Monday, 1 October 2012

ITP Session 1: Introduction to Teaching and Learning

 The Improving Teacher Programme is not a course. It is a programme. That was made very clear. It's not a flash-in-the-pan course that means nothing to people, it's a programme that is intended to improve the participants ability to reflect and improve upon their teaching.

The programme is written by Olevi ( and because of the nature of copyright claims many things have different names (a 'learning walk' is called a 'ward walk' for instance), but don't let that fool you. It was trialled in London and Greater Manchester and, because the feedback has been very positive, is now being rolled out nationwide. This, I believe, is one of the first to have happened outside of Manchester or London.

This particularly course is run at an outstanding school in Yorkshire and is deliberately low-tech and stripped down, so that we're working at the heart of teaching and not with all of the flashy gadgets. This will be the first part of a collection of reflective posts aimed at allowing me to progress through the course to the best of my ability, as well as preparing myself for delivering any sessions that might lead on from my involvement in this programme. I'm hoping that you can take things from it too.

1. Introduction
We were introduced to the leaders for the programme and put into groups based on where our name tag has been placed. In these groups we were given the first task.

2. What is effective teaching and learning?
The first task was to answer the question 'What does a good teacher look like?'. The usual buzzwords were flung around, but the first thing that everyone went to was their appearance before asking things like 'What does a good teacher do?' or 'What makes a good teacher?'.

Prior to the second task, we were introduced to the backbone of the course (or so I gathered) described as 'Dr. Ice'. This consists of:
Deepening Thinking
Role-modelling Learning
Impact on Progress
Challenging Expectations
Engaging in Learning

In our four groups we were asked to discuss what we thought each of the above meant (we left Engaging in Learning out). The following pictures show what the group came to:

My biggest bits that I picked up on are:
Deepening Thinking - give time for discussion (which I am currently working on with year 9)
Role-modelling Learning - avoiding negativity (which I am very much trying to work on!), being a lifelong learner and sharing experiences (of which I am very good at - I'm constantly banging on about golf!), clear classroom routines (which I definitely need to develop beyond the usual 'pick your book up, make a start, margins, date, LO and starter...)
Impact on Progress - interesting and innovative lessons (which I am working on by using the 3 Acts things on offer by various people and thinking up my own activities), rewards and sanctions (which I probably should do more, but I get carried away teaching!).
Challenging Expectations - giving the same level of enthusiasm at all levels of ability (which I am happy to say I do), variety of presentation (I consider this on my drive to school and would be happy to accept my lessons do need more variety, more group work and more independent enquiry).

3. Expectations and Concerns
In this part of the session we were asked to write down expectations of the ITP and concerns regarding this too. The majority of the expectations centred around the hope that this would improve people's teaching, whereas the majority of concerns centred around the time required to implement what might come. This is a concern of mine, but I am happy to allow this to run and get into it before seeing how much time it takes and whether the time is worth the output.

4. Improving Understanding
This part was cut short because of time constraints, but focused on a game called 'Educational Taboo'. Take a card from the pile and explain what the word means without using the word, which went well in our group of three.

5. Ward Round
As I previously said, a 'learning walk' to you and I is called a 'ward round' in this programme as 'learning walks' are a copyrighted term and cannot be used in a programme that is sold on. This, as is probably expected, saw the groups head into 4 different lessons to observe with the focus of 'Engagement', 'Challenge' and 'Learning'. I saw many things that I include in my own practice but would like to draw on a few notes I made:

If you're going to tell a pupil you'll go back to them, make sure you do. (Engagement)
Putting a level on a piece of work is all well and good, but please make sure the level is accurate. I am wondering, however, if this was used to promote confidence in lower ability pupils who now believe they can work at level 7. (Challenge)
I was quite a fan of the English lesson's starter (I assume) which asked pupils to take the words 'The Tulip Touch' and write as many words with four or more letters they can write from the letters in the title. The higher ability pupils can be stretched and the lower ability pupils can find challenge too. (Challenge)
Explain why you're doing something and how the lesson will run. (Learning)
Consolidate understanding in groups by switching members and say that everyone has to 'Teach them or learn something from them'. Follow this up by questioning the groups/movers. (Learning)
Model your discussions prior to setting pupils off. What could you say? What might you hear? What questions might you ask? (Learning)

We then fed back to our group and into a whole group discussion. One thing that I picked up from here is use of the word 'SNOT' to be used like '3B4Me' (Self, Neighbour, Other, Teacher), reducing the workload of the teacher with pupils answering those small problems.

6. Improving Teacher Audit
To prepare us for completing our audit for Challenge and Engagement, we completed two tasks. The first of which was a two-way table with column headers of 'Do it' and 'Don't do it' and row headers of 'Easy to Achieve' and 'Difficult to Achieve' where we assigned phrases to one of the four boxes. 'Pupils in my class are engaged by the task after I explain the task clearly' was one, and I forget the rest. This one sparked a small discussion as I feel that much of this is down to the pupil as an individual rather than myself as a teacher, as those who are disinterested will not be engaged if they do not want to be.

The second short task was a quick 'Key Phrases Activity' - given a phrase, explain its educational meaning, explain how it benefits your pupils and give a specific example. This was one of mine:
'Challenge' - 'To extend the learning of and understanding a pupil holds by setting tasks above their current level to promote progress', 'pupils progress at an increased rate in terms of their understanding and develop confidence', 'a task involving a cuboidal post box and the cost of an artist covering the box with second class stamps as a protest at the state of the postal service'.

These were a build up to a self-audit about how we deal with 'Engaging in Learning' and 'Challenging Learning' in our classrooms.
My self-audit highlighted a need for me to learn how to engage the disengaged by using different strategies, as well as to develop a larger bank of resources to cater to different learning styles (Engaging in Learning) and a need for me to challenge all pupils when inadequate work in completed in a lesson (Challenging Learning).

7. Post-session Task
Every session ends with a brief introduction to our 'homework'. This sessions is to prepare an eight minute long starter activity for a core subject or citizenship lesson that will both engage and challenge OUR thinking. These tasks will be judged on their challenge and engagement. We are due to meet about this later this week.

The second session takes place a week on Thursday (11th October).

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