Anyone can pull a great lesson out of the bag, especially for observation and especially if the observation is stone age-‘esque where the observer does not get a handle on what is actually happening and sits in a corner writing (does that still happen!?).
We have moved to a system where the progress of all groups of pupils is looked at from three different aspects; in the lesson, in the data and through pupil work. It does give a thorough picture and a great starting point for developing strength and improvement.
What I am really interested in is typicality (hate that term though!!!!!) in other words what goes on in lessons on a daily basis to ensure progress over time? The more I delve into this to try and explore and improve it – the more difficult I find it!!! Great daily practice is impossible to measure – there are too many variables – but BRILLIANT daily practice is so easy to see (paradox?) We all know a fab teacher when we see one in action – even for only 15 minutes!!
We all know what we would expect to see in a great lesson, but great TEACHING is all about great habits. In my experience the teachers who are amazing, day in day out are highly skilful in implementing these essentials in their daily working practice and actually enjoy what they do – some don’t realise they are even doing it!!
Clever planning is crucial. All teachers should have PLANNED lessons (not necessarily written down extensively in a ‘lesson plan.’) Teachers who plan well know their pupils and plan for the best possible outcomes. It shouldn’t take ages – use a 5-minute lesson plan! A great plan should have the flexibility to allow for some spontaneity as and when required. Great teachers think about how their lesson is going to evolve before it happens – they have a vision. Equally, they can adapt or change tack, they can think on their feet! Essentially, they know where the learning will go and take their students with them.
Teachers who are great day in day out have professional relationships with all they encounter and are able to establish them quickly and maintain them. Where relationships are strong with students, confidence and progress flow. The students know that the teacher believes in them, therefore they believe in themselves and each other. With strong practise, relationships are all about expectation, not ego. Teachers who demonstrate great relationships are positive and solution-focused. They are able to work as part of a team or on their own equally well.
Daily practice is easier if your knowledge for the subject is strong. It is simple for a teacher to enthuse about a topic and go off-piste for a while, or to enrich the learning with something related to the world or careers….or a gory story works well in some subjects!!! Kids love it! If you teach outside your subject area….swat up! Stay 10 steps ahead. We all know that knowledge of the curriculum, exam specs, post16/19/career progression routes will help your students also. Best teachers are also spot on with their pedagogical knowledge of how to teach the students their subjects…..put differently, they know what works and they use and build on it! Knowledge is everything! Know your students too!
Teachers who have great daily practice are excellent communicators. It is a pleasure to be in their lessons, the kids hang on every word of an explanation or set of instructions. Teachers make themselves clear, they keep it simple. They use body language to their advantage naturally. Everything is communicated – the slightest behavioural expectation to the complex concept to the deadline for homework. Nothing is in doubt. They are expert listeners and use a variety of strategies to get their message across.
Great teachers, naturally evaluate. They think and say things like ‘what if,’ ‘next time….’ They know their own strengths and weaknesses and act on them. They consistently evaluate the performance of their pupils formatively and summatively and encourage their students to act on feedback habitually. They are open to suggestions and plan for improvement. They seek feedback from many sources including their pupils. They feel good when they know they’ve got it right, but pick themselves up and dust down when things go wrong. I have found that using IRIS really helps teachers self-evaluation skills. Try it – a bit weird at first, but good once you’ve got used to it! We will be experimenting with the in-ear coaching system next term.
So, all in all, typically great teachers have the skills above in abundance! Some don’t realise what is it that they are doing, because it’s just natural. I really believe that teaching is an art, not a science. They just do it without question! However, if any of the above skills don’t come naturally, they can be made a habit – if someone is willing to change their mindset! Creating positive habits to improve daily practice is where we should begin.
This is a re-blog post originally posted in 2015 by Ruth Gill, and published with kind permission. The article was updated by UKEd Editorial in 2019 in accordance with website changes.
The original post can be found here.