Monthly Archives: January 2011

A tale of two schools – a thinking skills project

Some years ago, in my previous school, we put together a thinking skills project.   It serves as a fantastic sample of two schools working together to create a lasting and beneficial form of CPD across two settings.

The project came about when a fellow headteacher and myself attended a great day’s training in the use of thinking skills in the classroom to support learning.   We were both keen to develop such an approach and decided the best way to do this was to identify one key member of staff in each of our schools who would enjoy being involved in such work.   We sent them both on a further thinking skils course and then gave them another day to work together, share what they had found out and agree how they might move forward with this in both our schools.   They were both piloting some of the techniques and strategies they had learned about on the course and were keen to develop the project further.   It was agreed that a full inset day for both schools would enable them to present all they had learnt, to talk about their successes in their own classrooms since attending the training and talk abut any difficulties they had encountered. They continued to meet over the next couple of months to share and support each other, and to plan for the training day.

We planned for both the teachers and ourselves as heads to deliver the training, share what we had learned on the courses and provide staff with a range of strategies and techniques to try themselves in class.   The day went well.   We hired a venue away from both our schools and hired a buffet lunch!   It gave the day an importance and helped staff see it as some worth taking seriously.   It was great for teachers from both schools to work together in year groups to plan out what they would be prepared to try out following the day and how they might support each other, electronically and through school visits.   A follow up twilight meeting was planned for the following term to share what had worked in different classes and what people would like help with.

The project not only saw the introduction of new approaches in the classroom but also helped to build a supportive network across both our schools.   There was no fear about ‘getting things wrong’ as it was new to everyone.   It was more about getting involved in something innovative and exciting together.   The project acted as a catalyst to developing a cross schools network and a culture of collaboration and support that still exists today.   It was the start of a way of working that we have all adopted almost as second nature today but I believe there is still an awful lot we can do to get the most out of such simple approaches to networking and lasting cpd.

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By staff for staff – a simple and effective model of CPD

Tonight’s ukedchat prompted me to think about a really powerful model of professional development we introduced at my last school.   The school was in special measures when I took up the post of headteacher (my first – I figured there was only one way to go!) We came out of the category early and I was keen to keep up the impetus that saw us make such rapid gains in a short space of time.   We got involved in a project around thinking skills with a neighbouring school and this gave us a strong focus as we moved forward however it was the summer research project that I want to talk about here.

The Deputy and I felt that getting staff to engage in a short piece of research would be a great idea and hugely benefit staff individually and collectively.   We knew from observations and discussions, and the range of information we had from HMI the individual strengths and weaknesses of teachers so we looked at a range of books, journals and online support to find something bespoke to each teachers current needs.   We then met with each of them individually and agreed their personal area of research.   We collapsed some inset days to give time for everyone to work on their project; they read articles, discussed their research and we bought them each a book on their chosen area.   We asked that when they returned after the summer break they give a presentation on their research.   The first staff meeting in the September was given over to our first ‘researcher’ to share for 10 minutes their findings – it was as simple and straightforward as that.

We didn’t ask for handouts, or insist on presentations but to our delight that first staff meeting contained both.   It set the scene for the following few weeks of staff meetings when, one by one each teacher shared their findings in similar ways.   We covered a range of areas in those sessions and really developed professionally in that first half term.   Did the research have lasting impact? I believe it helped staff as practitioners and benefitted the children in the classrooms.   It also increased professional dialogue as teachers who hadn’t really engaged in a high level of educational discourse suddenly felt empowered to do so.  This approach to CPD really helped the school move forward, it was a powerful model that was very simple to execute and had a lasting impact on the practice of all involved.  What more could you ask for?