Archive for June, 2014

‘Teach Like a Champion’ Reading Group

Elsewhere on this site, I discuss what I consider to be the problems with a traditional model of school CPD.  I also discuss what I consider to be the foundational principles for a training programme that avoids this ‘CPD Paradox’.

The three principles that I have found helpful in designing and leading effective CPD are that the programme is designed to make trainees accountable to try out techniques in the classroom, individual sessions include some in-built uptake time – so that teachers are forced to practice new techniques then and there – and finally that sessions are, as far as possible, participant-led.

Participant-led CPD sessions are important for numerous reasons, chief among them that, by getting the recipients of the training to ‘buy in’ to the learning, they are more enthused and engaged with the session content.  Equally, unqualified and newly qualified teachers are – in my experience – likely to do a more thorough job than a deputy principal with a thousand other responsibilities.  That said, new teachers clearly don’t have the breadth of experience and knowledge required to actually design good CPD sessions; thus, while they can make effective CPD facilitators, getting them to actually develop and plan the material for themselves would be a mistake.  This is where Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion comes in.

Teach Like A Champion Field Guide

For those who are not familiar with this book, I would urge you to buy a copy immediately.  For my money, it is the very best tool for learning concrete strategies that will make a massive difference to student outcomes.  While it is suitable for all teachers, I think that is particularly good for new teachers: the techniques are easy to grasp, do not contain too much challenging theory and are perfectly designed for the process of experimentation and reflection that characterises the first years of a teacher’s career.

There are two copies of this book out there, the original version, containing an in-depth explanation of each of the 49 techniques, and the ‘Field Guide‘.  It is the latter that I would suggest is particularly appropriate for CPD, although the former has slightly more material in it.  My suggestion would be to get a copy of both.

Both books contain the same 49 techniques, ranging from areas such as high-quality questioning and rigorous lesson planning to creating a strong classroom culture.  Alongside an explanation of each technique, however, the Field Guide also contains ready made CPD activities, guided questions and reflective tools as well as a DVD showing each technique in action.  This makes it perfect for participant-led CPD. There are already techniques and training materials in place; all the trainee session leader needs to do is put them together into a session.  This is extremely quick, taking on average about half an hour, and also saves the person in charge of the CPD programme – me! – huge amounts of time.

My Professional Studies timetable - click the image for a downloadable version

My Professional Studies timetable – click the image for a downloadable version

The above is my ‘Professional Studies’ timetable for 2o13-14, an in-depth discussion of which can be found here.  The sessions in purple are my TLAC (Teach Like a Champion) sessions, occurring roughly once every four weeks.   I selected and ordered the 49 techniques from the book based on what I considered that new teachers would need or want to know, as well as on my judgement about which techniques are the best:

  1. 100% Compliance, What to Do, Slant – I began with what I considered new teachers need to know first, which in this case are three techniques designed to help build a firm and effective behaviour management system.
  2. Entry Routine, Threshold – Next, to help participants refine and perfect their behaviour system are two techniques that work on creating a calm and ordered starts to lessons.
  3. Positive Framing, Strong Voice – In the final session dealing with behaviour management, these techniques deal with ensuring compliance by learning to give behaviour instructions that are at once relentlessly positive yet also firm.
  4. No Opt Out, Wait Time – In my experience, once new teachers have got behaviour issues sorted out they enter a phase I like to call ‘The Inept Questioning Stage’.  They have worked to ensure compliance, and now use questioning to drive lessons forward, mainly I think because this is the way that they were taught.  The two techniques here are designed to improve the efficacy of questioning, particularly relating to student accountability.
  5. Right is Right, Stretch It – Next, two techniques designed to build academic rigour into questioning practice, the first to ensure that students give satisfactory and correct answers and the second to help teachers ask more challenging follow-up questions.
  6. Improving Pace in Lessons – At this point – at least theoretically – trainees have acquired skills in solid behaviour management and questioning.  Now is the time to deal with lesson planning (yes, I do think that behaviour and questioning skills are more important to learn first: without these, a lesson – no matter how well planned – just won’t work.  I will also point out that other sessions in my CPD calender deal with planning issues much earlier on).    This session looks at a series of techniques designed to develop pace in lesson planning and delivery.
  7. Tight Transitions, Circulate – Dealing very much with lesson delivery, these techniques look at what teachers can do to make their lessons run more smoothly, thinking about strategic movement around the room and how to improve transitions between activities.
  8. Shortest Path, Name The Steps – Next, two techniques that deal with efficient lesson planning, looking at the planning of efficient and organised lessons.
  9. Ratio, Explain Everything – Finally, two of the more advanced techniques dealing with upping the amount of mental work that students do in class.

Below, I attach an example session that I put together when I launched the programme.  All the rest of them were led by trainees.  I opted to have my NQTs (2nd year trainees) leading the sessions, while my unqualified teachers were participants, creating a rota to share the duties equally amongst the NQTs, who each led two sessions, spaced across the year.

Positive Framing

To outline how simple this session was to plan, I will discuss it briefly.  The session begins with the reading component; the chapter is split up into the seven different elements that make up the overall strategy, each on designed to help teachers correct behaviour consistently and positively. Trainees read, summarise and feedback on each section.

Next, the trainees work together on a worksheet from the book, requiring them to re-write a series of behavioural instructions to make them positive and match the different techniques.  ‘Absolutely nobody is looking at me right now’, might, for example, become, ‘I need all eyes on me’, for a Live in the Now correction or, ‘I think that we have forgotten that when I count to five I need all eyes on me‘, for an Assume the Best.  

Finally – this is a part of the session that I insist on – participants ‘go live’ and practise the techniques on each other.  In this case, the book contains some role play examples which they can use, taking turns to play students and teachers to practise using the techniques.

I don’t think that using this book should take the place of other more substantive CPD sessions; as you can see by looking at my schedule,  TLAC reading groups form only a quarter of the total training programme.  I do, however, think that it is a fantastic way of having sessions that contain quality teaching and learning techniques but that can be run by the trainees themselves.



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Improving the Quality of Mentor Meetings

One of the more frustrating elements of being an induction coordinator is that, despite how hard you work at providing good CPD, pretty much the most vital element of helping new teachers improve is out of your immediate control.  This is subject mentoring.  For those not steeped in the lingo of Teach First, this means a member of the trainee’s department who takes responsibility for their day-to-day mentoring.

From personal experience (as mentor and mentee), as a subject mentor you are the person who has the most profound impact on a trainee’s development.  This input can make the difference between indifferent progress and general misery at the start of a teaching career to a teacher who is motivated and equipped to improve.

To start with, I think it helps to build a picture of good and bad mentoring.

Good mentoring:

Being an effective mentor is not rocket science. It’s not even particularly onerous. It doesn’t – or at least doesn’t often -require giving up hours of valuable free periods to your mentee.  What it does require is that you keep close attention to the targets that are set within your (weekly) mentor meetings, provide assistance – in terms of modelling, resources and advice -towards meeting them and track carefully whether they are being met.  Equally, it requires that targets set are appropriate, achievable and linked.

To my mind, a good mentor meeting (30 minutes to an hour) should progress as follows:

1) Discussion of general issues: This section of the meeting can end up taking the entire allotted time, moving towards being more of a “bit of a moan” than a purposeful meeting as tired, jaded trainees begin to unload all their issues on you at once.  This is important but should not be allowed to take more than (say) ten minutes.  If important issues arise, these can then be fed into the next stage of the meeting.

2) Discussion of targets: Here, you should bring up the targets set in the previous meeting(s).  These can have rolled over for only a week or – if they are quite wide – for months.  What is important is that you hold your mentee to account for working towards them.  A trainee could, for example, have a target to ensure a calm and orderly start to the lesson.  As a fairly wide target, this could be broken down into different areas such as greeting the students at the door, having a starter ready and building a reward and sanction system to deal with issues of compliance.  What is important at this stage is that progress against these targets is measured and discussed, with evidence given for improvements.

3) The setting of new targets: Once previous targets have been discussed, it is time to set new ones for the coming week.  If the trainee has now achieved a calm entry to the room, the next stage might to ensure that students all complete their starter in silence.  Measures taken to achieve this can be discussed and the target should be recorded.  Likewise, if the previous target had not been achieved, the discussion should focus on why and what could be done to ensure that it is in the future.

4) Accountability measures: Trainee teachers have such a lot on their plate that it is, for them, the easiest thing in the world to leave the mentor meeting and forget entirely about targets set until the following week.  As such,  in this section of the meeting you should focus on the leverage you have to ensure that your mentor is actively focusing on their targets.  This can be as easy as setting up a drop-in observation to witness a part of a lesson.  What matters is that it is in place for every single target set.

Sadly, following this structure is easier said than done.  In my time as induction coordinator, I have witnessed many fantastic subject mentors with exactly the right balance of toughness, compassion and organisation required for the role.  I have also seen a few who clearly would rather be doing something else and this shows in the quality of the mentoring provided.

So, how can you ensure that mentoring is of a reasonable quality?

Short of sitting in on mentor meetings (quite an extreme measure), I think that mentors can be given a nudge in two positive directions.  Firstly, they can be given a system to help them ensure that targets are tracked and monitored.  Secondly, they can be given guidance about areas to discuss within mentor meetings, particularly to ensure that targets set are useful and appropriate.

This is why I developed my ‘Subject Mentor Meeting Journal’.  This has the following sections, each of which I will discuss below.  The complete document – with a page for every week of the year- can then be found to download below.

1) Suggested ‘Reflection’ and ‘Technique’

These are based on the Teach First participant journal, as many of my first year trainees are from the Teach First programme.  The reflection matches what the trainee themselves has to reflect on in their own training journal

For example, in their first week in September, first year trainees are asked to think about the following points:

  • What is the ethos you want to create in your classroom? What steps have you taken this week in creating that?
  • What does ‘Behaviour for Learning’ mean in reality now you have your own pupils? How does it relate to pupil success?

I agree with a ‘Behaviour for Learning’ focus in week one as this is the issue that most trainees will struggle with at first.  The points are, however, quite broad and do not help trainees narrow down on specific behaviour strategies and techniques that they can use in their own classrooms.  As such, in my journal,  I include techniques from Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov that match the overall reflective focus for the week.  Given the behaviour focus for week one, I chose ‘Entry Routine’ and ‘Do Now’, techniques designed to help teachers get students into the classroom efficiently and working quietly and calmly at the start of the lesson.  This suggested technique is simply designed to give some form to the mentor meeting, ensuring that the you have specific strategies to discuss – if needs be – rather than talking aimlessly about the reflective foci.

2) Recap and reflection of last week’s targets

Next, there is space for discussion and notes about last week’s targets, specifically so that you, as the mentor, can keep a detailed record of whether targets are being met.  There is also a choice as to whether targets are ‘carried forward’ to the following week or ‘met’ in which case new targets must be decided upon.

3) Setting new targets

Fairly self-explanatory, this section also contains prompts to remind the mentor to ensure that targets made are measurable and specific: a) what lesson / class can your mentee use this technique with and b) how can they practice this technique before trying it with a class?  You should ensure that your mentee is comfortable with their target before they try it for real, even going as far as making practise it in the meeting.

4) Accountability

Finally, this section asks your to reflect on what measures can be put in place to support your mentee in meeting their target.  The aim is that you discuss with your mentee what they need from you, what you are going to do to support them and what you will be doing to check that they are making progress.

The idea behind the document is that it provides a weekly record of exactly what trainees are working on, how they are progressing against targets and what is being done to support them in this.  Mentors can use this as a guide to their meetings and can keep a clearer eye on key areas in which help is required much more easily than if they are keeping all the information in their heads.  Equally, it pushes them to ensure that their participants are accountable to make changes to their practice.

While it does not go all the way to guaranteeing effective mentoring, I think that it takes steps to ensure that mentor meetings are purposeful.

The entire document can be found below.

Complete Mentor Meeting Journal



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