Teaching Learning and Whole School Improvement

From OER in Education


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Teaching and learning and whole-school improvement

A systematic and integrated approach to staff development, that focuses on the professional learning of teachers and establishes the classroom as an important centre for teacher development, is central to successful school improvement.

Hopkins, Harris, Singleton and Watts (2000) Creating the conditions for teaching and learning. David Fulton Publishers. Used with permission.

The Pedagogy and practice materials consist of a suite of 20 study guides supported by a series of video sequences on DVD. They have been created to support the professional development of teachers working at secondary level and have been refined in the light of a national pilot involving over 500 schools. The materials are designed to be used in a variety of ways, for example by teachers collaborating in networks across schools; by groups within schools (subject or cross-subject teams); by pairs, as in peer coaching or coaching and mentoring; or even by individuals.

ASTs and other leading professionals can use them to support their work with colleagues.

The principles in the following table may be used to ensure that CPD can play an integral part of school improvement.

Principles of school improvement Implications for CPD
Focus systematically on teaching and learning The classroom should be the focus and the primary site for improving teaching and learning. CPD will involve both enquiry into and reflection on classroom practice, and opportunities to learn from good practice.
Base all improvement activity on evidence about relative performance Professional development needs should be identified at three levels: school, team and personal. School and team development needs should be identified through whole- school review; personal needs should be identified through performance management.
Build collective ownership and develop leadership CPD should draw in as many people as possible to build expertise across the school, enable individuals to both contribute and lead, and so make the success of whole- school initiatives more assured. Professional development arising out of school and team priorities places individual development in the context of whole-school improvement.
Involve collaboration with other organisations Teachers should have regular opportunities for collaborative working (e.g. joint planning, team teaching, observation and feedback, coaching). Successful collaboration requires time for teachers to share their learning with colleagues. It may be necessary to go beyond the department or school to find suitable colleagues to work with.
Create time for staff to learn together It is important to create opportunities, both internally and externally through links with other schools, for staff to learn with and from others. The value of informal learning as well as effective use of structured time should also be recognised.
Embed the improvements in the school’s systems and practices The professional development system should be integrated with other planning and review cycles. Individual professional development should endeavour to meet whole-school, team and personal needs.

Many schools have improved by applying these principles and by paying particular attention to teaching and learning. The headteacher in video sequence M1 makes this point. Notice the emphasis on developing the school as a professional learning community.

‘The two main areas of activity that have had the greatest impact on our improvement have been the focus on teaching and learning and the professional development of teachers. We set out a strict priority to become a professional learning community. In other words, we are all here to learn and we are all here to do our jobs better.’

It is worth pausing at this point to watch the whole sequence.

Two teachers in video sequences M2 and M3 also make the point that a whole- school focus on teaching and learning can bring dividends. One explains how they created agreement across the whole staff about what a ‘good lesson’ should look like. Developing and agreeing a teaching and learning policy across the whole school, or partnership of schools, is a powerful strategy. It brings ownership and a sense of community to the school or partnership.

The second teacher in the sequence explains what happened in their school:

‘Across the whole school we are using the same approach, so the pupils are comfortable and know what to expect. … It may be true to say that teaching experienced teachers how to plan a lesson would have been treated with a bit of suspicion, but it is also true to say that everyone is completely convinced that this has added real quality to our work.’

You might like to watch video sequences M2 and M3 now, and consider as a senior leadership team or as a subject leader how you might use the video to introduce staff to the Pedagogy and practice materials.

Unit 1 Structuring learning provides a good starting point for schools wishing to develop their own ‘good lesson guide’. Particularly important are the actions taken by some schools to include the entire school community in promoting a whole- school approach to teaching and learning. Increasingly, schools are involving not only teachers and teaching assistants, but also other adults such as governors and parents. Another very powerful strategy is to invite the pupils themselves to contribute to the policy