Saturday 12 July 2014

Learning to get better

We've been waiting for a return visit from HMI for the past three weeks. In preparation, we've had two inspection teams from Outstanding schools and an actual HMI come in to look at the school.

Initially, the workload increased massively in preparation for the inevitable monitoring visit. However, looking back I think it's all been worth it. As I've mentioned in a previous post, you cannot possibly prepare for an HMI visit in 24 hours or even a week, it takes weeks if not months and therefore I think the mock inspections have not only provided us with time to prepare but also lots of practice.

In preparation, I've started filming a lot of my lessons. I teach 8 classes and I think I've filmed 5 of them so far. It's been quite insightful. There are a few things I've learnt from watching this footage back:

-There are a lot more hands up than I realise
-Body language matters a lot
-Formative assessment works

As a result of the first of these issues, I've put more of a focus on modelling during the Do Now and before the main activity.

In addressing the second issue, I've been more aware of when I'm giving instructions, where I am and how I deliver these instructions. Certainly the worst way to deliver them is sat down! I've also noticed that in some cases I have been leaning or supporting myself with a chair or the mobile white board! I'd be the first to admit that this is not the kind of body language that is favourable for information transmission or simply getting the attention of kids. I corrected this and am more conscious about this than ever before.

Amy Cuddy's brilliant talk discusses the importance of body language in more detail:

On a more positive note, I found noticed that traffic light cards and mini whiteboards, simple as they are work well. By forcing students to have 100% participation, everyone has to think to respond and therefore will learn a lot more. Linked to student participation, our observers also noted that we should script our questions more. The only way you can use questioning effectively is if you plan the question and plan who you will ask it to. This way your expectation of a student response (no opt out) can be met in the first instance.

I've told my students that the last few weeks of term are simply to improve by doing corrections on our exams. I've opened our lessons with quotations and these two quotes seem the most apt:

“Improvement begins with I.”
Arnold H.

“It’s through mistakes that you actually can grow. You have to make mistakes in order to improve”
— Paula

Looking ahead to Monday's monitoring visit, I'm feeling confident because I've made so many mistakes in the past 3 weeks and indeed over the past year that I've learnt a lot and improved my teaching as a result. Looking back over the year, it is the most difficult and daunting things in teaching that offer the most benefit. Line management observations, filming yourself and being scrutinised by 3 different sets of external inspectors in 3 weeks have all been challenging and at times slightly uncomfortable. However, every significant success I have had this year has come about through either one of these forms of observation or the reflection/debriefing on these afterwards.

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