The most exciting job I’ve had since starting out with Teacherhead Consulting has been working with Oldham College. Principal Alun Francis approached me to explore whether there was scope in applying current thinking around teaching and learning, curriculum planning and my experience of the delivery of CPD in schools to the FE setting. He was keen to move away from the one-off CPD day where the impact can be marginal. He was also keen to explore the idea of a ‘powerful knowledge’ curriculum in FE, not least because so many technical and vocational courses are moving to include examined components.
Working with Alun and Rachel Irving, the Head of Teaching and Learning, I spent a few days in Oldham talking to a range of members of staff – tutors, Heads of Faculty, members of the senior leadership team. I observed a few lessons and got a feel for the context. FE is radically different to school in some ways: there are huge plumbing workshops, rows of painting and decorating booths, hair and beauty salons, design studios. Oldham even has the front half of an aeroplane parked outside. Some students are engaged on 100% work-based learning programmes where they receive visits from assessors. The Maths and English departments are dealing with over 1000 students all taking the same GCSE resit course. As well as the scale, the language is different: it’s all about learners, tutors and ‘quals’.
But, the basic business of teaching students so that they succeed is the same. Students need structure, guidance, support, quality instruction, high expectations, feedback, chances to improve. The also need to acquire knowledge. Teaching for Distinction has a clear double meaning. We want students to reach Distinction in their BTECs and other qualifications; we also want tutors to teach with distinction, using evidence-informed wisdom about effective practice to design and deliver a successful curriculum for all learners.
We designed the programme around some core texts – Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion, which the college was already using, and the excellent Didau/Rose Pyschology book, which captures so much of the research evidence in an accessible format. We’ve also used some firm favourite resources for CPD such as the Austin’s Butterfly video, the Learning Scientists six strategies, the Rosenshine Principles of Instruction and the Tharby/Allison Making Every Lesson Count flow diagram.
I will report back on our progress, but here is an outline of what we’re doing: There are six teaching and learning modules:
The programme is designed so that it follows best practice, blending external input from me with regular CPD sessions every fortnight or so in between. This will allow each faculty to design its own tailored programme so that the common learning is interpreted in the context of the needs of learners in specific technical disciplines. So far we’ve planned up to the end of February 2018 but it will continue beyond that:
Part of the programme has been training for faculty leaders on running effective CPD sessions. We’ve borrowed the structure from Dylan Wiliam’s ideas about teacher learning communities:
Thanks To give you a flavour of the content, here are some of the unit outlines and the headline course overview:
I’d like to say a huge thank you to Alun, Rachel, Nick, Roger and all the other members of the Oldham College team who have made me feel so welcome. The first sessions for faculty leaders went really well and I’m very excited about returning to deliver the first round of training for staff.
If you work in FE and would like to talk to me about working with you, please get in touch.
Here is the infographic produced for us by Oliver Caviglioli. Modules 1-3 infographic v2