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Five characteristics of an outstanding teaching environment

Good teaching lies at the heart of education. It is the relationship between the teacher, the learner and their family that underpins and shapes the modern learning experience for everyone concerned. However, good teaching doesn’t just happen in isolation. It requires careful management, and great schools are adept at getting the best out of their teaching staff through an environment that nurtures and encourages outstanding practice.

A clear focus on the practice of teaching is a key trait of these successful schools. This is generally characterised by high levels of teacher empowerment and engagement, leading to innovative and strongly motivated teachers. Areas of focus in these schools will often include:

  • Collaboration and innovation in the management of resources, reducing the time spent on admin and liberating teachers to focus on the craft of teaching.
  • A recognition of the importance of ongoing teacher development through CPD and sharing of best practice.
  • An enquiring and research-based attitude towards pedagogy, understanding the importance of the partnership between teacher and student.

So what can schools do to embrace these characteristics and liberate their teachers to focus on and continually adapt the learning journey?


Step 1: Encourage collaboration between teachers

The best outcomes are brought about by teachers working together. We know that teachers already collaborate all the time, whether in planning, department meetings or informal chats in the staffroom. However, once term is under way, a huge amount of time can be spent on the administrative tasks required to allow a school to function, so that collaboration tends to become much more tactical, rather than strategic. Technology gives teachers a platform for sharing materials, streamlining admin processes and documenting new strategies and approaches, as well as providing an opportunity for people to showcase examples of resources and strategies that they have found most effective. In this way teachers can start to collaborate on teaching and pedagogy, rather than just day to day management of their classes and students.


Step 2: Share best practices for using edtech

Look for ways to help your teachers get the most out of the technology they are using. On its own, edtech is not going to magically solve the issues and challenges a school is facing. Teachers need to be given the skills and confidence to use that technology to best effect, and even more importantly, understand how technology might work for them, in their classroom, with their students. This comes down to training and ongoing development of staff. We need to use language and examples that teachers will understand; rather than talking about facilitating communications, show teachers how to manage homework online and send messages to classes and parents. Teachers are far more likely to adopt something if they can visualise how it will fit into their current work practices and, even more importantly work efficiently for them.


Step 3: Provide ongoing CPD with real life examples

Take the opportunity to reflect on your CPD strategy. One of the great opportunities in any INSET is that of sharing best practice - teachers learn best from each other and can feel more confident if a new strategy appears to be tried and tested. Furthermore, if a school is to get the most out of the time and money being invested into its INSET programme, then it is essential that each training day serves as a starting point which can be developed and nurtured through the academic year. We don’t expect students to magically transform their behaviour or understanding of a topic after just one day, so why do we believe that we can treat teachers differently?


Step 4: Adopt a Growth mindset culture

Empower your teachers with a culture of learning and growth. A willingness to embrace innovation is very important in schools, as educational practice and technology continue to evolve. Adopting a Growth Mindset culture in the staffroom liberates teachers to explore new strategies and measure their impact on teaching and learning without fear of failure. Every class is different and will require an approach which is best suited to their needs. A willingness to learn from each lesson we teach will empower teachers to innovate and continually adjust the learning experience. But to do this they need to be able to track their impact. Technology provides teachers with the tools they need to very quickly understand what is working for their students, where the challenges lie and can support them in finding solutions.


Step 5: Keep teachers, parents and students connected

Learning doesn’t happen in isolation so help teachers, students and parents connect with each other more easily. Effective learning is a result of this partnership and like any good relationship relies heavily on strong communications. Ongoing communication, if not handled carefully can be very time-consuming, but at its heart it needs to encompass what the student is doing, how they are doing and what they need to do to go further. This is generally shared with the students on a regular basis, but parental visibility can be patchy at best. A good, online learning management system will provide teachers with the ability to deliver ongoing, continuous reporting to everyone involved in the learning conversation, and do so in such a way that fits with their normal day to day practice, without adding extra work.

Teachers are the most valuable asset of any great school, but they are often forced to spend too much time on ‘teaching admin’ at the expense of actually teaching. Technology provides schools and teachers with the tools they need to reduce the burden and frustration of day to day management of administrative processes. Teachers have more time to focus on the craft of teaching and students make better progress as a result. 

 

“Pedagogy is the driver, technology is the accelerator”

Michael Fullan

 

Looking for more inspirational ideas? Read this blog from All Hallows on how they recently transformed their digital learning approach. It includes how they supported collaboration of teachers through online forums and innovative ways to enhance the teacher and student partnership.

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