I'm obviously not disciplined to write often, or maybe I have no time because of this *##xx!!# monster we're creating. Here's a quick summary of what's been happening:
We're now into our second year of delivering this programme. Our Year 7 and 8 students are participating in PBL for approx 80% of their curriculum time. They are doing Languages and PE discretely. It's been very hard, but we are still persevering and beginning to see the fruits of our labours.
Structuring the timetable has been difficult. Issues:
- Students have too many teachers. They go to a focus session and at worst, pack up after 50mins leave that teacehr go a couple of doors down the corridor, get out all the same work and carry on the focus session with another teacher. Teachers must be timetabled for longer sessions
- It has been difficult to timetable tutorials because teachers in focus sessions are still not comfortable with the different students coming to them for focus sessions. (If a tutorial is to run then the group of students in a teachers "Learning Family" need to be dissipated across the rest of the cohort).
- Because there are too many teachers, individual teachers don't have enough ownership of the project and so assessment is not as good as it could be.
We've made the mistake/ or fallen into the trap of unconsciously building/structuring our timetable around the needs of our teachers. Have a look at your own timetable; it is built around a series of grids which are designed to place teachers in separate 'silos'. When developing the timetable, the timetabler works around constraints such as teacher non-contact time and trying not to give a class a triple session because how could the teacher possibly fill the time and keep students focused? There is an outcry if a teacher doesn't teach as much as possible in the same room, or does not have the same group of students at the same times of the week every week and it's the end of the world if a teacher goes over their allotted amount of contact time. I'm not trying to put down teachers who moan. Why shouldn't they moan their job is hard. However without realising it, when we are timetabling (and I was a timetabler for quite a few years), those cries of horror from the teachers are there in the back of your mind and we structure the timetable around their needs. I don't think I've explained myself here so don't crucify me yet rather, indulge me for the moment and I'll do more justice to this statement in a future post. Just let me say for now that we are still maintaining the status quo in our school, by restricting our timetable to suit teachers. Students are staying in the same groups all the time, which is exactly what I wanted to avoid.
Solutions to this have been to do some re-timetabling this year as teachers have become more confident, but from next year we have been working on a new way to timetable, placing teachers in to teams from various disciplines with ownership of one project. We will not timetable non-contact time for teachers, instead the teams will have enough time to allow for non-contact time. The same cohort of students will work with this team of teachers and teachers within the team will be responsible for athe academic mentoring of a certain number of students. They will organise themselves as a team, and work in partnership with each other. part of their responsibility will be to ensure that the students are all assessed by each mentor regularly (the more difficult concepts will be covered by the particular subject specialists in seminars). English and Maths teachers will work outside of these teams, ensuring the delivery and development of Literacy and Numeracy. Each team of teachers will deliver their project to a different cohort of students each half term across three year groups.
This is all far to complex for me to explain just now so apologies if it sounds a bit disjointed. I'll post a model when it is completed.