Key Strategies for Teaching

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If you led teaching and learning in your school, what key strategies would you want your teachers to use?

As part of the ‘teach’ section of our Learning Policy, we are developing a range of key teaching and learning strategies. In this post, I share our progress so far and what we have achieved throughout 2015/16.

The Learning Policy defines the consistencies which make everyone’s job easier, and it needs to become common practice in the same way as our Behaviour for Learning policy. In tandem, both of these will drive whole-school improvement.

Teach: Learning Policy

This is the latest version of the ‘teach’ section which has gone to staff consultation for the third time. There are minor grammatical errors and key terms to be added/removed. For example, numeracy alongside literacy.

This is the latest version (see here).

Teaching is a lifetime’s craft. “Every teacher needs to improve, not because they are not good enough, but because they can be even better.” (Professor Dylan Wiliam)

  • We are all teachers of literacy. The quality of both students’ and teacher’s language, such as in razor-sharp instructions and questioning, are significant determinants of progress. Make the implicit, explicit.
  • Teachers must be explicit about learning outcomes and key words.
  • Go with the learning: the ‘flow’ of great progress is more important than following a lesson plan.
  • All students must be working harder than the teacher, over time and be able to use the key strategies.
  • Ensure that learning has stuck, through checking that is incisive, systematic and effective.

shutterstock_353043410 businessman looking a big key, solution concept

What key strategies can unlock great teaching?

Image: Shutterstock

What have we achieved?

Throughout 2015/16, we have achieved the following in various CPD models:

  1. Learning Policy launched – 1st September 2015 (INSET day – 2 hours)
  2. Mark explained – 2nd September (INSET day – 2 hours)
  3. Plan explained (IRIS examples) – 23rd September (INSET day – 2 hours)
  4. Plan explained (part 2) – 25th September (INSET day – 1 hour)
  5. Learning Policy review (Mark-Plan) – 14th October (1.5 hours in departments)
  6. Departmental Show and Tell – 23rd October (INSET – 1 hour )
  7. Quality first teaching (Differentiation) CPD – 11th November (INSET – 1.5 hours)
  8. Research for Learning CPD (external speaker / key strategies) – 9th December (1.5 hours)
  9. Literacy (modelling)  4th January 2016 – (INSET – all day)
  10. Mark-Plan CPD workshops – 20th January (led by heads of department – 1.5 hours)
  11. Lesson Planning CPD – 2nd March – (led by heads of department – 1.5 hours)
  12. Launched our staff CPD Menu
  13. Gifted and Talented – 9th March (INSET – 30 minutes)
  14. Launch of the ‘teach’ section of our Learning Policy (this post – carousel show and tell workshops – 1.5 hours)
  15. Published our CPD / Recruitment video.
  16. Learning Policy quality assurance – June/July

We have dedicated at least 30 hours to this in our professional development sessions with staff. Don’t forget, we collapse our timetable every week and give staff 1.5 hours every Wednesday to lead or be part of CPD as a whole-staff, or working together in departments. The Learning Policy has formed almost 50% of our CPD provision this academic year!

In our work sample, we evaluated what was working using a triangulated process (involving IRIS Connect video).

As a step forward, we developed two key thoughts to whole-school marking:

  1. Is the work good enough?
  2. What impact is ‘the marking’ having on learning?

In terms of lesson planning, we emphasised that “we do not require lesson plans, but evidence of planning” and that “there is no expectation to provide lesson plans for any observation.” Of course, newly qualified teachers will need to move through the planning process in some form to be able to understand it, then consider what to keep and what to discard.

Planning is not filling in a form. It is a thinking process.

  1. Where are the students starting from?
  2. Where do you want them to get to?
  3. How will you know when they are there?
  4. How can you best help them get there?

Learning Policy - Teach - all levels of school teaching

Improving teaching and learning:

How can we genuinely improve teaching and learning?

In this part of our CPD session, I shared our coaching proposals with our staff. Over the past 3 weeks, I have received numerous requests for staff to be a coach/to be coached.

There is no greater privilege than being in a position to coach  another colleague. The chances are it will come your way in some form or another and teachers are offered little training in this respect, often adapting their own strategies for supporting colleagues through trial and error, or avoiding some of the worst-case scenarios that they once had to endure.” (Source)

You can download my coaching model and presentation here.

Key Strategies:

In one of our bullet points that forms the ‘teach’ section of our policy, it says:

All students must be working harder than the teacher, over time and be able to use the key strategies.

Over the past 12 months, we have been a) developing our Learning Policy to include the one-page summary that you can view at the top of this blog-post. Behind each hyperlink, sits the details and examples of each. As part of this process, our staff (over 60 teachers) have been using IRIS Connect to video-observe themselves in the classroom.

From a range of footage, we have gathered ‘clips’ to create our own school library of footage. Part of this will be linked to our evolving range of key strategies we would like every teacher to be able to use in the classroom. This will form no-part of an observation template or tick-list culture as we have binned lesson gradings and one-off performances altogether.

As part of our evolving proposals, both our key strategies and coaching methodology will have a common vernacular that will be modeled by every adult. As part of our induction process for all new staff and those new to the profession, we will spend between 1 and 3 days inducting all new staff in our Learning Policy and observing the key strategies at work.

What are the strategies?

So, what do we want our teachers to be able to do to help students make progress?

What will be the classroom consistencies – the common vernacular – which make everyone’s job easier?

This list will not grow into 100 ideas or 49 strategies. The sample used (so far) is to remain concise and workable so that it has maximum impact on students across the school. From the initial list below, I have highlighted which key strategies we want all our staff to be using in classrooms this term.

  • Use of Yellow Box for feedback; including use of feedback in practical subjects.
  • Think, pair, share.
  • Mass screen (whiteboards)
  • No-hands up and Pose Pause Pounce Bounce.
  • I do, we do, you do (modelling/scaffolding strategy)

Other ideas not yet agreed/launched:

  • ‘Not yet’ feedback in written and verbal form
  • C3B43Me – (the aim here is for students to seek 3 responses from peers before asking the teacher)
  • Exit Cards – (a plenary for the lesson; misconceptions etc.)
  • A flying start
  • Use of the second adult in the lesson

We hope to capture much of this best-practice with our own IRIS community hub.

Later this term, we plan to have each department ‘show and tell’ how they have used the key strategies in their lessons. We will also be asking each team to propose their own idea from the floor for staff to vote. With this information, we aim to roll out a departmental idea across the whole school for a pilot and implementation throughout 2016/17.

I will report back on our progress and share some of the key strategies/resources as they evolve.

Your feedback is welcome in the comments below.

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@TeacherToolkit

In 2010, Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit from a simple Twitter account through which he rapidly became the 'most followed teacher on social media in the UK'. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of being most influential in the field of education. He remains the only classroom teacher to feature to this day ... Sharing resources and ideas online as @TeacherToolkit, he has built this website (c2008) which has been described as one of the 'most influential blogs on education in the UK', winning the UK Blog Awards (2018). Read more...

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