The 23rd September 2016 witnessed the first “Advanced Pedagogy Conference” for The Kemnal Academies Trust. 85 senior leaders from across both the primary and secondary phase convened in a hotel just outside Gatwick Airport for two days of inspiration, information, reflection and collaboration on all things teaching.
It was an opportunity for each school to consider the “what and how” of teaching and learning. Facing some of the biggest changes to education since the introduction of the National Curriculum in 1988 where do school leaders place time, money and resources? It was clear from the conference that the answer is paradoxically simple and complex; money, resources and time should be aligned to developing teaching. The greatest thing which leadership can busy itself with is promoting and participating in the development of teaching. In other words keep the thing the thing. Easier said, than done. The central theme of the conference is how to do this; how to keep the thing the thing and how to maximise the development of teaching. There were practical ideas, theory and questions which made everyone think.
Rachel Tizard (Director of learning) opened the conference with an overview of the challenges and opportunities of developing teaching. A great analogy was used to focus everyone’s mind on the challenge and that was the “Pasta problem and solution”. Everyone can make pasta, but for this very reason it often isn’t done brilliantly, and people buy it off the shelf and rely on the “ok” stuff because it is quick and easy. In schools we have a pasta problem. The solution to great pasta is great chefs and great processes. The same is true for great teaching.
Following on from this was a look at some of the challenges and barriers to creating and fostering great teaching. Ian Tilbury (Deputy Headteacher at Debden Park High School) highlighted how:
And that as leaders we ignore or forget this at our peril. Teachers are busy, changing practice is hard and that whenever we ask a teacher to do something more, or different we need to take something off them; as Dylan Wiliam says “Teachers plates are full”
Even though teachers plates are full we still have to develop teaching. In school variation is greater than between school variation in terms of teacher quality and students taught by the best teacher, can experience the equivalent of 8 months more learning in comparison to student taught by a less effective teaching. In other words teachers matter and what they do matters even more.
What can and should teachers and leaders of teachers concentrate on? Ian argued that efforts should be concentrated on the “things that work”. The BIG FOUR:
A number of ways you could develop these were given with examples. Such as using “progress weeks” as a whole school initiative to develop students’ abilities to reflect on analyse their learning and progress in (and outside) lessons through pedagogical techniques which foster students to act “meta-cognitively”.
As good as the examples were, the real “take home” message was that leadership of learning is at its best and has the most impact when leaders “Promote and Participate in teacher learning and development” which according to the meta-analysis undertaken by Professor John Hattie has an effect size of 0.84 – which is huge!
A simple audit tool of “When was the last time you…” was used to get everyone thinking about how “instructional” they are and how much they “promote and participate”
After a short break, Rachel Tizard and Ian Tilbury presented how a coherent “Pedagogical model” could help fulfil the “Pasta Solution” by creating a common vision and language of learning across a school which focuses all teachers on the classroom and on learning. By adopting a model of learning such as Accelerated Learning which Debden Park High School, King Harold Academy and recently The Mill have adopted or creating a hybrid model such as the one Rainham School for Girls has created leaders of learning can promote a common language which makes “promoting and participating” far easier and more powerful.
Lunch witnessed lots of chat and reflection about all things pedagogical. The afternoon slot was shared between Iris Connect, Laura Stevens (Deputy Director of learning) and Paul Greendale (Assistant Headteacher King Harold Academy) who all gave practical ways to implement some of the themes that had been touched upon.
Iris Connect outlined their “film club” concept and echoed much of what had been said earlier; that developing teaching should be the key priority for school leaders. In addition changing practice is hard, but pointing out research by Joyce and Showers there are ways that we can maximise teacher learning, and get close to that effect size of 0.84:
By now everyone had numerous ideas on how they might build upon their own practice of developing teaching. Laura Stevens added to this further by presenting some key questions about how you might evaluate teacher learning and many of the pitfalls of measuring and analysing “teaching”. As a huge fan of Professor Robert Coe Laura drew on some of his findings about how schools leaders measure and act on the quality of teaching. The conclusion was that a nuanced and intelligent system needs to be in place in order to measure, analyse and then develop the quality of teaching. Fascinating stuff which raised some crucial questions:
One of the key theme which run through the day was that in order to develop teaching, teachers must feel “NO FEAR” . Teachers must be given clear, concise and achievable goals in relation to exact pedagogical practice and that this must then be given time and support. Paul Greendale highlighted how King Harold has changed its approach to teacher development from judgemental to developmental.
What is seen as an area for development in “cognition reviews” is then addressed in “cognition sessions” regular CPD (every other week) with one focus(for the whole year or more) means that a culture of fear was replaced with a culture of innovation and risk taking.
The day was appropriately ended with a final quote from the book Professional Capital by Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullen which encapsulated the conference:
The conference inspired, informed and, perhaps most importantly, raised some key questions about how, in changing times, we approach the development of teaching.
See you at the next Advanced Pedagogy Network meeting…
23rd November Debden Park High School 1pm -4pm