What I Learned at #EducationFest

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.

No Pens Wednesday

The 8th June will be the second ‘No Pens Wednesday’ which we have run at our school.
Last year, the event was hugely successful due to the fantastic work of departments: in every classroom I visited, there was something different and exciting going on.

This year, I would like to make the event even more successful, and this blog is all about how best to encourage good quality talk in the classroom.
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Watch yourself teach with IRIS!

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.

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Learning-Centred Curriculum Design

When you start delving into the research on how pupils learn, you would be forgiven for thinking that they do very little of it at all. Indeed, there is as much written about what doesn’t support learning as what does. What is immediately clear however, is just how counter-intuitive the process of learning can be. As we plan for the remaining two years of curriculum changes, perhaps it is time to think about the extent to which we take this research into account when designing schemes of learning, resources and classroom practices.
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Professional Development Questions

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. 
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Kennet Festival of Learning 23.10.15

Kennet Festival of Learning

Last week we hosted a fantastic inset event which we named ‘The Kennet Festival of Learning’.  The aim was to share ideas and discuss the topics which matter most to us as a school. We chose three key priorities—literacy, assessment and mindset—which were the focus for the seminars and keynote talks throughout the day.

KFoL Schedule

Check out the programme for the day.

The quality of the different morning sessions on offer was excellent and I am hugely grateful to those who contributed their ideas and shared their hard work. Whilst the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, the impact was also evident in the way these ideas spilled over into conversations during coffee and lunch.
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Learning Marketplace Photo Gallery

During our Festival of Education inset (see post here), we hosted a ‘Learning Marketplace’ where colleagues shared ideas and resources from their department areas.

I was left feeling thoroughly inspired by the creativity and talent of the staff at our school. As is always the case on such days, I was also pleased to be able to take away some fantastic ready-made ideas to start using in my lessons.

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