In a previous post I wrote about how I use my mentoring prompt cards to identify, sort and prioritise next steps (plus ones) in a teacher’s development.
To further explain their use I have created this short video – hope you find it useful
In a previous post I wrote about how I use my mentoring prompt cards to identify, sort and prioritise next steps (plus ones) in a teacher’s development.
To further explain their use I have created this short video – hope you find it useful
In the last few months my colleague, Tamsin Grainger, and I have set about the task of thinking about some guiding principles for the development of teaching, expectations, curriculum and assessment in schools across our trust.
This is not a policy to be adhered to by our schools, as we value individual school autonomy, but some ‘guiding principles’ that intentionally and usefully combine four important elements of our daily work. It is our hope that these principles will provide us all in our trust with a shared understanding of how we might go about realising our aspiration that ‘Every Child Achieves’.
We have a fairly unusual mix of schools in our trust that not only stretch across Somerset but also across all the age ranges so the guiding principles need to apply equally to 6 key stages. We are a 3-19 MAT.
I reiterate, this is not intended to be a trust policy but to sit alongside individual school policies; guiding their thinking and helping our central team to narrow their focus of support for each of our schools through our ‘Growing Great Schools’ process. These guiding principles will also exist to provide some helpful parameters when our teaching colleagues choose their individual focus for our replacement for performance management: ‘Growing Great Teachers‘.
Tamsin and I would welcome your feedback in order for us to further sharpen our thinking so we would be most grateful for any comments especially around:
Every Child Achieves: Our guiding principles
A challenging curriculum, effective teaching and accurate, informative assessment are inextricably linked. When all three are aligned, and underpinned by high expectations, they should facilitate effective learning for all our students, irrespective of their starting points. This is fundamental to the delivery of a high quality education that ensures ‘Every Child Achieves’.
How will we convey our high expectations?
We set high expectations which inspire, motivate and challenge the students. Having high expectations of each and every student and then providing the necessary support needed to achieve that level is key to ensuring that every child achieves.
What do we want our students to know and be able to do?
The curriculum outlines the key knowledge and skills that students need to learn over time in order to be successful and ensure that every child achieves; this then drives what, when and how we teach.
Our guiding curriculum principles:
Our inclusive curriculum will be challenging in its breadth and depth so that:
How will we find out what our students have learnt to further inform our teaching?
Accurate assessment is used to find out what our students know, what they don’t know and then through effective teaching, used to support them to close this learning gap. Assessment, therefore, should be evident in all lessons; underpinning teaching and learning in order to ensure that every child achieves.
For our students: the purpose of assessment is to help them to become better learners by understanding their own attainment and how to make even better progress.
For our teachers: accurate assessment should develop an understanding of the individual needs of their students so that planning, monitoring of progress and target setting are accurate and meaningful. Effectively check students’ understanding throughout the lesson and be quick to recognise when any student is struggling or not challenged by the work, responding and intervening where appropriate.
Effective feedback should:
How will we effectively deliver this curriculum?
There are some evidence-based principles that guide how we teach to ensure that every child achieves. These are summarised as explaining and modelling, reviewing and practising, checking, providing feedback, and adapting.
Quality of explanation and modelling
Reviewing and practising to make the learning stick
Checking for understanding, providing feedback and adapting
Here is my ‘Loom’ presentation which details my trust’s replacement for performance management: Growing Great Teachers. #ImproveNotProve
This was part of Research Ed Durrington.
Hope people find it useful.
Please do let me know if, at some point in the future, I may be able to help your organisation if you choose to follow a similar path.
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.
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.
GROW is an acronym for Goal, Reality, Options, What next?
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.
Gary 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, they 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:
When exploring the goal, encourage your colleague to build a detailed vision of future success.
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.
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:
Depending 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.
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 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:
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.
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.
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.
It is also useful during this phase to examine the pros and cons of each approach so a more informed decision may be made.
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?
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:
To make them aware they are not alone:
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:
Get commitment and clarity:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
WORKING WITH COLLEAGUES
Assertiveness and difficult conversations
Goals, goal-setting and purpose
Clarifying goals for a coaching/mentoring session
Identifying possible issues
Identifying development needs
Confronting difficult choices
POSSIBLE NEXT STEPS
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;
At BTCT, effective, and genuinely continuous, professional growth…
Tamsin and I wanted to ensure that our peer review process tied in with these driving principles and so ‘Growing Great Schools’ was created.
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:
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?
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.
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.
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’.
2020 GROWING GREAT LEADERS – leadership skills and qualities
2021 GROWING GREAT COLLEAGUES – professional growth for all our colleagues not just teachers
Thanks for reading – any feedback and thoughts as ever welcomed
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.
‘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.
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.
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;
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…
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.
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:
PROFESSIONAL GROWTH PLAN
What knowledge and skills do we need to address the learning needs of our students?
In 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 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.
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 respectful 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.
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:
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:
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.
The challenge is to always improve, to always get better; to continually grow.
Professional growth within our trust will have two main purposes;
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 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.
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.