Author Archives: Charlainesi

A Book that Changed my Teacher Journey #FabEduBooks

My favourite book that has ‘disrupted my thinking’ and changed the direction of travel as a teacher is ‘Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher’, Brookfield, (1995).You know when a book arrives through the post and you unpack it and flick through it; well, I had read the first two chapters before I knew it and was excitedly telling my daughter all about it while she rolled her eyes!

For me, Brookfield gave me ‘permission to question’. Chapter 2 “Becoming Critically Reflective: A Process of Learning and Change” discusses how we need to;

“find lenses that reflect back to us stark and differently highlighted picture of who we are and what we do” (p28)

This stopped me in my tracks and took a little bit of thinking, not so much in the validity of the statement but how can I do this? What other lenses are available? Do I create my own? Do I borrow? What other perspectives are valid? Which aren’t as valid but are worthy? What am I missing? Brookfield goes on to discuss four lenses which are autobiographical, students, colleagues and theoretical literature. These lenses helped me to ‘challenge my assumptions’ and to support me as a reflective practitioner, to stop and analyse situations from multiple views before making big or small decisions. Please don’t think that I am so tied up in viewing through multiple lenses that I become incapable of acting but it becomes a’ habit of mind’ to take a wider perspective and very quickly make an informed decision that takes into consideration than more than one point of reference.

In chapter 9 ‘Storming the Citadel – Reading Theory Critically’ Brookfield discusses how you can use educational literature to;

“investigate the hunches, instincts, and tactic knowledge that shape our practice” as this leads to a “understand better what we already do and think” (p185)

This was my validation and permission to pursue what I ‘thought’ was right but had not had the confidence to put out there. There are so many endorsements within this chapter which supported my dispositions in teaching and leading such as (p186)

Theory lets us ‘name ‘our practice

Works wonders for our morale and self confidence

Theory breaks the circle of familiarity

I felt Brookfield was speaking directly to me and supporting me to discuss education from a theoretical point, affirming my instincts as a teacher and leader, to use research to provoke and challenge current practice, both my own and practices within my learning community.

In this chapter Brookfield goes on to discuss how literature can be engaged with, to develop a criticality of mind so that when I read an article I engage by questioning and do not accept the ‘facts’ without interrogation of the purpose, the voice being heard, the validity of the methodology, ethical and moral issues, the bias.

“To be critically reflective teacher means that we regard both our personal and collective experiences and our reading of formal theory, research or philosophy an important elements in our critical journey” (p194)

If you are starting on the journey of engaging with educational literature, I would recommend this book as a great starting point.

#FabEduBooks is supported by Crown House Publishing

Everyone who shares a post on their favourite edubook this September on will be entered into a draw at the start of October. The lucky winner will receive a Big Bag of Books from Crown House Publishing.

To find out how to submit your post, click on the following link:


Our learning journey in tracking pupils’ learning journey

Our learning journey in tracking pupils’ learning journey and monitoring skills progression in the Broad General Education

The pipe band welcome to Preston Lodge was an amazing start to an amazing day. My colleague Alan and I were delivering our journey in trying to track learning in knowledge, knowledge based skills and soft skills through the Broad general Education.

The journey started 9 years ago at a weekend for pupils who were underachieving, at this point we were delivering master classes to support them. A maths teacher on a Saturday night was getting frustrated with the pupils and exclaimed “Think” at the assembled group. This “think” started the journey as to what do we mean by “think” what are we asking pupils to do? And how can we help pupils scaffold how to do this?

This led to myself and 2 colleagues creating a booklet in different thinking styles to support pupils

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With the implementation of CfE a few years later we started to look at both the knowledge and knowledge based transferable skills within our subject area (science). Through this we have gone through many different transitions of how to support pupils and reached a stage where we settled for the last few years. The success criteria grid that we produced and used links knowledge based transferable skills with content, but also allows pupils to track their progress using a star rating.

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This provides a clear progressive framework to show how they can move forward their thinking forward.


Having spent about 18 months thinking about SOLO Taxonomy (Structured Order of Learning Outcomes), we are now moving into a SOLOesque type of grid which shows more progress in learning by linking ideas in a more visual way. We are trialling this at the moment with some  classes but we think it is a better way to support pupils learning and allow them to become more independent in their studying beyond the classroom.

Untitled6 However through all of these changes and refinements the need to develop a structure for social skills and transferable skills for learning and success kept nagging away at us. We have both been to the Co-operative learning Academy and were delighted by the experience but question why give social goals and then not monitor/measure/record these in some way? How do you show progress in soft skills?

This led to a small literature research after which we created a grid of the most common skills pupils could need in order to succeed both at school but also in life beyond school.


After we had shared this with our faculty we decided to focus on one skill from each section this session. This led us to try to find ways to support pupils to recognise when they are using these skills and then also to measure where they are and what they have to do next in order to improve.

This became cumbersome quickly and a bit “ticky boxy” so on Thursday evening Alan produced a framework which we hope will move us forward.


This framework is a work in progress as we now try to answer some bigger questions such as

What if we could teach students a common set of techniques and reflective questions, throughout the whole school curriculum, that will enable them to not only deal with the day to day challenges of life, but to motivate themselves to achieve their potential and succeed, regardless of their interests and ambitions?

The approach includes the use of Metagcognitive Question cards, geared around encouraging students to contemplate the processes they went through during the lesson on both a cognitive and emotional level. Alternatively, students could be presented with common thinking framework as part of their learning task, to help structure their approach.

One of the key problems with attempting to map out a progress path for certain transferable skills, is that they are by nature general and open to interpretation.  Therefore any attempt to create a definitive progression framework for judging ‘mastery’ of transferable skills is ultimately subjective.

Our initial attempt at a progression map has been based on a ‘start with the end in mind’ principle and attempted to work backwards from an ideal, to a fundamental entry point that opens with an initial consideration of the basics of the skill e.g.

Screen Shot 2014-10-12 at 18.34.43The ongoing challenge is find a way to map activities onto these progression criteria in a way that retains the discrete nature, yet lays the foundation for further progress.

One of the ways we are now looking to demonstrating pupil progress is through the ‘motivational interview’ self-assessment approach. As the name suggests, we want to support pupils to monitor and track their progress thus making it more engaging and meaningful than teacher subjective opinion. Within this, two pupils who the teacher perceives to be similar, could ‘score’ themselves very differently, this is OK because the important thing is not the score but the “what are you going to do now?” for both pupils. And like SOLO, pupils can judge their progress by comparing their approach with clear models/or using techniques from different progress levels. This is a work in progress!

So that is where we have got in our thinking about how to support pupils learning of knowledge, knowledge based transferable skills and social transferable skills.

We would appreciate comments and dialogue to help us move forward in our thinking.


I was motivated to attend the Research in Education in partnership with National Teacher Enquiry Network Conference in York on 3th May (#NTENRED) after some chatter on Twitter. Looking at the speakers who were lined up to deliver workshops, they were mainly educators who inspire me on Twitter. I was not disappointed. I left excited and fired up with ideas and thoughts on how I could make changes to my own practice and other ideas that I could take forward into other areas of personal and professional interest.

The Keynote speaker was John Tomsett (@johntomsett) who is the Headteacher of Huntingdon School, who was hosting the event. The other educators whose workshops I attended were Kenny Pieper (@kennypieper), David Weston (@informed_edu), Keven Bartle (@kevenbartle), Jonathon Haslam , David Fawcett (@davidfawcett27) and Andrew Old(@oldandrewuk).

I have tried to collate my ideas from all of the sessions under headings to distil and condense my learning.

The first session I attended was delivered by Kenny Pieper, entitled “An eight word manifesto – Scotland’s attempt to change everything by changing everything”. Kenny delivered a witty and entertaining session as David Cameron (@realdcameron) tweeted “whatta a man..worked in everything from Edwin Morgan to Partick Thistle to his breakfast”.

Kenny started with a brief outline of the implementation process of CfE and where we are now in terms of the final stages of the ‘all through curriculum’. His main point, which I agreed with, is that CfE was written as a vision statement with poorly defined terminology and no particular rationale as to why the 8 words – successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens – of the four capacities are in the order they are.

Another idea was that the curricular change needs a new name as “Curriculum for Excellence” is a misnomer as the terms are undefined. “What is excellence?” was the question posed by Kenny and answered thus “excellence is being consistently good”. As a profession we have to reinvigorate our “tradition of pride in what we do”, to take the lead and not wait for permission because what we are being asked to do is lead societal change and this takes time and effort.

This linked to the question: What is education for? This was asked by Andrew Old but unfortunately not answered. However, if there is not agreement on the purpose of education and clarity of the definition then how can we discuss and argue points of practice if we don’t have a shared understanding.

Andrew talked about how in education we use “weasel words” which allow for differing definitions which can also vary in differing contexts. Some “weasel words” given by Andrew were ‘engagement’, ‘understanding’, ‘skills’ and ‘child centred’. To this list I would also add ‘professional’. The notion of teachers being professional and having autonomy over their working practices leads me to think about how can we facilitate professional learning of teachers.

The concept of teachers learning from and with other teachers is an interesting area for me as I am currently undertaking a Master level research on Supporting Teacher Learning through Strathclyde University. I believe that teachers need to be “fluid in classroom management skills, pedagogy (know what to use/when and why!) and be reflective practitioners (adaptive to making changes)” as discussed by David Weston.

A powerful tool that could support teacher learning is Lesson Study. I have heard about this practice but do not yet fully understand it or whether it can be used in my own situation but would like to consider its use in working with student and probationer teachers. However there is a caveat in working with ITE students and early career teachers in connection with Lesson Study, which is: Do early career teachers have enough tacit knowledge to truly engage in lesson study? Will early career teachers be able to articulate why one strategy will work with one pupil better than another? Perhaps not but worth researching I think.

Feedback (why doesn’t feedback stick?) delivered by David Fawcett was an opportunity for me to engage in some professional learning and I was lucky enough to find a seat in the well-attended session. I have been working on improving my feedback to pupils for the last two sessions after reading John Hattie’s book ‘Visible Learning’. David used four statements to show that what most teachers think is feedback is really advice on how to move forward only, and does not take into account prior learning. For feedback to be effective it must link learning (feedback) with next steps (feed forward).

The next question posed was when is feedback most effective? As with so many strategies in teaching and learning it depends on circumstances of the learning environment, of the learner and of the relationship between teacher and pupil – know your own class is really the best advice for teachers. Dylan Wiliam was quoted as saying “feedback should cause thinking” (2011) and if it does not and time is not given to make improvements then it will not contribute to improve outcomes for pupils. I am still thinking about this and how I can continue to evolve my practice to improve the quality of feedback I give and how this supports pupil outcomes. I have been using reading and research to improve feedback so was interested in the concept of ‘knowledge transfer’ that was a focus for a workshop delivered by David Weston.

During the workshop a question that came to mind early in the session was prompted by data on effective “knowledge transfer”. The least effective modes are one-off courses or events or asking teachers to read related documents. If this is the case then why do we as a profession persist in using these models? Do we lack creativity to do this other ways? I don’t think so. Is it the case that reality gets in the way of a good idea and the precious commodity of time is not devoted to ‘knowledge transfer’? We spent more time considering the ethos needed to support learning, such as motivation to learn, resilience in learning and making connections, and less time considering the impact on pupil outcomes, trying to make the strategies fit. The time is given to improving practice in the hope that this improves pupil outcomes rather than what practice should I adopt in order to improve pupil outcomes.

Which leads into David’s second key idea around CPD and research. A question from the floor asked “When should you reflect on the CPD, immediately after the session (happy sheets as David named them) or after some time lag to allow ideas to embed?” The answer given was before you go. The questions you should ask yourself before you undertake any CPD are: What is the improvement I want to see/be? Who will benefit from this CPD? Is it my practice or pupil outcomes – should/could it be both? Is this CPD going to make a difference to pupil outcomes? To make CPD effective these are the questions you should know the answer to before you undertake any CPD. Teaching Scotland’s Future (Donaldson, 2010)  mandates teachers to be more autonomous in directing CPD that is appropriate for them in their current situation which can improve pupil outcomes.

In discussions around CPD undertaken by teachers in Keven Bartle’s session, the following resonated with me: “SLT decide INSET opportunities, but who has least often been teaching and whose knowledge is most recent? So maybe it is time for teachers to use CPD to seize their own agenda and be proud of their knowledge and abilities to set clear goals for their own CPD and professional learning and become enquiry practitioners.

At Huntingdon School, John Tomsett has set up a position of “Director of Research”. In my view this would also link very well into the aspirations of the Teaching Scotland’s Future (Donaldson, 2010) which recommends that teachers become enquiry practitioners. This “Director of Research” could become the key person in a school who links the needs of staff, identified by the PRD process, with the opportunities to be involved in research with Universities or other partners to create rich data to inform practice and sustainable improvement. As John states it is the SLT’s job to “get conditions for professional growth right”, allowing staff to be reflective and support enquiry learning of practitioners. John went on to discuss the work of the Education Endowment Foundation and their recent blog post in which “James Richardson discusses whether ‘Randomised Controlled Trial results can be expected to have the same impact in your school’” and the idea that what works can be a localized phenomenon and “‘What works’ is really shorthand for ‘what has worked in the past and gives us the best indication of what is likely to work in your school, with your particular cohort of pupils.’”. I need to consider this more and the impact of this on the enquiry practitioner model and transference of results from research into a school or classroom.

This idea of a ‘Director of Research’ would allow the SLT to have an overview and links to the idea of Masters study as outlined in Teaching Scotland’s Future (Donaldson, 2010) where academic rigour is the norm and all teachers have an open Masters account which they can add to throughout their career to build into a Masters profession. The Masters profession aspiration is worth considering in terms of whether we mean, Masters level in terms of academic rigour or Masters level (Masterliness) in terms of practice. However, one possible advantage could be that as a Masters profession we could, as Kenny put it, “attract the smartest people in the room” into the profession.

Another interesting idea from John’s keynote address was the notion of learning observations which “remove the culture of fear and judgement from learning observations”. The key question which excited me was staff being asked “How can I best observe you?” By allowing staff professional autonomy to make decisions around how to engage in a learning observation as a means to facilitate professional dialogue and impact on outcomes for pupils is a fundamental aspect of an improving school. However, when learning observations become merely a quality assurance measure which is done to staff to allow SLT to tick a box as part of their self-evaluation procedures, we lose a powerful tool and opportunity to engage with each other to improve life chance of the pupils in our communities.

My first teacher conference has left me wanting more. The quality of speakers, the atmosphere of like-minded professionals and the conversations with interesting people from around the country has really opened my eyes and mind. Bring on the next Pedagoo event!

My response to What is pedagoo to me?

Here are a few thoughts in response to “What is pedagoo to me?” by Kenny Piper, October 13, 2013.

I first heard of pedagoo through the TES in February 2012 and joined around that time. Since then I have contributed to #pedagoofriday sporadically (because I don’t always remember, then kick myself around 7pm when I read my twitter feed!). I have even made the choice one week last November.

I agree with Kenny that Pedagoo should be ‘for the people and by the people’ but as a ‘lurker’ I have found making a contribution daunting. As much as I would like to contribute I am struck by the usual questions, Will it be good enough? Is what I have to say interesting and relevant??

Although I do have a personal blog, I don’t have a personal writing voice, like regular most bloggers. I assume this takes time to develop and to be honest I haven’t taken the time. My blog is an opportunity for me to offload and then try to reassemble my thoughts into something coherent. Perhaps this is the first place for me to start, to gain my voice and build reasoned argument instead of a rant.

I am on twitter (if I read it, I retweet it – is kind of my philosophy!) and am often inspired to try out new things in the classroom and share these with my followers and colleagues. I suppose the next logical step would be to contribute to a wider forum so I can get feedback and also be supported in, let’s be honest, difficult times in Scottish Education.

Last year I did contribute to the PedagooResolution, which I thought was a great idea with different categories of which I choose two, Learners Taking Responsibility for Learning and Teacher and peer feedback. I was very disappointed, as I am sure the admin team were, with the lack of response to such a perfect forum for an exchange of ideas and to support each other.

Sharing through Teachmeets are another element of Pedagoo to which I have yet to take the plunge. I had booked for the #tmlovelibraries but unfortunately my own pesky kids got in the way of a good plan! So I have yet to experience the teachmeet but it scares me. It would be daunting to present to some tweachers who I am inspired by and have admiration for, through their posts, but a teachmeet is not going to come to my house so I need to take the first step and be brave but possibly as an enthusiastic lurker first.

As Kenny says “Pedagoo needs to be a space where all educators have an opportunity to contribute, share, discuss and debate”, I agree with this whole heartedly but sometimes it’s just difficult to put yourself out there.

So for me, I need to make this happen, this post is the first, I’d like to say of many but fairy steps I think until I
find my voice. Pedagoo is a brilliant idea which allows teacher to talk, support and debate with each other so what are we waiting for?

Pick of the week 16th November

#pedagoofriday the audible ‘ahh’ from my year 11 when they got ionic bonding and formulae… never had that before in this school.
#PedagooFriday Year 8 students self assessing their learning & setting their own targets #punklearning style!
Tait Coles
#pedagoofriday staff senior choir rehearsal yesterday lunchtime. Wonderful to be singing with the pupils.
Robert Jones
When a yr 11 starts presentation with celebs/media and develops it;Harry Patch & moves peers & teacher to tears #pedagoofriday #youthoftoday
Bev Sharp
#Pedagoofriday my behaviourally challenged y4 boy has not been in trouble all week and wrote 6 pages in 40 minutes!
andrew cowley
#pedagoofriday HT stunned at S2 microbiology investigation into cleanliness. He's cleaned his keyboard!
Paul Cochrane
Int.2 research into radioactivity, one group came up with their own idea: 'Is the Queen Radioactive'. Hilarious to read #PedagooFriday
Christopher King