As trailed on twitter… a short round-up of annoying things controlling schools still do that have no basis in evidence.
1. Grade individual lessons
There is no justification for this in terms of professional discourse. It’s voodoo; a control device. No human observer can reliably maintain graded judgements over time, let alone ensuring that this is done consistently by different people. Nobody has the power to judge a lesson to be Outstanding and not merely Good based on student learning – it’s a delusion. Not being rude; just saying it how it is.
At best, grading is a super-crude short-hand proxy for saying a range of positive and negative things about a lesson. But, let’s be honest, if you need to tell someone their lesson is Grade 3 or 4 to convey a sense of your concerns about the quality of their work or if you think a ‘nothing less than Good’ stance is meaningful beyond a cheerleading mantra – it suggests you have issues with how you talk to people about teaching. It could be that teachers have issues hearing critical feedback unless your EBIs come gift-wrapped with a Grade 3 or 4 label, but again, that’s a communication deficit writ-large. Let’s do better.
2. Insist on LOs on the board
Every lesson should have a learning objective – but that is likely to be a long term one; it might span several lessons. Sometimes there are lots of sub-objectives; sometimes it would take quite some time to explain – or reveal. So, whilst, it should be clear from a lesson what the objectives are – that doesn’t mean you need to write them slavishly on the board. The act of writing the LO down on the board does nothing in itself and, very often, becomes a lip-service exercise. You can’t tell anything about the quality of learning from whether or not someone has fulfilled the requirement.
3. Insist on conspicuous differentiation eg must/could/should
Don’t we want all our learners to learn everything – to the greatest possible extent? I would suggest that forcing conspicuous differentiation on people has been responsible for hours of wasted time making different worksheets and tasks and has fuelled a tendency to focus on devising ‘accessible’ activities rather than on finding ways to make sure all students engage in rigorous learning and work hard. Differentiated objectives are Death to Expectations. So, not only is the compliance around them annoyingly over-controlling, it is misguided.
4. Target grades on books
The theory is that setting ‘minimum targets’ raises aspirations. However that presupposes that the student and teacher a) have low expectations (which might be true but might not be) and b) will respond to the presence of a number on a book to continually remind them and c) that this number has some meaning in terms of what they should then be doing differently. Even the most optimistic, positive spin on this makes the link from writing a target grade to achieving it very very tenuous. But then there is the whole issue of students in the lower deciles of our bell-curves, having low grades to ‘aspire’ to. It’s the modern-day Dunce Cap. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. This info is for teachers; private and sensitive.
5. Set teacher data targets linked to appraisal
We’re part of a team. Outcomes are a collective responsibility. Every class has been taught by lots of people along the way. We all want students to do well but we can’t be held to account in a crude way for a specific set of outcomes. Of course, if patterns emerge over time, or if we find things have gone badly wrong, we need to take responsibility. But this is subtle and complex. If you tell me I must get X % Grades 4-9 in my middle set (taught by the string of supply teachers last year) in order to meet my appraisal target, I’ll do what I can do; I’ll work hard, but the presence of that target won’t change anything. It’s not going to motivate me on iota. And, at the same time, I’ll be planning my escape to the more intelligent school down the road. If I stay in teaching at all.
6. Encourage ‘show teaching’ for observations.
Let’s face it. This happens. It’s observation week and you dust off your fancy group activity… because that’s what the SLT person seems to give out the brownie points for. And then you back to your normal teaching afterwards. Show Pony Week is the creation of bad leadership… End Of.
7. Require a set frequency of written marking comments.
I’m told that someY1 teachers have to produce written comments in books for students to respond to, EVERY WEEK. Year 1. This is one of the top items on the Ofsted Myth Busting charts. Just stop. STOP. Talk about feedback; value verbal feedback; focus on improvement… and be intelligent about how much marking is useful in the flow of a whole learning sequence in different subject contexts. Great teachers don’t have to do much marking at all in order to secure great outcomes…. try to hear that message.
8. Have lesson plans and data-annotated seating plans to hand during lessons.
- Lessons should be planned; students should be known – but don’t turn it into a regime where the products of planning and tools for knowing students are mandated to the point where their purpose is lost. If a seating plan might be useful (as an aid to learn names for example) promote them. But don’t mandate them. Teachers are professionals…. Show some respect.
The list could go on, but let’s leave it there.. feel free to vent in the comments below…