I have to admit that I feel overwhelmed, overwhelmed emotionally at the end of this year. I have been to several meetings, conferences and events recently with groups of keen teachers planning for next year. I admire everyone so much. Teachers are busy revamping their KS2 and KS3 schemes of work, exploring the potential of use of literature and authentic texts and analysing the new GCSE specifications. I thought that as this year draws to a close I would share some thoughts with you all about teacher training and ongoing CPD. The PGCE course finished last Friday and of course there were celebrations, but not before the group surprised me with a secret project they had been preparing for a few weeks (I’ll write about this in a moment). The following day, I was in London at the Goethe Institut working alongside Sabine Junker with a group of teachers who are considering enrolling on the new worldwide Deutsch Lehren Lernen course which starts in London on 12th September. I am particularly keen to help support the small classroom based action research projects which are part of each training module.
At this time of change to teacher training, who and what can support and help the NQTs and other teachers wishing to keep improving their practice? Can I draw your attention to the VEO app? This is a free Video Enhanced Observation tool developed by Jon Haines and Paul Miller at Newcastle University. This approach encourages teachers to work together and reflect on each other’s practice in the classroom, to share good and great things and help each other in an extremely supportive way to identify areas for improvement. When I saw Jon recently and asked him about it he said:
‘I wanted to create a tool which encouraged personal professional development through enabling and enhancing professional dialogue following peer to peer lesson observation.’
It seems a great way to encourage teachers and a way for them to collaborate effectively. It can be used to track performance and development over time. Steve Bambury, the site founder of IPad Educators has this to say about it:
“BEST TEACHER TOOL APP: …my choice here as it is unlike anything else on the App Store and can be a genuine marvel. Being able to record lesson observations and digitally tag core elements and features for review later is simply brilliant and a genuine way to improve your practice.”
Jon’s academic interests also include moving mobile technology from under the desk, encouraging the positive and proactive use of smart phones and tablet computers in the classroom as well as improving the quality of teaching and learning through more effective teacher coaching, mentoring and tuition.
I was astounded by the teaching materials that the trainees had prepared for the presentation to me. They had certainly listened during the discussions that we had had during the year! They have developed so much and I am so proud of them. I was so impressed by the differentiation by task design evident in their planning. I had observed their curious and attentive dispositions and been moved by their research findings from the final assignment. I wish them all the very best as they start their teaching careers in September.
The last session of the course was entitled ‘Meeting the needs of all learners’ and they had certainly thought carefully about the whole spectrum of task difficulty, from easy tasks such as recalling knowledge, to harder tasks such as evaluating an argument. Cognitive learning and appropriate cognitive challenge was at the forefront of their planning. They are all able to see how differentiation can be achieved by careful task design. They had addressed so many things. The starters were really engaging and they had carefully selected appropriate materials. Each group had, for example, planned pre and post listening and reading tasks. We had discussed many times that in order to differentiate successfully there should be a balance of tasks. There are many ways these are described, but let’s have another look at Blooms Taxonomy today and activities that are planned to develop a ‘can do’ attitude amongst learners, but challenge as well. Mixing developmental and mastery tasks ensures that weak students achieve some success, while the able are stretched.
Mastery Tasks are activities that can be mastered by all learners in a short period of time regardless of their prior learning. This allows weaker learners to succeed. Without this success they will probably give up. Developmental tasks are ones that stretch the more able, develop the skills required for academic success, and for the world of work. These tasks develop the skills required for progression to the next educational level. They also create deep learning, that is, real understanding.
As we are spending time preparing for the new school year it is worth reminding ourselves that not everything is changing. Many of the tried and tested methods still work, and will work in KS2 and KS3 and for the new GCSE and A level. The impact of Group Talk for example. Strategies we have in place for developing language learning skills across the key stages are working, but maybe we need to add a few more transcription and translation tasks as we plan for the changes ahead. More soon on developing skills, but think about peer support (not pressure) amongst teachers and using the new VEO app. Encouraging each other is so important, isn’t it?