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Monthly Archives: July 2016

Teacher PLCs – A forensic and focused approach to improving teaching practice.

Teacher Personalised Learning Charts

@beautifullyfra1 wrote here (link) about our approach to evaluating teaching and we now have a truly authentic model for evaluating teachING not teachERS which ensures that all learning and teaching actions are data informed.  But, it has led to many questions about how we ensure that all of our teachers are continuously refining and developing their classroom practice. It’s taken some time, but I have finally got round to writing up part 2.

With a rapidly changing assessment landscape, significantly different accountability measures, and the most over stimulated generation of children ever, it is essential that all teachers are continuously reflecting on and refining their practices.  It’s fair to say that for many teachers entering the profession, marking, planning, resourcing and other pressures can lead to a plateau in engagement with new pedagogy; pedagogy which would have been a regular part of training courses, degrees, and PGCEs. With this in mind, all schools face the challenge of finding innovative ways of ensuring that professional development, and ultimately improvements in the quality of teaching, continues. Coaching is well established in many schools, but how do we ensure that every teacher is committed to developing a specific aspect of their teaching practice?

For me (as I am sure is the case for many others), formative assessment underpins everything that I do in terms of continuously checking whether or not my pupils have understood the content that I have delivered.  Student PLCs are fairly common place in schools these days whether used formatively or summatively.  So if we can use them to build up a clear picture of what our students are good/not so good at, why should formative assessment not be equally as important in building up an accurate and organic picture of what teachers can do?

The best teachers spend a lot of time thinking about what they would have done differently if they were to teach a lesson again.  Invariably there is always something or multiple things that we would change.   The best teachers will do this anyway as they are naturally reflective practitioners, but a PLC specific to teachers could ensure that there is a more streamlined approach to being reflective. Dylan Wiliam has written much about the dangers of trying to develop more than one area of practice at the same time, but how do we identify a teacher’s specific area for development/refinement?  In my mind, the teacher standards provide the best common language with respect to splitting teaching practice into fundamental elements.  Every teacher should be working on developing their practice in relation to one specific element.  A performance management target could then be linked explicitly to evaluating anything and everything the teacher has done during the year to improve their practice in relation to that particular standard.

So alongside our approach to evaluating teaxhing, we have created a personalised learning chart for teachers not dissimilar to the subject specific PLCs we use for students.  The Teacher PLC provides a clear language for formatively assessing teaching practice in relation to the individual standards, lesson to lesson, week to week, term to term.  The Teacher PLC (pictured below) consists of teacher standards 1-7 with a key description of what best practice may look like.  At this point I want to make it clear that the teacher PLC is categorically not used to grade, or quantify data about the quality of teaching in terms of an overall judgement.  Instead, the purpose is to encourage all members of teaching staff to reflect, in a low risk environment, on the 7 different standards, in relation to their own teaching practice.  Staff then identify what they consider to be their main areas of strength as well as the areas where they would like to invest time in developing their practice.  They can discuss their PLC with their Director of Learning to help them clarify their thoughts on where best to invest time.

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In addition to the teacher reflection sheet, a rubric has been created to provide loose guidelines for each standard ranging from limited to extending. Before the cynical people reading this tell me this is just another way of grading teachers, the PLCs were never designed for that purpose.  The rubric can be useful in identifying what might be missing with regards to classroom practice in relation to a specific teacher standard.  It also ensures we have a common language and consistency across the school when we look to share best practice.


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Supporting Development
To ensure all teachers are equipped with sufficient ideas to develop their practice in relation to a particular teacher standard, or to simply encourage all our teachers to take a risk and try something new., we regularly launch teacher challenges in relation to a particular teacher standard.  They usually contain 6-12 practical, easy to implement ideas which have been very well received.  They are also designed so that there is something new for every teacher to try regardless of their level of experience.  You can see an example of this for teacher standard 5 below.


This approach has only worked for us because we are absolutely clear that for us, it is not about grading teachers.  It would be very easy to take this approach and use it as a behind closed doors attempt to quantify or attach a number or grade to a teacher.  The authenticity of our evaluating teaching cycle depends on us absolutely not using it in this way.