Structures and Cultures

Reading time: 3
shutterstock_329391590 One of the most popular travel place in world - Roman Coliseum.


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...
Read more about @TeacherToolkit

How can we make coaching work in schools?

This is a structural and cultural shift, explaining how we are approaching teaching and learning.

Built of concrete and sand, 8 years in the making, the Colosseum (or Flavian Amphitheatre)  is an entirely free-standing structure. The amphitheatre was ringed by eighty entrances at ground level, 76 of which were used by ordinary spectators, offering easy access.


Over the past few weeks, I have continued to ask my readers the following question: how can we genuinely improve teaching and learning? In my video presentation to banish high-stakes formal observations – including the outdated x3 observations per academic year model – to help schools and teachers move towards a coaching model.

I am proposing to develop the teaching and learning structure and culture in our school, but hopefully shape and support others.

Below, you can read the headline details of the proposal – with finer details and cost calculations included in my presentation which can downloaded here.

In my ‘coaching flow’ diagram, I explain how a coaching model – introduced across the school – can help change structures and cultures of teaching and learning.

What? Why?

How can we put in place a coaching structure that is a free-standing model, allowing teachers to access self-improvement from all areas of the school?

These are the headlines from my post, No More Formal Observations and is how I view our coaching work developing over the next 6 months.

  • to banish lesson gradings once and forever.
  • to stop the ‘3-model formal (summative) observations’ once per term – even if they are not graded, forever.
  • to allow every teacher to be coached.
  • to include ZERO paperwork in the process.
  • all coaches follow a specific script; a ‘common vernacular’.

A Coaching Flow:

In this diagram,  the coaching flow has the professional (the coachee) at heart.  It of course is hypothetical and a suggestion to illustrate how I see coaching working alongside appraisal – but importantly, in separation.

Coaching Flow

Surrounding the coachee,  the allocated coach offers weekly support, that is non-threatening and in the words of Mary Myatt – high challenge, low threat. The weekly cycle would last two academic terms and intends to have a direct impact on the coachee and student outcomes. This model would lead to a greater impact on the overall quality of teaching and learning across the school if a significant body of teaching staff are involved – as coach or coachee – in the programme.



  • coaching relationships would mainly be outside of the coachee’s department.
  • appraisal would never be a factor; nor line-management relationships.
  • every coached observation would last 15 minutes and focus on one action step (only).
  • feedback – at a time agreed before the session – would take place within 48 hours and be no longer than 30 minutes.
  • the cycle would repeat each week. Time would be given in return for trust/ to ensure it would happen.
  • to develop the Department Diagnostic report to help gather a picture of teaching, learning and assessment throughout a cycle (one academic year).
  • learning walks would still happen by departments to gather a flavour of work across the school – for every department – but this would be divorced from this proposal and on a 2-year cycle.
  • there would be no more  whole-school learning walks or work sampling. Instead, it would happen in departments on a cycle led by that team.
  • at the end of the cycle, the programme would be tweaked and the coach and coachee bank of staffing would be reviewed for the year ahead.

I’ll share finer details in due course, as well as a FAQs sheet. Watch this space …


@TeacherToolkit logo new book Vitruvian man TT

*this model is copyright of Quintin Kynaston.


8 thoughts on “Structures and Cultures

  1. On visiting China last year I was impressed with the culture of learning by observing eachother. No fear, or worry but an attitude to developing own teaching by learning from others. Groups of 8-15 teachers can sit in ear matked lessons and all are expected to observe 2-3 a week. We need to see improvement as the obvious route.

    1. Hi great article. I am a Learning and Teacher coach in a Primary school and follow a similar model. At present I am the only coach and I work with a couple of teachers each term. They have found it very useful and it has given teachers an opportunity to reflect on their development. At first some teachers have found it it daunting , but after a few weeks they see my role as supportive and are more open and self reflective.

  2. The basic principles are simple and, I believe, courageous which we damn well need from leaders at the moment. Also, not throwing out the baby/bath water makes sense as there will definitely be much in what already happens in schools that means whole-scale change does not need to happen. More of a structural and cultural shift – as you say.

    I go with 3 simple steps:

    Outcome focussed (improving teaching and learning)
    Values-based (rewarding both professionally and personally)
    Positive (strengths and development rather than deficit model)

    This is a win-win strategy that all staff will benefit from both in terms of job satisfaction and personal fulfilment. We all want to get better and we get better faster by through personal involvement in the focus.

  3. Hi Ross,
    Looks really interesting. Do you mind if I ask which part of the model in particular is copyright to QK? It’s very similar to a model we are working towards, based largely on the work of Paul Bambrick Santoyo. Is it just the diagram that you are referring to rather than the model itself? I Would hate to be accused of breaking copyright!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.