By Steven Horsley
Last year, the Department for Education published an interesting document titled “Standards for teachers’ professional development” and an associated guide to implementation. This publication was delivered with very little fanfare, and a straw poll of colleagues has identified that at the time of writing this blog there is very little, if any, knowledge of this release. I would argue that there probably should have been quite a lot of trumpeting. In fact, there should have been shouting, dancing and the banging of big loud drums!
Because I would argue, unreservedly, everyone in our profession recognises the importance of having the teachers who are at the very top of their game. I would further argue that we all believe that fantastic outcomes in schools can only be achieved if we support fantastic professional development for teachers.
The guidance document is prefaced with the following quote from Dylan Williams:
“Every teacher needs to improve, not because they are not good enough, but because they can be even better.”
If we place this at the centre of our thinking we are likely to be very well placed to build successful schools and networks which sustain that success well into the future.
In this series of blogs I will be outlining how NAHT Aspire, and it’s component parts play a key role in enabling schools to meet the five elements of the Standards outlined in Figure 1. Specifically in this first blog I will be looking at Standard 1.
Standard 1: Professional Development should focus on improving and evaluating pupil outcomes
Have you ever considered how and why you have made decisions to use particular teaching strategies with the learners you have been responsible for? What difference would it make to you and your colleagues if your professional development included training on how to differentiate different types of learning to enable you to choose the best range of teaching approaches, and to plan for assessing the depth of understanding of the learners gained as a result of your teaching? My experience tells me that it makes a big difference, and is exemplified by these words from Dylan Williams:
“The greatest impact on learning is the daily lived experiences of students in classrooms, and that is determined much more by how teachers teach than by what they teach.”
In the 2011 DfE publication “Framework for the National Curriculum: a report by the Expert Panel for the National Curriculum review” the panel noted that:
“In Western countries, especially in the US and England, the assumption has often been that capacity to learn, and achieve, is determined by innate endowment of fixed intelligence (ability).100 This assumption – that there are limits on what children are capable of learning – has had negative influence on expectations of achievement and how learning and assessment is organised.”
I have to say, that whilst there were elements of the 2011 review that I disagreed with I would argue wholeheartedly that this statement has been unremittingly true. It is also why we have become utterly reliant on testing to enable us to make judgements about progress. Many schools have a real need at this point in time to secure high quality professional development that focusses on improving the quality of formative assessment, and the use of this assessment information to inform decision making at all levels. The development of these skills and approaches is one of the most fundamental ways that we can ensure that professional development is absolutely linked to pupil outcomes.
So what does NAHT Aspire offer you and your school?
There are three related NAHT Aspire resources would enable you to focus professional development specifically on pupil outcomes. This sits under the umbrella of Precision Pedagogy which is something all our schools have access to. Precision Pedagogy is underpinned by EdisonLearning’s Four Modes of Learning and evidence of pupil progress and the depth of understanding they are achieving can be collected using our sophisticated assessment tracking tool Compass.
When working with teachers in introducing Precision Pedagogy we are seeking to enable them to match the right teaching and learning materials to the right learners at the right time. Understanding the subtle differences between the Four Modes of Learning is really important because these help teachers to understand the need for planning different teaching approaches and making use of different learning strategies (think about Williams’ assertion about how we teach rather than what we teach).
If you have ever experienced working with learners who have developed gaps in what might be loosely labelled as “basic knowledge”, then you would be very interested to train your staff in the principles of Fast Learning and Accelerating Progress. These are two highly specific teaching approaches aimed at preventing (Fast Learning) and resolving (Accelerating Progress) gaps in Foundational Learning knowledge, which is one of the Four Modes of Learning. Training staff to understand these methods, and to plan and deliver them in their classrooms is fundamentally focussed on improving specific learner outcomes.
As part of the Precision Pedagogy materials we have developed a sophisticated set of Achievement Statements for Reading, Writing and Mathematics which support the assessment of curriculum coverage of the National Curriculum for England’s Programmes of Study for the three subjects. By defining the statements as one of two of the Four Modes of Learning (Foundational Learning and Conceptual Learning), we can empower teachers to make effective assessment judgements about depth of learning for each individual statement.
Precision Pedagogy is provides a strong response to the criticism of Western systems outlined by the Expert Panel (quoted above) and offers a way of organising thinking. This clarity of focus means that the assessment of the learner’s ability is much more focussed around high quality formative assessment, which teachers take high levels of responsibility for. Compass enables teachers to gather their ongoing assessments, matched against Achievement Statements and a depth of understanding. By building an electronic mark book, Compass then uses the power of database technology to allow teachers to analyse the progress of individual learners, groups of learners and their whole class to inform planning. As the evidence builds, it very fluently allows the teacher to build some summative judgements about the quality of learning and teaching in their classroom, and to plan to address any underachievement that might be developing.
The word “reimagine” is sometimes overused. Compass truly reimagines tracking pupil progress – because it is fundamentally designed to support teachers to plan for learning matched to needs. A by-product of this is that they can also analyse progress and outcomes strategically.
So what should you do then? If any of this discussion has rung true for you, and you feel that it matches a school improvement priority for your school then you need to act. Why not speak to one of EdisonLearning’s highly skilled Achievement Advisers to find out more? You can use the contact us form to request a call.
We can explain how NAHT Aspire could be a central vehicle for long-term school improvement in your school (Professional Development Standards 1 and 4), or how we can provide you with the highest quality professional development for the components discussed above (Standard 1). Demonstrate your commitment to school improvement and professional development today (Standard 5).
We will be delighted to speak with you.
If you have any comments on this blog post, please add respond below. I will be checking in with responses and developing a conversation with you. Thank you for reading.
Steven will explore NAHT Aspire materials that will support each of the remaining standards in this series of blogs.
Steven Horsley is a lead Achievement Adviser for EdisonLearning, delivering the NAHT Aspire programme. He is the regional lead for the West Midlands region, but can be seen popping up in various other parts of the country too! Follow Steven on Twitter – @EdisonHorsley