Often schools find themselves stuck in a rut when it comes to school improvement. They recognize that their staff may need to change their teaching styles, strategies, content and coverage to ensure that learning improves, yet the pace of change is too slow. Inevitably, when lessons lack rigor or challenge, and when students are bored, behavior alters; withdrawal, seeking alternative ways to entertain themselves, chatting, not listening are all tell-tale signs. Often this can be down to long-serving teachers who are reticent or lack confidence or don’t know what to do to change how they do things.
To get out of such a rut requires some serious effort on the part of school leaders or an external catalyst that empowers staff to own the process of developing their teaching. A process that involves staff members as the creators and implementers of the work will see far quicker and greater success than a process that is ‘applied’ to them.
So what does that mean in practice? The starting point for such a catalyst is self-evaluation. Teachers must be well-versed in practising feedback and receiving feedback as part of an Effective Learning Observation process.
This quickly creates a culture of self-reflection and a desire to improve learning. The key to implementing an Effective Learning Observation process is to focus classroom observations on tangible evidence of student learning. If your staff are new to Learning Observation, your initial Professional Development should include the following:
- A deep dive into rethinking what effective student learning really is; how do we know that students are learning?
- Discussion about how we talk about student learning, explaining fully the impact of teaching.
- Learning what productive feedback really is, and how we can maximize action after feedback.
- Using ELO as a tool to measure progress in your school’s development and improvement work.
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Once your staff are engaged in the process you should be making use of the process as a leadership tool to assess progress, revise professional development plans, and agree the support mechanisms necessary to support the individualized development of learning and teaching.