Professional Development HWCS Middle Leaders – Contemporary Issues we should be aware of

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As Headteacher of Harrow Way I am very confident that all Middle Leaders are as up-to-date as possible within their own subject domains. All should know the latest OfSTED position and be up to speed with exam specifications and assessment requirements. Subject knowledge and subject-specific pedagogical knowledge, are going to be key drivers of everything we do over the next few years.


However, in order to fuel the collaborative effort of reaching the ambitious goals we have for the school, we’ll need to establish a shared conceptual language for talking about teaching/aspirations across the school as well as within departments. Inevitably, different teachers will have engaged to different degrees with certain ideas depending on the books they’ve read, conferences they’ve been to and blogs they’ve browsed through and the content of their PGCE or other ITT programme. It strikes me that it would be a huge benefit to us all if we’re more or less on the same page when we’re discussing contemporary ideas about pedagogy, learning, assessment, motivation, neuroscience and so on. I don’t want people quoting half-remembered snippets from a Dylan Wiliam thing they attended years ago or citing Hattie effect sizes as absolute measures or talking about Growth Mindset, never having engaged with what Carol Dweck has actually written.

One of my first actions in the new financial year will be to buy a good selection of books to stock the staff CPD library. I want to make it easy for everyone to read the books that will inform our discussions. Caroline and I have even thought about starting a book club at Harrow Way! Already, we’ve bought in copies of Dylan Wiliam’s Embedded Formative Assessment, Hattie’s Visible Learning for Teachers, Martin Robinson’s Trivium 21st C, Andy Buck’s What makes a Great School, Don’t Change the Light Bulbs by Rachel Jones, Whole School Progress the LAZY Way, Jim Smith. But there is so much more for us all to absorb and share.

Over the last three years, I’ve found that I can engage much better with the ideas in some of these books when I’ve seen the authors express their ideas directly – either in person at a conference or through some of the video material on the internet. In this post I’ve gathered some of the videos that I’ll be recommending that all Middle Leaders enage with. Each one links to a key academic or thinker and their ideas. Of course, there is also the growing world of teacher bloggers and teacher authors to engage with too and I’ll be promoting general engagement with all of that material – especially the people I follow on Twitter @mserridge
However, to ensure we have strong common ground, I want to focus on a few key researcher-writers and their work:

Visible Learning: John Hattie – the idea of measuring impact

John Hattie’s work provides an important insight into the nature of educational research and the notion of measuring impact. The idea that some strategies can be shown to have had more impact on average over time relative to others is crucial and his general message about the implications for teachers and the profession is very strong. This video, (with a counterpart Part 1) gives a very good idea of Hattie’s thinking. Of course, the effect size concept is problematic and is open to misinterpretation. We’ll need to have that discussion – but people will need to know the principles first.

Mathew Syed Bounce

Matthew Syed is a British journalist, broadcaster and author of Bounce, a book described as “a must-read for anyone interested in the science of success, and the mindset and culture that support it”. He has won numerous prizes for his writing including Feature Writer of the Year at the SJA Awards and Sports Journalist of the Year at the British Press Awards. He is also a three-time Commonwealth table tennis champion and a two-time Olympian.

Carol Dweck: Growth Mindset

Growth Mindset is so in vogue at the moment, it is natural for anyone who has been hit by a bandwagon to approach this cautiously. There is great power in considering the extent to which  student attitudes to learning are influenced at every level of the school – in all of the messages we give in public and in the classroom.  The issue of labelling students such that they have their horizons limited or are lulled into complacency is very common; we’re all guilty of it to some degree.  Here Carol is setting out the key ideas:

Pygmalion Effect: Robert Rosenthal

This video tells the story of some research that shows the power of teacher expectations. It links in with Hattie’s research – as this is one of the highest effects he cites.  Higher teacher expectations lead to better outcomes.  Obvious? Well – it’s worth watching this to see how teachers can change their interactions with students leading to better outcomes when their expectations are raised deliberately:

Formative Assessment: Dylan WiliamDylan Wiliam is someone most people know of even if they haven’t engaged directly with him or his work.  His website Dylan Wiliam Link is packed with materials to browse through.  He has been leading the way for the last two decades in getting teachers to think about what they’re doing and why. Inside the Black Box was a revelation when we first encountered it back in the 90s.  However, following the national adoption of AfL 10 years ago, lots of the ideas have become rather distorted, spawning various superficial AfL gimmicks or misconceptions about the meaning of ‘formative’ – but I firmly believe that every teacher should know very clearly what Dylan is saying.  This video is one of several recordings of his engaging presentations (cut in at 1 min 30 to get over the long musical intro!)  Alongside his recent book, I think that videos like this could help us to establish a good shared understanding of what we mean by formative assessment and feedback and what these things can look like in practice.

An Ethic of Excellence: Ron Berger

Ron’s book is an inspiration to many people who read it. The attitudes that is promotes are so powerful, providing significant food for thought as we look at shaping our ethos. A specific example is shown through this classic Austin’s Butterfly video about the power of critique. It’s the spirit of it that is most crucial – that we shouldn’t accept mediocrity from any student; we should have aspirational goals for everyone and use specific techniques to enable students to reach them.

Doug Lemov: Practice and Rigour

Teach Like A Champion and Practice Perfect. Of course the American context is different but there is huge merit in engaging in several of Doug’s ideas. Strategies like 100% or Right is Right show how very high expectations and rigour in discussion can be achieved. His ideas about teachers’ practice are also very interesting – we won’t get better as fast as we could if just repeat our mistakes over and over again in lessons. We need to rehearse and practice specific strategies until we do them better.

Martin Robinson: The Trivium 21st C

Explores how the ideas behind Grammar, Dialectic and Rhetoric can be brought to life in the classroom and beyond.

Sir Ken Robinson

Creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson challenges the way we’re educating our children. He champions a radical rethink of our school systems, to cultivate creativity and acknowledge multiple types of intelligence


There are lots of other ideas we’ll need to wrestle with together – ideas about Behaviour Management, technology and assessment for example. The goal should be that we’re always seeking to make sure the latest thinking is made available to everyone and that everyone does their best to engage with it. That way we’ll have the most fruitful discussions about taking the school forward.

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