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/

Standard for Teachers’ Professional Development

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 3 – Professional development should include collaboration and expert challenge 

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

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

Part 4 – Professional development programmes should be sustained over time 

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

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

Part 5 – Professional development must be prioritised by school leadership 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

So, what next? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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