Sunday, 29 December 2013

NPQML National College Leading Teaching - reflections on account of practice 3+4: Understanding what outstanding teaching and learning look like

Drawing from these accounts of practice, what do you identify as the key factors of outstanding teaching? Are there any missing and if so what are they?

Steve said that an outstanding lesson should be "effective, enjoyable, exciting" and I could not agree more when he says that there is a difference between an outstanding lesson and outstanding teaching. It is possible to create a one-off outstanding lesson where the activities match student needs,  where they are supported, extended and challenged but I have found from previous observations that it can quickly become obvious to the observer if students are not participating in lessons like this on a regular basis.

Outstanding teaching on the other hand is described by Steve as not being about the teaching but about the learning and looking at what students are learning over what the teacher is doing. In particular I think that this student awareness of learning process (of what they are doing, how they are doing and why) is a key factor of outstanding teaching as well students determining the success criteria so that they can self and peer-assess their work and make suggestions for improvement. Katrina seems to agree with this when she says "stop talking, get the students working" and that students make progress by working intellectually hard throughout the lesson (instead of just doing 'busy work').

An outstanding teacher will, as Steve described, employ a variety of teaching styles and recognise that the things I most enjoy doing as a teacher might not necessarily be the most effective in terms of student learning. Similarly, there is no prescribed way of being an outstanding teacher. Katrina describes how outstanding teaching should lead to each child making the optimum progress for themselves and evidence of outstanding teaching might include students being happy and satisfied with their own progress, students leaving with top grades, students enjoying the subject (and learning) and students wanting to continue the subject once it is no longer compulsory.

I liked the reflective question that was posed - that teachers should consider "what is the point of the student being in the classroom?"

I also thinking that outstanding teaching will be delivered by a teacher with passion and enthusiasm for the subject so that they can inspire students to engage with the subject and that tasks will be scaffolded appropriately in order to build independence, resilience and other skills that students will require beyond school. Consistently high expectations from the teacher about learning and behaviour will also be apparent.

What have you learnt from looking at the way each of these leaders work to achieve outstanding teaching across their team? What for you will be your next steps in achieving outstanding teaching across your team?

The view from these two accounts seems to be that achieving outstanding teaching requires the development of a team with common vision of what outstanding looks like. Steve suggests that this can be done by effective communication and consensus building around what this outstanding team is going to look like, why the team wants to look that way and what the team is going to do together. It is worth emphasising (as Katrina does) that good teaching will lead to good results and when the results are in will teachers in my department be able to look back and say that they worked their hardest to ensure that students had the best experience in our care and do our students feel like they have learnt a lot.

As a middle leader I would agree with Katrina that you need to be a good (or even better, an outstanding) teacher yourself so that you know what outstanding teaching looks like and so that you can then start to make sure this happens consistently across the department. Practical strategies that Katrina suggests are that middle leaders should keep a close eye on results and student achievement, as well as behaviour and the quality of teaching. This can be done by monitoring teaching and learning through data but also by conducting 'drop-ins' and informal lesson observations and by encouraging regular discussion around teaching and learning. The issue of staff wellbeing is briefly addressed by Katrina and I am not sure whether I am perhaps a little naive in thinking that her attitude seems to come across as perhaps unsympathetic to any colleagues that are not meeting expectations. She states that "if students are successful then better staff wellbeing will follow" which I agree with on some levels but surely it is useful to remain aware of the pressures that teachers face on a daily basis in order to try and see colleagues as people to develop rather than problems to be solved.

1.       Ask my department this question  "what is the point of the student being in the classroom?"
2.       Use the responses to build a consensus on what outstanding teaching looks like

3.       Try and hold colleagues to account more over the quality of teaching and learning in their classrooms whilst taking care to nurture and develop individuals

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