Yesterday afternoon we had the pleasure of walking around the school and popping in to some subject planning and development sessions (the nature of which you can read about here). As ever, there was some great work going on in curriculum teams both in terms of subject knowledge and subject pedagogic knowledge.
In history, curriculum leader James Frost was leading his team in a session based on self-efficacy. This was a central theme to our INSET day a couple of weeks ago and you can read about the research evidence and how it might be put into practice here. James had spent time before the SPDS reviewing the research evidence and then planned a session in which the team discussed and developed strategies for self-efficacy that were history specific. This was an excellent example of a curriculum area taking a whole-school teaching and learning focus and making it work for their subject so that it has real impact in the classroom.
In art and textiles, the team led by Gail Christie were reviewing the amazing work produced by year 10 students. The aim was to collectively assess and critique this work so that criteria for all levels is shared and understood; this then supports the teachers in the specific feedback they can give to students to secure their best outcomes. Furthermore, the team were resisting the urge at this point in the academic year to focus entirely on year 11, and instead were purposefully looking at year 10 work so that there are clear plans in place for these students with plenty of time to ensure action.
Along the corridor in ICT, computing and business Chloe Wheal’s team were thinking about modelling and explanations, which are two of our six T&L principles. In particular, the team were having an in-depth discussion about how to make use of worked examples to break down the teaching of algorithms into manageable steps so that students’ working memories are not cognitively overloaded. During the discussion, Jack Griffiths provided a superb example of an explanation when he described the way in which a particular algorithm works as being like musical chairs. This use of knowledge that is already secure, or an existing schema, is a very effective way of making new and abstract concepts easier to understand. It was great to see the team sharing ideas that they could immediately take back to the classroom for the benefit of students.
Downstairs in maths, Kate Blight and her team were busy investigating the exam questions that year 11 students have struggled with the most in recent assessments and thereby maximising the time that is left before terminal exams. This was a clear example of how SPDS can be used to tackle the misconceptions and most challenging areas that students are likely to encounter in a subject through the collective expertise and experience of a team.
Finally, in science Jody Chan was modelling to the team how to go about teaching molar equations. Jody was using an approach that has proven very effective in SPDS: In the role of expert teacher for this topic, she was at the front of the classroom and explicitly demonstrating what she would do with a class in terms of talking aloud and writing on the board. At the same time, Jody was able to articulate the likely questions that students would ask at particular points and how these are best answered. This resulted in the team having secure subject and pedagogic knowledge ready to use with consistency across all science lessons.
Two features of yesterday’s SPDS that were particularly noticeable were:
They were completely teaching and learning focused. Curriculum teams have worked hard at finding other, more efficient ways of doing the ‘housekeeping’ that is a staple of busy schools, for example through weekly e-bulletins. Consequently, this fortnightly hour is totally committed to developing and improving the learning in the classroom.
- The sessions were planned carefully in advance. SPDS form an integral part of our monitoring and review process at Durrington, and it was evident that the hour was finely tuned to acting upon what had been seen in lessons and the next steps required to achieve each curriculum area’s goals.
With teachers able to spend time talking, thinking and planning lessons together we have no doubt that students will be in a position to thrive both at school and beyond.