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#pedagooprimary: plotting, planning and scheming part 1

You may have noticed that there was a flurry of tweets last week with the #pedagooprimary hashtag, kickstarted by @fkelly.

Armed with notebooks, pens and peanuts three primary tweachers met in a candle-lit alcove in the back of a pub a looooooooooong way down Leith Walk in Edinburgh on Monday evening to plot, plan and scheme a #pedagooprimary event into being.

Known to each other only on Twitter previously, Aileen Kelly (@aileendunbar), Robert Drummond (@robertd1981) and I (@MissJ0nes) quickly got down to the phase 1 planning for a professional learning event in a distinctly Pedagoo style and in a one-time only offer, with a specific primary focus mindful of the fact that:

‘Pedagoo is all about sharing classroom practice … [w]e do have loads of fantastic primary folk contributing, but the community does seem to have many more secondary teachers sharing … we’ve still to attract primary teachers in the numbers we’d like … I would like to see the rest of our future events having the open and collaborative approach we’ve taken up till now, but hopefully with more primary folk joining in having been persuaded by their participation in the #PedagooPrimary event … #PedagooPrimary should help us to broaden the conversation at our future Pedagoo events and online.’  (Fearghal Kelly, #PedagooPrimary, posted 10.08.14 http://fkelly.co.uk/2014/08/pedagooprimary/, accessed 13.08.14)

After much chat, and just ahead of that evening’s comedy gig at the pub, the Phase 1 planning meeting wrapped up and with pledges to:

  • bag a lovely free venue in Edinburgh, we do have our eyes on a particular place so fingers crossed.
  • bag that lovely free venue in Edinburgh for a Saturday in Spring 2015, most probably towards the end of April so holidays aren’t compromised and reports aren’t quite so pressing.
  • get the #pedagooprimary hashtag trending between now and then, to pique the interest of as many primary colleagues and primary student teachers as possible.
  • arrange further planning meetings (aka beermeets) in October and December to thrash out more detail and most importantly open to absolutely any primary bod who wants to lend a hand.
  • shamelessly plug to primary colleagues in school to encourage folk to offer to lead or attend workshops on the day.

The focus of Pedagoo is curriculum and classroom practice, the focus of #pedagooprimary is the primary curriculum and primary classroom practice.  Robert, Aileen and I have made a start, but from here on in the plotting, planning and scheming required to pull off a truly epic #pedagooprimary is going to need collaboration with many more primary brains out there.

Get in touch. Join us.  Be a part of #pedagooprimary: plotting, planning & scheming part 2 and beyond. Come on, you know you want to.

Engagement in Deep Learning
ScreenHunter_107 Jul. 20 08.40

If we truly want to connect with students in ways that will activate them to be self-driven lifelong learners, then we must be authentic, deeply engaged learners ourselves. 

Deep learning is infectious and if the conditions are fertile, it will flourish.

Invitation from @fkelly

This post is a reflection on engagement in response to a recent Twitter invitation from Fearghal Kelly. As I am still a novice in the Twittersphere, with only a few months of tweeting under my belt, the invitation in the form of a Twitter notification from an animated squiggle with glasses was indeed a surprise! I approached this quite cautiously by doing some googling and was relieved and then flattered to learn more about Fearghal and the innovative pedagoo.org community of teachers that he has established in Scotland.

Let me share some of my own thoughts on engagement in deep learning with you.

Tweeting in the context of engagement

As part of my sabbatical research early this year , I focused on deep engagement in learning and I explored the ‘tweets’ that young children from the Manaiakalani Cluster of schools in Auckland, New Zealand were sharing with links to their personal blogs. I was particularly moved by a ‘tweet’ on Anzac Day, a public holiday in New Zealand, that linked to a blog post from a nine year old girl.

 This was evidence of learning happening beyond the classroom. I went on to count 228 tweets via @clusterNZ with links to personal blogs shared by learners across the Manaikalani Cluster of schools during the two week holiday period at the end of the first term of school. A global audience provides comments and feedback to these learners who are motivated to continue their learning beyond school hours. The presence of positive motivation towards a learning task markedly increases the likelihood of students engaging in deep learning (Groff 2010).

Personal Learning

I decided that if young children could willingly share their learning via tweets and blogs, then I needed to take the plunge and do the same. I googled how to tweet and create a blog and I have continued tweeting @jennyljackson and blogging ever since. 

Without realising this at the time, I was moving out of my comfort zone into the ‘unknown’. I was also reconnecting and engaging as a learner. I  was pushing my boundaries beyond the surface and digging deeply within and stirring my dormant authentic self.

The reality is..

In the busyness of our day to day lives, rushing to and from work, going to meetings,caring for our families, a little bit of our authentic ‘learner’ self gets lost along the way. No matter how emphatically we articulate our dedication to being model lifelong learners, we inadvertently lose some of the passion, motivation and powerful love for learning that drew us into our teaching vocation in the first place.

The incessant demands for accountability in our workplace can mean that we engage at a surface level, in survival mode with our teaching and learning. This doesn’t mean that we are doing poor jobs but it does mean that we have the power and potential to greatly improve the learning environments that we are working in.

Instead of frantically searching for the latest programmes, trends and ideas to engage learners, I believe we need to start by looking inside ourselves.

But how?

Last term, I gave our staff a sabbatical from staff meetings. I wanted to give them back some time to play, explore, learn and let their creative , innovative juices flow. I shared the Eduardo Briceno video that linked to Carol Dweck’s  ‘growth mindset’  research and gave our staff the precious gift of time. 

Although I had shared my personal learning with them, I had no expectations about their own learning during the ten week term. Yet, within the first three weeks of the term, staff and students began to explore blogging. Although some staff members already had class blogs, the proliferation of new blogs generated a collaborative community of bloggers,supported by our school Facebook page and website. Suddenly, the rich learning experience that were normally privy to teachers and learners became tangible to families beyond the school walls. 

It wasn’t the blogs alone that engaged the families but the passion, enthusiasm and self-motivation that oozed from the very creators of the blogs. 

What next?

This term, we have ‘ditched’ the word ‘meeting’ from our calendar.We believe that if we are to truly engage our students in deep learning, we need to be experiencing this kind of learning ourselves. We agreed to replace the word meeting with the term ‘taonga’. A taonga in Maori culture is a treasure. We believe our love for learning is indeed a treasure. You have to dig deeply to find a treasure.That means we have to continually dig deeply within ourselves to reconnect with our passion and love for learning as educators. Engagement in deep learning is infectious and if the conditions are fertile, it will flourish.This is indeed the message from my  video.

ScreenHunter_80 Jul. 01 20.11

For the past few months, I have been reviewing chapter by chapter the inspiring book Open: How We’ll Work, Live and Learn in the Future by David Price. Price continually refers to the merits of going ‘open’ and the fact that businesses and institutions are more innovative and successful when they create informal, social networking environments for employees.

One of our teachers has innovatively created a blog for staff development. Lorraine Frances-Rees explains, “Why don’t we do all the reading and understanding before the meeting and then do the important stuff together – the conversation, the creation, the collaboration? Without permission and time to explore, I wouldn’t have had the impetus to do this. In fact I already had the meeting prepared with a PowerPoint guide. But I had the space to think about how I want us to learn and what I would need to do myself to make this happen. So I created a Blog.”

As a result, the ‘taonga time’ is more focused and purposeful and the time together is reduced by half.

When we create collaborative cultures of educators deeply connected to their own passion for learning, then we are well on the way to engaging our students in deep learning for success.

 If we truly want to connect with students in ways that will activate them to be self-driven lifelong learners, then we must be authentic, deeply engaged learners ourselves. Deep learning is infectious and if the conditions are fertile, it will flourish.


Open Classrooms Week
Image by flickr.com/photos/editorImage by flickr.com/photos/editor

Open Classrooms Week was an idea brought to our school by @kerrypulleyn. We first tried it out in March and have since done it again in the last couple of weeks.

The idea behind Open Classrooms Week is simple. Staff are encouraged to visit one another’s lessons and to share ideas and good practice around teaching and learning. It is effective because it gets people talking about teaching and learning and celebrating the great work that goes on in each other’s classrooms. It helps create a bit more sunshine in the classroom.

I first blogged about Open Classrooms here back in March on my own blog. We had already held a couple of Teachmeets at school including one that took place on a training day. This had already helped us build up the collaborative culture necessary for Open Classrooms to work. It is also building naturally on our desire, as a school, to encourage more opportunities for staff to visit one another and see each other teach. I’ve blogged previously about how we hope to change lesson observations at our school here.

Open Classrooms week was first launched to the whole staff in briefing. This was important so that staff knew why it was happening. This was not a drop-in or a walk through and the activity held no risk for staff. Staff did not have to be involved either. It was entirely voluntary and staff could sign up on a sheet in the staff room if they felt they wanted to be involved. A week was set aside for staff to be involved and when staff had free lessons they could go and see somebody else teach. When staff had their door open, other staff were welcome to see what was going on. If staff felt it was not the right time for somebody to come in they could simply close their doors. Some staff even made reversible signs to indicate whether their doors were open or closed!

When staff had been to visit a lesson they were encouraged to write up a leaf for our Teaching and Learning tree in the staff room. Here, they had to write something positive or encouraging about what they had seen. This was great because it shone a light on the bright spots around teaching and learning and allowed staff to celebrate the great teaching and learning that was going on.

A week later, staff shared their experiences at Teaching and Learning briefing and a power point of photos taken during the week was shown with a background track. This was a great Teaching and Learning briefing allowing staff to really focus and reflect on the great practice going on in school. Taking the time out to reflect and celebrate our practice is hugely important and beneficial.

If you have not tried Open Classrooms in your school, I’d thoroughly recommend it. So cast open those doors and let’s learn from one another! Here’s to our next one in September.

Why sharing should be at the heart of how we teach
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Following on from my workshop at Pedagoo Glasgow, this is a brief outline from my session.

Click here to view the Prezi.

The presentation element of my workshop had three sections, each of which is explored below:


If you work in the public sector, then your work should be public

  • This may be slightly controversial because, yes, it does apply to people writing ‘How to Pass’ guides as well, but if you work in the public education system, and your professional knowledge has essentially been funded by taxpayers, then whatever material you can produce to help students should be available to everyone, everywhere, for free.

If you help others, you help yourself, which helps the pupils

  • By opening up and helping others, we become more likely to be helped by them which, consequently, makes us better teachers who are better able to help our students (and, going back to the start, puts us in a position to be of more help to other colleagues). In all honesty, I believe that a focus on openness and collaboration could have more of an impact on teaching than lesson observations, taxonomies and learning intentions ever could.



  • OK – everyone is busy, and most people agree that the last twelve months have been some of the most draining ever experienced in a classroom. As budgets are squeezed teachers are pushed closer and closer to minimum time, and that’s not even including all the ‘extra’ activities that some teachers are expected to ‘volunteer’ for. Surely, then, setting aside time for sharing materials with others is out of the question? Well – unsurprisingly – I’d argue not; in fact, I’d strongly suggest that time spent on getting into the habit of sharing should be seen more as an investment than anything else.


  • There is an entirely legitimate argument to be made by some that they simply don’t have the skills to, for example, share all of their materials on a personal website, but there are two counterpoints to be made here: firstly, you don’t have to set up your own site to share your work (more on this later); secondly, in 2014, our pupils are perfectly entitled to expect an education system capable of engaging with them on their own technological terms – us teachers expect a whole host of support material to be available at the click of a button from the SQA, Education Scotland etc. and it simply won’t do any more to deny the same treatment to our students. It’s also worth keeping in mind that the development of these 21st Century skills can go a long way in relation to the new Professional Update process.


  • It is perfectly natural for people to worry about the quality of their work and, as a consequence, be reluctant to put themselves out there for potential criticism, but it is clearly hypocritical of us as a profession to hide behind this excuse whilst expecting precisely the opposite from our students. Every day we tell them to be brave enough to make mistakes, that only through failure will they ever progress – why should it be any different for us?


  • In reality, the fact that this workshop even took place (and that events such as PedagooGlasgow are still well outside of the mainstream of CPD) is evidence of the cultural change that is still required within education, where too often valuable material is hidden away in store cupboards, pen drives or personal servers. As the world becomes ever more connected and accessible, it becomes increasingly important that the culture within the teaching profession keeps pace.


Social media

  • More than anything else, Twitter has had a massive influence on me as a teacher, allowing me to connect with a range of colleagues holding both similar and competing views to my own. The first piece of advice I was given on my way to becoming a teacher was: “Get on Twitter and join the conversation” – four years on I cannot endorse this suggestion strongly enough.


  • There are various options for Virtual Learning Environments around now and, aside from Glow (which I don’t use), Edmodo is probably one of the most popular – this service allows you to share resources with your pupils and specific colleagues, thus encouraging a more open and collaborative culture.

Online communities

  • I expect that I’m largely preaching to the converted here, but I really cannot overemphasise the potential value of joining groups such as Pedagoo.org ! The other community-style service that I mentioned during the workshop was www.nationalmoderation.co.uk – an open, online resource (created by me) for sharing assessment, exemplification and teaching resources for the New Qualifications under Curriculum for Excellence.

Personal / class / department websites

  • This is the area that I believe that the most potential as it allows us to easily share whatever we feel like for free. I few months ago I decided to share all of my Nat5 Course Materials on this site and, since March, a quite incredible amount of people have viewed and downloaded the resources that I have made available (so many, in fact, that the site became one of the top Google results for search terms such as ‘National 5 English’). Based on the comments and emails I received, a huge number of these individuals were students, which just goes to show how much value our pupils could find in teachers developing a more open culture amongst ourselves.

So, Kenny has already announced PedagooGlasgow in, well, Glasgow for June. Now it’s my turn to announce Pedagoo@PL in September! What’s PL I hear you ask? PL stands for Preston Lodge – my school!

Two years ago we held the first ever Pedagoo event on the Saturday following the Scottish Learning Festival, we didn’t manage to repeat this feat last year unfortunately so this year we’ve combined it with my school’s first ever Learning Festival – hence Pedagoo@PL. We think you’re going to like it. It’ll be just like any other Pedagoo event, but just at my fab school!

As always with Pedagoo events, this event will be free (apart from the optional catering provided by our school’s charity group – the Persian Ladies – and the Hospitality Academy) and open to all. Preston Lodge High School is just stone’s throw from Edinburgh on the A1, by train or on the number 26 bus.

So, how can you get involved? Just now we’re looking for folk to sign up to lead workshops on the day. Anyone can do this. You just need to have something which you’ve tried (or are trying) in your classroom which you think others might be interested in hearing about. Everyone has something worth sharing, and leading a workshop is always more enjoyable and rewarding than you think it’s going to be!

If you’re wanting to find out more, or submit a workshop, or even to submit your email address to be notified of when we open the event to general registration, just head on over to our Festival webpage: edubuzz.org/lovelearning

See you in September :)

What advice would you give your younger self?
Image by flickr.com/photos/bunchesandbitsImage by flickr.com/photos/bunchesandbits

Hello all,

Firstly I hope I am doing this correctly and I apologise if not!

I am a PGDE Modern Studies about to embark on my final school placement before probation next year (I also ticked the box).

I recently attended an excellent talk through the PGDE by a  certain ‘The Real David Cameron’  who articulated many pieces of advice for PGDE folks - particularly signing up for this website.

I felt a bit of a fraud snooping on all the awesome sharing of ideas, experiences  and resources on here without posting something myself…

So was just wondering what advice people would give their younger selves prior to their final placement and entry to probation generally?



It’s been a while coming but I’m in the proud position to announce that PedagooGlasgow is on. After some healthy consultation with the University of Strathclyde, we will be holding an event on Saturday June 14, in Glasgow. We are still fleshing out the details but the day will take a similar form to the Fringe event we held a couple of years back and the PedagooLibraries event last June. A selection of workshops will be available with, hopefully, four slots throughout the day so you are guaranteed to hear some amazing ideas. After some great events in England, it’s about time we got something happening in Scotland.

However, I’m determined that this Pedagoo event gets teachers in a room talking. There will be no speakers as such, although David Cameron ( @realdcameron) has agreed to attend so you never know. There will be few frills – might not even be wifi – so the emphasis is on collaboration and conversation. The event will take place in the Lord Hope Building of the University of Strathclyde so the space has been created with learning in mind. In true Peadgoo-style this will not be a series of lectures but a day of workshops in which everyone is encouraged to get involved. Active not passive.

But it will not happen without your contributions, your interaction, your presence. So, now, we invite anyone who would like to lead a workshop to sign up. We hope that we can offer workshops from all sectors; early years, Primary, Secondary, FE, all other educational establishments. Workshops will involve a twenty to twenty-five minute presentation style talk from the leader and fifteen or twenty minutes of audience participation in some form. Who knows, it may prove so popular that you have to run it twice. We’re aiming for about eight at a time, four slots during the day, so there are lots of opportunities if you haven’t done something like this before.

It is also very likely that there will be little in the form of catering available. A real back to basics event. We may need to improvise with a PedagooPicnic in the main room of the floor we are on; coffee, sandwiches etc. We have no sponsorship so if I can find any coppers down the back of the settee then I’ll see what I can do. Shops are close by but it may be better to bring something. Who knows, you may share some great things over lunch, perhaps with those at workshops you couldn’t attend. Remember that’s what Pedagoo is all about. Getting teachers in a room to talk.

Pedagoo started three years ago when we were very much in the early stages of this final push into the new Curriculum in Scotland. We have all come a long way. But it is hugely exciting to be able to gather again and discuss the progress we have made in Scotland. We could be on the verge of something very special and we’re the ones to make that happen. By this time next year all assessment changes will be in place, more or less, and we will have what we have. The glass is only half full. Let’s make a start on filling it properly. Sign up now: Pedagoo.org/glasgow


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!

Learning From Each Other: In-house professional learning
February 21, 2014
Image by flickr.com/photos/torres21Image by flickr.com/photos/torres21

According to the new Career-Long Standard for Professional Learning from the GTCS, teachers should…

lead and contribute to the professional learning of all colleagues, including students and probationers.

However, long before the new standards, a group of us at my school have been saying that we need to develop an in-house programme for professional learning. Not just to provide more opportunities for professional development, but as a mechanism through which we could develop learning and teaching in the school. This has been especially so as we’ve taken forward the development of the learning cycle in our lessons. Increasingly, we need to look to ourselves to find the professional development opportunities we’re looking for.

After much debate as to how best to go ahead with such an in-house programme, we’ve now arrived on a structure we’re happy with and launched it as a pilot this week. Essentially, we’re looking for members of staff in our school community to offer to run twilight sessions which other members can then sign up to attend. However, we had two issues which we wanted to address before proceeding:

  • How to add progression to our courses without becoming prescriptive and/or complicated?
  • How to manage the logistics of such a programme?

For the first of these we’ve devised a scale for our courses which facilitators can choose to use to indicate the level of the course and to provide progression for the staff attending courses. This consists of four levels with a descriptor for each level as follows: 

1. Updating: Updating courses are one-off refresher sessions on previously learnt content. These are largely technical and not aimed particularly at changing classroom practice. Updating courses normally consist of just one session. For example, refreshing on child protection, SQA procedures or IT systems such as Evolve are probable examples of updating courses.

2. Introducing: First encounter with the content. Two sessions with gap task.

Session one primarily based around sharing new information.
Gap task requires participants to find out more about the content and/or reflect on its possible uses. Teachers not required to change their practice.
Session two brings together reflections from gap task and concludes with a discussion on possible next steps.

3. Applying: Teachers have knowledge of the content but want to apply it in their classrooms. Three sessions with two gap tasks.

Session one involves brief recall of prior understanding, more in depth sharing of information if appropriate and discussion of possible purposes and uses in the classroom.
Gap task one requires teachers to plan a class they are going to try the approach with and how they are going to use it.
Session two requires teachers to share their plans with peer feedback and discussion. This session concludes with each teacher having a clear plan for what they are going to change, with whom, when and why.
Gap task two requires teachers to try the approach out with a class.
Session three involves teachers sharing the outcomes from their trial and concludes with a discussion of possible next steps.

4. Enquiring: Teachers have tried the approach out but wish to now explore it in more depth and evaluate its impact. Although sessions will need to be facilitated by one/two individuals, the aim should be to try and reach a point where the sessions are a coming together of colleagues. Flexible number of sessions depending on the nature of the content, but should broadly follow these steps:

Literature: Facilitators start off by introducing academic literature relevant to the content and leading a discussion on this. Participants should be encouraged to search for their own literature and bring this back to the group.
Purpose: Although the course will be structured around addressing a particular problem, facilitators should lead a session which discusses the learning purpose of the approach. For example, rather than trying a certain web tool with a class, at this level we should be thinking in terms of the learning outcomes we hope the pupils should be achieving through the use of the tool/approach.
Evidence: A session will also be required on evidence. The purpose of this course is to evaluate the impact of the approach and so valid approaches to evidence gathering should be discussed and decided upon.
Intervening: Each participant will need to plan out what they’re going to do, with whom and when. This could be planned out and peer feedback provided before progressing.
Evaluating: Once each participant has tried out the approach and gathered the evidence, there should be sessions facilitated which bring together the outcomes of the group for both the students and teachers.

Our hope is that as time progresses, the courses on offer will develop in line with the needs of the school as informed by our PRD process, feedback and informal conversations. We also hope that the structure will provide individualised progression for those attending courses without excessive complexity for those delivering courses.

The other issue which we wanted to overcome is the logistics of managing such a programme. We’re really keen to make it as easy as possible for staff to sign up to attend and run courses and so we’ve set up a wordpress site as a one stop shop for all our courses: www.edubuzz.org/plpl. Thankfully, we’ve also got a member of our fab admin team to deal with all the incoming courses and bookings!

We only launched this new approach this week, so it’s early days yet…but we already have the following courses in the calendar between now and June:

I’m really excited by what we’ve come up with and think it has a real chance of providing a process which allows teachers to learn from each other but in a coherent, challenging and progressive manner – without being too complex or burdensome. I’ll let you know how it goes…

Cross-posted from Fearghal’s Blog

Learning Rounds
Image by flickr.com/photos/thurmImage by flickr.com/photos/thurm

I love watching other teachers in action. Their environments are usually quite different from the bedlam of the Drama class, peaceful, quiet and studious. I delight in the mix of academic and creative learning that is possible in a school and the way this is managed by professionals from a wide range of curricular areas. Yesterday I prepared for the visit of “others” into the Drama studio. They often find it alien as it is generally devoid of furniture and most written work takes place whilst lying on the floor. I think they liked what they saw. I hope they did. I did. I have always found it challenging to teach essay writing to senior pupils. I am not from an English background, as so many Drama teachers are nowadays, and need to approach these tasks practically. The pupils have explored the texts practically and then have to write essays – I think they need to see the link between the two disciplines, instead of viewing them as disparate entities. So, some flip chart paper, colourful pens, post it notes and the 5 plays being studied for Contemporary Scottish Theatre, the aim to work co-operatively to create the perfect 20 point essay in one 50 minute period. Pupils found quotes on destructive relationships in 4 groups (different coloured post it notes for each group) then chose went round marking the doublers and the best ones (hearts for Valentine’s Day!). We were then able to agree on the best 20 points and have, thus, created a pretty good exemplar essay for Higher Drama. It was the quickest period of written work ever. The best bit – 17 year olds getting excited about the texts, talking to non specialists about the themes and issues and then fighting over a praise sticker.