Why high quality teacher professional development?
The difference between a very effective teacher and a poorly performing teacher is large. For example during one year with a very effective maths teacher, pupils gain 40% more in their learning than they would with a poorly performing maths teacher .
The effects of high-quality teaching are especially significant for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds: over a school year, these pupils gain 1.5 years’ worth of learning with very effective teachers, compared with 0.5 years with poorly performing teachers. In other words, for poor pupils the difference between a good teacher and a bad teacher is a whole year’s learning.
Bringing the lowest-performing 10% of teachers in the UK up to the average would greatly boost attainment and lead to a sharp improvement in the UK’s international ranking. All other things equal, in 5 years the UK’s rank amongst OECD countries would improve from 21st in Reading to as high as 7th, and from 22nd in Maths to as high as 12th (0.22 Standard Deviations); over 10 years (the period a child is in the UK school system before the PISA examinations6 ) the UK would improve its position to as high as 3rd in Reading, and as high as 5 th in Maths (0.41 Standard Deviations).
(The Sutton Trust, 2011)
We want all pupils to be successful throughout life. From entering our Nursery to leaving us at the end of year six, in secondary school and beyond. To achieve this, they need to develop a love of learning and an awareness of how to engage in and improve their own learning. We wanted to develop teacher knowledge and skill by developing metacognitive strategies in pupils. The Education Endowment Foundation (2021) report on Metacognition and Self-regulated Learning was our starting point.
The work of Dylan Wiliam and Siobhan Leahy on Teacher Learning Communities provided us with the structure to implement an engaging training model for teaching staff.
In Teacher Learning Communities, staff are given a tight but loose structure with the model to ensure maximum engagement and accountability. Tight so that in each meeting there is a structured agenda (thus reducing teachers’ cognitive overload) and is facilitated by any member of the group. Each participant is paired up with a critical friend who observes a part of a subsequent lesson and gives structured, open feedback about the impact of the chosen technique on pupil outcomes in that lesson. That feedback in itself is then used formatively and fed back into refining the technique in the hope that it will become embedded into daily practice. A new habit is born!
The model is also loose enough that participants have autonomy to select their technique from a range of ideas and practice their new habits flexibly in their classrooms without formal accountability. If a teacher, when no one else is looking, is practising, reflecting and refining their techniques, you know that this teacher is on course to become an evaluative and responsive practitioner.
As teaching staff begin to invest in – and enjoy – the underlying values of autonomy, agency, self and collective efficacy, the professional learning culture deepens and the school becomes a place where talk about pedagogy and impact in the classrooms is the norm.
Teaching staff meet together every half term to discuss the impact of an evidence-based technique in their classrooms. The techniques are selected from a range of research including the Education Endowment Foundation report on metacognition and self-regulated learning, Tom Sherrington’s Teacher Walkthrus and a presentation by Paul Main Structural Learning.
At the end of the year long project, we gathered pupil voice and gave out a staff questionnaire. Both showed a positive impact of the TLC approach, use of research and change in practice. Please see below.
- Education Endowment Foundation (2021) https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/tools/guidance-reports/metacognition-and-self-regulated-learning/
- Paul Main – Structural Learning www.structural-learning.com
- Dylan Wiliam and Siobhan Leahy Teacher Learning Communities
- Tom Sherrington’s Teacher Walkthrus
- Improving the impact of teachers on pupil achievement in the UK – interim findings, September 2011. The Sutton Trust
- TLCs: A vehicle for improving children’s outcomes one habit at a time. Teacher Development Trust 2018