Results vs quality of teaching – part 2: The questions

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Following on from my post about the case of Miss M who gets fantastic results but doesn’t do anything you might expect from a teacher, I planned to address the key question of results vs quality of teaching however as I’ve thought about it further, many more questions have been raised by this case.

Lessons & Teaching

  1. If a teacher is getting consistently good/outstanding results, does it matter what happens in their lessons?

  2. Does student opinion of a teacher matter?
  3. Do all lessons have to have shared objectives, starter, plenary etc for them to be effective?
  4. What does ‘quality’ teaching mean?
  5. If a lesson doesn’t need to have a teacher in it to get ‘good’, do we really need teachers?
  6. Is it acceptable for every lesson for a class to be exactly the same?
  7. Was Miss M actually using pedagogical methods without realising?
  8. Is 100% A*-C enough?

Whole school & professional duties

  1. What is the purpose of a school?
  2. What is the purpose of a teacher?
  3. Should all teachers have to take part the same CPD/meetings?
  4. Other than teaching in a classroom, does a teacher have a professional duty to engage in anything else in school?
  5. Should teachers that get good results be ‘left alone’ by senior management?
  6. Should teachers that get consistently good results be ‘made’ to lead or support other teachers?

More questions that are probably for another blog..

  • Should a teacher ever leave a class?
  • How did these students learn without teacher ‘input’?
  • Does it matter what a classroom looks like?
  • Should we be suspicious of a subject that gets 100% A*-C?

 

Please feel free to add any further questions as comments to this post.

In part 3 I will share some thoughts and invite you to comment.

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Results vs quality of teaching- Part 1: the case of Miss M

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This post is a result of Twitter discussions.

Whenever I consider which is more important I always think of a specific teacher I used to teach with. This post will outline her teaching.

I will call her Miss M.

She taught a subject that was and is 100% coursework (my views on that in another post!).

If you walked past her classroom you would see the following: she would be sat at her desk at the front, usually on her computer, usually drinking a cup of tea. Occasionally she would ‘bark’ at the students things like ‘get on with your work!’ Or ‘it’s your grade not mine, I’ve already got my qualifications!’.

In five years I NEVER ever saw her standing in front of her class to describe or explain a thing. I never ever saw anything other than students sat at their computer, looking forward and typing. There was no group work, no ‘think-pair-share’, no videos, no kinaesthetic activities, no visual activities, no starter, no plenary, NO ACTIVITIES! They walked in, sat down, turned on their computer and started their work. They did this until the bell and then they packed away. This happened (as far as I can tell) every single lesson. For every single student.

All the students had was the criteria for each level I.e what they had to do to get there and possibly a text book.

Her room had nothing on the walls except a couple of compulsory whole school posters. It was uninspiring. The front white board never had anything written on it from her classes. No learning objectives.Nothing.

I never saw her standing or kneeling with a student explaining anything, it was always a ‘get on with your work’ order.

There were times where I walked past and she wouldn’t be in her room. She was in the staff room making a tea. She didn’t need to even be in the room.  The students just got on with it. She was proud to tell a story of how once, there was an external inspection at school. The students didn’t realise that she wasn’t there that day, so they’d gone in and started their work. The inspector came in, talked to them about their work  and observed what they were doing. The lesson got a ‘good’. A ‘good’ without any teacher in the room!

Her relationships with the students was a love/hate one. You would often see her in the corridor say very directly to a student ‘ you owe me work. Sort it out!’.  She was very direct and very sarcastic to the students. She didn’t really communicate ‘with’ them, more ‘at’ them. But they loved her. I once had a year 10/11 tutor group. When I reviewed her subject with a student they would either say ‘Miss M is a great teacher’ or something more about hate but then followed by ‘great teacher’.

When giving regular updates on grades the piece of paper in front of me would say ‘U’ and effort ‘poor’ for the most lovely student. She played it mean to keep them keen! And for some reason they didn’t really care. As far as I’m aware, no parent ever complained about this systems of giving grades.

Many students went on to study her subject at university and I would hear them come back to tell her how great her lessons were and how much they’d learnt. They had been inspired by her.

Out of lessons she generally kept herself to herself. She would be the first out of the door. If you tried to discuss education with her she had no interest whatsoever. She would actually laugh at people who discussed things like AfL or differentiation. She was usually absent on whole school INSET days and didn’t attend the compulsory CPD after school. If you looked around the room in staff meeting she often wouldn’t be there.

I know she marked at least one a year, because she used to sit in the staff room when all coursework was due, huffing and puffing bout the pile she had to mark.

So was she a quality teacher?  Her results would say so! I think for all the years I knew her, her classes got 100% A*-C.

And therein lies my problem. If results are outstanding, is the quality of teaching, by definition, also outstanding?

Have I described above, an outstanding teacher? 

In part 2 I will discuss my thoughts and what this might mean for teaching.

The state of Suffolk’s marking, feedback and response (according to Ofsted)

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The following excerpts come from recent Ofsted reports in Suffolk. They are from a range of school types including a PRU and primary & secondary providers. All have been taken from www.ofsted.gov.uk

What is highlighted as good practice (school category in brackets)

“Teachers mark students work regularly and give helpful feedback on how to improve it. Students appreciate that teachers also give additional verbal feedback and support to individuals and groups of students. Students make very good use of this feedback to improve their work.” (Oustanding)

“Teachers mark work regularly. Their marking is at its best when they tell students how well they are doing and what they need to do to improve the quality of their work” (Good)

“Teachers’ marking is extremely good. It nearly always gives pupils a very clear picture of how well they are doing and what the next steps in learning are. Pupils are very clear about what their targets are, and most follow teachers’ guidance on how to improve their work. However, some do not and this occasionally slows the learning of these pupils.”(Outstanding)

What needs to be improved (school category in brackets)

“….give feedback to students by talking to them about their work in relation to that of high achievers, using marking to record what they are doing well and what they need to improve” (Requires Improvment)

“The quality of marking is inconsistent. There are some good examples, such as in English and in the sixth form. However, not enough teachers provide comments or examples showing how work can be improved. Students are not always clear about the standard of their work or what they can do independently to follow up teachers’ marking or feedback.” (Requires Improvement)

“…give pupils clear points for improvement when they mark their work, and give pupils time to make improvements.” (Inadequate)

“Although teachers are good at making sure students know what they need to do for their long- termsuccess, not all of them make sure students know exactly how well they have done in their written work and what they need to do to improve it.
Marking in books varies in quality and sometimes gives limited information to students.”(Good)

“The marking of written work is too variable. Sometimes workbooks go for long periods of time before they are marked, and this leads to a lack of pride in their presentation. Good examples of marking exist, often in English. However, the wider correction of poor spelling, grammar and basic handwriting skills is weak despite recent efforts to monitor these important aspects of learning.”(Inadequate)

“Discussions with students and a scrutiny of their books show that targets to help them improve are set in some subjects but not in others. Some teachers refer to expected target grades in their marking, others do not. Only a few teachers provide students with good quality advice on how to improve their work to attain a higher grade. Some teachers do not mark students’ books regularly enough.” (Inadequate)

This post is part of my preparation for #TeachMeetMMW (Mark my words) which is happening in Suffolk in November 2013. We have deliberately focussed our #TeachMeet on marking, feedback and response as it is something that can have significant impact on a child’s learning, is something fairly uncomplicated for a teacher to master and is commonly raised as a school’s area for development.

http://teachmeetmmw-eorg.eventbrite.co.uk/

Great Expectations

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This post has come from discussions at my school about target setting and a Twitter exchange with @LeadingLearner regarding flight paths.

@Leadinglearner describes 3 flight paths for target setting: Good, Outstanding and World Class. This got me thinking about how targets are set and how staff are accountable for results. What I really like about Stephen’s process is that he’s talking to staff about it. He’s engaging the people that will be teaching in order for these grades to be realised. It is a joint process where questions, concerns and ideas can be shared. Discussion leads to deeper understanding and in turn will lead to greater feeling of ownership of the data. I believe that these staff will be more confident in their teaching and may well in turn have students with better results than those who are just ‘given’ target grades at the start of a year with no idea how they’ve been derived.

Whilst the ‘world class’ flight path may only be achievable by some, isn’t it better to offer this to students than to put an invisible cap on their achievement?

This leads to me to my teaching. I teach AS Critical Thinking in KS4 to our able students. They are usually students who achieve level 7 in English at the end of KS3. My belief is that if we let them do another GCSE instead, that they would get another A/A* to add to a collection. If they had time, they could do 20 GCSEs and get A/A*s. So, the course I do with them offers challenge. It is supposed to be hard for them. It is supposed to stretch them where another GCSE might not. And on the whole, they love it!

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Year 10 thoughts so far this year. The larger the word, the more frequent it was posted. Apologies for spelling and slang. We were trialling Polleverywhere!

They achieve great results, last year’s cohort achieved above the national average for this course.

Imagine my surprise when I looked at their GCSE results in the other subjects they took. I won’t go into detail but I will say I was shocked but actually more disappointed for them. They’ve actually achieved an AS but didn’t get a C at GCSE. How can this have happened?

Of course, there are many contributing factors and I don’t in any way want to seem to be ‘blaming’ a teacher or a student. I am genuinely interested into how this situation has arisen.

This is my conclusion. If we set high expectations, students will meet them. If we make excuses for these students then they underachieve. If we think ‘World Class’ at least we have a chance of getting there. If we don’t even offer a glimpse of the possibilities we limit achievement.

So how will this work in reality for me? I have a top set for RE this year. They’ve already proven themselves to be exceptional. They have asked questions in several lessons that I actually don’t know the answer to! I have found myself learning alongside these students. What a privileged position to be in. So, how will I make things ‘world class’ for this group? The ‘computer’ gives targets ranging from C-A. I told them that all their targets are A*. I expect nothing less. I will push them, set challenging work for out of class, make them draft and re-draft, give them 1-2-1 support and everything else I can possibly to ensure they get an A*. It’s the top goal. Challenges along the way may make me rethink but it’s our starting point.

They deserve an A* and it is my expectation that they will get it. RE will be ‘World Class’.