Creative Teacher Support

Creative, practical support and discussion for classroom teachers everywhere

Stop. Collaborate and Listen!

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It’s a new year folks and I want to try a new idea, well, an idea I’ve had that I hope is new. I’d like us to write a collaborative blog post. Maybe one to start with then take it from there? Stay with me, hopefully this isn’t as mental as it first sounds.

Every time I get stuck into #SLTChat or exchange comments with Twitter colleagues I start to realise how big the “collective brain” actually IS. Now just imagine if we did manage to corral the burgeoning talents, creativity and devils advocates that exchange ideas on a daily, hourly and sometimes more basis.

For a start to this idea I’m hoping to get some support with a project that I will take part in in the coming months. I will be part of my schools approach to the Achievement for All programme ( which I’m sure, if you haven’t heard about it, you will soon. The programme is run through a charity that focuses specifically on the achievement of SEND students but, as we know, if we get it right for those students, largely, we’re getting it right. There’s a number of strands to the programme from working with data to working with parents and also learning and teaching which is the strand of which I will be a part.

My job will be to work with volunteers (they have to be volunteers) who, initially at least, teach the identified cohort of students. It will be partly my job to provide inset for these colleagues that is extremely focused on strategies that rapidly impact on the progress of these students.

The programme requires a “localist” style agenda that focuses squarely on your own students, school, area and the idiosyncrasies that exist therein. Therefore research basis and jargon need to come second to a straight talking, “say what you like, like what you say” style of impact focused work. I got to thinking about what my schools issues are (in the full knowledge that they cannot, ever, be purely just issues for MY school) and it got me to thinking about what my excellent colleague Paul Pearson said when he came to work at our school.

Paul has a habit of being able to sum things up in a succinct and colourful way, describing teaching our kids as like “running into jelly”. A perfect analogy for teaching the largely lovely and compliant kids who need to be able to do more for themselves but look squarely to us to get it done for them, even down to providing pens or writing their homework in their planners for them!

So, considering Mindsets and a broad approach to Dweck’s work, I got to thinking about learner characteristics and how they manifest themselves at our school. I came up with the broad continuum seen below, describing the two ends of the spectrum.

Now, I have a few ideas about stages or characteristics of the learner types who come in between the two ends of the spectrum but this is where I would value your input please and hope to take the “open source” approach literally. I have set up a shared writing space on something called Titanpad which can be accessed by clicking on this link:


When you get there, you’ll find, essentially a text document that can be openly edited by any of us. There are no restrictions, it is a public pad and can be viewed and edited by anyone who has the address above. Once edited, it can also be downloaded or cherry picked by anyone who takes part and you should, of course, feel free! Just enter your Twitter name in the box on the right before you start to edit and it will colour code your contributions. If you’re happy to contribute, I’d love it if you could do two things:

1. Fill in the gaps on the continuum. What learner characteristics have you identified in students you teach in whatever context, phase or even country? Try and sum them up in short, pithy phrases (remember – straight talking – no jargon) and suggest the order or progression.

2. Suggest learning and teaching strategies you could use to progress a learner from one set of characteristics to the next. Feel free to single out one “jump” if you’d like. For example, in stealing a strategy from an @LearningSpy post on Slow Writing of simply asking students to double space their writing, it communicates to them (if you build in an opportunity to do so) that their first attempt at their work will not be their last and that revision rewriting and revisiting is a worthwhile and necessary endeavour. This might progress a student whose learner characteristics were that of “Can do, Won’t look again” to “Can do, Will do it again better”.

Thank you in advance for you input. Please let me know what you think to the project. It is designed to give my teachers something akin to a “card sort” activity (everyone loves a card sort) of the most common learner characteristics that they face on a daily basis. This will then progress to an activity in which they begin to consider the characteristics they would like to see and the strategies they can use to elicit that behaviour. A hopeful move away from complaining about our students lack of get up and go, to getting them up and going.


Author: Gordon Baillie

I am an Advanced Skills teacher in a large comprehensive school in the North West of the UK. Trained in Scotland, I have worked in a number of different settings in my almost fifteen years of teaching. I have been working with both my own and other local schools and their teachers to both enhance and improve learning and teaching for a number of years now. I am an experienced trainer of both trainee and experienced teachers and have contributed to both local and national conferences around learning and teaching, particularly around Assessment for Learning as well as being asked to contribute to keynote addresses around other, more generic areas of teaching. I believe that teaching and particularly learning are deeply creative pursuits and that the only way to continue to enhance them and the practice of teachers is to collaborate.

One thought on “Stop. Collaborate and Listen!

  1. Superb ideas, I will endeavour to have a look at the doc when I’m at an actual computer! I agree that social networks such as twitter and the various blog sites are extremely useful in expanding the traditional “staffroom” discussion to an international level.

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