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. 

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.

17 thoughts on “April #blogsync Progress in my classroom?

  1. Oh thank god for you. I have been sitting mouth agape and stunned reading some of the tripe that has been written this weekend. Not a great advertisement for Teach First is it?

    • Hi Debra.
      And thank god for you too!!
      I’m starting to lose patience with the “children should be seen and not heard, sit down and shut up brigade” that say we all have low expectations. Feel like shouting a bit louder for a bit.
      Also sad because adapting teaching seems to me to be a fundamental skill of a teacher.
      Anyway – I think “thank god for you” should be out official greeting for each other from now on.

    • Did you read my blog? Is it tripe?

      • Hi. Not tripe at all. Treads a middle ground pretty well I’d say.
        My argument was never that relationships are the be all and end all but that they contribute to and are grown from good behaviour and good teaching.
        My real bug bear is the current discourse around an assumption that kids will just behave because we’re teachers and they’re kids.
        Think you talk about that pretty successfully.

      • Fair enough. But I’m not sure that anyone is making the argument you describe (although there’s plenty of wit and polemic out there). Isn’t the discussion more about the structures used to support behaviour? Perhaps we’re all just shouting at each other from only inches apart?

      • I suspect that’s true.
        I was told last night tho that students shouldn’t have the “choice” to misbehave. I’m yet to have an explanation as to what that means. Ineffective SLT or indeed teachers and systems are one thing, but since the dawn of time kids haven’t done as they’re told.
        It just feels too easy to move too far in the direction of expecting that it will “just” happen. Lots of people are saying apposite stuff about good learning coming from good behaviour and I don’t disagree but kids is kids and we need to be better a lot of the time.
        We live in a second opinion society that has begun to question authority for a while now. That’s a good thing unless you’re in authority which we are. In which case, continually asserting the authority only exacerbates the revolt.

  2. We are the people we’ve been waiting for.

  3. There appears to be a big gap between those who feel that too much emphasis has been placed on ‘keeping the children engaged’ and those, like yourself, who feel that this is the key to progression, and implementation of ‘appropriate’ frameworks for behaviour stifles/prevents worthwhile learning. (Sorry for the oversimplification). It might be that there is a bigger truth about effective teaching that lies above these two positions? There are so many variables involved in teaching. Both teachers and pupils are very complex systems, and then there is the environment in which they meet. It is very conceivable that there could be many different solutions to ‘effective teaching’?

    • Hi. Thanks for your comment. Very well put and gets right at the heart of what I’m saying.
      I agree. There are lots of appropriate approaches for different schools, classes etc. the teacher choosing the right approach is the key and they should be allowed to do that.
      That may mean a climate where relationships are jokey or businesslike but either way they are appropriate. The key isn’t just relationships and I’ll need to re read the post to see if I can make that clear.
      Progression happens over time and Hattie etc have the keys to that. I feel it’s unreasonable to expect that kids will just “behave” because we tell them to.

      • Unreasonable to expect ‘will’. Not unreasonable to expect and enforce ‘should’. The less there is ‘will’, the harder you have to enforce ‘should’.
        The only difference between schools is that the successful ones do this, and the unsuccessful ones do not. The really bad ones cosy up to the badly behaved and thus betray the well-behaved.

      • I think it wouldn’t be unreasonable for teachers to expect society to be such that the default reaction of pupils towards teachers was respect. This is, in effect, the situation in a commercial business. There, people’s starting position is that their colleagues are engaged in the same common endeavour and deserve, a priori, their respect (it is mutual – each person has their own responsibilities etc). When this turns out not to be the case then action is required or the endeavour will struggle. Same applies in schools. At the root, those who will benefit are the pupils (teachers benefit, too, but I think you know what I mean?). This lack of understanding could be fixed, I think, but would need more than just schools/teachers…needs society.

        This is, in some ways, an aside (but an important one). Basically, there are many different ways to teach effectively, but sometimes local circumstances narrow that choice. I’m not a teacher, but I can see that teaching (a vocation) is one of the most important, and difficult, professions there is.

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