6 Considerations for Classroom Teachers Discussing their Teaching
If you’re one of the lucky ones, you’ll be teaching in a school where you have co-constructed a statement of intent for your department’s curriculum. In these departments, everybody teaching the subject is an equal stake-holder in the design of a curriculum that is best suited for the school’s pupils, at any given time. These departments recognise that curriculum development is an ongoing, iterative process based on a constant process of learning, refining and improving. Everybody in these departments share, through a common language, a clear vision for the curriculum and a clear set of frameworks to support its implementation.
We could probably guess that in the vast majority of schools this isn’t the case- through no fault of dedicated and hard-working professionals, but by virtue of external circumstances that are most probably out of their control. Perhaps it may be that colleagues in the team ‘go-it-alone’ and only share resources and thinking when it’s absolutely necessary; for others it may be that teachers are chasing their tails, embellishing half-complete schemes of learning ; in other departments it may be that every lesson’s focus is heavily prescribed and deviation would get you a few stern looks and even more monitoring.
I’m always conscious of new colleagues joining schools and departments, learning a new set of structures, lessons and ways of operating but may not always understand the purpose behind the curriculum currently in place. Without being clear on an overall purpose of the department’s curriculum structure and planning, book scrutinies, learning walks, and pupil voice evidence only goes some way in measuring the effectiveness of the education being provided. They operate on the surface only.
As a Head of Department, I always felt I needed to know, for sure, that teachers knew why we decided to plan the learning we did, at the time we did, and I always felt it was crucial that that discussion went further than any discussion of external examinations. It wasn’t enough to say ‘ well, we’re doing it in Year 8 because they need it at GCSE’.
What I struggled with though, was how to invite that conversation. Of course,I had ‘soft’ evidence through our department meetings that we all knew the direction of travel, we had a learning policy for the department and a lofty vision statement, but I never really gave colleagues the opportunity to express and to articulate why we did what we did, when we did it. I didn’t have a useful structure for those conversations either.
These 6 considerations may be a starting point for Heads of Department, or for colleagues within or across departments to start considering the ‘ why this, why now? ‘ of their curriculum.
How could I use this?
- As a coaching tool in your team:
- You will never get the best out of your colleagues if they feel as though this is further scrutiny- Instead, this provides a useful tool for a coaching conversation with your team or between colleagues in your teams. It gives enough of an opportunity to discuss their passion for their subject and unpick their why (Stage 2) and then to consider whether the best possible foundations have been laid for the new learning to take place.
- When used in a coaching capacity, it also allows colleagues to feel excited about discussing and sharing their expertise of their subjects- probably a luxury not afforded as often as it could be.
- As a Quality Assurance tool:
- There will undoubtedly be questions here that colleagues may not know the answers to. This is a sign that the intent either isn’t clear, or hasn’t been communicated clearly enough. This should be an indicator for you to take some sort of remedial action as a HOD. What does this tell you? What might you do as a result? (and it won’t be to ‘tell’ colleagues the answers, they need to feel invested in this, they can only do that if they fully recognise and understand the purpose, not just have the purpose told to them!).
- Consider: which areas does it force you to question? Are there patterns emerging in certain sections that make you need to check your assumptions further?
- As a tool for personal reflection
- As a HOD, practice running through these questions and see if you are able to clearly articulate the responses. If not, what should happen next as a result?
The structure is free to download here:
The plantpot images are from PresentationGo (https://www.presentationgo.com/)- it’s a brilliant website with free infographics/ structures for PPTs. Teacher heaven!
It’d be great to hear if you’ve used this and how.
Enjoy the challenge!