Monthly Archives: September 2014

Magic Growth Mind Set Moments

The first weeks of term are always busy ones for our adults in school as new classes are met, new schemes of learning and assessment began and Open Evening is planned for. I wrote about the difficult nature of parental/student high school choice last year.

I’ve been out to talk to our feeder primaries last week and over the next few weeks year 5/6 parental requests to visit school on a ‘normal’ day occur every day and it isn’t as easy for me to get into our classrooms, talk to students and teachers and collate all of the learning and teaching ideas that have become part of our collaborative development. Our inset days that I mentioned in previous blogs, introduced the Growth Mind Set ideas that we will begin in year 7 and gave time to read our feedback blog on marking/feedback which colleagues had kindly contributed to in July.

Our first ‘Magic Moments’ blog of the term will focus on-

Growth Mind Set

I explained our Growth Mind Set ideas and shared other great examples from other schools in last week’s blog.

I introduced the concept to parents at our year 7 information evening last night and have begun to drip feed more and more resources and ideas to both staff and students. I think it’s a great idea but that isn’t enough to ensure that GMS has an impact on learning across school. It looks good on paper and the posters are lovely but if it isn’t in the minds of everyone and seen as relevant by all here; I’m wasting my time with it! Of course I monitor any initiative or agreed upon pedagogy and check how it is progressing in lesson observations, book monitoring, lesson study, learning walks etc. but it’s up to me to persuade colleagues and students that this is a worthwhile learning and teaching tactic. When colleagues begin to grasp an idea and then adapt it for use in their own subject areas-I’m eternally grateful and of course begin the process of sharing their ideas. Take a bow Miss Filson, because Jen has taken my original GMS presentation, mixed it in with a bit of DIRT and adapted it to share with her maths faculty and the rest of our staff. Just a little taster below.


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Jen used the slide below to share her approach with the year 7 parents and I then tweeted it out over the weekend to show others how our mathematicians were developing their GM approach. The tweet received a lot of interest and deservedly so-thank you! Zoe, who has set up our maths twitter account, said her phone went crazy with retweets and favourites-it’s good to share and symptomatic of a successful school, faculty and individual growth mind set.


It’s also great [and encouraged] for our staff to trawl social media to find the best ideas possible from colleagues at other schools and Zoe used ideas from

to create her GM classroom display. Thank you to the original author and thank you to Zoe for using this to provide a GM learning environment. I’ll feedback on the impact of the maths aspect of our GM initiative later in the year.

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Our other Jen in RE is renowned for her challenging, creative, imaginative and often totally crazy mind set ideas! You won’t see formulaic teaching in her hippy room and having bought her off with chocolate she has kindly photographed her latest ideas.

Jennie spotted the McDonalds cup idea on a US site and developed it to make a happy meal of work.  Students need to fry up all components of the exam questions written on fries. [Fries with questions on are in the holders and match the exam level] Once they have checked model answers below they can hand in their completed happy meal. There are ‘real’ meals available for the most successful. This is a very brief description which doesn’t do the idea justice and I’ll return to it in greater detail in a later blog. The challenge to be excellent is an absolute constant feature of RE lessons.


Last year Jennie used the concept of butterflies to motivate and engage-it worked-look at the amazing exam results! This year she has adapted our flight path idea into her own ‘waves’ creation whereby the students will track their own progress and interventions. She didn’t want to reveal too much-YET- as the concept begins to develop and the students leave the beach behind for the open sea.

“Coral reef display.  Here students have been challenged to dig deep in the coral reef and like the little mermaid, aim to reach the shore and be ‘part of your world’. For us ‘our world’ is the beach of success on the shore.  In my opinion, unless students unravel the barriers to learning on the coral reef or grass roots level, (i.e. motivational setbacks, lack of confidence etc.) they cannot begin to unpack their exam paper and have the correct mind set. 

Once students reach the shore, they will be further challenged to ‘make waves’ and then reach for aspirational targets as they surf across the progress matrix.  Hopefully if all goes to plan we can really push dreams at this stage and look at the majesty of the ocean and explore the concept that life should be lived on high tide!”


The wave matrix stages

Stage 1- Coral reef- challenging barriers to learning, emotional/social. Using data from summer projects to plot how many waves are required to be a +1 student.

Stage 2- Shore- looking at exam skills and how to develop

Stage 3- Waves, using a mixture of exam and motivational tools to tailor teaching to students individual requirements for success. – Both in  academic terms and in terms of their individual  needs. At this stage they will be directing their intervention.  Do they need; more skills? Support? Encouragement? Accountability? Care? Advice? A bit of fun even and sometimes just a hot drink.

Stage 4- Once making waves across the wave matrix, teacher will assess who is drowning despite support.

Stage 5- Emergency intervention lists will be drawn.  Data analysed.  Mocks set. Progress then measured against English grades and other Humanities subjects.

Stage 6- Waves will then become very individual….. and deep as we look at the majesty of the ocean and inspirational stories of the sea.  We will at this stage encourage students to reach aspirational targets- A/A* and host themed intervention which will awaken all the senses to making waves.  Constant reference to position on Matrix….intervention and revision specific and targeted.

Supportive growth mind set at its best!

Jennie enlisted the aid of Katie Gall to create this GMS poster for Anne’s [progress manager of year 7, RE teacher and huge fan of GMS!] RE classroom [next to the McDonalds fries!] Anne assures me that by spring, the tree will be in full blossom, but with what, we shall have to wait and see!


Adele has created her own musical ‘Wall of Excellence’ to promote musical mastery and challenge and encourage a ‘can do’ mind-set in a subject where students sometimes say they “can’t, it’s too hard.” They might not be able to produce a fanfare at the beginning of year 9 YET but with perseverance and support from each other they will.


To help further with engaging the students with ideas and making any key initiative a ‘routine’ aspect of learning I supply a range of personalised marking/feedback stampers and stickers which may sound a tad ‘cheesy’ but experience shows that they work [along with chocolate and lollies!]

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I’ve included some literacy ones from last year’s ‘push’ and you can see, bearing in mind our key growth mind set, deliberate praise for students who challenge themselves, show resilience, overcome learning obstacles, give and accept FISH feedback and who achieve their BSG targets [explained to parents by Leon Walker] As Sarah Cunliffe, our English subject leader, mentioned at the information evening, time is given in lessons for the students to reflect on their own learning and progress-DIRT-Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time-so that they have the opportunity to consider what ‘excellence’ and subject mastery should look like for them as individuals, how they can achieve this and how they can also support other learners and celebrate their success too. By every means possible, the skills and mind-set we know will make a difference, will become part of learning excellence and developed and rewarded as you can see below from this week’s bulletin. [Wendy Senior’s science class]


Over the weekend I read an excellent post from where he made the point that;

 First, those who use growth mindset as pedagogy fail to dignify the lives and experiences of the students, who often show plenty of grit and perseverance in their home lives, much less their managing to make it through time in school where they’re considered unsuccessful. If anything, it’s actually the students coasting through our classes, schools, and assessments who don’t understand what it is to work through adversity and need to be coached in resilience.

Well worth remembering to add my concerns in our last blog-think hard about how and with whom we introduce these concepts. I deliberately have avoided some of the ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ themes that some GMS posters use. I was also interested to see him finish his post with;

In their groundbreaking book, Professional Learning Communities at Work, Richard DuFour and Robert Eaker say it clearly when pointing out the issue that comes about when change initiatives are considered “a task to complete rather than an ongoing process.” If we really want to improve our schools, our work, and the education of our students, we can do so by adopting a new mindset — for everyone — that would include:

  1. Being humble enough to accept that there are things about ourselves and our practices that can improve
  2. Becoming part of professional teams that value constructive critique instead of criticism
  3. Treating setbacks as formative struggles within the learning process instead of summative failures
  4. Realizing the restrictive role that timelines can play in reaching high standards, and using foundational philosophies such as Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to map systems so that everyone’s growth is supported
  5. Create flexible grouping at all times so that nobody’s trapped in any one course level or particular type of work.

How do you encourage a growth mindset in your school or classroom?

I hope that our blogs, especially the ones on CPD and professional portfolios have explained how we have worked hard on 1-3 and it is really important that we introduce our NQTs to the whole school mind-set from the very start. They are incredibly busy as they begin their new career, so I apologise for asking questions of them BUT colleagues who choose to work here, are aware that our aim is to develop them to be the best teachers that they can be in a collaborative learning environment-self-reflection can be a pain when you have books to mark and lessons to plan but it has to happen!

I like to introduce our new NQTs to our collaborative CPD ‘sharing’ of Magic Moments immediately and asked them to consider these early questions;

We will begin our big sharing of ideas later in the term but just to warm you up-please let me know;

1] Have you tried an idea with your class/classes that you have been really pleased with and think it helped their learning? How do you know?!

If you have a slide or photo of the idea/learning-send it to me so I can share with the rest of the staff. Give me a brief description of your idea, how it worked and how your evidence for its success.

2] What’s the best idea you have heard about at a] school b] social media or other means lately. How do you plan to use it/what do you feel that it will bring to your teaching and student learning?

3] Is there an area of your teaching that you feel is tricky for you and would like to see another colleague teaching? Let me know so I can arrange a drop in informal obs for you.

4] It is a sign of strength [and GMS!] not weakness that you let us know if any classes or students are bothering you and causing you to worry-let your subject mentors or me know a.s.a.p. We can talk, give advice, team-teach, model or pop in to have a look.

Greg Thornton has begun his GMS conversations with his year 7 tutor group every Thursday and he has enjoyed using these clips [I think I found them on ideas tweeted by ]

“My form really responded to this as they took for granted that these famous people were just always successful

I do like to show these ‘People are Awesome’ videos to my form to demonstrate what working hard can achieve.”

Beth, our mathematician, shared her thoughts with me and I was absolutely delighted to be able to see and read her thought process as she tries new ideas, takes risks and learns as she goes. I’m not sure that I was as thoughtful and reflective as this when I began teaching and when the NQTs come into my lessons, I’m going to have be on top form! Beth raises her concerns with ‘challenge’ and ‘peer critique’-these will be met by ‘head-nodding’ by far more experienced teachers and even I don’t have all of the answers BUT I know that by discussing pedagogy, sharing ideas and planning and collaborating together [both internally and externally] we will find what is best for our students and our teaching.


I’m trying to engage with the marking and feedback policy of the Maths department as this was one of my main focuses for this first term.


Example below of how I’ve tried to further the learning of my year 9 students by setting targets and questions in feedback.


DIRT for this class is on Weds afternoon, will send pictures of the responses.


For the more able in the class I have set a further challenge. An open ended task which I feel are so important in maths, in particular to challenge the high ability students. So often in Maths there is often one correct answer. Open ended tasks allow pupils the flexibility to come up with (a number of) imaginative and unique responses, whilst also stretching their mathematical ability.


Example shown below.


I also used an open ended task during a lesson as an extension task, again challenging the more able pupils. This is with a year 10 class who were also on the topic of index laws!


My challenge:


The response:


I have actually just ordered a “Miss K’s Challenge” Stamp. This is for me to use during a lesson to set open-ended activities as extension task. (like the one above) I suppose it’s using myself and my subject knowledge as a tool for differentiation to enrich the learning of more able pupils.


Will send a picture once it has arrived! [it arrived as I was finishing the post, so the picture is below!]


2. One more strategy which I think has worked well is the use of “progress trackers” I have seen examples of these being used in online blogs, and trialled it a few times in my PGCE year.


This time I used it with my year 10 class, who were covering a difficult topic of negative and fractional indices. I asked the pupils to answer the questions right at the start of the lesson. Many of them just put “Don’t know” or guessed at answers (I assured them that this was fine!] They weren’t expected to be able to do them yet and they set aside the trackers and we proceeded with the lesson.


During the last 5 minutes, I asked the pupils to turn back to their trackers and have another go. I’ve shown one response below. The pupils were really pleased that they could now answer the questions, and one pupil commented “Miss this is a well good idea, can we do this again”. This was great to hear! Not what you would expect from a typical year 10 “lad”.

It really helped to build their confidence, and we ended the lesson on a high note.


3. I’m struggling to implement peer-assessment in mathematics rather than the usual “swap your books and mark your partner’s answers” which I don’t see as true peer assessment, it’s peer-marking as all they are doing is ticking and crossing!

I trialled asking my year 7 class to write a question for their partner. This worked well, but I would like to see more strategies for peer assessment in maths.


4. A is still having his moments. I’ve had a chat with Jen and we are both going to have a chat with him tomorrow at lunchtime if needs be.”

Beth sent me her early examples and as the term develops she will be able to see great practice in other areas and discuss FISH, peer verification and decide for herself which of her strategies have the biggest impact and which don’t work! Usually the same tactic which makes you feel like the best teacher in the world with 1 class, dive-bombs with another! Be flexible and be prepared to fail folks!

“Have attached some responses to the questions that I set, and also some responses from those pupils who had to try the open-ended task.

They marked each other’s work. Then each pupil wrote a response on how they now feel with the topic of index laws.”

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“Chatted with Jen about how to input higher quality peer-assessment into maths lessons. I’m trying a peer-assessment task with two classes next week. Will let you know how it goes!”

Beth’s Challenge stamper is now here and in use!

“Two of my year 10 pupils were “coasting” through their work on LCM and HCF. So I set them a harder challenge.

Have attached photos of them “coasting” and then the challenge and their responses.”

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Developing staff mind-set to constantly self-evaluate is crucial to continuing the progress made in learning by both staff and adults. Nationally [and internationally] we do have an issue with retaining some of our brightest young teachers and the loss of any potentially great teachers and leaders of the future needs to be arrested now and ALL schools and school leaders need to carefully consider the best ways of developing and not losing teachers after their initial 2/3 year period. They need to feel valued, supported practically and provided with personalised development plans reflecting their needs as subject specialists and their own perceived areas of ‘marginal gains’ that working on will make them even better teachers. Beth’s ideas have been circulated around the maths faculty [and now everyone!] and will be followed with interest to see where she takes her learning next.


Never give up!

Our year 7 GM photo of the week.

Our next blog will share some more of latest marking/feedback ideas currently being trialled in science.

When the going gets tough….


Recorded in 1985, before half of our teachers were born, Ocean’s hit record used a phrase that most involved in education have probably used, in some form or other, to encourage resilience, thinking in ‘cans and not cant’s and so on. Trying your best and not giving up easily ‘when the going gets tough’ [although some may see it as a sensible option and knowing your limits] has tended to be seen as a desirable characteristic for students to possess and a worthwhile life-skill.

Over the last couple of years in the UK the Growth Mind-Set movement/body of research has begun to increase in popularity amongst school leaders and teachers and we first mentioned GMS a year ago and began to drip-feed ideas to our staff and students. The September inset 2013 gave a brief synopsis of Carol Dweck’s ‘Mindset’ ideas that I’d read and pinched the diagram below from, although I’d actually enjoyed the more sporty ‘Bounce’ by Matthew Syed which pushed purposeful practice to achieve excellence. From the basic left hand side notion of the GMS student, as a pose to the fixed mind set characteristics shown on the right of the diagrams, it’s quite obvious to see why many schools would favour highlighting the GMS characteristics of their students as desirable ones. They seem, on the surface, to be an up-dated version of ‘when the going gets tough’ and the self and peer critique aspects of assessment for learning. The books and research goes deeper and I’ve discussed in other blogs aspects of the validity of using praise as feedback and there is a constant stream of evidence that Professor Dweck is able to use to demonstrate the success of her theory and the numbers attending her inset seems to have grown tenfold. I’m not an educational research expert and aren’t able to comment on the validity of the research. There are dissenting voices and my health warning to our staff is to consider carefully the power of some of the phrase associated with GMS and to be sensitive in how they are used with individual students. This isn’t a different approach than we would expect for all teaching strategies-our young people are complicated individuals and we need to know their personal situations-expecting someone to accept criticism, to be happy for others and so on; isn’t always possible for them [or us!] BUT at this particular time in our school’s life, much of what is good and positive about developing a growth mind-set, should be helpful, relevant and supportive in helping our students [and adults] become stronger and better learners.

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I began to share GMS ideas throughout the autumn term of 2013 and linked it with ‘marginal gains’, the tactic made very public by the Olympic cycling team’s concentration on improving small aspects of their performance, based on data, to help them to make big improvements [and win gold!] Some teachers really went for the idea and planned great marginal gains wheels and when I interviewed the students in their learning walks, they were incredibly positive about, and could give examples, of the impact that using the marginal gains approach had had on difficult bits of their learning.

I’ve explained some of our development of learning skills in a previous blog

They weren’t as clear on some of the aspects of growth mind set, although a whole school survey and some staff pushing the ideas meant that most I interviewed had some idea and as this was a seed sowing year; that was fine and pleasing. Some other schools/teachers were generously beginning to share their ideas via twitter and blogs and we joined the ‘Excellence in Schools Growth Network’ so we could be part of this exciting collaborative venture with like-minded colleagues. I have listed some of the great ideas I’ve shared with our staff below-there are so many and so many people willing to share ideas and work that will have taken ages to plan-thank you and apologies to all the brilliant ideas I will have missed! Great practical ideas from Lorraine –check it out! Chis Hildrew-lots of great ideas and a must read for all schools who are interested in GMS. All of Chris’s blogs are worth reading-very practical, great links and always generous of spirit. Peter Jones-corridor of excellence-creative ideas par excellence and many schools, I would imagine, are copying Pete and Shaun’s corridors of excellence and GMS displays and welcome. Shaun Alison. 3 blogs full of ideas to support any school wanting to see a whole school approach towards GMS superbly delivered and as with the other blogs; a captivating read. another must read and another school who feel that GMS should permeate everything they do-should we change our school vision and motto to reflect our current ethos? what is a mind-set classroom? From Matt Bromley is a really useful read for teachers wondering how they can introduce GMS practically into their everyday teaching. A great accompanying visual image of Matt’s thinking below.


Using a tactic I had used before when introducing our school competencies [6Cs], I decided to push GMS with our new year 7’s, introducing the idea to our parents via the school bulletin, our September information evening and this blog. Each year 7 learning tutor has a set of discussion resources aimed at each of the GMS areas that they can use in form time.

Expect Excellence

Thrive on Feedback

Be resilient and overcome obstacles

I need to work hard and practice hard to succeed

Be inspired by the success of others

Support and encourage each other


We will begin with Expect Excellence a.s.a.p.

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Each GMS characteristic will be supported by many other resources and assemblies and we have a set of posters around school that complement the tutor discussion. These are the ones that accompany the Expect Excellence strand. [There are 60 plus!]

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We used our own year 7 [year 8 now] students to put with quotes I had gathered [or made up!] rather than using celebrities/famous people-we do use clips and quotes from them too-I just thought that this would make more of an impact. Of course, as year 7 develop their thoughts, it will be their faces and their own GMS thoughts that will be on the posters and displays so that they have ownership of the initiative.

Each week I have asked that learning tutors and subject teachers ask their students to think about their GMS learning that week.


There are plenty of other similar ideas and I liked Chris Hildrew’s flow chart.


Another of my favourites, for assembly or form is Carol Webb’s GMS movie to the tune of ‘Kung Fu Fighting’!

I also like Pete Jackson’s planner Lots for us to think about and borrow.


GMS ideas will still be used with the older students this year and forms part of our ‘Great Learner’ skills which support the retention and development of subject specific knowledge and skills. They mirror our bronze, silver and gold assessment and individual student target focus. You can spot the GMS strands in the overall scheme [page 1 below] and these are broken down for classroom discussion into separate strands which can be discussed when appropriate with the students. I’ve included a few examples of the feedback and supporting others elements.

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There will be a whole series of stickers, stampers, certificates and awards to engage and motivate the students and as I’ve emphasised in so many posts, it is absolutely vital that the adults in the school also adopt GMS characteristics and that SLT are the leading protagonists and modellers of GMS behaviour! When the original ‘tough got going’ it was far more of an individual response than the collaborative approach that GMS asks of both students and adults. The rigorous and critical self-evaluation and honest professional peer critique expected in our lesson study, development of IRIS cameras to observe our own lessons and the support that colleagues give to each other so that all are successful [as we are asking our students to model] changes the lyrics slightly-“When the learning going gets tough-all of Meols Cop get going and learn together” Doesn’t quite flow the same but you know what I mean!

Our professional portfolio formalises the rhetoric and makes the GMS model a required set of attributes for teaching staff here. In the wider world of schools and education, at this weekend’s ResearchEd event in London, leading researchers and school leaders/teachers met to discuss the role of research in schools. I’ve explained before that it’s an area that our school must become involved in-we absolutely need to know which learning strategies have a proven track record of success to help us support our students in the best way possible, we need to learn from the very best and find out what they are doing successfully and as senior leaders, we have to equip our staff with the knowledge to use research themselves to support their professional development. This can be frightening for students, staff and leaders! Looking honestly at your own practice, accepting criticism, having to be critical of colleagues and so on-scary! Leaders have to make it happen though and if you have time to skim through the 2 weekend presentations below, you will see the same GMS traits that I’ve discussed throughout this blog-could be another inset session activity! David Weston [TDA/NTEN] How do you develop the world’s best teachers? Philippa Cordingley [CUREE] What makes exceptional schools exceptional?

Who wouldn’t want their school to be exceptional and have the world’s best teachers working there/teaching their children? Engaging all at Meols Cop with the ‘Growth Mind-Set’ model is, I believe, another huge step in the right learning direction for our school.


It’s a risky business!

“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” — Pablo Picasso

The new term has officially began and the lovely sunshine outside tells you that the summer holidays are over! Before the students returned, the teaching staff have had 2 days of inset as they prepared for the year ahead, and if you are a parent reading our blog; I did promise to share our professional development ideas and activities last term, so that everybody could see how we use our inset days when your children aren’t in school. In our summer blog, I outlined some of the changes Ofsted have made to the inspection process.

Although we aren’t expecting a whole school inspection for a few years, we do support other schools who have to receive HMI visits to monitor their progress, so we spent 10 minutes or so outlining some of the key changes and staff had plenty of time to read the latest Ofsted news. We do discuss and listen to other information on the first day of inset-quick comments on our examination results, latest pastoral up-dates-usually on the special needs of many of our students and we all have to attend safe-guarding training and learn how to use adrenalin pens/respond should any of our students suffer an allergic reaction. From a learning and teaching perspective, I outlined the main internal development issues for 2014/15 as briefly as possible and then gave colleagues all of the morning to read the summer blogs and to consider their own professional development needs-time is like gold-dust! I revisited a slide, I’d designed in July that seemed to sum up where we are as a staff in terms of our collaborative approach towards teaching.



Half of our staff have now been involved in lesson study via the NTEN group of schools [lots of our LS ideas shared in many blogs but these are our latest ones]-

This has given colleagues chance to plan together and learn together, however sometimes ‘risk taking’ and ‘collaboration’ can be something of a sound bite that schools use because they think that they should be encouraging their staff to take risks in their classrooms and not to teach to an imposed structure, to evaluate the impact of their own performance and adapt based on their experience and to use the expertise of other colleagues to support the planning and offer constructive feedback. [I’m never quite sure where all the risk stuff came from and if there is any sound basis to it!] Sounds great doesn’t it but my fear is that in a profession who have been restricted by external pressures and dictat, many [and especially our young and potentially great teachers of the future] have known no different way than to teach to what would be have previously been expected in a graded lesson observation. Take a risk? What does it actually mean-somersault off the teacher’s desk? Having the confidence to try out new ideas and possibly fail isn’t an easy proposition, unless you teach in a school that encourages developmental observations, informal observations and support, shares ideas across the school etc.-there are a growing number of schools over the last couple of years who have shared their ideas in blogs, educational publications, conferences and teachmeets who have taken the restraints of their teachers and hopefully others will follow should Ofsted inspect and develop as it seems to promise. Political intervention may, yet again foil this BUT for the time being, many of us feel positive about the change of atmosphere.

We have built time to discuss lesson study in our directed time meetings so that by next summer all of our staff will have had the opportunity to participate and to have time to plan and feedback. We do have an appraisal observation as well which is also a peer observation, non-graded and allows us to consider some of the key issues I’ve just raised. There is no point talking about risk taking unless you actively encourage it and provide time to plan, think and ask for help if necessary.

Action points from the last observation Relevant appraisal learning and teaching objectives Which ‘great’ subject specific criteria have you planned to model?


Context of lesson [Where does the lesson fit into you scheme of learning? What have the students learnt previously? What will they learn next?] 

Is there an area of their learning/your teaching that you have found to be challenging!? [We can observe, help and offer specific feedback/advice]


Getting your skates on! Which is the biggest anticipated risk/chance of failure you have planned to take in the lesson? How can we help?


Learning episodes Observer feedback comments to support development.How did each chosen strategy impact on learning? Anything you spotted for future devpt advice? Teacher view-did your teaching of each priority meet your predicted outcome and impact on student learning? Did you have to change tactics? 


For the observer

3 bits of great teaching that inspired and that you are definitely going to use tomorrow! Your favourite piece of student learning-best penny dropping moment-what and with whom! What did you learn most as a teacher from today’s observation?


For the observed!

What would you like to develop next with either subject or general pedagogy? How can we [or others] help? How did today help your appraisal targets? Where next with this particular target?


99% of lessons aren’t observed, of course, but the expectations and the tone set by the formal lesson observation process does tell a great deal about how a school views teaching and the development of it. Even though I may harp on about the stupidity of measuring 1 off lesson observations, have developed an extensive professional portfolio to help self-evaluation of many different aspects of teaching-a lesson observation is still a huge deal professionally and emotionally to any teacher-FACT! Colleagues have always had a choice of which class they are observed with, we haven’t graded lessons for 18 months, our feedback and discussion afterwards is concerned with the learning observed and there is an emphasis on professional honesty in the feedback advice. If the lesson doesn’t go to plan, as lessons often don’t, and the teacher is worried about it; they simply have another go. This has always been the case, even when we graded lessons. We have a vast array of data and information about everyone’s teaching-if there was a concern, support would be provided and in place and not be reliant on a lesson observation. The structure is there to encourage and support individual choice and responsibility to develop areas of teaching that colleagues feel they need to. The observers, coaches and NTEN partners may think that the teacher actually has the area they are concerned about ‘sorted’ or spot another area to work on-that’s fine and shows the benefit of talking to each other about what matters most!

In the extract from our lesson plan, you can see that in addition to the usual last observation/appraisal recall we ask that colleagues choose their own subject specific criteria, chosen by the different faculties, to model in the lesson and then let us [the observer[s] know which aspects of the lesson and prior teaching of the class they have found difficult or may want to try out with our support. This type of lesson observation provides the best time, with extra teachers in the room, to try something ‘risky’ and different. The reality is that there is no risk and that colleagues are simply trying to react to the needs of their students, based on their experience and are open to adapting their teaching methods to make the biggest learning progress over time for their classes. I don’t have an issue with calling this process ‘research’-working on an area that you want to improve in your own teaching, measuring the progress from start to finish, finding ideas internally or externally to trial, using the support of others and so on. It is important, however, that we become better at this process both in terms of the methodology and the actual proven utility of the pedagogy involved.

With this in mind we have joined in an educational research project led by Huntington School on behalf of the Educational Endowment Foundation and with the support of Durham University-RISE-Research leads Improving Student’s Education! Leon will lead the project based on English and maths in school and we will continue to be part of growing school collaboration networks-NTEN, National Teacher Enquiry Network, the Leading Edge group of good/outstanding schools, the SSAT and the Excellence and Growth School’s Network. We need to see and hear about the very best ideas, we need to be aware of what the latest educational research is advising and we need to encourage our staff to try to find some time to join in twitter, read blogs and educational books, attend teachmeets etc. in addition to planning, marking and teaching brilliantly! This really is a vocational profession! Of course, we don’t jump blindly on to bandwagons and are discerning in our choice of innovative practice and try not to overburden BUT it isn’t a real choice if we aren’t aware of what is out there.

Marking and feedback

In July I collated a huge set of marking and feedback examples from different teachers and subjects in our own school so that I could share ideas amongst our own staff and show new teachers what was expected.

A quick summary of our expected approach is shown here in our student advice.


The blog also contained some great ideas from other schools and consultants so that we can learn from the very best. We do focus on helping our students to critically assess and evaluate their own learning and that of their peers BUT we do prefer if their feedback is verified by 1 or more other student, provides easy to understand examples and is friendly, informative, subject specific and honest.


Lots of our blogs provide great examples of how teachers have structured peer critique providing student friendly criteria, reflection time and key words which must be used. As part of her CPD response, Katrina sent me this example on Tuesday showing how she is helping her KS3 lower ability drama students to assess and provide subject specific feedback.



Without the guidelines and shared ideas to support each other, marking and providing feedback including self and peer critique, can be a very risky business. It is a vital aspect of learning and teaching though and hopefully we will continue to develop ideas over the next year.


Our final ‘risky business’ for the day was to consider the professional development needs of individual teachers. As with the use of the word ‘risk’ as a desirable element of teaching, the risk being advocated by some currently in terms of professional development is to allow teachers to choose their training to match their perceived needs rather than the senior leaders deciding on the content of inset days, directed time etc. and then giving a choice within their imposed structure. There are some interesting current blogs reflecting different approaches and philosophies;

I would imagine that many schools mix SLT led and teacher choice but there are times when schools do need uniform CPD, especially if they have been set targets [by Ofsted or based on internal monitoring] and as I explained in the New Dawn blog, not all teachers feel confident enough or want to evaluate their own performance and then decide which CPD would be best for them. Of course it is down to SLT to nurture a culture where staff do feel confident enough to say what they need and feel that they have been listened to-it’s easy to give out a form asking what colleagues would like-not so easy to deliver their dream CPD! 10 years ago, CPD here was very much SLT led based on the direction we had decided the school needed to go in and the skills we wanted staff to possess to support the type of learning we believed was best for our students. No apologies for this and yes I did stand at the front and present singing and dancing inset before enforcing group discussion and sharing! At the same time, colleagues were invited to present their ideas to others and this gradually escalated to learning hubs, market places and the sharing you see in our last year of blogs. Sometimes the content delivered by volunteers was based on an area that I thought we should look at e.g. AFL, SOLO, coaching etc. but at others staff have chosen their own ideas-I wouldn’t imagine that I would have any say this year! SLT don’t attend our hubs in any case-staff are trusted to learn on their own! Interestingly at our lesson study market place, I did place Alison in one of our ‘customer’ groups so she could observe and recognise the great work that had been happening-this frightened to death a couple of the younger ‘traders’ when she appeared!

I have always given colleagues a summary of what everyone has asked for but this year have shared actual names and requests so that colleagues can seek out people with a similar need or who may have been developing an area of teaching that they are interested in. Below are a couple of examples from my inset day chat. The left hand side, as you look at it, are the areas that they feel they have been developing and the right hand side show the aspirational areas they would like to develop this year. This is based on evidence I gathered over summer from their professional portfolios. Idea explained here

The four ladies are in our 2-5 year developing teaching cohort and the portfolio and CPD needs sections are slightly different based on teaching experience-NQTs, 2-5 years, non-leadership, subject leaders and progress managers.



I re-checked individual needs and requests on inset day giving time to read the blogs, talk to each other and change minds if necessary after a summer of reflection. A few middle leader feedback examples are here. Two of my colleague are quite new to their post.

Your initial CPD thoughts-please complete electronically and share back with me so I can plan personalised CPD as much as possible. Thanks

Which areas of your teaching/student learning would you like to focus on this year?

I want to focus on developing written feedback in exercise books in terms of: showing progress over time, developing DIRT feedback and instilling a growth mindset.

Why have you chosen these areas-data, new initiative, faculty focus, school priority etc.

I recognise a development need in myself in terms of time management and prioritising I have not always been happy with the consistency of my written feedback in the past and I feel that by making it a CPD focus I will feel a greater imperative to channel my energies in that direction.

We have a new departmental marking scheme and I am keen to do my best to implement that and evaluate how useful it is both in terms of the progress of students and the efficacy for staff.

Additionally there is an increasing national focus on the sustained evaluation of progress which is to be evaluated through books at inspection.

Any ideas yet about what you might do, what you need-who can you talk to for advice or support?

I have had discussion with my subject leader and she has agreed to support me in this direction with regular sessions for monitoring my progress.

At department level I have collaborated with my peers to agree a new marking policy which is to be implemented across the subject and, if successful, shared with other departments.

DJ has identified and made available many resources available in house and further afield to help to refine the process as I reflect on how well it is going.

How and when will you measure the impact of your CPD on learning?

The focus of this CPD should, by its nature, demonstrate an impact on learning in terms of student comments and responses to DIRT initiative. This will also be monitored by the Subject Leader and shared with the department at moderation sessions.

 I also intend to get student feedback with regards to their interaction with the process, I will do this at intervals throughout the year and I will be looking for a developing vocabulary which indicates a growth mind-set in relation to their engagement with the process.

Are you planning to collaborate to help your planning, delivery and evaluation? How and with whom?

Planning has been undertaken in collaboration with Subject Leader and peers in terms of developing a marking policy for the department.

Usage of DIRT tools will be informed by reviewing examples from other colleagues and those brought together by DJ in order to determine the most appropriate tool for delivery.

Evaluation will take place through Subject Leader monitoring and departmental moderation meetings with peers in addition to analysis of data from students.

What do you predict and hope that will happen to 1] student learning 2] your own development – your learning!

1)      I hope that students will learn to assess and evaluate their work, be able to use that to make progress and begin to understand and value that process. I hope that their terms of reference over the year will develop from talking about the mechanics of the process to understanding the philosophy of the approach and how it can impact on their lives in other areas.

2)      I hope to develop better time management strategies in order to be more effective as a teacher. I also hope to implement a system that encourages the students to take increasingly more responsibility for their own feedback and evaluation from which I will learn to have a more measured approach and gain confidence in transferring that area of responsibility. I hope also, through departmental moderation meetings, to develop closer links with my peers and with the subject specific side of my role.

How will you share your strategies with others?

Departmental moderation meetings.

SLT referrals for outstanding student performance.

CPD summary of findings for dissemination across school particularly in relation to growth mindset.


Which areas of your teaching/student learning would you like to focus on this year?

Use higher order thinking questions as a form of assessment. Ensure that DIRT time is embedded effectively in lessons. Pupils to be more confident with peer-assessment comments and offer constructive advice. Get into the habit of drafting – self-assessing- peer-assessment-final copy. Provide resources/ideas to help the dept increase the English Literature GCSE results from 69%.

Why have you chosen these areas-data, new initiative, faculty focus, school priority etc.

New departmental marking, feedback and assessment policy that was agreed by the department. The English Literature GCSE results are currently 69%.

Any ideas yet about what you might do, what you need-who can you talk to for advice or support?

This year, Year 10 will take the GCSE exam so hopefully by splitting the different skills over two years pupil confidence will increase and so will exam results. We hope to make better use of departmental time – moderation and sharing ideas/resources to develop our teaching and create a bank of model answers. Read DJs blogs/notes regarding relevant changes/ideas.

How and when will you measure the impact of your CPD on learning?

Book monitoring should show progression and development of DIRT time and the effectiveness of the new departmental feedback and marking policy; it should also show the development of peer-assessment. The GCSE Literature results in summer 2015 will show how effective it was for pupils to take the Lit exam in Yr 10.

Are you planning to collaborate to help your planning, delivery and evaluation? How and with whom?

I have liaised with the dept to create LTP and MTP. We will use dept time, lesson obs and learning walks to share ideas and discuss the effectiveness of the new SOL and policies. Regularly liaise with LW and HJ.

What do you predict and hope that will happen to 1] student learning 2] your own development-your learning!

1)      Students develop confidence and get into the habit of re-drafting to submit a best and final piece. Students become effective at critiquing peer’s work and effectively acting on their advice. Students will be confident in their knowledge of texts for the Lit exam.

2)      I will use advice from the dept to alter SOL and MTP if necessary. I hope to become more inclusive as a leader and discuss ways forward more effectively with the dept.

How will you share your strategies with others?

During lesson observation feedback and through departmental discussions.


Which areas of your teaching/student learning would you like to focus on this year?

As a department we’re looking into problem solving skills so in line with this I would like to develop resilience for learning with students, maybe the SOLO taxonomy structure. Develop further growth mind-set steps to build students confidence and skills in the subject. I’d like to raise the profile of the subject across the school and look into ways media can help with this.

Why have you chosen these areas-data, new initiative, faculty focus, school priority etc.

Changes to Ofsted Mathematics talk

Any ideas yet about what you might do, what you need-who can you talk to for advice or support?

I’d like attend/run a hub on a structure to learning that is research based. I enjoyed NTEN and would want to start a study into working closely with the English department to align our work.

How and when will you measure the impact of your CPD on learning?

Results over the years! I need to see an increase in students engaged in the subject, maybe who would take this on further after school.

Are you planning to collaborate to help your planning, delivery and evaluation? How and with whom?

We as a department need to push for the outstanding curriculum that meets the needs of our students, the plan is that we ALL contribute together

What do you predict and hope that will happen to 1] student learning 2] your own development-your learning!

The impact for students will be the ability to handle the new changes to the curriculum. My own development will be preparation for an outstanding department and knowing the steps to take to get there.

How will you share your strategies with others?

Working closely with the English department is my main focus – a hub to bring our two departments together!

I can use the information from all members of the teaching staff [other staff to follow later] to support individual needs [some took me by surprise-even more worthwhile!] and to organise training/resources if common themes occurred E.G. DIRT, leadership for new leaders/2nds etc. Both this information and the professional portfolio supports the appraisal system but of more importance, I hope that it really does give colleagues a chance to take ownership of their own development and career progression. The only risk taken is can I deliver, with the support of all of the ‘leaders’ in the school, what is asked for and can we as a collaborative team, also encourage each other to look beyond these fast responses on a piece of paper. Often people don’t see their own potential and their own qualities-it is the responsibility of all of us to ask and raise “have you ever thought about….you would be brilliant at…….” Is this ‘teacher led CPD’ and ‘bottom up inset’? Is it based on individual professional needs and are we giving time and access to the best possible internal/external pedagogy and research? It’s a start, a beginning to so many conversations and the right one to fit our school context.

Our next blog will look at our development of another current favourite-Growth Mind-Set-in readiness for our year 7 parent’s information evening in a couple of weeks. If you are new to our blog I hope that you have enjoyed it and will come back for more! Comments are welcome, visits to talk to me are even more welcome and whoever you are and wherever you are; have a wonderful school year for 2014/2015.