GROWing your colleagues

GROWing your colleagues

I often get asked about the coaching methodology I use in my work as a mentor / coach / staff development lead / consultant. So I decided to write about it. Let me know your thoughts.

Many people, books, organisations and experiences have shaped my approach. ‘Coaching for Performance’ by the late, great John Whitmore was an early source of inspiration and guidance. He introduced me to the GROW model and now this is undoubtedly my modus operandi and has been for a large number of years now. Here is how I use it.81prZLAvxUL

The GROW model is a coaching framework used in conversations, meetings and everyday leadership to unlock potential and encourage individual growth. It has become the world’s most popular coaching model for problem solving, goal setting and performance improvement. Rather than just use the GROW model for structuring conversations, I use it to structure my approach to improvement.

cropped-vervrev.png

GROW is an acronym for Goal, Reality, Options, What next?

GOAL
The purpose of G in the GROW model is to, in the words of Stephen Covey ‘start with the end in mind’. That is, define the end goal that you would like to achieve clearly and precisely. Establishing a goal is essential as without one we have no direction of travel, no purpose and no focus for practice – the essential ingredient in professional growth alongside feedback.

Picture2Gary Keller in his book ‘The One Thing’ says ‘Achievers always work with a clear sense of priority’. Don’t fragment your attention. In addition, the clearer the goal the more likely improvement is going to happen.

Dan Pink in his book ‘Drive’ says ‘Unless people care about a goal, theyPicture1 aren’t likely to achieve the goal.’ So therefore it is important that the individual sets their own goal although recognise that some colleagues you work with may need help with establishing the most effective goal.

It is important to realise that goal setting here could refer to an individual’s work or a specific aspect of your organisation’s work you wish to improve. For example, in the trust I work for we ask schools to establish their own goal, often in the form of a driving question, prior to undertaking school to school reviews. This then forms the focus of our evidence collection in the visit – R part of GROW – Reality.

Read more about our Growing Great Schools here.

If you are working with an individual colleague, at the start of the improvement process you could ask these questions or similar:

  • How would you describe yourself when you’re at your best?
  • On reflection, what do you see as your next steps in terms of your own development?
  • What are the learning needs of the class you would like to focus on?
  • What do you feel that you could develop further in your own practice to enable all students to make even better progress?

When exploring the goal, encourage your colleague to build a detailed vision of future success.

  • What specifically do you want to achieve?
  • What difference will it make to you and your students?
  • How will your goal support whole school/subject/phase priorities? (Use if you wish to define any parameters)
  • What’s the real challenge for you here? How challenging is this goal?
  • What will you need to consider to make this goal realistic and achievable?
  • Where will your support come from? How can I help?
  • Imagine you are successful. What would be different? What specifically would be happening when you are successful? What’s 10/10 look like? What are the benefits for you and what are the benefits for your students? How will it feel like to achieve this goal?

These last questions will help your colleague imagine the world without the problem, envisage themselves being successful and give themselves a clear sense of direction and destination.

At the end of this initial conversation it would be prudent to establish a sense of commitment by wording the goal thus;

By… I am… so that…
 
Eg. By June 2021 I am live modelling writing so that my students know what success looks like and can work more independently.

As part of the Growing Great Teachers approach we have in our trust, staff are asked to commit to their goal by completing a Professional Growth Plan. See here.

REALITY
The purpose of the reality phase of GROW is to identify the gap between your current reality and the goal you have set to achieve. It is a time to challenge assumptions and limiting beliefs and to identify potential resources that could be used to achieve the goal. This is an opportunity too to identify current capabilities, achievements, successes and circumstances that help you better understand your current reality and the strengths you already have and can build on as you move forward towards your goal.

In my work I establish the reality by providing an objective reality check (often by focused observation and factual recount) and/or asking my colleague questions.

Reality check through observation:
I use factual material which I then present to my colleague for them to reflect upon and establish a more accurate check of current reality.

In my daily work I use one, some or all of the following as a way of collecting invaluable information to enable reflection:

  • Photographs
  • Video
  • Audio

wpid-notability_startupDepending on the focus, I find the latter especially useful. I use an iPad to record this ‘reality check’ and an app called ‘Notability’which conveniently has an audio function built in. I would then ask questions about what they can see and hear.

 

Reality check through questions:
In a conversation, you might ask some or all of the following questions or similar in order to establish what is working already, and any strengths and successes that can be built on.

  • Where are you on a scale of 0 – 10, where 10 is your ideal?
  • What is happening now? What is working well at the moment?
  • How confident are you of achieving this goal?
  • What have you tried so far? Was it helpful? What have you seen or read about that might help? What’s working already? Make a list of what works. Consider how these achievements could potentially assist you in achieving your new goal.
  • Tell me about the last time this was more manageable. What were you doing differently when it worked better?
  • What do you think is stopping you at the moment?
  • What have you tried that hasn’t worked? What stopped it from working or helping?
  • What might get in the way of you achieving this goal? How will you overcome any barriers?

The latter issue of addressing potential barriers is an important one. In my mind I often have the acronym of WOOP as devised by Gabriele Oettingen in her excellent book ‘Rethinking Positive Thinking’.woop

WOOP stands for Wish Outcome Obstacle Plan. Have a clear wish or goal and understand the benefits it brings but remember that some things can get in the way. If you can control any of these obstacles then, in the early stages of goal setting, establish a plan to overcome them.

Frequently, when establishing the goal or thinking about what’s working, I use prompt cards to remind me and my colleague of all the possibilities. I place them on the table between us and together we identify, sort and prioritise. I wrote about these here.

Sometimes, the goal can change as a result of the reality check! It might therefore be worth asking some of these questions or similar:

  • Knowing what you now know about the current reality, is your goal still relevant and achievable?
  • Should you focus on only one part of my goal instead?
  • Should anything change?

So far:
Establish the goal – through a brief meeting
Check reality – through focused factual based observation, presentation of your findings (not opinions) and/or questions to your colleague.

OPTIONS
Having established a goal, had a reality check and made any necessary alterations to the goal, it is time to explore the possible options and opportunities available to you to achieve the goal. The purpose is to generate several possibilities and options as this creates a greater sense of autonomy. This exploration would take place during a conversation in which I may ask some or all these questions or similar.

  • What are your options for achieving this goal? How might you approach this goal?
  • What have you thought about?
  • What else could you do? And what else?
  • If you are 5 on your scale now, what does 6 involve?
  • What approaches do others take in similar circumstances?

The AWE question (and what else?) is worth repeating to really delve deeply into possible options. If you feel the need to provide some possibilities to your colleagues, then ask first; ‘Would you like some ideas or suggestions from me?’ Always present at least two possible options as this enables a sense of choice and, again, autonomy.

When people generate options, I pay close attention and often write them down. This shows the person I am listening carefully and it helps accurately catch their exact words. I repeat back their exact words to make them feel heard. Repetition of their own language by someone else helps develop clarification.

Focus on what the coachee is saying and how they are saying it; not the next question that you might be thinking about asking next. Embrace silences and always allow plenty of thinking time. Sometimes, I may even leave them for a while so that they can mull over the options.

As options are being generated ask ‘what if’ questions. These enable people to think creatively about the goal that they would like to achieve.

  • What if you had…? What would you do?
  • What if you had unlimited time? What would you do?
  • What if no one would judge you? What would you do then?

It is also useful during this phase to examine the pros and cons of each approach so a more informed decision may be made.

  • What are the pros and cons of each option?
  • What might you do next? Best option?

Considering everything you have both identified and acknowledged, now it’s time to select the best option that will move your colleague forward towards the attainment of their goal.

What is one option that will move you forward?

WHAT NEXT?
This phase is about confirming the focus and establishing how to get started. Your colleague will need to consider the first step they will take towards the goal; the next ‘plus one’ as I call them. For some it helps if this is a simple step that is too small to fail. Small steps feel manageable and help build much needed momentum. They will also need to remind themselves of the benefits of taking this action as this can be motivating.

To do this ask some of the following questions or similar:

  • Which option excites you the most? Which option will you take?
  • How will you do that? What could you do that could enable you to move one single step towards your goal?
  • When will you achieve it by?
  • When are you going to start?
  • What one small step will you take now? What will you do first?
  • What precisely would be the first signs that things were moving in the right direction?

To make them aware they are not alone:

  • What support might you need? How and when can you get that support? Could I be of assistance?

Teachers who can continue to set and monitor learning goals in the absence of the coach are those who will continue to improve their practice. To ensure some accountability:

  • How will you monitor your progress, evaluate impact and identify area for further development? When will we revisit and review this?

Get commitment and clarity:

  • Confirm and summarise the goal as described earlier (By… I am… so that…)

Further coaching questions available here.

 

Now your colleague has established the detail, they need an intentional focus on practice and frequent feedback so that effective habits are being formed and success is encoded.  I will write about feedback next.

Let me know your thoughts on this process and if I may be able to help your organisation in the future.

cmoyse@hotmail.co.uk

Mentoring prompt cards

Mentoring prompt cards

When mentoring and coaching I will often ask three specific questions:

The Miracle Question: Imagine being brilliant at this goal; what are you (and your students) doing?
Exceptions finding question: Where are you at the moment on the 0-10 scale? So what are you doing already that’s helping and got you to x on the scale?
Scaling question: What would be your next small step towards your goal? Your next ‘plus one’?

Fairly frequently, when establishing the ‘miracle’ or thinking about what’s working, I use prompt cards to remind me and my colleague of all the possibilities. I place them on the table between us and together we identify, sort and prioritise.

IMG_0021[17794]

Sometimes face to face conversations may seem rather awkward especially if the relationship is new. So to alleviate this awkwardness we sit alongside each other and use the cards to help us create a good sense of purpose to the conversation. If the conversation seems slightly awkward or your colleagues is feeling maybe anxious, the cards also help to divert the eyes which can be advantageous too.

3pt

By simply moving to a side-by-side position, the colleague you are working with will feel better and less awkward.

Instead of having a face to face dialogue, they will be directed instead at what could be referred to as a ‘third point’. The introduction of this visual third point offers a shared focus towards which each of you can direct your focus, thoughts and contributions. The prompt cards help to create a much more object-centred focus as opposed to person-focused too. Comments are now focused on the cards creating a shared language as well as an objective focus to the conversation.

I have used this strategy for many years now and a couple of years ago stumbled across an approach called ‘three point communication’. Whilst the use of the cards isn’t strictly three point communication it certainly follows some of the principles of this approach.

Read about three point communication further here:

The content of these cards has been taken predominantly, although not exclusively, from two sources:
‘Making Every Lesson Count’ by Shaun Allison and Andy Tharby
‘Teach like a champion’ by Doug Lemov

Download the cards here:

Behaviour cards:
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/fa0x5784bzdtmsc/AAAh7WfbXPVi4Sa5B5yZqs2Pa?dl=0

Explanation cards:
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/qskbxcnkfucyz9w/AADkV4Gmzjjct6zbiA6A1WM2a?dl=0

Modelling cards:
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/xtquhm0pst3mpv5/AACd0Pp5J2uCR8nZMbUbuH5-a?dl=0

Questioning cards:
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/4rltvxrch88278y/AADOzr4RL1GGtqETSWXL4abxa?dl=0

Let me know how you get on if you decide to use them.

If you would like me to help your school with further developing its coaching or mentoring practices, then please do not hesitate to get in contact. References and testimonials can be made available too.

cmoyse@hotmail.co.uk

Coaching questions

Here are a range of coaching questions I have collated and used over the years as a coach and mentor to many teachers and leaders.

They are also available as a pdf – link is at the bottom of this post. Hope you find it useful.

Coaching Questions

WORKING WITH COLLEAGUES

Delegation

  • How can others help you to achieve your own or your team’s goals?
  • What would give you more confidence to let go?
  • What would happen if you believed in your team more?
  • How could you delegate 25% or more of your jobs? What more valuable things would that make time for you to do?
  • What would it take for you to delegate the least important elements of your job?
  • What would it take for you to delegate some of the most important elements of your job?
  • If you freed up more time for yourself, how could you most beneficially use it?
  • How well do you play to other people’s strengths?
  • To whom can you delegate the bits of your role you have less aptitude for?
  • What effect would developing the skills of the people you lead have on your own career?

Managing others

  • How would it feel if you had a reputation for developing talent?
  • What did you do today to help your colleagues improve?
  • What do you do when you get the best out of your colleagues?
  • What does your team really need you for? How could you make them need you less?
  • In what ways are you genuinely indispensable?

Communication

  • How clear is your vision? What would your colleagues say?
  • If you listened to yourself, how convincing would you be?
  • When people don’t do what you want them to, how much of the problem is your failure to communicate well enough with them?
  • How do you personally like to be communicated with? How does this affect how you communicate with others?

Assertiveness and difficult conversations

  • What does accountability look like at its best?
  • How should it feel to be held to account?
  • How could you prepare better for the situations where you need to be more assertive?
  • What is your biggest fear about being assertive? How might you overcome this fear?
  • Think about some difficult conversations you have had. What were they about? What made them difficult? What did you learn?
  • What difficult conversations did you avoid recently?
  • What difficult conversation do you need to have? What are the consequences of not having that conversation? What’s stopping you?
  • What might you do to avoid having to have difficult conversations so often?

Difficult relationships

  • What signs would give you advance warning of a possible conflict?
  • What could you do to improve your understanding of their perspective or point of view?
  • How difficult do you think the other person sees you to be?
  • What would give you the courage to confront this issue with them?
  • What conversations do you need to have with this person to help you both understand each other better?
  • To what extent might your expectations of them be contributing to their behaviour?

Trust

  • What characteristics in people make you want to trust/distrust them?
  • What would enable you to trust your colleagues more?
  • What could you do to make them trust you more?

Giving feedback

  • Tell me about some feedback that rubbed you up the wrong way. How did it feel?
  • How do you sound when you give feedback? What would your reaction be, if someone gave you feedback in the same way?
  • When are people most willing to receive to feedback from you?
  • How can you help them to trust you enough to accept and welcome feedback?
  • What would need to change for your colleagues to ask you for feedback and have a genuine desire to hear it and act upon it?

SELF AWARENESS

Understanding self

  • How did you become the person you are?
  • Who sort of person do you want to become?
  • Who are you trying to avoid being like?
  • What is the difference between the person you feel you are and the person you want others to believe you are?
  • What gets you up and makes you come to work in the morning?
  • What do you fear most?
  • What have you learned about yourself recently?
  • If you looked in the mirror now, what would you say about yourself?
  • What might be the most common misconception that other people have about you?
  • What’s the weakness in you that other people might not want to tell you about?

Strengths

  • What are you like at your best?
  • How would other people describe you at your best?
  • What strengths do you bring to your role? How effectively and consistently are you using them?
  • What is unique about you?
  • What’s your unique contribution?
  • What makes you feel most fulfilled?
  • When have you felt most fulfilled in your current role?
  • What strength are you not using enough?

Personal values

  • What 3 words or phrases describe the qualities of the person you most admire?
  • How would you like to be remembered? What’s your legacy? What do you want people to say about you when you’ve gone?
  • How aligned do you feel your personal values are to those of the organisation you work for?
  • When have you felt that you have been made to compromise your personal values? What impact did that have on you? What did you do to prevent that happening again?

Motivation

  • What in your working life really motivates or excites you?
  • What other priorities might undermine your motivation?
  • How ready are you for change?
  • How much change are you able to take on or commit to?
  • What do you look forward to when you come to work?
  • What proportion of your work do you look forward to?
  • What opportunities to stretch yourself do you have in your current role?
  • What opportunities to stretch yourself do you not have in your current role?
  • What are the positives and negatives of being in coasting mode or on autopilot?
  • What would need to happen to make you feel truly motivated in your work?

Stress

  • In what situations are you most likely to experience stress?
  • What pushes your buttons?
  • What is your strategy for avoiding these causes of stress? What’s working?
  • What warning signs of stress could you look out for, so you can deal with it earlier?

Perfectionism

  • What constitutes ‘good enough’ in your current role?
  • What’s a good balance between doing this well and doing it too well?
  • When is it most/least important to get this absolutely right?
  • What would help you to worry less, if things aren’t totally right?
  • What would make you more comfortable about being less in control?

 

ESTABLISHING GOALS

Goals, goal-setting and purpose

  • What do you want to achieve or strive for?
  • What do you want to be different about your current circumstances?
  • What’s the real challenge for you here?
  • What do you want to be remembered for? What do you hope your legacy will be?
  • Who is the person you aspire to become?
  • What’s the role you aspire to most?
  • What do you need most from your work?
  • What’s the difference between the outcome you want and the outcome you are currently getting?
  • When do you want to achieve this goal by?
  • How will you specifically know you have achieved it?
  • If you were amazing at this, what would that look and feel like?
  • What are the benefits of achieving this goal?
  • What did you do today that took you one step closer to achieving your goal?
  • What’s the one thing that you could do that would make the biggest difference to you at the moment?
  • What are the obstacles to you achieving this goal? How might you plan to overcome these?

Clarifying goals for a coaching/mentoring session

  • What’s on your mind?
  • What would be the most useful thing for you to come away with from this session?
  • What would indicate to you that this meeting has been worthwhile?
  • What would success look like for you at the end of this session?
  • What’s kept you awake in recent nights?
  • What needs to become much clearer for you?
  • What concerns do you have that you know you need to address sooner rather than later?
  • What do you want to be significantly different for you in a year’s time?
  • What two or three things would make a difference to how you feel, if you focused on them and ignored everything else?
  • What would you do differently, if you knew no-one would judge you?

Identifying possible issues

  • What negative situations keep re-occurring?
  • What emotion, which you’ve experienced recently, would you like to avoid for the next few months? How could you do that?
  • What habits do you have that you would like to lose? What habits would you like to substitute for these?
  • What’s the next step you want to take in becoming the person you really aspire to being?
  • What other goals do you have that might take higher priority than this one?
  • What other goals do you have that might get in the way of you achieving this one?

Identifying development needs

  • What would most positively stretch you now?
  • And what else?
  • What might your colleagues like you to do more of?
  • What might your colleagues like you to do less of?
  • What qualities got you here but won’t get you where you want to go next?
  • What would have to change in the way you work to further improve your own performance?
  • What would you have to change in yourself to perform well at the next level?
  • What would have to change for you to become the person you aspire to be?
  • If what you do is good, what would ‘amazing’ or ‘even better’ look like?
  • Where do you feel that you are most in danger of getting left behind?

Confronting difficult choices

  • What could you do that was neither plan A nor B?
  • What might plan C or D look like?
  • Imagine you can’t change the situation. How can you turn it to your advantage?
  • Imagine the worst happened. What would be the silver lining?
  • By saying yes and making this choice, what are you saying no to?
  • What do you need to stop doing to make time and space for this new behaviour?

                                                                 

POSSIBLE NEXT STEPS

Career steps

  • What kind of track record do you need to create for your next career step?
  • In what ways might this new job opportunity open up subsequent career opportunities or narrow them down?
  • What is the best possible job for yourself right now?
  • What would the best possible job be in 2-3 years’ time?
  • What have you done recently to take you closer to being ready for the next move?

New role

  • What do you need to do differently in this new role compared to your last job?
  • Where will you find the support you need?
  • What will you have to start/stop doing?
  • What did you do in your last role that you know won’t work in your new role?
  • What do you want your new colleagues to say or think about you at the end of the first term?

Being braver

  • What would you do if you were 10% braver?
  • What have you done today to overcome one of your fears?
  • What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?
  • What would you do if you knew no one would judge you?

Innovation 

  • Imagine you did this the opposite way to the ‘manual’. What would that look like?
  • What didn’t work in the past? What could you do to make this a possible solution this time round?
  • What’s the most daring thing you could do to create a solution here?
  • Where do you go to for your inspiration?

Decision-making

  • What makes this decision important now?
  • When does this decision need to be made by?
  • What’s the impact of getting this decision right or wrong?
  • What would the person you most admire do here?
  • Who else could you talk to for a different perspective?
  • What have you done before that works?
  • What other decisions will this make easier/harder?
  • What can you learn from experience with previous similar decisions you have made?

Procrastination

  • What could you stop doing that would allow you to give this goal a higher priority?
  • What could you do each day to ensure you made some progress towards this goal?
  • What would happen if you do nothing?
  • What would happen if you gave up on this goal?
  • In a year’s time what will you wish you had done first?
  • What ‘too small to fail’ step could you take?

 

PERFORMANCE

Performance

  • What criteria do you think other people might be using to judge your performance?
  • What are you allowing to happen to you that is making you less effective?
  • Are you measuring performance in terms of what’s easy to measure or in terms of what really matters?
  • How could you redefine what gets measured in your job role?
  • How much of your performance is solely down to you and how much is dependent on what others do?
  • How might you better influence your team’s performance to positively affect your own?

Receiving feedback

  • What messages do you not want to hear?
  • What messages might other people be afraid or embarrassed to give you?
  • Tell me about the last time you requested feedback?
  • What could you do to make it easier for you to receive and listen to feedback?
  • What would make you more willing and less uncomfortable about receiving critical feedback?
  • If you dismiss feedback because you don’t respect the source, how might you overcome this?

Time management

  • What are the most important parts of your job? What proportion of your time and energy goes into these aspects?
  • How much of your time do you spend doing other people’s jobs?
  • How do you prioritise the various demands on your time?
  • How could you better protect ‘thinking time’?
  • How do you divide your time between planning, doing and firefighting? How could you develop a better balance between these?
  • If you had to do your current job role in 50% of the time, without any loss of performance, what would you do differently? What’s stopping you doing these things now?

 

GROW

GOAL

  • What would you like to discuss? What’s on your mind?
  • What would you like to achieve in this session? What would you like to be different when you leave this session? What would indicate to you that this has been time well spent?
  • What do you want instead of the problem?
  • Imagine that you were really successful with this focus. What is that like? What will you be doing differently? What would we notice? What would it be like if things were even better?
  • When things are more like you want them to be, what will you be doing differently? What else will be different?

REALITY  

  • Where are you right now? What are the facts? Describe to me the issue from your perspective.
  • On a scale of 0-10 where are things right now?
  • What tells you that you are at 6? How did you get there? What do you need to do to keep your 6?
  • What were you doing or thinking differently when it worked better?
  • Tell me about the last time this issue was more manageable or a little better. What were you doing then?
  • Does the goal really bring you the benefits you want?
  • How achievable is this goal?
  • What have you tried so far? What was helpful?
  • Would you like some feedback?

OPTIONS

  • What are your options for action to achieve your goal? What options have you thought of so far?
  • What are the different ways you could achieve the goal? How could you do it differently?
  • What are the pros and cons of each idea?
  • What are the possibilities? Best one?
  • Who might be able to help us?
  • Would you like suggestions from me?
  • Which option would you most like to act on?
  • Who or what will be useful to you in this process?
  • If you are 5 on your scale now, what does 6 involve? What would it take to move 1 point higher?

WHAT NEXT?

  • Which option will you take? What are the next steps?
  • How will you do that?
  • How committed are you to this course of action? Scale of 1-10?
  • What is your ideal/vision? When will you do it/achieve it by?
  • How will you recognise you’ve reached your goal? Who would notice that things had changed? How will you know when this has got better?
  • What would be the first signs that things were moving in the right direction?
  • What might get in the way?
  • How will you overcome any barriers?
  • What support might you need? How and when can you get that support?
  • How can I help?

 

These questions are also available as a PDF 

Picture1

Growing Great Schools

GROWING GREAT SCHOOLS
Peer Review at Bridgwater and Taunton College Trust

Bridgwater and Taunton College Trust is an eight school 2-19 MAT in Somerset.

Last year the trust introduced a peer ‘school to school’ review process. With the arrival of my new colleague, Tamsin Grainger (Director of Education, @TamsinGrainger), we set about transforming this generally unsuccessful and poorly received process into something that better fitted our values and the approach to staff development we call ‘Growing Great Teachers’.

‘Growing Great Teachers’ is Bridgwater and Taunton College Trust’s professional growth policy that replaced Performance Management and that puts improving and maintaining the highest quality of teaching at the very heart of the process. Read more about this process here.

Professional growth within this trust has several purposes;

  • To build and enhance expertise, and secure continuous growth and improvement
  • To enable reflection on strengths and successes, and areas for further growth
  • To recognise and promote a culture of professionalism

At BTCT, effective, and genuinely continuous, professional growth…

  • has a focus on improving student outcomes
  • builds and enhances knowledge and expertise to bring about changes in practice
  • has a narrow yet significant focus
  • acknowledges that knowledge and expertise is domain specific
  • recognises that novice and experts learn differently
  • focuses on what works, challenges existing assumptions and is, therefore, evidence-informed
  • involves collaboration with colleagues and peer support
  • is sustained over time and includes frequent opportunities for learning; experimentation and practice, reflection and evaluation, honest frequent feedback and solutions-focused coaching.

Tamsin and I wanted to ensure that our peer review process tied in with these driving principles and so ‘Growing Great Schools’ was created.

GGT

Our vision for ‘Growing Great Schools’ is to enable school and BTCT colleagues to work collaboratively on a journey of continuous improvement.

The process follows the GROW model which pervades so much of our work across our trust:

GOAL:

Each ‘review’ has a single narrow yet significant focus. This focus is flexible and generated by each school’s Head teacher and Senior Team alongside Tamsin, the Director of Education and the Trust School Improvement Team at a planning meeting at least 1-2 weeks in advance of visit.

For example, in one of our schools the rationale for the visit was thus:

Whilst no ability groups under-performed on P8 in 2019, the gap between PP and other students is significant and upper ability students did under-perform in core subjects. Our hypothesis is that the curriculum, particularly in maths and science limits the teaching of upper ability students due to their small number.  This, coupled with changes to the Ofsted framework makes training middle leaders a priority –  ensuring that we can all evidence how a clear and purposeful curriculum intent is implemented in practice and demonstrate its impact.

Their driving question for the day:

Is the core curriculum designed and delivered to enable Upper Ability boys to made significant progress in KS3 and KS4?

REALITY:

The Trust School Improvement Team conducts a one-day site visit gathering information and evidence to inform how close the school are to realising their ‘goal’. This evidence collection can take a variety of forms: discussions with teachers, support staff and leaders, analysis of students’ work with teachers and students, conversations with students, examination of teaching materials, lesson visits and so on.

To support the Trust School Improvement Team and ensure complete transparency and therefore trust in the process, any questions to be asked are generated and sent on to the school in advance of the visit so that dialogue is richer and a more accurate picture can be ascertained.

In most cases, the ‘Trust School Improvement Team’ is led by Tamsin and supported by a range of people including myself as Head of Staff Development, phase or subject specialists who are generally colleagues from schools within the Trust. The team size and staffing is obviously bespoke depending on the needs and size of the school. We have one school with 60 children and one with 1400!

‘Growing Great Schools’ is, in addition, an opportunity to further grow our staff so frequently we ask teachers who are aspiring leaders or simply just great colleagues to join us on these visits. We also see this as a chance for Upper Pay Range teachers to demonstrate and share their wisdom.

Upper Pay Range teachers in BTCT must have the potential and commitment to undertake professional duties which make a wider contribution to their school. This will often involve working beyond their own classroom and possibly their school to guide the professional growth of other teachers. ‘Growing Great Schools’ provides a platform for them to do just that; to share, mentor, coach, lead, collaborate, learn, and work effectively as a team member.

OPTIONS:

The Trust School Improvement Team present the Head and senior team with their findings at the end of the day.

Providing people with focused feedback on how they are doing against their goals increases the chances of those goals being reached. Any feedback for the school focuses solely on the driving question and agreed development area. Feedback is presented as information and where possible, and appropriate, is non-judgemental.

So following a presentation of the collated evidence from the Trust School Improvement Team, colleagues will discuss options for moving forward in a collaborative discussion. These conversations are challenging yet a respectful dialogue about school improvement.

WAY FORWARD:

Without goal setting any feedback is just information. Next steps may not be generated there and then as reflection is key. So a deadline is established by which next steps are to be planned. A report on the day is provided by Tamsin as close to the day as possible to aid the formulation of any next steps. 

Actions, including how these can be supported by the Trust School Improvement Team, are in time agreed with all colleagues and aim to remain ‘live’ as the school continues to grow, develop and improve. The school is then further supported to edge closer to the realisation of their chosen goal.

 

We want schools, teachers and leaders across our Trust to be excited to continue on their journey of improvement, seeing ‘Growing Great Schools’ and ‘Growing Great Teachers’ as empowering and instrumental to their growth as individuals and as an organisation.

The challenge to us all within the Bridgwater and Taunton College Trust is to always improve, to always get better; to continually GROW as ‘great schools’.

 

Coming soon for our trust:

2020   GROWING GREAT LEADERS – leadership skills and qualities

2021   GROWING GREAT COLLEAGUES – professional growth for all our colleagues not just teachers

grow

Thanks for reading – any feedback and thoughts as ever welcomed

Growing Great Teachers: Improve not prove

Recently I got asked by my CEO to find a solution to the largely ineffective performance management processes that we currently have within our trust. This is my response; ‘Growing Great Teachers’ – a complete replacement for performance management.

I am hugely grateful to Gary Jones (@DrGaryJones), Gareth Alcott (@GalcottGareth), Chris Hunt (@chuculcethhigh) and Ian Frost (@Ianfrost28) for giving up their time to read through all the documents in order to provide me with such honest, insightful and thought-provoking feedback. Thank you. Your wisdom, encouragement and expertise is so appreciated and has helped me enormously to shape this policy.

I am also grateful to my CEO, Peter Elliott, for allowing me the freedom to create this policy and for all his feedback and reflections too.

So here is our policy for professional growth which comes into action in September 2019. Some bits will inevitably be tweaked as we go along but this is our starting point. I do hope that you find it thought-provoking and interesting. This is OUR solution not THE solution. The focus is on ‘getting better’ rather than ‘being good’; ‘Improving not proving’.

If you like a good spreadsheet or measuring stuff then this may not be for you. But if you want to create a professional learning environment where staff are trusted and valued then read on. Let me know your thoughts.

GGT

GROWING GREAT TEACHERS

‘Growing great teachers’ is Bridgwater College Trust’s professional growth policy that puts improving and maintaining the highest quality of teaching at the very heart of the process. It focuses on genuinely continuous professional development.

INTRODUCTION
The challenge to us all within the Bridgwater College Trust is to always improve, to always get better; to continually grow. We need to reinforce the status of our wonderful profession and promote teacher well-being in order to unlock the skill, passion and discretionary effort that undoubtedly exists within our teachers. The quality of our teaching is at the top of our agenda and we view our teachers as our greatest asset. Therefore, our professional growth processes exist to ensure that our teachers are able to be the very best they can be. This in turn leads to improved organisational performance as seen in improved outcomes for our students and our core purpose of ensuring that ‘Every Child Achieves’.

The Bridgwater College Trust has removed traditional ‘performance management’ and have replaced it with ‘professional growth’; a different perspective and a new direction designed to challenge thinking, promote deep reflection, collaboration and change for the better.

This policy sets out the framework for a clear and consistent approach to the development of our teachers and our expectations in terms of the high standards to which all our teachers aspire. It is a policy based on professional trust. It is assumed therefore, unless evidence suggests otherwise, that Bridgwater College Trust teachers are meeting the Teachers’ Standards.

PURPOSE
Our ‘Professional Growth’ policy outlines the approach that we take to help our teachers to become the very best version of themselves; supporting them to make the next steps but also creating a culture that encourages them to stay and grow with us.

Professional growth within this trust has several purposes;

  • To build and enhance expertise, and secure continuous growth and improvement
  • To enable reflection on strengths and successes, and areas for further growth
  • To recognise and promote a culture of professionalism

Effective professional development is a core part of securing effective teaching. It requires a desire and willingness to continually improve with a shared commitment for teachers to support one another to develop so that our students benefit from the highest quality teaching. We cannot achieve this level of professional learning alone. This policy is designed to change the way we view accountability and professional development. It is a process that requires a commitment from all teachers to active practical and cognitive engagement in order to seek further growth in professional knowledge that provides solutions to the issues we face as teachers. Professional growth in the Bridgwater College Trust is ‘done by’ not ‘done to’ our teachers.

We have a sense of belief and pride that we can be the very best, driven by a sense of moral purpose and a desire to continuously improve. We regard professional development as a key driver not only of staff development, but also of recruitment, retention, well-being, and school improvement. There can be no improvement without the teacher.

Our ‘Professional Growth’ policy outlines the approach that we will take to help our teachers to become the very best version of themselves; supporting them to make the next steps in their careers but also creating a culture that encourages them to stay and grow with us in the Bridgwater College Trust.

CONTINUOUS PROFESSIONAL GROWTH
Effective, and genuinely continuous, professional growth…

  • has a focus on improving student outcomes
  • builds and enhances knowledge and expertise to bring about changes in practice
  • has a narrow yet significant focus
  • acknowledges that knowledge and expertise is domain specific
  • recognises that novice and experts learn differently
  • focuses on what works, challenges existing assumptions and is, therefore, evidence-informed
  • involves collaboration with colleagues and peer support
  • is sustained over time and includes frequent opportunities for learning; experimentation and practice, reflection and evaluation, honest frequent feedback and solutions-focused coaching.

The education of our students is our first concern, and we are accountable for achieving the highest possible standards in work and conduct. The Teachers’ Standards define the minimum level of practice expected of teachers from the point of being awarded qualified teacher status (QTS). The Teachers’ Standards also set out a number of expectations about professional growth.

Teachers should:

  • keep their knowledge and skills as teachers up-to-date and be self-critical and reflective;
  • take responsibility for improving their teaching through appropriate professional development, responding to advice and feedback from colleagues;
  • demonstrate knowledge and understanding of how students learn and how this has an impact on their teaching;
  • have a secure knowledge of the relevant subject(s) and curriculum areas;
  • reflect systematically on the effectiveness of their teaching;
  • know and understand how to assess the relevant subject and curriculum areas.

EFFECTIVE PROFESSIONAL REFLECTION
Rather than starting with how to do professional development, we should be clear about what we hope to achieve and what teachers already know and do. Therefore professional growth involves effective reflection. Within this trust the Teachers’ Standards form our benchmark for reflection, review and evaluation in order to ensure that our teachers identify areas for further growth and continue to maintain the level of competence that qualified them at the start of their careers.

As a solutions-focused trust, we need to ensure our practices focus on solutions, not problems, on finding answers within our colleagues rather than having imposed, often superficial, targets which all too often become forgotten. We also need to ensure that we help our teachers build on their strengths first before they start fixing their weaknesses. The evidence we use to reflect on performance and development will not be solely based on student data or a small number of lesson observations.  The Trust, therefore, will have no high stakes observations and rejects the notion that our teaching staff should be held to account for data-driven targets that no one individual can be solely accountable for. Instead the Trust is committed to developing a professional culture which drives quality assurance from within; an enabling process rather than an imposed top down process.

EVALUATING YOUR PROGRESS
The Trust wishes to encourage a culture in which all teachers take personal responsibility for improving their practice through appropriate professional development. Professional growth will be linked to Trust, subject or phase improvement priorities and to the on-going professional development needs and priorities of individual teachers and, of course, the students they teach.

As long as our teachers continue to meet the Teachers’ Standards and engage in the process of professional growth, pay progression will be automatic and not linked to any mechanism of traditional ‘performance management’. We expect teachers to progress up the pay scale as the norm.

In order for our process of professional growth to be successfully completed the following criteria need to be addressed:

  • Teachers will reflect on their successes, strengths and areas for further growth against the Teachers’ Standards (Appendix A). There is no RAG rating but a personal scaling exercise for each standard. 4ACDC30E-BC9C-4C78-97D7-9C5DB9A20E6BUse the scale after each standard to reflect on how well you are doing against each standard and, most importantly, what you might do next to become even better. This can then be shared as a prompt for the discussion and possible goal setting.
  • Reflection on the Teachers’ Standards at the start of the cycle will help to better establish an individual focus for professional growth which is then further detailed in the professional growth plan’ (Appendix B). Each teacher, therefore, needs to carefully reflect on their current context, standards and practice to ascertain the most impactful development focus. The focus will be then be discussed and established with the support of the teacher’s line manager.
  • To aid this discussion and the establishment of a challenging focus a script isscript recommended for use by line managers (Appendix C). This discussion will take place in October – see Professional Growth timeline (Appendix G). This focus is then sustained over a significant amount of time and all staff are required to engage in opportunities for learning and experimentation, reflection and evaluation, feedback and coaching. It is intended that professional growth and learning, rather than just being confined to meetings in specific times and places, will become embedded into teachers’ everyday work practices.
  • Teachers will regularly reflect on their progress of the ‘professional growth plan’ as they design lessons to purposely practise the focus of their ongoing learning and subsequently reflect on the effectiveness of any changes in practice.
  • This sustained development work will be presented to subject or age group 7CCAAA47-B244-411B-9510-7167DBB3E42Ccolleagues at the end of the cycle for the benefit of reflection, accountability and sharing effective practice. (Appendix D). See also Professional Growth timeline (Appendix G).
  • All staff are also required to engage fully with any whole school/trust professional growth priorities.
  • In addition, any Upper Pay Range teacher, TLR holder or member of staff on the leadership pay spine will have a goal linked to our Leadership Qualities Framework. This goal will be recorded on the leadership goal plan (Appendix E).

PROFESSIONAL GROWTH PLAN
What knowledge and skills do we need to address the learning needs of our students?

pgpIn order for our teachers to answer this question, they are asked to take control of their own professional learning and plan for how they will meet the needs of their class or a specific class; ‘the professional growth plan’.

For professional growth to be truly continuous and sustained over time, each teacher formulates a ‘professional growth plan’ (Appendix B). This requires each teacher to reflect on current practice and subsequently build their expertise through sustained focused inquiry and frequent purposeful practice. Newly qualified teachers (NQTs) are not required to undertake this task as they have a separate programme of support and development.

This individual and unique plan will identify what we hope we will learn or do differently, and the approaches to achieve this; content and process. The professional growth plans also require our teachers to identify the possible impact of their work on students’ outcomes although it is recognised that in the complex process of teacher growth, impact on students’ outcomes is difficult to directly correlate. Nonetheless, this policy is built on the assumption that changing a teacher’s practice will change the students’ learning experiences and therefore impact their outcomes. Improvement in students’ learning is the central purpose of the process.

Therefore, the ‘professional growth plan’ requires the learning to be ongoing and in depth as this is more likely to have far more positive impact on practice and outcomes for students than brief and superficial ‘training’ that lacks focus and context.

In the ‘professional growth plan’ a clear goal is set by each teacher – a focus on what to change or develop further with intended impact. We value the importance of autonomy and choice in the focus of each individual’s development and we understand that providing staff with opportunities to substantially affect and direct their own goals, practice and inquiry is a powerful motivator. Our professional learning must be driven by an individual’s motivation to become even better rather than being told what to do. Those teachers who set and monitor their own goals are those who will continue to grow as professionals. We will, therefore, provide effective training, opportunities and time that will give our teachers the chance to work on a focus of their choosing that positively affects the students they teach.

This focus for this bespoke plan will, of course, be chosen within parameters and our teachers are expected to connect their work to the class(es) taught and subject, phase, school or trust priorities.

Knowledge and expertise is domain specific: expertise requires knowledge and skill in a specific area. Any professional learning must therefore be as specific as possible to the context in which it will be used: to the subject, topic or year group. With a clear goal and an assessment of what is needed to achieve it, support can be then focused on meeting those needs.

The ‘professional growth plan’ is a ‘live’ document and the expectation is that is reflected on and referred to frequently, adjusted where appropriate, but it always forms the basis of our continuous professional growth. A major part of our professional learning is trying out things in practice. Teachers are therefore expected and encouraged to purposefully practise; to design lessons that force them out of autopilot and ensure a deliberate focus on experimentation within their classroom. To ensure that growth is continuous and progress ensured, our teachers are expected to engage also with professional support.

PROFESSIONAL SUPPORT
Professional support will be available for all of our teachers so that they can continue to grow and develop. This support can take many forms; dialogue, conversations and co-planning, mentoring and coaching, analysis, feedback and observation.

Our teachers are therefore expected to create partnerships with others, including those with expertise, to support their professional learning and generate information about their progress so that they can monitor and adapt their learning. Teachers are expected to support and assist colleagues through structured opportunities to reflect by reviewing progress and helping the teacher to consider the effectiveness of their practice. The role of any member of staff when supporting a colleague is to push and challenge their thinking so that each teacher becomes an adaptive expert who is capable of continually growing; reflecting on, and expanding, the depth and breadth of their classroom expertise. Our teachers are encouraged to seek feedback from multiple viewpoints.

Feedback
Providing people with feedback on how they are doing against their goals increases the chances of those goals being reached. Any feedback for the teacher should therefore focus on the agreed development area and should be provided as soon as possible after any support or visit has taken place. Feedback from classroom observation should be feedback as information and where possible, and appropriate, be non-judgemental. The subsequent conversation is where the learning and action should take place and this structured professional dialogue focuses on the further development of an area of need for the teacher and/or their students. These conversations will be challenging yet C7667FA9-7B7E-40BC-AA35-F4E5F5376808respectful dialogue about improvement. Therefore, during this conversation the teacher and the ‘coach’ will always identify a next step; as feedback without goal setting, is just information.

Appendix F shows a possible structure for any feedback conversation.

Observation
The Trust recognises that lesson observation is a poor method for judging the quality of teaching. Therefore, lesson observations will NOT be graded and will NOT be used as a single indicator of performance or as a single indicator for assessing whether the Teachers’ Standards have been met.

However, it also recognises that feedback from observing and being observed are essential to growing great teachers. Consequently lesson observation within the Trust has two main purposes:

  • To help the teacher you are observing become even better
  • To learn from the teacher you are observing

All staff are expected to engage with the available professional support as a means of further developing their own practice. If observation is the preferred method of professional support then the timing and focus for the observation will be determined by the teacher being observed. During the course of the year all teachers are required to receive feedback on their professional growth focus in order to build and enhance expertise, and secure continuous growth and improvement. (Timeline – Appendix G). Feedback enables reflection on strengths and successes, and planning of next steps necessary for further growth. Therefore, any professional support including observations of practice will be carried out in a supportive and developmental manner by a pre-designated colleague, usually the teacher’s line manager.

Newly qualified teachers (NQTs) and those teachers receiving additional support will receive more professional support to enable more rapid growth. An individual teacher is free to request additional support to receive further feedback in order to support their continuing growth.

All teachers are expected to support and learn from colleagues. Therefore, during the course of the year, each teacher is expected to observe a colleague with the sole focus of going to learn from them. This visit will enable each teacher to identify possible next steps in their development based on the learning gained from their colleague. Teachers should be the drivers of their own professional collaboration.

Those with responsibility for curriculum development will also use professional support including classroom observations as a means of evaluating curriculum design and implementation. The length and frequency of any professional support or progress check will vary depending on specific circumstances.

UPPER PAY RANGE
The Upper Pay Range is a salary range available to qualified teachers who have been assessed as being eligible to be paid at this level. Moving on to the Upper Pay Range is often referred to as ‘crossing the threshold’.

To move onto the Upper Pay Range our teachers must demonstrate that:

  • They are highly competent in all of the Teachers’ Standards and have an extensive knowledge and understanding of how to use and adapt a range of teaching, learning and behaviour management strategies.
  • They have fully engaged in the process of professional growth leading to an extensive knowledge of curriculum, assessment and pedagogical developments within their relevant phase or subject.
  • Their achievements and contribution to their school are ‘substantial and sustained’. We believe that as long as they have met the Teachers’ Standards that they have met the ‘substantial’ criterion. The ‘sustained’ criterion should be two years or more working at this level. Our teachers do not, therefore, have to be at the top of the main pay range to apply for the Upper Pay Range.
  • They have the potential and commitment to undertake professional duties which make a wider contribution to their school. This will often involve working beyond their own classroom and possibly their school to guide the professional growth of other teachers. This may include the sharing of good practice, mentoring and coaching, and providing demonstration lessons for less experienced colleagues. Upper Pay range teachers are expected to promote collaboration and work effectively as a team member.

Applying for Upper Pay Range
There is no formal application process to move to the Upper Pay Range and our teachers are not be required to maintain a portfolio of evidence to support their application. As it is a voluntary process, teachers should make their headteacher aware that they wish to be considered to progress on to the Upper Pay Range. Applications can be made at any time during the academic year but only once a year.

Maintaining the standard
When teachers move on to the Upper Pay Range they must maintain this standard. The Trust will provide the support they need to be able to do this so that they continue to make a substantial and sustained contribution to the school and the development of their colleagues’ skills for the benefit of all learners.

Progression within the Upper pay Range
Progression within the upper pay range will be automatic as long as our teachers continue to fully meet the Teachers’ Standards, engage in the process of professional growth, and sustain a substantial and wider contribution to the school. We expect teachers to progress up the pay scale as the norm.

The challenge to us all within the Bridgwater College Trust is to always improve, to always get better; to continually grow as ‘great teachers’.

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

Thank you for taking the time to read this policy. I hope you found it interesting, thought-provoking and useful.

If I can help your school, academy or college with your staff development processes then I would be delighted to hear from you. 

large  cmoyse@hotmail.co.uk

ios_homescreen_icon  @ChrisMoyse

RIP performance management

The challenge is to always improve, to always get better; to continually grow.

Professional growth within our trust will have two main purposes;

  • to build and enhance expertise, and secure continuous growth and improvement
  • to enable reflection on strengths and successes, and areas for further growth.

Professional development is a key driver not only of staff development, but also of recruitment, retention, wellbeing, and school improvement. Our ‘Professional Growth’ policy will outline the approach that we will take to help our teachers to become the very best version of themselves; supporting them to make the next steps but also creating a culture that encourages them to stay and grow with us.

Effective, and genuinely continuous, professional growth in our Trust will:
…have a focus on improving student outcomes
…build and enhance knowledge and expertise to bring about changes in practice
…have a narrow yet significant focus
…acknowledge that knowledge and expertise is domain specific
…recognise that novice and experts learn differently
…focus on what works, challenge existing assumptions and will be, therefore, evidence-informed
…involve collaboration with colleagues and peer support
…be sustained over time and include frequent opportunities for learning; experimentation and practice, reflection and evaluation, honest frequent feedback and solutions-focused coaching

As a solutions-focused trust, we will need to ensure our practices focus on solutions, not problems, on finding answers within our colleagues rather than imposing, often superficial, targets. The evidence we use to reflect on our performance and growth will not be solely based on student data or a small number of lesson observations. The Trust, therefore, will have no high stakes observations and rejects the notion that our teaching staff should be held to account for data-driven targets that no one individual can be solely accountable for. There is no performance related pay here. Instead the Trust will committed to developing a professional culture which drives quality assurance from within; an enabling process rather than an imposed top down process.

The Trust wishes to encourage a culture in which all teachers take responsibility for improving their practice through appropriate professional development. Professional growth will be linked to Teachers’ Standards, and/or Trust, subject or phase improvement priorities and to the on-going professional development needs and priorities of individual teachers and, of course, the students they teach. The Teachers’ Standards will form our benchmark for reflection, review and evaluation in order to ensure that our teaching staff identify areas for further growth and continue to maintain the level of competence that qualified them as teachers at the start of their careers.

So long as our teachers continue to meet the Teachers’ Standards and engage in the process of professional growth, pay progression will be automatic and not linked to any mechanism of performance management.

In subsequent posts I will outline the exact processes our teachers will be required to engage in over the course of the professional growth cycle.

Insanity was once described as ‘doing the same thing the same way and expecting a different result’.

RIP ‘Performance management’.

Welcome to our world ‘Professional Growth’.

LIVE coaching

Live coaching and how it helps new teachers get into good habits quickly

During a lesson a teacher wouldn’t look over a student’s shoulder and think ‘I can’t wait to mark that later!’ They would provide actionable feedback there and then in order to help that student improve. So why not provide this ‘live feedback’ to teachers too when you are supporting them in their classroom?

Several years ago I undertook a lesson observation of a science teacher who was doing her school placement at my school as part of her PGCE. Generally the lesson was fine although she hadn’t left an adequate amount of time for the students to fully write up their experiment. Part of the reason for this was that the opening activity was overly long and this had a knock on effect for the rest of the lesson. Later that day I met this PGCE student and provided her, in my role as her professional tutor, with some feedback. We discussed the timings of the lesson and she identified, with the help of the timeline I provided her, that she had left an inadequate amount of time to complete the experiment write up. Further examination of the timings and some feedback from me helped us to conclude that the opening activity had gone on too long. Her reaction to this was very thought provoking. She said to me ‘Why didn’t you tell me to speed up during the start of the lesson?’ Good point! I did think at the time that the opening activity was going on too long and time might be tight at the end. I even recorded this fact on my note pad. However, I didn’t share this feedback there and then; choosing only to record it and mention it at the later feedback meeting.

Had I provided this feedback ‘live’ would the lesson have been more effective and successful?

Had I done this student teacher a disservice by not pointing this out to her during the lesson?

So why wait? Why not provide feedback in the moment when it is really needed so that the teaching can be improved straight away?

What begins as a well-intentioned respect for the teacher’s ownership of their own classroom possibly ends by not prioritising the students’ learning.

 

If we are serious about developing teachers as quickly as possible so that they can have maximum impact on the student’s learning we must try to improve teaching as it happens.

John Hattie in his research tell us that feedback to students is particularly effective when provided immediately, during task acquisition, rather than deferred. So why not with teachers too. ‘Live coaching’ is where an experienced mentor or coach, skilled in providing immediate live feedback, works alongside a less experienced teacher while they are delivering a lesson. The coach provides the teacher with live feedback about their teaching so that the feedback is immediate and acted upon rather than being given after the lesson when it is essentially too late.

The method of ‘live feedback’ or ‘live coaching’ seems relatively rare in many schools. There seems to be an unwritten rule that once the lesson is underway the observer remains silent and unobtrusive; possibly sitting at the back, talking to the students and certainly not to the teacher. That is, you find out later how you did. I am, however, constantly striving to improve the way I support future or new teachers in order to help them establish a fast and effective start to their careers. Over several years now I have been developing ‘live’ and ‘hands on’ feedback/coaching so that the teaching can be improved or enhanced ‘in the moment’. As a result I have come to the conclusion that the more frequently I can coach my teachers, and the closer I can do this to the classroom, the better they become as they develop good habits that contribute to establishing a strong default position.

 

In undertaking ‘live coaching’ I have made some mistakes and learnt some very quick lessons. I have also, however, developed effective strategies to enhance this method of teacher development.

It is very important to follow some rules and protocols to undertake this effectively otherwise you run the risk of unduly stressing the teacher, undermining their authority or reducing their sense leadership in their own classroom.

  1. The more frequently you visit the teacher’s classroom the more the teacher (and students) will be comfortable with you being in the room. This helps establishing trust and ensures also that you get to see typicality. Why give feedback on anything else other than ‘typical’?
  2. Use any previous observations, reflections and discussions to ascertain the next required focus for improvement. This is the focus for any observation. Keep it relatively small to retain focus and increase the chances of being successful. The clearer the goal and focus is, the more likely improvement is going to happen. Deliberately work on addressing small changes at a time as this is both more guiseachievable and sustainable for a busy teacher. Stephen Guise in his book ‘Mini Habits’ talks about the need to get started and build momentum. A mini habit is a very small positive behaviour that you make yourself to do every day; a mini habit’s ‘too small to fail’ nature makes it achievable, deceptively powerful, and a superior habit-building strategy. The secret is to engineer situations where the success rate is relatively high in order to build consistent and effective habits. Build one habit at a time.
  3. Design lessons where there is plenty of opportunity for this focus to be used frequently. The focus becomes the purpose of the lesson. The more frequently and successfully a skill is practised the more likely it is to become automatic. For example, if you are working on transitions, design a lesson with several built in so that practice time is maximised and opportunities for feedback and subsequent improvement increased.
  4. Discuss the role of ‘live coaching’ before the lesson so everyone is clear about the expectations.
  5. In the classroom sit or stand close to the teacher so communication is easier and the students also get used to seeing you too. Be aware that another adult in the room may change the dynamic so a balance between being unobtrusive yet near the teacher is the aim.
  6. Do not attempt to teach something new to the teacher during the lesson or point out things that cannot be changed, such as material on a PowerPoint slide or the objective that is being shared. This will possibly throw them, creating distraction, uncertainty and stress. The focus is pre-agreed before the lesson – stick to it. Instead, reward, remind and reinforce.
  7. Reward: What your teachers do right is just as important in practice time as what they do wrong. If you see evidence of something going well, especially a strategy you had discussed together previously that they have been subsequently practising, praise them. This will boost their confidence. Remember they will be probably be nervous with you in the room. A quiet word, a thumbs up, a smile or even a word to the class about how you have noticed the class working well in a particular way will be affirming, reassuring and confidence boosting. Praise helps establish the right way encouraging them to do it again, the right way.IMG_0652
  8. Remind: Before they are about to undertake the agreed focus (e.g. Transition, explanation, modelling, class discussion and so on) remind them about the pre agreed elements of that focus. Possibly even jot these down on a mini whiteboard as a reminder and place them near the teacher. It may be prudent to have done this before the lesson so there are no surprises.
  9. Reinforce: Give the teacher some feedback and points to reinforce the strategy after it was done. This will prepare them for the next time they use that strategy in that lesson. Try to shorten the feedback loop and achieve correction and development as quickly as possible. Always correct privately obviously. Remember that you are not trying to rewire a skill just make small, simple changes.
  10. Providing small bite-sized bits of feedback makes it more likely to be acted upon right away. If they are unlikely to be able to act upon the feedback immediately and possibly not get it right ‘in the moment’ make a note and leave it to discuss in more detail in your follow up session. So limit yourself to the focus and limit the volume of feedback you give too. Clarity and brevity are key here.
  11. Pick the right moment. Don’t interrupt their teaching; pick a moment when the students are working such as during independent or group practice time or talk partner time. This way the students are not distracted by your interactions and the teacher is more able to focus on what you are saying. Say what you need to say before they have to do something (remind) or just after (reward or reinforce). What you say to the teacher must help student learning and make the lesson go more smoothly.
  12. Be as brief and concise as possible as not to interrupt the flow or the thought processes of the teacher. Remember that they will probably be scanning their class as you talk to them. Allow and expect them to be doing this.
  13. It may be possible to communicate with the teacher non-verbally. A hand gesture to encourage them to do something or a sign to remind. An athletics coach I had many years ago used to write brief reminders of things I had to remember on pieces of card that were left by the runway – a visual prompt to help me keep focused and remind me about what we had been trying to do in training. One or two words on a IMG_0651mini whiteboard (Scan, check, 3-2-1, stand still, talk partners) as a visual prompt can work well. I sometimes use an app on my iPad called ‘Make it Big’ to do this.You may also use other physical non-verbal cues. TPFor example, exaggerating your own stance and posture will remind your teacher to stand still and face the class.
  14. Model for the teacher, if appropriate. Sometimes words may not be enough and in order to fully understand the teacher may need to have the strategy modelled to them. Agree this beforehand so not to challenge their leadership and authority in their classroom. This can work really well with novice teachers who may not have a sufficiently developed mental model of excellence.

Practice doesn’t make perfect. It makes permanent. Therefore try to ensure that your teachers practise correctly otherwise poor habits will become quickly engrained and these are really hard to break. Frequent live feedback will help enormously here as it has the power to influence the lesson and therefore the learning in the moment, build great habits and also save time on lengthy feedback conversation too which is a real bonus.