Tag Archives: Teacher Learning

An Enquiring Matrix⤴

from @ Fearghal Kelly

Here’s something else which has been on my mind of late regarding practitioner enquiry that I would like to put out there. I know not everyone will be keen on this idea, but the more practitioners I speak to about it, the more I think it is worth exploring.

To me, there is a continuum to practitioner enquiry. I am still developing as an enquiring practitioner, however through the course of my MEd, my use, and understanding, of enquiry became more sophisticated. I would suggest that I am still learning when it comes to enquiry, and in the years since I graduated I have varied in the extent to which I have used the enquiring skills I have developed thus far, largely due to time.

To me therefore, some sort of progression of enquiry would be useful for teachers to support them to know how to progress as enquiring practitioners. However,  I also feel that it would be of value to teachers who are experienced in enquiry to pragmatic choices when taking an enquiring approach to understanding an aspect of their practice.

I’ve therefore made an attempt at a first draft of just such a matrix. At any one time, a teacher could making different progress, or choices, in the different components of enquiry.

What do you think? Would something like this be helpful? If yes, is this the right way of going about it? Can you improve upon this first draft?

Enquiry in the context of leadership, professionalism and agency⤴

from @ Fearghal Kelly

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This is a conversation which I’m increasingly having, and I wanted to try and capture some of my current thinking. It centres on the nature and role of practitioner enquiry in the various domains of the life and work of a teacher.

Through my work at SCEL, I am focused on supporting teachers to develop as leaders. Our view is that all teachers are leaders of learning and practice and as such can develop as teacher leaders. Once again for clarity, here’s is SCEL’s definition of teacher leadership…

Teacher leaders are passionate about caring for children and young people. Through informed and innovative practice, close scrutiny of pupils’ learning needs and high expectations they play a fundamental role in improving outcomes for children and young people. Teacher leaders are effective communicators who collaborate with colleagues, demonstrate integrity and have a positive impact on their school community. They model career-long professional learning.

Skills, qualities and professional actions demonstrated by teacher leaders can be identified under four main areas:

  • Values and commitment
  • Learning and teaching
  • High expectations and ambition
  • Communication and collaboration

From the SCEL Framework for Educational Leadership

During our recent engagement on teacher leadership, there was broad agreement of this view of teacher leadership, and many teachers expressed a need for more opportunities to develop their skills and confidence as leaders of practice in this sense. It was apparent to me that a programme which used an enquiring approach to support teachers to develop as teacher leaders could be an important aspect of SCEL’s response. We are therefore currently prototyping an online teacher leadership programme with 40 teachers across Scotland, supported by a group of 16 teachers who have significant prior experience of practitioner enquiry. The programme supports teacher professional learning towards the GTCS Standard for Career-Long Professional Learning and is being highly evaluated by the participants thus far. More on this in a future post…

A question which has come up a few times since the launch of the programme is along the lines of how practitioner enquiry relates to leadership, given that others often refer to enquiry in the context of teacher professionalism. In addition, I’ve just started reading Mark Priestley’s new book,  in which they distinguish teacher agency from the perceived definition of teacher leadership, but I would suggest that SCEL’s definition is closer to Mark’s definition of teacher agency. So how does practitioner enquiry fit into all three of these?

My developing view is that practitioner enquiry, and having an enquiring stance, is a key aspect of a teacher’s work and learning as a professional. I also see it as a route to developing the ecological agency in teachers and their contexts as defined by Priestley et al. I also see it as an approach for developing as a leader of learning and pedagogy.

What I’m thinking is that practitioner enquiry, and having an enquiring stance, can be a component of, and contribute to, all three of these domains of being a teacher. It doesn’t fit neatly into any of these boxes and can contribute to all three, and more…

 

Leadership ≠ Promotion⤴

from @ Fearghal Kelly

This is just a short post to capture something that I’ve observed over recent months. This is a sweeping generalisation which obviously doesn’t apply to everyone, but it’s occurred to me that quite often in Scottish education we use the words ‘leadership’ and ‘promotion’ interchangeably. And by that I mean, we use both words to mean ‘promotion’. I know I’ve done this in the past.

It has become apparent to me over the last year or so that leadership is actually quite a separate concept from promotion. By promotion I mean the appointment of teachers to promoted posts such as PT, DHT, etc. However, leadership is a much broader concept which involves leading people and pedagogy. Anyone, at whatever (un)promoted position, within the system can, or can not, be leading.

I suppose the real issue with using the word leadership to mean promotion is that if you are not promoted, you can assume that you can’t be a leader. But also, if you are promoted you can assume you are already therefore leading, which may not actually be the case in practice.

So the message I need to help get out there is that leadership is not the same as promotion. People in promoted posts can be leaders, but so can classroom teachers and everyone else involved in Scottish education.

There’s only one person who can raise attainment⤴

from @ Fearghal Kelly

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In my work to support the development of teacher leadership, it’s important for me to reflect upon how this relates to other contemporary drivers in Scottish education, a key one being the National Improvement Framework. I’ve yet to meet a teacher who doesn’t think that raising the attainment of the children and young people in their care isn’t important. This is equally true of closing the poverty related attainment gap. However, for many teachers, particularly those outwith the challenge authorities, the question often is more about what could they be doing differently in order to achieve these things. The first point I often make is that teachers in Scotland have been raising attainment and working to support children in poverty for years, and we should be seeing ourselves as working from a place of strength. However, it’s clear that for many of Scotland’s children there’s a lot more which could be done. So, what does this look like for teachers and what has it got to do with teacher leadership?

The point I’ve been increasingly making is that ultimately there is only one person who can raise attainment. In the context of this conversation I suspect that people think I’m suggesting that this is a teacher. However, what I actually mean is the learner. In my experience, the only person who can raise a child’s attainment is the child themselves. Only if a child is engaged, happy, ambitious and in possession of a growth mindset can they carry out the cognitive and physical processes required to successfully learn and then confidently share this learning. Attainment being a by-product of successful learning.

In this case, it is therefore those closest to the learner who can have the biggest impact on their ability to learn and succeed. Parents clearly have the biggest role here in terms of supporting and nurturing children, which is why schools are continually developing their approaches to involving parents in the life of the school and learning of their children. However, teachers have a big role to play here also. The relationships and interactions between the teacher and the learner can have a substantial impact on the learning, and the dispositions to learning, of the children and young people in that teacher’s care. And this is where teacher leadership comes in. Here is a section from SCEL’s definition of teacher leadership:

“Teacher leaders are passionate about caring for children and young people. Through informed and innovative practice, close scrutiny of pupils’ learning needs and high expectations they play a fundamental role in improving outcomes for children and young people. Teacher leaders are effective communicators who collaborate with colleagues, demonstrate integrity and have a positive impact on their school community. They model career-long professional learning.”

From SCEL’s Framework for Educational Leadership

Teachers who are confidently developing their practice to meet the needs of their learners, and influencing the practice of their colleagues, are clearly going to be more likely to successfully support their children and young people to achieve. Leaders at other levels in the system are crucial also in creating the right conditions and support to allow these interactions between learner and teacher to develop and flourish, but in the end it is the development of these interactions which is crucial to raising attainment.

In this context therefore, teacher leadership is not “another thing” but a crucial element in our collective drive to improve outcomes for children and young people in Scotland.

Putting learners’ faces at the core of improvement⤴

from @ Fearghal Kelly

I know I’m not going to get a lot of sympathy for this, but one of the slight tensions you face when you leave daily working in schools is that you’re exposed to lots and lots of interesting ideas but you don’t have the context in which to walk in on a Monday morning and give it a go. I know, smallest violins and all that…

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However, I’m currently reading Leading Collaborative Learning: Empowering Excellence by Lyn Sharratt and Beate Planche, if you haven’t got a copy yet you should totally think about getting one. It’s a great book in that it explores the nature of leading collaborative learning from the level of an education system to classrooms. One of their core ideas in the book is using data walls and putting learners’ faces at the core of collaborative improvement. I’m obviously corrupting their complex and rich research and ideas here to summarise what it’s about…best to read it for yourself!

One idea from the book which I would’ve loved to try is a data wall of learners. As a biology department we could’ve found a space in a base or prep room to clear a wall and stick up a little piece of paper for each student like the ones in the image above. Each piece of paper would have the student’s name, their photo, some prior assessment data and spaces to add assessment data from the learning they are currently undertaking. The wall could be divided into sections such as ‘excelling’, ‘on track’, ‘at risk’, ‘concern’. A big proportion of your weekly departmental meeting would then be spent in front of this wall discussing and moving students, adding data and, most importantly of all, discussing interventions which could be undertaken for those students which are at risk or a concern, or who aren’t yet excelling but could be. These could be added as post-its to the wall and reviewed at future meetings. The book also suggests the provision of case conferences for those students who you’re struggling to find ways of successfully supporting. In the absence of a whole school approach to this a work around could be inviting a member of the SLT, learning support and/or guidance teams to a departmental meeting to join the discussion with a focus on these most challenging learners.

As you can see, I’ve totally envisaged it but with nowhere to give it a go! I think the approach could work in primary also, I’ve just thought it through in the context I know best. I think this sort of approach would have the potential to meaningfully impact upon outcomes for learners and could significantly contribute to closing the attainment gap…it could also go a long way to improve many teachers’ experiences of departmental/stage meetings and make these truly collaborative, supportive, impactful and learner-centred.

If you’d like to discuss this idea further with me with a view to giving it a go, please get in touch, or alternatively have a read of Sharratt & Planche’s book for yourself and devise your own interventions…if you do though, I’d still love to hear about them.

A big move…⤴

from @ Fearghal Kelly

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I’m making a bit of a professional move over the next couple of weeks. If you’ve looked on this blog at all recently, you will already know that I have been on a secondment to the Scottish College for Educational Leadership to engage on teacher leadership across Scotland. This secondment came to an end at Easter, and the report from this work is due to be published in time for the SCEL Conference on the 12th May.

My intention had been to return to school on completion of this secondment, but continue working for SCEL on a part-time basis. However, over the Easter holidays I finally had a bit of time to reflect and realised that I was really enjoying working for SCEL and that following on from the engagement there was a real potential to meaningfully contribute to the development of teacher leadership across Scotland. That’s not an opportunity that comes along very often! I therefore decided that if SCEL would have me full-time, I would be up for staying on. I was delighted to learn that not only was I keen to stay on, SCEL were equally keen to keep me.

For various reasons however, the best way to make this happen was for me to resign my current teaching post and take up a contract with SCEL…which I’ve done. So, I’m currently in the process of working out my notice with my school, with only days remaining. Leaving school is obviously not an easy call to make…especially Preston Lodge High School, which really is a great place to teach. However, being back in school these weeks has really shown me that due to my recent surgery, a secondary school is quite a difficult place physically for me to teach in just now still. So the move makes sense from the perspective of my health just now also.

So, what am I going to do? Well my job title will be ‘Lead Specialist: Teacher Leadership’ and my role will therefore be to respond to the outcomes from my recent teacher leadership engagement work and put things in place to support teachers. Due to the variety of needs expressed during the engagement, there will need to be a variety of activities put in place. SCEL have already focused their first upcoming conference on teacher leadership, but there will be much more happening beyond that. I’m hoping to continue to use this blog to reflect on my practice in my new role…

I don’t know if and when I’ll be returning to the classroom, so I’ve been enjoying these last few weeks with the students…and I’m especially grateful to have had the chance to do lots of heart & lung dissections with one of my current classes in particular! I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t go down too well in the SCEL offices…

To Thursday, or not to Thursday…?⤴

from @ Fearghal Kelly

In case you haven’t heard, SCEL are holding their first ever conference in May and the focus of this first conference is on teacher leadership. It’s looking like it’s going to be a great day…check it out here.

However, a few folk have been asking…why a Thursday? Especially if the theme is teacher leadership. For many teachers, getting out of school is not easy so the obvious question is why not hold it on a weekend?

This very question was debated long and hard within SCEL and although I was out on the road at the time, I expressed my opinion to the team via email. For me, I felt that the right call for this event was to have it in the week. That might seem surprising if you know me at all given that I was largely responsible for the creation of the Saturday variation on TeachMeets…now largely known as Pedagoo events.

Here’s why I felt that it was best if this event was in the week:

  • Firstly, although many of us in the TeachMeet/Pedagoo/Twitter community are happy to attend events on the weekend, huge numbers of teachers are not, or are not able to. During my time carrying out the engagement on teacher leadership, for every teacher who felt that opportunities like this should be on the weekend there was at least another teacher who felt that it was important that there were events like this in the week as they are unable to give up their weekends for a variety of reasons. This I think was backed up by last year’s BOCSH/SCEL Talking About Learning conference, which largely followed the Pedagoo event model but took place in the week instead of on a Saturday…the interest and turnout was much higher than a Pedagoo event and attracted a much broader audience also.
  • Another key outcome from the teacher leadership engagement was that in order to develop it we’re going to need engagement from those at all levels in the system. Classroom teachers are obviously crucial, but they’re not the only important group. The role of PTs, DHTs, HTs, QIOs and others was raised again and again throughout the engagement and I therefore felt that it was important that the event was midweek to ensure this breadth of participation.
  • This isn’t going to be the only thing SCEL does around teacher leadership. Again, it’s clear from the outcomes from the engagement that this is a complex issue and it’s going to require a variety of different approaches to support. SCEL are planning other activities which will take place in other times in the week, such as twilights and Saturdays. In this context, I therefore think it’s appropriate that this conference is in the week as part of the mix.

As I said, this was debated long and hard at SCEL, and these are just my reasons for having opted for midweek, largely influenced by what I heard whilst carrying out the teacher leadership engagement work. If you’re able to join us, come along and help influence SCEL’s future support for teacher leadership. If you’re not, keep an eye out for SCEL’s future events.

Adjustment⤴

from @ Fearghal Kelly

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So, as previously mentioned, I haven’t often reflected on this sort of thing on my blog…but once again I feel the urge to do so. I had an accident years ago in which I badly damaged my ankle…as a result I’ve been undergoing a series of fusion operations in the past few years to deal with the osteoarthritis which had developed.

During the first operation they fused one joint, which left me with quite a lot of mobility still, but I was still in a fair amount of pain as there were other arthritic joints in there. This time, they fused three further joints in the same ankle which seems to have dealt with the arthritis, but left me with significantly decreased mobility. Of course, they told me this in advance…but it’s only really beginning to sink in properly now.

An example of this was last Thursday. I was lucky that as part of my current role I got to attend an excellent and inspiring conference in Glasgow…but attending this event brought my disability to my own attention in a number of ways. For starters, I took the train, which I won’t be rushing to do again. Three trains in one day means having three separate awkward conversations with people sitting in priority seats who don’t need to be. And there’s the feeling of the crowds streaming past me on the platform as I inch my way along a distance which now feels enormous. The venue for the conference itself was great, but the spaces for refreshments and networking were, as they always are, seatless…which means retiring back to the conference room on my own. Even little things like having to choose between a coffee or a cookie, as one of my hands is occupied by a crutch, are a pain!

It was a great conference, but attending it highlighted so many differences between how I am now compared to how I was. Thankfully, my school are being hugely supportive with managing my return to the classroom next month…I think perhaps I need to do more still to manage my own mental transition to this new reality.

As part of this, I really need to be careful with what I commit to – especially the organisation of events. I need to stop organising TeachMeets and Pedagoo events by myself as they’re just dreadful for me physically…if I struggle this much with attending a conference, organising one would be even worse!

With this in mind, I was thinking maybe it would be good to partner up with the organisation of a TeachMeet at some point as mentioned in my previous post? We could have a TeachMeet on the regrowth of TeachMeet? People could present for 7 or 2 minutes on either the benefits of TeachMeet to them, or with ideas for how to regrow the TeachMeet movement in Scotland? It would preferable to me if the event could be in the Edinburgh area. I would be helping with the online and organisation stuff, while whoever volunteered would have to take on the venue and all of that sort of thing. It would be even better if you were someone who had never organised this sort of thing, but were keen to with support…drop me an email if this is you.

TeachMeetScot⤴

from @ Fearghal Kelly

As part of my current role I’ve had the privilege of driving (& flying) around the country and speaking to hundreds of Scotland’s teachers about teacher leadership and what is needed for it to be developed. A common theme that is coming up regularly is the need for more opportunities for classroom teachers to network and share practice. A conversation with someone earlier this week got me to thinking, we used to do that a lot more when we were organising many more TeachMeets than we currently are – hence the tweet above.

That’s not to say there aren’t any TeachMeets happening in Scotland, there are of course, but they used to occur much more frequently. This I feel is a real shame, especially given that TeachMeet originated in Scotland!

So, what could be getting in the way of more TeachMeets being organised? For me, I think the TeachMeet PBWorks site is a barrier to many. It’s now overwhelmed by TeachMeets outwith Scotland, and it’s not straightforward for people to use if they’re not familiar with Wikis – hence the rise of the use of EventBrite in the organisation of TeachMeets. I personally prefer to use Google Forms as this avoids the Wiki problem without going down the ‘Ticket’ route – but I can see why people do.

So, perhaps what would help would be a dedicated TeachMeet Scotland site? Perhaps along the lines of Australia’s version? teachmeet.scot maybe? The site could have a clear guide for how and why to organise a TeachMeet, it could have an organised structure for finding TeachMeets in your area and an open system for creating TeachMeet event pages with a way for teachers to sign up without the use of EventBrite.

What do you think?

If you’re not keen, why not? What would you do instead to help regrow the Scottish TeachMeet community?

If you think this is a good idea, how & who could do this? Perhaps it could be something Pedagoo could facilitate? The site could be hosted on a subdomain of pedagoo.org? pedagoo.org/tmscot perhaps? We could seek sponsorship to purchase teachmeet.scot and have that redirect? If you like the idea in principle but you’re not keen on it being a Pedagoo thing, what would you suggest instead? A separate site would be the obvious solution if you object to it being a Pedagoo thing, but that would bring extra cost and would therefore need extra sponsorship etc [I currently pay for all of Pedagoo’s hosting and domain name registration myself out of my own pocket, I’m not keen on increasing this expense!]

I’m just keen to explore ways of supporting the regrowth of the Scottish TeachMeet community and this is one idea I’ve had to help achieving this…I would welcome your thoughts on this possible approach, or possible alternative approaches!

SCEL Engage #tellscel⤴

from @ Fearghal Kelly

Things are proceeding at a pace on my secondment to SCEL! I’m four and half weeks in now…but it seems a lot longer than that! In this time I’ve developed an approach to engaging with teachers and others on teacher leadership and offered to deliver this approach across the country. At the minute I’m busy arranging engagement events with all sorts of different folk across Scotland, which is exciting. I’m only seconded until the end of March so I really need to get cracking as that’s not as far away as I first thought.

I’m planning on regularly updating on progress with the engagement over on scelengage.com, as well as incorporating online engagement approaches through this site also. As a result, I fear that I won’t be updating this blog very much between now and Easter.

If you’d like to be kept up to date on the SCEL teacher leadership engagement work therefore it would probably be best to head on over to scelengage.com and sign up for email updates on that site.