Tag Archives: Main Feature

Professional Learning: Never been better?⤴

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Through the Into Headship programme, I was fortunate enough to listen to Gayle Gorman at one of our national conferences. She spoke passionately about taking the politics out of education in what can be seen in her quote below.

Move from a politically driven to a professionally led system.

Gayle Gorman, HMIe Chief Inspector, Education Scotland (April 2018)

It made me consider the importance and value of professional learning and the huge potential we have already within our education system. And made me reflect on there never has been a better time in Scottish education for professional learning.

Professional learning is at the heart of the GTCS Standards, enshrined in How Good is Our School? 4 and a key feature of professional practice across Scotland.

National Model for Professional Learning

In light of our recent move to the online world, it is now time to reflect on the professional learning opportunities available to all in Scottish education and beyond. Arguably, the way in which we engage with our learning will change as a result of organisations, charities, Education Scotland and local authorities adapting to this new world. Will we ever attend a course in person again? Probably. However, we may experience a wider range of opportunities as people are now comfortable with attending online lectures and conferences. It may in fact open up more opportunities where previously people were unable to attend.

With a five yearly focus on Professional Update and an annual review process encouraging all teachers to reflect on their learning, I do feel like we are in a good position. However, is it tokenism and does this help with our drive for high quality learning and teaching? That is a question teachers will need to reflect upon individually, however I think it does and believe that high quality PRDs link in with school improvement which in turn impacts on pupils learning.

I would argue that there is an increasing shift away from attending a course. We now have podcasts and blogs being developed at pace right across the education system. There are also pop events and conference organised by and for teachers. It is encouraging to see this organic movement but does beg the question what the formal organisations responsible for the delivery of professional learning are doing about it. For example, the recent change to the Scottish learning festival which will now be organised by the professional learning and leadership directorate instead of the wider education Scotland. And what about the role of local authorities? Teachers are professionals and are more than skilled and capable to collaborate themselves however are they being failed by the wider formal structures which should be providing a service? I’ll let you comment on that!

The focus on leadership development has also been a key focus, and remains so. With the development of the framework for leadership and the many online learning modules created to support the different categories:

Professional learning

School leadership

System leadership

Middle leadership

Teacher leaderhsip

I do think we are now at a stage where our professional learning opportunities are excellent in terms of the choice and breadth, however we do now need to consider the depth and quality of professional learning. Perhaps this is where we need to consider again a masters level approach so that each professional learning engagement is supported by a university and contributes towards something like a qualification. This would help bring coherence to our overloaded system and also support the idea of high quality in depth learning.

Lastly, we need to recognise the potential knowledge and experience within our schools, universities and local authorities as it currently stands. Each school could have specialisms which they could share their experiences in which may foster greater collaboration. We need to reduce our reliance on courses which are paid for. The reason for this is that as budgets tighten then fewer people can benefit from this and I believe we don’t always have the quality when CPD companies churn out another course with little consideration for the person attending. If we had a greater collaborative culture across schools where we could regularly share in our own in-house developed programmes, this would reduce the competition aspect within education.

Therefore, I believe we have many opportunities in the years ahead and that there has never been a better time to engage in professional learning in Scottish education.

I’ll leave you with a few questions:

1. What is needed to ensure every teacher values their own learning just as much as the learning of the young people?

2. How do we ensure effective collaboration to build upon the organic movement already taking place? Do we need organisations like Education Scotland and local authorities to fulfil the role of professional learning or is this up to individuals?

Please feel free to comment underneath the post on twitter.

Teaching Walkthrus⤴

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I was looking for a new book to read and was recommended this by a friend. It is excellent value, only £3 on kindle! A really good book and I loved reading it – the kind that you just want more and that motivates you to pick it up each time.

The book is structured into three main sections as outlined below in the sketchnote. For those interested in pedagogy, this book is for you. I particularly enjoyed the section called ‘Why?’ which delved into the research and theory behind high quality learning and teaching.

There are many many books out there all promoting high quality learning and teaching and at times it is difficult to know which one you are actually looking for or going to benefit from. This one is the one for me. It has handy top tips that are broken down into smaller ‘how to’ sections. I can easily see this being the focus of a faculty or whole school meeting.

Also, trying to engage all teachers should be an easy prospect, however not all teachers have the time or know where to begin. The focus on short sharp overviews if research really helps everyone to engage in research without become too overwhelmed.

@olicav

@teacherhead

If you have a spare few minutes this summer, purchase this book for the kindle.

@EduBletherJase

EduBlether John Catt Educational Series⤴

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John Catt Educational are a leading publisher of professional development books for educators around the world. Check out their titles at JohnCatt.com


We have teamed up with John Catt Educational to bring you a series of EduBlethers with a select group of authors from John Catt Educational.

We are in the middle of securing dates and will publish them below.

July

An EduBlether with Haili Hughes – Preserving Positivity

Professional Capital in a Virtual School⤴

from @ EduBlether

With schools in Scotland beginning to contemplate how to re-open after a prolonged period of closure, I can’t help but reflect on how the last 10 weeks have gone and if there have been any lessons learned. Much like a yoyo factory, it has been full of its ups and downs. There have been moments of wonderful clarity and presence of mind where I have become almost philosophical. Then there have been days where I have been really sad, with only Salt and Vinegar Pringles and coffee to numb the pain. But one of the main victories for me has been the successes in collaboration with colleagues. In what is challenging times for collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity, I have witnessed first hand some incredible achievements in each of these areas.

In a recent EduBlether podcast (Episode 23- Digital Learning)we discussed the impact of digital technology on Professional Learning (as well as many other issues relating to digital learning). I would like to turn the focus of my attention to staff development and what we can take away from our current situation while moving forward into unknown territory.

The first area I would like to discuss is at first glance trivial, but in reality is transformative. With the ubiquity of video calls, I have joked that it is as if we have discovered a teleport button, where we can be in a meeting department meeting one minute, then 5 minutes later we can be at a professional learning event. Before lockdown, both events would have been punctuated by at least a 45 minute journey in the car, a 15 minute rage-filled search for a parking space, then an entrance to a room full of bad coffee and embarrassment at your lateness. We can now simply click a button and jump between meetings, like a character from a sci-fi film (albeit in this example a very dull and boring Microsoft Office version of the future). Not content with a teleport button, we have also discovered the ability to jump through time as well as space. If we miss any meetings there is the potential to catch up later at a time convenient to you due to meetings being recorded for prosperity. For example, Moray House has been hosting a series of webinars on a range of topics including Self-Evaluation, leadership and more. I have never been able to attend the ‘live’ event (having two young children at home), but I have enjoyed them later at a time of my choosing (after bedtime stories have been read and I feel more human).

These developments with digital literacy and confidence have prompted me to consider their impact through the lens of ‘Professional Capital’, the notion put forward by Hargreaves and Fullan. Professional Capital, they suggest, is made up of human capital, social capital and decisional capital. I’d like to quickly take each concept, in turn, to acknowledge how this new way of working can enhance each area, and ultimately on outcomes for children.

Human capital is roughly translated into the ability or the skills of the people in the school, for instance, a teachers subject knowledge or awareness of a range of pedagogical approaches. The new way of working, which is highly personalised and can be tailored to suit individual needs clearly builds Human Capital in a much more efficient and focussed way than was possible before. Kulvarn Atwal advocates in his book ‘ The Thinking School’ for ‘Dynamic Learning Communities’ where he believes that teachers must have choice and input on the nature and direction of their own learning to feel empowered and motivated. Never have I worked in an environment where there is as much choice in terms of professional learning. So many agencies from universities to private companies have offered appropriate learning for free to the profession.

Decisional Capital refers to the ability to analyse information and make decisions or judgements on how to deal with different situations. Again this is enhanced for me by the supportive online platforms readily available to teachers. From the incredibly supportive and richly experienced world of Twitter to more focussed and targeted online groups using an online collaboration platform like Teams. Teachers can now reach out and ask for advice or further information, in turn, increasing their ability to make sound decisions and judgements.

Social Capital refers to the collegiate culture of trust and respect that exists within a school. I have witnessed an increase in Social capital with the use of digital technologies. I have heard of or seen groups of teachers collaborating online to create videos for children to feel connected to their school and teachers creating team-teach writing lessons online to suit a range of levels. The collaborative functions available in Microsoft Teams or OneNote, for instance, are an excellent way to improve Social Capital in any establishment.

However, these advancements could also play in favour of another model for education. If we view these advancements through the lens of a Business Capital model, it becomes a more worrying and less enriching landscape. The argument could be put forward that these advancements in digital literacy could help reduce the cost of education. Questions from this perspective could be; how can we capitalise on the extra time teachers now have given there is less travel time between meetings? Can we increase class sizes using a blended model of online/in school learning? Can we hold teachers more accountable to decisions they make when everything is online and inherently more visible/open to dissection and criticism? (I heard of one school where they were giving performance reviews based on online lessons!)

In a business capital approach to education, teaching can be reduced to a set of procedures or routines, something easy to learn and master, something anyone can do. Hargreaves and Fallon suggest that this business capital view of teaching also claims that technology could potentially replace teachers. With the focus of professional learning being on gaining confidence with the tools and systems that help teachers ‘deliver’ learning online, we run the risk of subscribing too heavily to a business capital view of education. We need to keep this distinction in our minds when considering the impact of digital technologies on professional learning.

Now I am not trying to paint a picture of a bleak, post-apocalyptic, Black Mirror-style version of the future of teaching. However, it is worth considering the impact of these advancements in digital confidence from multiple perspectives.

It is clear to see that the benefits of digital technology have become a part of everyday life in the world we now live. Almost every teacher across the country will have taken part in an online video call, accessed professional learning online and collaborated with colleagues to solve a range of problems with a range of creative solutions. This has undoubtedly enhanced the Professional Capital of many teachers and educators worldwide. I believe passionately that by investing in professional learning using online/digital technologies we will see an improvement in outcomes for children and young people for reasons laid out above. I believe that digital technologies can help us improve Professional Capital and, while I am still cautious of the overly business centred, cost-saving narrative that could inevitably arise out of our current situation, I am excited to see how professional learning develops in Scotland and beyond.

The Line⤴

from @ EduBlether

On the back of thinking about all the small things that lead to successes in a school, I thought it would be apt to consider the other side of this. One of the seemingly small things that add to a considerable amount of disruption and wasted learning time, in all of the schools I have ever worked in, is the line. I’m going to discuss the various problems I see with this accepted norm, and then I will try to consider some alternatives.

One of the main issues I have with this is the wasted teaching and learning time that could be better spent doing anything else. The time it takes between a bell ringing and children getting into a classroom is huge. Let’s do some quick maths on this. A conservative estimate (based purely on my own experience, with admittedly no scientific rigour applied), would be that it takes at least 5 minutes once the bell has gone to have a class ready to come in at the start of the day, after break and after lunch (at least!). So this is potentially 15 minutes each day, which is about 70 minutes across the week, taking in to account the half-day! That is over 44 hours across the school year.

I don’t want you to think I am ever condoning counting minutes and seconds and making sure every possible part of time is accounted for. This would be dangerous for a large number of reasons. But when there are so many other issues, it begs the question, why are we wasting our time on a bizarre and old fashioned custom that gives nothing back?

Ordinarily, children have been playing in an unstructured and child-led way, then a bell goes (quite abruptly) and they have to stop immediately and form a line, one behind each other. We often scorn them for not being straight enough or for continuing conversations. Quite militaristic when you think about it? But this is quite difficult for a lot of children to do (I think I would struggle to be honest) especially if they have been engaging in high energy play. What are we achieving by standing in line? Efficient management of people cannot be an argument here due to the amount of wasted time. Compliance?

I don’t like the idea of continuing to do something one way just because it is the way we have always done it. I want to know what the alternatives are.

Comment below with any suggestions on alternatives to lining up.

All the small things⤴

from @ EduBlether

I have been thinking a lot recently about all the small things that I do in my job as a Depute headteacher. Now, there are a lot of high-profile strategic things that I do which are of great importance (I’m a very important person do t you k ow?). Things like having an overview of attainment for example, or working through complex pastoral concerns. Yet for me, this is not what my job is really about.

I would argue that the most important part of my job is a collection of small and seemingly insignificant things. The things that go unnoticed and can’t fit nicely on a spreadsheet. I am talking about things like standing on the school gates in the morning and saying hello to as many people as you can. Or the times I play football with the children who just want to tackle a teacher, but then I somehow managed to avoid their lunging feet and score a wonder goal. Or even something as simple as noticing when a child gets a haircut and giving them a compliment. In fact one of the easiest things, yet the thing with such a profound impact is the simple act of smiling. We don’t measure how many smiles we have managed to raise at the end of the school year, or how many times we made a child laugh, but it is exactly these things that are so important to me. I am not for a second saying that I want to start measuring these things, all I am saying is I want to spend time recognizing how important they are.

These things are so important to me because they build relationships. It is these daily interactions that build a culture in a school. It is these small moments in time that collectively add up to so much more. So it is for this very reason that I am going to embrace my misspent youth listening to Blink 182 and spend more time celebrating all the small things that I do in my job. I feel that this will allow me to appreciate the tiny successes that happen every day.

What are the small things that you do that you would like to shout about?

Do grades really matter?⤴

from

This week marked the start of the a level results being issued whilst over a week ago the Scottish higher results were issued. And if as predicted, it leads to a greater focus on the number and type of candidates gaining entry to university, is it now time for a rethink?

Interestingly, English students go to school to collect their results, knowing that if things don’t go quite as planned there is support at hand with advice and back up plans able to be put swiftly in place. Conversely, the Scottish system has evolved where most young people receive a text or letter through the post. Any support and advice is generally provided by skills development Scotland rather than school based staff. Although most schools will retain a support offering for students to discuss course choice changes and provide advice.

However, as various announcements are made by political parties about the suitability of the university entries system and suggestions made on how to improve it. Labour propose students receiving an offer based on actual grades once the exam results have been published. Presumably, this would lead to university terms starting later or exams being brought forward into March or April to allow time for results, offers and university places to be accepted.

But isn’t there a better way? Should students who want to go to university simply be allowed to attend, assuming they have provided evidence that they can attain. Maybe not necessarily requiring a grade to join. This would mean universities changing their competitive approach to higher education. However, would quality be reduced? Or would students from disadvantaged backgrounds be more able to gain entry to university?

Would this lead to the suggested devaluing of the National 4 qualification which has a pass/fail approach. I’m not sure it would. I think that have an external, final exam was retained then we would retain the integrity of the qualification.

Would this also ensure that all students continue working hard right up until the end. Reports suggest that some students do not exert the same effort when they receive an unconditional offer. This is despite the fact that the university is making the offer based on the application submitted and the subjects studied being detailed on the application.

Overall, we should consider refocusing the timings of exams, results and university offers so that offers are received towards the end of the academic year. I am not sure the Scottish education system is quite ready yet for a pass/fail approach to higher and subsequent entry into university.

EduBlether

The sun is still is still shining…⤴

from

The sun is still shining and the music keeps playing. It must be the summer holidays. As I jet off to the south of France for a final week of rest before returning to school, I reflect on the seven weeks of the summer and look forward to the year ahead at school and beyond.

At the beginning of the summer, I jetted off to Mozambique, the Kingdom of eSwatini and South Africa for a world challenge trip with school. Twelve students and three staff made the 3 week long trek across Africa experiencing a marine conservation project, trek, Kruger national park, supporting a neighbourhood care point and some much needed rest and relaxation. It’s hard to believe now that the summer is nearly over. But what has been learnt about my time in Africa. Well, for one, how fortunate we are in having access to clean running water, access to free comprehensive education and free healthcare. It is hard not to feel a certain sense of guilt that I and many other people take all of the above for granted.

During the holidays a major task has always been to ensure that I completed my 8000 final assignment for the SCEL Into Headship programme. Due date: 19th August. I am pleased to say that I have now completed that assignment and after many redrafts and poorly constructed sentences, it now reads rather well. I never thought at the beginning of the holidays that I would have come to this point. What has struck me about my learning, I definitely need a deadline to motivate me! I also feel as though this summer, my work life balance has not been as balanced as it would normally be. I have always advocated for a holiday to be a holiday as I recognise the important work staff do throughout the year, including evenings, weekends and feel that holidays are a safe zone for work.

As our political landscape becomes even more scary, with the prospect of an early general election, crashing out the EU and a second independence referendum, I feel that the time is right for some optimism. The benefits of the holidays are always the increased time for thinking. But what positive rays of sunshine are there?

Well, for one the start of a new term is always enjoyable. Meeting new staff, new pupils and parents. It also provides an opportunity for a fresh look at aspects of the school improvement plan. Staff and young people are always much more up for it in this first term when compared to other terms.

What will be interesting to see is the development of some developments this year on a political front. For example, what will happen with the review around jobsizing toolkit which was promised as part of the pay review. Or indeed, how will the GTCS standards review impact our work in schools including the recommendations of implementing a lead teacher role within the existing career structure. Furthermore, how will the rhetoric of collaboration and empowerment play out as we continue to see the regional improvement collaborative embed themselves. Will the headteachers charter delivery empowerment for school leaders to develop their own curriculum and staffing structures. And will greater financial freedom lead to greater decision making?

I want to end with a key learning point from this year’s into Headship conference, led by Gayle Gorman.

Gayle highlighted the desire to move from a politically-driven system to a professionally-led system.

If realised, this will lead to a sustainable, embedded change out with the reach of changing government priorities. It may also lead to a greater clarity of purpose across Scotland rather than interpretation of policies being adopted by groups of politicians of different persuasions.

As the summer holidays draw to an end, please keep smiling and stay optimistic.

EduBlether

Why I love Teaching⤴

from @ edublether.wordpress.com

Image result for love teaching

It seems at times that there is a lot of negative press about teaching, and a lot of this comes from teachers themselves who have simply had enough. Now I am not for a second saying that our job is not hard, and I too feel the ever-growing pressures to raise attainment, reduce the gap, ensure a high level of Wellbeing for all and put on a Christmas show at the same time. I get it. Honestly I do.

However, the point of this post is to focus solely on the positive. To reflect deeply on what it was that attracted me to the profession and what it is that continues to do so every day.

1. Helping people

Straight off the bat, and no matter how cheesy it seems, the fact that I am working in a job that helps people every day is immensely rewarding. Non-teachers (muggles) hate it when I say this because it sounds very self-righteous and arrogant. I don’t mean it to come across this way. I simply get a joy and pleasure out of helping children make progress in the learning. When I use ‘learning’ here, I include everything from Literacy and Numeracy all the way through to getting along with people and dealing with a difficult situation. My job is to help and I get a lot from that.

2. Creativity

The creative element of teaching is hard to beat. Few other jobs give you so much autonomy to make the job your own. Creative approaches to teaching and learning are the cornerstone of education and it is creativity that will allow us to achieve the high expectations we set for our young people. It may be as simple as creating resources or display boards, but I also use it here to refer to the creativity needed to deescalate a potentially explosive situation with a child who struggles to self-regulate, or the creativity needed to be flexible enough to change your whole lesson plan because it started snowing outside and every child in the class has their nose on the window. It takes many forms but is ever-present. Creativity is the lifeblood of teaching and it is this that sets it apart from others jobs I have worked in.

3. Uncertainty

This may seem a bit masochistic, however I love not knowing what the day is going to throw at me. You can be the most organised, planned and prepared teacher in the word (I’m not for the record), but if one child doesn’t sleep well, or if someone just managed to win a game of fortnite before leaving the house, your whole daily plan can go out the window and you find yourself facing new and unpredicted challenges. I love this. It means that no two days are the same and you never once keep an eye on the clock to count the minutes till home time. In fact when the end of day arrives you often have no idea where the day has gone.

I also put uncertainty here as I like the fact that the future of our young people is unclear. University is no longer the only accepted end goal, jobs don’t exist yet that our children will be employed in and technology is advancing so quickly that it is re-shaping the way we teach. All of this breeds uncertainty but also great levels of excitement for me. It means I have to be flexible, learning all the time and reflective.

4. Learning.

I am passionate about learning. Both the process of how we learn, and how I can implement this understanding in my teaching, but also just learning new things myself. I will never stop in my pursuit for learning and I hope to pass on this attitude to those young people that I teach. Teaching not only encourages this, it is an obligatory part of being a teacher. You must evidence how you are developing and growing as a professional as part of Professional Review. I think this is fantastic. As a result of this there are so many opportunities for teachers to learn and grow professionally. Every year since becoming a teacher I have been fortunate enough to take part in a new and exciting learning opportunity either with the local authority or at University as well as in-house training sessions. This has been incredibly rewarding for me and I know it has had a significant impact on those learners I have taught.

5. Opportunities

Teaching affords us many different opportunities for how you want your career to progress. One of the points surrounding Scottish teacher’s dissatisfaction with Teaching at the moment is the lack of routes for promotion in the profession, and I understand this. Management should not be the only promotion route available for teachers. However, there are still a great number of opportunities available to teachers. Interesting secondments, curriculum development posts, working for a University on teacher training courses etc. You also have a lot of scope for becoming an expert in a specific area by joining council improvement parties focussing on a specific subject, like Maths or Digital Literacy. Opportunities for you to carve and shape your own career are bountiful if you are looking in the right places.

I know that it may not be popular to say it, and I know that there are counter arguments to what I am putting forward here. I think that it is important to be critical and challenge injustices in the profession, but we need to do this without losing sight of all the wonderful and exciting elements of what it means to be a teacher.

I welcome your thoughts and opinions on this, let me know what it is that you love about your job.