Great Teaching: Informed wisdom in the heat of every day practice. #EducationFest 2016


Here are the slides from my talk at the Education Festival at Wellington.

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The thrust of my talk was sharing the process I’ve been on as a teacher and leader in my school, helping teachers (and myself) to develop the most appropriate knowledge and strategies – the informed wisdom – needed to make good decisions in the heat of everyday classroom practice.  This includes absorbing and distilling the learning from research and the array of expert voices.

Sometimes the gap between the theory and the reality can be intense.  We feel a bit like Jon Snow going into battle:

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I made reference to the following:

My ‘If there was no OfSTED’ tweet; written as a message to teachers to not look to external authorities for excuses; to take responsibility, shackles off.  If we think our own lessons are great on our own terms, the chances are we’re right. But if we don’t think our own lessons are great, no-one else is likely to either.  However, the challenge is to deliver great lessons based on informed wisdom – not simply our hunches and personal preferences.

Then, I explored various sources of wisdom:

Contemporary Ideas all my staff should know about. 

Keeping things in perspective; keeping the basics at the forefront – featuring my favourite Hitch Hiker’s Guide analogy.

The Sutton Trust What Makes Great Teaching? report.

The idea that there should be more emphasis on engaging with research and books about subject specific pedagogy; too much is generic when, in fact, many of our issues relate to teaching specific concepts in subjects.  For example, science teachers should engage with the thinking about practical work and when/how it supports conceptual understanding.

The Barak Rosenshine research summary as featured in this post on The Principles of Effective Teaching 

The need to keep data systems lean. 

The Trivium – parts 1 and 2.  The power of Know, Explore, Communicate as a framework for thinking about lessons as well as planning the curriculum. The point is to be deliberate in planning the sequence and relative emphasis of aspects of the curriculum, giving appropriate weight and value to knowledge, hands-on experience and deliberately constructed opportunities for rhetoric.

Mode A and Mode B teaching (a notion I have invented to make sense of this for myself) and the need for balance.  The 80%: 20% division is arbitrary – up for discussion. It’s my sense of what feels right.

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I then whizzed through some other areas of practice – the need to focus on a few specific strategies that we use all the time and do well.  Simple behaviour and questioning strategies are still the areas where I need to give feedback most often.  (Enter Bill Rogers once again.)

The final slide represents how it can feel sometimes – coming out on top after the struggle with the complexity of it all.  This is me after a double period with my wonderfully complicated Year 10s.  Don’t read too much into it!

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Once again, thanks to the Education Festival for inviting me and thanks to everyone who came along to the session.  It was a real honour to be speaking in the Wellington Chapel.



  1. Thank you for sharing this Tom. I’d pledged to see a less high-profile talk and was gambling that you;d make your slides available 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the Mode A: Mode B dichotomy. Yes, we all move between the two but I think you have the balance just about right.
    Have you surveyed teachers to get their perception of how much time they spend in each mode?

    One question survey?
    In an average Term of teaching what percentage of your time would you spend working in Mode A and what percentage in Mode B?

    What would teachers say? I so wanna know!!

    Liked by 1 person

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