One of my biggest learning points of the last 12 months has been the need to approach teacher development with the same principles we utilise in the classroom with our students. This starts with a teacher development curriculum implemented with science of learning strategies and recognising deliberate practice is a key lever to close the ‘knowing-doing’ gap. Alongside this is the need for regular low-stakes feedback to drive forward development.
In my previous blog [Building a culture of deliberate practice], I mentioned that over the winter we identified increasing student participation within lessons through questioning and formative assessment as a clear focus. At the start of June we conducted whole staff deliberate practice on strategies to facilitate this. However, this is only the beginning – deepening our teachers understanding of ratio and how to increase the number of students both participating and thinking hard will be a central stand to next year’s teacher development curriculum.
Over the past few weeks at Oasis Academy John Williams we have been using Microsoft Forms to develop our teachers’ understanding about using questioning to increase ratio. Every week staff have been asked to read a blog. These include ‘Ratio’ by Adam Boxer, ‘The Power of Questioning’ by Tom Sherrington, ‘Means of Participation’ by Lee Donaghy, ‘What comes first? Motivation or Learning’ by Mark Enser and this week ‘Flipping the Question’ by Tom Grafton. We introduce these blogs to staff through our weekly Monday morning briefing by presenting a short summary of the blog’s content. The aim is to make explicit links between them week-on-week to build a mental image for staff of how the different strategies raised in the blogs are connected.
Once staff have read the blog they complete 3-5 questions on Microsoft Forms. Some of these questions may refer back to the blog to check for understanding of what they have just read.
Other questions will ask teachers to take what they have just been reading about and apply it to their own practice by scripting a response. The scripting has mainly focussed on Y10 scenarios as initially we wanted to get our teachers thinking about returning to the classroom and knew this would be the year group they would see first. The example below was in response to Lee Donaghy’s ‘Means of Participation’; exploring how we can increase ratio by communicating clearly and unambiguously to students how you will manage their participation in a phase of questioning during a lesson.
Sometimes we get staff to retrieve learning from previous weeks. In the follow-up questions to Mark Enser’s ‘What comes first? Motivation or Learning’ we asked three questions linked to three previous blogs. This was to help teachers make explicit links between the blogs and recognise we are aiming to build a wider range of strategies for the persistent problem of enlisting student participation.
Microsoft Forms has become an extremely useful tool to check for teacher understanding of T&L strategies we are developing. This is because Forms enables us to read through everyone’s answers on the web page and then download the answers in an Excel spreadsheet.
Reading through the responses allows us to identify some staff misconceptions. I have found that these misconceptions particularly come through in the scripting questions. A clear example of this was in the Cold Call scripting where I was able to see any member of staff whose scripted Cold Call question had put the students’ name before the question; which automatically reduces the ratio of students actively thinking hard about an answer to the question. As we were all working remotely at the time, I was able to send a quick email to the relevant teachers with a short and precise follow-up comment. This meant that although we were all working remotely, our teachers were able to both engage with CPD and receive feedback.
Over the next couple of weeks we will be finalising our 2020/21 teacher development curriculum. This began as a remote CPD initiative. However, my feeling is that, even when all staff are back in the building, using Microsoft Forms to check for understanding and provide bite-size feedback can continue to be an important part of our teacher development curriculum.