This blog aims to outline our school approach to teacher development through a research informed teacher enquiry (RITE) process. We launched it in 2020 however due to COVID we’ve not had a full year of implementation yet. It will take you through the process I went through to create the process and then what it involves.
Looking at what others do
I had seen on social media and heard at conferences what some other schools were doing so I contacted some of these people or read their book/blog etc to pull together some idea of good practice.
I am grateful to these people for sharing what they do and in some cases giving up their time to help me collate ideas:
•John Tomsett & Jonny Uttley – Book – Putting Staff First: A blueprint for revitalising our schools: A blueprint for a revitalised profession
•Severn Vale school via Kirsten Prescott
•Cockermouth school via Dr Rob Petrie
•Bridgwater College Academy & MAT via Chris Moyse blog/presentations/Twitter
It’s important to note that without people sharing we would all be starting at square one and that some of these people gave up their own time in the spirit of making education better for everyone. We can learn from their developments and avoid the pitfalls they found along the way. So much of what follows is copying what they’ve done and tweaking it for our school. We don’t take any credit for the ideas!
Research & ‘working out what works’ on teacher development
I also wanted to see what research might have to offer for our teacher development and read whatever I could find online including:
Amy Forrester blog https://t.co/r2x0eJb96F
Jonathan Mountstevens blog https://t.co/dJGOtY10b8
Chris Moyse – Growing Great Teachers – https://t.co/eegHOr847o
Pulling things together
I wanted to start by thinking about the foundations of what we wanted for our school in this new process. We already had a coaching model in place, where everyone was being trained as a coach so we could utilise this in this approach. We also are research informed in our teaching & learning principles so it was important that we combined these two things together.
I came up with the following to encompass the rationale and process we wanted for our school:
Teacher development not pay progression
It was important that this process was not about ‘success’ but about development and the willingness to work on developing your own teaching. It was not to be linked to any relevant pay progression other than via participation and genuine engagement with making their teaching better. This was made clear to teachers.
Keeping it simple
I’ve seen some teachers/schools promoting the use of action research projects for development. Whilst this might give a structure for development, if done to the letter it can be incredibly time consuming and paperwork heavy. We didn’t want this for our process. We wanted it to involve looking out beyond our school, considering appropriate research but keeping things manageable with the time we had available.
Enquiry questions (EQs)
From my discussions and reading, the use of enquiry questions looked to be a good way to ensure that we focus on very specific aspects of our teaching but also keeps things small enough to try things out with. We used the model suggested in ‘Putting Staff First’:
The deputy head takes in everyone’s EQ to see if he feels that it is suitable for the teacher. Sometimes we can chose things that are too vague or too complex in a limited space of time.
Using research – still keeping it simple
For some staff, asking them to focus on something in their teaching and then looking for research to support their EQ would be a new experience so we wanted to ensure it wasn’t overwhelming. For those people we suggested taking a look at these documents and the research behind them to help them keep things manageable. Other staff, will have the desire to go beyond these and look for subject specific or look at the original papers, behind them. We wanted to keep it open enough for those that are more confident in using research and supportive enough so no-one felt lost.
Beyond this we also have the following to support staff in finding out further research
- CPD library of books/articles/magazines
- Videos, research reports, articles, resources shared (in Google classroom ‘staff class’)
- Encouragement to engage with subject community e.g. within MAT, local network, social media, subject association
Working with a coach
The idea to use the coaching model was to ensure that the process is developmental rather than instructional. Staff were already used to having coaching pairs but it wasn’t as tightly focused as this. The use of coaches gives teachers the opportunity to regularly discuss how the enquiry is panning out and to possibly consider things that they hadn’t considered themselves. The deputy headteacher for T&L is in charge of allocating coaching pairs.
A clear process
I wanted the process to have a clear structure with plenty of time to review and come back to the enquiry so it doesn’t get lost in the busyness of every day school life.
This was then put into the school calendar as regular meetings. This is important to give teachers scheduled timings to meet with their coach and just reflect on their enquiry.
I also created a simple form for teachers to complete throughout the year to keep track of what they’ve read and discussed with their coach.
A successful process?
As I said at the start, we’ve not had a full year of RITE yet (hopefully this year will be the first!). We will reflect on how things have gone this year and possibly do a more formal review next year once it’s been embedded more. We need to hear from teachers to work out what has worked and what needs to change to ensure it does the job we want it to.
Whilst it is important to note that the whole point is the EQ intervention may not ‘work’ we hope that through consideration with the coach and use of research, we can see that these may have an impact on learning. I can only talk from my (biased, of course) perspective on the process. I chose to look at metacognition and how speaking about their work might help students in completing longer length answers at GCSE. Luckily my coach wanted to focus on something similar so we could share articles and research we had read.
Looking at student work and performance in internal exams, I believe that the work that I did has made a positive, and quite significant difference to their written work. This will now be how I teach extended writing questions at GCSE from now on. We have had the opportunity to share out RITE focus and possible outcomes with our subject departments which is meant we can share beyond our coaching pair (which probably won’t be the same subject).
We haven’t got to the final stage for sharing outcomes yet. We have pondered making very simple research posters or a kind of ‘speed dating’ event where we share. The deputy head will decide what he feels is best for colleagues in this.
Learn from us….
Please do feel free to take any of this to use in your context. A few things that I would recommend to consider carefully…
- Coaching pairs – The relationship and pedagogical approach matters here (I think!)
- Time – giving timetabled meeting times (after school in our case) is essential
- Support with EQ writing – keeping a clear focus and keeping it manageable
- Emphasis on being research informed and trying things out not ‘success’ or failure’ of the enquiry –