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Teaching & Learning

RE: Focus

RE Focus blog

It’s that time of the academic year where the hype of Christmas has been and gone, a new year is upon us and we’re all starting to feel refreshed and raring to get back in the classroom! But what mustn’t we lose sight of in order to evolve and deliver quality first teaching and learning in our schools? In a word; consistency, sprinkled with innovative approaches and sharing of pedagogical practice. Previously I’ve blogged about our teaching and learning bottom line and I’ll be revisiting this with our teachers and students at the start of this new term. Our approach is very much based upon trust and an ethos of innovation and risk-taking, as I believe it should be in all schools, morphing with the rhythm of the school on its journey. But unfortunately as we all know, this isn’t always the case in some schools. In essence, we need to do the basics right and ‘sweat the small stuff’. Hopefully this will resonate with you, I anticipate that it will with our teachers too;

Joy – why are we teachers? Because we love what we do and value the impact our work has upon our students. We cannot and must not lose sight of the joy in teaching. Increasingly this is becoming harder and harder as the workload burden increases, this term will be challenging as controlled assessment deadlines loom and the examination season begins. Last year I blogged about this; Workload – Less Could Be More.

Assess – and I don’t mean simply marking or even extra work. Know all of your students and their starting points. Use verbal feedback and deep questioning to assess students’ knowledge acquisition, manage their misconceptions and accelerate learning gains. You may find Questioning; Challenge & Engagement useful.

Navigate – your students through their learning journey by exploring new and innovative approaches to your teaching.  Take risks and experiment, however I am mindful that in schools where a judgemental culture arising from a short-sighted approach to the leadership of teaching and learning using lesson gradings, it may be slightly more difficult to achieve. 

Understand – the big picture, do your students see this or simply view lessons as unconnected episodes of learning with no real purpose? The ‘stepping stone’ approach to planning learning is one worth considering, leading to an end point task or purpose for students in their learning allowing them to contextualise knowledge gains and apply them with clear direction. 

Attemp – new things. 

Reflect – upon your practice, on the whole I think this is something we have lost from our profession, or at least not prioritised enough. In this new term create time to reflect, evaluate your practice and collaborate with colleagues. The Art Of Reflection explores this is at a much deeper level.

You – Wellbeing is a hot topic at the moment, fuelled by statistics showing clearly that not only is there a recruitment crisis but one of the main reasons for this and that of colleagues leaving the profession is workload and work/life balance. Explore how you can invest time in yourself away from ‘work’.

Reading ListI read a lot of educational blogs, these are mainly centred around pedagogy and school leadership. As we move into 2016 I thought I would put together a recommended reading list that comprises of some of my favourite blog posts from 2015. These are in no particular order:

Classroom Excellence Demands Destination Clarity – a fantastic blog by Stephen Tierney (@LeadingLearner) exploring how assessment can and should underpin effective planning for learning. This is extremely useful for teachers at all stages in their career.

Boys’ Engagement In The Classroom – an issue which many of us face; how can and do we engage boys in the classroom? I have the pleasure of working with Mark Roberts (@mr_englishteach) and have seen first hand how effective these strategies are. Mark has led CPD sessions for all our staff and is currently leading an improvement team to implement these strategies further. 

But what is challenge and how should teachers approach it? – insightful blog by Toby French (@MrHistoire) delving into the challenge in learning and looking at what challenge is; could it be making students work harder or learning harder ‘stuff’? I found this blog, as I do with much Toby’s writing, comprehensive and evidence based.

Closing the Gap, Raising the Bar – an in-depth summary of the SSAT National Conference 2015 written by Amjad Ali (@ASTsupportAAli). Not only was the conference relevant, with some excellent speakers, it also offered a plethora of opportunities to network and share ideas with colleagues in schools up and down the country. 

Should I be marking every piece of work? – this is an excellent piece by Mary Myatt (@MaryMyatt) dispelling the myth and laying down the facts around marking and feedback. I personally feel that recently marking has been ‘mis-sold’ to the point where schools are losing control and unnecessarily increasing the workload burden, are you in this situation? Then this is certainly an essential read right now!

Assessment Without Levels – by Shaun Allison (@shaun_allison) a reflective and logical blog built upon evidence gathered from current and evolving practice. I particularly enjoyed reading this and found it extremely useful to see how other schools are approaching life without levels and identifying potential pitfalls on a journey that we are all currently on.  

And finally, how could I forget (@TeacherToolkit) the staple blog for any teacher and school leader. I particularly enjoyed reading Constantly Tweaking Teaching and Learning sharing ideas and exploring first hand the need to constantly evolve in order to move the quality of teaching and learning forwards. 

Have a great term, keep inspiring your students and most of all, enjoy everything you do!


About garysking

Deputy Headteacher - leader of Teaching & Learning. Change maker and believer in quality first teaching.


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