Tag Archives: CPD

Improving Routines, Relationships & Responses through lesson study, research & The New Teacher CPD Standard…

Reading various posts around behaviour in schools recently has made me reflect on some work we’ve been doing this year on teacher professional  development and improving behaviour at Simon de Senlis.  This is quite a long post which outlines the work over the last 6 months that we’ve put into behaviour and teacher CPD across the school (written by me but led by others).
 Behaviour in our school has been a real strength in recent years: the use of sanctions is not often necessary, exclusions are really rare and you can hear a pin drop as children come in and out of my assemblies. Generally our classrooms are places where teachers teach and children learn, and supply teachers always comment on what a lovely day they’ve had and how refreshing it is to be in our school (perhaps they tell all Heads this?).

Nevertheless, and despite the ‘behaviour and safeguarding is outstanding’ stamp, we felt that we could up our game at the end of last school year and that there were specific examples of where behaviour could be improved to overall impact on learning including:

  • Further improving classroom routines and expectations so that higher standards of classroom behaviour were displayed by all children and so that learning opportunities aren’t missed.
  • Improving transitions and movement around school so that it is  slicker, quicker and that lesson time is maximised.
  • Reducing lunchtime arguments/injustices and resolving them quickly to minimise any spill in to afternoon curriculum time for teachers.

Influences in our Approach…

There has undoubtedly been a shift in tone and thinking on behaviour over the last few years from educational reading including social media.  Previous training that we’d attended for example around OFSTED expectations had given messages that outstanding behaviour was less about being silent in the corridors/opening doors/ folding your arms and more about the learning behaviours in the classrooms such as peer feedback and being self-reflective which probably described our children well.  A new wave of prominent and more ‘traditionalist’ voices in education was challenging this and pointing out that conformity, good order and high expectations were still the right things to insist on and debates around schools approaches such as Michaela were useful for us to follow and to challenge our existing beliefs and expectations.  OFSTED have also made it quite clear that they are not looking for any particular methods when they inspect (follow Sean Harford’s mission to bust all the OFSTED myths here) which really frees you up as a Head to think less about what other people might want to see in your school and more about what works for your children and staff.

Collaboration across our Multi-Academy Trust is also healthy as we get to go and review other schools within the partnership and see what standards are like.  In one of our most challenging schools, I sat through an impeccable singing practice with over 400 children engaging 100% and, at another, I watched as 210 children in the Eastern District of Northampton filed inside, outside then inside again in smiling silence at a lunch time.  What becomes so apparent when you see such well-licked routines, is the absence of distraction and how much easier it makes the teachers job who doesn’t have to start lessons by calming classes down or establishing order.

Whilst searching and reading for inspiration about how to move forward with September’s school improvement, we also stumbled upon two useful documents from the most unlikely source: The DfE.  These were ‘Developing Behaviour Management Content for Initial Teacher Training (ITT)’ and the new ‘Standard for teachers’ Professional Development’.  If you haven’t read these documents yet, they’re really useful and products of DfE expert groups on behaviour and Teacher working parties led by Tom Bennett and David Weston respectively, both experts in these fields and whose work I have a lot of respect for.

September Inset

So this September’s training days were about re-securing some of the basics and paying attention to the two key areas of teacher development and classroom behaviour.  We unpicked the two different papers as described below with staff in order to kick-start a new way of working.

Developing Behaviour Management Content for Initial Teacher Training

Although this document was mainly written to influence Initial Teacher Training providers, we found some of the content really useful – in particular the section around the ‘3 Rs of the behaviour curriculum’: Routines, Responses and Relationships which we used as a lens to view different aspects of behaviour management across the school.  This also prompted us to carry out further reading and use other sources to support some development work under each of these headings as follows:

ROUTINES

We had year groups (Teachers and Support Staff) working together to write down all their different routines that take place (there were hundreds) and then got them to evaluate how good each routine was using highlighters and then picked 5 to improve on.  They then spent some time working on a plan with staff in the year group on what attention to these routines they would give to make them ‘consistently slick’.  Our focus routines included:  coming in to class in the morning, coming in and out of assembly, children going to the toilet, lunch hall, transitioning from carpet time to working at desks, Getting out whiteboards, coming in from the playground, having snack (in reception) etc. etc.

3rs

RESPONSES

The first thing we did here was to evaluate the different responses that already exist within our behaviour policy and check that 1) everyone understands what these mean and is confident to use them and 2) got them to rank how effective they felt each strategy is in different situations.

responses

Next, we revisited some of the principles of 1, 2, 3 Magic which underpin our 1, 2, 3 system in school and unpicked some of the key parts of this around stop/start behaviours and teacher talking – particularly with younger children.

responses2

RELATIONSHIPS

Then we looked at relationships and introduced this model which is from ‘Evidence-Based Teaching’ by Geoff Petty.  This was a great exercise and we got staff to plot their relationships with different classes/children and then asked them to discuss in groups as to how they feel they could develop these in the year ahead.  Staff were really honest and typically felt that they were too cooperative at times, particularly with classes or children they had taught before where over-familiarity played a part.

relationships

The paper also makes some suggestions as to how ITT can be extended into the NQT year so that there is mandatory training and accreditation that happens once teachers are in the job.  I feel that this would be a positive move and would welcome additional measures to strengthen behaviour training for teachers who are young in their careers.

Teacher CPD Standard

This document made a lot of sense to us and we were able to unpick the different parts of the standard and really reflect on where we were using these already and where we had gaps.  An interesting exercise was for us to go back and evaluate some different school improvement initiatives we’d implemented over the previous 4 years and then match how effective they were with how many of the different CPD elements we’d included.  Our handwriting implementation ticked all the boxes and stands as a really successful implementation in school that has impacted standards significantly.  In other school improvement areas which had been less effective, we were able to reflected on where perhaps we hadn’t had the real expert challenge in this area or that initatives hadn’t been ‘sustained over time’.

The biggest change we implemented was around how we planned staff CPD across a term.  Co-ordinating the weekly staff meetings, if I’m honest, used to feel a bit like being air traffic control: trying to land all the different demands for statutory training, Improvement Priorities alongside teacher developmental time, research and reading etc.   A particular challenge at Primary level is the constant need to update teacher’s subject knowledge as the curriculum changes and they have to deliver so many different subjects and inevitably this can lead to limited training time being a compromise.

So we reflected on this and decided that we would just focus on two (which we then reduced to one) area of teacher development which would stick to and only allow one ‘indirect’ professional development opportunity per half term to get in the way.  This meant that we had to get comfortable with saying ‘no’ and staff who were chomping at the bit to get moving with other initiatives would have to just be patient until their turn came around, knowing that they would have a bigger opportunity to make an impact when it did.

cpd

A key part of this was to reintroduce lesson study as the predominate form of CPD which we felt was the perfect tool to use for the ‘Collaboration, Reflection, Challenge’ element.  We have used Lesson Study over the past 4 years in different guises but within this model, it allowed us really see it through and avoid the usual barriers of not enough time, attention and empowerment that get in the way.

Lesson Study

The lesson study triads were set up and after the initial input in September, were asked to identify two or three specific behaviour priorities to focus on over the half term.

Over the half term, two lesson study observations took place alongside various other coaching, planning and evaluation sessions with the idea being that all teachers involved would be able to take away elements to develop their own classroom practice.

Here were some of the areas of focus from the teachers’ lesson study triads:

  • Ensuring all students on task  
  • Getting all students actively listening during whole class input
  • Need to establish culture for learning with effective routines.
  • Transitioning  effectively from teaching activities to the main tasks.
  • Reducing any low level disruption
  • Was the starter engaging and useful for all the children bearing in mind the huge range of abilities within the class?
  • How long could the children apply themselves to a teacher-led task and concentrate for?

How independent are the children in the class?

Feedback from Lesson Study Triads

In order to make sure teachers were accountable for the outcome of the lesson study, each triad was asked to present to the staff as part of our training day at the beginning of November.  This was, without doubt, my favourite training day afternoon as I just got to sit back and hear them present back on the following questions:

  1. What have I learnt so far from the Lesson study about my own practice?
  2. What changes have you made/ will you make to your practice as a result of the LS
  3. What has worked well so far?
  4. What impact have the changes had?
  5. Which pieces of research have supported your change?

Feedback from the staff was of a significant positive impact on behaviour with some of the following pieces of feedback from their reports on their reflections of what they’d developed:

  • The importance of table and seating positioning.  I knew the importance of this but looking at someone else’s classroom made me think about my own more carefully.
  • The importance of routines – they are now more clearly set each day and are consistent
  • Increased awareness of how children respond to clear direction.
  • Need to be explicit and expect 100% compliance.
  • Made me think more about the boys as individuals and the challenges they face. Also, the impact their behaviour has on the rest of the class. Just one action of moving someone’s peg in the cloakroom has had a huge impact on her daily experience at school.
  • I now use ‘do it again’ (Lemov strategy) consistently and children respond well without me having to ‘over-intervene’.
  • Overall classroom behaviour is really good in classes across school with really high levels of engagement and few issues of disruption.
  • There is a common language which is developing well including ‘Track the Speaker’, ‘100%’, ‘Gorilla sitting’, ‘Whole body listening’, ‘Set the Standard’.
  • Assembly routines are now ‘consistently slick’.  432 children enter the hall and leave in silence and behaviour in assemblies is good.
  • More rigorous tracking of behaviour incidents and follow up has meant that where issues happen, they are picked up and dealt with quickly.

Feedforward into Policy Change

As part of their presentations, staff were asked to make any recommendations to the Teaching and Learning Handbook and also to the Behaviour Policy.  These have now been reviewed over the Christmas break and incorporated into the new draft policy which will go back out to staff this half term and help us further improve behaviour in 2017.

I really like this cycle of teacher action research informing policy and we’ve started a new cycle for the teaching of Reading this January which we’re equally enthusiastic about.

TR

Improving Routines, Relationships & Responses through lesson study, research & The New Teacher CPD Standard…

Reading various posts around behaviour in schools recently has made me reflect on some work we’ve been doing this year on teacher professional  development and improving behaviour at Simon de Senlis.  This is quite a long post which outlines the work over the last 6 months that we’ve put into behaviour and teacher CPD across the school (written by me but led by others).
 Behaviour in our school has been a real strength in recent years: the use of sanctions is not often necessary, exclusions are really rare and you can hear a pin drop as children come in and out of my assemblies. Generally our classrooms are places where teachers teach and children learn, and supply teachers always comment on what a lovely day they’ve had and how refreshing it is to be in our school (perhaps they tell all Heads this?).

Nevertheless, and despite the ‘behaviour and safeguarding is outstanding’ stamp, we felt that we could up our game at the end of last school year and that there were specific examples of where behaviour could be improved to overall impact on learning including:

  • Further improving classroom routines and expectations so that higher standards of classroom behaviour were displayed by all children and so that learning opportunities aren’t missed.
  • Improving transitions and movement around school so that it is  slicker, quicker and that lesson time is maximised.
  • Reducing lunchtime arguments/injustices and resolving them quickly to minimise any spill in to afternoon curriculum time for teachers.

Influences in our Approach…

There has undoubtedly been a shift in tone and thinking on behaviour over the last few years from educational reading including social media.  Previous training that we’d attended for example around OFSTED expectations had given messages that outstanding behaviour was less about being silent in the corridors/opening doors/ folding your arms and more about the learning behaviours in the classrooms such as peer feedback and being self-reflective which probably described our children well.  A new wave of prominent and more ‘traditionalist’ voices in education was challenging this and pointing out that conformity, good order and high expectations were still the right things to insist on and debates around schools approaches such as Michaela were useful for us to follow and to challenge our existing beliefs and expectations.  OFSTED have also made it quite clear that they are not looking for any particular methods when they inspect (follow Sean Harford’s mission to bust all the OFSTED myths here) which really frees you up as a Head to think less about what other people might want to see in your school and more about what works for your children and staff.

Collaboration across our Multi-Academy Trust is also healthy as we get to go and review other schools within the partnership and see what standards are like.  In one of our most challenging schools, I sat through an impeccable singing practice with over 400 children engaging 100% and, at another, I watched as 210 children in the Eastern District of Northampton filed inside, outside then inside again in smiling silence at a lunch time.  What becomes so apparent when you see such well-licked routines, is the absence of distraction and how much easier it makes the teachers job who doesn’t have to start lessons by calming classes down or establishing order.

Whilst searching and reading for inspiration about how to move forward with September’s school improvement, we also stumbled upon two useful documents from the most unlikely source: The DfE.  These were ‘Developing Behaviour Management Content for Initial Teacher Training (ITT)’ and the new ‘Standard for teachers’ Professional Development’.  If you haven’t read these documents yet, they’re really useful and products of DfE expert groups on behaviour and Teacher working parties led by Tom Bennett and David Weston respectively, both experts in these fields and whose work I have a lot of respect for.

September Inset

So this September’s training days were about re-securing some of the basics and paying attention to the two key areas of teacher development and classroom behaviour.  We unpicked the two different papers as described below with staff in order to kick-start a new way of working.

Developing Behaviour Management Content for Initial Teacher Training

Although this document was mainly written to influence Initial Teacher Training providers, we found some of the content really useful – in particular the section around the ‘3 Rs of the behaviour curriculum’: Routines, Responses and Relationships which we used as a lens to view different aspects of behaviour management across the school.  This also prompted us to carry out further reading and use other sources to support some development work under each of these headings as follows:

ROUTINES

We had year groups (Teachers and Support Staff) working together to write down all their different routines that take place (there were hundreds) and then got them to evaluate how good each routine was using highlighters and then picked 5 to improve on.  They then spent some time working on a plan with staff in the year group on what attention to these routines they would give to make them ‘consistently slick’.  Our focus routines included:  coming in to class in the morning, coming in and out of assembly, children going to the toilet, lunch hall, transitioning from carpet time to working at desks, Getting out whiteboards, coming in from the playground, having snack (in reception) etc. etc.

3rs

RESPONSES

The first thing we did here was to evaluate the different responses that already exist within our behaviour policy and check that 1) everyone understands what these mean and is confident to use them and 2) got them to rank how effective they felt each strategy is in different situations.

responses

Next, we revisited some of the principles of 1, 2, 3 Magic which underpin our 1, 2, 3 system in school and unpicked some of the key parts of this around stop/start behaviours and teacher talking – particularly with younger children.

responses2

RELATIONSHIPS

Then we looked at relationships and introduced this model which is from ‘Evidence-Based Teaching’ by Geoff Petty.  This was a great exercise and we got staff to plot their relationships with different classes/children and then asked them to discuss in groups as to how they feel they could develop these in the year ahead.  Staff were really honest and typically felt that they were too cooperative at times, particularly with classes or children they had taught before where over-familiarity played a part.

relationships

The paper also makes some suggestions as to how ITT can be extended into the NQT year so that there is mandatory training and accreditation that happens once teachers are in the job.  I feel that this would be a positive move and would welcome additional measures to strengthen behaviour training for teachers who are young in their careers.

Teacher CPD Standard

This document made a lot of sense to us and we were able to unpick the different parts of the standard and really reflect on where we were using these already and where we had gaps.  An interesting exercise was for us to go back and evaluate some different school improvement initiatives we’d implemented over the previous 4 years and then match how effective they were with how many of the different CPD elements we’d included.  Our handwriting implementation ticked all the boxes and stands as a really successful implementation in school that has impacted standards significantly.  In other school improvement areas which had been less effective, we were able to reflected on where perhaps we hadn’t had the real expert challenge in this area or that initatives hadn’t been ‘sustained over time’.

The biggest change we implemented was around how we planned staff CPD across a term.  Co-ordinating the weekly staff meetings, if I’m honest, used to feel a bit like being air traffic control: trying to land all the different demands for statutory training, Improvement Priorities alongside teacher developmental time, research and reading etc.   A particular challenge at Primary level is the constant need to update teacher’s subject knowledge as the curriculum changes and they have to deliver so many different subjects and inevitably this can lead to limited training time being a compromise.

So we reflected on this and decided that we would just focus on two (which we then reduced to one) area of teacher development which would stick to and only allow one ‘indirect’ professional development opportunity per half term to get in the way.  This meant that we had to get comfortable with saying ‘no’ and staff who were chomping at the bit to get moving with other initiatives would have to just be patient until their turn came around, knowing that they would have a bigger opportunity to make an impact when it did.

cpd

A key part of this was to reintroduce lesson study as the predominate form of CPD which we felt was the perfect tool to use for the ‘Collaboration, Reflection, Challenge’ element.  We have used Lesson Study over the past 4 years in different guises but within this model, it allowed us really see it through and avoid the usual barriers of not enough time, attention and empowerment that get in the way.

Lesson Study

The lesson study triads were set up and after the initial input in September, were asked to identify two or three specific behaviour priorities to focus on over the half term.

Over the half term, two lesson study observations took place alongside various other coaching, planning and evaluation sessions with the idea being that all teachers involved would be able to take away elements to develop their own classroom practice.

Here were some of the areas of focus from the teachers’ lesson study triads:

  • Ensuring all students on task  
  • Getting all students actively listening during whole class input
  • Need to establish culture for learning with effective routines.
  • Transitioning  effectively from teaching activities to the main tasks.
  • Reducing any low level disruption
  • Was the starter engaging and useful for all the children bearing in mind the huge range of abilities within the class?
  • How long could the children apply themselves to a teacher-led task and concentrate for?

How independent are the children in the class?

Feedback from Lesson Study Triads

In order to make sure teachers were accountable for the outcome of the lesson study, each triad was asked to present to the staff as part of our training day at the beginning of November.  This was, without doubt, my favourite training day afternoon as I just got to sit back and hear them present back on the following questions:

  1. What have I learnt so far from the Lesson study about my own practice?
  2. What changes have you made/ will you make to your practice as a result of the LS
  3. What has worked well so far?
  4. What impact have the changes had?
  5. Which pieces of research have supported your change?

Feedback from the staff was of a significant positive impact on behaviour with some of the following pieces of feedback from their reports on their reflections of what they’d developed:

  • The importance of table and seating positioning.  I knew the importance of this but looking at someone else’s classroom made me think about my own more carefully.
  • The importance of routines – they are now more clearly set each day and are consistent
  • Increased awareness of how children respond to clear direction.
  • Need to be explicit and expect 100% compliance.
  • Made me think more about the boys as individuals and the challenges they face. Also, the impact their behaviour has on the rest of the class. Just one action of moving someone’s peg in the cloakroom has had a huge impact on her daily experience at school.
  • I now use ‘do it again’ (Lemov strategy) consistently and children respond well without me having to ‘over-intervene’.
  • Overall classroom behaviour is really good in classes across school with really high levels of engagement and few issues of disruption.
  • There is a common language which is developing well including ‘Track the Speaker’, ‘100%’, ‘Gorilla sitting’, ‘Whole body listening’, ‘Set the Standard’.
  • Assembly routines are now ‘consistently slick’.  432 children enter the hall and leave in silence and behaviour in assemblies is good.
  • More rigorous tracking of behaviour incidents and follow up has meant that where issues happen, they are picked up and dealt with quickly.

Feedforward into Policy Change

As part of their presentations, staff were asked to make any recommendations to the Teaching and Learning Handbook and also to the Behaviour Policy.  These have now been reviewed over the Christmas break and incorporated into the new draft policy which will go back out to staff this half term and help us further improve behaviour in 2017.

I really like this cycle of teacher action research informing policy and we’ve started a new cycle for the teaching of Reading this January which we’re equally enthusiastic about.

TR

Press Release: Microsoft Global Showcase School Announcement

Simon de Senlis Primary School has been selected by Microsoft as a 2015 Microsoft Global Showcase School for its excellence in transforming its learning environment to deliver more personalised education to students, using mobile and cloud technology to better prepare students for success in the workplace.

Simon de Senlis joins an exclusive community of over 150 leading schools from around the world and just six in the UK who are recognised to celebrate their pioneering efforts and innovation in rethinking teaching, learning and assessment in order to equip the children with 21st century competencies.

Microsoft Showcase Award Small
The Team from Simon de Senlis receiving their plaque as a Global Showcase School at Microsoft’s ‘Classroom of the Future’ in London.

Examples of the school’s work include innovative use of Surface devices to capture learning across the curriculum and the use of cloud computing to allow children to give and receive feedback to each other on their learning. The work in the school is driven by Headteacher, Tom Rees and teachers, Charlotte Coade and Tom Prosser, both who were given Innovative Expert Educator status before Christmas at a prestigious ceremony at Microsoft Headquarters in London.

“Being selected as a Microsoft Showcase School is a great thing for Simon de Senlis and I am delighted that the passion our teachers and staff have for creating the best learning environments possible has been recognised in this way”, said Tom Rees, Headteacher at the school. “We look forward to sharing our experiences with other schools in our community and the world to continue finding innovative ways to equip our students with the proper tools needed for success inside and outside of the classroom.”

As a Showcase School, Simon de Senlis Primary School will work closely with Microsoft to lead innovation in education and communicate a vision for education enabled by technology through the hosting and mentoring of other schools in the community on transformational educational practices.  The school will be announcing details of how it will be able to support other local schools in the near future.

“Microsoft Showcase Schools are inspiring examples of how schools are using mobile-first, cloud-first technology to increase students’ productivity and develop the skills needed in the workplace,” said Anthony Salcito, vice president, Worldwide Education, Microsoft Corp. “With an innovative use of technology, these schools are transforming learning environments and delivering more personalised education to students, allowing them to do more and achieve more.”

 

What I Think About Training Days…

On Monday, we had a training day at Simon de Senlis.  It was an excellent and important day of training and one of my colleagues took the time to share his reflections on the day on the Simon de Senlis PE blog.

In schools, we are allocated 5 training days a year which are the only opportunities we have to spend a full day focusing on staff development together.  Other development takes place after school or in snatched meetings unless it means teachers being covered out of classes to attend training and courses.  Quick Maths will tell you that (using official contracted hours), training days  take up just 27.5 hours out of the available 8760 in the year (around 0.003%) or 2% of the 1265 directed hours of a teachers working life.  This is well below the UK national average for time spent off work sick (74 hours) and (according to a well-know tabloid) three times less than the 91 hours that Men apparently spend on the toilet each year!

With this in mind, it’s absolutely crictical that we make the most of  these limited opportunities and plan them with thought and care, ensuring that they are aligned with our biggest priorities and challenges in school.

But selecting the right content isn’t enough; it’s also important to spend time thinking about the delivery – ensuring that we employ the same principles around engagement that we expect teachers to in the classroom to avoid staff feeling like the staff in one of my favourite toe-curling scenes from The Office.

Some things we might consider when planning staff training:

  • Who does most of the talking? The person leading training or the people who we are planning will develop their thinking and practice?
  • Do we move enough? Do people come in and sit still for long periods of time or do they have opportunities to get up and move and keep energised?
  • Multi-sensory.  Although ‘VAK’ may not be a buzz word of 2015, are we ensuring that we deliver any learning using a range of Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic methods and resources?
  • Do we give enough opportunities for people to learn by ‘doing’ and putting themselves in the position of children?
  • Are we clear enough about the ‘so what’ at the end of any training to ensure that everyone knows what the next steps are?
  • Have we planned when we will come back and revisit this issue/initiative/policy/discussion so that it becomes part of the journey of change rather than a one-off event which created some initial excitement but didn’t become embedded in the ongoing fabric of the school.

I’ll certainly be thinking more about these as we try and develop better training opportunities for our staff within 2015.
TR

Development Day at the Uni…

Today was the first NorthantsBLT development day this academic year and saw a different approach to the focus and structure of historic events.

Previously, the days have focused around lots of sharing from schools with lots of opportunities to swap opinions on apps, use of online tools and ideas for using these in the classroom. This year, we have tried to focus more around the ‘B’ and the ‘L’ in BLT: Better Learning.

We were delighted to welcome Ewan McIntosh to lead the day who set up our thinking with an inspiring keynote on the theme: Visable thinking, visual learning. There were so many gems that came out of this session and here’s my reflections on a couple of things that have stuck with me throughout the day…

DESIGN THINKING

Design Thinking is clearly a passion of Notosh and Ewan and, having recently become familiar with the concept, I can see what an effective model this would be for structuring learning in a school. In particular, I agree that often as teachers we can hold on to the divergent creative thinking aspect and introduce learning already packaged up to children in a format we’ve decided on.

Incidentally, when I returned to school this evening, a teacher proudly brought me two pieces of ‘home learning’ that children had excelled in based on their recent visit to an Indian wedding. He told me that he couldn’t believe how much better the writing was compared to what he sees in the literacy books day in day out. When we unpicked what was different about the task, it became clear. The home learning was open ended, it was based on a real experience and children were allowed to choose which aspect of the Indian wedding they wanted to focus on, how to present it and how much to do. Both children had owned the divergent phases of the design thinking model and the results were spectacular. I’ll certainly be revisiting this model as we develop our Learning model at school.

Prototyping was another aspect that struck a chord with me. Ewan talked about 18 prototypes being an optimum number within a design phase and we were asked to reflect on how many opportunities children have to ‘prototype’ their work within a lesson or unit of work. Typical responses were possibly 1 and at best 2 but in most instances we expect learners to move straight to a finished article from a set of instructions, modelling, demonstration or explanation. If we want to develop resilient learners, we have to give them opportunities to fail, reflect and improve – something that prototyping seemed to describe well.

A Design Thinking Model around Learning

THE ‘TESTS Vs GENUINE LEARNING’ ARGUEMENT

Often, when you’re exposed to inspirational ideas like today, the concern for lots of colleagues is that they would love to implement some of these practices but they feel that there’s a conflict between develop genuinely great learning and the testing/progress agenda in schools.

I find myself having this discussion with colleagues a lot (and I know I’m in the minority) but I don’t think that testing conflicts with great learning. I think that if you create great learners, they are more than likely to be able to become capable readers, writers and mathematicians and take tests in their stride. If you like, success in tests is a by-product of being a great learner.

The one exception to this (I believe)is the Year 1 phonics test – something I’m yet to find a supporter of!

PARENTING CHILDREN AT SCHOOL

Today, Ewan described the age old issue of asking children what they learned at school when they got home and the standard response that parents get. All parents in the room (including myself) nodded in agreement and talked about how from 4-18, ‘nothing’ followed by a range of confrontational and avoidance behaviours is the norm in almost every household. It made me realise that we’re all stuck in this repeating cycle of asking children questions, being disappointed by the response and then bemoaning either the school or the child respectively for either not providing enough memorable learning or for not being interested in education. A thought struck me: Perhaps our questions are wrong and not the answers.

When I came home this evening, I decided to take a different approach. Instead of asking Stanley the questions that I wanted the answers to – I asked him questions that I thought he would be interested in answering. Who’s the tallest in your class? Who’s the naughtiest in your class? If you could bring any bit of your school home, which bit would it be? What’s the silliest thing that’s happened at school this week? Tonight I had a much more talkative Stanley about school and found out lots about his school day!

So today got me thinking and I hope others found it provocative too. Yet again, it reminds us that while technology is a great tool for learning, it’s the skill of teaching and a well developed approach to learning which is the key to making it effective.

Thanks to Peter and Ewan for leading today and to Helen and Gareth at the University of Northampton for providing the venue and being great hosts. Here’s to more successful BLT events in the future: Better Learning with (or without) Technology