A year ago we changed the way we offered staff development by launching an Enquiry Hub model. The thinking behind this project was to open up the thinking in our school beyond the questions that we usually pose our teachers and let them set the agenda for their learning. This was the most exciting thing about the whole venture: unlike traditional CPD, we weren’t sure what the answers would be, or even what questions would be asked.
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.