“Memory is the residue of thought.”–Daniel Willingham
When considering the factors leading to pupil progress, it is tempting to over complicate the issue. Whilst teaching is doubtless a complex art (or is it a science?), can learning really be attributed to one crucial variable: the amount of time that pupils spend ‘thinking hard’? Continue Reading
On Friday, I was privileged to attend the Festival of Education at Wellington College for the second year in a row. With a packed programme of speakers, it was a fantastic opportunity to engage with a range of issues and theories in education today.
I usually find it helpful, after any full day of inset, to try and distil all of my thinking into just three points. As well as providing focus for future work, it is a great means of revisiting my notes and deciding which points should become priorities and which are not worth additional time and energy. So here are my three takeaway points from Friday’s event:
1. The basics?
In a talk about ‘Great Teaching’ (full slides here), Tom Sherrington put forward the idea that most teacher development would be best served through a focus on ‘the basics’. We spend a lot of time focusing on shiny new strategies and ideas that we hope will inject energy into our teaching, but how often to we seek to develop the things we do every day? In a separate session, Alex Quigley (https://huntingenglish.wordpress.com/), made a similar point drawing on the Pareto (80:20) Principle. The skill he mentioned that most struck a chord with me was explanation. Explanation is something that teachers do every day, but how often do we reflect on, share and seek to develop the quality of our explanatory skills?
2. Sharing and Observation
Listening to Rob Coe reflect on his ‘What Makes Great Teaching’ report from 2014, I was reminded of his research into the limitations of lesson observation as a judgemental tool. Equally, this led me to consider the importance of peer observation when used formatively. One the things I really enjoy about my current role is being able to see lots of good practice around the school and use this to develop my own teaching. It is easy to forget that not many teachers have the same opportunity to do this. I thought a lot about ways to build the capacity for teachers to engage in peer observation and hope to encourage more of this in the near future.
3. Importance of high quality training
In the final talk of the day, Philippa Cordingly (http://www.curee.co.uk/home) spoke about creating an effective environment for teacher learning. We spend a lot of time thinking about how pupils learn, but less often apply the same principles to teachers. In fact, according to an extensive meta-analysis by Viviane Robinson (Read Curee’s summary here), promoting teacher learning is the leadership activity which is most likely (by a considerable distance) to result in improved pupil outcomes. As well as thinking about how we lead effective CPD at Kennet, I also feel inspired to think about my own pedagogical learning in the knowledge that this will have an impact on the difference I make to the pupils in front of me.
Watch this blog to see what other teachers took away from this event.
If you’ve ever filmed yourself teaching, you’ll know that it can be an incredibly formative, if daunting, experience. Unlike the observer who drops in for 20 minutes and spends half of the time looking at their observation record, the camera misses nothing. When I first used IRIS, I felt myself becoming unexpectedly nervous: strangely, I found the presence of a camera more daunting than a human observer. However, having been through the process a few times now, I’m now committed to making filming a regular tool for reflecting on my practice.
Another positive outcome of our recent inset day has been a number of teachers asking me about how to find out about current pedagogical research and thinking. Here are some ideas to help you keep your finger on the pedagogical pulse.
As human beings we are bombarded with messages that shape our understanding of our environment on a daily basis. As a member of staff at Kennet School we can associate a pupil with belonging to a particular house in a split second, just by a colour. In our home life, through our exposure to media advertising, it is possible to associate a single letter from a logo to a particular brand or product. In an effort to increase sales, companies invest millions of pounds in product placement to get their new accessory to be associated with a high profile film. With Christmas around the corner, we associate Santa Claus as being a plump man with rosy cheeks and a bushy white beard. The key to all of these examples is the association. We see something and we associate it with something else. It is a natural part of human behaviour; however these associations can also shape our beliefs in either a positive or negative way.
At our inset day on 23rd October I spoke about each of us creating a professional development question to provide a framework for our thinking and development over the coming months (in one defined area at least). The rationale behind this is to try and make our CPD more effective by bringing it into the classroom and therefore closer to our daily practice.