This blog first appeared on the Pearson School Model blog.
In the second of our guest posts from the Teacher Development Trust, David Weston, the CEO, recounts the discussions that took place around the question “should teachers be required to plan lessons collaboratively?”
There was a resounding “yes” to this big question as we were joined by teachers, governors, researchers and training providers for the second of the Big CPD Debate series of webinars run by the Teacher Development Trust. Every participant agreed it is no longer acceptable for teachers to plan all of their lessons on their own, with opinion divided as to whether collaboration should be expected for all lessons or only in some cases. The debate focused on the key elements of effective practice identified in a new report from Pearson which was carried out by the Centre for the Use of Research Evidence in Education.
Key obstacles identified were lack of trust between staff, lack of time to work together (the subject of the next webinar in this series), and the sense of individual accountability, as opposed to team responsibility, that pervades some schools. However, by the end of the session the participants had identified several strategies for making this collaboration successful, including:
• offering some choice to teachers (perhaps to develop ideas relating to their particular interests or expertise),
• using video clips to spark discussion,
• publicly valuing questions as highly as answers, and
• for leaders and facilitators of collaborative groups to ‘go first’ and expose their vulnerabilities publicly in order to build trust and mutual respect with everyone else.
Sarah Kupski, a senior school leader from Ely College, introduced the idea of choice by noting that the initial resistance to working collaboratively in her school was partially overcome when teachers were offered an element of freedom in the focus of their planning and moving away from a very top-down model. This was something that was welcomed by participants, although Philippa Cordingley, one of the authors of the research, cautioned that collaborative conversations will only lead to improved student outcomes if teachers are planning around new approaches and ideas, and if their decisions are based on evidence from their classrooms. So choice is helpful, but it can’t be entirely free, and it mustn’t lead to a diluting of the essential challenge that produces real improvements in teaching and learning.
The role of leaders in building trust was probably the most dominant theme toward the end of the discussion. Leaders can’t demand a whole new mindset from staff without demonstrating it first. Ideas suggested to help this were using video clips of lessons, perhaps starting with one from the classroom of a group leader or facilitator. These act as a great leveller, demonstrate a real vulnerability, and can spark really interesting conversations. David Birch, Deputy Director of the National Education Trust, suggested combining this with an offer to the least confident members of a team to take an expert role in the group. In his work he has encouraged less experienced members of staff to take time to research an area of interest and bring their ideas to future collaborative discussions for their colleagues to build from.
In our next webinar debate, on Thursday 5th July at 7pm, we’ll be exploring the issues around the time and resources needed by teachers in order to collaborate effectively, not just for lesson planning but also for peer observations and evaluation of student work. We’ll be asking how it is possible for a school to provide these, and the obstacles that they must overcome along the way.
The webinar debates will continue on Mondays at 4pm and Thursdays at 7pm until Monday 16th July. They’re open to anyone and you can sign up here. There will be an ongoing disucssion on Twitter using the hashtag #bettercpd.
The slides used in this debate are available here. A recording is available here.