School Teachmeets – A vital part in Continuing Professional Development

I am really proud of our CPD model this year.  We have a very thorough review period in school from October to February and during this time the SLT will observe every teacher teach and review every single department in the school.  We collate the lesson observation judgements of course but we place just as much importance on the strengths of each teacher, the quality of students’ work and the effectiveness of the marking and assessment.  We also set clear action points for each member of staff so that the next time we observe them we can see a gradual improvement in their teaching or planning.  We are able, then, to collate all the action points and look for consistent areas of development and this forms the basis of our CPD outcomes for the next year.

I wrote a post on the link between lesson observations and school improvement and you can find it here.  I set out, in this article, the areas I wanted to develop during the cycle of CPD but to save you clicking around here is the list again.

  • Planning – particularly the setting of challenging outcomes, the transitions between tasks and the validity of the tasks themselves.
  • Marking – I am really proud of my marking bookmarks as they have clarified what we are looking for in expert marking – however I wanted to spend CPD time on what this marking looked like in books to help staff reflect on how they can develop it in their subject.
  • Differentiation – ways of making this less intimidating and sharing strategies for support every learner as often as possible.
  • Sharing best practise – I wanted to a model for CPD that enabled staff to see the great practise from other staff in the school – They are not as fortunate as me or the head, we get to see everyone teach, so a key aim of the CPD had to be finding a way to showcase what our best teachers can do on a daily basis.

I also wanted to build in training time to support our implementation of Google Apps and Realsmart.  We had used two and a half days training at the end of the last academic year for our departmental champions but providing time and training for all staff was a priority as well.

The Model

I had my list of action areas and I had my list of “bright lights”, the staff who really are amazing in their planning, delivery and marking.  I also had 10 hours to use from the dis-aggregation of the daft half week at the end of the term.  I decided to use the time as follows….

  • Five sessions of twilight training.  Each evening would have four workshops and staff would be required to choose two, one of which had to be a Google App or Realsmart workshop.  These sessions would be delivered by staff who had demonstrated expert practise in that area. Each workshop lasts for 40 mins so the evening in total lasts for about 90 minutes.
  • One of the real challenges with CPD is the impact.  How do we actually measure the use of CPD training in lessons?  In an attempt to address this issue I decided to use the remaining 2.5 hours as time to complete a CPD action plan.  This was a simple action plan template – cobbled together from the great examples of action plans for CPD from the National Science Learning Centre – and asked staff to choose ONE element of their CPD over the year and plan, deliver and evaluate its impact in the classroom.  As this was an important requirement of teachers’ time I put the completion of the action plan as a key part of teachers’ performance management.
  • December teachmeet – I love the teachmeet model and have taken part or attended a number of teachmeets.  I knew, however, that our staff might be reluctant to attend an event like this without some prior experience of what it entailed.  So I decided to organise an internal teachmeet during December as a great way of sharing best practise.

We are halfway through our CPD programme so far – we have our third session next week – and I must share this with you at another date, but I want to focus on the teachmeet for this post.

Pulling in favours

I wrote a paper setting out the reasons for a teachmeet and what staff could expect from the experience and then I asked for volunteers.  I am optimistic by nature and hoped I would get quite a few takers without having to resort to much arm twisting.  As it turned out I had four early takers for the twelve places I wanted to fill…….then it went quiet.

Luckily I must have been quite helpful in a past life, stopped some wars or healed major epidemics or the like, because when I appealed to one or two staff that they really should share this with a wider audience as what they were doing was awesome they smiled and agreed to take part.  I was keen to limit this approach as much as possible though because there is an obvious flaw…what about the staff you do not ask?  I offended at least two members of staff this way and it really was not my intention – I only felt able to approach the staff I had directly observed rather than base my assumptions on someone else’s judgements.

I did resort to one or two sneaky approaches as well, but as a DHT once said to me at interview – it’s not sneaky Simon, it’s called leadership, such as giving out a few 10 inch tablets for experimentation with our Google Apps and then asking them to share what they found out at the teachmeet.  Or pointing out to the member of staff, who was disappointed not to have been asked to deliver one of the recent workshops, that this would be a great chance to share their experience.  In the end I managed to coral eleven staff to present – none of them had led a CPD session before.

I wanted the staff to feel that the event was for their benefit as well as some training so I put on some nice food and invited a key note presenter.  Luckily Ross Morrison-McGill, @teachertoolkit, was kind enough to accept my invitation and was happy to speak about the development of the 5 minute lesson plan.  The planning was complete.

I created a Google Site, (of course) for hosting the presentations and providing a resource that staff could find in the future.  We had the tried and tested twitter wall and the random name generator to provide a bit of uncertainty for the evening – which, as I pointed out to the staff, was as much about enjoyment, heckling and team spirit as it was about sharing best practise.

You can access the HBS teachmeet site by clicking HERE

We had a great range of topics shared at the event and you can find the presentations under the presentations tab on the home page.  Topics included…

  • Using a carousel of tasks in a lesson
  • Using Google Docs to create a collaborative assessment
  • High performance questioning
  • Games as a tool for learning
  • Using praise to enhance engagement and motivation
  • Increasing attainment at for the A and A* target students
  • Active learning – creative approaches in the classroom including song and dance

I found the experience and the event very humbling.  I had clearly asked a number of staff to step outside their comfort zone and do something many of them had not done before.   Yet, on a dark Wednesday evening, one week before the end of term we had a dining room full of staff watching twelve teachers share their experiences and strategies on learning.  We had nice food and we had a laugh.
I followed up the event over the next few days and asked for feedback on how staff felt it had gone.  I have copied in all the feedback from staff below so you can see for yourselves.

I would like us to try the passport idea with the High performance students and I’m going to try a carousel lesson with my year 9 set 7. (HoD to department)

I liked the challenge of no stone left unturned for high achieving sets preparing for exams – I was thinking about ways to set higher standards for Y10ma2 and Y12.

I also liked the challenge of more frequent and organised positive feedback – what would the school look like if 80 teachers all made one call per week per class for their students of the week? (for me this is 8 classes x 39 weeks = 312 positive phone calls per year – phew!)

I thought the talk on knowing the exam report, I think this will help me teach better and more effectively. I also tried the 5 minute lesson plan last night, and although it took a while as it was my first time I think I’ll get faster and I had a lot of information down that I could use. I want to grab some of Ana’s enthusiasm as it was amazing to see her standing up bouncing around. Looking forward to the website being released for view so I can look at all the presentations again!

Loved the idea of ending lessons on Friday on a happy note. I will be producing resources for Anna’s pass the parcel idea. I will also be trying Phoebe’s singing idea with Y10.

Like the format of the 5 minute lesson plan and will be trying this next term. Also will be getting the specs for Application as a bit of holiday reading.

Very interesting about the use of rote learning through songs etc. There might be other ( than songs) similar strategies to use? – Rob’s talk about reading through the examiners’ report was also an interesting idea to give insight on their thinking, observations etc.

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve already used two of the activities presented and am doing so again today.

During the sessions, I sometimes had questions coming to mind and wondered about including time for this in future sessions, but then I realised that this can all be done separately electronically which is probably the best option here.

I found the teach meet really valuable as a way of exchanging ideas. So often people say that we should go and watch others teach because it’s a great way to pick up ideas and reflect on your own practice, but with timetables, marking and planning we’re not always able to do that. As an NQT I sometimes feel that we can be bombarded with, do this, try that how did you deal with this situation, etc. The teach meet gave snap shot into other methods of teaching in a range of subjects without being over powering.

If you can take one thing away you said.  Following the film and especially Phoebe’s singing geography presentation, the very next lesson following the meeting I took a risk and instead of teaching my usual efficient but utterly predictable lacking excitement or inspiration lesson, I took on an “interesting” y9 group and started to prepare a filmed version of Radio 5 Saturday afternoon Sports Report (We were on the topic of sport). Famous theme music downloaded, microphones and big old-fashioned headphones brought in, 2 presenters linking the show, football results rugby reports interviews with players and managers, cycling report, tennis at Roland Garros, basketball results and finally tomorrow’s sport and weather. Sponsors adverts and club badges on the screen where the interviews take place. dry run today went really well with 18/22 in the class contributing. Filming takes place Monday.

I found it really useful, and I have already started using some of the ideas. The thing I found difficult about it was concentrating on so many ‘quick fire’ presentations. I think in future there ought to be perhaps 2 or 3 fewer speakers, so that the overall impact isn’t lost.

We would just like to thank you for organising the event on Wednesday. We know that it must have taken ages to put together. We both found it really engaging and motivating. A really productive use of teacher time.  We’ve already begun introducing ideas into lessons.

Just a quick thank you for organising the Teachmeet this evening. I thoroughly enjoyed it and gained some really good stuff from it!

I really liked the format.  A great success in my opinion.

Not only was it a great success among the staff, I now have seen over one-third of our teaching staff present to their peers this year on teaching and learning.   The combination of our development on Google Apps, the success we have had in proving to staff that our monitoring and observation is based on support and development not a Gotcha moment and CPD events like this means that we are seeing a culture change in school where teaching and learning is a key topic of conversation.  It is very exciting to be in this position and I am very curious about how far we can develop our practise in school.

I hope you feel inspired to try this approach with your staff and it has the same impact with you as it has in our school.

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