Monthly Archives: November 2014

Autumnal Hues

For most teachers, the autumn term leading to the short days and worsening weather of winter, is hard work and the aspirations and hopes of the beginning of term, are a distant memory. The complexities and challenges of school life act out as we relentlessly cajole and nudge the mind-sets of the students towards hard work and learning progress [the same thing?] and school leaders embark on observations, book monitoring and general accountability analysis and evaluation. Our students need to be learning well, our teachers teaching well, our support staff supporting well and our leaders leading well-simples! Older teachers and staff may think that the pressure is far greater these days and the pace non-stop and unforgiving. Younger colleagues know no difference but for both workload, well-being and work-life balance are crucial and we are constantly trying to ensure that we get them right with planning, marking, collaborative support and much more being discussed to ensure that we look after our staff so that everyone is in the healthiest body and mind possible to support student learning and each other. With 100 staff, this isn’t easy and each and every one of us has a commitment to our school and students and to each other too. It’s an aspect of leadership that has always interested me [out of school too in my sporting interests]-how do we get the most out colleagues? Motivating and engaging other adults, sharing a vision and getting them to ‘buy in’, sometimes having to have difficult conversations, always trying to minimalize necessary workload without causing inefficiency, the constant pressure of being a ‘role model’!-hard work being a leader of any pay-scale BUT autumnal hues within school bring so much colour and different characteristics when you seek out the wonderfully positive aspects that leap out of the classrooms!

Observations began last week and for the first time ever we have just over half of our teaching staff involved in a lesson study project of their choice with the others ‘enjoying’ a line-manager developmental observation. I missed the first one due to it clashing with one of my lessons but Jen wandered down the corridor to call in on Janette and I enjoyed reading the feedback. Just 1 section below and then the final observer comments.


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

Students are challenge above and beyond.



Students were presented with common GCSE Pythagoras questions that increased in difficulty. It is clear that from your previous lessons students have understood the necessary processes for this task. This task met your objective in preparing students to practice GCSE questions and develop the ability to attain full marks for these questions. Not one student (from what I could see) just wrote the answer, following the mark scheme exactly. ALL students in the class worked well and were eager to get started. 

I spoke to a number of students on what they enjoyed in your lessons and this was followed by the answers ‘Miss explains things really well and if we’re stuck we look at other examples to help understand’.


It was evident during this lesson you’ve built a classroom that builds confidence in students and tackles student resilience for challenging tasks.


This is a great task that could be adapted to build maths oracy skills? 

You explained your next steps for pushing students further and looking at Pythagoras in 3D which is great to push the class to beat their targets and work on a grade B task.


You discussed how A surprised you during this task and how well she handled the work.



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?
  • Great use of mark schemes!
  • Peer assessment comments from the girls and leaving this task open for students to identify issues.




  • B ‘1.2² = 2.4’ Your interaction between B and then the class was excellent. Relaxed learning atmosphere addressing misconceptions.
  • C (so a telly that is 52” is across the hypotenuse …’oh!!!’
  • D discussing how to handle Pythagoras on a coordinate grid.
Loved E’s response to ‘what do you like about Miss Ashton’s teaching? His response ‘Her personality!’ Loved this.


I wasn’t going to let our NQTs join in lesson study as yet because they have enough to be planning and thinking about in the hectic first year of teaching. They joined in regardless and hopefully will see how useful the method is in helping them [and all teachers] to collaboratively plan, reflect together, trial, consider impact and adapt-great teaching qualities! Last year much of the lesson study CPD was aimed towards our lowest ability learners-this time, early plans show that the emphasis has changed with colleagues wishing to consider enquiry questions to support high attainers. Beth and Greg paired up; to assess strategies to further engage higher ability learners in the classroom through the use of the ‘Lead Learner’ role.


They chose 6 students currently showing great ability in maths and history and gave them the opportunity to become ‘Lead Learners’. 3 of the students were chosen to observe and one was one of our asperger’s students to add an extra dimension to the study. Greg gave out his instructions to his leaders at the beginning of his lesson on ‘Who Should Be King [1065-6]’ and the leaders were primed to lead group discussions and conclude with a speech.


02 03 04

Beth and I observed and it quickly became apparent that Greg’s predictions weren’t going as expected. A did take the role very seriously and often stood up to assume control, pointing at group members in turn to elicit responses. They weren’t quite as dominating as Greg thought [although they were in the maths lesson!] whilst B tended to sit back and let their group get on with it rather than delegate. C was a revelation and I’d sign them up now as a potential teacher here! They delegated, supported, checked understanding-you name it-they did it! My overall feedback follows.

I predict that A will dominate the conversation here and rather than pulling ideas together, they will merely use his own

I predict that B will really lead their team and ask for their input before making a decision

I predict that C will discuss with other pupils but may struggle on making a decision without support from their peers.

I predict A will be confident in delegating out roles but may struggle in offering support as they will ‘tell’ pupils what is right.

I think that B will give out roles and will allow pupils the chance to collaborate whilst ensuring they complete their work.

I predict that C will allow pupils to complete the work themselves, and then ask to contribute at the end


We discussed my advice afterwards and the main things about the lesson were to;

Teach as normal with the knowledge [kingship connect to prior Roman learning]/questioning aspects-don’t miss any learning opportunities in a haste to cut to the lesson study part.

You might wish to brief the leaders before-think Beth is doing-interesting to ask the kids if this helps them more or not.

Seek group-work ground rules before you begin your first group-work-their ideas-then add a couple and roll them out every time you do group-work. Division of tasks/group roles impt

Similarly, whole class discussion of skills a good group-work leader should possess [all will have a go over the year] may help too

Swop their groups next time-focus the questionnaire on how much their experience today helped them in Beth’s lesson, did being briefed before the lesson help or not, did the group dynamics [change of group members] change their leadership style and so on

Hope this helps

I was interested to see if B had found their group too domineering, whether C could lead any group in the same fashion and how A would cope with a less subservient group. What did the student leaders think?

Post Lesson Questionnaire

What did you learn in the lesson?
What did you think of your role as Lead Learner? Did you enjoy it?
What worked in your role as Lead Learner?
What didn’t work in your role as Lead Learner?
Did this role provide a challenge for you?
Would like you to take this role again?
What would you change about the role of Lead Learner?


Beth ‘flipped’ her learning with the 6 lead learners giving them information to take home and prepare to teach to their groups. She began by checking they had ‘got it’ before giving them a task card to help them. [Very bravely filming herself using the IRIS cameras!]

Starter:Whilst other pupils are completing their 5 a-day, I will speak to lead learners. I will check their knowledge of algebraic fractions (They have asked to complete some reading of this topic prior to the lesson) They will be presented with a task card, and told that they can teach the other members of their group in whatever way they choose.

Lead learners will return to their seats and we will discuss 5 a-day as a class.

B: Will be quietly confident in their knowledge of how to simplify algebraic fractions. 

A: Will be very confident in their knowledge of how to simplify algebraic fractions. May feel nervous about teaching other pupils, and could ask what they can use to teach other pupils.


C: Will be confident in their knowledge of algebraic fractions. Will appear keen to teach the other members of her group.

ActivityLead learners to use their task cards as prompts to teach the other pupils in their group firstly what an algebraic fraction is, and how to simplify algebraic fractions.

They are provided with some examples to discuss.



B: Will give a quick explanation of an algebraic fraction. Will show examples on the task card and will tell other pupils in their group how to do each one. 

A: Will be very vocal and articulate in their explanation of an algebraic fractions, will give examples of algebraic fractions. They will show examples of fractions that can be simplified and tell pupils how to do each one with an explanation of why.


C: Will give a good explanation of an algebraic fraction. Will then talk through examples given. Explaining how to simplify each one and asking for input from other group members.


The card was a great idea and helped the leaders in different ways. B passed it round and again took a back seat whilst the other 2 followed the routine. This time A, obviously in a subject where they felt very confident, did get a little impatient if their group didn’t understand quickly and kept the hard question cards for themselves, despite a couple of group members offering to have a go at them. C again led magnificently and democratically!

The group taught was 7 set 1 so I expect to see some high flying history and maths. Beth was telling me that there are a few level 6 primary mathematicians in the group-the NTEN study may provide some of the stimulus for ideas to push them towards platinum assessment skills and regardless of the lesson study element, I observed great maths discussion and thinking throughout. I always like ‘Beat the Teacher’ that the maths teachers play-showing sums the teacher has completed and the students check them to see if there are mistakes.



Beth and Greg will meet to feedback to each other and plan their next lessons together. It was great for me to see 2 new to the profession teachers thinking about their practice and learning from what was happening. I’ve observed both of them in an ‘ordinary’ lesson but the lesson study format gives far more depth to their learning of a new craft and to the feedback conversations. I’m pleased that they chose the development of able students in lessons-the days of giving students a couple of extra questions when they have finished, is long gone and I’m interested to see where their ideas take them. The big questions around this type of trial usually include; does using the students  as ‘teachers’ prove to be more effective than teacher only led lessons, would the teacher using whole class instruction prove more effective than groups of flipped learning and so on. I suggested that Beth might try a flipped learning exercise with all of the class for homework and then try it in the conventional way of setting tasks that rely on utilising the newly acquired knowledge-students finding it difficult can be supported by Miss-those moving on quickly can have extension tasks.

I also suggested further questionnaires aimed at the whole class and their perceptions of what student leadership should look like in practice and suggestions as to how they would like it to be used in future-when would it be most appropriate to learn in this way. I do wonder whether B’s might appeal more than our preferred leadership style of C! Both teachers can now see that should they decide to use group-work/student leadership; there are so many teaching skills involved in supporting the processes-they are student skills which need careful teaching to make the most of them.

Alex had a very different class to Beth and Greg’s when Jen and I observed her teaching decimals to a very low ability year 10 class. A couple of years ago when teachers planned lessons they use to have a space for planning activities for gifted and talented students-these were usually only completed then they had the highest sets-it was a way of keeping Ofsted happy in the main part! I expect to see challenging activities and the opportunity to lead/support others in classes of all abilities and was delighted that Alex had planned for her leading mathematicians to be active in helping their table and Alex told me that the students love being able to do this. I was surprised at how difficult many of the class found some of the concepts and Miss used real life examples such as her own car’s dashboard and measuring each other to find out the class height chart.


Using an idea Clair brought back from a meeting she finished the lesson by giving each student a card with a question on it-you can see the instructions below. This was really interesting [I know I’ve knocked the T off different!] to watch them trying not to cheat! This is an activity that can easily be adapted for any subject. The students began to write out their own similar questions to be placed in Miss’s Pot Luck bag for the start of the next lesson.



It’s the first time I’ve seen the new G.C.S.E grade criteria appear on learning objectives and Clair, as usual, pushed the students hard with some challenging questions on ‘real life’ maths and an excellent rally coach which took some time for them to master. Our post-lesson feedback discussion focused on marking in general and this went to all teaching staff for internal discussion-this is just a very brief picture of the lesson for once!


09 10 11

Josie worked on her KS4 classes in art in last year’s lesson study. This time Katy and I observed Miss teaching textiles to year 10. Josie had focused on sewing machine skills, as she explained on her lesson plan.

Is there an area of their learning/your teaching that you have found to be challenging?
I have found this class lack a basic understanding of sewing techniques, which has meant that I have needed to spend the first part of the G.C.S.E. course covering the basics of sewing and design.


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?
The anticipated risk for this lesson, is the use of sewing machines. Having worked with this class for several weeks, it is clear confidence on sewing machines is low and needs to be improved before starting the controlled assessment.


I observed Rachael in summer use a you tube video she had made herself to talk the students through an art skill and Josie had photographed herself modelling the sewing techniques the girls needed. This was on the IWB and on paper for them to follow and check.

12 13

This worked really well, although I’m not an expert on sewing techniques! Josie finished her lesson with a nice Progress Pyramid to allow reflection on the skill progression.



I’ll come back to the ‘great teaching’ conversations faculties had [mentioned in previous blog] but just wanted to share a couple of PE Magic Moments they shared with me. I was absolutely delighted to see this photo of their office with each person’s CPD focus for the term clearly shared.



PE and written marking haven’t always sat comfortably with each other! BUT Tom and Sam have worked really hard to encourage the development of WRITTEN marking/feedback strategies to support the theory element of G.C.S.E. PE. I liked Rosie’s dance ingredient revision help and her PEER marking used with her year 11 class.


16 17 18

A simple enough DIRT answer but the key is that the teacher checked that ‘Evidence Successfully Met’ and DIRT was used to support the feedback.

Leon went to the SSAT NW information session in Macclesfield this week and I was surprised to hear that of the 30 plus schools there, only Meols Cop was trying something different in response to ‘assessment without levels’. From trawls of twitter/blogs I keep an up-date across the country and staff have seen regular ideas from Durrington and Chew with their similar [ish] approach and from our friends at St Mary’s in Blackpool who are discussing their move. Most seem to be playing a waiting game and I explained internally why I felt that we should use the opportunity, coinciding with the new NC and changing G.C.S.E to go backwards in terms of thinking about the skills and knowledge we want our students in each subject to possess to gain an ability appropriate mastery-then planning schemes of learning and assessment that fitted our needs. Of course whatever any school comes up with isn’t that different to levels [minus sub levels I would think!] and the proposals for KS1/2 performance indicators have angered many. The discussions that have taken part in every corner of school and our approach of encouraging flexibility and adaptability as we develop our BSG ideas are great aspects of professional development for all of us, especially our leaders! Parents and students have seemingly agreed and liked BSG so far but the progress reports will provide the first ‘customer satisfaction’ check and we may have to re-think. [Hopefully not too much!]Maths have already changed and it’s important that nothing is set in stone and imposed whilst this crucial aspect of learning and teaching is developed in the classroom and then evaluated by all concerned. If it doesn’t work-change it!

My Magic Moment from the twilight inset session on assessment last week was to see RE developing a practical aspect of ‘progress measuring’ on their parental progress reports. I know there is lots of cutting and pasting of G.C.S.E grade descriptors/NC old levels that goes on to help create the new system, and that’s a sensible method provided that it fits 2014 and beyond needs. RE, and most other subjects, are always concerned with the students’ ability to answer 6,8,10 mark questions so I liked this from Jennie and Anne, that was shared around the staff and can be easily adapted by other subjects. Make your assessment criteria fit our student needs-this does.

Skills required to achieve target grade Emerging Developing Mastered   Not yet Covered
Exam skills.
Ability to offer a full, developed explanation and example in the 2 mark questions
Ability to offer two expanded points of view, both with religious examples and explanations in the 4 mark questions.
Ability to offer two examples with development, from both the religion of Islam and Christianity in the 6 mark questions.
Ability to offer two expanded, clear points of view with religious teachings in the 8 mark questions.  The argument is covered extensively through discussion and summed up with a final judgement.


Sarah and Karen have planned together in an English lesson study to consider their Enquiry Question: Can students independently employ higher order thinking skills? Sarah took first go and she wanted her class to Move beyond the text to recognise the wider implications of the writer’s purpose. If the students can access this higher level of thought, higher exam grades will follow. The faculty have embarked upon some radical set manoeuvres to try to provide the best support and intervention. Deliberate staffing has made smaller classes and single sex classes in a couple of cases. Sarah has a small boy only class and support is provided via Annette our pastoral AHT to help Sarah teach in a very intensive manner-digging deep, pushing hard to get the lads the grades they potentially can achieve. When Karen and I joined in, adults almost outnumbered the students!

There were some really interesting teaching strategies employed and they began with writing down who what they thought was responsible for the tragedy in Blood Brothers.


They would return to their original thoughts a couple of times throughout the lesson to make changes, should they wish to. They then worked in 2 groups on a tarsia activity. I was pleased to see them use the blank cards to add their own ideas.



Sarah chose her 3 students for the study and made her predictions for Karen and I to observe.


Success Criteria Pupil A  Pupil B  Pupil C 
  1. Move beyond the text to recognise the wider implications of the writer’s purpose.
Target BCurrently working at B Target BCurrently working at C Target BCurrently working at D
Stage Predicted Response Actual Response
Who or what is responsible for the tragedy? (independent) Limited, text base response that focuses on characters or theme. Character based – Mrs Lyons Theme based – superstition Character based Mrs Johnstone
Tarsia inquiry.(group)




Text based connections but start to link quotes to characters. All boys should be able to link quotations with characters. B should take a lead role in discussion and might focus more on themes/begin to explore writer’s implications.  C will make straightforward obvious links between quotes and characters. Remained quit during this activity and let D take a lead role in organising the shapes. Did contribute links that probed the sub text and knowledge of the play as a whole was secure. Focused on character motivation. Started to explore the ‘bigger’ picture from D’s comments about the impact Mr Johnstone’s departure had on Mrs J and her decision to give Edward away. He also let D take a lead role in organising the shapes. Did contribute links that probed the sub text and knowledge of the play as a whole was secure. Focused on character motivation. Started to explore the ‘bigger’ picture from D’s comments about the impact Mr Johnstone’s departure had on Mrs J and her decision to give Edward away. Immediately explored how the theme of social class was to blame and probed the sub-text confidently exploring how the policeman treated the two families differently because of their social class. Took a lead role in the discussion and effectively justified opinions with evidence/reasons from the text.
Ten quote tumble.(independent)


Begin to make moral / social links C might struggle here to make relevant links. B and A should be identifying the writer’s intention and linking quotes to the wider implications. The majority of the quotations selected placed blame on characters and themes. Discussions focused on the theme of jealousy and started to make links to social injustice – difference in lifestyle, education and job opportunities. The majority of the quotations selected placed blame on characters and themes. Discussions focused on the theme of jealousy and started to make links to social injustice – difference in lifestyle, education and job opportunities. The majority of the quotations selected placed blame on characters and themes. Discussions focused on the theme of inequality and started to make links to social injustice – difference how the boys were treated by the policeman because of their different social classes.


They then worked individually to select and prioritise quotes to support their opinions before discussing in pairs and then preparing for their final individual piece-could they move beyond the text to think about Russell’s wider motives in writing the play? The students peer critiqued and highlighted positive examples of what Miss had asked for!

21 22 23

Karen being an optimistic soul and progress manager for year 11, believed that the students were capable of this level of thought-Sarah wasn’t so sure! This was her summary;

Dave and Karen, now I have had the opportunity to read their work, I am pleased with the progress on the whole. They knew the novel well and considering we haven’t looked at it together for a while, that was great. They linked characters to themes effectively and justified their opinions.


In terms of LOs –

  • LO: Independently employ higher order thinking skills – they all achieved this.
  • LO: Effectively communicate a point of view – they all achieved this.
  • LO: Move beyond the text to recognise the wider implications of the writer’s purpose- Owen Fowler made the best connection – poverty and job loss in Liverpool at the time. The others began to connect ideas to characters, themes and the bigger picture but often in term of social injustice.

Karen, thanks for being so optimistic as this meant I didn’t have to use the model answer slides!

Excellent knowledge of text.  Did move on from a character answer and started to explore the wider implications of social class and the effects of being working class at that time. Secure knowledge of the text. Moved from a theme based answer and started to link social injustice of working class Liverpool to lifestyle and its limitations. Effectively moved from a character answer to a theme and linked this to social injustice effectively justifying his answer from the policeman’s behaviour towards the two different social classes.


Both colleagues hadn’t been involved before in lesson study, Sarah joining us at Easter and hopefully they will be able to see the value in this form of CPD as they plan and consider their next moves. They are both keen to transfer the skills taught today [and tomorrow for Karen] after Xmas when the students begin another text.

Zoe and Sheila worked together in a lesson study triad in summer and this time they paired up to continue their work with low ability year 7 and 8 mathematicians. Enquiry Question – How effectively can we improve conceptual understanding of operations with Low Attainers?

Success Criteria Pupil A  Pupil B  Pupil C 
  1. All students should be able to describe each operation using at least a keyword.
  2. Students will begin to identify the required operation for worded questions, with reasons.
  3. Students will show appropriate methods to carry out such operations.
Easily distracted and loses focus. Will attempt to answer questions even if he is not confident, but has weak problem solving skills. Strongest in multiplication tables knowledge, weakness with division and subtraction. Low confidence, reluctant to answer questions he is uncertain of the answers to. Comfortable with addition methods and certain multiplication tables knowledge but weaknesses in division and subtraction methods. 


Comfortable attempting most questions but weaknesses in multiplication tables knowledge, and poor consistency across division, subtraction and multiplication methods.


This was the first lesson looking at operations with the class so that Zoe could see how they could cope with what was needed. She used the overlay the lesson study maths triad had produced last year to see if that would help the students with functional skills type questions. To get them use to the maths literacy involved she asked them to describe the key words.


They then tackled up to 10 problems around the room by following the method suggested on the overlay.



Some students were able to get all of the functional skills problems correct but not necessarily by using the overlay. We aren’t sure that this works for all and Zoe is thinking about alternative tactics. The level of ability was very low and problems such as; “if there are 7 days in a week, how many days are there in 10 weeks?” and “if a spider has 8 legs-how many legs do 5 spiders have?” caused some issues and these were the easier ones. Zoe will teach students who will achieve good university degrees 2 minutes before teaching students who struggle with the most basic division and multiplication sums-an interesting mix and all with their own learning challenges for Miss to overcome. There is an interesting discussion re mixed ability teaching v sets/bands doing the rounds again and questions raised as to whether growth mind set fits easily with setting. I’ve taught both ways at KS3 and mixed at KS4-don’t forget though that some schools are far more mixed in their in-takes than others, as has become apparent when  digging  beneath the league table figures and looking at the percentage of high, middle and low attainers and the average KS2 scores of students coming into our schools!  Ours is the lowest average score of all the schools in Sefton and this presents us with the kind of teaching challenges lesson study can help us with so that our students get the most appropriate learning and teaching we can give them.

Karen and Sheila were busy teaching their first NTEN lesson at the same time and I wasn’t able to drop in on them as I was with Emma to observe our newest NQT Toni. Toni has already established a lovely working relationship with her year 10 geographers and they engaged well and moved sensibly around the room to find information. Our conversation afterwards was an interesting one and worth sharing-I think-because it touched on a few of the tactics I’ve seen used by lots of NQTs, especially geographers!

There does seem to be a set lesson structure that they learn on their P.G.C.S.E. course and I think that it dates back to the issue of the desire of Ofsted [which they usually deny ever existed!] of having to see progress in 1 lesson. It seems to be that some new knowledge will be gathered-usually interactively by the students gathering bits from different stations around the room-they then check each other’s notes and add whatever they have missed before new knowledge is tested via an exam question/mark-scheme-hence progress is observed and measured!

Toni sensed that the students wanted to delve further into non-renewable energy and felt that a deeper discussion would have been better-at this point we talked about the lesson structure she is use to and I hope that she was relieved that I told her to forget about it-absolutely no need to cram everything into 1 lesson with a test at the end to show me that progress is being made. Lots of great opportunities are missed for Miss to develop her teaching so we thought about;

  • This could be a lesson study on its own but over the next term and year, find out which are the best methods for you and your classes to make notes [find out new information] and to retain it-is this method the best?
  • It might be if we refine the gathering of information process or other methods [I’m not getting involved in the text book debate!] may prove to be more effective. If we use the information gathering around the room method we have to stop them simply copying everything they can-it’s good to encourage note-taking but it is a skill we have to teach. When they check their notes afterwards with their partner, the temptation to copy everything that they haven’t got-occurs again!
  • If you are doing this for the sake of showing ‘student interaction’-think what interaction actually means in the learning situation-for me it is the student reacting with the knowledge or skills to cause a ‘learning’ effect. Make the students cut to the chase in activities like this-use a word limit, time limit, 1 sentence. They will find it tough to begin with but will soon begin to select relevant information and if in the pair follow up they both ‘black-out’ any irrelevant information-they will learn vital examination skills-how many times do they write waffle and waste time?
  • No need to show progress with a test every time-let them have the deeper discussion-they will probably recall more information over time by having memorable current examples and data.
  • I thank Toni for letting me share our discussion-if this sounds like it didn’t go well-it did BUT she is eager to develop into the best teacher that she can be and lifting a few P.G.C.S.E. shackles and letting her experiment will support that. I’m delighted with the progress our NQTs are making and will soon have them all tweeting out their ideas and sharing their own ideas both internally and externally!


Thank you for reading.












Old dogs have to learn new tricks! Historians and numeracy.

Lesson observations begin this week with half of my colleagues involved in a lesson study project and the others preparing for their developmental observation with their line-manager based on their chosen subject specific ‘great teaching’ pedagogy. I’ll feedback magic moments and ideas I spot over the next few weeks in our winter blogs.

It’s my favourite time of year when I spend most of my time observing superb professionals at their very best either teaching or feeding back their advice to support the development of each other. For a dour Manc with a black sense of Shameless humour, I get remarkably excited, emotional and almost crack a smile during this fest of learning and teaching. I doubt colleagues feel the same way! Although our observations are as kind to teachers as observations possibly can be, they understandably still get anxious and worried, despite the constant informal sharing/drop-ins that happen to support the whole process.

I was actually a tad nervous myself today when Beth, our maths NQT, popped in to observe me with year 8. She, like all of our NQTs, is a superb teacher in the making and I felt that it might be useful if I threw in a bit of numeracy for her in my history lesson. I’ve already had Marion and Andy looking at me trying to help low ability students retain knowledge so hey ho-bring on numeracy! My advice to all colleagues is; should they be using literacy or numeracy in their lessons, and aren’t sure of the skill-go and ask one of our English or maths teachers for some advice. Check if they have covered the topic yet and check if they have a particular way of teaching it so the students aren’t confused by another methodology [usually based on one you learned yourself at school!]

I broke my own rule for today’s lesson-I’ve used graphs many times in geography and integrated humanities/community studies [do you remember them!] and have used them in English to transcribe in to words. I’ve also observed so many graph lessons in maths and science of different types that I felt confident, even in front of a maths teacher! The graphs were pretty simple anyway and by the time we had got DIRTy, assessed a bit of learning and had a few motivational quotes, experience told me that the students would be on fire and ready to take on the graph challenge. Or so I thought! I began to get slightly cold feet in the morning when Miss Ashton called me in to her lesson to hear her maths students tell me how much they had been learning. Some of them were my historians and when I mentioned the afternoon’s lesson I heard, “I’m allergic to graphs”, “I can’t do graphs”-and this was just the teacher!

Of course it’s a good thing to see the old deputy struggle and fail when he is teaching for the NQTs-great example of growth mind set, Carole Dweck may say-she ain’t teaching the lesson though! I had listened to Jen, our maths subject leader, telling the year 8 parents last week on information evening to be as positive as they could about maths. I couldn’t let her down!


No chickening out then and it was a strange start to the lesson. The week before we had completed an assessment on mill children using 5 different sources.


I had marked the work and found that most of the students tended to base their answer on reliability/truth on their own knowledge and had missed the opportunity to add their comments on the purpose of the writer/illustrator of the source. My DIRT questions focused on “why might the author of the source be lying/not telling the whole truth?” etc. The picture was borrowed from an excellent Durrington High School blog I had sent to fellow historians.


The students without fuss began to answer the posed questions but 3 of them had missed the original assessment task, 2 were missing due to planting remembrance trees, 1 was at piano lessons, 1 was going to have to leave to attend her piano lesson and 1 had a dentist’s appointment in half an hour-be flexible David and don’t worry about the mess this will make on the intervention tracking sheets when you try to work out their BSG progress!


Most of the class were between bronze and silver with their limited original answers and DIRT allowed them to give another piece of evidence to add to their finished piece of excellence and improve their BSG. We looked at this new picture of an old favourite I’d found over the weekend. Duck or rabbit, the optical illusion message is to look for as much as possible in our sources-a first look isn’t enough-what is hiding that will be revealed during a 2nd, 3rd or 4th look. Just see the duck of knowledge and you may get a D for G.C.S.E, search for the rabbit of purpose/author reliability and you’ll achieve considerably more-cheesy but you get the gist!


We looked at some other key learning progress measures on our Self-Review sheet including descriptions of the key characteristics of the period [from memory] that we have covered, chose 10 key words to spell and saw that we needed to have a look at change and continuity to complete our assessment. Our graphs would certainly look at aspects of change. 2 shown below.


Beth was available to help if they got stuck and to advise me on key words the mathematicians favour to describe graphs. I explained how useful graphs could be to historians, giving us so much easily accessible information in 1 graph, with the World War 2 graph.


To counteract any potential negativity about graphs I’d used a slide with a sweet dog practising catching a ball. [From my GM assembly] One of the students had to naturally make it work for me!


We got the mini-whiteboards out and they had to suggest how we should mark their answers. I soon realised that quite a few thought that I wanted them to answer the questions-perhaps I hadn’t explained clearly enough. I shared my criteria that we would use to peer mark and just had time to attempt one of the graphs of their choice. Nothing remarkable but a clear guide, I thought to interpreting historical graphs for lower ability students and my attempt to make sure that they covered all the details that my colleagues keep telling me that they miss out later in G.C.S.E. answers in every subject costing them vital marks/grades.


I talked briefly with them to elicit some positive/negative possibilities but wanted to see what they could do before, in the next lesson, gathering good responses from them to help each other aim for excellence.



You can see from these 5 answer cards that these students had got the trend and Beth’s suggested key descriptive maths words-risen, increased and apart from 1 gave the correct numerical information. I wanted to see the power of their thinking, rather than powers of recall so wasn’t sure how they would answer the positive/negative aspect-this is something to discuss next week and I noticed that 1 confused England with the UK-they often do [as do some politicians!]

It isn’t easy for a young teacher to feed back to their deputy head and to give me honest feedback-some of my older colleagues, in the maths faculty would relish the opportunity! I asked that Beth consider our usual feedback questions and asked for specific numeracy advice [which I should have asked for before!]

Hope it was useful to see me-chance for you to give me feedback now based on what we do after normal obs!

Which bits did you enjoy/could borrow?

What was your favourite learning moment?

Did I miss any learning opportunities? Did you spot anything that the students hadn’t grasped or I didn’t explain well enough?

What advice could you give me to make my teaching of graphs better!!

Beth responded quickly and I admit that I teased her and asked if she was frightened to criticise me. Giving feedback is a really difficult skill, I’ve written about it before and it’s a CPD issue on its own. My expectation of all of our staff is that we ALL become coaches and mentors for each other and that we learn from observing experienced colleagues ‘on the hoof’ as they give feedback-often me, if I can get into the observations, or another colleague. Professionally we have a responsibility to each other to provide and accept honest criticism and I want our NQTs to participate in this approach as soon as they can. I know that many schools employ coaches or use ‘outstanding’ teachers [a divisive term if ever there was one!]to observe and support development but we are a small school of 60 teachers-why wouldn’t we want ALL of our staff to learn coaching skills and to help themselves and others become better teachers?

Thanks so much for letting me come in. I did find it very useful, and enjoyed getting a bit of history lesson myself!

I really liked where you asked the pupils how they thought they were going to be marked, I know a few of them thought you were asking them to answer the question, but for others I thought it was a great way to get them focused on “what would make a good answer to this”. I would definitely use this with some of my classes. Perhaps when answering longer, problem type questions for KS3 or 4/5 mark GCSE questions for KS4. I would ask them “what do we think each of these 5 marks are awarded for?” In a sense they are getting a chance to write the mark scheme for a question. Perhaps I could then get them to peer-assess each other’s answers afterwards. This would give them a chance at playing 3 roles: “mark scheme writer”, “pupil”, and “examiner/marker”, and could help to improve exam technique when answering longer questions.

Favourite learning moment: DIRT time – showing them how they could move from bronze to silver and silver to gold with a few small steps. Thought this really helped to underline the idea of marginal gains and GMS.

Graphs – thought they did really well on that, despite them saying beforehand that they couldn’t do maths! One pupil even mentioned the actual difference between the two populations. He wrote “the population in 1914 was about 31million more than it was in 1751”. Which demonstrates him interpreting the data even further which was great to see.

Thanks again for letting me come and watch, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

I did miss some opportunities, especially when we were filling in our review sheet-I was speeding through and afterwards I realised that my planning didn’t allow me to think as deeply as I might have done. Planning is everything-there have been some lively discussions around the issue and I can accept that too much gets you shattered before you even get to the classroom. I also have to be careful and remember that I do not teach a full timetable before I’m reminded! We have a massive amount of information on the learning needs of our students and I make myself aware of what is said BUT I like to see the students in action to make my mind up as to how I can focus on any specific learning needs. As I only see them every week and don’t do assessments every week, I learn a little bit more each lesson. I do need to see them ‘fail’ sometimes to make my own diagnosis so therefore have to encourage a classroom environment where that is fine to happen and where we will work out our individual ‘marginal gain’ to move learning forward. We discussed the Sutton Report at subject leaders last week and the independent learning issues raised is something we will return to and seek further evidence, both externally and internally, on.

What I am sure of, is that if this would have been a lesson study lesson, I think this old dog would have learnt plenty of new tricks! To be fair I’m not sure that numeracy in history would have been my choice of research-perhaps part of a broader low ability interpretation of data/sources-but if it had been; planning beforehand in collaboration with Beth would have helped me find out about different methodology I could trial and test the impact of, she would have been able to see what I was trying to do through the eyes on a non-historian-others have told me how useful it is to have to explain to me as a non-expert [so like one of the students!] what they are thinking to see if I understand and, of course, to bounce ideas of another teacher and to talk about whether my challenge was appropriate enough. By concentrating on the 3 students only and their specific needs and considering how they might react differently to my tactics, I really do think [and I thought about it all night!] that I would have taught the graph section much better-realising how learning barriers might make the numeracy part tricky and without the knowledge [or us going over it again in more detail] to provide enough evidence to show the impact on the UK of the trends on the graphs. I might even have had the IRIS cameras there! The potential of lesson study in developing our teachers is immense and thus improving the learning for our students.

Of course this type of conversation can only happen when grading and pressure to perform doesn’t get in the way. Yesterday whilst I was happily performing, my partner was feeding back with an Ofsted inspector in her school in Special Measures. She was planning lessons at 4.30 this morning and in school by 6.00. Alison was telling me on gate-duty earlier that in recent local inspections, despite Ofsted declaring that this won’t happen-observed teachers were told “in old terms this would have been…” and received terms such as “strong” In the afternoon, colleagues from other schools [at a meeting ironically about lesson study] were telling me that opposition to stop using 1 off lesson grades came from within their own teaching staff.

Perhaps some other old dogs should stop barring their teeth and learn new tricks of development and support, before we lose more good teachers-simply no need for this behaviour. Grrrr!

Leading a Reflective Science Faculty

The blog this week is one that I originally wrote in July after a request from the SSAT Leading Edge partnership to contribute an article to the autumn 2014 edition of their Leading Change magazine. The Leading Edge partnership invites schools deemed to be ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ in Ofsted terms with rising trends of exam results [I think I’ve got that bit right!] to join in their group of schools to share ideas and support each other. I contributed an article on peer critique [peer verification] when we were invited to join and they contacted us last summer to ask if we could write something on our ‘reflective science faculty’ I’m not sure why they asked or how they came to think that our scientists might be reflective-I just write this stuff! Our scientists are busy teaching and being reflective so I wrote up some of the ideas that I am aware of via my observations and CPD discussions with them all. I can’t quite recreate the ‘glossy’ nature of the magazine but here is the original draft and a few links to other science based blogs. The pace of school moves so quickly! Re-reading this a couple of months on actually gave me a chance to reflect myself on some of the key issues covered-the development of our professional portfolio, NTEN lesson study and CPD in general-and to think again about the opening slide [below] at our subject leaders meeting last night [and raised in our last blog]. The science faculty is a vibrant place to work and learn-I hope this is a true reflection of our whole school! In last week’s Sutton Report, Dr Lee Elliot Major wrote that; ‘It’s a scandal that we are so concerned with the learning of pupils, yet neglect the professional development of teachers themselves’. This cannot happen here and hopefully in the article you will see that we are moving rapidly towards; and are totally supportive of the TDA’s view of CPD, as outlined by David Weston.

“For CPD to be effective, it should be teacher-led and targeted at supporting student needs in a teacher’s own classroom, helping them to thrive and improve year-on-year.  Effective CPD is possible and can be realised within a teaching community that is based on collaboration, sharing of best practice and using evidence effectively. Our research demonstrates a desire for professional development that engages teachers and ensures impact”


Reflective Scientists

How many times over the last couple of years have you been told that- “being a reflective practitioner `is good for your CPD”? Lost count? It may well be but- what it actually means in practice in different schools and with different individuals is open to much debate. For our developing teachers in their second year of teaching, our professional portfolio aims to guide them towards the skills and professional development appropriate to their experience and aims to celebrate their own learning and teaching successes-we cannot as a profession continue to lose potentially great teachers and leaders-this is one of our ways to ensure this doesn’t happen. Below are 4 of our key drivers for individual contributions to whole school great quality of teaching for ‘developing’ or ‘emerging’ teachers. NQTs, subject leaders and progress managers have their own criteria but you can clearly see how we are trying to create an ethos of reflection, collaboration and aspiration in every teacher and every faculty.

Key QT driver Developing Developed Aspirational
Lesson observations Two formal lesson obs every year [unless others are required] with feedback given-1 with the line-manager and one peer. Triads in most cases. Mixture of classes observed-examples please. What were the key criteria points for exceptional teaching that was chosen? Which predicted learning outcomes were different than you expected-why? Advice given has been acted on-examples please. What was the biggest risk you took in your lesson obs? What happened! Lesson plan produced –all key areas verified by observer. Each lesson observed has shown teaching skill development based on advice from the last observation and have met the appraisal targets.Which areas of the subject specific criteria that you are weakest at, have you been working on-any measured impact yet? Which areas of your teaching skills do you want to focus on next year?Are there any types of classes, students that you will meet that will bring a new challenge? How can we help?
CPD Which learning hubs have you attended? What did you trial after the hubs? Which other internal training have you attended? What were the key learning points from this training? Which external training have you attended? What were the key learning points from this training? How have you used research to support your own development?Please give examples.Why did you choose to research these areas?Which CPD activities have had the biggest impact on learning in your classroom? What is your evidence? What would you like next in terms of internal/external CPD?What would your priority be and why?
Collaboration-learning Which lessons have you informally observed? What did you hope to gain from these obs? What were the key learning points you gathered from these? Which target groups did you aim your hub resources/ideas at? Why? Which ideas/resources have you ‘borrowed’ from colleagues and who did you target them at/why? What did you try out in your lessons as a result of informal lesson obs?What was the impact on learning and how did you measure it?What was the impact on learning in your lessons of any hub/borrowed ideas? What is your evidence? Any specific groups/cohorts of learners?Have you managed to share any of your ideas in any forum? How will you take your lesson study forward to develop your ideas further? Which aspects of our collaborative work do you need support with or need more of?
Collaboration-teaching Have you contributed to any of the FOCALS when we have discussed generic teaching issues? E.g.?Have you contributed to dept meetings when learning and teaching is discussed? E.g.?Have you been in involved with joint planning of lessons? Have you contributed ideas to the dept SEF?If a colleague has been having difficulties/concerns with a class-have you been able to offer advice and support? Have you sought help and advice when it was needed? For each of the examples you chose; how did your intervention make an impact on the teaching of others or yourself? How do you know? How did this then impact on student learning? How would you like to develop your contribution to the discussion and support of ‘teaching’?


We are keen to develop our teachers to consider their own classroom based research and to measure the impact of trialled ideas on an area of practice that was self-evaluated as a weakness either of student learning or pedagogy. When I read about lesson study early in the school year it seemed not only to fit in with our move away from graded observations towards developmental feedback for informal or formal peer observations BUT decisively offered an opportunity to enhance further the depth of teacher feedback focusing on the impact of the teaching on student learning.


Joe, Rachael, Hannah and Holly all 2nd year developing teachers and scientists have volunteered to take part this year.  Joe and Rachael chose as their enquiry question “would a new tactic [focusing on command words and reading of the question] improve the G.C.S.E. students 6 mark question answers?” They planned together, observed as each other taught and then discussed the impact their teaching had had on just 3 students who were chosen to focus on. This was a different idea than used previously and the planning, unusually at this point, involved predicting how each student [you can see in the feedback examples why 3 was enough!] would respond to the various teaching episodes. Their actual response was noted by the observer and formed the deep learning feedback that followed. A new method of analysing exam questions was introduced and the students tested before and after the dissecting of the command words.



Success Criteria Pupil A  Pupil B  Pupil C 
  1. Student will show improvement to mark in exam question during lesson.
  2. Student will have more confidence in answering extended answer questions.
  3. Student will perform better on exam on Friday 8th November.
2 grades below targetEoY 10 Target BEoY 11 Target A 2 grades below targetEoY 10 Target AEoY 11 Target A* 2 grades below targetEoY 10 Target BEoY 11 Target A 


Stage Predicted Response Actual Response
1 Starter – Exam Words Students will be able to name some simple exam words. Listed over 8 different examples. Listed 7 different examples. Listed 4 simple words.
2 Six mark exam question Students will write a low level answer, scoring between 0-2marks. Scored 1/6Didn’t read the exam question properly.  Slow to start, scored 2/6.Didn’t read the exam question properly. Scored 2/6.Didn’t read the exam question properly. 
3 Exam words – which is higher level pyramid activity Students will have different ideas as to which command word requires more detail in their answer. Worked in a pair, discussed the command words. Identified which words were high level. Placed words in different arrangements. Identified low level command words.   Discussed with peers meanings of other words.


You can see the changes in the individual student responses in these photos taken before, during and after the lesson study.

04 05 06 07

As the lesson study developed, the initial planning and feedback increased in detail. Hannah and Holly, with the same general issue in mind, focused on year 7 with this question;  How can we improve the understanding of the command words describe and explain  [and the use of correct connectives]to allow middle achieving year 7 boys to improve the quality of their answers and peer critique?  The class warmed up with describe and explain un-related exercises before a card-sort activity placing definitions next to key words in preparation for a written activity and peer critique. The lesson finished with a return to the original exercise to see if an improvement had been made.

08 09


Peer assess2.40 – 2.48Students will then use a generalised mark scheme to peer assess, this will be to test if the 3 chosen students can identify the difference between describe and explain when marking somebodies answer. They mark scheme makes it clear what is expected without giving answers.  This also allows these students to see other students work for ideas on how to improve their own. A: Will mark accurately but feedback can sometimes be limited, from this point in the lesson I expect the penny to drop for A of what is expected from the describe/explain questions.B: will be slow to start and will focus on SPaG marking. He will need encouragement to complete the marking.   He will realise at this point exactly what he had been doing incorrectly beforehand.C: will give detailed feedback of what was done well but limited feedback on what needs to be done to improve.   Encouragement/ guidance may be needed. A marked his partner’s work well and spotted that his peer needed to include more scientific key words, but when giving an example of those key words he used a connective. B identified that his partner had not described the trend correctly but he was unable to give an example of how to improve. C The feedback he gave was limited.   The praise was accurate but in the EBI and example he confused key words for being connectives.
Improve:2.48 – 2.54Students will then improve their answer using blue pen to increase the number of marks. All students will manage to improve to gain marks at this stage but this may not be enough for full marks. A improved his work massively at this point. However he missed the scientific key words until he was prompted.  His peer assessor had not mentioned key words in the feedback they gave him. B worked slowly to improve. He used the correct science verbally to explain but he worked to slow to write his explain answer down. C improved but with no use of scientific key words even after prompting, through verbally dialogue he displayed an understanding of the science however.


Just a small example of the predicted/actual feedback discussion gives a quick indication of the level of the deeper learning conversation that followed. All teachers involved plan and observe each other twice [although the trial of ideas continues and we will return to it] and the NTEN lesson study observations replaced the normal formal appraisal observation for the volunteers. [I’m involved as the other observer/coach!] In autumn and winter next year, we would hope to have involved all colleagues in the project-it has proved extremely popular and time to plan and feedback will be built into directed time meetings and inset. Colleagues involved shared their work in a market place activity and you can see Rachael entertaining her most difficult visitors on the market rota-the science faculty!


Our other peer lesson observations are not unsimilar in that the feedback [no grades] involves a discussion of the chosen criteria and a predicted/actual impact on learning before the observors select their favourite observed strategies and offer advice. ‘Magic Moments’ spotted during the observations, both formal and informal are shared in our internal blog/external blog for others to see and adapt if they so wish All staff are involved in our rota of sharing-no volunteers or opting out and the reflective practice of our young scientists goes out to the whole world to look at. Both Hannah and Rachael have received retweets, favorites and requests for their ideas and whilst recognition of a good idea is nice, professionally if you know that ideas and resources will be shared; you might just make sure that they’re pretty damn good to start with! The faculty shared their ‘fast feedback’ marking recently and 1000 interested people from elsewhere have already visited the post.

Hannah’s differentiated learning Mole mat for her high ability year 11 students proved to be very popular as did Rachael’s graph overlay to support peer critique with lower ability year 7 students. last winter’s science ‘Chucklevison!’

Much as we develop our student ‘talk for learning’ so we should help to develop our teacher’s articulation of their own learning too. The reflective science faculty develops good practice inwardly and shares it confidently outwardly and its members, no matter their length of experience should be given the opportunity to develop their own CPD potential by ‘bottom-up’ leadership of training. As NQT’s Joe and Rachael led learning hubs on peer critique and recently Rachael spoke at the local Headteacher’s conference about lesson study and Holly spoke to a visiting school’s SLT.

Rachael’s presentation is at the end of our Summer Lesson Study blog which includes a more detailed account of the science lesson study example and others.

Are they ‘reflective practitioners’ and are we creating the right opportunities for self-critical reflection and the embedding and tranformation of science best practice-you decide!

12 13