Creative Teacher Support

Creative, practical support and discussion for classroom teachers everywhere


April #blogsync Progress in my classroom?

How it is Made and How I Know It?

What does “Good” look like? Success Criteria

Right, lets get our #blogsync on! It’s been a particularly hectic month I’m afraid and I’m coming at this later than I thought I would, but let’s just say I’ve been busy, “finding my niche”. Found it.

It’s a great topic this one and so pertinent currently, but I find myself conflicted as to what to write about. The idea of progress in our classrooms and the measurement therein is huuuuuge. It is ALL we talk about sometimes. As an AST, I am sought out to provide teachers with the “tricks” that allow us to make clear to observers and, to some extent, students where they have learned or have made progress. Excellent posts from Kev Bartle, David Didau and Alex Quigley have questioned the idea of progress within one lesson. I couldn’t hope to put it as well as they can.

The brief asks for, “an action that derives directly from or applies directly to our classrooms”, “a specific classroom action”. In this way I originally wanted to write about success criteria, naming the post “What DOES good look like?”, focusing on what Hattie calls the most effective way of focusing feedback. Relating it to clear, negotiated models of what the best work looks like and then framing feedback to students in relation to this criteria. All I would add, as if I could enhance this work, is the necessity to allow students time to act on this feedback. The essence of AfL is how to ensure that work is about next steps, regular routines of actually acting on feedback communicates the idea that getting it wrong is right: growth mindset. Nice.

It’s simple really and it can be done in loads of ways: good old fashioned marking and feedback, peer assessment, modelling, hinge questions.

Success criteria is the best way of making progress clear – you can see a prezi on some of the different types here:

It’s not rocket science.

Now here’s the real post.

It’s all about relationships stupid!

It’s no secret that the concept of progress in one lesson is a ghost. I try and think of it in terms of learning instead, what have kids actually learned in the lesson. It may be that it builds up over time and becomes progress, however, sometimes the one off lesson is where they learn the key thing they need, whether it be semi colons or similes.

What seems to me to most pertinent, once one scans the average current teacher Twitter feed, is the importance of relationships in teaching. I don’t think this is something that’s underestimated, but I do think it’s not discussed because of intangibility. A teacher’s ability to build relationships, whether it be through humour, rigidity, ability, drive, personality, gimmicks and whatever else that results in learning is one of the most powerful drivers of learning and progress. And I think we have a professional responsibility to form those relationships in whatever way we can. I do believe there are as many ways of doing so as there are teachers teaching too.

I’m dismayed at the number of posts from the established invective of Andrew Old and his persistent, not always wrong, discourse of low expectations. Complimented only by the growing frustration of the repetitive reblogging of Tessa Matthews. It’s always interesting to hear a variety of perspectives on the issues you’re immersed in but when the repetition inspires me to use all of “Good Lord” from the possible 140 characters I know it’s bad.

Don’t get me wrong, I applaud the use of Twitter to openly share ideas and provoke discussion, I know it makes us stronger as professionals to thrash out differences and to be aware of different ways of looking at things. I do, however, think its dangerous, particularly for young teachers, to lead them to believe that students should behave just because of who we are and because of who they are. The ability to build relationships is part of the art of pedagogy.

Progress comes from the ability to break down the behaviour of “that” class and engage the “bored but clever”. Progress comes from adapting your practice to meet the needs of the different kids you teach. Progress comes from a realisation that, for the myriad reasons presented to us relentlessly, you have little choice but to choose a different profession if you don’t want to have to build relationships with the kids you teach, whether they are challenging or not.

Lack of exclusions is driven by a bigger agenda that “nudges” schools into protecting themselves from the judgements placed upon them by external forces. This can and does leave many schools with more challenging kids in the building. Discussions of halcyon days and the need to “do something about it” or the lack of power of SLT do little or nothing to impact upon the situation. What will impact on the situation, the learning and ultimately the progress is remembering our responsibility to drive the relationships, to adapt to the kids we teach, to care about them and at least aim to like them.

Sometimes teaching is complex, sometimes it is simple. Relationships allow you to put into practice the systems and processes that let you measure and make progress and learning clear. Don’t be seduced by the simple and attractive discourse of the moan. Build relationships and enjoy the outcomes and the freedom that will allow.