Twilight INSET 19/1/16 – next steps with observations…

Having experienced generally very positive feedback from staff about the first round of observations that took place over the Autumn term (our first without grades and using our own Challoner 10 as the framework for discussion, rather than Ofsted criteria), we are now keen to get moving on the next round. And so, at the start of a twilight intended for developmental work in departments, we brought all teaching staff together to outline how the next round will work.

The general principles are the same as for the first round: the observations will be developmental (i.e. they won’t be graded and discussion after the observations will be focussed on reflective questioning and dialogue rather than ‘feedback’ per se) and we want to support teachers with everyday practice rather than one-off showpiece teaching.

At the same time as this, we want to create the opportunity for Subject Leaders to take some ownership over the process in terms of setting the agenda, in order to try and find opportunities for the observations to support departmental development priorities as well as the priorities of each individual teacher. Furthermore, we want to involve staff at all levels of the schools with the actual visiting of each others’ classrooms.

In order to do this, we are setting out to observe a department at time, seeing each member of the team on several occasions for 15-25 minutes at a time, as part of a series of Learning Walks, rather than observing each teacher once for a full lesson. The hope is to be able to schedule the Learning Walks to ensure that each team member is seen once with a priority group (the priority having been determined by the Subject Leader and their team), as well as visiting each teacher on a further couple of occasions on a more ‘impromptu’ basis. Each Learning Walk will be led by a member of the L&T team plus another member of the department.

In addition to identifying themes to be discussed with each class teacher at the end of the cycle, the intention is also to use the opportunity to develop the co-observer, partly in terms of their own noticing skills, but also in terms of their career development. For example, if I conduct a Learning Walk of a department and take the Subject Leader (or someone who is realistically aspiring to middle leadership) with me to co-observe, then the discussion with that person might probe their thoughts about what to raise in discussion with the class teacher afterwards, and how to go about doing so in order to stimulate a reflective dialogue (rather than just a retelling of events observed with some sort of judgement placed on it). If the co-observer who is on the Learning Walk with me is a newly- or recently-qualified teacher, the discussion may revolve more tightly around what we are seeing and the merits of the approaches being observed.

It seems like a good model to run with having already observed everyone once formally (and alongside regularly seeing staff across the school on the occasional whole-school Learning Walks and on our SLT Tours (which all of SLT are scheduled to do weekly, but which are more about showing interest in what the students are doing, showing support for staff where necesssary, generally ‘checking the temperature’…)), but it is going to be a big challenge logistically…

Twilight 19-01-16

Twilight INSET 24/11/15 – Pt.2 L&T Carousel


The second part of this evening’s twilight was a carousel. Staff opted (prior to the afternoon) for 2x20minute sessions. Aside from the questioning session (led by Gabby Veglio, our Yr9 Year Leader and Numeracy Coordinator), the other sessions all had an iPad focus to them, part of our ongoing drive to ensure staff are supported with siezing opportunities to enhance learning using the iPads.

The sessions which show-cased socrative, nearpod, post-its and padlet were intended to be exactly that: a show-case of what the apps can do rather than necessarily how to go about setting them up (where is the incentive to go away and play with them if you haven’t first seen some of the reasons to have a play?!)

The sessions were followed-up with the opportunity for staff to come along to our iPad workshop on Thursday afternoons, hosted by Neil Henderson (one of our Deputy Heads and all-round iPad guru) and myself, to assist staff who now needed a little help working out how to actually incorporate these apps into their own classroom practice.

iPad workshop

Twilight INSET 24/11/15 – Pt.1 Professional Learning Projects

Having previously read a little bit about the idea of teacher learning communities in Embedded Formative Assessment by Dylan Wiliam, and subsequently read more here and elsewhere about collaborative models of professional development, a session led by @swhsleadership at the SSAT Leading Edge Annual Leadership Conference back in October was the final kick I needed in order to look at how we move forward with the idea.

The goal is to have ‘fully-fledged’ teacher learning communities (or whatever we end up calling them) in place for the end of the academic year, ready for them to form the backbone of our professional development programme next year (2016-17). The Professional Learning Projects was a way to collectively dip our toes in the water and get a sense of how they might work for us.

And so we started this evening’s INSET with a short briefing, all teaching staff together, to formally introduce the Professional Learning Projects…PLP header

Prior to the twilight, staff were given a brief sense of how the projects would work and were asked to express their top three preferences from a list of options:PLP choices

The opening 5 minutes was then a chance to make sure all staff were clear on why we were doing this and what we were hoping it would achieve.

Slide1It was a good opportunity to make it clear to staff that this is intended as a move away from stand-alone INSET sessions (not an abandonment of the stand-alones, but a re-prioritisation!) towards a longer-term, ongoing model in which the expertise of our own staff is valued, a forum is provided for discussion and sharing of ideas, choice and support is provided for staff in terms of their own individual areas of interest, and staff are given chance to experiment, take risks and learn from it all. No small ambition!

The general process, irrespective of which particular project group staff opted for, will be similar: Slide2

      1. A reflection stage, involving pooling of ideas and consideration of some carefully selected reading/ research literature that group leaders had assembled beforehand
      2. Moving to action, forcing teachers to make their ideas and intentions more concrete. Staff were encouraged to focus on a small number of changes, spelling out specific changes in teaching practice and time-frame, identifying some aspect of their approach to pedagogy/ classroom practice that will be done differentely/ additionally/ less/ not at all.
      3. Planning for reflection/ review – what was effective? how do you know? what next?

Having had a number of staff express interest over the last couple of months in structured peer observations, this also presents an opportunity to make peer obs part of the development programme, possibly by using a peer observer to help identify impact.

From there, it was off into the project groups (ranging from 5 people up to 16 people) to get cracking… more to follow in the coming months!

The support materials for the individual project sessions looked like this…

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