Thursday, 23 August 2018

Engaging parents and carers

I had been a teacher for 12 years before I took my daughter to school for the first time.  I'd been a head of year for over half that time and worked closely with parents, but there is no lesson like experience.  Having a children at school is an eye opener as a teacher, living the experience from another stakeholders shoes gives real perspective.  It took another five years for a teacher to greet me with their full name, it was a game changer for me.

At our annual #Embrace week, parents engagement is immense: it exceeds all other events in school and the feedback is overwhelmingly positive.  Parents watch their child give a speech on a subject that they are passionate about in our hall; it provokes all manner of reactions tears, laughter, surprise, empathy... mostly the parents say how much they would have benefited from an experience such as this:

Parents need inspiration, they are as much in need of acts that make them believe in the work of our schools and the commitment of teachers as students are.  Parents need encouragement, they are as much in need of seeing their real child in the process as we are; beyond the targets, statistics and accountability measures... beyond the teenage mood swings, homework battles and daily grind.  Parents are worried and anxious, which has been exacerbated by constant changes and a system in schools that they won't recognise.  They need the reassurance and help that students do.

Parenting is hard, relentless and repetitive.  It doesn't come with a manual; each child's idiosyncratic approach to life will test the parents' will and nerve to breaking points in their own ways.  It's hard and then they do go school and you are judged on everything they do...

It's a relationship based on mutual vulnerability, but personally I would reflect that it is much easier to be the teacher, than the parent.  I will never forget my sage first midwife telling me that I would in time gladly go back to being pregnant, that this was preferable to the child being on the outside.  I must have looked incredulous (I wasn't very good at being pregnant, it didn't suit me, I didn't bloom), because the midwife then said these fateful words, "From the day they are born you wear your heart on the outside of your chest."  And you do... 

Parents were also students once and bring a lot of what they experienced then to your table.  It's hard to return to a place where you did not thrive, harder still to believe that your child will be able to thrive and harder even still to give your child the confidence to be ok.  Like much of what we do as teachers, engaging parents and carers is fraught with the needs of the whole person when we're trying to be 'just teachers'.  I don't like these posters, but I get where they come from

I think what is helpful to remember is that you are the professional in the relationship; you have a professional duty to represent yourself and the school well.  If you can leverage the 'buy in' of the parent, you will have more leverage with the student.  When all the stakeholders work together (teacher/parent/student) everyone does better.

How do you do that? Here's my top 10:
  1. Introduce yourself as a person, Bec Tulloch, not Mrs Tulloch, the teacher role you play.  Shake hands and ensure that you listen as much as you talk.  Use eye contact and talk with them as an equal.
  2. If you are meeting to discuss a difficulty, talk to the parent first and only invite the student in when you are both in agreement about how to proceed.  Students do not need to see the two important adults in their life arguing.  Agree an action plan and stick to it, set a meeting/phonecall up in the near future to review what you've all done (parents get action points as well as students and you as the teacher) make sure you celebrate the successes and continue to address any remaining issues.
  3. Invite them into school, share brilliant work on an afternoon or evening after school.  Use postcards and notes in diaries to promote the positives; see this as putting pennies in the bank with them before ever having to take any out.  My subject as a Drama teacher lends itself so well to this practice, but there will be ways for every single subject to do this.
  4. Stay in regular contact via emails or blogs:  keep them informed about the plan for the term or the focus for work at home.  I love google classroom for this.  I blog most lessons in terms of class resources and suggest other places to go for further information.  Equally the 'in touch' function on SIMS is useful for sending quick messages home with reminders and advice.
  5. Hold a meeting to brief parents about the next needs in your subject/area of school life.  For the Oracy work that we run in year seven, I always get myself a slot in the year 6 induction evening with parents and take students with me.  The students exhibit their jaw breakingly good skills, whilst I get to talk to the parents and ensure buy in for our week of speeches #Embrace.
  6. Plot which parents attend parents evening by postcode.  Work out which areas of your catchment have the lowest engagement with school functions and then hold some functions in their area.  Use a feeder primary school or a church's function room or even the local pub's function room.  Run events that would make a difference to those children there: literacy catch up sessions, numeracy support sessions, homework support sessions - invite other agencies along to work with you.  Train the parents up to support the students at home, be open to helping them through resources, time and extension tasks: for example, a parents briefing on the #oracy or metacognition initiatives you are running in school.
  7. In a telephone call, always ask if they have time to speak to you then and there and if they don't organise a mutually convenient time.  Be prepared to acknowledge and work around their busy lives as much as you need them to do the same. 
  8. Give the parent and child time out together in school.  Be prepared to leave them in the room together and come back into the room at an agreed time.  The parent and the child need you to hear their story as much as you need them to hear yours; work with a view towards consensus and a better tomorrow.  Try to find ways forward, rather than retreading the wrongs of last lesson.
  9. Show them the person, behind the role.  I often find myself sharing the struggles that I have had as a parent with my children; their struggles socially or my struggles with their schools.  You have to risk a little to get a little - faith breeds faith.
  10. LISTEN.  Be open to their views.  They know their child, they may not have the answers for you as a teacher that you want, but they will give you nuggets of information about that student that will help you find the way in and in turn help you to safe guard the student's education or selves.  Try to hear where this family might need help, then make sure you share this understanding with all the teachers of that student.
I often find myself saying to students that I might not be able to change their world and solve all their problems, but I can safe guard their future through a strong education.  I can help them to understand the world better, understand themselves better and achieve more through their education.

You have the power to change lives through education through qualifications sometimes, but mostly, by helping them to learn to be themselves, to find their way.  Sometimes we have to acknowledge that school doesn't work for everyone, we have to search for the intelligent inconsistencies and the reasonable adjustments that this child and family need.

Just like it was when you were a teen the process is trying, difficult and tiring. 

Just like it is for you with your children and their teachers and as it was for your parents and teachers with you.

Be their professional, honest, kind and respectful teacher.

Stay in role enough to keep it together, but not so much that you become oblique.

Be the person you needed when you were young.

Be the person who sees their light, as well as their darkness.

I wrote this blog on the results day of 2018, this was my favourite conversation from the day with a student, whose parents I spoke to a lot.  Even when the results aren't all you'd hoped for, there is still hope.
Then I got this from a student later that night.  A student whose parents I was on first name terms with, whose best mark was in drama and who needed a good few intelligent inconsistencies, but boy, did he thrive! #oscarhopes

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Quality assuring teaching and learning... some thoughts...

I had two brilliant English A level teachers, one who was all (and taught us) 'Wuthering Heights' and one who was all (and taught us) 'Pride and Prejudice', they rarely agreed, except on one very clear point; academic writers must define their terms.  So what does 'Quality Assurance' mean?

'The maintenance of a desired level of quality in a service or product, especially by means of attention to every stage of the process of delivery or production.'

The problem with definitions is that they require further definitions; if we are quality assuring T&L what is the 'desired level of quality in (the) product', how do we evaluate teaching?  What constitutes great practice? What are the features of a good lesson?  Are there variables subject to subject and if so what are they?  Are there core common features and if so what are they?

With the leak of possible changes to the OFSTED framework, how does this change? Do we need to quality assure teaching given the myriad of issues involved in the process?

In an era where there might be no grade for T&L, how does the axis of our school T&L policy begin to change? There is an undeniable link between the accountability measures and how schools choose to quality assure their teachers' work.  At the time of writing this, the term "a rich education" was stimulating debate... does the emphasis now shift towards curriculum and away from T&L?

Will T&L leads now shift to curriculum leads or add this to their portfolio or is it something else entirely sitting with options and timetabling?  How does this change our sense of our school's work, its mission?  

The quality assurance measures of a school will reflect the context and culture of the school.  Yet there are clear pieces of research work which move the debate forward in terms of generic practices across the key stages, subjects, departments and disciplines, what Tom Sherrington calls 'collective action' ('10 Essential Discussions to have in any teacher team') where there is a clear sense of what great teaching looks like.  How do we work together as a team on agreed 'great teaching' practices that should be evident in everyone's classroom every lesson? Is this what quality assurance is?

Essentially, schools have to establish a standard to evaluate T&L against; to agree what great teaching and learning looks like in our context.  This policy should be at the heart of all school's T&L QA procedures and over the course of time should shift and develop.  My sense of this process is that it starts with middle managers and then becomes something that a smaller team take on and report back before publishing to ML and then whole school - perhaps using the Lead Practitioners?

John Tomsett and his teachers at Huntington school went through a process to do this as a school;

It's easy to agree with the terms of 'great teaching' used here in  (find it in this blog) which is really about Performance Related Pay and is a useful reminder of the impact of judging teachers on the community spirit of the school:

'It is potentially corrosive and pits teacher against teacher. Anyone who has worked in a thriving school knows that one of the reasons it thrives is because of its sense of community. I have been determined to prevent the new policy damaging our school’s culture and so far, so good.'

The corrosive nature of grading teacher observations as well as the lack of coherency in judgements has been well played out in the twittersphere, but beyond this, we need to recognise that T&L quality assurance processes have far reaching implications and therefore matter to teachers in a myriad of anxiety inducing ways.  We can't build community without respect, kindness and honesty, it is imperative that a quality assurance policy is steeped in these qualities.

'It's the teacher standards, stupid' and 'minimise the variables' are also quotes from John Tomsett's blog are helpful in creating policy; the teacher standards define the:

'minimum level of practice expected of trainees and teachers from the point of being awarded QTS' and need to be 'applied as appropriate to the role and context within which a trainee or teacher is practising... Following the period of induction, the standards continue to define the level of practice at which all qualified teachers are expected to perform... headteachers (or appraisers) should assess teachers’ performance against the standards to a level that is consistent with what should reasonably be expected of a teacher in the relevant role and at the relevant stage of their career' as the 'professional judgement of headteachers and appraisers is... central to... these standards.'

The standards give us these 'minimum' subheadings for the appraisal/quality assurance of teaching and learning:
  • Part One: Teaching
    • High Expectations which inspire, motivate and challenge pupils
    • Promote good progress and outcomes by all pupils
    • Demonstrate good subject and curriculum knowledge
    • Plan and teach well structured lessons
    • Adapt teaching to respond to strengths and needs of all pupils
    • Make accurate and productive use of assessment
    • Manage behaviour effectively to ensure a good and safe learning environment
    • Fulfil wider professional responsibilities
  • Part Two: Personal and Professional Conduct
    • Teachers uphold public trust in the profession and maintain high standards of ethics and behaviour, within and outside school, by: 
      • treating pupils with dignity, building relationships rooted in mutual respect, and at all times observing proper boundaries appropriate to a teacher’s professional position 
      • having regard for the need to safeguard pupils’ well-being, in accordance with statutory provisions 
      • showing tolerance of and respect for the rights of others 
      • not undermining fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect, and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs 
      • ensuring that personal beliefs are not expressed in ways which exploit pupils’ vulnerability or might lead them to break the law. 
    • Teachers must have proper and professional regard for the ethos, policies and practices of the school in which they teach, and maintain high standards in their own attendance and punctuality. 
    • Teachers must have an understanding of, and always act within, the statutory frameworks which set out their professional duties and responsibilities.

If you ever doubted the complexity of teaching and learning, this gives a true sense of how many plates we have to spin as a minimum.  The use of the words 'professional judgement' is interesting:  I well remember feeling overwhelmed by the expectations at the start of my career, but twenty years in can see that the standards are not enough to move teachers on to an expert level. The definition of 'professional judgement' is not immediately available on Google, but with some effort this definition suits our purpose for Quality Assurance:

'You may hear the terms ‘professional judgement’ and ‘practice wisdom’ used during your ITE course, particularly if you ask a teacher why they made a particular decision about how to teach. Sometimes, it is difficult for an experienced teacher to unpack what lies behind their decision-making processes (Hobson, 2002, Jones and Straker, 2006). What often lies behind professional judgements or practice wisdom is years of experimenting with different approaches, incorporating different ideas from research, theory and practice, and constant critical reflection.'

Each school, each context needs to add to the definition of what it is to teach well in their context.  The professional judgements of those teachers in their classroom is key to this as is other quality assurance work such as departmental level results analysis, departmental SEFs and Line Managers overviews of strengths and weaknesses that need to be addressed across teachers and students work. Beyond this research into the wider workings of academic research and other schools in similar contexts would be interesting to look at.

Inclusion and the issue of minimising the 'gap' in attainment across the school's cohorts is a key measure for OFSTED.  On this theme, Mary Meredith proposed at the start of the summer that we as a profession need to 'focus more on the art and (a) bit less on the mechanics' of teaching in a great tweeted thread where the nature of what it is to be an inclusive teacher was carefully addressed:

I like the division of teaching into subject teaching, rules/routines and inclusive practices; the level of specification of what it is to be inclusive is really important here.  A colleague was talking through all of the support she had put in place for a specific student towards the end of last term and feeling like she had done 'a lot', which she had, but was told to be 'even kinder still' by another colleague in her department: because of the integrity and reputation of that colleague with hard to reach students, the advice was taken on board and more support was given to the student. I heard the story being told to a further colleague later that day; 'Being kinder still' is a great culture to build into teaching through colleague mentoring.  These inclusive strategies are as useful for teachers as they are for students and make a useful addition to the ideas set out by Huntington in striving to acknowledge the action needed by the teacher to include all students.

Social and emotional support given to students has impact on outcomes, peer to peer coaching has impact on professionals, but any quality assurance policy for T&L needs to give teachers ways on extending their pedagogical and subject specific knowledge.  Durrington Research School and the work of the twitter giants, Andy Tharby and Shaun Allison would be my next go to place with their book series, 'Making Every Lesson Count'.

The power of the work of this duo and their school T&L blog,, is the focus on the minutiae of teaching and the necessary cycles of behaviour for students to be supported into purposeful practice.  If you haven't read the book, there are now a series of subject specific focused reads which really engage with the day to day practice of teachers in the classroom.  It's full of strategies to use within your classroom as well as really specific guidance in what to do to hone your developing craft.  I love that it is dedicated and experienced professionals sharing their hard won experience and know that engaging with this practice as a teaching team would develop any and all professionals.

Once a quality assurance framework is established - your "this is what great teaching looks like here" policy - there would be much merit in post observation reflective discussions focused on this work and the work of Doug Lemov and his website,  Both of this site and book give the teacher a chance to extend and develop autonomously beyond the whole school CPD.  There would be much merit in training up a small observing team, perhaps those lead practitioners again, in the work of these professionals(Tharby/Allison/Lemov) and all that it offers teachers in honing their craft. This would ensure that reflective conversations are not only policy, but resource based, giving every professional the best chance to continue to develop with teacher specific strategies and ideas to extend their individual practice.

My final go to piece would be the work of Rob Coe, Cesare Aloisi, Steve Higgins and Lee Elliot Major on 'What makes Great Teaching' for the Sutton Trust.   As well as identifying the facets of great teaching:
  1. (Pedagogical) content knowledge 
    (Strong evidence of impact on student outcomes) 
    The most effective teachers have deep knowledge of the subjects they teach, and when teachers’ knowledge falls below a certain level it is a significant impediment to students’ learning. As well as a strong understanding of the material being taught, teachers must also understand the ways students think about the content, be able to evaluate the thinking behind students’ own methods, and identify students’ common misconceptions. 
  2. Quality of instruction 
    (Strong evidence of impact on student outcomes) 
    Includes elements such as effective questioning and use of assessment by teachers. Specific practices, like reviewing previous learning, providing model responses for students, giving adequate time for practice to embed skills securely Executive Summary 3 and progressively introducing new learning (scaffolding) are also elements of high quality instruction. 
  3. Classroom climate 
    (Moderate evidence of impact on student outcomes) 
    Covers quality of interactions between teachers and students, and teacher expectations: the need to create a classroom that is constantly demanding more, but still recognising students’ self-worth. It also involves attributing student success to effort rather than ability and valuing resilience to failure (grit).
  4. Classroom management 
    (Moderate evidence of impact on student outcomes) 
    A teacher’s abilities to make efficient use of lesson time, to coordinate classroom resources and space, and to manage students’ behaviour with clear rules that are consistently enforced, are all relevant to maximising the learning that can take place. These environmental factors are necessary for good learning rather than its direct components. 
  5. Teacher beliefs 
    (Some evidence of impact on student outcomes) 
    Why teachers adopt particular practices, the purposes they aim to achieve, their theories about what learning is and how it happens and their conceptual models of the nature and role of teaching in the learning process all seem to be important. 
  6. Professional behaviours 
    (Some evidence of impact on student outcomes) 
    Behaviours exhibited by teachers such as reflecting on and developing professional practice, participation in professional development, supporting colleagues, and liaising and communicating with parents. 
This piece of research work gathers together evidence of how best to employ an observation framework for impact:

'Successful teacher observations are primarily used as a formative process – framed as a development tool creating reflective and self-directed teacher learners as opposed to a high stakes evaluation or appraisal. However, while observation is effective when undertaken as a collaborative and collegial exercise among peers, the literature also emphasises the need for challenge in the process – involving, to some extent, principals or external experts.'

I have always believed that the classroom is a microcosm of the school, that what is right at a classroom level often gives us the best indication of what is right in leading professionals and this research confirmed this:

'A review by Timperley et al. details a teacher ‘knowledge-building cycle ' - a feedback loop for teachers – that is associated with improved student outcomes. Their synthesis ‘assumes that what goes on in the black box of teacher learning is 5 fundamentally similar to student learning’. And their findings suggest that teacher learning can have a sizeable impact on student outcomes.'

Teachers need to be challenged in a healthy way; too often school's challenge through mocksteds which increase threat as well as challenge.  In my early days of teaching in Shropshire, I worked within the advisory team supporting the creative arts adviser.  It was a fantastic opportunity to see some truly gifted subject specific advisers; one of my favourites was the maths adviser, who when calling a school to arrange a visit would always ask to teach a class with the HoD watching prior to starting any work with them.  The 'buy in' and genuine good will that this brought to his days with maths teams around the county was worth any level of squirming discomfort with the set 3 year 8's they always seemed to give him.  This is worth replicating on any level you can, through planning and delivering a team taught lesson where subject specialisms can be shared (e.g. a light unit for a physics class taught with theatre lights in school) or simply having the observee come and watch the observer before observing them. 

There is evidence within the report about how to use pupil voice and what the validity of this may be in establishing ways of improving student outcomes.  The issue with this is avoiding the 'popularity' game and ensuring that the students words are turned into action through briefings or helpful CPD.  Any evidence gained in this way needs to be tested before it results in action and again being honest, helpful and kind with the information you glean is paramount.

Over the twenty years of managing departments, year groups, faculties and houses, I have been asked to record information from quality assurance processes of observations in a myriad of ways; most of them too punitive, time consuming and ineffective.  The report from the Sutton Trust is clear that there are six principles of effective teacher feedback:

'Sustained professional learning is most likely to result when: 
  1. the focus is kept clearly on improving student outcomes; 
  2. feedback is related to clear, specific and challenging goals for the recipient; 
  3. attention is on the learning rather than to the person or to comparisons with others; 
  4. teachers are encouraged to be continual independent learners; 
  5. feedback is mediated by a mentor in an environment of trust and support;
  6. an environment of professional learning and support is promoted by the school’s leadership.'

The quality assurance processes of a school are 'formative assessments', part of a wider picture of whole staff CPD, subject specific CPD, departmental agendas, line management agendas and appraisal documents.  As Andy Tharby notes in his blog, 'always chose the simpler option' - time is our most precious resource.  Quick formative records of reflective post-obs conversations, records of CPD shifts to meet needs and reporting back to line managers can be rough recordings of oral feedback. (No stamp required)  Above all, continual reflection between your T&L team and the middle leaders/line managers will really help the school in addressing issues quickly.

There is an unpalatable truth is assessing the impact of T&L, which the Sutton Report sums up well:

'We define effective teaching as that which leads to improved student achievement using outcomes that matter to their future success. Defining effective teaching is not easy. The research keeps coming back to this critical point: student progress is the yardstick by which teacher quality should be assessed. Ultimately, for a judgement about whether teaching is effective, to be seen as trustworthy, it must be checked against the progress being made by students.'

And whilst a million caveats need to be added about single sets of class data, single observations, triangulation of evidence, consistency in observation practice, at some point you and the teacher/departments/whole school need to reflect on how what you did had impact on outcomes and how action can be honed in the coming year for the next cohorts; openly, honestly, kindly and respectfully.

I have a strong feeling that coaching has a strong part to play in any T&L quality assurance as the process needs to be self directed by the teachers involved within it and just as they are with students, relationships will be key to this work.  I would also strongly suggest that if you run an initiative like #oracy or growth mindset that your feedback forms direct the teaching practitioners involved to discuss this.  Everyone needs to buy into a view of what great teaching is in your context, everyone needs to feel supported through T&L processes to self evaluate and improve, challenge is helpful but should come without fear, observations need to be consistent, reflective conversations need to give teachers places to go to extend their practice, recording processes need to be active and simple and finally, the in house CPD needs to be tailored to suit the needs in the findings.  #simples

I wanted to end by returning to the two A'Level teachers I had who were polar opposites of each other, but who recognised this, told us about their differences at the start of the course and consistently used their differing views to build a fantastically strong and interesting course for us.  I favoured them both equally for different reasons as a student and recognise now as a leader that there is a huge lesson for us here in quality assuring the work of our teachers in our school. #valueteachers #recruitmentcrisis

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

If you had to choose one research paper to improve teaching and learning what would it be...

I was asked this at interview recently - if you had to choose one research paper to improve teaching and learning what would it be?

The quality of teaching is one of the most important factors in a student's education, all potential initiatives must be tempered with a clear sense of how they will help the student's learning as this is at the heart of T&L.  Any decision on a T&L initiative needs to address student outcomes, the support needed for students/parents/staff and then, through research, a 'best chance of success' strategy can be developed. 

A razor sharp awareness of the school's context is key, the Dylan Wiliam's adage that

"Everything works somewhere,
nothing works everywhere."

is a salutory reminder; 'in a world of infinite choice, context - not content - is king' (Chris Anderson). What matters to the school will be tempered by the issues within their unique context and their collective knowledge and understanding of the student body which can and will shift from year to year.  The EEF toolkit was once described as a "risk register" of "good bets" and "poor bets" rather than certainties - there is no substitute for knowing what is going on in the classrooms of your school and how it is having impact... or not.

Each school is challenged through the widely available and widely reaching research to think about what Simon Smith calls the "So What?" questions.  

The temptation might be to introduce each and every new shiny piece of research to staff through CPD, but this kind of 'flitting' from research paper to research paper is unlikely to produce sustained and effective change in students' learning.  If research teaches us anything, it is the need to be targeted and deliberate in what we chose to engage with and that which we engage wider staff with.

Data and the quality assurance work of the school will be key in assessing your 'so whats' as will whole school understanding of what it is to teach well in your context, which should be linked to how you appraise your teachers.  My "go to" blog for this is from John Tomsett (here) and also (here).  I love the deep thinking that his whole school has engaged in to identify their 'so what's' - it speaks volumes about the school they are building.  It's based in some of the most useful and practically applicable research there is like Rob Coe's work on 'What makes Great Teaching?' with the Sutton Trust.  Building a supportive and warm culture for teachers with clear expectations and acknowledgements of the T&L complexities, that all important sense of 'this is what we do here'; cue another Dylan Wiliam's adage...

Doug Lemov's approach to T&L is important here - he has codified specific things that effective teachers do, which other teachers can learn from through blogs, books and online recordings of these teachers in action.  It is truly great work and worth a mention here because of the wide ranging resources on offer, which allow staff to pick and choose and develop a program of CPD that targets their needs.  An awareness of this work could be a game changer for personalising CPD for teachers, which is where real success for individual teachers will happen.

Steve Adcock recently wrote a blog that referenced this approach and how it might be usefully transposed to the '6 Core routines of SLT' highlighting how expectations and understandings might also need to apply for leaders.  Building research approaches out into these areas of our practice could be a key area for a school to garner improvements; for example in our school we often talk of how underused the middle leadership team is - could we develop six core routines of middle leadership, target this work with group specific CPD and build agency within our school for students' learning?

Looking at research with middle leaders is key to leading improvements in T&L, I'd also be tempted to consider these pieces of research through Tom Sherrington's blog;

All of these examples highlight moving from a generalised, intuition and experience led approach to T&L to using specific, targeted and informed strategies that are research based.  Using research to inform the specific tasks that we undertake every day is our 'best chance' for improvements if we chose well. Blogs are invaluable as ways of exploring and developing our understanding as professionals on what a piece of research might look like in action, how it might be employed, what the issues might be and how it might develop.

The work of professionals like Tom Sherrington and John Tomsett has had immeasurable impact on me as a professional and starting every teachers'/leaders' journey in discovering and using blogs is significant part of engaging with research through professional reading, but I was asked for just one paper...

There is only one paper that encompasses the whole of the T&L dynamic usefully and purposefully and warrants a whole school awareness for me  - where CPD sessions for staff can be widened into assemblies for learners and into Performance Development discussions and observation reflections for teachers.  It is a piece of research on the purpose of necessary behaviour for both the learner and the teacher, how the learner and the teacher can deliberately target this through specific T&L strategies and how this process can extend and develop learning for both the student and the teacher.

If I had to pick one piece of research to lead T&L work, I'd go for this - starting with how it deliberately identifies responsibilities of the process of teaching and learning process:
  • STUDENTS are LEARNING and though there is great power in them becoming more aware of their learning processes within peer to peer sessions giving feedback and some instruction, they are the learner and must take on this responsibility.
  • TEACHERS are TEACHING and though there is great power in them continuing to learn throughout their career, they are responsible for teaching the material necessary in such a way that it is learn-able.
  • META-COGNITION is key to both roles; teachers and learners can plan for and target their learning/teaching and improve through reflective practice.
The specific strategies within the report lend themselves to purposeful self regulated learning over three key areas of practice:

    Students need to bring a willingness to engage in the process and be prepared to persevere.  They have responsibility for convincing themselves to undertake tricky revision tasks, buying into the hard work early on to ensure future well being, for example, taking the test you know you'll find hard and knowing that practice moves you forward.  Independence in learning is one of the key complaints from teachers at our school - how do we develop and embed these skills?  How do we work in individual classes, across departments and across the whole school to coherently promote and address this gap in our students approach to learning?

    We are introducing ENDEAVOUR books (document files) for students next year, where each department will be sharing Knowledge Organisers of the half term's knowledge and skills to be covered, which tutors will be using in registration time to prime and engage students with.  Can we engage parents in sessions where we highlight how these booklets can be used at home?
    The teacher needs to build skills like memorisation techniques or subject specific strategies like making marks with a different brush or using different methods to solve equations in maths into the original teaching.  These strategies are fundamental to acquiring knowledge and completing learning tasks.

    As a school, could we compare how fundamental knowledge is introduced and how it is taught in a memorable way - agree areas where a common teaching method would help students and identify where specific subjects need to create their own approach?
    These are the strategies that we us to monitor, control and develop our cognition, where students should be enabled to evaluate whether a memorisation strategy has worked for them, where they should be able to select an appropriate strategy for the task depending on its content, where they are actively monitoring and purposely directing their learning independently.

    As a school a coherent cross curriculum approach to memorisation strategies, planning extended writing tasks, using discussion for deepening understanding will have an impact on how students develop their ability to learn independently.
A coherent approach to where research will be employed collectively and where there is room for autonomy would strengthen everyone's work - see Tom Sherrington's 10 essential discussions for every team blog.  The power of autonomy and collective action needs to be discussed at senior, middle and classroom levels to ensure that we are building on each others work where we can, but still have the creativity to teach our specialisms as a subject specific domain.

Across the 7 recommendations that could be worked on in department, cross department and leadership groups in our regular CPD sessions, the needs of the learner and the requirements and support needed by the teacher are slowly and coherently built up:
  • Students need to be supported into and be motivated to work towards
    • Understanding their strengths and weaknesses in subjects and across the curriculum
    • Addressing weaknesses and attending to strengths
    • Being motivated and engaged - whilst understanding that this is hard work sometimes
    • Being ready to take on multiple challenges across the curriculum
    • Engaging purposefully in dialogue about learning #Oracy
    • Training themselves up to be confident at applying independent learning skills
  • Teachers need to be supported into and be motivated to work towards
    • Guiding students through cognitive and meta cognitive strategies
    • Giving explicit instructions
    • Engaging and motivating learners
    • Supporting with a view to independence long term
    • Modelling their thinking to students - verbalising the meta cognitive processes needed #Oracy
    • Scaffolding through worked examples and pre-empting through this the removal of structures there to support, thus promoting independence
    • Providing appropriate challenge
    • Engaging in purposeful dialogue that coaches, guides and supports learners #Oracy
    • Giving timely and effective feedback on both cognitive and meta cognitive tasks
    • Putting meta cognitive processes at the heart of the learning
    • Engaging in regular CPD and reflective coaching conversations with MLT/SLT leaders as appropriate
The cycle promoted by the report (plan, monitor, evaluate) supports the movement of students from novice learners to expert learners where the taught structures of meta cognition become automatic and unconscious.  It is not new to anyone, we all recognise that this is what good teachers do and it is therefore easy to cynically say, 'I do all of that already'.  I have been a teacher for 20 years and remember very clearly helping to write 'Learning 2 Learn' schemes in the early 2000's.  This research is much more direct and has a clarity of processes that our intuitive work didn't - if someone had asked me what meta cognitive processes were before reading the report I could have said in a generalised way that it was about teaching students to be aware of how they are learning.  Having read the work, I have used the real examples to extend my practice and build on them daily in the classroom.  

Reading this report together as a teaching body, being presented with clever summaries from the T&L team, interpreting it across departments, making recommendations and agreeing a collective responsibility action point list would change practice.  In the background, the inventive and creative classroom practitioner will be making autonomous changes to their practice and improving further.  This research report's genius is that it targets fundamental skills through specific and clearly identified practices and strategies, which every teacher can and will build on in their own way and where students will become effective, independent and strong learners.  #metameta