And another difficulty . . . teacher development. I really underestimated the amount of professional development our staff would need to deliver this programme effectively. Our seminars are fine - the teachers are in their comfort zones; their specialist subject areas. Our focus sessions are a different story.
Facilitating learning is far more difficult than 'teaching'. We have had to develop a crib sheet for staff who have felt really insecure when facing a group of young people coming along to a class at all different stages in their project. Before giving them this crib sheet/script ( Download Focus Session Script )which guides them through the facilitation process, many of the teachers were floundering. Students were not showing progress during focus sessions due to a lack of subtle guidance/support and well crafted questioning. Some staff were still trying to lead from the front or in some cases sit at the front.
Focus sessions need real interaction with the students. Teachers are put into a framework where they have to deliver; there is no place (or worksheet) to hide behind. Slowly most of the staff are becoming accustomed to this way of working. A few months ago our main source of complaints from staff was related to not knowing what they were doing and not feeling capable. Today the biggest source of complaints from teachers are related to other teachers not pulling their weight. A teacher taking a focus session must work with the students to ensure progress. Failure to do this results in the next teacher 'picking up the pieces'. We have also given every teacher a certain amount of planning responsibility within each project. A teacher who does not do his or her share of planning is not appreciated by peers.
So in some ways although this is a difficult process, it is nevertheless positive in the sense that teachers are having to develop their craft or understanding of pedagogy. There is no longer the possibility for teachers to retreat into their classroom armed with a text books to copy from or work sheets to endlessly fill in. I know I am probably sounding as if I have a negative attitude towards teachers, but I am only talking about the few who exist in every school and who are not really concerned with pedagogy, seeing a successful lesson as one which is ordered and quiet - where learning comes second.