What works well? Ask a PE teacher!

There has been a great deal of debate on social media recently about what works in the classroom. This rich professional dialogue has been helpfully supported by a plethora of insightful research on teaching, learning, cognitive science and so on. Much of this research, which is available on this blog for quick reference, highlights what has been proved to be effective and provides helpful suggestions for classroom practice. Many of the guiding principles found within this research come from three sources:

  1. research on how our brain acquires and uses new information;
  2. research on the classroom practices of those teachers whose students show the highest gains; and
  3. findings from studies that taught learning strategies to students.

They might have added…
4) From observing PE teachers in action!

Simply because so much of the information from research will be hugely familiar to Physical Education teachers as it is to me as a former PE teacher myself.

PE teachers will identify as familiar and commonplace:

  • Fast starts and ‘Do Nows’. Beginning a lesson with a short review of previous learning. Established routines, such as skill practices, games or warm ups at the start of a lesson that settle and prepare students for the lesson building on previously acquired knowledge, skills and understanding.
  • Purposeful learning guided by objectives that are not written up.
  • New material presented in small steps with student practice after each step. Practical skills broken down in manageable chunks so to limit the amount of material students receive at any one time which allow them to build confidence without overwhelming.
  • Suitably brief, clear instructions and explanations. The outside environment often demands this but activity time is, therefore, kept to a maximum through brief, yet considered use of teacher talk.
  • Tasks and skills modelled only at one level – the best quality performance to practise and replicate. WAGOLLs (What A Good One Looks Like) routinely shared so that excellence is always modelled.
  • A high level of active and guided practice for all students. Practice getting it right; encoding success as the late, great basketball coach John Wooden put it.
  • Drills and practices that are given names to speed up the students’ recognition of the next step. I have personally used drills named after football clubs and basketball teams that require, once taught, no further explanation. Naming a drill creates a known vocabulary that helps focus practice and reflection.
  • Responsive and adaptive teaching – Monitoring and analysis of student performance, checking the responses of all students, to ascertain what they can do already and therefore their starting points. Analysis of performance so that the teacher can plan the next step in their development and adapt the lesson in real time.
  • Employing a large number of questions to further check for understanding; encouraging students to explain and demonstrate what they had learned.
  • Systematic verbal feedback from the teacher (and sometimes the student) and corrections leading to further practice and, if appropriate, re-teaching.
  • Opportunity for ndependent practice and application of the new skills in a new and ever changing context; often a game situation.
  • Oh and group work! The subject demands you do group work. Sorry!

So you see PE teachers have been doing this stuff all along. Go learn from them folks!


Research articles























































Get to the point: EXTREME COACHING


No time for coaching?  Think again…but differently.

Less advice and more curious questioning in as many interactions with staff as possible.

Don’t think that coaching should be just about the obvious meetings: line management, one to ones…

Transform all your interactions to make coaching part of your daily repertoire. Make it important but not urgent. Focus on frequent 5-10 minute conversations.

Get to the point.
What are you currently focusing on?
What’s the issue at the moment?

Hold onto your own opinion as you may be wrong.
Advice-giving results in overdependence and may be overwhelming.
What’s working?
What have you done so far?
What have you tried?
What have you found out about…?
How could you…?
What would make the biggest difference?
What else?

Your conversation should always be a useful one. Get them to find the value in your interaction and ensure that they don’t miss the point of the conversation.
What next?
What are you going to do?


Read more here…


Research in 100 words

Research in 100 words


Simple summaries for busy teachers.

In the staff room, by the photocopier, on the back of the toilet door!

I hope that you find them useful.


Common Myths:

Elaborative interrogation:


Using data:

Working memory:

Ability groupings:

Self regulation:


 Ask questions:

Check understanding:

Cognitive load:

Daily review:

Pair words with graphics:

Independent practice:

Provide models:

Scaffolds for difficult tasks:

Present material in small steps:

Retrieval practice:                                   https://www.dropbox.com/s/1w33urtx6030s9s/slic100%20retrieval%20practice.pdf?dl=0

Alternating solved and unsolved problems:  https://www.dropbox.com/s/y9r4dn9ohws6wng/slic100%20alternating%20solved%20and%20unsolved.pdf?dl=0

Beliefs about intelligence:                 https://www.dropbox.com/s/n5f1wbbm7ogtegi/Beliefs%20about%20intelligence.pdf?dl=0

Know facts:                                                      https://www.dropbox.com/s/37gohawyj695shq/slic100%20know%20facts.pdf?dl=0

What they already know:                             https://www.dropbox.com/s/q2wf8gy8zcjgh5d/slic100%20what%20they%20already%20know.pdf?dl=0

Feedback:                                                   https://www.dropbox.com/s/fey8p4lfkiugzkb/slic100%20feedback.pdf?dl=0


Talk like… resources

If you can say it then you have a better chance of writing it.

This is not a post about teaching literacy but simply a post with some resources attached (see below).

At Bridgwater College Academy, levels of literacy are currently low on entry and just one of the many strategies we use is to encourage and insist on the use of the correct subject specific academic language in full sentences – from Reception through to Key Stage 4.

Picture1If children can say ’tyrannosaurus rex’ then they can say ‘gastrocnemius’ or ‘latissimus dorsi’.

Our year 4 children can!


So here are some posters we put around the academy to remind and encourage our children to sound like they know what they are talking about!

I have shared these via twitter (@chrismoyse) and several people have asked for copies so here they are. Download links are below.



Sportswomen, sportsmen and coaches https://www.dropbox.com/s/33kqsb8rqz8vz57/coaches.pdf?dl=0 https://www.dropbox.com/s/4n068agg8akeb34/gymnasts.pdf?dl=0       https://www.dropbox.com/s/j7nagqhtscp75ss/sports%20analysts.pdf?dl=0

Dancers                                                            https://www.dropbox.com/s/5ixokkq62fk19wt/dancer.pdf?dl=0

Chemists, biologists, physicists and scientists https://www.dropbox.com/s/7bofgen83uadwsf/biology2.pdf?dl=0 https://www.dropbox.com/s/1qlox2k84v9bk4m/biology.pdf?dl=0 https://www.dropbox.com/s/rb76jec20q446lw/chemists.pdf?dl=0 https://www.dropbox.com/s/v9fjcaie8tjginz/physics.pdf?dl=0 https://www.dropbox.com/s/q3otwglyvln3y8v/Scientist%202.pdf?dl=0


Historians                                                     https://www.dropbox.com/s/ioyvf23aybemhfe/historian%202.pdf?dl=0 https://www.dropbox.com/s/69367j00yzcuh4y/historian.pdf?dl=0

Designers                                                   https://www.dropbox.com/s/r8iayklp164hcqa/designers.pdf?dl=0       https://www.dropbox.com/s/ftwq6qb8f8hrovz/designers2.pdf?dl=0


Chefs                                                                   https://www.dropbox.com/s/ryihk3hi7z37i7e/chefs.pdf?dl=0

Artists                                                       https://www.dropbox.com/s/gdcgcgfi4vqu6j2/artists.pdf?dl=0

The French                                  https://www.dropbox.com/s/n8myybmb4e4bmec/french.pdf?dl=0

The Spanish                                                 https://www.dropbox.com/s/fosskzgud1zftig/spanish.pdf?dl=0

Linguists                                        https://www.dropbox.com/s/v6us0simu9egqzf/linguists.pdf?dl=0

Philosophers                                   https://www.dropbox.com/s/6948i6fq2pj14pi/philosophers.pdf?dl=0

Writers                                                   https://www.dropbox.com/s/inrz7axrjf3xokd/writers2.pdf?dl=0 https://www.dropbox.com/s/v55ispeytenj34n/writers.pdf?dl=0

Mathematicians                      https://www.dropbox.com/s/8cmcgccqtuif0gc/mathematicians.pdf?dl=0   https://www.dropbox.com/s/9nmfqhnnvlriu1w/mathematicians%202.pdf?dl=0

Coders  and programmers                                                    https://www.dropbox.com/s/s2a5oz8iwyoxh8q/coders.pdf?dl=0 https://www.dropbox.com/s/ipoallq4xag29ar/Programmers.pdf?dl=0

Geographers                                       https://www.dropbox.com/s/t85j8i4gn7stqr4/geographers.pdf?dl=0                        https://www.dropbox.com/s/zn14tyyt10j6zk8/geographers2.pdf?dl=0

Psychologists                                   https://www.dropbox.com/s/zn5lutobjv1wzl7/psychologist.pdf?dl=0


Further stuff on oracy:
If you want to see how a school is developing oracy and vocabulary here are three very good places to start – all from @shaun_allison, @atharby and the staff of Durrington High School.




For us it’s a work in progress.

Hope the resources come in useful.

Doing the right thing even when nobody is watching: Unseen observations

I often have the definition of ‘insanity’ offered (allegedly) by Albert Einstein in my mind when I plan developments at my own school. My wonderful late colleague Paul Ginnis often started his training days with it.

Insanity is ‘Doing the same thing, the same way and expecting a different result’.

As the outcomes and quality of teaching improve year on year at Bridgwater College Academy (Third most improved school in SW England), I often wonder ‘Where does our next 5% come from?’ The bar is higher now and raising it even further is harder.

Recently my colleague, Candida Gould (@candidagould), and I have been keen to establish our vision for professional development, learning and growth at BCA and have now arrived at this as our statement of intent:
To promote and sustain professional growth that is based on collaborative high-trust processes with a collective responsibility for children’s outcomes.

Underpinning this vision are these 6 principles that will hopefully guide us towards that vision:

Shared values and vision.
Mutual trust, respect and support.
A collective responsibility for children’s learning.
Learning focused collaboration.
Reflective professional enquiry.
Solution focused approaches.

The purpose of lesson observation at our academy:

  • To stimulate professional reflection and dialogue.
  • To inform the coaching process and future developments both as an individual and at whole academy level.
  • To help us to deepen our understanding of learning and how we can, and do, make an impact upon it.
  • To make us even better teachers.

The main purpose of lesson observation at BCA is NOT to judge the quality of teachers but to help teachers, through support and coaching, to become even better at improving children’s learning.

We have moved away from using lesson observation as a method of evaluating teachers and now more typically use:
Outcomes (not just in exams).
Data tracking of children’s progress.
Typicality (not show boating or show casing) evidenced in ‘drop ins’ and ‘on call’ visits.
Evidence in ‘books’.
Behaviour log patterns.
Student voice; understanding of their next steps.

To further extend the trust we have in our staff to ‘do the right thing when nobody is looking’ we plan to trial the idea of ‘unseen observations’ in the summer term. This is process I first heard of through the work of @drmattoleary in his book on classroom observations. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Classroom-Observation-Matt-OLeary/dp/0415525799

unseen obs

the unseen observation will be the third of three observations. The first one in the Autumn Term focuses on an area of personal development; the second in the Spring Term is going to observe a colleague who is working, or has worked, on a similar focus in order to learn from them; the third one is the ‘unseen observation’. One of the principle aims of the ‘unseen observation’ at our academy will be to provide an opportunity for our teachers to engage in analysis of, and reflection on, their teaching. There is no observer entering the classroom and, therefore, no disturbance to the classroom dynamics.

ted_wragg_small“When someone new comes into the classroom to observe, then the very presence of an additional adult who is not normally present may influence what happens”
(Wragg, E. C. 2012. An introduction to classroom observation).

The ‘observation’ is undertaken by the teacher with the development work happening mainly in the pre and post-lesson conversations.

The purpose of this approach to observations is to further eliminate ‘showboating’ and ‘hoop jumping’ and create an opportunity for reflection, analysis and sharing. This takes place through the detailed conversation about the teacher’s planning and analysis of its effectiveness. The stimulus for the professional dialogue between the supporting teacher(s) and the teacher and is based on the letter’s self-analysis of the lesson itself. The focus for the work is the teacher’s own chosen area for growth as outlined in their personal development plan (PDP).

1: Phase/Year group/subject meeting

The teachers share and explain to their respective teams what they have been focusing on this year. The purpose is to find out about the different PDP focuses, what strategies are being employed, what learning tasks and activities are being used, and how they use them in order to address the focus of their PDP.

quotation-marks-1“The teacher’s experience and perceptions of the teaching situation form the basis for the collaborator’s work in development.”

(D. Freeman 1989 Teacher training, Development, and Decision Making: A model of teaching and related strategies for language teacher education).

The teachers at their respective planning meetings talk through their PDPs; what they have been focusing on and what impact they hope to have. Then they present their plans for their ‘unseen observations’ and the team collaboratively plan further to ensure the explicit practice of their chosen focus. The other teachers’ (‘observers’) role is to listen, not to judge. To support, guide and challenge each other.

‘Observers’ should play the role of ‘question asker’ only without interfering in the teacher’s thoughts or impeding the plan they have prepared. The observers’ job is to inquire more than to dictate or even suggest. The focus here is to encourage the teacher to reason their decisions about the lesson and to create a self-analytical approach.
(Quirke, P. 1996. Using unseen observations for an in-service teacher development programme).

Each teacher may be given a series of questions to consider during the lesson to facilitate further reflection and analysis. These questions help focus on ‘why’ and aim to aid the teacher’s objective analysis. They are worked out with the teacher and differ for each case. The various year or subject teams encourage each other to articulate their ideas and put them into practice, thereby hopefully promoting the teacher’s development and tangible impact on the children’s learning.

2: The unseen lesson.moonwalking-with-einstein-book-cover

The secret to improving a skill is to retain some degree of conscious control over it while practising…to force oneself out of autopilot.

(Moonwalking with Einstein. J Foer.)

The teacher teaches the lesson without worry that something might not go to plan. The purpose of the lesson is to consciously practise and make explicit the strategies that address the issues outlined in their PDP. The purpose is not only to observe ‘How do I teach?’, but to decide ‘Why do I teach what I teach?’, ‘Why do I teach how I do?’ and ‘What impact am I having on the children’s learning?’ The other purpose of the unseen observation is to inform the write up of their PDP.

3: Post lesson discussion and feedback.

51mIhQBPyiL__SX402_BO1,204,203,200_“Conversations about practice constitute a critical vehicle for professional learning.”

Charlotte Danielson – Talk about teaching

At a subsequent team each teacher recalls the lesson, sharing a realistic picture of what happened. The team listen to the teacher’s version of it after the event. They see the lesson through the eyes of the teacher and rely on the teacher as a professional to accurately report back.

The ‘observers’ role is to ask questions about the lessons. This does not include any type of evaluation by the observers as the main purpose is to reveal what happened in the unseen lesson.

Reflective discussion can be quite a challenge and it is important that the team encouragPicture2e reflection through a series of questions that enable the teacher to unpick the ‘unseen’ lesson.

The familiar GROW structure helps here.


4: Personal development plan (PDP) write up and sharing.

Each teacher prior to the feedback team meeting complete a write up of their PDP which addresses the following four questions:

What did you intend to achieve this year?
What did you do to move towards achieving this aim?
What has the impact been of this work on the children’s learning?
How might you further develop this work?

At the team meeting, after all have shared their unseen lesson, each teacher has an opportunity to share this write up so all team members are aware of their colleague’s work and may also learn from each other. To ensure that professional growth is seen as a continuous process, the team may suggest possible areas for development and a potential future focus for continuing research and professional growth.

This approach is a way to encourage trust and autonomy; for teachers to take responsibility for their own professional growth, to depend on themselves and each other in terms of evaluating their own practice and further move them towards excellence without the need for an observer. It also encourages accountability as all are expected to contribute and is an efficient and effective way to round off the year of PDP focused professional growth.

 I trust my teachers to be do the right thing even when no one is watching…
…and they do!

Tell me what you think.




Evidence based & reflective observations

As I have written in previous posts (here and here) we haven’t judged lesson at Bridgwater College Academy for 5 years. When we do observe a lesson there is always a focus for the observation and this is generally the individual teacher’s negotiated ‘Personal Development Plan’ focus, which I have written previously about here.

Lesson notes are recorded on a blank piece of paper; no tick boxes, no grade boxes, no WWW and EBI. Our blank piece of paper model assumes several things:

  1. There is no preferred methodology in teaching and the observer is not looking for a specific lesson structure.
  2. The observer goes in with an open mind. The observer goes in with no agenda other than to support and develop that teacher.
  3. The agenda for the observation is provided by the teacher and the observer simply records some evidence of this focus to share with the teacher after the lesson, together with some questions to help the teacher reflect on the lesson. I always encourage my staff to prepare questions before the ‘debrief’. Many of these reflective questions are recorded on the observation notes.

At Bridgwater College Academy we use the IOS app ‘Notability’ on our iPads which allows us to take notes, add and annotate photos, and include links to resources.

wpid-notability_startupRead more about Notability here: http://www.gingerlabs.com/

At the last look it costs £9.99 and is available here: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/notability/id360593530?mt=8


There are, of course, other note taking apps but I love this one personally

What these notes do is provide the necessary evidence for the teacher on which to reflect on their teaching. This also means that I can email the notes as a pdf to the teacher before I’ve even left their classroom so that they have time to read through my notes before we meet later. They end up being anywhere between 2 – 4mb so may quickly fill up your school email allowance depending on how much you have.

Here is an example of the notes I take. These are recorded ‘live’ in the lesson.


Lesson evidence, through photos and lesson data including timings, together with reflective questions means that these notes are focused and non-judgemental. They focus on strategies, not people; on teaching and not teachers. They help establish reality; what really happened during the lesson. In many cases what we think is happening is different from what is actually happening in our lessons. Objective data helps enormously here. It is a description rather than an evaluation. I find that when staff are aware of what happened they are so much more accepting of feedback or advice and are generally in a stronger position to make next step commitments themselves. These notes contribute to our culture of ongoing self-evaluation in which teachers are empowered to take responsibility for their professional development. The focus is on reflection and coaching, that is learning from our actions and acting upon our new learning.

Taking photos in lessons also provides us with evidence of effective practice to share with other colleagues at meetings.

The post lesson dialogue utilises the GROW model and focuses on the teacher’s agenda. The post lesson conversation involves a structured dialogue: GROW with a positive outcome as a result of the coaching conversation. When done well it involves listening, reflecting back, asking great questions, making suggestions and helping teachers to solve their own issues.


This ‘follow up professional dialogue’ outlines what the next step is for that teacher to become even better and locks in their commitment to action. Again it uses GROW as a structure and is captured on this proforma:
















Tell me what you think. Works for us.