Thursday 30 August 2012

20 ways to get involved with your schools teaching and learning

One thing that I have been overwhelmed with since becoming a part of the Twitter community is the amount of amazing tweachers there are who have so many fresh ideas about teaching and learning.  I see myself as a very forward thinking person in this area but even I have to admit that my own professional development has increased dramatically since being connected to other educators.  And it’s not just from reading the various amazing blog posts that individuals promote, but some of the conversations that I observe or involve myself in have been rich and full of strategies and tips.  Ideas bloom and blossom at every moment and I think that Twitter proves itself to be a significant tool for teachers, schools and education.

One of the things I do hear a lot is a number of tweachers being humble or playing down an amazing idea they have shared.  Some doubt their ideas are any good.  But in fact some of these ideas are so simple yet brilliant that they have me heading for my planner or laptop to start creating something.  There are also those who played down their role in education yet they have personally inspired me to be better.  Now I have been extremely lucky in my teaching career.  Since my NQT year I have been involved in teaching and learning at my school.  I have been fortunate to be given both the opportunities, and have the freedom to create opportunities to share teaching and learning ideas with staff.  I have learnt not to be 'gung ho' but instead find the right forums or channels to share just what is needed, to those who are interested.  So I thought I would share some of the opportunities that I have seen or have been part of myself and give some tips for those teachers who want to share their teaching and learning ideas with staff but don’t know how.
Now I have tried to loosely rank order these in terms of difficulty.  These rankings are not evidence based.  Instead they are put in an order combining things like the impact they might have, the organising it may take or the SLT/SMT permission you may need.  In fact when it gets further down the list any one of these could be repositioned.  So, if you are a teacher with ideas and want to share them but don’t know how, or want to have an input on teaching and learning at your school, maybe one of these will help:
  • T&L buddy.  I have a fellow colleague who I always go to first with an idea.  I show them the reasoning, the evidence, my idea and my plan.  They give me feedback, help me tweak it, give me points for development or tell me when ‘It won’t have much impact on the learning’.  It works both ways.  If we have a good idea we share it with close colleagues.  Word spreads (so does the idea).
  • Get your own Twitter account.  Network with other teachers.  Listen into threads about a topic you are interested in.  Read blogs and posts.  Then when you are ready, jump in and get connected.  Share your ideas and pick up ones which you can filter back to colleagues at your school.  There’s so much out there and colleagues appreciate it.
  • Read educational books.  If they’re good, share them with your colleagues or order them into the school staff library.  Get together and discuss the content.  @HuntingEnglish recently bought numerous copies of 'The Perfect Ofsted English Lesson' for colleagues in his department.  Could an initiative or idea develop from this (in your department or whole school?)
  • Read lots!!!  Read, try ideas out and open your classroom door to staff.  There are a lot of good books out there which have ideas that are evidence based and have a real impact in classrooms.  Read them, tweak them as you see fit and give them a go.  Let colleagues know you’re trying something new and tell them they can pop in whenever they want.  Invite your head of department or SLT in.  Invite feedback.  If it works then you have planted a seed and word will spread.  Keep evidence as well.  Before and after test scores.  Attainment levels and other data help demonstrate that an idea works (or doesn’t work).  Don’t try too much too soon though.  Try one or two things at a time.
  • Professional development targets.  I know some schools that encourage you to focus on particular things because of a whole school push or part of the SEF.  But, if you have a particular interest or T&L initiative you want to work on, get it in as a professional development target.  This gives you the opportunity to research, trial, monitor and evaluate an idea.  See if another colleague in the school has a similar focus and work together.  Share your findings with your department or other staff.  Let them know what you found out.  People will take interest.
  • Nominate yourself to oversee teaching and learning in your dept.  Our department allocates roles between ourselves.  Some look after displays, KS3 curriculum, extra-curricular clubs…..  Maybe put yourself forward as the one who works with the head of department looking into T&L?  Identify a focus, go away and research, trial, feedback and embed if necessary.  Use your department review or action plan as a good starting point (what needs working on).
  • CPD.  With money tight it might be hard to get onto CPD courses for some schools and teachers.  But, make a deal with SLT/SMT or your head of department that you will lead your own session or write up your findings about the course which you can share with staff.  Great way for you to get ideas out there and share with colleagues.
  • Write your own blog.  The best thing I have done this year for three reasons.  Firstly it made me reflect on what I was doing and get my ideas out.  Secondly it allowed a lot of feedback from tweachers which really help me fine tune things.  And lastly it allowed me to involve myself in conversations about T&L which has been very beneficial.  Easy for you to do using Word Press, Blogger, Edublogs……  I can now quickly link colleagues to ideas I have used.
  • GEMS.  Each week, a colleague of mine sends out an e-mail called a ‘Gem’.  This is like the Bring and Buy where he e-mails a T&L idea to all staff.  They range from ideas for starters, plenaries, differentiation, groups work, learning objectives…..  Many are passed to him from other staff who he acknowledges in the e-mails.  If it’s from a book, he links it so you can click it and maybe order it.  Very easy to set up, effective and refreshing every week.
  • Teaching & Learning newsletter.  We had a newsletter that an AHT put together every term.  Staff were encouraged to volunteer and write an article if they had something they had done or trialled during that time.  The idea was to celebrate ideas that staff had and share best practice.  Maybe this could work for you?  Maybe you could facilitate it?  Could it be a blog?
  • Focus groups/CCMM’s.  Last year all staff were asked to join a focus group or cross curricular group.  Each group was headed by a member of staff who didn’t have to necessarily be in a leadership position (in fact many weren’t).  Each group had a different focus.  Directed time meetings were set up over the year, the focus was discussed, researched, trialled and evaluated.  Each group had to have an end product which ranged from displays in the staff room to webpages on the school system.  Maybe suggest this as an idea to SLT/SMT or offer to lead a group?
  • Learning & Teaching group.  Our school has one of these.  It is made up of the two Directors of Learning, our AST’s, our Innovators, our G&T coordinator and any other interested teachers.  We have loads who have come along over the years even though it isn’t directed time for them.  Be a part of yours if possible.  See what gets discussed and involve yourself.  Have a direct input in your schools T&L policy.
  • Involve yourself in an INSET day.  Chat to the SLT, SMT or AST in charge of INSET days.  Let them know what you’re interested in.  Ask them to involve you if your interest is a focus at a future INSET day.  Maybe run a small seminar or be part of a bigger presenting group if doing something whole school.  Always remember what your bad INSET experiences have been and plan to do the opposite.  Involve your audience and capture their imagination.  Invite feedback.  It may be your worst nightmare but how will you do better next time without it?
  • Mixing up the daily staff briefing.  Inspired by a number of tweachers visits to High Tech High, @Totallywired77 now uses the routine staff briefings on a Wednesday morning as a way to share T&L ideas.  He calls this TMBriefings.  Briefing starts at 8.15am and two members of staff present ideas on things they have used in their teaching.  Staff are encouraged to share ideas and chat about a particular element of T&L.  Tait says "this is a change in culture, people are volunteering to present and generally everyone sees it as useful, positive, helpful and all in a relaxed, supportive and comfortable environment".  What a refreshing way to start the day!  Could you implement this in your school?
  • Learning & teaching ‘cells’.  In our LTG, we split down into smaller sub groups when we go away and research a particular idea.  These groups aren’t always led by the senior members of the team.  In fact we encourage everyone to lead a smaller sub group.  This year, my group looked at developing ideas for creating an ‘environment’ for feedback in classrooms.  Our ideas can be found here.  Why not lead a small group or cell with a T&L focus and gain the experience that comes with it.
  • Learning & teaching ‘marketplace’.  When our LTG group has researched and trialled ideas, we then present it at an L&T Marketplace.  We have various ‘stalls’ or presentation areas and invite heads of department, staff, SLT/SMT to see what we have done.  Ask to be involved in a stall and chat to staff.  Enthuse them.  Give out a brief hand out or direct them to a link on the school system.  Many other staff were involved.  Maybe you could set one of these up?  Great to bring staff together.
  • ‘Bring & Buys’.  I started this up in my NQT year.  I guess this would now be called an informal version of a ‘Teachmeet’.  It’s simply a get together of teachers once a month/term to share T&L.  I booked the library, got refreshments and announced the event to staff.  Teachers would come along and we would share stuff that we had done in our lessons (the ‘bring’ element).  Nothing formal, no standing up doing a presentation, just listening one at a time to colleagues sharing something they did.  The best part of this was getting the e-mails about 30 minutes later from staff saying they’ve already gone away and created a new resource ready to use tomorrow (the ‘buy’ section).
  • Run your own T&L sessions.  This year I had a good play around with SOLO taxonomy and found it had some powerful results.  My Director of Learning also became interested in what I was doing.  I decided to run a SOLO session for staff (click here).  This would not be directed time and would rely on the goodwill of staff to attend.  I sent out a short e-mail to all staff and then an even shorter reminder before the session.  The first session only had three people.  Still I had the chance to share an idea.  In the next session the room was full and the event was a success.  This year I plan to run another one on a different topic.  If you have an idea and feel others would be interested then run one.  SLT/SMT shouldn’t complain as you’re sharing best practice.
  • Get a school CPD account.  @CanonsOPP is a Twitter account for Canons High School where they share their T&L ideas and work.  Maybe help set this up for your school and working with an SLT/SMT, AST or fellow colleague, collate ideas from teachers around your school and tweet them.  You could also get teachers to submit articles for a school blog which you can tweet links to.  Remember that this is the image of the school so I would always have this as part of a wider team.
  • Organise a Teachmeet.  Now for those of you that have never heard of a Teachmeet, it is a bringing together of teachers with ideas.  It is an event where teachers come along to either present an idea to the audience or gather fresh initiatives for their own practice.  You don’t have to give a presentation if you don’t wish to but if you do, they either last for 7, 5 or 2 minutes.  Organising one may seem a bit daunting so maybe try an internal one first with your own staff.  Book the main hall, conference room, meeting room or good space.  Give staff plenty of notice and advertise it in each department staff room.  Have a Google doc or paper sign-up sheet so staff can register their interest in either attending or presenting the event.  Get some refreshments and make sure the ICT equipment is ready to go.  Video the presentations so you can share them with teachers on the school network drive.  If it goes well, think bigger and invite other schools or go for an actual Teachmeet.  For a link to the Teachmeet site click here.  For some example videos of an actual Teachmeet click here.  For tips from @ICTevangelist on organising a Teachmeet click here.

Now these all range in difficulties but hopefully will get the neurons firing.  Some are easy to do, some need SLT/SMT backing.  It’s also important to remember not to force ideas onto people.  Share what you have with evidence, examples, reasoning and practical applications.  Get out there and be part of the T&L community in your school.  You’ll love the experience.


  1. Thank you very much for putting this together. Posts like this alleviate one of the other problems of the twittersphere for me, and that's the challenge of bringing all the disparate and excellent ideas together into a coherent form. This is perfect. I'm sending it to everyone on our T&L Team immediately.

    Chris Waugh

  2. A great list of ideas...soon to be discussed at our Teaching and Learning drop in sessions I hope!

    Ellie Russell

  3. super ideas here! I wanted to print out for discussion in meeting (but black background made this hard to do) so took notes instead!

  4. Great ideas!! Thankyou!!