How do leaders in schools create the right culture that fosters constructive professional dialogue? Amanda Spielman from OFSTED puts the importance of professional dialogue at the heart of her last two major speeches, one to ASCL and the other to the Muslim Teachers’ Association.
“The Quality of Education judgement is central to putting the curriculum, the substance of education, back at the heart of professional dialogue in schools and colleges. It’s been great to hear that these conversations are emerging, even before the first inspections under this new framework.”
In order to create that school culture where all staff have the opportunity to engage in professional dialogue there needs to be a profound understanding of the difference between professional dialogue and a conversation.
Professional dialogue is one of the phrases that is completely embedded in all of our coaching programmes. The essence of learning how to coach for those in education is in the development of a range of coaching attributes including highly effective listening skills, the ability to ask incisive, deep and rich questions and to have the confidence and the capacity to influence others to change. Creating a CPD strategy that embraces coaching fosters professional dialogue and moves individuals away from simply using unstructured conversations. It can have a profound impact on ensuring all staff are empowered to deliver a consistent, whole school approach to how the curriculum intent, ambition and rationale is translated into innovative planning, highly effective pedagogy and a shared understanding of the sequencing of content over time.
“OFSTED have the concept of dialogue at its core to establish, what pupils are being taught? How well are they being taught? and, How is what they are being taught setting them up for the next stage in their education?”
The curriculum rationale and ambition that reveals its intent and how this is consistently implemented in every classroom and in many cross curricular contexts is at the heart of what OFSTED want to focus on as part of assessing ‘the substance of education’. Creating opportunities to deepen the skills of leaders, managers, teachers and support staff in how they use professional dialogue as opposed to simply having conversations will help to create the essential, consistent and seamless curriculum offer that builds on prior learning, deepens knowledge, enhances pupils’ skills over time and ensures assessment finds the gaps in understanding and informs future learning.
“The point of observation by inspectors is to see whether the school’s aims and intentions are being translated effectively into practice, ‘does it all come together as it should’.”
If, as Amanda Spielman talks about in her speeches, leaders, managers and teachers are to be an integral part of professional dialogue about the curriculum and how the intent is translated into highly effective delivery that has a demonstrable impact on learning over time; then all staff need to have the right skill set to be an equal participant in that constructive dialogue. They will need to listen to what is being asked of them, be able to respond with incisive questions that are designed to draw out deeper meaning and have the vocabulary and deep pedagogical and subject expertise that will demonstrate their professional understanding of how the school is successfully delivering powerful learning for all pupils.
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