Improving Teachers

The title is ambiguous isn't it?  Either "teachers who are improving" or "making teachers improve".

I really don't know yet where this post is going.  It is a response to a number of tweets and blog posts I have read recently, and to a speech last night by a retiring colleague.  All, in different ways, suggest that good teachers are good teachers and should be left alone to get on with their jobs.

Here's an example of a blog post: "Evidence Based Teaching or Curing Stupidity". The gist of this one seems to be that the author once took part some research which turned out to be rather pointless, and that the author thinks learning and teaching are too complex to be amenable to the distilling of transferable strategies through research.

My colleague last night (a man for whom I have a huge amount of respect, and whom I count as a good friend) mocked the learning trios that have been operating in our school this year: colleagues engaging in peer coaching through observing each other's lessons.

I think I need to reflect on the way my own thinking has changed over my career so far.  For the first 4 or 5 years of my teaching career, I remember hoping each August that I would make a better job of being a teacher than I had the previous session. But I don't think I had any clear idea how I would achieve that, other than by being stricter with the pupils in my classes, so that behaviour was better.  I was very focussed on the behaviour of my pupils, but wasn't getting any advice from anyone about how to improve their behaviour (other than to be more strict with them!). I was also intensely conscious of, and sensitive to, how I compared to other teachers.

Then my school embraced "Discipline for Learning".  We spent a lot of time developing a behaviour policy collaboratively, and we received CPD on positive behaviour management strategies.  I vividly remember the first time I tried these out.  I had a lively class who behaved reasonably , but often many of them jumped up and yelled out of the window at the end of the lesson rather than sitting at their desks.  After the CPD, I tried a different approach to my usual shouting and threatening of punishments - I quietly praised the pupils who were sitting down as I had asked.  The results were astonishing.  Another pupil returned to his desk, I praised him and within 15 seconds they were all seated.  This moment changed teaching for me. It also gave me a strategy I knew I could usefully share with others.  It came as a direct result of a CPD session.

I said I wasn't sure where this post was going.  I'm even less sure now! I guess I'm struggling to understand why teachers generalise  "I have had many poor CPD experiences that have had no impact on learning" into "CPD is a waste of time".  I have the strong feeling that is has something to do with fixed vs growth mindsets, but then I have also been aware recently that I have an unhelpful tendency to see everything as a mindset issue!

Apologies if you've stuck with this post in the hope of a neat resolution.  There isn't one.  I'm just continuing to ponder.


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