March's guest blog comes to you this time from one of our East Lothian colleagues, Jamie Orr
Here's what he has to share about Professional Reading...
The teaching profession is full of ‘things’. These compete for priority and can confuse our thinking about what actually makes the biggest difference to our pupils.
For me, the most important ‘thing’ will always be ‘teaching and learning’: the quality of my teaching is what has the biggest impact on the learning of my pupils. The thing which has made my teaching better is professional reading. Over the last four years, I have worked with colleagues in and out of school to drum up support and interest in professional reading. Why? Because I have experienced first hand just how powerful dipping in and out of books can be. I believe that, even if you’re not a big reader, there is always something to be taken from reading just one page. Going one step further, discussing what you have read with colleagues can make the learning even more powerful. Discussion with colleagues has given me so many valuable opportunities to reflect on my own practice and to help take on board other ideas.
In Doug Lemov’s book, Teach Like a Champion, there are 62 techniques to work through which can help refine our practice. My favourite so far has been ‘No Opt Out’. Lemov explains how to make sure you engage all pupils in thinking about your questions. This sounds simple, but how often do you really feel that your questions impact on every pupil? In Tom Sherrington’s Rosenshine’s Principles in Action, retrieval practice is explored. My favourite part is ‘Provide Scaffolds for Difficult Tasks’. Complimenting this is How I Wish I’d Taught Maths by Craig Barton. Visual ways of scaffolding are discussed and explained. Bruce Robertson’s book, The Teaching Delusion has really made me reflect on my teaching practice. It has questioned the way I teach and made me think about what I should be focussing on. All of these themes are important. And there are many more areas to explore.
When I work with colleagues to discuss and share learning from professional reading, I am always really encouraged by their commitment to go away and try what is being suggested. To reach out to those who aren’t as involved with professional reading, sharing sessions have proven to be successful. Taking time at a CAT session to let people speak about their learning from reading and to share real classroom resources has been popular. The audience like it when teachers talk about teaching. What’s more, this is teachers talking about high-quality teaching.
There are many other books and publications that I have been influenced by, but what I take away from all of these is a firmer belief in what the ‘thing’ is that makes the biggest difference to our pupils. If you have an ‘itch’ to read and want to play a part in sparking some discussion around this, I would really encourage you to start up a voluntary Professional Reading Group.
Theme: Teaching and Learning: Pedagogy
Target Audience: Primary and Secondary Teachers, and School Leaders
Contributor: Jamie Orr, Dunbar Primary School East Lothian
Leader of Teaching and Learning Development
Stewart Brown is currently seconded to the role of Education Support Officer (Digital Learning) for the SEIC. During training, the Learning Tools within Office 365 have really impressed practitioners and there is the need for all practitioners to be aware of their potential.
“Levelling the Playing Field with Microsoft Learning Tools” is an easily accessible piece of research that highlights in a real context the potential impact of the using the Microsoft Tools. It clearly shows the benefits of using these in regards to reading and writing attainment whilst accepting that the tools would not be the only contributing factor. I would suggest it is a useful starting point if you are wanting to make greater use of the tools as a whole setting.
If you were looking at “rolling out” the use of any systems like these across your setting, I would also recommend the recently published guidance from the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF). It provides very clear and useful guidance around the importance of having a strong rationale for the technology we use and how it links to pedagogy.
The final “reading” that I would highlight for practitioners are the digital vision documents produced by Education Scotland.
The immersive reader within Word and One Note is a favourite of mine. When students can confidently use this, it can truly empower them and ensure that they are able to previously inaccessible materials. As a teacher, it can easily support any teaching and learning that involves written text. The ability to quickly translate the text can also make it a major game changer for some of our learners.
Within word, the dictate tool can allow younger students or those who find writing challenging to create texts that better match their ability. The “Ideas” tool supercharges the spell checker tool and helps to improve the content. Useful for children and practitioners alike.
The final tool I am highlighting, is the “Rehearse with Coach” tool in PowerPoint. This allows students to practice a presentation and gives instant feedback on their performance. Hugely useful for preparing presentations, developing talking skills in other languages, or preparing for the world of work and interviews.
As shown in the reading, there is a need when utilising technology to ensure that there is a key purpose. With these tools, there is a wide range of ways they can be used. Like with anything, I would suggest starting with one. Once you have that initial success you can then expand to see how else it could be of real benefit. With immersive reader, that might be to support that specific student who is able in numeracy but struggles to access the written questions. Or as a starter for a literacy lesson to identify different word types.
The Second vital point is the importance in teaching students to be proficient with the technology. They need to be discretely taught how to use it. This may take time, but it is 100% worthwhile in the long run if we are looking to provide tools to support lifelong learning.
Microsoft along with other companies continue to refine learning tools, spread their compatibility, and create new tools. It is important therefore that we support all our students in being able to access these, see their benefit and keep up to date with new developments. These can make a major impact in terms of equity and attainment.
If you are interested in further professional learning on this, why not have a look at the Microsoft Educator Centre or sign up to one of Professional Learning Topics here.
Welcome to the South East Improvement Collaborative Monthly Blog. Each month we will be publishing posts to support classroom practitioners. Colleagues from across the RIC will also be providing entries based on their own practice and professional learning.