‘If you get one of the best teachers, you will learn in six months what an average teacher will take a year to teach you. If you get one of the worst teachers, that same learning will take you two years.’ Dylan Wiliam, 2007
As teachers and school leaders face the continued pressures of more challenging pupil behaviour and extensive curriculum demands, supporting teacher development to ensure schools have the most effective practitioners has been a focus for one of this year’s priority projects.
Over 30 Surrey schools have started their WalkThrus journey, using the evidence-informed approach to develop teachers’ understanding of how children learn and how to use the most effective teaching strategies. Through sessions led by SAfE and a face-to-face day with Tom Sherrington, schools have been focusing on how best to support both staff and pupils.
Schools began by identifying their main ‘learning problem’, which could be linked to behaviour and relationships, explaining and modelling, questioning and feedback or practice and retrieval. Teachers and leaders then delved into the process of learning and the challenges it presents, including cognitive load and motivation.
With clarity of which learning problem to address first, schools have developed a cluster of WalkThrus that will have the most impact on pupil outcomes. For some schools, they have begun with Signal, Pause, Insist to establish the classroom conditions essential for effective learning. Research shows how important it is to e stablish expectations and have these enforced consistently to allow pupils to learn. With the correct culture and climate in place, schools have then considered which of the teaching and learning focused WalkThrus will have the most impact.
‘It doesn’t matter how great an educational idea or intervention is in principle: what really matters is how it manifests itself in the day-to-day work of people in schools.’ Sharples et al, 2019 Education Endowment Foundation Implementation Guide
The five small steps of each WalkThru support teachers to understand how to use the WalkThru to refine their teaching further and unlock their own expertise. Through rehearsal with a coach, opportunities to adapt and regular feedback through the lens of the WalkThru, schools are already beginning to see a positive impact in classrooms.
The next step is to establish coaching in schools to ensure continued development of staff and enable WalkThrus to be a cyclical professional development programme, rather than a one-off initiative. Coaching could take the form of a 1:1, coaching in pairs, triads, teams, or even whole school. This flexible approach allows all schools participating in the project, from one-form entry infant schools to large secondaries, to find a coaching structure that will have the desired impact.
Listening to leaders and teachers share the language of WalkThrus as they refine strategies such as Say It Again Better and Check for Understanding shows their commitment to developing staff and ensuring that all pupils in Surrey schools can excel.
Teaching and Learning Advisor, Schools Alliance for Excellence
N.B If you are interested in finding out more about the SAfE Walkthru project and how SAfE can help you to develop strategies to support Teaching & Learning in your schools, please contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org