Effective learning for excellence
Learning for staff: Examples of effective adult learning
Highly effective teachers employ a range of skills and strategies. Often they are unaware of or unable to put into words exactly what these are. Identifying the learning focus for teachers, each term or year, and then grouping teachers so they can learn together with and from each other, is a highly empowering and creative way to achieve whole-school change.
Excellence for All: A Gifted and Talented approach to whole-school improvement, (Ref: 01019-2009PDF-EN-02) explores some collaborative methods for developing staff skills and strategies for adding challenge and support to their practice (See pp. 24–30 in particular.). These include 'Lesson study', six week enquiry into practice, three lesson collaborative cycles. Many gifted and talented leading teachers (G&T LT) convene G&T study groups or teaching and learning groups to focus on, for example, critical thinking skills, or independent learning.
Cameo of practice 1
A secondary headteacher and her senior leadership team (SLT) believed the school could achieve an Ofsted outstanding judgement if they maintained a consistent level of challenge and support for the more able pupils in all subjects, so that attaiment at higher levels would be improved. They knew their pupils were too passive, as learners, and they needed to improve the level of independent learning and challenge in lessons. They wanted to establish a common understanding of what provision should look like, and agreed a set of criteria for what they would expect pupils to be doing and what they would expect teachers to plan and provide. A group of senior leaders visited two different lessons each, accompanied by one or two middle leaders and/or advanced skills teachers (ASTs); then they met to share their observations. They agreed a set of critieria for what they would expect pupils to be doing and what they would expect teachers to plan and provide. The next step was to share this with staff and set up small continuing professional development (CPD) study groups, each focusing on different elements of practice, including questioning, independent learning, use of resources, language and improving learning in homework. These groups were expected to meet formally every half-term and informally, between sessions, in trios, work on and share aspects of practice. The school had an end-of-year conference planned, at which the outcomes from each group could be shared.
The strategy of shared observations has helped to engage and empower middle leaders and teachers, who have found the process of learning reviews with a member of the SLT a productive and informative way to reflect on and develop practice. As CPD has become more focused, it is valued by staff as practical and supportive. The school's objective is being achieved as more lessons are being observed as good or outstanding.
Key questions to consider
- How do you engage colleagues in improving practice and provision in your school?
- Is this producing improved provision for G&T?
- Could you trial any different methods? Which staff would you work with?
To explore another of the five key areas for development of an excellence programme visit Meeting the challenge of Excellence for All.