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Showing posts from October, 2013

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…

Slow down, we move too fast!

I believe if we really want to improve what we do in schools, we need to slow down. For too long we have rushed, or been pushed, headlong into one change after another. As a result, many schools and teachers have done lots, but have achieved little in terms of real development that impacts on learners.

Each new 'thing' is embraced by senior leaders, then passed on to individuals or a working-party to implement and deliver. The result is a glut of little understood initiatives, with little understanding of where they come from, or why they are being introduced. All of which leads to little, if any, positive impact in classrooms or for learners.

So what can we do about this?

My suggestion is to slow down, think more and act less. How we do this is by firstly understanding exactly where we are in development terms. We need to recognise what our strengths are, individually and across the school. We need to then identify what we need to focus on next, in order to develop and keep m…

Year Four and Beyond Practitioner Enquiry

We are now just into our fourth year of taking a Practitioner Enquiry approach to our school development. All our evaluations, internal and external, have demonstrated the positive, and continuing, impact we have had. Teachers and schools have moved forward and we have lots of hard, and soft, evidence to support this assertion. In our last session teachers finished their research posters and we had most of these professionally reproduced.
We started this session with an in-house sharing by teachers with their colleagues around their enquiries and their posters. The schools were buzzing with conversations around teaching and learning, and the sharing of experiences and discoveries. A fabulous way to start the new session!
As you will understand, we are committed to taking the same approach. Staff have again asked, to which we agreed, for more input around language so we are looking at poetry as a genre and persuasive writing as another. All staff are carrying out their own enquiries ag…

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 …

Year Two Practitioner Enquiry

In my last blog I wrote about our first year of engagement with practitioner enquiry as a means of developing individuals and schools. So what happened after this?
At the end of the first year we evaluated the impact of our work, closely focused on what had improved for learners. We spoke to teachers, pupils, support staff, parents, local authority colleagues and asked hard questions about what had improved. Out of this we built up appositive picture on the impact. This was backed up by the formal monitoring and observation activities we undertook in both schools, where we focused on impact for learners. Again the results were positive. We had a professional discussion with all staff, ourselves on the management team and our supporter Gillian. This was an open and frank discussion about what we had been engaged in and how useful all staff found this in developing their understanding and their practice.
I should state here that for the approaches we have adopted to work properly, havin…

How We Have Used Practitioner Enquiry For School Development

I am Headteacher  of two primary schools in southern Scotland. One is a town school of some 260 or so pupils, and the other is a small village school of around 50 pupils. For the last three and a half years we have been using practitioner enquiry as an approach across both schools to develop individual teachers, ourselves as a senior management team, and both establishments
This has been an exciting and enlightening experience for myself as a school
leader and for all of the teachers that have worked in the schools during this period. These have ranged from a number of  NQTs and others with over twenty years of teaching experience and in a number of different schools.
I can honestly say that I have never found a better way of developing individuals, their practice, and whole-school development than practitioner enquiry has delivered over the last three and a half years.   Individuals have developed their practice and their understanding of how they can, and do, impact on learning. Bot…