Tag Archives: connecting classrooms

Kaizen Network and Collaboration

Tomorrow it’s our annual Kaizen Inset Day. Each year we agree one common training day for all our staff. We pool our resources to bring in the best people to lead a day in one of our schools. This work can then be further developed in our own settings with collaborative approaches informed by a shared message.

Kaizen means small steps to continuous improvement. The name of this Japanese business model suits our aims perfectly. We set up this informal network as a group of new (ish) head teachers around ten years ago. Our initial aim was to support each other in our burgeoning leadership roles. We shared a common set of values and beliefs and we were all keen to work closely, to develop a school to school support model that would help our schools grow, and help us grow as school leaders.

Initially our network was a leadership support mechanism but it quickly grew to a body which included pupil teaching and learning groups, digital leaders, debating societies and subject leader clusters.   Recently children from each school visited Houses of Parliament.   This followed a joint pupil teaching and learning day looking at school values.   Before half term the teaching and learning groups shared presentations based on findings amongst pupils in their own schools on ‘what makes the ideal teacher, the ideal learner?’  Debating societies at the same pupil conference debated whether the government should pay for homes for the homeless (this topic was chosen by the pupils from a number of options).   The work the pupils are engaged in is shared back in their own schools via assemblies and school council meetings.   A focus on speaking and listening is developing the confidence and understanding of those involved, and the more we can involve, the better!

Staff work together on key aspects of their roles and this is something we will be developing further this year with our focus on collaborative improvement and lesson study.  Subject leaders find it useful to moderate beyond their school and local clusters (Kaizen involves schools from across the region and internationally) and in this new age without levels, such sessions are more important than ever.  Last year our Kaizen Inset Day was led by Professor Barry Hymer, we looked carefully at the research into Growth Mindset and how such work could impact on our schools’ approaches.  This year the day is being led by Dr Pete Dudley, to build on our approaches to Lesson Study.   Plans are already afoot for inter school research using the Lesson Study model.   The afternoon will be given over to a Teaching and Learning Exchange, where staff from Kaizen partner schools share a range of pedagogical approaches that they are having successes with in the classroom.   These practitioner led workshops provide a ‘warts and all’ view that is refreshingly honest and helpful to colleagues in developing their own practices.

The Kaizen network grew organically.  There was no top down initiative, no external funding and no outside agenda.   The strength of the partnership is the shared belief that by working together, supporting each other and collaborating, we can improve the teaching and learning in our schools and provide a better all round education for our children.

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Peer Observations

Something we’ve tried a couple of times at school is peer observations. The idea is really to build on the sharing of good practice combined with a supportive approach to lesson observations. We wanted to make the process a supportive, rather than a judgmental one, to take the fear and worry out of the equation and make it something staff would value and be able to build on and progress from. The process is refined a little more each time we do it but the feedback is positive and staff see this as something that is about building on existing strengths rather than criticising weaknesses.

When we first had a go at peer observations we left the focus down to staff to agree. This time around we have chosen an area that fits in more closely with our school development plan. The most important aspect is that this way of conducting observations gets staff out of their own class and into colleagues rooms to talk, share ideas, offer advice and agree one or two action points to take forward. The process asks staff to think carefully about a colleagues’ approach to support their professional development – this in turn asks staff to consider their own practice. It makes them think about what is working well for them, why and how it might be shared to benefit others.

We have also seen staff developing projects and collaborative approaches following peer observations which is really exciting. Y5 and Y1 children had a great time working together following last year’s round of peer observations, others too, have chosen to link up to create exciting learning opportunities for their classes following initial peer observations and discussions.

We are now considering how this approach might work across our network, enabling staff to build on this with colleagues in other schools. This is already happening with one or two classes in an informal way and the children are benefiting from the opportunity to work with their peers in other settings as much as the staff.

Does this process need formalising any further? I’m not sure. Would this ‘kill it’ for staff making it too much like regular observations? We ask for minimal paperwork – just enough to monitor and support the process. It will be interesting to see how this next round of peer observation develops, the process has changed each time following review and discussions. Staff see this way of operating as far more beneficial to their professional development and it has certainly supported professional dialogue, both formally and informally – not a bad thing at all.


The Educators’ Friend – CPD via Twitter

CPD is changing and the change is being driven by Twitter. Tweeting is a quick way of gaining ideas and advice from colleagues across the globe. You have a question? Ask it on Twitter and get a range of answers. Want some ideas on a new topic you’re trying out?Ask on Twitter. Someone, somewhere will have tried something similar.

Twitter has opened up conversations, furthered professional dialogue and engaged practitioners worldwide. It has lifted the profession from the classroom, the school and the district to a global platform where cpd is relevant, personal, immediate and succintly stated.

Beyond Twitter but through it, PLNs have developed, teachmeets have grown and a range of other forums that allow for extended CPD. 140 character is sometimes not enough! Personal Learning Networks allow you to further conversations that can start on Twitter, to ask for advice and help. To pick others’ brains and share their thoughts and ideas. I have recently seen the Educators PLN provide such support and provoke great dialogue and discussion on a range of areas of education that are relevant across the globe thanks to the sustained efforts of @tomwhitby @shellterrell and many others.

It is the freedom to dip in and out of conversation, to chose what is relevant and join in where and when you like that makes the Educators PLN and others like it so powerful. I also benefit hugely from my peers across the world who help me, encourage me and support me both through Twitter and Educators PLN.

Teachmeet grew out of people’s desire to share technology to support learning. Two minute and seven minute presentations allow ‘enthusiastic lurkers’ and fellow presenters to gain so much CPD in one evening that you would be hard pressed not to allow it to impact positively back at base!

‘TeachMeet grew from a meeting of minds around some French food in Edinburgh, during the Spring of 2005’ (source: edublogs). Since that initial meeting where @ewanmcintosh and a group of online friends brought educational opportunity and dialogue into a new, more relevant and accessible format, teachmeets can be found occurring across the world providing teachers with personal, effective and exciting CPD.

Teachmeets also sorts the wheat from the chaff. Teachers aren’t directed to attend, the sessions fall outside the school day on many occasions, meaning you’re getting a bunch of truly committed practitioners, prepared to give up a fair chunk of their own time to develop their learning and their practice without being directed to.

All of the above represents how CPD is changing, a change brought about by Twitter. The future is exciting, the possibilities for teachers CPD seemingly endless. Let’s hope this move to ‘for teachers, by teachers’ sees a shift towards more autonomy in the profession as a whole. A move away from centralised prescription towards trusting teachers as the skilled, committed professionals they are- CPD doesn’t have to come from government, or local authorities. It can and should come from the professional’s personal needs. Great teachers go beyond what they’re asked to do because for them, teaching isn’t a job. It’s more important than that.

Some ‘sources of TeachMeet’ links: http://is.gd/6SV7X
http://is.gd/6SUiE ;
http://is.gd/6SVvq ;
http://is.gd/6SVWt
With much gratitude to @ssutherland


Comenius

To develop cultural awareness amongst our pupils and provide staff with the opportunity to work with colleagues from across the EU, we got involved in the British Council’s Comenius Project. Now into our second year we have made some fantastic connections, enjoyed some super visits and built lasting professional and personal friendships with schools and staff from around Europe. Following a contact seminar in Belgium, we were successful in our application and in October 2008, we hosted 15 staff from our partner schools. We were able to look at our own school and practice in different ways and celebrate what we do well.  It gave us all a sense of pride in what we do and helped us open the door to further improvements, routed in the good practice of our colleagues from Belgium, Czech Rep, Germany, Italy and Finland.

The children are working with a real sense of purpose as they know their learning on the agreed themes will be shared with their peers in our partner schools. It gave them a real sense of pride to know their work is being used to inform learning in schools across Europe.

Visits to Italy and Czech Rep have enabled staff to engage in relevant, exciting and fun CPD, learning so much from others and then bringing back new ideas and stories to inform what we do at Hawes Side. The project had also opened up a new level of professional dialogue amongst staff.

The pupils have a shared Comenius blog which is beginning to act as a great platform for the sharing of ideas, thoughts and questions. This year staff from school will be visiting our partners in Germany, Belgium and Finland. The children will be sharing their learning on three new agreed themes giving their work a real audience and a real sense of purpose. It’s a global village out there and Comenius is one of our most exciting ventures in this arena.

Assembly - what is that?