What Does This Look Like In Practice?
Top Tips and Key Lessons learned Along the Way:
- Get staff “on board”
In order for this approach to work, it is vital that your staff are invested and take ownership of the process. When we introduced the concept, there were a range of reactions, ranging from enthusiasm and excitement to, “Here’s another thing we have to do!” (Along with the inevitable eye roll!) We found it helpful to explain in detail the thinking behind this shift in approach and the aim of making staff development as meaningful and personalised as possible, in order to improve outcomes for our children. Reassuring staff that as a school we would invest in the time needed to make this work and not expect it to be done in their own time helped. Involving staff at the planning stage enabled them to feel part of the process, rather than it being viewed as something that was “done to them.” In addition, reassuring them that this was very much a self-evaluative and collaborative process, not linked to performance management in any way, put minds at rest and helped to create buy-in.
- Find a self-audit tool so teachers can evaluate their current practice.
We used materials from The Great Teacher Toolkit and adapted these to create a self-reflection document that was split into 4 key areas of teaching:
- Match staff into triads.
Using the analysis from the staff audits, we matched staff into triads, considering their identified areas for improvement. We also ensured each triad included staff with a range of experience and who worked in different phases.
- Develop staff confidence and skills in coaching approaches.
Some of the initial hesitation we observed seemed to be due to the confidence of individual staff, so training them in coaching skills was integral to the process. We used “Walk Thrus” as our main resource for upskilling our teachers. In addition, we have several staff currently undertaking NPQs, and we asked them to share the approaches they had looked at through this training. One model our staff found especially useful was the “GROW” approach to coaching conversations.
- Decide on the training materials you will use.
During our first coaching cycle, we trialled two different sets of training resources, then asked staff to evaluate these and selected one to use moving forwards. We found the “Walk Thrus” were unanimously preferred, being succinct, visual and easy to understand. In order to support staff, we signposted them to the relevant section of the resources for their chosen development area.
- Consider how coaching sessions will be facilitated and if these will include the chance to observe each other teach in triads.
During our first coaching cycle, we decided to complete the process without observations, as our staff were still learning the process and developing coaching skills. By the second cycle, when staff confidence had grown, we added in teaching observations where triads observed each other through the “lens” of the strategy they had been applying. This led to coaching conversations being driven by the evidence-based approaches, rather than them feeling targeted on the individual. Each triad had a dedicated coaching day out of class, which meant that staff had the time to delve deeper into the process, making it more meaningful. It’s important to consider how you can free time up for staff so that this does not feel like an “add on” to workload. If we do not show that we are investing time and resources into the process, it will never have the impact we intend it to.
- Consider how triads will share their new expertise – how can we filter this through in order to have more impact across school?
With coaching triads comprised of staff from different year groups, we naturally found that the approaches being explored by different triads were shared between teaching teams and there was a “buzz” across school, with staff talking about and experimenting with new strategies. In addition to this, we held an informal staff meeting at the end of the coaching cycle, where each triad had 10 minutes to present their top tips and key take-aways from the process. This allowed all staff to be exposed to the learning each triad had delved into, with just the key information and tried/tested approaches shared. As teachers, we are far more likely to try out something that has been recommended to us, is easy to implement and has been proven to have a positive effect on our pupils.
- How will you measure the impact of the coaching cycle?
This was a tricky question to consider and will depend on your particular context. Obviously the ongoing records of coaching sessions and evaluations provided qualitative information. In addition, measures such as staff/pupil voice, learning walks and pupil data can provide impact measures. By the end of our third coaching cycle, triads will also have produced a one-page case study of a group of pupils, looking at their barriers to learning, strategies applied and how these impacted on their learning. We will also have used the self-audit tool to re-evaluate, which will give quantitative data about the impact on teacher proficiencies. Above all, try not to make any records or impact measures onerous or time consuming. The essence of this process is to move teaching and learning forwards, not to create additional workload or paperwork! The simple fact that in the vast majority of performance management reviews, our staff have openly discussed the various ways in which our coaching cycles have helped them to improve their teaching practice and used this as evidence towards meeting their targets speaks volumes! In our staff voice, 94% of teachers voiced that the coaching cycle had had “a significant impact on teaching and the outcomes for pupils.”
It is important to recognise that this journey towards improving professional development is an evolving process. This is entirely dependent on your school context and the staff body you are working with. It is vital to listen, take notice and be ready to adapt as things progress, whilst maintaining a focus on your key priorities and the impact on pupil outcomes. We are now within our third coaching cycle and have learned many lessons and adapted along the way.
Our aim in a nutshell was to “develop a CPD programme which is based on evidence-informed strategies, yet relevant to our context and personalised to the individual needs of staff.”
As a school, we are now much closer to achieving this. Our staff are involved in directing their own learning. Our teachers have developed more reflective practice and feel empowered by this approach. Are we yet having a lasting impact on pupil outcomes and make a difference for the children? It looks positive and we are starting to see evidence of this! We now need to keep the momentum going, continually reviewing and adapting as needed in the ever-evolving process of improving teaching and learning; a process which firmly has the pupils (and staff) at the heart of it.
References / further reading:
- Great Teacher Toolkit
- Walk Thrus
- GROW coaching model
- What Every Teacher Needs to Know: How to embed evidence-informed teaching and learning in your school – Jade Pearce
- EEF research reports – impact