Constantly Tweaking Teaching and Learning by @TeacherToolkit

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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This is a simple blog about teaching and learning tweaks in a landscape without (one-off) lesson grades.

September 2014:

Every school has their own journey and this is ours. Our own context.

Three weeks into my new job, we faced Ofsted and I have previously blogged and shared Observing the Observers, where I discussed my experiences of working with the inspectors, looking at teaching and learning across the school without lesson gradings. I also shared the document we used to lead the way between formative and summative lesson observations.

You can download this template here or click the image below to take a closer and quicker look (at page two in particular).

Formative Lesson Observation Ofsted

During the inspection, I provided a folder of evidence. It was full of information! Three-page lesson plans, observations forms and record keeping, diagnostic assessments, department by department and so on. Quantity not quality was the over-arching theme. Some of the information was superb, other documents, quite catastrophic. We have since eradicated the worst of the bureaucracy and unnecessary workload, by informing staff that lesson plans are no longer compulsory and lesson objectives (being copied down) are no longer required. However, we have asked for concrete evidence of progress over time, asking that all classes have a seating plan and individual progress trackers, created by the teacher (and not by the MIS (Management Information System) controlling the data and assessment of students.

For all types of observations, our online Seating Planner, MINT class (shared here, Let’s Talk About Teaching) allows observers to view seating plans in advance. By sheer coincidence, the online software displays student data; but as a source of reliability and validity, we ask that all teachers provide their own progress trackers (data) of students in their classes. Ideally linked to a seating plan, this information, provided in advance, will offer all observes the information required to assess typicality / teaching over time.

We are allowing our teachers to spend time, focuses on what works.

March 2015:

Over the past term, we are evolving our own evidence base (across the school) for gathering information on the quality of teaching and learning over time, focusing purely on progress. This week I have referred to our very own documentation once more, coupled with thoughts on the SSAT Lead Practitioner application and the Teaching Standards, which I very much like!

Lead Practitioner:

If you are not familiar with the Lead Practitioner framework, when completing an application, it asks applicants to consider their evidence base in 10 areas of competence, and then self-assess your progress against each of the criteria. The four steps you need to take are:

  • Step 1     Initial self-assessment
  • Step 2     Gathering examples and evidence for meeting the criteria for accreditation
  • Step 3     Completing the online assessment tool and uploading evidence
  • Step 4     Preparing for peer moderation

The experience of leading practice can take place at a number of levels, from working with just one other colleague through to working with large groups in your own region or beyond. For the purposes of Lead Practitioner accreditation, these levels are described as:

Level Scope
  • Beginning
  • Developing
  • Extending
  • Transforming & leading
  • With another colleague
  • With your team
  • Beyond your team
  • Regional, national and international

This particular part in the application form looks like this;

SSAT Lead Practitioner

Teaching Standards:

If you have not yet reviewed your own progress against the revised Teaching Standards (2012), why on earth not?! As an individual I have regularly completed this once a term. I am pleased to report, that at my school, the Teaching Standards are fast-becoming a regular dialogue between staff at all levels. This will only increase as we use this document to bond everything together that we do, in a landscape without grading lessons.

The Teacher Teaching Standards

Newly Qualified Teacher:

Here is an example of our own observation form for newly qualified teachers.

NQT Observation Form Teaching Standards

This form, amalgamated together with the teaching standards, equipped with the language from the SSAT Lead Practitioner framework has now formed the basis of our latest formative observation form.

  1. You will now, no-longer see any references to OfSTED criteria on our template.
  2. You will also now no-longer see any references to lesson-gradings.

However, I do know some readers will argue that the WWW and EBI on the document below, is still an assessment (or perhaps judgement) on what the observer is looking at (not looking for), but I do hope that in the summer term once we are a few steps closer to defining a range of sources for our evidence base of ‘good teaching over time’, I will be able to share our final version before going to print.

One step at a time. Every school has their own journey and this is ours. Our own context.

You can preview my proposed template below and take a look at our new teacher planner which has just arrived today!

Latest Template:

I am sharing this document here for your feedback. It is yet to be used. It is a massive step forward. Lesson gradings or OfSTED terminology no-longer feature on page two of the original file shared at the top of this blog. We are now moving toward developing teachers to be even better. Part of this journey will involve observing the quality of feedback at some stage …

NEW Front Page:


Formative Lesson Observation Template No Gradings

NEW Back Page:

and on the reverse of this document …

Formative Lesson Observation Template No Gradings Teaching StandardsTweaking:

Even two days after writing this blog, I have tweaked both pages. You can see the changes here. For example, instead of;

  • Beginning
  • Developing
  • Embedded and Extending
  • Transforming and Leading

We have tweaked the document towards:

  • Beginning and/ or Developing
  • Embedding and Leading.

There is also a new and important addition on page 1, designed to consolidate and link back to prior observations.

Teacher Planner:

After lots and lots of tweaking, we now have our first school planner for teaching staff. The contents of this book will evolve to include some of the following:

  • Learning Policy
  • Marking Policy, including aspects of mark-plan-teach
  • Useful templates
  • Workload guidance

Quintin Kynaston Teacher Planner

In terms of day-to-day lesson planning, each individual lesson is scripted with the following information to allow teachers to plan lessons better. Of course, this is not a stipulation, and after 4 more months of road-testing, staff will feedback with key vocabulary, missing templates and so forth.

In one of the individual lesson grid-boxes shown below, the following vocabulary is used:

  • Success Criteria
  • Learning Activities (although I am not very keen on the word ‘activities’)
  • Key Question(s)
  • Stickability / Takeaway (having various connotations. What learning should stick? What is the takeaway? Or takeaway learning i.e. homework
  • Within each week, every Wednesday includes a period 6 ‘CPD” label to encourage teachers to record CPD notes, plans and reflections.

Click the image to take a closer look at the page.

Quintin Kynaston Teacher PlannerMuch more to follow …


12 thoughts on “Constantly Tweaking Teaching and Learning by @TeacherToolkit

  1. Pingback: Constantly Tweaking Teaching and Learning by @TeacherToolkit | Uxbridge College Teaching and Learning
  2. Could you use “learning opportunities” instead of “activities” in your lesson planner? I guess essentially the two are the same but “opportunity” implies that there could be an element of choice on behalf of the student (as if there were multiple activities to choose from).

  3. I really like this approach and the thought process which has gone into these templates/models. Do you have a weekly CPD session, fixed into your school calendar? How do staff respond to that along with other weekly meetings (if you have them)?

    1. This year, we lost one lesson and replaced with weekly CPD. Some after altogether, others in departments and some set aside for support staff. It is an evolving programme and we are currently using this time to consolidate ideas and review impact.

  4. Pingback: A Coaching Model

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