Consistently Good to Outstanding

I’m now blogging from a new site http://www.leadinglearner.me and you can find the post “Consistently Good to Outstanding” here.

Twitter handle: @LeadingLearner

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16 thoughts on “Consistently Good to Outstanding

  1. Some interesting ideas – I really like your table.

    I do feel it incumbent upon me to point out one flaw: you say, “In outstanding lessons almost all students make substantial gains in learning.” This is not actually true. What you see in lessons is performance, not learning. Learning takes time. I explain this in more detail here: http://learningspy.co.uk/2013/06/10/deliberately-difficult-focussing-on-learning-rather-than-progress/

    Thanks again, David

    • Thank for the comment David. I had read your post earlier in the week and knew I would be in difficulty with the performance, learning or progress issue. I have no defence just used the term that I tend to use as a bit of a catch all.

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  3. I agree with David – a really interesting blog. I was that very teacher for a frustratingly long time. My answer was to eschew the gimmickry filled courses, and some of the lesser pedagogy tips, which serve only to promote tools rather than actually focus in upon core pedagogy. Your point that feedback – making the learning visible – is paramount is supported by a wealth of evidence and does reinforce the idea that the shift from good to outstanding is about the deliberate practice of our core practice. Like Dylan W says, we should stop doing so many good thing’ and focus on our core practice. The ‘holy trinity’ I argue is great explanations (with modelling being a key component), questioning and feedback. That is entirely true. I would argue the principles of great teaching are as old as education itself. Faddish and false interpretations of outstanding teaching, such as the current criticism of teacher talk almost without qualification, are ill considered and daft!

    The other key issue is the nature of how good teachers undertake their practice. Too many teachers simply undertake repeated practice when they are beyond their NQT year. This can often serve to reinforce errors if there is no quality regular feedback. We need to undertake deliberate practice, with deep, typically time-consuming reflection. A couple of years ago I endeavoured to read everything I possibly could. I expected it of my top students aiming for university, but I had hypocritically stopped doing it myself. It was an important beginning in the reflective process. That deliberate building of a knowledge base, followed by lots of committed (often annoying!) practice takes time and extra effort, alongside support from school leaders. To be honest, I know many teachers who simply don’t put the effort in to drill their core practice in order to make the elusive shift to outstanding.

    I’d be interested in how your ‘ten week’ plan works. If I were to undertake a ten week plan – hypothetical I know – it would involve reigniting their research and pedagogy knowledge base (questioning many of their biases and habitual assumptions along the way perhaps) and training people how to undertake deliberate practice effectively. Anything beyond that would threaten the required time to embed deep habitual changes to practice. The learning communities could help initiate quality coaching and feedback mechanisms to complement the process. I would argue strongly that ten weeks is very much treading the beginning of the path from good to outstanding. For me, I worked solely on questioning for three times that length. I recorded and reflected systematically for months – undertaking deliberate practice proper (lacking some coaching support though). If teachers expect ten weeks to ‘solve’ the problem then I would argue they haven’t understood fully why yes have plateaued.

    If you get a chance to share your programme I would be really interested.

    Thanks. I am due to write up my Clevedon TeachMeet seminar which responds to the teacher improvement issue and many of my points above.

    Thanks for sharing this interesting post.

    • Thanks Alex. I think your comment is a blog post in its own right. Your deliberate practice post will be referenced in next week’s post as it’s crucial. The ten week plan aims just to get someone a taste and feel of what an outstanding lesson is. The journey to being a great teacher will hopefully start with that first step. Hope you’re enjoying the new phone.

  4. This was flagged up in an online discussion by an NPQH participant. It’s a great read. Thank you. I’m not a teacher, but I work a lot with school leaders and I’m struck by the issue of ‘too much structure’ getting in the way of being able to respond to students’ needs. The more anxious we are, generally speaking, the greater our desire to control – so teachers ‘anxious’ to achieve the ‘outstanding’ label are more likely to hold on than to let go. Without appearing to denigrate the skills of teachers, I really wonder if it would help to change all words associated with ‘teacher’ to ‘learner’. We already know that outstanding headteachers are actually headlearners. What would happen if all ‘teachers’ we re-named as ‘learning leaders’. Would they then focus on the learning of the students and be less self-conscious about their own teaching, I wonder?

    • I think it might well help Julia. The frustration for some teachers of being told yet again that was a good lesson just adds to their anxiety. Learning and leading, whether in the class room or staff room, go hand in hand. Glad you enjoyed the post.

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