How Can Teachers Improve Pupil Outcomes?


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How can teachers raise pupil outcomes, reduce their workload and improve wellbeing at the same time?

This is quite a bold claim to make, and something that I advocate myself in my own research, but it is genuinely possible? Robert Powell’s new book on Live Feedback provides a comprehensive overview that all teachers can profit from…

The book is divided into seven chapters and I’ve offered a short summary below.

This is a promotional post.

Quality of teaching…

In the opening chapter on raising attainment, we are provided with a series of good reminders: that the quality of instruction is a powerful factor in the classroom. “Therefore, helping teachers become better is the most important responsibility we have as educational leaders” (Coe et al, 2020)

The quality of teaching is the most effective way of improving performance, particularly for disadvantaged pupils, but to do this we are reminded by Powell that we need better investment and training, not only for our new trainee teachers but for the teachers we currently have.

Teaching and learning can only be as good as the quality of teachers we have currently working in the system. We know education policies have a role to play, particularly the impact of accountability and what influence this has on teachers’ wellbeing.

Good leadership…

Powell reminds the reader that good leadership at all levels across the system can support a sector already under significant pressure. We know that 40% of NQTs leave the profession within the first 5 years. We also know “time in the classroom is a powerful performance enhancer” (Allen and Sims, 2018), therefore, how can we build a recruitment and retention strategy which hangs onto those teachers leaving prematurely? Of course, demographics, Ofsted rating, school location and many others factor in the retention of teachers, particularly workload.

In the second and very short chapter, Powell offers an overview to help all teachers get up to speed. The most interesting proposition is posed: Why are the weakest and most needy students in some schools being taught by the least qualified members of staff?

Unpick anything and everything about teacher workload and ‘marking’ will no doubt feature in every school.

This book questions the notion of marking reliability, highlighting the trials and tribulations of work scrutiny, deep dives, book looks and learning walks – whatever you call them in your school – and how they have been engineered to check in on the teacher, rather than the learning. This book confirms what I have seen on my travels:

“Many schools have introduced marking policies much more responsive to the needs of their teachers, whether they be phases in the primary school or subjects in the secondary. Many more are in the process of doing so; some have abandoned marking altogether.”

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In chapter 4 and 5 we cover important sections of data collection and lesson planning, with plenty of (coloured) visual examples explaining how teachers can manage these critical (and potentially burdening) aspects of the classroom. In the main sections of this book, Powell is focused on addressing the greatest burden teachers face, marking.

An overview of research and views on verbal feedback, peer feedback, self-assessment, electronic feedback, whole-class feedback is offered to highlight where we can improve the quality of pupil’s understanding and reduce teacher workload.

These require teachers to find time to develop classroom routines which feature dual coding to support cognitive load, modelling and spaced practice to help retention as the development of self-regulation.

Robert Powell is a former headteacher with teaching experience spanning almost four decades. His Live Feedback book offers schools and teachers something serious to consider…

 


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