Could a visit to yourself in your classroom improve your practice?
When you take a learning walk into your own classroom, you could be in for a big surprise. What will you learn? How do others really see you? How do you really see yourself?
Once again, we have a body of staff ‘on (the) edge’- they are expecting an Ofsted visit! We have held numerous sessions that would ultimately better equip them including some on tracking and effective use of data, others on assessment and some on feedback. However, throughout these, I consciously avoided ‘selling’ anything to staff members, collectively, in groups or individually, solely as something that would be ‘good for Ofsted’.
This is something I hold true throughout my career. The reason they were better equipped – these were effective sessions that would benefit pupils and their progress! Better equipped because they were reflecting and focusing and focusing on key elements of their practice that matter, constantly and consistently. Yes, they will help when a visitor, external or internal, visits their room but not because that is their design, because they impacted learning, progress and the demonstration and understanding of this by all parties, included those most fundamental – the teacher and the pupils in that room!
I posed to them the thought of ‘Learning Walking’ themselves! This should certainly aid self-reflection and insight into teacher vs pupil perception of lessons, learning and progress. It would also support knowledge of how well pupils could ‘talk the talk’ to a visitor. This is a crucial way to demonstrate an understanding of what they are learning and how they know they are learning it. It helps you understand what they understand, how well can they explain their learning, not their activity or task. This also prompts what they might need to be working on, how they could find out and how to actually set about improving further.
Firstly – the acid test with staff – when planning CPD sessions you always know those slides with rhetorical questions/assumptions etc. that are going to really make some gulp – this is the nature of some hard-hitting truths about this fantastic profession of ours. Slide one stated: “Develop pupils who can talk the talk…so long as you walk the walk!” I reiterated that this was consistency over time; providing feedback over time; building effective relationships and routines over time! The truth is there is nothing that you can hide from yourself! No ‘showy’ activity, no quick catch up on a few chosen books, no guiding a visitor to selected pupils. There is nothing to hide – not when the ‘visitor’ is you!
We then explored what we might do if we were to ‘visit’ our own lesson. Some of the questions were to be thought about, others were to be asked to see how pupils responded and to gather insight.
1. To begin:
‘Step out’ of a lesson. Whilst pupils are ‘on task’, step back and observe. Think about and ask yourself:
- How many are engaged?
- How are the interactions?
- What does my board/environment look like? e.g. if you have worked through an example is it actually clear or did you squeeze something here then jump over there to do that?
- Do I know whom I should be prioritising/checking or understanding/feeding back to first?
- Should I be preparing to extend most able, under-achievers, SEND, Pupil Premium?
- Have I set this up well? Is support available/effective? Is there challenge now or to come?
Take a pad with you and scribble things down. Be both positive and critical. You can pre-prepare a grid or freestyle it! This activity will serve another purpose – it will keep you ‘out of the way’ – stop you interrupting before it may be necessary – allow some Learning Pit time.
3. What next:
When circulating the class explore the use of questions to help reflect on practice:
- Talk to me about what you are learning (see if this suggests to you what they are doing.)
- Do you feel challenged?
- What would you do if you were struggling?
- Are you making progress?
- Talk to me about how you get feedback. (What do they perceive as feedback?)
- How do you respond to / use feedback? When?
- Does my feedback help you make progress?
- Are you able to concentrate and get on with your work?
Most of these can be followed up with – Why? And – How do you know?
Obviously, this strategy can extend beyond individuals! It can be used in pairs, triads or wider. The principles should always be ‘self’-reflectio and focused on impact for pupils.