Part three: How do you develop a strong learning culture amongst staff?

9 Jun

Last week, I ended the post by stating that developing a strong learning culture is of utmost importance because it will help all of us at my school to be the best teachers we can so that our students experience great lessons every day. @ICTEvangelist has made this great poster which I agree with wholeheartedly.

Consistently good is outstanding

If you’re delivering high-quality lessons on a regular basis, then you have to be someone who takes their job pretty seriously. You’re not someone who is interested in getting a one-off Outstanding grading; you’re more interested in looking at the bigger pcture and creating sequences of lessons that help students to reach their potential. Make no mistake: being this kind of teacher takes commitment. It means not cutting corners and spending time thinking of new and better ways to teach topics you might have taught countless times. However, great teachers enjoy immersing themselves in getting better because teaching, to them, is not just any old job. It’s a passion (and I choose that often over-used word deliberately).

Releasing the butterflies

Tomorrow, I will be going into work and sharing with staff several ideas that we could implement that would help us to create a strong learning culture and be ‘consistently good’ teachers every time we open our classroom door and welcome in our class. Ideally, I would like staff to be so excited by all of the options for next year that they choose all of them! I want to do all of them: but it’s not up to me. As I’ve said before, there’s no point doing anything if you haven’t got that crucial staff buy-in. In two weeks, staff will have voted for how they want to shape their own development in the upcoming academic year. This is a really exciting stage for us and there’s a feeling in the air that change is afoot; our head began in September and I started in January to take up a newly created AHT role for teaching and learning development. Change can be a scary business though. Not many of us like to be taken out of our comfort zone but we must if we are to become better.

To get staff excited about the options on offer next year, I wanted to create some taster videos rather than write a boring email with all the options listed. To make my videos, I downloaded the Video Scribe app and got cracking! I LOVE this app. It’s so easy to make animated, fun videos with little technical knowledge. By the end of Friday, I’d made all of the videos so, apart from the new action research CPD model discussed in the last post, all I needed to do is decide which ideas to unleash first…

Staff Book Club

Book Club

The CPD model discussed in the last post involves all staff at school but I want to have an option for those members of staff who are really interested in pedagogy and are willing to invest extra time in reading about teaching and learning. Two things have led me down this path. The first was during my Skype conversation with @TeamTait. He told me that at his school they are going to leave a surprise gift of a nicely-wrapped book in ten teacher’s pigeon holes – no strings attached. The hope is that the teacher will read it and then pass it on to a colleague. I think this is a lovely idea – and who doesn’t like a freebie?! Alongside this, on Twitter recently, @EduBookChatUk has been created after many tweets about books that we’ve enjoyed reading and has made us think about our practice. It is currently being hosted by the fabulous @kerrypulleyn and the first discussion gets underway on Wednesday 19th June; any teacher can join in and discuss the chosen book. This time they will be discussing Switch: how to change things when change is hard by Chip and Dan Heath.

These two ideas got me thinking about how brilliant it would be to have a staff book club. We have a very proactive librarian at school and she has agreed to help fund the purchasing of five teaching books for twelve members of staff. The book club will meet in the library once a half term to discuss how the ideas in the book could shape their classroom practice. There will be tea, coffee and biscuits available to make it feel more relaxed after work (we all know how a cuppa and good biscuit can make the world of difference to people’s attitudes!). It was very difficult deciding on which books to choose; in the end I decided to choose books about developing classroom practice because I hope to encourage teachers of all levels of experience, not just middle leaders. The five books that we will read – if the book club gets the thumbs up from staff – are:

Zoe Elder’s Full On Learning
Claire Gadsby’s Perfect Assessment for Learning
Andy Griffith and Mark Burns’ Outstanding Teaching: Engaging Learners
Jim Smith’s The Lazy Teacher’s Handbook
Isabella Wallace and Leah Kirkman’s Pimp Your Lesson

The last session in the final half term will be a chance for book club members to reflect on all of their reading. To give more teachers a chance to get involved in the book club, membership is only for one year. Hopefully, those first recruits will enjoy the experience and spread the word so that other members of staff might want to join the following year. What’s really important is that these books will have sparked the interest of these teachers and that they are committed to continuing with their reading.

Staff teaching and learning notice board

In our staffroom, we have a few boards up and not one of them is devoted to teaching and learning. There’s a few crusty posters, the cover board and some NUT information. That’s it. Not the most inspiring environment to get staff enthusiastic about teaching and learning. I’ve seen on Twitter recently some pictures of other schools’ teaching and learning boards. @ASTsupportAAli has a Share and Replace board for teachers to pass on resources to each other – a great idea!

Share and Replace board

I’m thinking of having a theme each half term based on marginal gains. The idea would be that staff would take an A6 card pinned onto the board and share something they were doing to improve their use of questioning or explanations. Zoe Elder, a.k.a. @fullonlearning, blogs about marginal learning gains at She identifies eight marginal learning gains: expectations; anticipation; feedback; questioning; error seeking; autonomy; agency; and affiliation. I would like to choose six of these to explore during the year. By the end of the half term, there could be a whole board full of great ideas to try out. Let’s hope staff vote for this idea!

Teaching and Learning Blog

Shakespeare blog

Blogging is such a great way of reflecting on your practice. Writing them down into some sort of coherent form can be tricky and time consuming but extremely worthwhile. Alex Quigley, a.k.a @HuntingEnglish, celebrated his first blogging anniversary this week with another eloquent post on the importance of blogging. You should definitely read it, if you haven’t done so already.

Now I don’t think staff would vote for them all starting up a new blog – that’s a huge investment – but they might vote for the idea of an internal school blog which features guest posts from a range of teachers at school. Our school uses Frog learning platform so we can easily set up a blog on our learning platform. What we choose to blog about needs careful thought. After talking with a few colleagues, there seems to be a consensus that we enjoy reading about success stories but we also appreciate teachers sharing when things haven’t quite gone to plan. The thing we’re looking for is realism. It would be great for a teacher to blog about something they’re trying with their class and share the highs and lows with us. I wonder if there are enough teachers at school who will be willing to blog and vote ‘Yes’ for this in two weeks…? And you never know: maybe one of those teachers who writes a guest post might just end up catching the bug and setting up their own blog to share with the rest of the world!

Pedagoo Friday

Pedagoo Friday

My final idea to share with staff this week will be to introduce them to #pedagoofriday. At the moment, there are about 15 teachers at school who are on Twitter for educational reasons but there are many who are still not convinced about joining (I’m trying @batttuk!). This means they are missing out on sharing their best teaching moments during #pedagoofriday. I thought it might be a good morale boost to introduce a school #pedagoofriday but in what format? I love using the hashtag to follow all of the good news stories on Twitter on a Friday – it really cheers me up. Luckily, I came across a website called Todays Meet (no apostrophe, it’s not a typo) when Mark Allen, a.k.a @edintheclouds, talked about it in his #TeachTweet video last month.

Here’s the #TeachTweet video from @edintheclouds where Mark shares all sorts of digital gems.

All you have to do is label your ‘room’ on Todays Meet and it generates a URL. The room can stay open for two hours or for a month, depending on what you are using it for. When you post a comment, it joins the room’s feed. I think this website will be a great way for staff to share their #pedagoofriday moment with their colleagues. Hopefully, if they get into the spirit of our internal #pedagoofriday, it might lead them to join Twitter and share their great moments every Friday. All I need now is a catchy name…

So that’s it for next week. I can’t wait to see what staff choose. I hope it generates a buzz around school and gets teachers talking and thinking about the best way to support their own professional development. Next week they’ll be a few more ideas to share with staff. Fingers crossed that staff like these changes. You can’t please everyone but you can give people options. There’s a great line in @davidErogers’ post this week -!/2013/06/im-not-outstanding-teacher-and-this-is.html – about supporting teachers’ development.

Teachers are a mixed ability group of learners and it always amazes me that we treat teaching staff differently to children.

Hear, hear! When planning a lesson, I think of the 3Cs: choice; challenge; collaboration. The same goes for devising professional development opportunities.

One Response to “Part three: How do you develop a strong learning culture amongst staff?”

  1. markquinn1968 June 10, 2013 at 8:55 pm #

    This is absolutely top drawer! 1 evening, and I’m following you on Twitter and your blog. You could follow my more modest efforts on I think my CPD Leadership category has a few bits you might be interested in

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