The Art of Positive Lesson Observation – creating a culture where lesson observation is a collaborative part of continual professional learning

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In this news post I want to focus on the outstanding opportunities that exist in ensuring lesson observation is a key part of professional learning and development for all those with a pupil facing role. Where individuals see lesson observation as an important part of their own professional development it is transformational. The key however is to make it a two-way process. It should not be an imposition where senior and middle leaders decide who should be observed and when.

Our course “The Art of Positive Lesson Observation – creating a culture where lesson observation is a collaborative part of continuing professional learning” focuses on how using coaching techniques can have a significant impact on how the observer feeds back to the observed and those being observed accept and use the feedback as part of their own learning and continued development as a good or outstanding teacher.

Where lesson observation is a part of performance management it becomes an imposition and is often an unwelcome intrusion into the teacher’s classroom. Where a coaching culture emerges, the teacher is an integral part of the observation process, welcomes the opportunity to reflect and can accept the positive and constructive feedback that is shared.

The best way forward is to make it explicit that lesson observation is part of professional learning for all those concerned. Every member of the teaching staff needs to be involved, all should have the opportunity to observe others and engage in professional learning conversations about the quality of the lesson, what worked well and what the teacher might do differently next time.

To create a less judgemental approach to lesson observation it is important that all teaching staff understand and can talk about the teaching strategies that underpins their classroom practice. In this course we give the participants an opportunity to explore pedagogy and what constitutes independent, active and participative learning that ensures all learners are fully involved in their learning. Giving teachers an opportunity to talk about teaching and learning as part of lesson observation gives them the opportunity to celebrate what they do well, share what achieves impact and take away the ideas and best practice from other practitioners.

There is an imperative to give teachers and their line managers an opportunity to share their experiences of the past few months. Observing lessons has taken place but in very different ways. Now is the time as we welcome learners back to the classroom to use CPD time to consider new ways that might emerge where teachers develop different and more blended learning strategies. Creating a coaching culture where teachers can experiment, take risks and build a repertoire of new pedagogies will enrich the learning for both the teacher and their pupils.

The message we are conveying as part of this training course is that there should be a high degree of trust between the observed and the observer. In a coaching culture the observer is not there to judge but to feedback in a positive way that creates for the teacher an opportunity to learn and grow in their role.

The course provides those who take part with opportunities throughout to practice coaching skills and deepen their understanding of how to feedback positively to encourage reflection and foster a motivation to want to make changes and to learn.

Where coaching is an integral part of the process of observing learning there is a willingness for individuals to share, grow and innovate.  Where coaching is embedded as part of the feedback process the school or college culture changes and everyone is a part of the desire for continuous improvement and the quest for high quality learning for all.

This course The Art of Lesson Observation”   is one of our asynchronous Moodle packages that those with responsibility for lesson observation, professional development and performance management can use to suit their CPD timetable or planning time. It is divided into five sections that are designed to cover a full INSET day. They can be broken down and delivered over time and revisited as often as is needed. The whole course sits on a Moodle platform where all the resources are easily accessed. There is even a multiple-choice quiz, bibliography and extra resources at the end of each section.  It also comes in a box with a memory stick that houses all the resources, sets of cards, a user manual and because we can’t offer you lunch, a box of chocolates. We can also run this course for leaders and managers from an organisation either remotely or face to face when allowed.

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Re-thinking Appraisal – creating the right culture for continuing professional development to flourish

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This newsletter profiles our training course Re-thinking Appraisal and Performance Management- Creating a coaching culture that leads to influential change through positive learning conversations  It looks at the process of appraisal and the undoubted advantages of using coaching as a means of ensuring the vision, the school improvement plan and the road map that defines the way forward from here can be all be realised.

We must not forget the implications for staff development as well as for pupils’ progress and achievement as the academic year rolls on and we begin to look to future plans for learning and development. We are certainly aware here at Learning Cultures that training and CPD has not been high on the agenda for school leaders and line managers during the last year, which is understandable in the circumstances.

There will be an imperative to include continuing professional development for all staff in any strategic planning that takes place over the coming months. There is much talk about what learners have lost but this can be just as telling for those who teach, manage learning or design the curriculum. In all of the professions CPD is a vital component of maintaining standards and high-quality outcomes and education is no exception.

Achieving carefully crafted goals and objectives may not have been possible for all those at the frontline of trying to educate and keep a school safe and running smoothly. Therefore, appraisals may need careful thought as we move towards the new academic year and begin to look at the whole school or college vision and organisation, team and individual improvement plans.

We have a coaching solution to the need to rethink appraisal. We can support all those who need to reflect on how future plans will redress the impact of the last year and refocus how an appraisal process will help to reset the compass in order to steer learning towards positive futures.

The answer is to make sure that all staff are involved in the process and all have a say as to their own goals and aspirations for the future.  It is essential that leaders in education encourage their staff to reflect on what they have learnt over the past year. It has been tough and for many exhausting and overwhelming, but we have all had to adapt and change our ways of working and we have all gained new skills in the process.

Going backwards is unlikely to be the way forward. We cannot capture what has been lost but we can build self-esteem and celebrate the achievements bound up in survival, change and positive action that has been taken to minimise disruption that has been the default for many. This is where coaching comes in.  Making sure line managers create the right culture that ensures appraisals are a two – way process with the individuals they manage is essential. This must acknowledge the individual’s strengths and skills and give them the opportunity to share their own solutions to achieving positive outcomes and measurable impact for all learners and all staff.

Coaching is about setting goals and focusing on how these can be achieved smartly. Creating an appraisal process that focuses on accountability for each individual to be responsible for achieving what they say they want to achieve is far more motivating than when goals and objectives are imposed by others. Each individual needs to know the part he or she plays in achieving the school or college vision. Their focus is then on what positive actions can be taken to achieve success, measure impact and focus on priorities for change and improvement.

Our training course Re-thinking Appraisal and Performance Management- Creating a coaching culture that leads to influential change through positive learning conversations will give those with responsibility for managing appraisal with a wealth of materials, resources and activities to re-think the process. We also contain within the course the opportunity for those attending to learn some coaching skills that will help them to support their teams to define their goals and objectives, know and articulate their strengths and learning agenda, conduct appraisal interviews and create opportunities for ongoing professional learning conversations to take place during the interval between formal appraisals.

This course is an asynchronous package that those with responsibility for planning and conducting appraisal can use to suit their CPD timetable or planning time. It is divided into five sections that are designed to cover a full INSET day. They can be broken down and delivered over time and revisited as often as is needed. The whole course sits on a Moodle platform where all the resources are easily accessed. There is even a multiple choice quiz, bibliography and extra resources at the end of each section.  It also comes in a box with a memory stick that houses all the resources, sets of cards, a user manual and because we can’t offer you lunch, a box of chocolates. We can also run this course for leaders and managers from an organisation either remotely or face to face when allowed.

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Coaching: the key to outstanding teaching and learning

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In this newspost I want to explore coaching as a powerful pedagogy. Where teachers learn to coach, they quickly see the parallels with the strategies they use to deliver exceptional teaching and learning. We have a highly regarded course for all teachers it is called ‘Coaching Towards Outstanding Teaching and Learning’.

Picture walking into a classroom where all the pupils are engaged, focused and absorbed in what they are doing. The teacher is there to facilitate the learning, not necessarily simply to deliver the content. There is a buzz of learning and a confidence for all that taking a risk or making a mistake is absolutely fine as long as it leads to some kind of deeper understanding. The teacher’s role is to encourage, challenge and foster a love of learning that will remain forever.

The teacher uses the classroom to foster independent learning, group interaction and the blending of skills and knowledge. He or she creates opportunities for learners to make sense of their growing understanding and what they need to do next to progress.  There is a trust that is implicit in the relationship between the teacher and his or her class. The quality of learning is dependent on that teacher’s inspiration and expertise and the learner has the confidence to use the resources, rise to the challenges of the tasks being presented and is motivated towards achieving above and beyond their potential.

Where teachers develop a range of coaching skills and learn how to use them as part of their teaching repertoire, they are more adept at creating a classroom culture that puts the onus on learning rather than teaching and creates for the pupils a tacit understanding that they are responsible for their own learning and are accountable for what they achieve.

The skills teachers will develop as part of learning how to coach are the ability to use deep and rich questioning to put the onus on the learner to find their own solutions, be ready to take risks with their learning and accept challenge as part of their experience in the classroom.  The second skill is learning how to become an active listener. Listening raises awareness of what others think. It allows the listener to build a picture of how much a learner understands, their attitudes to learning and the barriers that might hinder learning.

It is also important that teachers have the opportunity to reflect on their pedagogy and how the way they teach impacts on learning, enjoyment, progression and achievement. Here at Learning Cultures for this course we have created a set of pedagogy cards that give teachers an opportunity to talk about their teaching approaches and what works well for them. We ask them to share their best practice examples and we encourage those who are listening to use the incisive questioning techniques they have been learning about to find out more, to challenge perceptions and to define how the approach leads to learning.

We also challenge teachers to focus on their strengths, how can they articulate what they are good at and how they influence others to achieve their full potential.  There is often a reluctance for us all to talk about ourselves and certainly to say what we are doing well. To be a good coach it is essential to know yourself, how you influence others and what it is about you that others will trust with their dreams and aspirations. We use this as a powerful opportunity to focus on how to plan a learning agenda linked to strengths and gaps in skills and knowledge that will help all to move towards an ideal professional future.

The essential final element in learning how to coach is to have the opportunity to practice coaching with others over time. This is profoundly linked to having very clearly defined goals for how this future will be achieved. Articulating one’s goal and then determining the road map for how it will be achieved is a crucial first step.  It is also important to recognise what currently works well but also to know the barriers that might impede success.

Where individuals can set out their own goals and how they will achieve them and then share this with others there are opportunities for coaching conversations to take place that have a twofold impact. Firstly, the goal setter consolidates their understanding of what they want to achieve and secondly, the listener is able to practice their questioning, influencing and listening skills.

Coaching and teaching have a synergy that cannot be easily ignored by anyone who has spent time learning how to coach.  We will all need new approaches and positive answers to welcome back learners who have been away from school. Coaching provides so many answers to ensuring both teachers and pupils have the confidence, self-esteem and self-belief to move forward from here and continue to make exceptional progress. Follow the link to the course discussed below.

Coaching Towards Outstanding Teaching and Learning

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Leading from the Middle: Influence change, build outstanding teams and foster innovation

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This post focuses on our course Coaching for Middle Leaders. It is the fourth in the Learning Cultures series looking at how developing a coaching culture will provide the framework, the skills and the strategy to plan how to move forward to ensure continued high quality outcomes for all staff and learners.

Here, we look specifically at the role of the middle leader and how coaching will enhance their ability to enable their teams to deliver the plan for consolidation, change and improvement.

Leading from the Middle is a powerful coaching course for those with the pivotal role of middle leader. They work closely with the Headteacher or Principal and other senior leaders to interpret and contribute to the vision for continuous improvement and ensure curriculum cohesion and impact.

They lead their teams and translate the plans for success into workable goals and objectives that are realistic, measurable and achievable. The middle leader has to empower others to deliver specific quality outcomes to ensure there is a visible impact on learning and achievement.

All of this has to be managed within workable time-frames that fit into the academic year and that’s in a normal year. The middle leader now has an even more pivotal role. They must look forward to plan how to build on what has been learnt. They must reflect on how to recover lost learning for both teachers and their pupils. They will also have the responsibility for creating positive futures linked to self – esteem, motivation and confidence.

This course examines the role of coaching in middle leadership and how through the development of a range of coaching skills middle leaders can foster highly visible professional learning communities that will model best practice, empower others to explore and innovate, foster a culture of trust and inspire new ideas in pedagogy and learning.

We look at the skills of listening, influencing and the powerful use of questioning. We focus on the difference between mentoring and coaching and how to use both effectively. We ask middle leaders to look within themselves to define their own strengths and gaps in learning and how they can foster a culture where their teams work together to cohesively deliver high quality outcomes that make a difference.

We then focus on how developing and using these skills creates a culture where teams are more cohesive, they feel enabled and motivated to find their own solutions and are inspired to be a part of a collective vision that delivers outstanding learning, excellence in teaching and a commitment to consistent high quality outcomes.

Coaching is the most powerful way to manage change where all teams, curriculum, teaching and learning, subject, pastoral, support and administration are all a part of the collective vision that will help the organisation, school, college, academy or university to find the positive and build on successes rather than dwelling on lost learning. Positivity breeds self-esteem, is motivational and is the only way to plan for the next steps in minimising the impact of what has gone before.

This course is part of our suite of coaching courses. It will give middle leaders a wealth of materials and resources to use with their teams. It is the starting point for middle leaders to learn a range of coaching techniques and it gives all those who attend with the framework for taking coaching forward as part of the vision for a successful future.

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Why Coaching is your Absolute Strategy for an Outstanding Future

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Creating a coaching culture is probably the most important strategic decision a school or college leadership team can take.  Coaching strengthens the potential of the organisation to have the evidence that the quality of education remains good or outstanding and all staff have the skills and potential to make a difference. Below are some of the reasons why Glynis at Learning Cultures advocates coaching so strongly especially now. Then find out what you can do to implement a strategy where coaching is at the heart of your pursuit for ensuring continued excellence in learning.

The need to create a framework for how leaders can set a new course towards a smooth return to normality in education should now be high on the strategic agenda. There is an imperative to build on the learning from the past year, manage how to fill the gaps in learning and create opportunities for everyone, leader, manager, teacher, learner and support staff to feel motivated and ready for the challenges ahead.

The first imperative in creating a coaching culture is a commitment from the Principal or Headteacher and their senior teams to learn how coaching skills empower, influence and inspire others to be the masters of their own change agenda and to know the part they play in achieving the school or college vision. The return to school for all does require a collective will to ensure learners and staff can rise to the challenges, reflect on the skills and learning that have been achieved over the past few months and find innovative ways to make sure lost learning is captured in a different way.

Messages can be lost in translation especially when they are given out as instructions. Making the decision to create opportunities for professional learning communities to come into being provides a solution. Where the vision is a shared communication and is the subject of deep learning conversations that involve every team member in the decision-making process the messages are strengthened and have a resonance that fosters the will to succeed, raises morale and builds a desire for positive change to take place.

Those leading from the middle are pivotal. They must have bold enabling skills that will help to interpret the priorities for continuous improvement and create the right culture so that teachers, the pastoral team and the support teams set their own SMART goals and objectives linked to the role they play. Where coaching exists in a school or college as the catalyst for change the smooth transition to normality will be a much easier journey because all staff are working together, share their strengths and positive gains and build a collective belief in their ability to be a part of a new learning culture.

Self and peer reflection are known to have an impact on school improvement. Encouraging a coaching culture to emerge allows this to happen and will be a powerful driver for success for so many who have had to work in isolation with little peer or colleague contact allowed for so long.

Learning Cultures are a leading provider of coaching training for the education profession. We have developed a suite of highly acclaimed coaching training programmes for all those who work in education. We have a training experience for senior leaders that helps them to develop their own coaching skills and focuses on how to set out the steps that will lead to a coaching culture for everyone.

Training for middle leaders builds their coaching skills so that they are able to influence change, manage teams and create a culture of collaboration, cohesion and reflection.  Coaching can also support the process of positive and effective lesson observation that leads to a commitment to share, change or improve. Coaching can ensure a more collaborative approach to appraisal where feedback is a two-way process that leads to profound change.

Where teachers develop a range of coaching skills, they are learning how to create an environment where learners are self-directed, collaborative, independent in their approach and become creative thinkers. Teachers are using coaching as a pedagogy and that has a profound impact on learning. Coaching also provides opportunities for teachers to share their practice, celebrate their successes and work with their peers so that they build on their repertoire of teaching strategies.  Coaching can also work for teaching assistants and support staff where positive coaching conversations can have an impact on the shared commitment for the teacher and teaching assistant and where support staff work directly with the learner.

Coaching has a massive part to play in the pastoral process, impacting on behaviour, well-being, challenge and attitudes to learning.

So, putting all this together provides the ingredients for a coaching culture to emerge.  Building a CPD strategy around coaching creates a sustainable and cost-effective answer to how to ensure a successful future. Anything else is piecemeal, lacks cohesion and is difficult to measure in terms of impact. Now is the time to make the decision to use coaching as your absolute strategy for an outstanding future for all staff and all learners. Learning Cultures have all you need and more.

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Quality Assurance: an education perspective

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There has never been a more important time to focus on the overused and misunderstood word ‘quality’, especially when it is coupled with the word assurance. Quality Assurance means achieving what you set out to achieve, where the outcomes are those that meet the needs of all stakeholders and where mishaps or failures along the way are not dwelt upon and have been carefully analysed and refocused so that they become successes. Quality assurance is different from quality control and it is this difference that needs to be clearly defined in education.  Let me give you an example,

In Britain in the 1970s we had a car industry and we tended to wait until the end of the production line to check whether the car met the standards required. If something was wrong, it was difficult to see where the mistake had been made and the system of remote supervisors who were not involved in the car making process didn’t help. This was quality control. At the same time in Japan, they were adopting a system called ‘Kaizan’, a system of quality assurance. Team leaders and their teams had a responsibility for checking each part as it was added along the production line, their involvement was recorded. This meant that at the end of the line if there was a problem it could be traced back to where the part was added. This meant that everyone had a responsibility for the quality of the final product.

Something similar can be applied to schools and colleges if we rely too heavily on summative data at the end of key stage 1,2 and 4 and 5. The principles of a Kaizan or traceability system that underpin this concept in business can be applied to the building of a collaborative and positive school or college structure that ensures the curriculum vision translates into outstanding pedagogy, profound learning opportunities and has an impact on continuous improvement for all.

Quality Assurance is a process that ensures what is to be delivered or produced achieves a clearly defined set of outcomes. The emphasis is on ‘self-review’ rather than checking by a third party or inspector.  Quality assurance is a well-used term in business and well-documented systems exist that give staff the tools and techniques to monitor their own quality output. Total Quality Management or (TQM) is a term many businesses have now adopted and implies that quality assurance is an integral part of all systems and is, therefore, an essential element of every individual’s performance.

Applying these principles to a school or college setting requires a deliberate focus on defining what constitutes a quality culture for any education setting. There are many benefits to adopting a process driven quality system for education, such as,

  • The imperative to define a set of incremental steps that lead to a collaborative and highly effective system that can be implemented across all teams, departments or phases within a school, a college or across a trust or alliance
  • The need to clearly set out the vision, the rationale and the ambition as to what is expected in terms of curriculum implementation and how it can be achieved so that it can be communicated and interpreted by all
  • Individual leaders and managers are empowered to work with their teams to determine the priorities that will lead to successful outcomes over time
  • All those involved can plot their progress and the progress of others, celebrate success and define where action is needed to make changes to achieve success
  • The process provides a visual picture of where there are issues and problems that need to be addressed along the way and create for those involved clear evidence that actions need to be taken or a change in strategy adopted to steer the process towards completion

Here at Learning Cultures we have investigated the concept of quality in relation to what OFSTED here in England are looking for, by looking at the international and European perspective and to how business fosters a collaborative approach to ensure the highest possible quality outcomes.

Translated into what is necessary to implement a process of quality assurance for your setting there are a number of steps that need to be in place, these include matching curriculum intent, vision and rationale to implementation and impact consistently and  coherently across the whole organisation and then focusing on how the curriculum is sequenced, how key concepts, knowledge and skills are embedded across all learning: creating a unified approach to assessment linked to formative assessment that fosters progression as well as summative assessment to gather data.  For this to happen the final step must be planned CPD to ensure all staff have the relevant skills and expertise.

The Curriculum and Quality Team here at Learning Cultures have designed a course for senior and middle leaders who are charged with developing a Quality Assurance strategy for their school or college.

We have used our own and others research in the quest for our own high-quality product. We look in detail at the current imperatives linked to the design of a deep and rich curriculum and how that is successfully implemented to ensure impact that leads to high quality learning outcomes for all. We have built the design around 7 quality indicators that define the quality processes that lead to outstanding educational outcomes. These include:-

  1. effective leadership
  2. identifying the needs of all learners
  3. engaging and empowering all staff
  4. a focus on pedagogy and learning
  5. consistency in assessment across all learning
  6. data handling
  7. the involvement of a range of wider stakeholders including learners, parents, Governors and the wider community

We have designed a detailed and in-depth focus on these 7 indicators in the form of a RAG report that allows quality teams to determine what is currently working well, what is work in progress and what needs to change.

This course ‘Quality Assuring Curriculum Implementation for Impact – how the curriculum delivers outstanding pedagogy, seamless learning and progression’, is run as a two part online synchronous training opportunity where leadership teams, Quality Managers and subject leaders can use the resources and materials to build their own system of continuous quality improvement. We include tools to support developing timelines, priority schedules and resources that foster opportunities for professional learning conversations that lead to a collaborative desire to create a culture of continuous improvement.

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Strategic CPD Solutions – innovative examples of good practice

Strategy is probably a long way down the list of priorities for all those leading in education unless it is linked to the issues that crowd every day.  However, an increasing number of leaders are taking the longer view and beginning to focus on the needs of their teams, their teachers and their pupils when relative normality returns. I wanted to share some of the innovative CPD that we have delivered in the past nine months, remotely of course, to individual participants, middle, pastoral and subject leaders and large and small INSETs that have involved everyone. Below are ten areas where we have made a significant difference to how schools are preparing for a positive future.

  1. Transition from Key Stage 2 to 3 – We are training several groups of transition leads from across alliances of schools using our Crossing the Transition Bridge – from primary to secondary school to look at how to ensure partnerships and seamless learning for all year 6 pupils this year as they cross the transition bridge.
  2. Blended Learning Strategies are the focus for a senior CPD manager who has spent time attending this course so that she can use the materials and resources to train all middle and subject leaders in her school to be more adaptable with their learners. Other schools are using the content to share and cascade to others.
  3. Rethinking Appraisal using Coaching has been the strategic focus for one school. They have bought our asynchronous, ready to use course Rethinking Appraisal and Performance Management that focuses on how to use coaching to ensure appraisal clearly focuses on how the individual can play their part in achieving the school vision. They have also completed several of our coaching courses to ensure that the school vision and appraisal this year belong to all staff
  4. Leading a Coaching School or College – Many schools and colleges are using our synchronous, face to face live webinar to start now to look at how coaching will be the answer to reflective and positive futures. This course has the answers that will help senior leaders to support all staff now and in the months to come as we return to whatever normal will look like. Coaching creates opportunities for individuals to find their own solutions, remain positive and self-aware and build resilience in times of adversity.
  5. Leading from the Middle – Many school leaders are using the content of this course to give their middle leaders the coaching skills to ensure that their teams are collaborative and can deliver the strategic plans that need to be carefully crafted now and for the future. This course is a powerful coaching course that develops the coaching skills of those who have a pivotal middle leadership role and who are responsible for the performance of their teams in delivering high quality teaching and learning through a deep and rich curriculum offer
  6. Coaching to Create a Culture of Positive Mental Health – Several primary, secondary and special schools and A MAT are using our course that focuses on how developing a range of coaching skills can support those with a role in promoting well-being and positive mental health for staff and pupils.
  7. Quality Assuring how the Curriculum Design Delivers Impact, Seamless Learning and ProgressionIndividual senior leaders from several schools have attended this course and are using our materials, resources and guidance to develop quality assurance practices that will ensure there is evidence that the curriculum intent delivers high quality learning, outstanding pedagogy and evidence of a positive impact on whole school improvement. We are currently supporting the development of policy documentation and timeline structures to support schools to develop professional quality assurance processes
  8. Key Stage 3 – A Vital Piece in the Curriculum Jigsaw has been a very popular course and resonates with the need to make sure that learning is seamless, planning builds on prior learning and clearly defined end points provide a blue-print for progression
  9. The embedding of literacy and numeracy across all subjects are key elements of a high-quality curriculum offer. Our two courses ‘Enhancing the Role of the Literacy Coordinator’ and ‘Enhancing the Role of the Numeracy Coordinator’ have not diminished in popularity since our decision to move all our courses online. We have the answers to some pressing questions and we provide an outstanding array of best practice examples
  10. Our Coaching Certificate Programme is an opportunity to train to become a certified coach over three terms with expert guidance from our coaching team. We are running this course for several schools, sixth form colleges and FE colleges. We are also now offering it to individuals from different organisations. We are receiving amazing revues for the content and process which leads to a Level 3 Certificate in Coaching from the Association for Coaching.

We have achieved so much in these times of deep adversity and many schools, colleges and other organisations have benefited from our talented and innovative team and our outstanding training packages. Now is the time to start to think strategically, we have the expertise to help you to make a difference to the future of learning and education. 0r 01746 765076 / 07974 754241

Creating a Coaching Culture – The power of positive learning conversations

There has never been a more important time to introduce coaching as the conduit for managing a future that shines a light on learning for everyone in the education sector.

Leaders can learn the skills that will empower them to instil confidence, self-belief and a shared commitment to look to the future and not dwell on the past.

Middle leaders, subject leaders and pastoral leaders can use coaching to create professional learning communities where they can work closely with their teams to assess learning, progress and well-being for both the teacher and the learner and anyone else who has been a part of creating successful outcomes over the past year.

Coaching fosters a shared commitment to excellence where individual teachers share with others their successes, their learning and their goals for future development opportunities.  There needs to be a catalyst to make sure that there are opportunities for all staff to come together to share their experiences, talk about what they have gained from having to teach in a very different way and how this change will impact on how they manage learning and their learners moving forward to a new normal.

Coaching creates a foundation that will foster the right culture for positive professional learning conversations that will inspire innovation, provide solutions for how to make curriculum changes or build bridges for those who have gaps in their learning.  The infrastructure for change is much clearer where coaching forms the basis for new beginnings. It gives all staff a sense of belonging, where they can share their successes and feel safe in revealing their fears and concerns.

Coaching is about trust; it is non-judgemental and above all it is about creating the right strategies for continuing professional learning.  Now is the time to choose coaching as the strategy for a learning culture that will lead to excellence for all. See below an example of how you might create a coaching culture. The full range of our coaching courses are listed underneath the chart.

Blending the Curriculum – Securing High Quality Learning

What is learning?

Schools and those who design and deliver the curriculum need to have the answer to this question. The current reality must link learning to the learner and how they are coping and able to absorb learning especially where remote learning is a new experience.

“Learning….that reflective activity which enables the learner to draw upon previous experience to understand and evaluate the present, so as to shape future action and formulate new knowledge.”    John Abbott 2000

OFSTEDs most recent briefing in their COVID 19 series describes how schools are delivering the curriculum now and when schools were closed. There are no judgements, opinions or suggestions just observations as to what is happening.  However, the examples that are included here do reveal how some schools have made the decision to abandon the planned curriculum in order to deliver more appropriate content that is accessible to the learner.

“For instance, one school had taught a poetry unit during the summer because it was more accessible for pupils who were learning at home than a Shakespeare unit which would be revisited in the autumn term.

Some primary schools had decided to focus on skills….and were teaching historical enquiry skills or mapping skills in place of some new historical or geographical content.”

Research from the Education Endowment Foundation emphatically suggests the focusing on developing skills in this new and challenging world of blended learning is by far the best way to ensure that learning does indeed take place.  School leaders, subject specialists and all those who have a hand in delivering the curriculum should stand back and look closely at the potential for experiential and conceptual learning to take place.

A paper from the National School Improvement Network from 2002 describes the outcomes of effective learning as:

  • more connected knowledge
  • use of a wide range of learning strategies
  • greater complexity of understanding
  • enhanced action appropriate to goals and context
  • increased engagement and self-direction
  • a more reflective approach
  • having more positive emotions and affiliation to learning
  • defining one’s future self as a learner
  • greater facility for learning with others
  • more of a sense of participation in a knowledge community

The messages in the list above mirror those of  EEF, UNESCO and OFSTED writing today about how to ensure positive learning outcomes for all. The curriculum is only useful to the learner if they see that its content is appropriate to their experience, their future aspirations and connects with what they already know and can do. The curriculum must ignite and motivate the learner to want to find out more. This is not possible if the content is inaccessible, the learner can’t read or can’t make sense of what is in front of them. If the subject is irrelevant or out of kilter with their current adversity learning is unlikely to take place.

Focus on the learner and the current reality, re-define the learning goals to be much more about the skills learners need to learn such as reading for meaning, listening actively, enquiry, sharing learning with peers or parents, teachers or siblings, making connections with their own experiences, using their interests as starting points for conceptual learning or subject content. Much of the current commentary and research evidence points to the need to focus on the learning and not simply on the curriculum content. Where learners have the metacognition that allows them to think, reflect and learn the content is far easier to access.

Join us at one of our live webinars for an in-depth look at Blended Learning.

Blended Learning: Mixing the Virtual with the Actual – a pedagogy for the future

Buy our In a Nutshell course that focuses on the transition from home learning to the classroom

Planning a learning curriculum that will translate between home schooling and the classroom

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The Learning Room: Exploring metacognition and the tools that knit knowledge and learning for progression

We have a range of other online off the shelf courses, live webinars and In a Nutshell sips of training that cover a wide range of relevant and essential CPD for schools and colleges. Remember that the research also makes very clear the absolute importance of ensuring all staff have access to professional development.

Changing perceptions of learning: Recognising the learner voice

What is learning and how do we change our perceptions when learners are working away from the classroom? 

Remote learning means that learners are in control of their own space and are responsible for how they manage their time in terms of learning.  Focusing on how learners learn in the absence of the teacher and the processes involved is essential if we are going to continue to deliver quality outcomes for all.

A continued emphasis on content is impossible to deliver. The protocols that exist in the classroom do not apply in the same way and if we continue to put the teacher in charge we may well be missing profound opportunities to provide for the learner a new set of skills that will allow them to find their own route to the content and give them a whole suite of essential life skills.

Evidence suggests that taking account of learner voice has a profound impact on motivation, concentration and the desire to succeed. Creating for the learner a sense that they own their learning and can understand how they learn has a significant impact on outcomes. The list below is taken from an article I wrote in 2011 about curriculum decision making and the importance of learner voice and emphasises what the learner says they want:-

  • More emphasis on skills, and on personal and social development
  • More practical work linked to a skill or vocation
  • A more obvious link with the curriculum and real life
  • More connections made across different areas of the curriculum
  • A balance between academic subjects and those that are more creative, practical, or vocational
  • More choice, especially at Key Stage 4
  • A variety of approaches to teaching and learning
  • More emphasis given to how they can progress to achieve the next level
  • More opportunity to take responsibility for their own learning

This wish list still stands today and resonates even more when we look at some of the points that are pertinent to the need to create a blended learning approach.

Let us concentrate on one of the points above and link it to shifting the paradigm from content to experiential and conceptual learning.

‘A more obvious link with the curriculum and real life’

A focus on what learners are experiencing through enforced isolation such as looking at a lack of contact with peers, fear of loss, an imposition on their freedoms, having to be resilient, to reflect on their own ability to learn, enquire and draw conclusions are all a part of wider learning curve.

Applying some of these to concepts that overlay subject specific curriculum content may provide a rich and deep vein for delivering the curriculum and creating breadth and balance that recognises the importance of the learner. Freedom is a concept that learners will understand and can relate to a history topic focusing on slavery, emancipation of women or conscription during war time. Disease is a concept that in science might allow a narrative about previous vaccines for smallpox or polio.  How about baking bread, growing seeds, making models out of waste cartons, all of which allow for conceptual learning linked to specific subjects. I could go on and on with the connections that exist and that relate to the learner’s own experience.

We expand on these essential messages in our ‘In a nutshell’ course, Planning a learning curriculum that will translate between home schooling and the classroom and our live webinar about blended learning Blended Learning – Mixing the virtual with the actual: A pedagogy for the future

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