Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Can we all be that little bit better?

I have a feeling that this post may be the beginning of how I redefine myself as a teacher.  My journey in education is probably as predictable as anyone else.  After finishing a 4 year university course training me to become a PE teacher, I have spent year on year looking to refine my practice in an effort to make what I do, more effective and beneficial for the students I work with.  My role as a Learning Innovator and part of the Learning and Teaching Group (LTG) has directed me towards various readings and literature.  The gentle nudge from Chris Fuller to engage with the world of Twitter has brought me some great (and challenging) discussions about education.  The world of blogs and blogging has also opened my eyes and made various practices, pedagogy, research and ideas more accessible.  All of this though has led me to scrutinise and think a lot harder about what it is that I do and how I deliver a lesson.  It has made me think about what the various core ingredients that I could improve in my practice are to become that little bit better at what I do.  It has made me wonder if what I am doing in lessons is the best it could be and actually effective at all.

So, just over a year on Twitter and various readings/discussions later, and a number of blog posts from the like of Kev Bartle,  Alex Quigley (here) and Joe Kirby (here) has led me to assess what I am doing and what do I need to do better.  I've taken this self reflection approach many times before, but this time I am assessing my practice on a larger, more holistic scale, and looking at the various areas that I could improve for next year.  The influence from cognitive science and those beloved effect sizes have really spun my current thinking on its head.  The research and evidence based practice that is now more accessible than ever before ensures that there is never a moment to settle for second best.  And why should I?  My main goal is to educate students and 'coasting' in my practice will not ensure I do this as effectively as possible. There has been a quote from Dylan Wiliam which has been referred to a lot lately and relates to this, explaining:

 Every teacher needs to improve, not because they are not good enough, but because they can be even better’.

Now I feel that I can be better.  In fact I know I can be better.  I feel that through reflection on the specifics of my teaching, this micro-analysis will only help me move forward towards the teacher I wish to be. Zoe Elder may call this a marginal gains approach to the profession where I review and move forward the key areas by 1%.  This marginal gains approach may not make my results improve dramatically, it may not make my students learn better immediately, it may not be seen as adequate to others in the profession (is there even a right way? as described by David Didau).  But what I hope it does is helps me to do what John Tomsett calls 'Keeping the main thing the main thing'.  I have tried hard to ensure what I do though does have a positive impact and is backed up by principles, theory and evidence.  So what will follow over the next few posts are things that I have read, digested, reflected upon and now plan to implement in my practice from next year.  Gone are the various gimmicks and low impact activities.  Instead what I aim for is a stripped back and simple approach, putting the core essentials at the forefront and focusing on elements that encourage effective learning.  In come what theory confirms or evidence backs up.  A new insight into how learners learn and how to maximise achievement will be the focus of my review.  I aim to focus on what I believe combine to make effective learning in my classroom.  Improvements in feedback, planning, assessment, use of learning intentions and questioning.  I won't be changing the world in which I teach, throwing out everything I have ever done and starting from fresh.  Instead I will be putting the core essentials under the spotlight and determining what I can do best.

The core principles of teaching & learning that I will put under the spotlight.

My final thought before I go is 'Shouldn't all teachers be doing this anyway?'.  Well as the various posts earlier talk about, we can get into the stage where we plateau after a few years of teaching.  As workload increases and accountability mounts more and more pressure on us, there can be the sense or false worry that changing the status quo could be dangerous.  It can lead to apprehension and hesitance in moving practice forward.  But I feel that this is 'safe' approach.  Identifying an area of weakness in our practice (as feedback in theory lessons was for me) and working on refining it ourselves, using what we know works and backed up by readings, is such a key aspect.  It is taking control of your own CPD and actually working on what matters to you.  And in the age of social media, this is now easier than ever.  I honestly feel that as forward thinking as I am, the power of Twitter and educational blogs is really what has kept me striving to progress further.  Never have I had so many articles and posts at the touch of a finger.  It is this use of this social media that Joe Kirby talks about that could have its place in raising teachers professional practice. Finding that dedicated time throughout the year to scrutinise what it is you are doing is so important.  Analysing what works, what evidence/research says could make it better and measuring the impact that your teaching is having in the classroom is key if we are going to keep educational quality moving forward.  Maybe I finish with a challenge to you all.  Take time to reflect, analyse the 1% gains, strive to be better and improve the quality of what we deliver to learners.  I strongly feel we all have a duty to be that little bit better and now have the support and links available, more than ever before, to continuously do this.  So if this post does anything, make it be that you find time to actually take control of your own development.  Put yourself in charge.  Read, connect, discuss and debate.  But all in all, take the step to improve your practice.  Not because you're not good enough, but because you (and I) can be even better.


  1. What is your twitter name? I am really interested in your posts and would like to connect on twitter with you to follow your musings