Why should we focus on developmental dialogue with strong teachers?
In many colleges, there can be a tendency to neglect the development of teachers who achieve grade one or two in the observed lesson or are simply performing well in general. People breathe a sigh of relief, feeling that at least those people don’t need to be action planned within an inch of their lives…….Attention and resources are focused on teachers who are assessed as grade three or below, including action planning, CPD and sometimes coaching support. Graded lessons are one of the main performance measures used to assess staff and identify development points, so this seems to be a lost opportunity at the very least.
It would also seem to be short sighted for these reasons:
1. It suggests that a teacher who can secure such a grade has no need to develop further or enhance any area of their practice, which is clearly nonsense
2. It implies that teachers can maintain “a high level of performance” without support or development, stimulus or challenge
4. It means that good practice may not be shared consistently and effectively after the observed lesson, as this is not embedded into the quality process
5. Fundamentally, the lack of follow up means that this process is limited to quality assurance (measuring the standard of staff in a snapshot observation) as opposed to quality improvement (using observation as an opportunity for developmental professional dialogue)
So how can we involve these teachers in sharing good practice?
Identify a specific area of good practice from the lesson and discuss how they can best share this with others, e.g. via a slot in a team meeting, an online resources area or an informal session with a particular colleague. Make sure this is followed up at a later review session together
Offer them the chance to join a peer observation square or triangle, to share ideas with colleagues. These can be set up on the basis of shared interest or by linking up people who have strengths in some areas with others who find them challenging. This can work well within or between curriculum areas
Ask them to do a micro teaching demo as part of a bite-sized CPD programme
Encourage them to write a mini case study with tips for colleagues who want to try the same activity or approach. This can be added to an online case study area for sharing ideas across college
Include a sharing good practice item on your team meeting agenda and slot people into this as their observations take place
How can we give these teachers space to develop further?
In terms of developing these staff further, it can be helpful to:
Ensure they have a development plan and chances to reflect on their needs and actions with an appropriate person. This may be a manager or a member of professional development. Even lessons that are graded as good or outstanding will have areas for development or enhancement or simply other ways of doing things!
Their development actions may relate to looking beyond their current context, e.g. finding examples of good practice from another college or researching current thinking on an area they want to know more about or writing an article for a journal or online site
Encourage them to get involved in small action research projects with responsibility for reporting back to the team on findings
A conversation about role development or next steps for their career can also be appropriate as some staff want that stimulation and challenge
During this developmental dialogue, training needs may well be identified that involve seeking external CPD courses to broaden and deepen their knowledge and skills
Why bother to develop teachers who get grade 1 or 2?
Many of these steps take place when a teacher gets a grade 3, for example, but they are often not considered a priority when a teacher achieves the magic grade 1/2. If we want our teachers to keep reflecting, growing and developing their practice, we need to ensure our quality and development processes send that message and provide those opportunities. Many colleges aspire to becoming a learning organisation, focused on continuous improvement for staff and students, and this equality of opportunity to development is part of that bigger culture.
And finally, to inspection…
To focus on the stick and not the carrot, the challenging standards set by the new CIF mean there is also the danger that neglecting teachers who get grade 1/2 will mean that grade profiles drop as the bar is being steadily raised. So whether your motivation is fear of Ofsted or a desire to create a learning organisation, I think colleges would do well to reflect on how they develop strong teachers.