A report by the ESRC last year (LINK)
“More effective teachers create a positive climate for learning by challenging pupils’ ideas, inspiring them, being more innovative in their practice and differentiating amongst pupils according to their abilities and interests where appropriate”. This means, according to Professor Day, “Pupils have more control over and engagement in their learning and more opportunities for success”.
The results show the best teachers are not necessarily those with the most experience. They are the ones with enthusiasm for their work, high aspirations for the success of every pupil, positive relations, high motivation, commitment and resilience. Combining good knowledge of their subject and teaching practice and providing support tailored to the individual needs of each child, these teachers focus on building self esteem, engendering trust and maintaining respect.
“The main impact relating to teaching practice has been for training and development purposes. The research points to the importance of providing teachers in service with structured, regular opportunities to reflect on their roles and classroom practices and learn from examples of best practice in a variety of school and classroom settings. It points to the value of classroom observation and feedback as part of this process.”
Whew! Makes the required Standard for a Great Teacher akin to the entrance exam for the nanny training school that Mary Poppins attended. Whilst we can never be practically perfect in every way (my wife will confirm this is the case with me…) we CAN try and get nearer to this paragon of perfection mentioned in the ESRC report. One of the points is the value of classroom observation.
We’ve been getting Learning Visits on a regular (almost monthly) basis from the SLT. Initially they came in, watched and went out again without a word! After some of us protested, they started giving oral feedback immediately after the observed lesson or within 24 hours. Now they’re coming in with a pre-agreed aim, looking at a specific part of the lesson overall, giving their feedback and then providing departmental written feedback. Much better and more useful.
Reflection can be difficult at times, especially in the mad months of January/February/March trying to get S4/5/6 through prelims and revising for exams or finishing folios but it HAS to be done. This year I have changed a few things already to ensure that next year is better. It’s what reflection is all about, n’est pas? To REVIEW, LEARN and APPLY the things you or others see could be improved.
If you want to ensure all your students get the best learning then you can’t sit still. You HAVE to change the topics, the poems, the methodology. What works for a hard working and really bright S2 group will fail miserably with another lower level and more challenging S2 group. All granny/egg sucking stuff so should be natural to us. No-one, least of all me, can say they know it all but they can try and learn more every day. Last week I learnt a lot more about differentiation, and about how a challenging class for one teacher are like putty in my hands (and vice versa!). I don’t sit there writing reams of “thoughts for the day” but I DO try and note the main aspects or areas for improvement which sounds much better than saying ‘where I failed miserably’. I often have a chat with the kids as well. ‘What went wrong halfway through yesterday when we were discussing environmental activism?’ ‘You rabbited on too much and we got bored but we liked the film clip that followed and the way you let us discuss the topic without interfering’
This is also why I use this blog/ePortfolio. It enables me to reflect, gather comments from others in the same boat or those who have more experience and can advise me. It is also why I love engaging with my PLN on twitter or elsewhere. Things go better when doing it in a group. Now to start thinking about what I feel collegiality is all about for another post….. 😎