9 Teaching Ideas to Bin in 2018

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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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What teaching ideas would you like to say goodbye to in 2018?

This is a collection of ideas I would like to see banished forever in schools and colleges across the U.K. You will most likely disagree with some of the suggestions and they will not be a solution for everyone. If you disagree, what would appear in your bin? Write your views in the comments section.

1. Marking by Frequency and Colour

I would like to see every school move away from a marking policy to a feedback policy. Better still, don’t have a policy – just share expectations. More importantly, for every school to remove a particular frequency of marking and in its place, promote marking that is proportionate to curriculum time, where marking is regular – and in whatever form, written or verbal – with marking episodes that are meaningful and motivational for the student and manageable for the teacher. If marking fails to do those three things, then you are not marking for impact, you are simply marking for compliance.

I understand the need to use various coloured pens to make marking and feedback more accessible between teacher and student, particular for students with learning needs but I suspect this is not often the driving purpose. As soon as this ‘coloured notion’ is applied for evidencing and observational purposes, again, schools have lost the purpose of marking. Forget the purple pen of progress, forget the Yellow Box, just mark with meaning and use whatever colour you like, as long as it adds value to the student, leaves them with more work to do than you and makes the progress overall.

Jury: If your school does any of the above, it’s not a school I’d like to teach in.

2. OfSTED gradings:

In 2018, I’d like to hear that school inspections are becoming less high-stakes, but sadly this is still not the case with only ~two out of 513 schools challenging their overall outcome in the past 12 months. We can already see the impact on teacher recruitment that OfSTED gradings have for schools; we have much to do here and the debate is largely out of our hands, but there is hope. We can see the impact our blogs are having on Amanda Spielman and Nick Gibb’s in their speeches – so, let’s keep the blog exposure high-profile.

If we cannot settle for ending OfSTED grades, I’d settle for the four-scale overall judgement to reduce from outstanding, good, requires improvement and special measures to simply ‘good’ or ‘not yet good’. That’s it!

Will I’m at it, let’s reduce the need for reliance on data to determine how well a school is performing – perhaps move to a three-year average – as highlighted by Loic Menzies. This would certainly help resolve the teacher-retention crisis we have and reduce any ‘football manager syndrome’ we see evolving in our school system for those who get a bad year of results.

Schools, Multi Academy Trusts and local authorities have little idea whether their value-added schools have been calculated correctly … accepting that the termination of their jobs or the closure of the schools is a fair decision based on solid analyses.

Jury: I’d think twice before working in a challenging school again where the possibility of an ‘Outstanding’ grade is elusive as Donald Trump speaking the truth!

3. OfSTED banners:

Since I started to ask for this in February 2017, it’s been great to see it slowly gain online traction. I’d like to ask all headteachers to refrain from OfSTED banners on the front of school gates, letterheads or websites.We are only feeding the beast …

Only this week, the TES reported this school with a novel approach to Ofsted banners. Let’s end the OfSTED banners on all school gates once and for all and rid the logos from the front pages of the press. What would also help is if OfSTED stopped asking schools to download official logos on social media!

Perhaps we can all be a bit more like headteacher Jarlath O’Brien who said: “I don’t give a shit about OfSTED!

Jury: Let’s ask every headteacher to pull down OfSTED branding!

4. MockSTEDs

I find it ludicrous that I’m having to write this.

Does your school still have MockSTEDs, or a dress-rehearsal for the school before inspectors arrive? Designed to test the waters or worse, secretly keep staff on their toes? There is nothing wrong in evaluating the work that you do in school, but to do it secretly or use it as an OfSTED-test to increase pressure? Please!

Let’s question ‘what’ and ‘why’ we are evaluating, then ask ‘how’ it can be done and finally, by ‘who?’ Surely a peer-review network within local authorities and MATs would work better between schools. Sharing best practice, right on your doorstep.

Jury: If you have a MockSTED, take the day off sick!

5. Graded Lesson Observations

This is old news, but it always needs a mention because 40-45% of headteachers STILL IGNORE the evidence which I find abhorrent. The research is clear on this – if your school is grading teachers (or the teaching – same thing) in one-off lessons or over time, you are simply choosing to beat teachers over the head with a stick.

If a lesson is judged ‘Outstanding’ by one mentor/observer, research suggests that the probability that a second person would give a different judgement is between 51% and 78%. (Measures of Effective Teaching Project). In other words, as Professor Robert Coe writes from CEM, “if your lesson is judged ‘Outstanding’, do whatever you can to avoid getting a second opinion: three times out of four you would be downgraded. If your lesson is judged ‘Inadequate’ there is a 90% chance that a second observer would give a different rating”.

Jury: If your school still grades lessons, it’s not a school I’d like to teach in.

6. Appraisal

Teachers may now be held back on a specific pay scale to help manage dwindling budgets and Performance Related Pay (PRP) will become the Achilles heel of our profession. All state school teachers are subject to this policy.

What next for the workforce if they are judged solely on classroom attainment? Will PRP improve performance and eradicate poor teaching, or simply offer schools a way of saving money in a climate of reducing budgets? Some folk think performance related pay will solve the recruitment crisis. When I quoted this at a recent training event to 200 school leaders, there was a ‘chuckle’ in the room.

Having spent 10 years leading whole-school appraisal for over 600 colleagues. I can only apologise. Performance appraisal does not lead to teacher improvement, it leads to better evidence gathering and box-ticking. Research suggests (ASA, 2014) only about 1 to 14% offer educational outcome can be attributed to schools e.g. teacher effect. However, there are still many other factors, such as class sizes, resources and school budgets that can influence a teacher’s impact. The remaining 86 to 99% out-of-school factors are outside the control of teachers and schools. (Coleman et al, 1966)

Jury: I would be happy to work in a school who shifts appraisal toward a research-enquiry process.

7. Progressive versus Traditional:

The ‘progressive versus traditional debate’ bores the pants off me online; watching folk try to discuss complex educational matters in 140 characters is an impossible task – often polarised into ‘cherry picking evidence’ or one-upmanship. For years I’ve argued that both styles of teaching exist within many schools – there are two or three schools who have high-profile approaches that are well-cited on social media networks, but beyond that, the teaching profession at large has little or no interest in this polarisation. The existence of this discussion in schools is rare and this falsehood, that a teacher or school is either progressive or traditional, exists only for political (or exclusive) gain.

I do accept that a teacher can have more bias or preference for one method, but I cannot accept that one can exist without the other being present in the same classroom. Nor is either more important or effective. What works, is the quality of teaching that takes place in the classroom, and there will be at times a mixture of both. Only those who observe a wide array of teachers will know this. ‘Teaching is not two distinct theories‘ by history teacher, Richard Kennett, who summed up the ridiculous nature of this topic on social media with this:

… the polarisation of education isn’t what most of us actually do in the classroom. Additionally this is linked to the problem we have in politics on social media – social media is an echo chamber … In reality, teachers at the chalk-face actually don’t care what it’s called, they just get on with teaching, using whatever methods suit them and their students. And because of their workload, most have little time to be concerned. (Richard Kennett)

Good teaching, if allowed to thrive in traditional or progressive form, enables teachers and students to teach and learn in unison. No single method can meet the needs of millions of students, nor can one million educators in the UK agree on a single approach.

Jury: If you believe progressive or traditional teaching is important, then you’ve lost touch with what teachers are actually prioritising in schools.

8. Work Scrutinies

We must challenge this dialogue: that the notion that we can determine a child’s progress from an exercise book using a cursory glance or a comparison with another to gauge progress. I wish summative assessment were that easy!

School leaders must start to determine the agenda in our schools. I’m not saying that the responsibility lies only with school leaders – we still have rogue inspectors visiting our schools making binary decisions, fuelled by their bias or the things that they should not do. This aside, it is my conclusion, having conducted tens and tens of work sample scrutinies over the past decade, that book-looks are dangerous and unreliable.

I have heard more and more examples of Multi Academy Trusts who are replacing grading lessons with graded work scrutinies instead. In worst cases, this is happening to teachers once a half-term. Of course, looking at a book gives us a picture, but so does ‘looking at’ a lesson without grading it. However, I fear we may still be stuck on the ‘looking for’ methodology when we make an assessment of students and teachers from the work that is in the book (or not).

Jury: Let’s shift the debate to ‘looking at’ without judgement whilst we wait for the evidence …

9. Data Drops

Data is an endless chore for teachers, simply designed to inform school leaders of student progress and ‘where interventions may be able to take place’ in examination classes – under-performing groups if you’re lucky! By the time the data collection is complete, teachers are either being asked to evaluate what they will do next, or have been asked to submit data for another group of students. It’s easy to see why teachers can always feel like they are submitting summative assessments of their students throughout the entire academic year. Tom Sherrington writes in 10 low impact activities to do less of – or stop altogether:

“Given all the horrible inherent data delusion fallacies that lead people to imagine a 5 in History is broadly the same as a 5 in Science, it’s barely worth the trouble … much of the data that is ‘dropped’ is so far removed from the actual learning needs of a student that it doesn’t even help to identify what they need to do. How many do you really actually need? One at the end – which serves as the start of the next year – and one in the middle?”

Now, that sounds like common sense to me!

Jury: Collect richer data, less often.

What teaching ideas you like to trash in 2018?

27 thoughts on “9 Teaching Ideas to Bin in 2018

  1. In EY and KS1-the areas I’ve taught in-I’d like to ban Guided Reading and seeing Phonics as the only way to teach reading. Does GR improve children’s reading? I’d genuinely say no, not in these ages. I’d love this list to be sent out to all SMT across the country!

    1. OfSTED will test anything that is school policy re. leadership and management. If removing ‘policy’ for non-statutory documents to guidance/expectations, it is a safer stance for schools when being judged IMO

  2. I would like to see an end to the delusion that anything but phonics will teach reading. Particularly the myth that teachers who back phonics do not read stories to children, teach them poems, expand their vocabularies and their knowledge of the world – all of which feed into comprehension of what one reads. Fluency and comprehension are the aims reading – but you cannot read if you do not know what the squiggles on the page sound like: that needs good systematic synthetic phonics (there is no other way!).

  3. Your ideas are so full of sense. The school i was working in last year carried out all of these things and I found myself getting more and more stressed. I wish common sense could come back into Education.

  4. I’ve just come back after maternity leave to a reshuffled school under a new slt doing most of this and won’t hear of arguments against

  5. Could I ask what you mean by research enquiry based projects rather than appraisals? Looking to overhaul the appraisal process with project led strategies but didn’t know exactly where to start. Thank you in advance for any help.

    1. Hi Jane – hoping to create a document to publish over the summer. Essentially forget 3 targets – allow a teacher to generate a question as a research task to complete – verified by 2 or 3 other colleagues… and then evidence is defined. Will share in August.

  6. Really interested in running a research task rather than target based appraisal this year.
    Have you shared your ideas on that yet?

  7. I think the trad v prog teaching debate only appears on Twitter! No teachers that I know, including myself discuss this. Just what works well with what group of children!
    Great blog. And I too would like to end juggling coloured pens / highlighters!

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