Skip to main content

Year Three Practitioner Enquiry

Towards the end of year two we again evaluated the impact of the work using all the techniques from year one. This time we were able to include the observations of various visitors who had been in to the schools and were interested in the approach we were taking. These included officers of the local authority, other Headteachers and representatives of the GTCS, who had begun to support our work. The GTCS reps met with myself and my DHT, as well as teachers, to explore the impact of such an approach. They backed up our own positive evaluations and helped us evidence the impact we were having on individual teachers, their practice, and across the schools.
We again asked the staff if they wanted to continue and they all expressed the desire to maintain the momentum we were building up. There really was no turning back!
We wished to change the focus in year three and so we decided that our enquiry this year would be in the area of maths teaching. So in this third year Gillian was able to link us up with another colleague of hers, Susan McClarty, from Edinburgh University. Susan was a maths specialist and staff identified that they would welcome support with the teaching of problem solving within Maths. So, over the course of the year, Susan delivered a series of sessions for staff on the teaching and development of mathematical understanding in real life contexts. At the same time, Gillian continued to support staff with their enquiries into practice.
We put it to staff that this year we would like them all to produce a research poster based on their enquiry. This is common practice in higher education studies at university level and we thought it would be a good way to demonstrate to all staff that the work they were engaged in was at a very high level, and was approaching the Masters level study as recommended in Graham Donaldson's report 'Teaching Scotland's Future'. This looked at, and made recommendations for the development of initial teacher education, and professional development in Scotland. Through the support of Education Scotland, who had also become very interested in what we were doing, and the GTCS, we were able to arrange for the teachers' posters to be professionally printed when they were completed. This demonstrated to them all how their work was being valued and provided them with even more motivation for the commitment that was required.
All teachers, from nursery through to primary seven, decided to look at aspects of problem solving for their enquiries. Again, the same common and cyclical elements were involved in the enquiries that were carried out over the course of the school year. That is, identification of what they wanted to look at, reasons for this choice, professional reading, data collection information, explanation of what they evidenced, how their practice had changed and identification of their next steps.
We were absolutely astounded by the standard of the enquiry posters produced and the level of thinking and reflection they had engendered in all staff. As expected, there was a range of differing results across staff. Some were quite basic and other were worthy of publication at Masters level! However, the really crucial element for me as the leader of both schools, was that we could see and evidence that all teachers had moved on in their practice and in their understanding. Therefore, the learning and teaching experiences pupils in their classes had moved on also.
Like the previous two years, this was a demanding one for all of the staff. There were times during the year when we had to provide higher levels of support than others. Indeed, there were times when we were able to say to them, forget about your enquiry and your poster for now because we understand the demands that were being placed on them by all the usual school activities. These include the run up to Christmas, Parents' Nights, report writing times, etc. It really is important that school leaders recognise and acknowledge all of the regular and demanding activities that still have to happen as part of the rhythm of the school year,and adjust expectations when these are occurring. That is also why it is crucial if you adopt this type of approach senior managers and headteachers are thoroughly involved in all the work themselves. In that way it is so much easier to 'keep it real' for your staff and yourself.
In my next blog I will explain where we are now and what our plans for the future are. I will also identify all the benefits and health warnings that need to be considered should schools be looking to travel down similar paths of development themselves.

Popular posts from this blog

The Power Within

I sent a tweet the other day which seemed to generate a deal of resonance with some on my PLN. What I said was that meaningful school development can only come from within and cannot be imposed from outside. Now 140 characters on Twitter does have benefits but, as anyone who tweets regularly knows, it also has huge limitations in what you can say. So what I would like to do here is offer some further explanation of what I was trying to convey in my tweet.

For many years well meaning and informed people have increased our understanding and have made constructive suggestions  on how schools can develop and move forward. We also know that there have been lots of other suggestions made by less informed but vocal contributors to this debate! As all in education and schools know, everyone has an opinion or view on what should be going on in our schools. The media loves to feed on all of this and much of it stokes the fires of debate and gives oxygen to some of the wilder suggestions.

As som…

Testing Times for Scotland

'These are not high stakes tests; there will be no 'pass or fail' and no additional workload for children or teachers.' John Swinney 25/11/16

I start this look at the introduction of the Scottish National Standardised Assessments (SNSAs) with  statement above from John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, made when he announced the contract for our new standardised testing had been awarded to ACER International UK, Ltd. This organisation is a subsidiary of the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), whom have been responsible for the development of the National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) regime of high-stakes testing in the Australian system since 2008. I also believe they were one of a very short list of providers who tendered a bid for this contract.

I was drawn to this statement as I reflected on many of the responses I have received after I put out a request on Twitter …

Play not tests

Last night I attended the launch the 'PlayNotTests' campaign being led by Sue Palmer and the Upstart organisation in Scotland. This campaign is aimed at getting the Scottish government to think again about their decision to introduce standardised testing into Scottish schools, particularly in Primary 1. Upstart is a group whose main aim is the establishment of a play-based 'kindergarten stage' in Scottish schools, and they want to delay children's introduction into the formal education system until they have reached seven years of age. Before that, Upstart and their supporters, of which I am one, believe that young children learn best, and begin to develop the attributes they will need for life and learning, through play based learning, most of which should be located outside of classrooms and school buildings. This is a model that has been successfully developed by a number of Nordic systems, with positive impacts on the well-being as well as the learning of young…