What are your teaching New Year resolutions?
Using insights from my teacher training travels as well as data from this website, here are my recommendations for all teacher for the year ahead….
Recommendations for 2022
- Ban the word marking, use feedback
- Protect time for a coach
- Speak publicly at staff CPD
- Become a school governor
1. Feedback, not marking
Over the last decade, there has been a significant shift in marking, moving slowly towards feedback. However, the marking burden continues to blight the lives of most teachers. I’ve been given this a little more thought over the last two years.
Pre-2000, I was aware of at least three types of marking. These methods were largely written, verbal and non-verbal which had almost zer0 recognition. This is perhaps why I dedicated my masters degree in 2004 to non-verbal signals in the classroom.
- Written (Handwritten comments, typically alongside a rubric)
- Verbal (Commentary, ad-hoc comments… or the use of a script)
- Non-verbal (E.g. hand signals, thumbs up)
Around this time, different types of feedback were starting to emerge. Only last year, John Hattie updated his visible learning study to clarify duplicated studies and define feedback types.
- Feedback (Comparison of the actual status with a previous status)
- Feed up (Comparison of the actual status with the target status)
- Feed forward (Explanation of the target status based on the actual status)
Since his publication, I’ve been thinking about the different resources I have produced – redefining them using the above three approaches – as well as feedback influences that determine our success in the classroom. It’s only a couple of weeks ago(!) I thought more about the above feedback types and how I could take this even further! Below is what I have so far, and I hope to share some examples on this website later this term to explain what they may look like in the classroom.
- Written feedback
- Written feed up
- Written feed forward
- Verbal feedback
- Verbal feed up
- Verbal feed forward
- Non verbal feedback
- Non verbal feed up
- Non verbal feed forward.
What do I recommend?
For now, if there is one thing I can recommend to all schools, can we all at least start to ban using the word ‘marking’ from this point forward. You can see from my refined list, there are many ways to assess in the classroom…
2. Find a coach!
Coaching has been around for a century. Over the last 40 years, it has developed significantly, with evidence suggesting high-performing individuals and teams benefit from the process. However, without any technical knowledge, coaching purpose has been questioned. This has led to the emergence of ‘instructional coaching’ – someone who can help with the technical aspects of coaching.
For me? I’ve used coaching for a decade, introducing coaching strategies to support fellow teachers and leaders in my own workplace. Recently, these techniques have evolved to support the introduction or embedding of a coaching culture across education organisations. There are so many coaching strategies and advice available across industry, but limited information across education to support time-poor professionals to implement ideas well across a busy working environment. This is where I have been focusing my energy, developing ideas that work in school environments.
What do I recommend?
If there is one more thing I can recommend from this shortlist to all teachers and leaders reading, is to find yourself a coach. Not only will benefit from the reflection, but you will learn some of the strategies that you can then use with colleagues that you work with…
3. Speak publicly
I first spoke publicly in front of a room full of teachers in 2007. This was almost 10 years into my teaching career. The next major moment happened in 2015 when I spoke in front of an audience of 500 people. Both occasions are etched in my memory, full of nerves and not so sure of what impact the information may or may not have had on the people listening to me. Over the last seven years, I have been speaking publicly in front of other people as a career! I’ve made lots of mistakes, I’ve dealt with every scenario possible, and I’ve learnt what works and what doesn’t. If anything, public speaking as a teacher has refined my classroom ideas and leadership thinking…
What do I recommend?
Although teachers may be confident speaking publicly in front of their students, when next presented with the opportunity, I would recommend that all teachers take a leap of faith and share a teaching idea with other colleagues at a professional development session. Of all the teachers training sessions I participate in, the most powerful are when everybody has an opportunity to share rather than just having ‘Ross at the front’ share his ideas…
4. Become a governor
I’ve been a school governor in two primary schools over the last four years. One, with an Ofsted noose around its neck mopping up all the disadvantaged students in the community, lacking sufficient support from the local authority and spiralling into a non-stop cycle of requiring improvement. The pace was high, the governing body was diverse and the to-do list was non-stop. It was hard work and frustrating. On the other side of the coin, a leafy countryside one-form entry dealing with the pandemic and a new head teacher in position. No sign of Ofsted, just tweaking whole-school improvement from the sidelines…
I also remember as a school leader, sitting on the other side of the table at governors meetings, frustrated that some meetings went on until 10 PM, whilst others were promptly managed and supportive. My aim as a governor is to be the governor I never had, offering support and challenge where relevant, being mindful of external pressures as well as internal constraints, whether this is funding, exhaustion or a staffing issue.
What do I recommend?
In my older years, I’m beginning to understand that life is all about perspective and experience, and each time your perspective changes, so do your experiences. When you become a governor, your perspective significantly changes and how you support a school, particularly if you are a teacher operating within the system, significantly changes your experience.
In all aspects of education, there are always things to refine and improve. If you could narrow these down to 2 or three things for the year ahead, what would it be for you?
Best wishes for the year ahead…