Sunday, 29 December 2013

NPQML National College Leading Teaching - reflections on case study 1 (Improving quality of teaching: secondary)

This reflection is based on my reading of the case study which described the strategies that a Head of English (Robert) had put in place in order to raise the percentage of students achieve A*-C in his subject.

The case study identifies a number of strategies that were used to increase the success rate of pupils. Which do you think were the most effective strategies, and why? What have you learnt from reading about these strategies – what they were and how they were used - that could inform your own practice?
There were a few strategies that I would like to try in my own department, however, there are some that were either quite specific to English or that (for other reasons) might not be appropriate to apply in my context.

Strategies we already use:
·         Book sampling
·         Use of student data ('on track' spreadsheets) - I would now like to use the data collection to actually inform 'learning and performance sessions' with teachers
·         Sharing of teaching methods and common resources (e.g. starter activities throughout term) and standardisation meetings (although I think we need to do more of this)
·         One to one coaching
·         Student pairing and seating plans
·         4Is tracking and intervention - information gathering, identify students, intervention, impact

Strategies that might be appropriate:
·         Request details from exam board on exact requirements for higher grades
·         Marked scripts to identify common errors ("first five errors" circle the correct one audit)
·         Informal lesson observations - 'talent spotting'
·         Students doing the 'right thing' used as examples
·         Use of the word campaign and consistency of message across department/school (could I do a 'confidence campaign' and link it to growth mindset?)
·         Department meeting 'learning and performance time'
·         Sharing of past papers, markschemes and sample answers
·         Class effort spreadsheets up on IWB to track lesson to lesson and motivate students - I love this idea and would maybe ask staff to just try it with one of two of their more difficult classes. Students names go red once they have recorded three or more effort grades below E2
·         RAG (Green = no intervention, Amber 123 some intervention needed to only an outside chance they'll get a C, Red = won't get C) - used in department meetings

Strategies that I might like to try a variation of:
·         Intensive work scrutiny
·         Letters to parents explaining the rationale
·         Feedback from staff on which student do/do not now do it correctly
·         Poster campaign and page in book (making it visible)
·         Examination board in-service training
·         Statistical approach for teachers - grading ABC but kept private from other members of staff (my concern with this is how 'traceable' student success is - our students often have revision with other teachers or might pick up learning tips from other teachers as well and I would also worry that this type of judgement might hinder development in teachers)

Strategies that I would like to try in the future but are not appropriate for my current context:
·         Change exam boards
·         Marking shorthand 'FF' (first five) used
·         100% time advisers selected - being observed to look at an issue (can 'chip in' with top tips from their class) or going in to observe strategies for an issue being demonstrated, perhaps looking at particular students identified from data
·         Early entry as a progress check (this can't be done without the early entry grade being the one that counts following recent changes)
·         Statistical approach for students - free up students with C in English but not Maths for more Maths (I would have reservations about the disruption to the timetable by doing this and don't have the authority to be able to make these types of decisions at the moment!)

The middle leader, Robert, faced a number of leadership challenges. Do they in any way resemble the challenges you face in leading improvements in teaching and learning, and how? If not, what are the challenges you face? What can you learn from the way Robert has addressed his leadership challenges that could inform the way you address yours?

Pressures that Robert faced that do not resemble what I face:
·         Pressure to move up through management - Robert felt this was compromising ability to lead a department
·         Initial increase in results, followed by a few percentage points dropped

Pressures that Robert faced that DO resemble what I face:
·         Consistency in approach as well as satisfying exam board requirements and teachers wasting time on non-important aspects of the syllabus (I feel we have made it very clear in our schemes of work what should be taught but perhaps it is worth revisiting this and monitoring whether this is being transferred to lesson content)
·         Non-specialist staff, two teachers for one class (I should encourage coordination - maybe use the tandem bike up a hill analogy!)
·         Student engagement (I should encourage colleagues to use the effort tracking spreadsheet)
·         Teachers entering data on time (I should be persistent and explain the advantages of analysis)
·         Sharing good practice - everyone wants a go, is it good enough to be shared though? (I should be careful about quality control when 'talent spotting')
·         Sensitivity of teachers to others coming into lessons (I should take care not to present this as a lesson observation but instead as an informal opportunity for development - "feedback is a gift")

Pressures that I might face if I implemented the 100% advisers strategy:
·         100% advisers - 'us and them' attitude? 'Chipping in' in lessons = team approach but very different to normal
·         Cost of freeing up 100% advisers

I also thought that the section at the end on leadership traits made interesting points about what a 'good leader' looks like:
Vision and focus
Up to date
*Be tenacious about pursuing anything that is successful
Influence but don't shove
*Informal contact
Take the tough classes
Practical advice
Only do what you can implement fully and completely
*Always bring it back to the students and their success
*"You do small things absolutely systematically, rigorously or you don't do them at all"

The few from this list that I have marked with an asterisk are ones that I think are particularly relevant to my current context.

1. See 'strategies that might be appropriate' section
2. See 'pressures that Robert faced that I DO face'
3. See asterisked points from leadership traits section

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