Last summer I was invited to take part in a project with Chiltern Learning Trust by Deputy Director of School Improvement, Nadine Cotton and Director of Teaching School, Sufian Sadiq. It was great project and, last month, we finally released the results for CLT teachers and Walkthrus subscribers.
The idea was to capture teachers putting some of our Walkthrus techniques into practice and then for me to undertake a coaching conversation with them, focusing on how they might develop the technique further. The CLT team were determined to pitch for high production values so they engaged the services of production company 24Pictures – the great team of Kash, Joseph and Saf – to film some lessons and the coaching sessions.
10 magnificent teachers from across the trust volunteered to take part, each one focusing on a specific Walkthru. It was a real privilege to meet and talk to them all: Lorna Francis, Vipul Mehta, Oliver Smith, Aqsa Ilyas, Koron Cooper, Tina Nugloze, Kate Williams, Nadia Ruiters, Sofia Zafar and Alex Martin – a huge thank you!
In order to make it feasible to film the lessons with two cameras and sound, CLT opted to create some classes with lovely students from Linslade Middle School, with the support of their Head of School, Phil Stock – who helped host the whole endeavour over two filming days. This worked incredibly well. Even though the teachers didn’t know the students and the classroom wasn’t their real class, the lessons were conducted as-real, in real time and the outcome was authentic enough to support both the technique modelling and the value of the coaching conversation.
On the day for the coaching conversations, I had time to review about 10 minutes of teach lesson on an ipad. Nadine had been present in each lesson and recorded a rough version which was good enough for me to see the techniques in action and make notes to guide my coaching conversations. Each of my conversations was done in one take without edits, to maintain the authenticity of the process. However, the two-camera element of the lessons, which ran for 30 minutes, required major editing over many hours. The production team and Nadine did an incredible job.
The audience for the final videos was always intended to be the teachers in the Chiltern Learning Trust and our Walkthrus members but we agreed to release one video for general viewing and here it is:
The commentary below the video on Youtube explains the context:
These films follow a teacher exploring the implementation of a WalkThru technique in the classroom, followed by a coaching conversation with Tom Sherrington. They have been designed as a tool to support both a greater understanding of the techniques used, as well as a model of how to support the teacher to reflect and refine their classroom practice further through an instructional coaching approach.
Then a bit from me:
I hope what viewers will gain is a better understanding of how the steps in each walkthru can take shape in a classroom context. The teachers have done a superb job of enacting the five-step techniques but they are not setting themselves up as exemplars, just people on a journey working on implementing a technique in the context of their subject.
In my coaching conversation, I’ve tried to start each discussion with a run-through of how each step manifested itself in the lesson snapshot. This would not be typical of any subsequent coaching session but as it’s the first time for me to meet the teacher in this situation, I am using the session as an opportunity to establish a shared understanding of the specifics of the Walkthru steps before focusing on developmental action steps for the teacher concerned. However, once you take on board the very particular circumstances of these conversations, I hope what comes across is a spirit of positive engagement with precise praise followed by earnest probing and problem-solving leading to some specific actions steps, following the Bambrick-Santoyo coaching protocol that we advocate in our Walkthrus work.
The full set of 10 videos are now available on the CLT site and on our Walkthrus members’ site:
Each conversation was conducted with me trying to model two things. One was the need to explore the details of a technique, exploring the steps as set out in the relevant walkthru. Focusing on the specific details is the best way to get under the skin of a technique in a way that supports a teacher to then work on and improve their practice. I was impressed with how well each teacher knew the details of the technique and was pleased with how well I could engage with their practice just by watching excerpts on an ipad for a short time.
The other thing was the coaching process mapped out in the Feedback in Instructional Coaching Walkthru that we wrote based on the work of Bambrick-Santoyo:
We start by running through the ways in which the teacher enacted the technique really well, with fidelity to each of the steps. We then probe into some of the specific challenges and difficulties what arose in the lesson. Next, I invite the teacher to suggest which of the issues, from all the contenders we’ve explored, might provide a productive focus for them going ahead. We then discuss the implementation of that aspect and agree an imagined timeline for the next coaching cycle. (I felt it was important to do this, even though I”m not actually seeing them again, in order to reinforce the importance of creating iterative cycles for coaching – as a more useful model for anyone watching the videos to inform their coaching practice.)
This type of coaching is typical of the phase of a process that happens after you’ve already worked with a teacher to explore where they might want to focus in their practice and you’ve agreed on a set of techniques to focus the coaching around. Implicitly, we’ve agreed that the techique is being deployed because it addresses an identified problem or aspect of the learning in hand. Once we’re on a path to implement the technique well, this is where having Walkthrus as a five-step playbook really comes into its own. With the pre-written steps you have a ready-made agenda to run through as a basis for crafting the practice itself and for the subsequent coaching conversation. The shared understanding generated is significant, made possible because both teacher and coach are referencing a common description of the practice under discussion.
I personally gained a great deal from the experience and I’ve been told by Nadine and Sufian that the teachers all gained a lot from the process too. I hope that people watching the videos will be able to use them to reflect on their practice using the techniques and/or on their practice coaching others. None of us is setting ourselves up as providing exemplary models – we’re just offering up a series of examples, showing people working through a process openly and honestly. We’re all on a journey and I hope that the spirit of that comes through.
Thanks again to everyone involved. It was a real honour to work with you.