Evidence-based teaching in primary education

The following post is written by Val Poultney, editor of Evidence-based teaching in Primary Education published by Critical Publishing in April 2017.

School improvement is not an exact science. First, the term is a very general one, yet it is applied to many schools as a ‘given’ by politicians and the media. To turn a school around from one that is classified as ‘failing’ or ‘requires improvement’ takes time, commitment and a new approach to teaching and learning. Proponents of the evidence-based teaching approach argue that there should be equal collaboration between educational practitioners, policymakers and researchers and a link established between research outcomes that are seen to be effective in education and how such outcomes could be used in the real-world context of school practice. What might constitute effective school improvement is, arguably, fashionable, context-specific and based on small-scale samples which possibly have little impact on raising standards nationally.

Yet in today’s context of fast-paced schooling, heads and teachers need to be able to plan and respond rapidly to change agendas imposed externally, without the time or space to fully evaluate the worth of the proposed change as it might impact on their school.   Evidence-based teaching as a means of generating an evidential claim to knowledge is a powerful approach but possibly only as ‘local knowledge’ that is very much bound to school context and arguably harder to generalize except to those schools in comparable circumstances.

What constitutes ‘good’ research evidence in these contexts is not for university academics to judge but it should be recognized that these data are but a small part of a bigger picture on the school improvement landscape.  If we are to be truly concerned with raising standards in primary schools then there has to be something more in it for teachers beyond ‘tips for teaching’ and yet another new initiative. We would hope all teachers see themselves as professionals with a contribution to make to the continuing development of their learners and to the profession itself. The literature is replete with references to EBT as a way of providing focused staff development that is meaningful to teachers that helps to build a knowledge-base to supplement the normal statistical school data.  EBT is regarded as a means of giving teaching a real purpose, to instil a confidence in and to ’re-professionalise’ teachers. It opens up opportunities for networking, dissemination and debates about the outcomes of teacher research and challenges teachers to adopt a more inquiring and reflective perspective on their work.

Building and sustaining capacity for everyone to be a learner is one of the crucial roles of any primary school leadership team. These leadership teams become leaders of learning for all staff and children where they develop the potential to change hearts and minds and encourage teachers to focus on their pedagogy in order to make learning happen. School leaders drive the development of a critical epistemological base for practice that provides scope for teachers to reflect upon and explore their own professional practice. Capacity building goes beyond organization and structure however; it allows practitioners to work together in new ways. It is about establishing trust between colleagues and a collective will to want to work together. School leaders are therefore charged with investing in changing the school climate so that they, teachers, support staff and children become central to the work of teaching and learning with internal alignment of teams, structures and resourcing that supports the development of personal and interpersonal capacity. It is about creating a collective capacity where learning is an integral part of everyone’s role in school: leaders, teachers, support staff, estate workers, parents and governors. It is about creating an environment where teachers develop an analytical approach to their own practice and where they begin to see their classrooms through an analytical lens.

In the spirit of taking responsibility for improvement of learning, school leaders may avail themselves of an opportunity to work with an intermediary such as an HEI academic. This affords closer contact with current educational research that can be used to inform and drive inquiry and can act as a means of galvanising a change in practice. Historically, there have been various views on the role of HEI academics in this context, ranging from the notion of bringing rigour to school-based decisions to, more recently, the consideration of research as a means of addressing the disenfranchisement of teachers, where teachers are challenged to develop their own body of locally held knowledge.

Beyond improving teaching and learning, evidence-based approaches can have wider positive ramifications. Teacher research or teacher inquiry can encourage teachers to work together more collegially, promote a proper focus on how to analyse and use existing school data and help to build wider confidence as part of professional development. In turn teachers learn how to make informed choices about practice and use empirical data to cope with future change agendas. Teacher inquiry, if deployed school-wide, can become greater than the sum of its parts and can help to foster a professional learning community. Teachers learn how to evaluate and critique their own practice and that of others to help them make informed choices. The role of the HEI academic as partner, coach, mentor or ‘objective other’ can help to maintain the focus on learning for everyone and to direct teacher reflections on practice. In turn, and with increased levels of confidence, teachers themselves can take on the role of consultants, advisors and critical friends. They can begin to challenge their own commonly held practices, develop their own discourses and reconceptualise their practice.

With these points in mind our recent edition ‘Evidence-based Teaching in the Primary School’ provides the reader with an account of how one primary school used EBT as an approach to improving teacher’s and children’s learning. As a school in challenging circumstances and previously seen as requiring improvement, the Head decided to use this approach over a two year time frame in order to engage and enthuse staff to take a close look at their practice. With the help of a local university academic mainly to advise on research methodology, the staff were offered the opportunity to engage in their own research, be part of some wider research being undertaken by the academic and to come out of their comfort zones to present their findings within and externally to school. There was no blueprint for our work over these two years; the Head acted as a role model for EBT (often unsuccessfully) but he built a community of teachers who began to see the merit of EBT in their own classrooms. EBT became a whole school approach that is on-going today. As a university academic I learnt early on that my credibility with teachers would only stretch so far – what really counted were the perspectives of the teachers engaging in EBT. To their credit, not only did these teachers take on EBT as a whole school initiative but they used its outcomes to widely disseminate their findings culminating in this book. As editor I have tried to present not just the accounts as we remembered them but also some of the ‘uncomfortable messages’ that come with the nature of this work: limitations of the EBT, how to manage rising staff confidence, challenges to school leadership and many more. If you are interested in such work, the book may help to guide you through the trials and tribulations of an EBT approach. All you have to do is to supply your context!

 

 

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GREAT EXPECTATIONS – WHAT DO MENTEES WANT FROM THEIR MENTORS AND THEIR SCHOOL?

Today we have a new blog post from one of our fantastic authors, Jonathan Gravells, author of Mentoring: Getting it Right in a Week. Here he explores what exactly mentees want from their mentors and their schools.

Agreeing clear expectations, at both and individual and school level, is one of the proven ingredients of successful mentoring. Here are some expectations that would come at the top of our list.

6 things you should expect from your mentor

  1. Credibility & competence – There are skills and knowledge associated with being a good mentor and you should expect your mentor to have taken the trouble to acquire these. Do they have to have more experience than you as a teacher? Well not necessarily, as plenty of successful peer mentoring partnerships can demonstrate. However, mentoring partnerships often benefit from mentors having different experience, as this enriches the learning.
  2. Willingness to learn – Competence does not mean your mentor knows it all. We can all get better at what we do and your mentor should role model this. Furthermore, in the best mentoring partnerships the mentor learns from exploring their mentee’s experiences too.
  3. Attention – Good listening is important of course, but great mentors do so much more than this. They give their full attention to their mentee, in an effort to really understand what motivates, frustrates or frightens them, and to find ways forward that will really suit them, rather than simply conform to some established formula or standard.
  4. Empathy – Because they have taken the trouble to really understand what makes you tick, great mentors will be able to put themselves in your shoes and realise why you respond to situations and events in a particular way. But they will also remain objective enough to help you question these responses.
  5. Challenge – So, empathy and supportiveness are key to good mentoring, but we also learn from having our assumptions and preconceptions challenged. The best mentors help us to tackle things we might not otherwise have had the confidence to address.
  6. Freedom to be your best self – Great mentors do not impose their strategies or recipes on you. They acknowledge that good teachers are not all stamped from the same mould, and the most successful ideas and improvements will be those that suit your personality and strengths.

6 things you should expect from your school

  1. Clear purpose for the mentoring – Unless your school is clear about what it wants to achieve from mentoring as an institution, then what kind of message is it sending mentors and mentees?
  2. Proper evaluation and improvement – Demonstrating the impact of mentoring, justifying the continued investment of time and money on this aspect of continuing professional development, and finding ways of making it work even better will reinforce everyone’s commitment to the process.
  3. Proper training and ongoing support – As the recent National Standards for ITT mentors rightly point out, mentors (and I would argue mentees) need not just adequate initial training in the skills and techniques of mentoring, but processes to ensure continued improvements in practice.
  4. Time – Unless schools find ways of allocating sufficient time to mentoring as part of staff development, the evidence suggests mentors and mentees will struggle to maintain commitment to the process.
  5. A positive environment – Another crucial observation from the National Standards is that mentoring can only thrive in the right environment. This means a sensible separation from performance assessment and monitoring , demonstrable support from the top, and respecting the need for mentoring to take place within a safe space.
  6. Agreed definition and ground rules – This positive environment will benefit significantly from clarity around mentoring roles and responsibilities and the basic ground rules governing these learning conversations.

Jonathan Gravells, Director of Fargo Associates, January 2017

If this blog post interests you, why not look a bit further? Details of Jonathan’s Mentoring: Getting it Right in a Week can be found on the Critical Publishing website. In addition, why not have a look at the other titles in the In a Week series; Lesson Planning: Getting it Right in a Week by Keith and Nancy Appleyard and Behaviour Management: Getting it Right in a Week by Susan Wallace.

If you have any questions, you can reach me at keisha@criticalpublishing.com – as always, we would love to hear from you!

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Learning to be a Primary Teacher

The Carter Review for initial teacher training (DFE, 2015) identified the importance of core curriculum content for all teacher training programmes. The review highlighted the importance of all programmes embedding core content on aspects such as: subject-specific pedagogy, assessment, behaviour management, special educational needs and disability, planning, differentiation, child and adolescent development and professionalism. Carter also highlighted the critical role of the school-based mentor in ITE programmes and the need to improve the quality of mentoring.

My new book, entitled Learning to be a Primary Teacher: core knowledge and understanding, published by Critical Publishing in 2016, addresses much of the core content that Carter specified. It also provides a chapter on evidence-based teaching and provides ideas to trainees on how to access educational research. The theme of evidence-based teaching also runs throughout each chapter and trainees are introduced to some of the latest educational research which points to ‘what works’ in schools and classrooms.

Initial teacher training is currently experiencing a phase of transition. In addition to provider-led programmes, providers have in recent years accredited school-led models of training in collaboration with their partnerships, through the introduction of School Direct. Various models of School Direct exist and there is no one blueprint for how School Direct should operate. Postgraduate trainees now have more choice than ever before in relation to how they wish to train as a teacher. They might choose traditional university routes or School Direct routes. Some might choose to train through School-Centred Initial Teacher Training programmes (SCITT) and others might choose assessment-only routes. There is a highly prestigious Troops to Teachers programme as well as other routes such as Teach First.

The diversity of routes into teaching can cause confusion for potential trainees. They need clear, impartial advice on which route is best for them and trainees need to research what is available before they make an application. However, once they are on the programme trainees need similar core content, regardless of the route they have chosen. My book will provide them with the background knowledge that they need to start a career in teaching and it will raise questions for critical debate. The text is accessible and current and directly relevant to classroom practice.

Teaching is a challenging choice of profession.  Many teachers choose to exit the profession each year due to the demands of the role. Trainees will certainly experience stress and exhaustion during their training and may feel like they want to quit. However, it is important in times of stress to recall the reasons for entering the profession in the first place. Teacher make a real difference to the lives of children that they educate. Everyone remembers a good teacher. The best teachers motivate and inspire their learners. They change lives. This book will hopefully give you a step up into a deeply rewarding and interesting profession.

Is this acceptable?

Dr Jonathan Glazzard, EdD, MSc, MEd, MA, PGCert(HE), BEd(Hons)

Head of Academic Development

National Teaching Fellow. Leeds Trinity University

Behavioural Management- free extract

Sunny mornings are the best. They put everyone in a happy mood, suddenly everything is so much more positive.

And to add to such a lovely morning I have a free extract from ‘Supporting Primary Teaching and Learning‘. Fiona Hall yesterday wrote an entry on our blog about how vital a text this is to an aspiring teachers and today we thought “why not show you a snippet of what she’s talking about!?”.

So please enjoy this extract from Chapter 3 on Behaviour Management.

Supporting Primary Teaching and Learning-Front (1)

Individual Needs

Children’s behaviour will be impacted upon by their individual needs. A significant writer in this area is Maslow (1908 – 1970) who suggested that we have a range of needs that exist in a hierarchy starting with the most basic of needs, linked to our survival, at the bottom. Maslow indicated that the needs of one level needed to be met before it was possible to move to the next level. This is shown in figure 3.1.

SPTL photo

Activity

Consider how each levels of Maslow’s hierarchy can be applied to your setting.

If you have any questions you can reach me at hannah@criticalpublishing.com – as always we’d love to hear from you.

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How To Support Learning

Good morning all,

Fiona Hall, author of our book ‘Supporting Primary Teaching and Learning‘ has prepared this entry to aid both teaching assistants and student teachers. This book is ideal for those of you looking to gain an invaluable insight into what pursuing a career in education really entails and how best to support learning.

Have a read and let me know your thoughts if you’ve got your own copy at home!

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Supporting Primary Teaching and Learning is an invaluable guide for school Teaching Assistants or as an ideal starting point for undergraduates interested in a career in education. Aimed at the primary sector, this book gives you the low-down on the essentials you need to gain and develop a career in education with the focus on supporting children’s learning. As well as guiding teaching assistants, it provides valuable insight for those aspiring to become teachers.

The book has been written by expert educators Fiona Hall, Duncan Hindmarch, Doug Hoy and Lynn Machin. Fiona, who worked in primary education and teacher training for many years advises, “This book offers some great advice to Teaching Assistants starting on their Higher Education journey and gives supporting literature for their practice in schools”.  Duncan, who heads up the Foundation degree in Education at Staffordshire University explains: We wanted to create a book that would be really useful for Teaching Assistants or students planning careers in the primary education sector. The chapters have been developed to include relevant contemporary subjects.” The book has been organised into key topics which provide you with the information needed to help you be a successful teaching Assistant. Lynn adds, As well as taking a theoretical standpoint, it also has useful practical advice too.”

Lead author Fiona explains: “We’ve kept it relatively short and focuses on some of the priorities with recommendations for further reading when appropriate.”

So, we think this book will be an ideal starting point for Teaching Assistants employed in the sector as well as appealing to undergraduate education students.

If you have any questions you can reach me at hannah@criticalpublishing.com – as always we’d love to hear from you.

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Are you excited for the London Book Fair?

Ladies and Gentlemen- it has arrived!

LBF logo

The London Book Fair– the biggest, the baddest and the most anticipated book fair of the year!

Julia Morris, co-director of Critical Publishing, would like to share what she is most looking forward to at the book fair this year.

Not long now! Just one sleep until the London Book Fair starts. It’s an exciting prospect.

The scale of it all certainly has the capacity to daunt. Critical Publishing, with a staff of 3, is clearly a tiny fish – if not a speck of plankton – in a very big sea. But equally it’s the number and quality of exhibitors that really makes you feel part of what is a thriving, innovative and creative industry.

It really is a chance to drink in everything around you, from some of the hugely impressive stands of the big publishers to the more modest tables (scattered with equally impressive products) of smaller companies. It’s a great place to get ideas, see what your competitors are doing and get your head round some of the latest tech.

There is a glamorous side to the event, with the chance that you might just brush shoulders with a great author or an up-and-coming celebrity who has just released their autobiography. But for me the event is characterised by the more down to earth necessity of meetings, catch-ups and networking. Back to back appointments see me rushing from one end of the great hall to the other, desperately searching for that elusive stand number and the even more elusive place to sit down.  I look anything but glamorous by the end of the first day!

However at that point there is always the IPG party to revive the spirits and a refreshing glass of wine to enjoy with friends and colleagues.

If you’re at the book fair then come and say hi to us.

Any other questions please direct to hannah@criticalpublishing.com – as always we’d love to hear from you.

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london-bookfair-2016

The Last Science Extract

The end of National Science week is finally here and therefore so is the last extract from our new book ‘Key Concepts in Primary Science‘.

Here is a outline of each chapter for you to enjoy- and don’t miss out on the 15% off deal on our website!

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180316 KCPS1 extract 5

For a sample of our new book click here or visit our website.

If you have any queries then please do not hesitate to contact us by emailing: hannah@criticalpublishing.com

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