As I've already mentioned, We've done quite well, using Building Learning Power in the Academy, students, staff and parents really use the reporting system, and a quick walk round the Academy would see the language of learning evident in most learning sessions. There are quite a few sessions where individual teachers are taking risks and trying out different ways to develop habits of learning in young people. We focus on the 17 capacities underlying the 4Rs and some teachers do specific exercises to address these. As I mentioned in a previous blog there is a system which should mean that all teachers are focusing on certain capacities at certain times.
All these examples of good practice taking place. If I'm being honest about 40% of the staff are addressing this regularly (statistically isn't this about right for any initiative introduced school wide?). We could possibly begin to increase this figure, but I think we've taken it about as far as we can go, for the simple reason that we are viewing the dispositions as things we can teach directly, with an expectation that the students will learn them and apply them elsewhere. You don't develop habits this way. Habits come about with constant repetition; when you see things being modeled regularly; when you have things explained to you regularly; when something motivates you to try something out on a regular basis. Eventually, they become unconscious actions. I don't see that happening across the Academy. Before I begin rambling on about a possible panacea for all cures let me voice one other concern first.
If we apply the same rationale to teacher development and more specifically whole school improvement strategies then I wonder how much teachers take in on INSET days? How much of the excellent practice and topics covered on INSET days are allowed to become habit? Imagine on an INSET day , we cover a really useful topic such as Assessment for Learning (AFL). We want to introduce it to the school developing our staff in the strategies and theories. We might give it a day maybe even two days. We may even follow it up a few months later (Tell the truth, how often does this happen? Especially when you have Literacy, Numeracy, Gifted and Talented, Learning styles and God knows what else knocking at the Deputy responsible for Staff Development's door). We basically cover it really well on the day, but . . .
To what extent do we allow time and further professional development/training to:
- redesign and develop the curriculum offer and framework of delivery. In other words do we allow staff to then go off and over a period of time deconstruct and then redevelop their curriculum in line with (in this case) AFL?
- focus on learning resources and systems to facilitate effective learning. In other words do we then allow teachers to go off and spend some quality time on planning and learning about new resources and systems. E.g exploiting the vast possibilities of E-learning.
- Time and professional development to facilitate reflection, communication and growth. In other words do we then allow quality thinking time, professional dialogue, focused peer observation or coaching?
- Time and professional development to examine and explore the possibilities of raising student aspirations. In other words, do we then look at and develop ways to ensure this new practice creates the conditions for raising aspirations? (see The Global Institute for Student Aspirations ).
For a fuller description and diagram outlining this; with some further discussion and questions, see the following file: Download a_model_for_school_improvement.doc
Yes schools are bombarded with initiatives, demands, targets and yes you won't cover so much in a year, but what you do cover will be so much richer and more beneficial to your students.
So to sum up. We have to begin looking at ways to develop good learning habits in our students, but this requires careful consideration as to what dispositions you want to develop in your staff (If you opened the file above: what would you put in the Green Circle?) and to what extent you are prepared to give time and further development Of the curriculum; resources and systems; professional dialogue; creating the right conditions.
In the next Blog, I'll describe what I hope will happen over the next few years, followed by some of the trials and tribulations encountered so far.