Personalised Development Groups – a new approach to TD

23 12 2015

Teacher Development (TD) has always been an area of interest for me as an academic manager. It provides a focus on a couple of key challenges which I enjoy taking on – how to raise teaching standards in a school, and how to grow a culture of learning and collaboration within a teaching team.

And managing change is something you always have to face as a DOS, and it also represents the kind of challenge that I relish.

They both allow us to prove ourselves, to set out a vision for quality, and to establish an identity as a Director of Studies.

So when I joined a new school (18 months ago), the TD programme was one of the first areas that I wanted to evaluate, and if necessary – change.

———–

My beliefs about TD have evolved over the years and have been influenced by various ideas and guiding principles.

Teachers need to take ownership of their professional development:

“You can train me, you can educate me, but you can’t develop me. I develop” (Julian Edge, 2002)

Choice is an important element:

“Choice is a big deal. People can be subjected to assessment, appraisal and evaluation against their will. But no-one can be made to develop. Even if you have to compile a portfolio, you can’t be made to develop by doing it. Teachers are too good at faking it. We can fake development, and should do so, if someone tries to force it on us. But we develop as professionals if, and only if, we choose to. The motives may differ from teacher to teacher, but this we have in common: no choice, no way.” (Andy Curtis, 2001)

Too often, TD, unlike our aim for teaching, lacks differentiation:

“It is ironical that developments in education call for teachers to differentiate instruction as a pre-requisite for effective learning, while teacher education and CPD adhere to a one-size fits all philosophy” (Gabriel Diaz-Maggioli, 2004)

Being connected to the profession is an important factor – I have personally experienced the impact on my own development from connecting with practitioners both locally (for example via the London DOS Association) and more widely, via conferences or social networks (facebook, blogs) and online CPD (webinars).

Duncan Foord’s ‘The Developing Teacher’ (2009) has been a big influence; it contains a good section on theory, followed by loads of practical ideas for developmental activities.

Foord - The Developing Teacher

And finally, Catherine Walter’s study of evidence-based research (‘What professional development for teachers works best?’ 2012) gives us 2 important messages:

  • Good teaching leads to improved student outcomes
  • One of 3 key variables which lead to good teaching is: developing teachers ability to teach well

This study outlines 7 key ingredients for effective teacher development:

  1. It is concrete and classroom-based
  2. Involves teachers in the choice of areas to develop and activities to undertake
  3. Brings in expertise from outside the school
  4. Is sustained over time
  5. Helps teachers to work collaboratively with peers
  6. Provides opportunities for mentoring and coaching
  7. Is supported by effective school leadership

And these ingredients provided me with the criteria against which I could evaluate the existing TD programme when I took up my new post in the Spring of last year.

———————–

The school I joined was in good shape. It had recently achieved excellent results in a British Council inspection, the majority of teachers (almost 70%) were TEFLQ, it was a teacher-training centre for Trinity Cert TESOL courses, and part of a wider group with a strong reputation for quality.

So improving standards was not an urgent challenge, but it was what I set out to do, as I told the new team at my first staff meeting.

A weekly routine of teacher meetings already existed – this was a major plus – but I quickly realised there were some issues with the TD programme:

  • Not much time – around 20 minutes to squeeze in the TD
  • Not much space – 40 to 50 teachers in 2 joined-classrooms, so some teachers having to stand (not especially conducive to learning)
  • Some teachers needing to leave early to go to afternoon classes
  • A one size fits all approach – one TD session for whole team, so lacking in choice and differentiation
  • Passive format – easy to ‘consume’ without much engagement
  • Lack of ownership
  • Lack of follow-through into the classroom
  • Not much connection with the wider ELT community (some teachers had presented at the internal conference programme, but no-one had presented at IATEFL, for example)

The TD programme was coasting, so I started to introduce some changes to revitalize it.

The initial changes were minor and gradual; I set up some swapshops, included some split sessions to offer a choice of focus, had co-presenters deliver workshops with follow-up feedback sessions, and set up an online Wiggio forum to encourage ideas sharing and collaboration.

Then I had my big idea! Personalised Development Groups.

And here it is, set out in a slightly reduced proposal document.

Have a look at it.

What do you think of it as an idea? And what challenges do you think it presents in terms of managing and implementing change?

In my next post, I will look back at the PDGs project and comment on how to manage change, and I’ll reflect on the success (or otherwise) of introducing a new approach to the TD programme.

 

St Giles final logo

Personalised Development Groups – February to April 2015

Introduction

To achieve a more tailored and personalised approach to teacher development at St Giles Central: Personalised Development Groups.

The aim is to break down the large teaching staff into small groups of teachers led by 1 or 2 Mentors (Permanent Teachers) with a focus on two areas:

  1. Individual teacher development needs
  2. A chosen Pathway (area of interest for research)

Individual teacher development – a more tailored approach within the Personalised Development Groups.

Pathways – to personalise Teacher Development by tapping into teachers’ areas of interest, and to explore questions related to it; to encourage teacher learning within a collaborative and supportive group.

Mentors take responsibility for a given Pathway; teachers are able to choose the pathway which they are interested in, allowing for personalisation and ownership.

Pathways include:

  • Learning technologies
  • Teaching exams
  • Learner autonomy
  • Pronunciation
  • Authentic materials
  • Language Awareness & Usage

Groups of maximum 8 people, comprising of 1-2 Mentors and up to 6 teachers – teachers should have a more active role in their development; groups stay together for a 2 month pilot period during which there are four sessions and a final meeting for groups to report back.

The TD Programme includes at least 2 PDG Sessions per month; the rest of the monthly TD Programme continues to include INSET for the whole team, and split workshop sessions.

PDG Activities to include:

  • Discussing individual teacher development needs
  • Planning interventions by mentor to support those needs, such as peer observations & mentor observations
  • Planning classroom based activities for teachers to explore needs-related development
  • Paired action research (related to chosen pathway)
  • Planning self observations (related to pathway or own development)
  • Setting up Group ‘Class Focus Days’ – each teacher in the group to carry out a set task/approach on a given day; to feedback later
  • Group reading/research
  • Workshop (led by Mentor and/or group member) – input related to pathway; feedback on paired action research
  • Watching webinar; online presentation; using youtube recordings of teachers
  • Keeping a teacher portfolio
  • Sharing / posting online (team wiggio)

 

The role of the Mentor-trainers

  • Coordinate their PDG and Pathway
  • Encourage, inspire, motivate, guide, facilitate…
  • Lead the Friday group sessions
  • Find/share relevant resources, reading, articles
  • Use PDG wiggio to prompt & steer the group
  • Set up and facilitate PDG Activities
  • Set up and oversee (paired) action research
  • Monitor group, and individual teacher, objectives (and re-set when necessary)
  • Record group & individual successes (or absence of participation)

Coordinating and supporting the mentor-trainers:

  • DOS/ADOS
  • Senior teachers
  • Teacher trainers

Overall aims

To tap into the talents, interests and desire for added responsibility among the Permanent Teachers, many of whom are keen on the idea of mentoring / teacher training.

To provide a structure for mentoring

To tailor CPD to teachers’ areas of interest.

To encourage teachers to take more ownership for their CPD, with greater involvement and input on what they do and how.

To foster new working relationships and provide opportunities for collaboration.

To help teachers develop good habits in reflective practice through adopting an enquiry-based approach to teaching and classroom practice.

(For the Academic management team) to gain further insights about individual teacher strengths & areas for development.

To gain new insights and develop knowledge about best practice in ELT through multiple small scale action research projects.

To make the first steps towards presenting research/experience at IATEFL.

 

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Communication – from a manager’s perspective

8 09 2015

Communication event flyer

As one of the IATEFL LAM SIG  Committee members, I’m delighted to be involved in organising another conference event, this time with ELT Ireland.

The them of this event is Communication from a manager’s perspective. Here is the big sell:

In modern and successful English Language Teaching Organisations, effective communication plays a critical part yet it will always be one of the most difficult and complex skills that the ELT Manager needs to develop.

Whether it be communicating with staff, students, line-managers, other stakeholders or the wider ELT community, managers need to develop wide-ranging skills, plan strategically and employ a variety of tools – all of which requires constant re-assessment.

The IATEFL Leadership and Management Special Interest Group and ELT Ireland invite you to a 1 day event on Saturday October 3rd in Dublin to explore the issues and challenges involved in getting communication right.

With plenaries from George Pickering and Fiona Thomas, ELT-ed sessions, and talks and workshops from Michael Carrier, Loraine Kennedy, Maureen McGarvey, Gill Davidson, and Mike Hogan, there will be much to inspire you and provoke thought and debate.

We are also very grateful to have sponsorship from Cambridge English Language Assessment for the day’s catering and refreshments.

Hope to see you there!

To book the event, please register here https://secure.iatefl.org/events/step1.php?event_id=97





Developing managers in the digital age

8 10 2014

 

Flyer

I am very excited to be involved in organising an event in late November to mark the 25th anniversaries of the IATEFL Leadership and Management SIG and the London DoS Association.

The theme is managers and technology and we have a great line-up of speakers.

Here is the big sell:

Developing managers in the digital age

As the role of technology in education becomes more central, and the range and capability of online teaching & learning resources grow; as the expectations of EFL students and agents become more demanding, and the need to stand out in a crowded market place becomes more urgent; how can we as managers in Language Teaching Organisations ready ourselves to face the challenges of the digital age?

What role should technology play in ELT, and what are the best strategies to implement it in our schools?

And what are the digital literacies we need to develop to ensure we are at the forefront of education both as managers and educators?

The Iatefl Leadership and Management SIG and the London DoS Association have joined forces to mark their 25th anniversaries with an event to allow school owners, principals, academic managers, teacher trainers and teachers to explore these questions together.

Plenary Speakers:

Nicky Hockly, Fiona Thomas, Nik Peachey, Shaun Wilden & Philip Kerr

Friday November 28th

16.30 – 19.30 then drinks reception sponsored by Pearson

Saturday November 29th

09.00 – 17.00

Venue: St Giles International, 154 Southampton Row, London WC1B 5JX

Registration: http://secure.iatefl.org/events/event.php?id=84

 

 





It’s good to talk, isn’t it?

18 03 2014
BristolMgmtConf

English UK Management Conference 2014

It is becoming a commonly stated view that among all the possible forms of teacher development, having a good chat about teaching, with both colleagues and teachers elsewhere, is perhaps the most effective. Schools should be providing spaces, and academic managers looking for opportunities, to facilitate this. And beyond the school walls, the last couple of years have seen an explosion of teacher communities online – on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter – where weekly discussions on teaching best practice, materials-sharing and problem-solving abound.

But what about this kind of activity for managers? Do similar opportunities exist? If they do, where are they? And if they don’t, what’s stopping us? If having a good chat is good for teacher development, shouldn’t it also be good for manager development?

This session will look at ways for academic managers and directors of studies to get beyond their solitary existence! We’ll share some burning issues, consider what makes a successful community of practice, and see how we can join the ELT management conversation.

Questions to consider (please post thoughts in the Comments section):

  1. What opportunities exist for ELT managers to meet and chat?
  2. Do these opportunities meet our needs?
  3. Would ELT managers in the UK benefit from being part of a CoP?




Launching a team project

10 10 2013
Food glorious food

Food glorious food

Cross posted at TESOL Training blog

How many times have you taught a ‘Food’ lesson? Too many times to remember, no? Lessons around topics like this, perhaps:

  • Your favourite/worst meal
  • Ingredients and cooking
  • Traditional food in your country
  • Recipes (good one this – maybe a student will come to the next lesson bearing culinary gifts!)
  • Eating manners and customs
  • Food idioms
  • Weird and wonderful dishes around the world

Food is universal to the human condition, and makes for a popular topic, for teachers and students alike. But how often have you taught a lesson about one of the big issues surrounding food? Issues such as food scarcity, food waste, hunger, or obesity, for example?

This is a question posed by the IATEFL Global Issues Special Interest Group (GISIG), who are inviting teachers during the month of October to contribute and share ideas on how ‘we can teach “food” with a conscience’.

GISIGThis month-long event will be co-ordinated online via the GISIG website and a special Facebook event page.

When I heard about this event, it immediately caught my attention. For me, as a Director of Studies, I could see the potential for it to work as a school project, a ‘theme’ to really stimulate student engagement on the one hand, and teacher development on the other, and so it ticks a lot of boxes.

For our students, being in central London is one of the key ingredients (sorry, no pun intended!) to their course with us, and we have a great social programme which helps them to make the most of their time in this amazing city. And we have an excellent team of teachers who are, I think, incredibly creative and engaging, and they regularly challenge their learners to reflect on big global issues – but in their own individual lessons. This Food Issues project gives us a cohesive ‘theme’ for a month, and with it the opportunity for teachers of different classes and courses to do things together – it would be interesting for example to get Business English students interviewing a group of General English students, and then putting together a business-style presentation of what they found out – and vice versa.

For our teachers, we offer a lot of different things to promote and stimulate ongoing professional development, such as our internal & external workshop sessions  but I am particularly interested in collaborative learning: teachers trying out new ideas in their teaching, and sharing ideas with colleagues – and tapping into personal interests.  The GISIG Food Issues month clearly lends itself to experimenting with new topics, creating new materials and trying out new activities, and I have a feeling that most teachers will be engaged by the many possible food issues which could be explored, and will want to share their ideas with each other. I am also really interested to see to what extent our teachers will interact with the online event, and share ideas with teachers around the world.

So, last Thursday, I attempted to launch this as a team project for our school.

As part of our staff meeting, I asked everyone to look at two images and discuss their reactions to them:

BigMac1

BigMac2

 

[Images credit: Adbusters]

There was interest, much comment, and it was easy to elicit Food as the underlying theme, and what the potential related issues were.

I then introduced everyone to the GISIG project idea, and we discussed how we could get involved as a school.  Some initial suggestions were made, and overall I was really happy with the response.

I followed up the meeting with an email giving everyone the GISIG links, a reminder of the suggested Food Issues, and some initial ideas for how to explore them in class, as follows:

Is there a topic which catches your attention? Which might engage your students? How could you explore it with them?

A reading followed by a debate

Design some spoof ads of your own

Create a survey to ask other students? To ask Londoners? To interview students elsewhere?

Presentations of a solution to a problem

Design a poster

Create a digital poster? (www.glogster.com )

Film a news report summarizing an article

Put together a class magazine

Create a radio programme

Of course I know that suggesting something in a meeting and an email will not necessarily get buy-in from everyone. And I will not oblige any teacher to teach Food Issues lessons – a ‘command and control’ approach never works effectively when it comes to collaborative learning. But the idea has been ‘launched’. The seed has been planted. I will try to facilitate now – nudge, prompt, suggest – and will try to keep the idea bubbling away and see if it takes off.

I am excited to see how much we can get involved as a team, and a school, and what we can all learn from the project.

 

 

 

 

 

 





Head Banging at IATEFL

19 06 2013

Early April in Liverpool, down by the docks…it was all very exciting to be once again at an IATEFL Conference. Especially as this year I was presenting for the first time at a PCE – Pre-Conference Event  – for the Leadership and Management Special Interest Group (LAMSIG)  – where the theme for the day was CPD.

There were around 80 attendees who were coming literally from all over the world. School owners, Principals, Academic managers, Directors of Studies, Teacher Managers, all looking for ideas and insights into setting up and maintaining CPD programmes, and most of all (everyone’s deep-down secret quest) – how to engage teachers in professional development.

The PCE Presenting Team consisted of myself and two great, experienced, and genuinely lovely people: Loraine Kennedy and Fiona Dunlop. I was feeling a bit daunted, partly by the international breadth and level of experience of the audience (ie what do I know compared to them?), and partly by the fact that I was taking the second slot which was going to be an hour and a half session (quite a long time to keep people engaged and involved). Also, as I got up that morning and started to get ready for the big day, I realized I’d left at home all my nicely ironed shirts that I was planning to wear at the conference – dah! Moment of panic. Until I realized I had a just-about-decent-casual top which could go with my jacket: presenter’s wardrobe-disaster averted, just!

Shirt did not attend IATEFL

Loraine took the first slot and gave us an overview of broad and current thinking to do with CPD. She is always brilliant – clear and thought-provoking; here are some of the relevant points I noted down from her:

CPD is about learning at work; about skills but also knowledge, about thinking differently. Learning is available everywhere, if your mind is open to it.

CPD benefits the individual, the team, the school and therefore the students.

Research tends to show that training courses are not always effective – people go back to work and carry on in the same way. CPD therefore has to be personalised to tap in to intrinsic motivation.

CPD is about having a positive learning environment; trust, mutual respect, support. What is your staff room like? Is it conducive to people sharing? (good question I thought).

Reflection – everyone says they do it, but may not do it effectively. Evaluation and analysis of reflection is key – Driscoll’s model provides a simple memorable tool – 3 questions:

  • What? (what happened, tell the facts of the situation)
  • So What? (why is this worthy of reflection? what happened against what should have happened?)
  • Now What? (in future how may your practice be different? how will you remember what to do in future?)

Fiona took the third slot and looked at the role of the manager in CPD. Also brilliant, Fiona has a knack of bringing anecdotes and insights from her experience into her sessions which make you both laugh and see things in a new way.

She highlighted 3 key points: to lead by example; to know your staff; to ensure developmental opportunities are integrated into academic systems.

And for the first point, she told us an anecdote about going to a (non-ELT) conference for business people years ago: she felt like a fish out of water, she said, but took away one idea which she followed up on, namely the “250 Achievements Activity” – can you list as many personal achievements as that? She tried it and found that over some time she was able to list that many, the point being that in order to lead a team, you have to be able to recognise your own achievements.

It is something I am now trying myself, and like Fiona said then, as well as making yourself feel good, it also helps you to see CPD in a new way – to realise that we (…and our teachers) are all actually achieving lots of things all the time.

My slot was in the middle of the 3 sessions, and focused on CPD for Teachers. I’m going to blog about it in a separate post (sometime soon…probably!), but broadly it revolved around the ideas of giving teachers choice, promoting collaboration, and how to bring in expertise from outside by connecting with other educators around the world via social media.

Photo by Mike Hogan

Panel Discussion – and getting away without a proper shirt?

The PCE Day finished with a panel discussion, which thankfully turned into more of an audience discussion, with some quite heart-felt questions and urgent-sounding problem-sharing. And this left a lasting impression: there we were, 80 or so academic managers, from schools and institutions all over the world, and the overriding feeling at the end of the day was one of really caring and passionate managers banging their heads against an apparent brick wall of teachers and CPD. We had shared some good ideas and insights and got people thinking in new ways perhaps about CPD. But still, it seemed for some in the room, the million-dollar question remained unanswered – how do we really get our teachers to engage with professional development?

 

(to be continued…)

 





Does the DOS do it for you?

5 02 2013

Stop! Right there.

This is not a post about staff-room titillation. (Sorry!)

No, this is about a different kind of pull – that of motivation and inspiration.

Because, whether you like it or not, when you become a DOS, you become a leader (don’t you?), and one of the jobs of a leader is to motivate and inspire others.

Carrots

Carrots

In ELT this is inevitably a pretty tricky thing to do. You’re up against it from the off.

Firstly, before becoming the DOS, you were probably ‘just’ a teacher. Used to inspiring your students on a daily basis, of course!…but your colleagues, your peers? – that’s a different matter.

And since becoming DOS, you’ve probably had little or no ‘leadership‘ training. In Jenny Johnson’s 2009 survey of ELT Managers & Management Training, it was found that in fact a majority of the 135 respondents had received some kind of pre-service training: “…36% had had a handover period, 33% had had a mentor, 17% had done a management training course and 13% had attended sessions or workshops. However, 35% had not had any training before they started [the role].” I had a 4 week handover period but spent most of that time getting to grips with the nuts and bolts of the job, like planning and timetabling, and ordering books! I don’t recall covering the bit about ‘how to become an inspirational leader’ in that time!

And secondly, what about the people you have to motivate and inspire? Many are in the game for a multitude of reasons:

  • A vocational desire to help students learn to communicate in English? – yes, probably 😉
  • Keeping the wolf from the door while other pursuits are pursued (acting, music, writing, film-making, studying)? – also a fair bet. (If our teachers’ true vocational dreams lie elsewhere, can we really motivate and inspire them?)
  • Money? In ELT? No, let’s face it – money isn’t one of them.
  • And nor is promotion – where is the career ladder in ELT I hear you scream?! (there is one by the way, it’s just not very well defined). But anyway, who has ever been inspired by money or promotion?!

So, it can be a tough one.

I thought it would be interesting to see what inspired other people, and I was chatting with some non-ELT friends the other day, and asked what it was that inspired them in their jobs and how they inspired others. The lawyer said that for him and his team, they simply had to realise they were offering a professional service which was highly paid for by their clients and that should be enough to motivate them; the PR exec said it was ‘more about do than say’; the Social Worker said the NHS was also a service but there wasn’t any boss who inspired her, it all came down to her own self-motivation to help others; the Merchandiser said it was her company’s values which inspired her (the Number One Value being the ‘happiness of the employees’!); and the Fashion designer said it was all about the character of her boss – ‘she is amazing, brilliant strategic insight and decisiveness. I want to be like her!’

My friends’ comments seem to chime with those expressed by the ELT practitioners who took part in a recent #ELTchat on Motivating Teachers, summarised here. Namely, that we can be motivated (and de-motivated) by many different things.

So, back to my role as DOS and what I can do, because I definitely have a part to play. Here are some thoughts on motivating and inspiring my team*:

Deal with what Herzberg calls the ‘hygiene factors’:

  • Pay – we’re a long way off from being on a par with the highest earners in society, but fight for competitive pay for your teachers
  • Security – keep a tight ship and make sure everyone has enough work
  • Conditions – do your best to keep the facilities comfortable and provide the right tools for the job
  • Keep the admin to a minimum, and try to ensure it can be simply and efficiently done
  • Get out of the way – avoid prescriptive measures and let the teachers get on with expressing their individual teaching flair
  • Morale – know your teachers, listen to them, build up a good rapport, go out for a drink with them, be happy to make a fool of yourself  (get on the mic at the summer karaoke party 🙂 )

And then focus on the ‘motivating factors’

  • Vary the work by giving teachers different kinds of courses to teach
  • Challenge them with new levels, new courses
  • Give teachers autonomy – create space within the syllabus for choice of materials and resources, for creativity
  • Recognise and ‘reward’ those who go the extra mile
  • And provide plenty of opportunities for growth – a framework and conditions for professional development which I have described here and here

Cake

And then the inspirational icing on the cake

  • Practice what you preach – one of my goals is to create and maintain a learning culture at the school, and one way I promote this is by regularly sharing my learning with the team
  • Create a shared vision – whatever the goals are for the school, for the team, for each individual teacher, find ways to build a sense of engagement in that vision
  • Know your stuff – read, tweet, blog, attend webinars & conferences, and keep up with the latest thinking
  • Be innovative – use the latest tech tools in your meetings, or workshops, and once again be a model for others
  • Set compelling goals – tap into the the deep seated desire of all teachers (even those whose dreams lie elsewhere) to do their best to contribute to their learners’ ongoing progress and achievement
  • Be inspired – find what it is that inspires you, and you’ll find it easier to inspire others…

So, if you are a teacher reading this, what do you think? Does your DOS do it for you? What is it about them that inspires you?

And if you are a DOS, stop for a moment; take a deep breath; shut your eyes and with your tongue firmly in your cheek, allow yourself to dream that this song is for you.

The famous song about Directors of Studies: ‘Nobody DOS it better‘ 😉

*disclaimer: this is what I attempt to achieve..but do I? – hey, you gotta try!