One of our greatest successes at Durrington High School is our subject planning and development sessions (SPDS). These are fortnightly, subject-specific CPD sessions in which curriculum teams meet to develop subject and pedagogical knowledge and ideas. To ensure the most effective practice and use of SPDS time, the general structure of the sessions is:
- Identify a focus for the SPDS based on upcoming curriculum content over the next two weeks; this will probably be narrowed down to one year group.
- Before the SPDS, the teacher leading the session identifies the knowledge or skills that students are likely to find most challenging, or common misconceptions. The teacher then plans ideas for tackling these potential issues.
- The SPDS is used to ensure that the everyone’s subject knowledge is up-to-date, accurate and comprehensive so that all students are effectively challenged in lessons.
- In the SPDS, effective pedagogical strategies for the topic are modelled and shared.
- All teachers leave the SPDS with a consistent approach to teaching the identified area.
Over the past month, we have joined with SPDS across the school and seem some excellent practice in place.
In maths, the team were looking at time, distance and speed graphs – an upcoming topic for Year 7. Natasha Bedford had modelled some ideas for teaching this topic on the board, and the team then looked through GCSE examination papers to explore the kind of questions students would be asked in Year 11. They then used this knowledge to decide how to teach the topic to Year 7, thus demonstrating how KS3 is planned so that it supports students steadily over time in order to get ready for the demands of KS4. This was a great example of a team using CPD time to allow teachers to explicitly model teaching to their colleagues.
Upstairs, Chloe Wheal and her team were discussing the importance of feedback, which the EEF identifies as having the greatest impact on student outcomes alongside the explicit teaching of metacognitive skills. Chloe was sharing specific ideas about what effective feedback could look like in their subjects. Jack Griffiths then shared some ideas for live modelling and his plan for live marking five books every lesson, prioritising FSM students, so that after a fortnight all students have received some quality feedback based on a conversation with their teacher.
Over in history, teachers were grappling with how to approach a new evaluative question with Year 11 students from the 2017 GCSE specification. The team were collaboratively building a writing structure for the students’ written response, and this entailed a great deal of healthy debate and questioning. This SPDS was a great example of how the sessions should be shaped to current needs of the students: In this case a tight focus on exam teaching and pedagogy took precedence over subject knowledge as fits the Year 11 lessons for the next two weeks.
In geography, Ben and his team were reviewing their KS3 schemes of work by reviewing what they need to teach in light of the new GCSE specification, and identifying where skills could be integrated in the earlier years. The team had prepared a basic knowledge organiser beforehand to use as a checklist for each unit, thereby enabling them to trim and prune their SoW accordingly. Although not a typical SPDS, the plan going forward is to use the fortnightly session to develop pedagogy and knowledge organisers for the KS3 lessons they have agreed and mapped out. It was rewarding to listen in on the criteria the team were using to decide what should or should not be taught at KS3 geography. For example, a unit on sweatshops was kept in place with agreement from everybody in the team because ‘it is an important part of being a citizen’. This is great example of designing a curriculum that takes students beyond their own experiences and knowledge – an important part of Durrington’s curriculum policy.
Upstairs in MFL, Pam Graham and her team were in full flow thinking about how to best support their Year 11 students with their upcoming speaking exams. The team mocked up a French speaking exam in order to replicate what students and teachers will experience in coming weeks. David was the student for this exam, and was put through his paces by MFL Curriculum Lead Pam Graham. As David and Pam went through the challenging exam procedure, the rest of the team listened and observed carefully, and made diligent notes on how Pam (the teacher) performed. Particular attention was paid to her control of timing and requirement to avoid rephrasing questions, as this could lead to a detrimental effect on the student’s final mark. After the assessment had finished, Pam explained what she found difficult and the team contributed potential issues that they had identified. This then led to a discussion of how to avoid these pitfalls in the real examinations. This SPDS, in which the Pam’s actions were foregrounded rather than those of the students, was a perfect example of subject-focused CPD in which teachers’ skills and knowledge are developed through collaborative pedagogical thinking. Furthermore, all of the team left the session with confident, consistent and clear ideas about how to prepare their Year 11 students in their very next lesson.