At the Teacher Development Trust we have an explicit mission to promote powerful professional development that helps students succeed and teachers thrive.
Sometimes there are examples of extraordinarily successful schools, especially in areas of greater deprivation, where students are achieving amazing outcomes and making huge progress, although there are higher levels of teacher burnout and turnover. On the other hand, we also see schools which have very developmental and supportive cultures, where results are good, but not exceptional. There are also schools which balance both of these in a variety of different ways.
We would like your views on how to best get this balance right.
Here are some questions to deliberately provoke your thinking. You may well feel there are false dichotomies here – we’d love to hear examples where schools manage to combine both!
To what extent does the balance of focus on student success or teacher wellbeing depend on the location, type/phase and context of the school? Does the correct balance depend on where the school is on its improvement journey, or perhaps its Ofsted grade? Should an exceptionally successful school (on student outcomes) be put under pressure to improve staff wellbeing and development even if this takes the edge off their speed of improvement for children?
We welcome your thoughts. Please comment on this article to leave your contribution or you can send us your feedback privately at email@example.com.
I do not think that the two things are mutually exclusive, therefore do they need to balanced?
I would think that by putting the right things in place for students the well being of teachers is simultaneously improved.
1. The mindset of students needs to be turned from fixed to growth (Dweck) -this has several impacts, first, independent learning increases and subsequently grades increase which means teachers feel less stress. Second, behaviour improves which means that classroom activities are less stressful for teachers. Third, parents are communicated with and trained in the concept of growth mindset which creates a more cohesive school environment.
2. Teach students about learning (metacognition) and they begin to appreciate just how much they can achieve on their own and they begin to see the value of working independently (stronger memory connections). This reduces the demand placed on the teacher as instead of trying to force feed knowledge the teacher facilitates student’s learning.
3. Focus on the key limiting factors. For example, if a student has difficulty with literacy there is little value in helping them learn other things. If a student has not learnt to read they cannot then read to learn. Too often, a stressful situation is created for both students and teachers through demanding the learning of a topic (e.g. history) by ‘reading and processing’ the to be learnt material when the student’s literacy level is too low to allow understanding of the material. This scenario means the student will resist and both the teacher and student will become frustrated, as the student fails to make the required progress. Instead, do not require the student to ‘read to learn’ until they have mastered the required level of ‘learning to read’. Intensive literacy courses (e.g. responding to intervention) are incredibly effective and beneficial for all stakeholders.
Cognitive science and the development of expertise have an awful lot to contribute in this area. It makes sense to re-evaluate the way that schools approach learning, using this perspective, so that conditions are improved for everyone.
I don’t think we can separate the two out, because if we do, what kind of message are we sending to our students? Teaching is a collegiate activity in which at times we support others, and at other times we need their support in return. I cannot believe that we should ever ‘sacrifice’ teacher well being for student outcomes. In fact, I believe that teachers in ‘challenging’ schools need even *more* support for their well being as it is inevitably a stressful working environment. In addition, a stable and settled staff will in the long term lead to greater trust and stability from and for the children.
I think it is time to hold fast and slow down. You can’t have ‘rapid’ improvements in student performance until the uncertainty that is the current assessment system has settled. We have told that you cannot compare last year with this by OFQUAL. So now is the time to ensure that staff development is your top priority so that the improvements in future generations can be tracked to improvements in teacher practice.
Staff development, sadly, is a waste of time unless you give teachers the time to develop, and I can’t see that happening in the future.
Every extra bit of useful ‘development’ as far as overworked, tired teachers are concerned is just another job they have to do in their 3 or 4 free periods a week or in the evening / weekend. I remember when they tried to raise teachers’ ICT skills with NOF training – all of which had to be done online and invariably in the teacher’s own time. I’ve lost count of the training I’ve had on bullying. Take the recent change of emphasis from ICT to Computing that has been going on in schools. Lots of extra training opportunities were promised a few years back. Plenty of support was going to be forthcoming. Time would be given for ICT teachers to update their courses, their SoW, the learning materials and their own personal skills. Well, in three weeks (Sept 1st 2014), the new Computing Programs of Study kick in and I doubt there is more than a handful of ICT teachers who are feeling ready and confident.
If you want to raise students’ achievement, retain well-qualified and experienced staff and develop as a school, then the only way it will happen is to give teachers more time. I would suggest 20% of teaching time should be given over to the ever increasing admin we face and a further 10% to training and development. It will never happen, of course, so next year, we will all muddle along in the same way as the last dozen, with another huge number of teachers in the first 5 years, and many teachers over 50 leaving.