provide effective support. People working in other professions – surgeons or air traffic controllers for instance – absolutely have to talk about anything affecting them as the consequences would be so dire. Whilst our poor wellbeing would not necessarily lead to anyone else’s death, surely it’s just as vital for staff to feel they can share how they’re feeling? Rather than ask, ‘What’s the problem?’ it’s better to ask, ‘What’s happening?’ Share that you’ve noticed something about the person recently (they may feel glad that you’ve noticed it as it saves them having to bring it up themselves) and ‘Why is that?’

With millions of pieces of data flying at us, our brain uses ‘patterning’ to process it all- hide/ reveal/ hide/ reveal/ hide/ reveal… What is revealed to us is what we spend our time and focus on. Fear and anxiety can result from what we focus on as it becomes all-consuming. Our brains like equilibrium- we need to make meaning of something so we may make more of one thing until it dominates our thoughts so much that it begins to control our thoughts. This can result in us catastrophising – and things like imposter syndrome creep in.

False

Evidence

Appearing

Real

It’s why certain conversations, that seem helpful, can prove to be the exact opposite in reality. ‘I’m so stressed’. ‘Tell me about why you’re stressed…’ – this can just reveal our stresses to us for our focus to remain on.

What’s different about teaching?

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  • We’ll never really arrive at a point where we’re on track- the human element. Every child is different. Every year presents new challenges.
  • The emotional aspect and the strain of this
  • Decision making fatigue
  • Our concept of duty

The people who choose teaching as a profession are probably the least suitable for it as they’re unable to switch themselves off to many of the stressors and nor would they be willing to- it’s quite often their why. @KLMorgan_2 shared this, I think.

Going into education can tear some people apart as it’s not possible to meet everyone’s needs yet it’s what is strived for on a daily basis.

A darker side effect of stress affecting so many teachers is that in some schools and colleges, a stressed teacher can be understood as an incompetent one.

Teachers, within their classrooms, may be made to feel at times by their organisation that they are required to justify their actions constantly- just ‘being’ is not possible for these teachers and their control is gradually taken away from them. Power vs control and autonomy vs accountability exist on continuums. Move towards more control and accountability with less support and we’re reaching a peak point for stress and sickness for colleagues. If these teachers’ actions are for leadership and/or Ofsted then their wellbeing is likely to be compromised far more than teachers working in environments who feel empowered to make their decisions for themselves and their students.

Research

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We were given an opportunity to explore what research had to say about wellbeing prior to discussing possible interventions.

I’m gradually gathering relevant reading, videos and images (including research) at this link- http://www.pearltrees.com/hannahtyreman/wellbeing/id15144400 Thank you to everyone who has cntributed suggestions for this page so far. They will all be added in due course!

Some research into stress indicates that our ability to learn is heavily affected if we are stressed. ‘In fact, duration of stress is almost as destructive as extreme stress. Goleman explained, “Cortisol stimulates the amygdala while it impairs the hippocampus, forcing our attention onto the emotions we feel, while restricting our ability to take in new information” (pp. 273-274). This can help us to see how our performance at work can be heavily affected by stress.

Brine and Dewberry explored how staff wellbeing is key to school success. Finding the positive in wellbeing was important for staff- if they could understand what affected their wellbeing positively then they could make more space for that- feeling valued and cared for, job stimulation and enjoyment, feeling part of a team- for instance.

The report we read from them was exploring the possible relationship between teacher wellbeing and pupil performance. Their research (in short and based on my notes) found an 8% variance in SATs results at primary level and a difference in students achieving GCSEs at A*-C at secondary level. They also found that where there was an increase in job stimulation and enjoyment, there was a positive influence on value added. They didn’t find the same for staff beyond teachers but they did find that the wellbeing of an individual did not have as much of an impact than a group. Perhaps this could relate to the concept of ‘social capital’ over ‘human capital’.

It’s important to state that they saw a relationship between the two- one did not necessarily cause the other. This relationship, it could be said, works both ways though in that students’ performance may well affect staff wellbeing as well as working the other way. If this is the case then it could be seen that in an environment where student outcomes are not high then staff wellbeing could be lower than in a high performing school.

Whilst the relationship is interesting, approaching wellbeing from the angle of improving student achievement would quite obviously be a dangerous route to head down. We shouldn’t be attempting to improve staff wellbeing on the basis of this. This would be an incredibly misplaced source of motivation.

Framing our experiment

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In defining our experiment, it was helpful for us to explore who we wanted to impact and how.

Tim spoke of

  1. Meeting the common needs of the majority- needs shared in a more global way such as a sense of belonging or basic human needs we all share.
  2. Meeting the distinct needs of minority groups- gender, sexuality, faith- for instance women being more susceptible to imposter syndrome for instance. It’s important to bear in mind that whilst there may be patterns within a minority group, it won’t be the case that all the people within that group will have the same needs.
  3. Meeting an individual’s needs- perhaps the greatest challenge of all as needs will be unique to each person at a moment in time therefore we need to have a wider sense of impact.

 

What Next?

After Day 1, we connected on Twitter, formed our interventions for our own contexts and Day 2 will be all about sharing learning with one another. This is the moment where we will all (hopefully) find out from one another what has worked (or not), where and why (not). I’ll blog again after Day 2 and I’m hoping, as my intervention concludes next week, that I’ll also have some useful data and insights to share with you from that.

I am reassured that my faith in the early start, the long train journey and the Chartered College has been warranted. This is a programme of seriously worthwhile CPD and I am sure that the small-scale interventions that will be shared by a group of educators from the last few weeks can affect a far wider community than their own institutions and contexts.

I spoke recently at a TeachMeet presentation about when life gives you meatballs. source.gif

I’ve hit a moment in time where I’m acutely aware of the need to focus on my own wellbeing having been ‘hit’ by several ‘meatballs’. Having been on day 1 of this programme, I was able to tell someone things were ‘not too great right now’. I gave myself the permission to ease off a little at work and finally gave myself the compassion to notice what I needed. As a result, despite the circumstances, my wellbeing has been in a positive place for the last couple of weeks and long may that continue. I feel I’ve reached a turning point on a personal level and results of my intervention next week will reveal the extent of impact on colleagues thus far. I have contemplated what kinds of systemic changes might need to be pushed for at my workplace to result in a longer lasting impact on staff wellbeing but I’m already beginning to think that a similar model to this programme for our staff may be of real benefit-

  1. Raising awareness of how wellbeing can be defined
  2. Exploring how stress is caused and exacerbated
  3. Engaging with existing research
  4. Setting small-scale interventions for staff and teams to try for themselves

So, CPD that has resulted in impact on my own wellbeing, hopefully that of colleagues too, research that can be shared more widely and one day still left to go. I can’t wait for the next installment!

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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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 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

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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!)