Teaching can be complicated. There are many factors to be considered, numerous change initiatives and ever increasing expectations and accountability processes. However, at times we can be guilty of making it even more challenging and complicated than it needs to be. I am a strong believer in the Keep It Simple principle.
A prime example is the current fascination with having a ‘Pedagogical Framework’. This appears to muddy the waters for teachers, at a time when clarity and focus are much needed. Frameworks such as Dimensions of Learning, Habits of Mind, Productive Pedagogies and Explicit Teaching each have their merits and can be used to create common language within a school. However, introducing layers of new language, whilst teachers are struggling to implement and embed curriculum initiatives, appears to unnecessarily complicate things.
I believe that teaching at all levels can be simplified down to the PLAN, DO and REVIEW cycle. The best teachers and the best schools, are committed to a process of continuous improvement. They therefore repeat the cycle to refine their practice and increase their effectiveness.
In the initial PLAN phase we need to consider three factors – WHAT we need to teach, WHO we need to teach it to and HOW we can do that in the most effective way.
Pedagogical frameworks unpack these core elements and create language around each of the phases. In times of constant change, Keeping It Simple is always wise!
The X Factor of Student Engagement
The connection between the student and the teacher is powerful. It has a massive impact on student learning. When students can relate to their teacher, feel that their teacher takes an interest in them and genuinely cares about them, student engagement goes through the roof.
Students who are disconnected from their teacher not only impact their own learning, they can also disrupt the learning of other students. Without a doubt schools are ‘people’ places.
At times teachers can become too focused on teaching the ‘subject’ or the content and not focus enough on teaching ‘students’. As well as knowing the content to be taught, teachers also need knowledge of what the student knows and how to connect with that student.
I have always found the best teachers are committed to continuous improvement. They reflect on their practice, seek feedback and are continually working on refining their craft.
To be the best teacher they can be, teachers should be receiving formative feedback. Teachers should be receiving feedback about how they are teaching, as well as feedback about how effectively they are connecting with their students. I believe that students should regularly provide formative feedback to their teachers.
We should be seeking input from students identifying what we do as teachers that is helping them to learn as well as the things that we do as teachers that make it difficult for them. I believe this should be seen as formative feedback to help the teacher increase their effectiveness rather than as summative feedback or a judgement.
One of the biggest frustrations that my daughter experienced in year 8 was the teacher who kept moving the goal posts. Sarah is a conscientious student who works hard and is eager to please. She would work all weekend to complete an assignment and take great pride in it’s presentation. Unfortunately when she went to submit the assignment in class, her well meaning teacher would ask the class who had completed the task. On a number of occasions only half the students had completed it so the teacher immediately gave a week long extension.
Sarah found this very frustrating and whilst the teacher was trying to be ‘nice’ she wasn’t helping the other students learn about commitments and consequences.
However there was no process by which Sarah (a Year 8 student) could express her frustration to the teacher without being deemed a ‘whinger’.
To address this need I have developed an interactive survey instrument that teachers provide to their own students at the end of each term. The survey focuses on what is helping and what is hindering the student’s learning.
In 2013 I am keen to work with a small group of schools who would like to increase student engagement through utilizing student input as formative feedback. Let me know if it is any area you are looking to explore in 2013.
Planning a School Review in 2013?
School reviews are part of a cycle of school improvement. It is essential that reviews gather information that helps to steer the school on the path to continuous improvement. We have developed Happy School Surveys of Students, Staff and Parents to support schools to effectively do this.
A number of schools have already booked in surveys for 2013. The surveys not only provide data about levels of satisfaction, they also identify specific issues that can be addressed to increase school effectiveness. Identifying and overcoming barriers is the fast-track to school improvement.
Contact us if you’d like to set up surveys as part of a benchmarking or school review process in 2013.
Trends to Watch Out for in 2013
The following are emerging issues to be aware of in 2013.
Feedback from students TO teachers
Better use of value added data
Optimising the use of school facilities after hours
School funding and implications of Gonski
Aust Curriculum roll out
What DO You See Are the Biggest Challenges in 2013?
What keeps you awake at night?
What problems need solving?
I’d welcome your thoughts or comments – email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy School Staff articles this month include…
- A Happier You by Echart Tolle
- Live Fearlessly by Amanda Gore
- Beware the Little Voices Inside Your Head
- Getting on With People Who Aren’t Like You by Bruce Sullivan
- Psychology of Stress
Planning for 2013? Professional development sessions for your staff are available on a range of topics. These are ideal for student free day’s or twilight sessions. Email to check availability of your preferred date and book now.
Which topic does your team need most?
Increasing WORK-LIFE Satisfaction
Working in schools can be challenging. A happy staff achieves better results. It is vital that staff in schools get satisfaction from the important work we do. Thinking of our happiness in terms of ‘balance’ leads us to think that we have to ‘balance out’ the time or energy that we spend at work with the time and energy we put into the rest of our lives. This adds to our stress! We need to get satisfaction from both our work and the rest of our lives. It is essential that we focus on what is REALLY important in our lives. This IS your REAL life – it isn’t a dress rehearsal.
Building Trust – Essential Skills
Trust is at the heart of all relationships. Trust impacts on us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It impacts on the quality of every relationship, every communication, every workplace and every organisation. Building Trust is vital! Stephen Covey’s 13 behaviours that build trust are simple, straight forward and immediately transferable to schools. They apply at all levels. Having good intentions is not enough. It is behaviour that counts!
The one constant in the world today is change! Ultimately our response to change is dependent on our attitude AND we CHOOSE our attitude.Our people need to be positive, optimistic and energetic. In this session I’ll help staff in schools to develop the right attitude. I identify the three biggest obstacles to successful change and the specific strategies needed to overcome these challenges. A positive attitude is essential to success.
Gr8 People are Part of Gr8 Teams
There are 10 vital attributes that are necessary in all teams within schools. For a team to reach their potential each individual needs to make their contribution and that contribution needs to be aligned with the school’s direction and priorities. The better that people work together and are aligned, the better outcomes the school will achieve.
Which of the attributes do your teams do well and which ones need to be improved? Establishing clear and agreed priorities, in simple language is essential.
Feedback – Helping Teachers Be the Best They Can Be
School audits highlighted the need for many schools to establish processes for providing feedback to teachers as a vital aspect of improved performance in schools. However giving teacher’s feedback is not part of the culture in most schools. In this session we look at why feedback is so important, consider a range of options and develop an action plan for establishing a feedback culture.
7 Secrets of Motivating and Engaging Students
(PS…they work for the teachers too!!)
Motivating and engaging students can be challenging. Many students have short concentration spans, are disinterested and disengaged from learning. Teaching is more demanding than ever before! Traditional carrot and stick approaches have limited effect. Ultimately we can’t MAKE anybody DO something. In this session I’ll share the 7 secrets that teachers must implement to motivate and engage their students. All teachers can implement these practical, well-grounded strategies to improve their students’ attitude.
Conferences and Work With Schools
In coming monthis I’m looking forward to working with…
- Leadership team at Ferny Grove State High School
- Aspiring school leaders at Toowong
- School staff at Nundah, Carmel College, Stretton College and Torbanlea
- School leadership teams from a number of schools on Establishing a Feedback Culture
If you’d like me to present at your conference or work with your staff, email me email@example.com