A while ago a headteacher colleague and myself attended a course on thinking skills. We were keen to develop these in our schools and came up with the following plan.
We set aside a joint inset day for both schools to work together the following year. We identified two key staff in each of our schools to attend training prior to our joint inset. Following the course we released the four teachers to work together, to talk through what they had found out and decide on approaches to try in their own classrooms. Along with us they planned the joint inset day for the beginning of the following year based on their own experiences of using thinking skills in the classroom and what they had learnt from their training.
For the training day itself we hired a local venue convenient for staff from both schools. We wanted the day to feel like a professional experience and give everyone an opportunity to engage in quality surroundings, in recognition of how importantly we viewed this training.
As headteachers, my colleague and I introduced the day. We introduced the staff who would be leading the sessions and handed over to them to talk about thinking skills in the classroom, how they had used key strategies, what had worked and what hadn’t etc. Their own experiences of implementation gave them a credibility with their peers and this was very important. If you’re being encouraged to try something new it is best to hear from someone who has already been there.
Throughout the day we tried out a range of practical ideas in groups. We tried De Bono’s thinking hats and thinking keys amongst others, discussing where and how they might be used to support learners. Schools were mixed and staff talked with each other about experiences beyond the day. Something we actively encouraged. It was the beginning of a local PLN!
At the end of the day staff were asked to decide on a strategy they would take away from the sessions and use in their own class. Contacts were exchanged and a follow up twilight was planned for the next term to share experiences.
The staff who led the training were delighted to have been given the opportunity. It was a chance for them to develop professionally beyond their class or school and lead their peers in a key area supported by their headteachers. The local authority also asked us if the teachers could lead sessions in other schools. Something they did with enthusiasm. It was a great CPD opportunity in many ways.
This kind of collaborative venture is not only hugely beneficial, as it enables a few schools to focus on specific areas of interest to them, but also important in today’s climate where funding and LA support is diminishing. Building networks, big or small, local or global is the way for schools to move forward in uncertain times. I know the staff involved in this project would fully support this view.