The second part of this post has been a while in the writing (I blame too much Christmas cheer and an Amazon voucher for my kindle), but here we are at last. In the first part of the post, I was thinking about ‘how we move staff on’ (or help them ‘improve’).
Observation of teacher performance obviously plays a vital role in helping teachers identify ‘areas for development’ in their practice. In the previous post, I didn’t really present any fantastic new approaches to solving the problem of lesson observation and moving staff along: the first part of this post will look at several strategies that I have tried or will try. Then I actually want to address an important question I was left with after failing to help the member of staff improve.
Firstly, some ideas about lesson observation and feedback:
- What I learnt through being observed. I had some a fantastic mentors at my first school, (a fairly tough ‘bog-standard comp’ SW of London) and they provided great support in my first year. Observation and feedback was fairly standard, identifying what went well, what I could do to improve and how this might work, there was also always a follow up addressing the areas for improvement. This approach was certainly effective and helped frame my observations and feedback when trying to help the member of staff improve.
- Advice from a teacher mentor. At my current school we had an excellent mentor for new teachers and I sought out her advice whenever I was having trouble. She followed the same sort of pattern as that above but was very direct in her approach, which pushed staff to really think about what they were doing, and why; her advice proved useful in getting to the core of some of the issues the member of staff was having.
- Taking part in a MOOC offered via Coursera and Match Education called “Coaching Teachers: Promoting Changes that Stick”. This provided some very good ideas on the essential qualities of feedback sessions to enable teachers to improve.
To develop my approach to observation and feedback further I will be using Harry Fletcher-Wood’s series on leverage observations, I’m sure this will prove very useful in the future. We might pursue this with the rest of the school as well, depending on how my faculty goes.
So, to the question I finished the last post with, “whose responsibility is to make sure staff develop or can develop?” I’ll admit that I felt guilty that I hadn’t got my colleague to a point where they could stay in the job. My part in this teacher’s development was important, as are many of the other parties involved in ‘creating teachers’:
- Foremost are the teachers themselves: they have to want to improve (I doubt there are many people that don’t), here I mean taking opportunities to observe others, read teaching books and blogs, find teachers that teach the same problem group and learn from them, invite observation and act on the feedback. This is easier than it sounds as you have to be able to identify what is you are not doing so well – here the next group of participants come into play
- Other teachers – we all have a responsibility to help teachers progress or improve. Again, easier said than done, the fear of seen as failing might keep struggling staff from seeking help. However, a school ethos of observation geared to support and improvement might help belay these fears. This of course is in some way dependent on SLT.
- SLT need to recognize when staff need support, they have to be the ones to drive an ethos of non-judgemental observation and feedback and they also have to be the ones to make sure that there are systems in place to support those teachers that struggle. David Didau in his latest post says;
“Treating every teacher as if they’re potentially at risk of failing might demonstrate equality but as a way to win hearts and minds, it’s absurd. If you know teachers are doing a good job, leave them alone. Or, better: learn from them.”
I agree 100% with this but think we also need to make sure that we don’t assume everyone is succeeding, this is equally as disastrous. David is right when he says SLT need to be on the ground, around school so they can see what is happening rather than waiting for problems to arise.
- Finally, way before all of this, University training programs need to step up. Some programs are undoubtedly good; others appear to woefully under-prepare trainee teachers for the world they will soon inhabit. Some universities for example, deliver no training on basic behaviour management; the assumption appears to be that this is a ‘learn on the job’ element (which of course it is to a certain extent but far from exclusively). Some advice given by supervisors would seem to be very counter-productive if not doomed to making the situation even worse.
Helping new or less experienced teachers find their feet is the responsibility of many different parties. David Didau has summed up my own thoughts much better than I could (funny that), so I’ll recommend the post linked here, especially the sentiment in his last paragraphs, which talks about support and responsibility.