After a lesson observation by our Assistant Head teacher I was selected along with another teacher at the school to be a part of a coaching triad working with other schools in the borough to improve our teaching and learning. In our triads we each observe and give feedback to one another with a particular focus area, decided upon in the first meeting. The triads are made up of teachers from different schools, different subjects and different age groups in Harrow.
In our first meeting at Park High school our group decided to focus on slow independent deep learning. This was something that had been thrust in front of me in our most recent inset (@Kevbartle) and I really liked the idea but wasn’t too sure what it would look like in lessons. In our triad we discussed some areas of focus and went away and researched some more to get a better understanding.
I decided to focus on universal skills in lessons which can be used in all walks of life and put this to a year 7 class a few lessons prior to the first observation. In a badminton lesson we discussed deep learning and the G&T in the class really grabbed onto this idea and came up with some great answers in relation to real world skills. During the connection phase students talked about the benefit of our activities and an improvement in their hand eye co-ordination to help them with their writing in class. By the end of the lesson students were able to use their own success and failure to talk about much bigger messages such as taking the easy way out, persevering and people’s different approaches to challenge. Students in the class really liked how we were linking other areas into our PE lesson and asking them to think more about how skills are inter related with everyday life. It is getting them to think more and they are all enjoying this new angle to their lessons.
I taught the first lesson of three in our triad and taught a lesson on teamwork. Having just been to a teachmeet, I was full of ideas and enthusiasm for the lesson. I started with a silent brainstorm regarding key words related to teamwork and then got the students to decide upon their own focus in the lesson They were split into four groups and each group compiled their own list of key words. The groups fed back to the rest of class and then decided on one word in particular that they thought was the most important. These were: trust, co-operation and communication. Students then graded themselves by my making an ‘A, B or C’ with their hands on each of the key words. I split the hall in two and had on two identical obstacle courses set up on each side. Classes would complete the obstacle course with three students blindfolded and three students guiding them round, in their teams they would decide on the best strategy to get their team round. Each group was timed to add an element of competition. The two groups not participating observed the groups and made notes on WWW in relation to the three key words. These groups fed back and the active groups were able to feedback to me what they thought they needed to improve on based on the peer evaluation.
The groups rotated and were able to adapt the skills they had learnt from observing first time round. In the consolidation phase students then graded themselves again using their hand signals and we focussed on some of the key skills for each of the key words and some of the improvements that had been made.
The lesson went well and I made a real effort to not rush activities and for students to give effective peer observation so there was slow independent learning. I wanted students to know exactly what their strengths were and what they needed to do to improve. Unfortunately, we did run out of time to consolidate as well as we could have but in the next lesson I picked up where we left off and students quickly linked back to the last lesson. The feedback from the triad was really good and opened my eyes to other areas to improve on such as cross-curricular links. Both colleagues who observed me talked about how students should be able to use language from Maths and English to communicate better with each other and were surprised that the students themselves hadn’t made the link. This is now one of the focuses in my lessons and I am constantly challenging students to make links with other subjects in the activities which students are now starting to do quite effectively; improving both their literacy and numeracy in PE.
The following week I observed a Maths teacher. The lesson was very good and the students made clear progress but there were also some structural elements that I thought could be improved on. During the feedback, the teacher was very receptive to ideas and genuinely wanted constructive feedback on how he could improve. We discussed some of the areas that could be worked on. One of them was the use of two different topics in a lesson instead of focussing on one and breaking it down into smaller chunks.
In the lesson the teacher discussed ways to be resourceful such as dialogue with the person next to you, sharing ideas and using your book to help solve the task/challenge. He included this in his lesson objective but there was little assessment of this in the lesson and focussed mainly on how student’s solved the tasks. I have been guilty of this before and it can be so easy to focus on your main objective in the lesson.
In the final week of the first round of observations I observed a Year 5 lesson it was a very different atmosphere to a secondary school (with much lower ceilings). The students were excited to have us in the classroom but quickly focussed when the teacher started the lesson. I really enjoyed the lesson, there was a lot more use of touchy feely resources (jam, toothpaste, vegetable fat, pictures of objects) which really engaged the students early on. This is something that I am trying to incorporate more with the use of fascinators (connection activities) in my lessons. The students worked exceedingly well in groups to find the difference between a solid, liquid and gas. Their passion for finding the answer was evident as well as their ability to work interdependently: they all got stuck in and were very into the task asking each other challenging questions and investigating solutions themselves.
The pupils were so keen to give their answers and got very excited, as you would expect the noise level went up but only because of their eagerness to let the teacher know what they had found out. This was something that was discussed afterwards and strategies such as using their hands to grade themselves (A,B,C) and having somewhere for students to contribute answers, such as post it notes or writing under key words on A3 paper would give students an outlet for their answers.
As a coaching triad we are now half way through the process and it has been fantastic. I have learnt a lot from the other teachers but it has also given me an opportunity without the stress of a formal observation. I feel much more driven to improve that area of my lessons (slow, independent, deep learning) and have more confidence in the direction I am heading with my teaching. Having a clear focus has allowed me to make marginal gains which are so crucial and which are benefitting the rest of my classes, giving me more motivation to improve my teaching. I am really looking forward to the next phase and am strongly behind the power of coaching.