Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Experiment, experiment!

At the session on 06/05/08 at EHWLC, Geoff Petty talked about experimenting and trying something new in teaching & learning. He recommended the use of peer coaching and encouraged us to foster a culture of talking about teaching & learning across the institution.

Some points he made:

Our main focus should be looking to improve teaching & learning. This is what a College is all about and we mustn't lose track of this fact, with all the pressures of administration, marking etc.

We, as teachers, know and can recognise the answers to what's good learning & teaching.
Evidence says teachers have 3 times more effect on achievement than anything else. The "Proximity Factor" is significant here - the closer you are to the learner, the more impact you have on them. Active learning with feedback makes the most difference to student achievement.

Students need challenging tasks but most teachers set attainable tasks with SMART targets and don't stretch students sufficiently.

Only a teacher knows how to change & improve their teaching; it has to be a bottom up process. Supported experiments are a useful tool in this process.

Let's work smarter not harder by using the methods that make the biggest impact on student achievement.

Here are some key points from major research programmes into methods that improve achievement, based on 300,000 experiments conducted world wide and collated by Professor John Hattie:

1. Research on effectiveness of methods teachers use. This involves looking at an experimental group & a control group of students taught by the same teacher. With the experimental group, the teacher does 1 thing different and the effect of this is measured.

e.g. 1 group does self assessment;the other doesn't, but the same teacher teaches both groups using the same delivery techniques (apart from the use of self assessment)

From the research, the use of challenging open tasks, active learning methods and feedback between teacher and learner are shown to be effective in raising student achievement.

Other useful sources of research are:
2. School improvement research. Looking at what makes a school improve can yield useful lessons.

3. School effectiveness research. Good schools concentrate on teaching and learning. These institutions get their teachers to talk about teaching and learning issues and share ideas/approaches.

Ericsson on excellence

What makes people excellent in their field is not genetic factors or IQ, but deliberate practice and experimentation. People who become excellent continue experimenting, unlike others who plateau in their learning once they have reached a certain level of competence. Even if some new ideas/approaches don't work, they keep try something new in order to learn . You can't improve teaching without changing it, so everyone has to experiment.

"Student achievement through staff development" - Bruce Joyce & Beverley Showers.

They researched what worked and saw a pattern. They asked teachers about their training needs and looked at one common goal focused on classroom practice. The teachers attended training to learn about the new area and to see good practice demonstrated. Then the teachers tried it out, received peer coaching from colleagues and shared ideas in groups.

They found that peer coaching and collaboration hadthe best results in transferring knowledge into practice.

Why does peer coaching work?

Real practice could be the key & getting feedback on real practice is a powerful tool

It's a reflective cycle

We need to embed experiments into schemes of work, so they are not just seen as one-off staff development activities. Teachers learn just like their students and need to practise new methods and get feedback.

The Principal's Introduction

Amarjit Basi, Interim Principal, explained that the Supported Experiments Project is a 2 year programme.
He said that the College needs to create the right"climate" and foster a sense of common purpose.........If we all put our collective minds to it, we can excel.

He also made the following points:

A changing agenda means that we need to build on our current good work to create engaging programmes for our learners.

We need to focus on what we are good at as we are living through a change agenda and the only constant is good teaching & learning.

Therefore we have to put teaching & learning back in the heart of what we do , meaning that our staff are the bedrock of that delivery. We need to lead by example & be role models in teaching & learning.

We must as managers espouse teaching & learning. Enlist the excellent support of practitioners and not abdicate our collective responsibility.

Strategically the message is BOTTOM UP. Staff are allowed to test ideas that are important for them. It is not SMT asking for it to be done. It's what teachers want to do. Supporting excellence is the key.

This initiative is not the Geoff Petty initiative or Supported Experiments but a change programme done in the EHWLC way.

Remember it's a duty to manage, but a privilege to lead.