Thursday 2nd July, 2015 – the start of the journey…
Shared Language, Collective Vision
With our new Headteacher, Sean Maher (@RChalloner), having been with us for much of the summer term as part of his transition to (re)join us following his two year secondment as Head at St Johns Gravesend, we made the decision to close the school early one hot and sticky Thursday afternoon and buy ourselves a 2-6pm twilight slot for the big launch of the new Learning & Teaching agenda.
We wanted this session to do a number of things (and do them well… as slickly and professionally as possible):
- Give the message to our staff that we were starting a journey to ‘reprofessionalise’ teaching by valuing teacher expertise, as Dylan Wiliam put it (i.e. making CPD something staff are ‘part of’ not ‘subject to’.)
- ‘Deprivatise’ what was going on in classrooms (another Wiliamism) by stimulating dialogue about learning and teaching (the school, while outstanding, was a fairly a closed-door sort of school – we wanted to start the journey of opening-up the classroom and getting people talking about the shiny things (and the development priorities) in an open and honest way that embraces development)
- Set the agenda in our own terms, giving collective ownership to staff rather than to some external spectre: Ofsted-aware but not Ofsted-driven.
- Allow people to have fun together!!! This represented something of a departure from many of the experiences of our staff prior to now…
After critiquing, in groups, a video of our new Head teaching a fairly dreadful 10 minute lesson (intentionally dreadful… he says!) to start some initial discussion about classroom practice, the room got my impassioned opening sales pitch about the point of the afternoon and the exciting direction in which we are heading…
Then, with all staff (teaching staff and learning support assistants) in differentiated groups (range of subjects/ experiences/ characters), we were straight into a Diamond 9 (which quickly became 10) task to identify key features of a great ‘classroom experience’. In essence, this one single task formed the backbone of the rest of the afternoon, spun out with various strategies to engage staff and encourage collaboration (and model some ideas for effective group work), including:
- Roving Reporters to summarise the way in which different groups had approached the task as well as the key themes coming through in the task
- Envoys (one from each group) to go and work with other groups to suggest/ challenge/ steal ideas
The real highlight (particularly in terms of reminding staff that INSET can be fun) was the treasure hunt…
Half way through the Diamond 9/10 task, incentivised by a massive chest of goodies, staff spent 30 minutes tearing around the school on a treasure hunt, like some sort of hot, sweaty Benny Hill sketch. At each location was a QR code which linked to a video that the team had to watch. Each video contained either a ‘guest speaker’ sharing some sort of interesting fact/ research finding that might influence the Diamond 9/10 activity (basically me pretending to be John Hattie, Sir Michael Wilshaw and Professor Rob Coe using the Morfo app) or a group of our students giving their thoughts on what constitutes great learning and teaching, then the clue to the next location, then a key word. The first team to collect all 11 keywords and assemble them in the right order got the entire chest!
After some further tinkering, informed by the treasure hunt, and a ‘gallery walk’ (a single curator remained with each group’s work while the rest had to move around the ‘gallery'(to the Vision On theme tune, obviously!)) we had a final summary using the fantastic kahoot to get a sense of how much congruence there was between groups.
Almost immediately after the session, I was able to generate a word cloud (I use tagxedo, but there are others!) that shows nicely the words that came up most frequently:
Ready for a new term, September 2015…
Our own framework… for the classroom and for CPD
With the list of 10 features that each of the 20 groups felt should underpin great learning and teaching, I set about collating every single one and then teasing them back out into 10 individual areas that seemed broadly representative!
Once the final 10 had been shared with colleagues on SLT, the next step was to get them onto a poster for each classroom (we toyed with bookmarks for planners, but with inreasing numbers of staff using iDoceo for planning, it seemed a bit pointless), where they can serve as a visual cue…
A more detailed version was produced for every office (and a digital version was pushed out to all staff iPads). As well as adding important depth to the 10 areas (this is, afer all, a document to form the backbone of the L&T/ CPD/ observation agenda!), this also meant staff were abe to recognise some of the language they had used during the original twilight session, even where the final 10 areas may have sounded different.
We’re only a term in, but I’ve already started scribbling on my version ready for when we next review it, including:
- shifting the emphasis in ‘high expectations’ from behaviour-related expectations towards outcome/progress-related expectations;
- emphasis within ‘shared success criteria’ on the importance of modelling;
- emphasis within ‘optimal use of time’ on the role of direct instruction and of deliberate practice
…but there is plenty of time to unpick these refinements (and, of course, to ensure staff maintain ownership of any changes)