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What is good teaching? Following it up.

September 14, 2014

A few months back I blogged about the process of identifying and sharing the excellent practice that takes place every day in the school that I work (here if you missed it). In this short blog I want to share what our next steps have been. I must say looking back that I am proud of the document that we produced (based on the 10 features of effective lessons that we highlighted as a school).


All staff were observed in the spring and summer term and the 10 features were used as the focus of the lesson observation. Strengths and possible areas for development were based on the 10 features. Our AH for school improvement produced an excellent document bringing together the best practice observed in each of the 10 areas. This was very useful and meant that as well as having a page of advice on “constructive Questioning” (for example), we also had many examples of effective practice in the classroom. Feedback from staff has been positive. The 10 features were chosen by our staff so I suppose the feedback had to be positive….

When the document was written and the 10 features integrated into our lesson observation proforma, it was clear that this was just our starting point. When I published the above blog I got an interesting response from Peter Blenkinsop (@ManYanaEd) He suggested we produce a pupil version. I thought that was a great idea. So this year our intention is to follow up the “10 features of effective lessons” in 2 ways. The first will be to further develop the skills of our teachers (every teacher included) in some of the 10 areas. The second is to develop a learner version. A “10 features of effective learners” that would complement our teacher version. In our homework diaries we have our school rules but there is a gap for “behaviours for learning” and this is a gap we can fill.

Strand 1- Teaching

We have an inset day on the last day of the academic year and we have decided (like last year) to split it into twilight sessions that run throughout the year. Last year we had a huge twilight calendar for staff to choose from which we ran in conjunction with our Primary colleagues. This year (mainly due to the logistics of different school finishing times) we are running our own sessions only. This means we can focus on teaching and learning in our school. Our head and assistant head have put this calendar together: There is a session (taken by one of our staff- for example my fellow deputy is taking the behaviour management session) on each of the 10 features of effective lessons:

call (2)

I am kicking off the twilight sessions this Wednesday. The first session is planning and I’ve got to say I am really looking forward to this session. There are many experienced colleagues attending and I am very hopeful that there will be a large element of share and reflect during the session rather than just “this is how you do it.” I have read many blogs on planning in recent weeks and months to help me prepare for the session (there are links at the end of the blog to many that I have read). Having read all of those (excellent) blogs I am still very proud of the single sheet of guidance we produced on planning lessons that is in the guidance booklet.:

planning (2)

When our staff were observed in the spring and summer term they may well have had one of the 10 features as an area for development. However, we have decided against “suggesting” that staff attend certain sessions based on the lesson observation. It is far better to have the “buy in” with teachers choosing areas that they are generally interested in learning more about or just having the chance to discuss it in more detail. Some of our staff have signed up for extra sessions. I am going to attend the Constructive Questioning section as this an area where there is more than the normal room for improvement. Later in the year we have discussed producing videos of staff showing good practice in many of the 10 features. Whatever we decide to do we have to build on the 10 features that we have identified.


Strand 2- The pupils

Following Peter’s suggestion I thought about the best way to produce a document for pupils that would be specifically about what a good learner looks like. I wanted this document to go in their homework diaries and up on the wall in all classrooms. Because of this it was important that we got the document right. I didn’t want to rush out something that wasn’t good enough or was missing some pretty significant pupil behaviours that are needed for learning. My assembly next week will be the ideal platform from which to launch the creation of this (hopefully very valuable) document.

The assembly is based on an incredibly powerful paper written by Graham Nuthall called “The cultural myths and realities of classroom teaching and learning: a personal journey” (the full version is here).The key message of the assembly (and I think an absolutely key message of the paper)  can be summed up in these following slides:


slide 1

new slide 2

slide 3 new

slide 4

slide 5
I think that is a pretty important (and very hopeful) message to give pupils. For what it is worth I think Nuthall’s research on ability is fantastic evidence for Growth Mindest. If we can instill in our pupils a genuine “thirst for knowledge” and encourage “learning behaviours” then pupils will have a more positive learning experience (Nuthall put it that they would be better able to generate more critical learning experiences for themselves).  This more positive learning experience (being more interested, more persistent, working harder, asking more questions) will mean that they become more academically able.

The final slide of the assembly is:

final slide

I will be taking this document to the student council and together we will come up with 10 features of effective learners. What do Penyrheol pupils need to do inside (and outside) of the classroom to ensure they have the most positive learning experience possible? I am going to use this document produced by @shaun_allinson (with his kind permission) from this blog to help guide the pupils in the production of the document.



If we could get all pupils to adopt these characteristics then the sky will be the limit!!
Of course, getting the document is one thing. “Nurturing” these behaviours in our learners is something else. Our learners are not Memory sticks. They need to be motivated, to see a point, to know what it’s for along the way. That’s what so much of our job is – persuading and showing what they can do with this accumulating awareness of the world. (I stole the last 3 sentences from Andy Day -@andyphilipday- because I could not have put it any better).

I will post the finished document once complete in case it is of use to anyone.


Here are some of the brilliant blogs on planning that I have found useful:

Lesson Planning: To plan or Not to Plan, Lesson Planning: Start at the End, and DIY Teaching CPD: Introduction by Stephen Tierney (@LeadingLearner)

Planning a learning sequence; observing a lesson sequence by Tom Sherrington (@headguruteacher)

This much I know about…..lesson planning by John Tomsett (@johntomsett)

The 5 Minute Lesson Plan by Ross Morrison-McGill (@TeacherToolkit)

How can checklists improve teaching? by Harry Fletcher-Wood (@HarryFletcherWood)

Can I be that little bit better …….at designing a better GCSE curriculum? by David Fawcett (@davidfawcett27)

Using Cognitive Science to inform curriculum design and Designing a new post-levels curriculum and assessment model from scratch by Dan Brinton (@dan_brinton)

Learning Walk Through Science (4) Curriculum Development by Mike Cox (@mikecox123)

Planning Learning by Chris Chivers (@ChrisChivers2)

and a very interesting email from Sue Cowley (@Sue_Cowley)

As always, comments are welcome……


From → Teaching

  1. mrlock permalink

    Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  2. David Williamson permalink

    Thank you for writing the blog. How long is each section of the guidance? Looking at doing something similar at our academy. We have come up with our criteria based on our recent t&l audit. Would you share your booklet you produce for staff as an example to show to our t&l team.


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