We are here again – at the end of another academic year, this year somewhat less dramatic than the previous! As I did last year, I’m going to reflect on the year from a teacher training perspective, taking a look at what was covered in the programme each term, the feedback I got, and the things I’m looking to change/build upon/keep for the next academic year.
There will be quite a few parts in this post (not too sure, but I imagine around four or five). In this part, we will be looking at the general overview of the programme.
Development programme overview
The end of 20/21
So, before this year even started, I was in planning mode. After writing my reflection on the 20/21 year, I was looking to make 21/22 much better, and so this meant that I had to look at what we’d done right, and what we needed more of. You can take a look at what I wrote about the 20/21 year here:
In short, I wanted 21/22 to be much more bottom-up driven, i.e., teachers having more input regarding their own development, workshops, etc., whilst also still hitting our top-down needs (e.g., trying to ensure exam rater reliability through the use of exam moderation workshops). One of the first parts of the development programme (and a massively important one in my mind) is induction week, and it was through this that we were able to get the ball rolling on identifying as many bottom-up needs as possible.
I wrote a number of blog posts about induction week for 21/22 already, so I’ll leave the links here below and won’t go into too much detail here:
There was a lot of work that went into induction week, but I will say that this work paid off – and I encourage trainers and managers to really spend time putting together a solid induction week. Induction week set the scene and provided us with so much useful data – data which was used throughout the whole year! It was also a useful opportunity for us to stress to teachers that they would be required to make decisions regarding their development (e.g., deciding which workshops would be scheduled), and that the development programme was very much going to be centred on their needs and wants (I feel that this in important for teacher buy-in and motivation).
Each term, a set of workshops were created based on both teachers’ and management’s needs and wants. The majority of these workshops were bottom-up driven, i.e., chosen by teachers and made for teachers based on their needs and wants. We did include a number of top-down driven workshops as these were necessary to ensure that we were meeting our responsibilities to teachers and to learners (e.g., we included numerous exam moderation workshops to increase inter-rater reliability).
This year we decided to have both obligatory and elective workshops. The obligatory workshops focused on the main needs and wants of teachers (as determined in induction week, observations, etc.), and the electives focused on topics that most teachers had selected/made reference to in their preferences. Surprisingly, all teachers attended almost all of the workshops throughout the year!
I got fairly creative with workshops this year, and was able to draw on a lot of my reading and previous experience. Some of the workshops involved loop input, learners experiencing the learner’s perspective, and working from teachers’ values, attitude and beliefs. In the following parts, I’ll go into more detail about the sessions I was particularly happy with.
This year, every teacher got to sit down with me for an hour or so every month and talk about their classes, their development, problems they were having, etc. These sessions, dubbed ‘coaching sessions’, were aimed at providing teachers the more personalised development, with them having access to a critical friend. Now, I know some of you are thinking that a coaching session with the DoS may not necessarily be the best thing, but the reason for me running the coaching sessions were numerous:
- Time commitments from teachers and my Director meant that I was, from a logistical standpoint, the only person who could run them
- I’ve had a number of years working with teachers in a mentoring and coaching dynamic, and we felt that I would be best suited to the role for this year
- All of our teachers are early-career teachers, and whilst mentoring can be beneficial when the session is between one early-career teacher and another, we have found from experience that many teachers often get lost in the mentoring sessions, don’t know what to speak about, and often see the value of these sessions as little if they are not getting valuable advice.
- By having a coaching session with each teacher, I was able to stay up-to-date on the ins and outs of each teacher’s development, classes and personal life issues. This helped me, as the DoS, manage more effectively, and ‘mould’ the development programme into different shapes for different teachers based on their needs.
These sessions took place at a time that suited the teacher (and at a time when my schedule would allow it), and I would take them to the nearby café. We would talk about their life outside of work first, slowly drinking our ‘cafe con leches’, before moving into the development section of the session. In these sessions, I would take notes and try to ask questions to go deeper into teachers’ thoughts about their practice. Randall and Thornton’s Advising and Supporting Teachers was a constant reference throughout the year.
Every term, teachers were able to submit their preferences for peer observations. We held a peer observation ‘period’ each term in which a teacher would have a class they were teaching covered so that they could go and observe another teacher/level. Each of these peer observations were accompanied by a peer observation task, usually created by myself (although taking ideas from loads of places!) based on the teacher’s needs/wants. Each of these peer observation documents were shared between the observer teacher, the observed teacher, and myself – and the ‘findings’ and notes were brought into the coaching sessions. Teachers were also encouraged to sit down with the person they observed and talk through their thoughts. You can see an example task here:
A development programme wouldn’t be complete without observations. Each term teachers conducted a focused observation; that is, they chose a focus for the observation (e.g., providing oral corrective feedback) and were observed and provided feedback on this. These focuses were usually based on co-constructed action points from previous feedback sessions. A big change this year was the move from formal observations to focused observations. There were many reasons for this, some of which include:
- Formal observations weren’t really meeting teacher’s individual development goals/needs
- Formal observations and their openness make them quite difficult to be effective, and often led to teachers putting on display lessons
- Focused observations could be easily implemented with teacher’s development goals and workshop focuses
I actually created a number of documents for this year’s observation periods. One, the observer document for being in the observation (see below). I’m not entirely happy with it at the moment, but it helped a lot. Many of the parts that are included were actually determined by teachers as during induction week teachers decided on what every lesson should have and agreed that these elements should be included in the observer’s checklist.
As alluded to, I’ll be changing this next year. Some changes I’ll be looking to implement include:
- Scales for the ‘criteria’ determined by teachers. So instead of a yes/no or notes area, I’ll have a scale from Not all all – Mostly, or something similar. I’ve experimented with these scales before and thought that going to a more Yes/No or notes format would be better, but I think the scale might be better. Loads of trial and error!
- More learner actions and reactions to teacher actions sections. One thing that I am trying to do more of is take note of what learners are doing in response to teacher actions, and this form does not include anywhere other than the commentary for me to do this. I want teachers to also think more about what learners are expected to rather than what they are doing, and this is another way to do this.
If you have any other suggestions, let me know!
Another document that I created was the post-observation oral feedback plan (that is a mouthful, isn’t it!). Basically, I wanted to created a document that helped me plan the feedback session so that I could ensure that I was delivering the feedback that I needed to deliver, whilst also ensuring that I am supporting the teacher, providing them with time and space to work from their perspective, to build a shared understanding, and to ask the right questions at the right time. It is still a work in progress, but I found that the simple fact of having to sit down and write the points that I was going to explore made many of the sessions go a lot smoother than I was expecting (I’m mainly thinking about when the observation was particular ‘negative’ from both the teacher and trainer’s perspective).
Within this document there is also a second ‘section’ in which action points are co-constructed and planned out with the teacher. Basically, after a shared understanding has been reached, and possible action points identified together, we then go into the co-constructing of the action plan. Both the teacher and the trainer/observer sign at the bottom.
Online conference – ACEIA 2022
We have made it a goal to send out teachers to a conference once a year. Whilst the value of these one-off sessions can be questioned (you might like to read Lamb’s article or even Beavan’s article for a little more detail), we believe that these conferences can act as a stepping stone to professional development as well as career development (e.g., through networking). With conferences mainly being online this year, we opted to have a training day in the academy, with every teacher have access to the ACEIA online conference. Attendance was optional, but we had about 90% of teachers attend, which I thought was great.
Normally, cascade workshops might follow a conference. However, we opted for a short written reflective task and then dedicated some time to discuss what we liked, didn’t like and things we’d like to try and implement in our classes.
This might sound like a strange thing to put under ‘professional development’, but hear me out. Teaching is very often seen as an individual endeavour, which often leads to individualist perspectives developing. However, teaching is in fact a very social activity, and so is teacher education (I’m currently reading Jon Roberts Language Teacher Education and he talks a lot about this. Looking forward to writing the review). We feel that for teachers to be able to work together, provide each other with feedback, and be open to taking on feedback, they need to have opportunities to get to know each other on a personal level. For this reason, we included numerous social outings throughout the year. These included:
- An ‘outside’ around-the-city escape room (Induction week)
- Christmas dinner
- Beers and tapas
- End of year dinner
I’ll talk more about my thoughts in the review part of this post, but for now I’ll say that these social outings were an integral part of the programme, in my mind. They helped the teachers ‘blend’ and made the hallway chats so much more friendly. For next year, we will be looking to put on more of these.
Ok, so we’ve got to the end of Part 1 – the overview of the development programme. What I wanted to show in this part was the main ‘development’ components that made up the programme. In the next parts, we will be looking at the workshops that occured in each term and the feedback I got for them. We will return to the development programme overall in the final part of the post – the evaluation.