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).


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.



  • 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. 

Transforming Teacher Education – Technology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Piktochart– for my creation of resources

Adobe Spark for posts, pages and video

I could go on…

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

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

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


Transforming Teacher Education – Week 2

You can read about week 1 here

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

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

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


Teacher Identity2000px-Fingerprint_picture.svg.png

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

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

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

The Curriculum


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

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

Developing Expert Teachers


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John Hattie

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

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

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

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

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

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

Developing English and maths skills


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

English- practice paper

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

Maths- practice paper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Embedding, Promoting, Developing

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

‘Developing’ students’ skills works well for me-

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

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

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

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

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

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


Transforming Teacher Education – Week 1

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

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

…weren’t quite enough for me!

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

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

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

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

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


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Qualities and skills of teacher educators

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Towards impact

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

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


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Observing trainee teachers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Recommended Reading

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

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

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

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

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

British Values

Most of us want to prepare our learners for life and British Values gives us another opportunity to do that.

Although I’ve not heard any of my colleagues contest that ‘British Values’ is important, they may have contested the term itself. The ‘British Values’ term is still being used by Ofsted, and whether we find it problematic or not, we need to use it too. Our job, especially in South Yorkshire (where the threat is high because of right wing extremism), is about challenging the views that may have arisen about what ‘British’ means; all those things that are entirely un-British. There are many within the communities we serve for whom, ‘British’ means the exact opposite of the values detailed within the Prevent duty. It is our job to teach our students what it really means to be British:

  • Democracy
  • Rule of Law
  • Individual Liberty
  • Mutual respect and tolerance of other faiths and beliefs

Both our staff and students need to be able to say what they are and how ‘extremism’ can be both prevented and avoided.

What is extremism?

‘Vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values and calls for the death of members of our armed forces, whether in this country or overseas.’

A person can be vocally opposed to the values but it’s about what the person does with that view; where and with whom. Nicola Sturgeon is effectively rallying against democratic values; fighting against Brexit. But she isn’t being dealt with as an extremist because although her views don’t align with British Values, she’s not rallying calls to violence and getting young and vulnerable people involved (at least not yet!). Crucially, she’s engaging with respectful debate and discussion- not closing it down.


The picture from Ofsted and ETF (this blog is written after an ETF event)

What do Ofsted expect to see or hear?

  • Students who know what the Prevent duty is
  • Learners know how to keep themselves safe from extremism and radicalisation
  • British Values are integrated fully into the curriculum (more than superficially)
  • Multi-faith rooms are seen to be used by more than one faith group
  • Minority groups are not feeling discriminated against.

If Ofsted deem an organisation as not meeting the duty will result in:

  • Independent training provider’s contract being terminated.
  • Commissioner making an immediate assessment.

Exemplify AND find opportunities to promote British Values.

Leaders promote equality of opportunity and diversity exceptionally well so that the ethos and culture of the provider prevent any form of direct or indirect discriminatory behaviour.
The promotion of fundamental British Values is at the heart of the provider’s work.

High quality training develop staff’s vigilance, confidence and competency to challenge learners’ views and encourage debate. We need to work with staff to develop how able they are to create a controlled climate in which debate can occur(without prejudice or discrimination).

EVERYONE needs to be trained in the organisation- how confident could we be about this? Governors, managers, staff and volunteers.

Online (this covers you at a basic level), as well as face-to-face (for the depth and detail required).

We ALL need to exemplify British Values in management, teaching and through general behaviours across the college, school or training provider; including through opportunities in the FE curriculum and, they encourage students to respect other people with particular regard to the protected characteristics.

We need to be able to challenge views that are unacceptable with regards to Prevent, British Values, and E&D. We need to support staff to feel confident about challenging these views.

External speakers- could they be a threat to our College/school’s safe environment?

We need to take care with who we invite in. Vet them first and assess the risk. A process needs to be followed through for speakers- even if they’ve been coming in for 10 years… This goes for all safeguarding.

Once the risk has been assessed, if we’re unsure whether they’ll share their extremist views, then we have a choice:

1- Mitigate the risk by having staff there who will work to actively counter the views and perhaps put a stop to the event if required. View resources beforehand and have a strong staff presence on the day to safeguard students.

2- The more likely and safer option- avoid the risk to students andthe college’s / school’s reputation by cancelling the speaker.

Prayer rooms

Prayer rooms should be multi-faith. Ensure prayer mats are in cupboards and there are no posters or leaflets on display. Also ensure that any one group of students are not preventing others from using the room. Positioning of the room is important- ensure passing oversight- don’t hide it away.

Other considerations
Regular updates should be made to risk assessments with regards to the Prevent duty so that they can be explained to Ofsted- what we’re doing, what the impact has been, what we’re still planning to do to improve.

Ensure due diligence with sub-contractors- check they’re not inadvertently finding terrorist organisations.

Monitoring of internet usage- often problematic. Personal devices with 3/4G pose a particular difficulty. Far better to have them use their devices in College (so that we have a chance of seeing what they’re doing) rather than keep it all outside of school/ college though.

Channel Panel

Channel is the mentoring process for those vulnerable to manipulation by extremists. They’ll decide who to work with based on the following:

  • Engagement with a group, cause or ideology which is identified as extremist
  • Intent to cause harm
  • Ability to cause harm

A clear pathway should exist within policy, procedure and action for supporting any individual that may need intervention from Channel. This referral is made via the Prevent coordinator in the Local Authority (in Sheffield at least as we’re a high priority area).

Pedestrian Crossing Crossing City Buildings

Image available from here


From theory to practice

So the big question, as always with these things, is what is the advice for turning the duty from theory to practice?

‘Preparing students for life in modern Britain’ is really what the values are concerned with. So what are some examples of what this might look like? Here are some the examples of practice that were shared on the day:

  • Debates and pieces of writing around faiths and beliefs in FS English and GCSE
  • Give students cards of the values and ask the students to hold up their card when they think they’ve seen it during a session OR ask them at the end of the session what British Values were incorporated today?
  • Incorporate debates properly into a SoW- use a vote so that students can see that democracy is about ‘losing’ as well as ‘winning’.
  • Use votes to decide on things in class.
  • Provide choice of learning activity or approach in sessions.
  • ‘The pursuit of happiness’ as part of individual liberty- focus on the choices our young people can expect to encounter along their life journey- where do the limits on their freedom end? Because they do… freedom of choice does not just extend infinitely.
  • Register all learners to vote (they can register to vote at 16). Some universities do this as part of enrolment – could colleges do this too?
  • Encouraging involvement in election of reps.
  • Use the news (especially at the moment!) to start lessons or make links with topics being studied to draw in British Values in action currently.
  • MOve students from any sense of alienation, frustration, feeling disenfranchised by sharing the legitimate ways in which we can make our voices heard- petitions to the government etc. This is how change can be facilitated. This is a far better use of their voice then trolling online for instance…
  • We can use national minimum wage to discuss British Values- democracy (it was brought about in this country because of petitions, votes and laws being created in Parliament). Compliance with the Equality Act- no matter what their protected characteristic. But they can also have a discussion about age- particularly in relation to apprenticeships- how fair is it that the pay is lower?
  • We can use examples of tribunal cases to discuss British Values INSERT IMAGE
  • We can use voting data INSERT IMAGE
  • As part of induction- incorporate a quiz to check basic awareness and understanding.
  • Apprentices- bring first wage slip in as well as contract of employment and explore it- incorporates numeracy as well as rule of law.
  • Incorporate news items as part of starter activities- ask students to bring in items to share with one another/present (builds confidence).
  • Reflective questions at the end of a session- where could you see maths and English/ British Values in today’s lesson?

Some concerns were raised about Apprentices- they’re in the workplace- the staff may not display behaviours that align with British values. We’d be unable to eradicate the comments they may come across. Our job is to prepare students for life in modern Britain. How equipped are they to respond to these offensive comments and situations?

We have a job to challenge the ‘normality’ they might be used to, whether that’s work, home or their community.

If we have extreme concerns about a workplace, we need to ensure our risk assessment covers aspects of safeguarding as well as Health & Safety.



Image available from here

Responding in the moment

We now have a legal duty to challenge whether we feel confident to do so or not. ETF advised that there is no script- it’s dependent on your knowledge of a learner and the context. There could be a script though? Paul Dix suggests this for behaviour management so that responses are consistent across all staff. Scripts could really help us to raise confidence levels of all staff. Some go to phrases that could be used, especially if the student was then to be referred elsewhere for support/ a further conversation/ a restorative conversation.

Immediate challenge and follow-up is necessary in every case stated below. For some staff, the minimum would be to challenge the statement and say that it’s unacceptable. Follow-ups could then be taken to other groups safeguarding etc. We don’t have to feel confident about the history and politics of every view students might present with.



How might someone respond to you saying that kind of comment? That’s not a respectful thing to say. How could those words cause harm to another person?
Avoid getting into an argument about scripture. It might be there in the Koran- that’s not the issue.
After initial reaction, a more in-depth discussion about where he’s got the view from and if he’s at risk. Likely to make a referral to Prevent- link to a mentor from the local Muslim community through the Channel panel.


Initial response- Why? What have you seen/heard? You might have seen hat but it’s not demonstrating mutual respect.
Replace ‘muslims’ with something else- ’16 year old boys’, ‘jobseekers’… then you realise how ridiculous the statement is.
Afterwards- follow-up 1-1 discussion as to ‘why’ they think that.
Make the rest of the delivery team aware to keep their ears open- record it so that there’s no missing link (she might be making comments in other lessons too).
Follow-up with a lesson or starter activities about media and stereotyping.


Initial response- That’s not a respectful remark to make. It might be banter but how does it make your friends feel? How about the students walking past?
Afterwards- 1-1- find the root cause of threat perception. Work on debunking the view- stats about jobs to be shared as part of a class activity.


Initial response- that’s completely unacceptable behaviour. Check their understanding of the term. Talk about the impact on young women- speak about heir sisters/ mum/ family. Sit down next to them so that you’re on their level and therefore it’s not an altercation. To be a self-respecting young man then you don’t target young women in that way.
Speak with the girls about what they’d like as an outcome.
Follow-up with a lesson about women and how they’re made to feel. Disciplinary route and conversation with parents.
‘I don’t want to work with him. He’s a Paki’

What’s important is that we can’t and shouldn’t ban discussion of politics altogether (especially in the current climate where it’s all they’ll see and hear around them). Far better to open up a discussion and develop students’ critical thinking skills so that they can challenge what they hear/see for themselves (which becomes an increasing challenge in the face of fake news).

Questions like these can help:

  • What makes you believe that?
  • Where have you read or heard it?
  • What was the evidence given?
  • Have you checked that evidence? You need to if you’re planning to spread that belief to others.
  • Why might they be arguing that? What are they trying to persuade you of? What is their intent / purpose?


A Visit to the Education and Training Foundation

I was overwhelmed to be invited by Sarah Simons to join the #ukfechat gang in a visit to meet with David Russell at the Education and Training Foundation. It was at the start of a week in which, it eventually turned out, I gained a lot of confidence. As this was at the start of the week and meant an influx of new people to meet, I was incredibly nervous. I was my typical quiet and reflective self for the duration of the meeting.

Continue reading “A Visit to the Education and Training Foundation”