Tuesday 18 December 2012

Creating a climate for risk taking in the classroom

Imagine a world where all SLTs taught consistentlyoutstanding lessons and staff saw them doing that and that alone. What would itprove? It would be great for our egos but how would it actually develop any ofour staff?

 Make no mistake, I know what good and outstandinglearning looks like,  I can and doachieve it on a regular basis but actually a major (arguably more important)part of my job is to create conditions for others to achieve this and create aculture where it's ok to take risks. It is these risks that eventually lead tosustained and continual improvement across departments and organisations.

 I'm currently part of a small group looking atdeveloping classroom practice around pupil interdependence, led by an excellentteacher in her 2nd year of teaching. I was quite excited about something she'ddone with us a few weeks ago and emailed her to say I was going to try it outwith a class for the first time, later that day. She replied that she happenedto be free that pm so could she pop in? My response? "Of course.”

I don't believe that the lesson would have beenrated outstanding but that wasn't the point. I was trying something new withpossibly my most challenging class. I'm not even sure how much it was actuallyrelated to maths- it was the process that I was interested in and wanted toexplore for future lessons. If I were a slave to the "SLT must beoutstanding at all times" mantra I would have turned my colleague down andlet her come in a week or two after I'd drilled the kids and played with it alittle more to iron out any rough edges.

 I choose not to do that. Why? Because that is notthe culture I want to be a part of leading. We tell pupils that it’s ok to failbut rarely show that to staff. As a school leader, I want staff to know thatit's ok to experiment, that we can be part of each other’s mutual development-that is what develops a truly excellent organisation - not a need to show howperfect we all are.

 After the lesson, I asked Athena to give me somefeedback- here it is (unedited)...


This is what I noted downafter the lesson:

· Engaging task with clear instructions and time allowance.

· Allowed pupils to choose their own groups and resources which gives themownership over their work.

· Very little involvement, instead you just ‘hinted’ and asked questions tocertain pupils about how they might want to go about directing the activity.

· I think that for a clear leader to emerge there needed to be a wholeclass ‘buy in’ and a sense that everyone was contributing to one final product– the smaller groups only cared about what they were doing really and didn’tseem to understand the importance of each other.

· Great consolidation in terms of what they would do differently next timeand how they would improve– I thought the end of the lesson was the most richin terms of learning, they came up with things like organisation,communication, team work.

· My main question would be what did you want them to learn from thelesson? Was it how to work together or was it to better understand the exampaper? I think if they had a clear understanding of your objectives for themand could see a more tangible outcome they would have worked more efficientlyhowever the fact that they didn’t was what made the discussion so good! "


I took Athena's feedback on board and have sincemodified and improved the activity with another class. Subsequently Athena andI have been involved in a mutually beneficial dialogue about our adventures in interdependence.*

*More of that to follow shortly.


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