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/

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-

Questioning.png

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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.

Friday 27 October.jpg

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.

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.

CPD, but not as we know it

Our CPD Journey until now

Over the last three years, I have been part of a team leading and facilitating CPD across Reading College. We’ve experienced great successes and we’ve largely achieved what we set out to: Continue reading “CPD, but not as we know it”

Professional Development: what works?

Working in a development role at College, this debate would be more than relevant for me.

The debate was shared by Rod Bristow, from Pearson, who shared a couple of videos from John Hattie to stimulate conversation.

Fergal Roche

Government have been obsessed with choice and autonomy.

Choice came about from Tony Blair’s government.

Encouraging schools to work within their local context is vital- not just having autonomy but making the most of their context in line with their autonomy.

Consistently good teaching= outstanding

We have a culture of resource being poured in at the start (not as much as in Finland) and then teachers tend to plateau

We’ve got to keep the inspiration teachers had at the start of their careers. Constant inspection and development as a result.

A&E= saving lives. Teaching= developing lives.

School leaders have to up the ante and get excited about the profession.

David Weston

We’ve maxed out on autonomy in our education system

It ain’t what you do but the way that you do it.

We don’t want people to be busy with change imposed from the outside but we want them to focus on their day-to-day practice- retention is improved as a result

Development of career routes for teachers and a ladder of professionalism

Philippa Cordingley

CPD and learning should be the focus.

School leaders learning in public has a huge effect on their staff: promoting the model of learning themselves is vital.

Parents, school, teachers and students aligned with what learning means in this decade.

What do we mean by impact? When we work it out, this must be shared with all of the above.

Students love sport because they know what success looks like and they know they need to out effort in.

Joint planning in light of the impact evidence they’ve collected

Hero teachers with their private kingdoms have no place in education- great leaders need to encourage all teachers to work towards goals in a collective way.

Q. To what extent should teachers have autonomy?

David Weston

They should have autonomy in the classroom but they should be held to account for decisions they make, the learning they engage with and the impact they have.

They need to be held responsible for keeping up-to-date with the latest evidence base- their own learning is their responsibility in providing the best experience for their learners.

If teachers can’t support their decisions and ideas with rigorous evidence then this isn’t acceptable.

Shallow accountability is damning to the profession- especially if watching teachers through a small lens for a short burst of time and then disappearing off having made a judgement, graded or not. These kinds of judgements have also been proven to be ridiculously unreliable.

Benedick Ashmore-Short

He walked into a school where they had been judged inadequate three years in a row.

Those same teachers are now teaching good and outstanding lessons- he filled them back with love for their profession

Educators live in a climate of fear and are scared to take the risk

Staff meetings were spent talking about logistics- pedagogy is now the ONLY conversation. Lesson study takes place and teachers need the space to become self-reflective.

Trust that the data will come as a result of this approach.

Time is given every week for teachers to explore a blog where the best practice and latest research is collected.

Q. What are the best ways of scaling up interventions?

Tom Bennett

Through the success of science and its arrival into the public consciousness, social sciences was born and it was treated in the same way.

Educators are paralysed by evidence as our relationship with it is new.

Difficulties of scalability with education research.

It’s immature to think that educational research that indicates certain interventions work in a certain context, will work in every single context and will have an impact on every single learner.

Intervention x has impact y in context z. The context z is vital.

Eleanor Bernardes

Evidence-based and evidence-informed is very different

Time needs to be given, without the accountability pressures to research fully

Fergal Roche

Short lessons every day and teaching more students at once

Structure schools to do less teaching but in less depth

More time for researching and informing their teaching

I then stopped paying attention as I’d decided to ask a question, in a room full of people: my heart was racing and my palms were sweaty. I was about to follow my own advice and make my voice heard…

The time for questions had arrived and we were told there would be time for just one question. There was no way, after all of this adrenalin, that it wouldn’t be mine. My hand shot firmly straight up into the air. There was another arm floating in front of me but it was way too limp in comparison – it could not compete with my uncharacteristically assertive arm! The lady in the middle of the room was pointed at- It was me! I was really about to do this!

I asked something along the lines of, ‘What would your advice be for teachers and middle leaders to persuade school and college leaders and governors that development needs to be further up on the agenda in the face of all the funding and data pressures they face?’

The panel members nodded vigorously and I was told it was an excellent question! 🙂 Proud is not the word. I hardly ever do things like this but I really had done it! 🙂

Vivienne Robinson Curee research was referenced

And, I think, this too.

The hazard of asking a question is that I was so busy feeling proud of myself that I don’t think I entirely took in all of the answers given…

A thought- leaders need to be learners but this needs to be explicitly shared with their staff all of the time. They need to be the example and they need to make space and time for CPD to occur. Actual space and time. They need to be brave and put CPD ahead of all else; trusting that the data will come. 

Dr. Christina Hinton, Carl Hendrick minus Tom Bennett- research with Harvard on grit and growth mindsets

Dr. Christina Hinton, Carl Hendrick minus Tom Bennett- research with Harvard on grit and growth mindsets
Teachers have been given answers to questions we didn’t ask. Sometimes we’re even given answers to ‘how to teach effectively’ by people who have never even taught before.

Research Schools International’s work is far more refreshing- they are working directly alongside teachers to develop their own research and create unique collaborations to solve the big problems in education. It also makes it possible for learners to be involved in the research themselves.

There’s currently a gap between research and practice in education. On the one side, research is often disconnected from the needs and practice of the teacher. It takes place in a laboratory, away from the realities of the classroom.

On the other hand, when there is good research, it’s put in a way that is not directly applicable in the classroom or shared in a completely inaccessible way.

Continue reading “Dr. Christina Hinton, Carl Hendrick minus Tom Bennett- research with Harvard on grit and growth mindsets”