Monthly Archives: March 2013

Speed Learning

There are a range of different ways of sharing good practice.   One of the most interesting approaches I have seen recently is Speed Learning. 

I attended my first speed learning event a couple of years ago.   It was  organised by Claire Lowe (@clairelowe2) and Kirstie Andrew-Power from the SSAT.   They had gathered a group of practitioners together to share their learning experiences in short presentations at a local high school one evening.  The twilight session began with an introductory key note by a guest Headteacher and quickly moved into the speed learning presentations.   Each presentation took place at a table and delegates moved round the room every 10 minutes hearing up to six different presentations.   The opportunity to hear from a range of practitioners close up and personal was well received.   Those presenting were able to share ideas from their ipads, laptops and other devices rather than relying on large screens to project their work.   This gave the short presentations a more intimate feel and an energetic buzz filled the hall as attendees heard from the likes 0f @ianaddison and other teachers in the area talking about a range of tech and non tech initiatives that were proving successful in their own schools.  Some gave out information and shared examples of learning using the table top presentation idea to good effect.  Following the presentations a closing keynote rounded off the event and looked to the future of such continuing professional development opportunities.

The speed learning model is a great way for practitioners to share ideas and innovations.   It requires careful organisation and timing, a number of willing presenters and an audience.   Such an event can reap dividends as staff return to school armed with a number of tried and tested approaches, peer support and new contacts helping to foster a sustainable and vibrant form of sharing and staff development.  The model is particularly successful where a numeber of schools in close proximity agree to sacrificing a staff meeting or two for the common cause with one hosting the event.

SSAT are supporting a series of Speed Learning events up and down the UK over the summer term, if you haven’t managed to get to one yet you might like to check where your closest one is by following the link below.

St Silas in Liverpool and Hawes Side in Blackpool are hosting two North West speed learning events on 12th and 13th June respectively. Contact @mrsdonaldson82 and @smichael920 on twitter for further information.  


School level models of CPD – a changing landscape

The way schools approach professional developed has changed dramatically over the last few years. The rise of teachmeets and similar models has seen a shift away from the content driven courses run by consultants and advisors of the past. Many now prefer the engagement and active involvement of peer led training as opposed to the passive learning model that is the diet of many traditional courses. The kind of course that generally takes staff away from their day to day practice to tell them how they can do their job better. The problem for many with such delivery is that it can lack credibility, practitioners like to hear from those who are walking the talk, who understand the day to day pressures and recognise the difficulties that can be encountered. Practitioner led training is popular as it not only gives its audience a ‘warts and all’ account of tried and tested approaches, but it also gives those presenting it an opportunity to develop professionally themselves.

A number of practitioner led approaches at cluster and network level can be replicated to good effect in individual schools.   Below are a few approaches that work well both with groups of schools and within single organisations:

Staffroom teachmeet – this sharing good practice model is a great way to get staff up and talking about what they are doing in class that is proving successful.   It promotes conversation around teaching and learning and a quick five minutes in front of peers doesn’t necessarily worry people in the way a longer slot in front of a larger audience might.

Learning walks – many staff rarely get into their peers classrooms and giving a couple of staff meetings over to learning walks means they will be able to spend time learning from each other, getting ideas, discussing how the learning environment can support learners and informally planning future developments.   We spend an awful lot of time moving around school to meetings, classes, assemblies etc… so it is nice to actually slow down and make the walk around school purposeful in itself.   A meeting on the move!

Moving the meetings -asking staff to host a staff meeting in their classroom is a good way of encouraging them to talk about learning and the learning environment in more detail.   It is also a way of sharing the leading role and developing leadership skills in others. Having staff meetings in different classrooms can effortlessly put teaching and learning high on the agenda.   It is amazing how much dialogue around practice can grow out of a simple question about a classroom display.

Staff Surgery – I have posted about this approach on this blog before but simply put, we make use of this model to support staff in developing their use of technology.   Each term we have a staff meeting where everyone brings along a device (or we use the IT suite) and we share what is working well, what people are doing with their blogs, what they are struggling with or have heard about. It is a real collegiate environment and has become a recognised opportunity in school to develop collective and individual use of technology to support learning.   Recently phase meetings have also introduced an ‘app of the week’ where staff will share an app they have been using in class on their iPads.

With a range of external directives and initiatives competing for space and time on an already crowded staff meeting agenda, taking a step away to develop such sharing is hugely valued and seen by many as the best way to approach school level cpd.