Leading From a Distance

The quote above describes a key characteristic of highly effective leaders.  They understand the importance of investing time and energy into their teams, to build relationships, trust and a shared understanding of what the team is trying to achieve.  They do this in a variety of ways, but regular formal and informal communication and interaction with their team is key.  This will involve sharing ideas, talking through challenges,  thrashing around approaches to problems, collaboratively planning a new approach, listening to their problems and just generally checking they are OK.  The Covid19 lockdown presents leaders with challenges when it comes to working with their teams like this.  Leaders have lost the visual prompts that often guide their actions.  For example, when we are in school, we’ll see a colleague in our team during breaktime and that will serve as a reminder to catch up with them about X.  With this in mind we need to be more intentional about staying in contact with the whole team and the individuals within it during this school closure period.

As is often the case though, I have been hugely impressed with the way in which the Durrington Leaders have risen to this challenge.  I thought it would be worth sharing some of the ways they are doing this.

Weekly Bulletins

It’s quite normal for curriculum leaders to send out a weekly bulletin, but this becomes even more important during lockdown.  This gives clarity in terms of how the team is working towards shared goals.  Without the regular contact with their leaders, it’s really important that teachers have the security of information regarding what they should be covering with each year group,  what other tasks they need to do, what’s coming up and just general news and update.  This really supports their planning and reduces anxiety related to the feeling of ‘not knowing’.

Online Meetings

Platforms such as Google Meet and Zoom are excellent for getting the team together virtually, to replace the face to face meetings that normally happen in schools.  They are great in terms of discussing key information, but also (and as important) for social interaction with colleagues.  Managing online discussions can be tricky though.  One way that some of our leaders have overcome this is to do the ‘input’ bit of the meeting beforehand.  So for example, our maths department were looking at introducing ‘Hegarty Maths’.  Normally this would involve a presentation from Shane (Head of Maths) to the team about this new approach and then a discussion with the team.  For obvious reasons this wan’t possible. Shane overcame this by recording a Loom video of himself talking about Hegarty maths – what it is; advantages it will bring; possible challenges etc.  This was sent to the team, who were asked to watch it before the meeting.  When the team then met online using Google Meet, the input bit had already been done, so the meeting could then focus on discussing the key points.  This made for a really efficient meeting.

One to one online meetings

Whilst team meetings are great, sometimes that one to one contact is necessary, to maintain rapport.  To address this a number of leaders across the school are scheduling in one to one Google meets with their teams.  These are just informal chats, to check in on people during these strange times.  This gives leaders the opportunity to check their teams are OK, but also unpick any personal issues they might be having with distance teaching.

Social Activity

We should never underestimate the importance of just spending good quality time with our colleagues.  Laughing, joking, unpicking the day and just generally enjoying each others’ company.  Teams are finding great ways to do this at a distance.  Most teams have very active ‘WhatsApp’ groups to keep in touch with each other and check in on each other.  The humanities team organise a weekly online quiz in the evening to catch up with each other.

CPD Signposting

When life was normal, we had ‘Subject Planning & Development Sessions’ at Durrington.  These are fortnightly meetings of curriculum teams, where they talk about what they are teaching over the next fortnight and how to teach it well.  Leaders are still doing this – but online using Google Meet/Zoom.  These sessions are so important, as we all get used to a new way of teaching at a distance.  they are a great opportunity to share what is and isn’t working.  Alongside this, leaders are also signposting their teams to the range of ‘lockdown CPD’ available to teachers – see here.  So for example, the team may have been asked to watch the Paul Kirschner video here ahead of the online SPDS and then when they meet online, discuss how they are implementing this in their own distance teaching.

CPD needs to be balanced during this time.  Teachers are having to get used to a very new way of working, so any CPD offered at the moment needs to be measured.  If it’s focused on helping them to adapt to distance teaching, then it’s likely to be well-received and appropriate.  If not, it can probably wait.

Keeping an eye on when the doors open

Whilst managing all of this, leaders are also thinking about and planning for when schools re-open (whenever and however that will happen).  So for example, they are monitoring where the learning gaps will be emerging with distance teaching and planning how the curriculum will be adjusted to address these gaps when students are back in school.  From a practical point of view, they are also making sure that they are collating all the brilliant ‘Loom Lessons’ teachers are making now and filing them for the future.  This is a brilliant bank of resources that will continue to be useful when schools reopen e.g. supporting students with homework, or when they might not be in lessons.

Share their successes

Curriculum teams are still finding great ways to celebrate the brilliant work our students are producing during lockdown.  A number of our teams are regularly posting examples of great work on our Facebook page.  The advantage of this is that even when our students are at home, we are setting the bar of expectation high, in terms of what we expect from students whilst at home and sharing this with students, parents and carers.  So this  approach is a great motivator for students (and parents who are being brilliant at helping/cajoling our students).

Posted by Shaun Allison

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Re-motivating Pupils: a summary of Caroline Spalding’s ReseachEdLoom talk

It is my first year at Durrington High School and would have been my first ResearchEdDurrington at the end April, and I am really disappointed that this year’s event has necessarily had to be cancelled. So it was a great bonus that Shaun Allison was able to get so many of the presenters to take part in #ResearchEdLoom just before the start of the Easter holidays. This had the added bonus that rather than just having to choose talks to attend in particular slots, we were able to access as many of the presentations as we were able to over a 3-day time period – and go back to them, pause, and rewind as necessary. This form of CPD is now taking off with the launch of ResearchEdHome this week, and it has definitely been one of the unexpected benefits of Lockdown Life.

The presentation that really struck me (whilst sitting in my back garden in the sun) was on re-motivating pupils, by Caroline Spalding. Although we are not at a stage yet where we know when schools will reopen and can plan properly for the return, I think these points are worth keeping in mind all through these weeks of distance learning. Caroline highlighted five areas which need consideration:

  1. Lack of routine

Humans are hardwired to get into routines using the “habit loop” (Charles Duhigg 2012) – think about how embedded your route to work is, or your exercise routine. Caroline’s school had a great habit-forming routine set up to get Y11s attending after-school revision sessions where a member of SLT visited the last lessons of the day with reminders, and students were rewarded with a chocolate bar (very similar to what happens at Durrington). We need to think carefully about how we can plan to reintroduce these key routines and re-form these habits when students return to school.

This also made me think how important routines and habits are during home-learning. With two primary aged children of my own to keep occupied each day myself routines have been a life-saver. They know that their first task after breakfast is to get started on their maths worksheet of the day. Some students will find it hard to get into a routine at home on their own and reminders from us could really help – for instance starting all distance lessons in the same way.

2. Low attainment

Many of the students at Caroline’s school are low prior attainers and she reminds us that “the poor motivation of low attainers is a logical response to repeated failure.” (White and Rose 2019). Ultimately, if students are successful they are going to be more motivated and we need to keep this in mind upon their return. We need to be enabling students to show what they know as well as finding gaps quickly and working to address these so that their progress and learning is really visible to them. Self-quizzing is a great way to do this and there are various apps and online platforms that can help with this. An element of competition can be a good thing and can be a great way of rewarding students remotely whilst also being able to check their learning and engagement. Once back at school, consider how success will be celebrated visibly to students: perhaps introduce some physical badges for those who have shown excellent effort if there is nothing like this in place already.

3. Loss of social ties

Caroline talks about Self-Determination Theory (Deci and Ryan 1970s) which says that intrinsic motivation requires competence, autonomy, and also relatedness which is the desire to have positive relationships. Pink (2019) extended this idea and talked about drive – the desire to feel part of something bigger. It is also worth considering McCrea and Moore’s (2019) six strategies for motivation:

  • Make it satisfying
  • Make it likely
  • Make it cheap
  • Make it normal
  • Make it “in”
  • Make it theirs

Caroline suggests that branding can play a really important part of this and at her school Year 11 have their own logo and hashtag and this really helps to build a group identity. Positive language is vitally important to emphasise desirable behaviour and make this the norm. Team ethos could be used in an individual class by (for example) praising how many correct questions achieved by the whole group rather than just individuals.

I think this could be introduced easily during our time away from school particularly with the help of online learning platforms – we are just implementing Hegarty Maths at Durrington and I think it will be really motivating to praise classes for their engagement each week. At Durrington we have also been trying hard as a school to maintain our sense of community throughout the lockdown, partly through our #DHS4NHS campaign where staff, students and their families and the wider community have been running 5k to raise money for Worthing Hospital.

4. Loss of role models for success

Students need to know what success looks like (Didau 2016) and this year’s year 10s will miss out on seeing the current year 11s go through the build-up to their exams, having their leavers assemblies and finish off their time at school on a high. So it is vital that we think about who the role models can be for our remaining students – are there former pupils who we can invite in to speak to those lower down the school?

5. Need to adapt curriculum plans

Caroline says that as a senior leader it is vital that she is supporting curriculum and middle leaders as much as possible in potentially adapting the curriculum for our return to school. Curriculum is also about having a coherent journey through the curriculum that the students understand. As an aspect of Self-Determination Theory, autonomy is about making your own choices but also feeling like you are a master of your own destiny. We should be encouraging our current year 10s to identify a real sense of purpose in what they are doing and also helping them to think about why they are doing it by having their long-term goals in sight. Caroline summarises by saying “how can you write the narrative of your pupils’ success?”

I really enjoyed this presentation and it gave me lots to think about. Caroline Spalding is on Twitter as @mrsspalding

Deb Friis


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Distance Teaching Y10

During these very challenging times, educators across the world are all very focused on how we can ensure that the distance teaching we are currently undertaking is as effective as it can be.  Whilst this is of course important for all students, it is especially so for students in Y10 who are approaching the half way point of their GCSE courses.  We’ve been thinking about this at Durrington and are focusing on three key areas:

  • Readjusting the Y10 curriculum
  • Optimising the distance teaching of new material for Y10.
  • Supporting Y10 to become better at self-regulation.

Readjusting the Y10 curriculum

The curriculum drives what students should be learning but as we know, learning from a distance is tricky.  With this in mind it’s worth reviewing the curriculum that you had intended to deliver to Y10 during this summer term and moving things around.  There’s very little point in attempting to distance teach really difficult ideas, as you’ll probably have limited success.  So move this up into Y11 when (hopefully!) students will be back in school and move some of the simpler ideas from the Y11 curriculum down to be taught now.

Obviously this will be easier in some subjects than others, but it’s certainly worth thinking about.

Optimising the distance teaching of new material for Y10

As the closure period continues, Y10 teachers are having to move on to delivering new subject content at a distance.  We can reduce some of the challenges this presents by readjusting the curriculum as described above.  However, we still need to be considering what is the best way to teach this new material at a distance.  A key consideration is how we explain and model these new ideas.  Loom videos provide a great platform for this, as they allow teachers to explain these ideas as they would in a normal lesson.  This can be further enhanced by using a visualiser to model these ideas to students on the Loom video.

At #rEDDurringtonLoom earlier this month , Paul Kirschner gave an excellent talk on distance teaching.  The video is 8 minutes long and is well worth a watch:

You can download Paul’s notes from his talk here.

To summarise, Paul gives these key recommendations to optimise distance teaching:

• Keep it short. ʺTry not to do all of what you normally do in your online class.ʺ  • Prepare well. ʺKnow what youʹre going to say, donʹt change it during class.ʺ  • Provide structure. ʺList what students should do and see if they have done it.ʺ
• Prepare students. ʺIf you are going to talk about something, prepare them  beforehand with stimulating their prior knowledge.”  • Give short assignments before and after and require them to be submitted to  you. ʺNot complicated or profound, but things they can do in a few minutes and you  can see whether they are prepared (before) and understand (after).ʺ  • Make use of the online resources available. ʺDonʹt try to do something better in  an evening that that which has already been done well by someone else.ʺ

Supporting Y10 to become better at self-regulation

Today the EEF published a rapid evidence review for distance learning.  One of the recommendations from this review is about students working independently:

“Supporting pupils to work independently can improve learning outcomes

  • Pupils learning at home will often need to work independently.  Multiple reviews identify the value of strategies that help pupils work independently with success.
  • For example, prompting pupils to reflect on their work or to consider the strategies they will use if they get stuck have been highlighted as valuable.
  • Wider evidence related to metacognition and self-regulation suggests that disadvantaged pupils are likely to particularly benefit from explicit support to help them work independently, for example, by providing checklists or daily plans.”

The ‘Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning Guidance Report‘  offers some sound advice on this.  It suggests that teachers should be explicitly teaching students how to plan, monitor and evaluate their learning.  With distance teaching, the temptation is to focus solely on delivering the content, without thinking about developing students’ metacognitive strategies.  It’s really important that we embed this into our distance teaching, as we would if we were back in the classroom:


  • Do they have the appropriate resources to hand to complete the task?
  • Are you setting tasks that will activate their prior knowledge?
  • Are they clear about the learning goals?
  • Are they encouraged to think about the strategies they are going to use to complete the task?


  • Remind students to assess the progress they are making during the task.
  • Ensure students know where to find the resources they will need and strategies they can use to unstick themselves.
  • Provide exemplars for them to judge their progress against.
  • Include regular quizzing for students to monitor their progress (give them the answers so they can do this)
  • Encourage them to adapt their strategy for a particular task.


  • At the end of the session, encourage students to review how successful they were with the strategies they employed and how they would approach a similar task differently next time.
  • Encourage students to think about and ask questions to consolidate their understanding.

Over the coming weeks, the Durrington Research School Team will be producing some resources to support teachers with ‘developing self-regulation at a distance’.

Shaun Allison

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Lockdown CPD

Two weekends ago we hosted #rEDDurringtonLoom.  The response to this was phenomenal and suggested that there is a real appetite among teachers for high quality CPD during the lockdown period.  Thankfully many of the fine people in the world of education have responded to this and put together some fantastic CPD – signposted below:


Tom Bennett and the researchED team have put together researchEDhome.  Many of the brightest and the best thinkers in education will be sharing a video presentation, everyday of the summer term at 11am.

The schedule and links can be found here.

CPD Connect Up

The Teacher Development Trust have organised this to provide teachers with the opportunity to catch up and discuss aspects of educational research.  It involves some mini presentations as well as the opportunity to chat about it via zoom.

The schedule and details can be found here.

The Chartered College of Teaching

The Chartered College have done a fantastic job of collating a huge number of really useful links to articles about distance teaching and learning.  See here.

Education Endowment Foundation

The EEF have a number of online resources which are great sources of CPD.


Seneca have a number of online courses available, including their incredibly popular  ‘Dual Coding Course‘ by Oliver Caviglioli. They also have a YouTube Channel, with some online tutorials.

Subject Knowledge

If you are looking to use this time to improve your subject knowledge, a number of organisations are providing free online courses:


There are some fantastic educational podcasts out there.  Here are a few of our favourites:


A number of free and very good research papers can be downloaded here.  Similarly, we there is a huge archive of excellent blogs for you to read here.  If you are a fan of ‘Making every lesson count’ the Durrington Research School Team have written ‘Making every distance lesson count’ – available for free here.

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Distance learning – building independence

We are all having to cut our cloth to fit these new circumstances.  Speaking personally, it has been disconcerting and at times uncomfortable, and so much of the research evidence that informs our teaching practice feels hard or impractical to implement from across the digital divide.

For example, I made a Loom video (all the rage at the moment) aimed at modelling to my Year 10 history students how to answer a tricky historical interpretations question.  Now, the video is 30 minutes long.  It think its generally quite good in terms of the content, I switch from the PowerPoint to my visualiser for some live modelling and explain using metacognitive principles of unpacking my thinking.

However, without the punctuation I would normally give it in class through questioning and allowing students to practise sections, the intrinsic cognitive load of the entire piece is off the charts!  Thinking back to it now I should have said: “pause video now” and then given some instructions every so often.  However, would students have done that?  Will any of them actually get to the end of it?  Even the head of history (who I line manage) said he hadn’t found the strength to watch it yet.

I think the answer here is not to beat ourselves up too much.  We are doing our best and having to adapt really quickly to what’s going on.  Much of what we do will be at odds with evidence informed principles of how learning and teaching work best and that’s probably okay for now.

However, research evidence can also lend a hand.  For example when we are pulling our hair out about how Year 8 have once again failed to follow what we perceive as simple instructions, cognitive load theory and the limitations of working memory may help soften our frustrations.  Furthermore, this might be an opportunity to build some traits in our students that we previously not found the time to focus on.  One obvious example is independent learning.

This idea can be approached from many angles, but as metacognition has become a bit of a specialism of mine, I’m going to look at it from that one.

Strand 6 from the EEF’s Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning guidance report is “Explicitly teach pupils how to organise, and effectively manage, their learning independently”.  Now don’t we all wish we’d paid more attention this this a month ago!  Within the guidance a fictional student, Nathan, makes an appearance in the following case study story:

Nathan knew that to revise properly he would need a technology ‘black out’. With a little help from his father, Nathan made his bedroom more like an office than a games room during his GCSE revision.

Each evening at seven o’clock, just after dinner, Nathan would switch off his phone and go upstairs to revise. First, he’d check his revision plan and get out what he needed before steeling himself to do some hard work. Strategy number one was always a quick flashcard challenge, mixing up his cards from his different subjects, before testing himself. Then Nathan would test himself on different topics, with past questions or simply seeing what he could recall with a blank piece of paper, before ticking them off his revision plan.

Expecting his usual lull after forty-five minutes, Nathan would grab a drink and a biscuit (or three) before getting back to his revision. At the end of his revision session, he would end with the nightly ritual of returning to his revision plan to chalk up his victories and losses.

I actually read this to Year 11 parents when I did an evening in the Autumn focused on helping parents support their children in the lead up to exams.  I joked that Nathan’s parents must be pretty smug.  However, these attributes of planning, monitoring and evaluating learning are exactly what we want our students to exhibit at the moment.

Furthermore in the guidance report, the attributes Nathan exhibits are related to some of the key strategies for independently learning suggested by one of the fathers of metacognition, Barry Zimmerman.  These are:

  • setting specific short-term goals (for example, Nathan executing his revision plan);
  • adopting powerful strategies for attaining the goals (Nathan’s self-testing using flashcards);
  • monitoring performance for signs of progress (Nathan monitoring his progress by answering past questions);
  • restructuring one’s physical and social context to make it compatible with one’s goals (Nathan changing his bedroom so it was fit for revision and learning);
  • managing time-use efficiently (Nathan giving himself an appropriate break);
  • self-evaluating one’s methods (Nathan checking his revision plan at the end of his session); and
  • attributing causation to results and adapting future methods (Nathan checking his revision plan, ticking, or not, appropriately before adapting his revision plan).

Now, the tricky part at the moment is while this is all sage advice for effective independent learning, what we also know is this must be explicitly taught through careful explanation, modelling and practice with substantial scaffolding at each point.  This is fine when we are seeing our students regularly but more difficult at a distance.

Therefore, here are some suggestions for how we could encourage these behaviours during distance learning:

  • Setting specific short-term goals
    • Communicate with students where the learning is heading over a series of up-coming lessons.  Give them some way-points in advance of what you would like them to know/be able to do at various points.  This way they can judge how it is going, rather simply ploughing through activities.
  • Adopting powerful strategies for attaining the goals
    • Explain why you are starting this distance lesson with a quiz and why is important they check the answers immediately.  Normal routines are not there so they may not see the need for that retrieval practice.
  • Monitoring performance for signs of progress
    • Lots of teachers are using online-quizzes at the moment.  Suggest students keep a tally of their scores and repeat quizzes after a few days to see if they are getting more correct.
  • Restructuring one’s physical and social context to make it compatible with one’s goals
    • A key one here for distance learning.  This may have been attempted with students (probably in a bit of a rush) before we “shut the gates”.  A bit of modelling might be good here.  Our staff have been tweeting their own home office spaces with a consistent hashtag.
  • Managing time-use efficiently
    • Give students some guidance on how long they should spend on different sections of the lesson.  Otherwise you may find (as I have been) that they spend too long on a less challenging section and therefore miss the more challenging and useful parts that come later.  There also are planning implications for us here.  Remember we cannot dictate the pace as we normally do so perhaps we need to reorder that lesson and cut bits out.
  • Self-evaluating one’s methods
    • Some simple questions would be good here to generate a class discussion, things like:
      • What did you find difficult today?
      • What strategy did you use to complete the second task?
      • Why do you think we are learning about this at the moment?
  • Attributing causation to results and adapting future methods
    • Checklists can be really useful here.  Asking our students to monitor where they are with their learning and connect that to the lessons they have been completing.

The idea here is not to give anyone more things to feel guilty about not doing.  As I said, we are all doing our best in trying times.  However, hopefully we can use these evidence-informed practices to help navigate the choppy waters of distance learning.  Good luck all!

By Chris Runeckles

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Creating simple teaching videos with Loom

By Andy Tharby

Loom is a really useful tool that allows teachers to create pre-recorded video content for online and remote learning. It is free, easy to set up and works for Mac, Windows, and Chromebooks. Essentially it works by doing three things simultaneously: it records the screen in real time; it records audio narration; and it films the speaker.

A small, round video recording of the speaker is played in the corner of the screen. The great thing about Loom is that it is remarkably user-friendly and intuitive. I discovered it just over twenty-four hours ago and have already recorded lesson content that my students have accessed through Google Classroom. I was off and running almost immediately: it took me twenty minutes or so to get the hang of it.

Here is a simple tutorial video you may find useful:

Things I’ve learnt about Loom already:

1. It is really easy to use. Trust me on this. I’ve used recorders and podcasting software before and have really struggled. Not this time.

2. It is very time efficient. Set up time is minimal and the video is ready in minutes. You receive a link you can share with others and also an option to download.

3. It feels authentic. There is no need to create seamless, glitch-free videos. Just load up a resource or presentation, switch it on and get going. There are a number of gaffes and clumsy segues in my recordings (scroll to the bottom) but that makes it feel very human – just like real teaching.

4. Go with what you have got. The current predicament means that there is no need to created wonderfully professional ‘dual-coded’ PowerPoints or slideshows. We need to get things out quickly and accept that they will not be flawless.

5. Use it to provide instructions and advice. I have used it twice already to give colleagues advice on how to use Google Forms – I was able to WhatsApp the video to them in a matter of minutes. I can see how it could be also used to give a class live whole-class feedback during a lesson: notice a common misconception, record the video and send the link. All this can be done within five minutes.

6. It can support metacognition. We aim to use it to provide live modelling opportunities to students online. By placing a visualiser next to a laptop, you can live-model by hand and also record your thoughts out loud.

7. Think of the future. The videos that are put together now can be re-used to provide revision and out-of-school opportunities in the future. I am hoping that ours can be used to support students who have missed lessons and to support the families of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Finally, and most crucially, our students are isolated from friends, family and school. A friendly, familiar face is what they need most of all at the moment. Click below for the video on ‘Hawk Roosting’ that I recorded earlier today, glitches, rambling and all.

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Getting started with Google Classroom

The Coronavirus pandemic has made teachers all over the world plan how they will approach distance teaching in the event of school closures.  Whilst many teachers have been using Google Classroom for a number of years as a tool for this, for others this is proving to be a very steep and fast learning curve.  This is where the community of educators on Twitter has shined over the last few days.

Lots of really useful videos, blogs and articles on using Google Classroom for teachers have been shared via twitter.  I thought it would be useful to collate them here:

Other blogs and resources related to distance teaching:

Many thanks to all the generous people who have produced/shared these resources.  They will be invaluable.  If you find any others, please do let me know and I’ll add them.  I’ll add more as and when I find them

Shaun Allison


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