5 Pillars of Teaching

This short post on teaching begins with the admission that I don’t currently teach.  Perhaps that’s where it should end.

But I’ll continue on the promise that rather than focusing on the craft of classroom delivery I’ll suggest a framework that school leaders can use to cultivate great teaching in their schools.

This framework stems from the concern that our efforts to develop teachers might fail if we haven’t first created a shared understanding of what good teaching looks like.   We talk about developing teaching and learning as if we all know what we’re aiming for.  So we might create a crammed calendar of CPD and design a coaching system in which all teachers coach each other.  Yet without a clear and shared understanding of what effective teaching consists of, the coaching and the CPD can provide teachers with inconsistent and conflicting advice.

At ResearchEd in York earlier this year, John Tomsett referred to a point made by Dylan William in his 2010 SSAT speech: “Teachers are like magpies, they love picking up shiny new ideas from other teachers and taking it back to their classroom [but] if you’re serious about improving schools you need to get away from sharing good practice and focus on consolidating and embedding practice for each practitioner”.

To avoid the magpie problem, school leaders can provide a framework which is tight enough to create a common goal and shared language, yet loose enough to allow flexibility for different teachers and different departments.  I’m borrowing the language of Allison and Tharby here because I love the framework they provide in Making Every Lesson count (wonderful summary HERE).

Inspired by Allison and Tharby, here’s what a shared understanding of effective teaching might look like:

In every lesson we expect students to think hard and produce excellent work. We do this through:

  1. High expectations for all students based on a clear objective
  2. Challenging content clearly delivered and explained, with appropriate checks for understanding
  3. Modelling of excellent work
  4. Purposeful practice, giving students time to produce meaningful, authentic work.
  5. Feedback which is frequent, formative and acted upon.

With this statement on the front page (perhaps the only page) of our teaching and learning policy we could ensure that all of our coaching, CPD, inset, learning walks, observations and any other bits of training and quality assurance support these 5 pillars.


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