At MEA Central, we refer to Teaching and Learning as the main thing.
It is essential that we limit variance in teaching across the school and strive to ensure that consistently high quality teaching is available to every single learner.
This is no easy feat. In order to achieve consistently high quality teaching, we need a clear framework and a shared language to ensure that all elements of teaching and learning are understood and applied with consistency. This framework and shared language is rooted in evidence - based research; recommendations from Ofsted and best practice. It is not a prescriptive or repetitive model to be followed in a formulaic fashion but rather, it is a structure to support staff in planning for the best learning opportunities for our students. It can be applied with flexibility and sits under the mantra that structure liberates.
Doug Lemov has documented the concrete actions of effective teachers in his book Teach Like a Champion (2.0). At MEA Central, we use the techniques in his book to help us to establish the right classroom climate for learning.
Lemov's approaches often require small, deliberate changes to teacher words or actions but over time and with consistent application, they can produce powerful results. The use of Lemov's techniques are part of our Teaching and Learning framework and they provide a shared language when we discuss classroom practice. The techniques require practice: this happens as part of our September Induction (Drill Day); Leverage Mentoring; during Teaching and Learning Practice briefings and training sessions and, as part of targeted teacher support packages. The techniques also require purposeful application: this happens through teacher planning and is supported through lesson observation feedback. Lemov states that 'Teaching, it turns out, is a team sport, where teachers make each other better by building robust cultures where they study and share insights about their work'. At MEA Central, this sentiment is an essential part of our teaching and learning culture: we are reflective, we are open to sharing and we work together to create consistent approaches across the curriculum.
All teachers at MEA Central strive to ensure that there is academic rigour to all lessons. Tom Sherrington helpfully summarises academic rigour as a teacher who 'knows their stuff'.2 In practice, teachers ensure that student tasks promote achievement rather than simply activity. In order to achieve this, expert and thoughtful planning and preparation must take place. In advance of a lesson, teachers might: annotate important texts; pre-empt misconceptions and plan their questions accordingly; discuss consistent approaches and language with their teams or script the teaching of particularly challenging concepts. At MEA Central, we take pride in having expertise: if our students are going to be able to meet every citizen as an equal then their teachers must be able to judiciously and confidently share a body of knowledge, from their subject area, with aplomb.
The Four Part Lesson Plan is an essential element of providing rigour to classroom activity.
It comes from TEEP (Teacher Effectiveness Enhancement Program) and is based on research about brain function, student motivation and how learning can be accelerated. Each of the four parts have particular characteristics, which are included to maximise learning opportunities. Its structure supports a knowledge-based curriculum and helps to guide planning to provide the rigour required to accelerate student progress. We expect all lessons to follow the Four Part Lesson Plan.
In a more recent publication, Alex Quigley explores the importance of language acquisition and the role all teachers have to play in the development of students' language.
Part of our training at MEA Central will seek to build teacher confidence in understanding the complexities of language development as well as seeking to equip teachers with the right tools to purposefully shape their students' academic vocabulary. As a staff body, we are word conscious and we are well aware of our status as important language role models.
At MEA Central we place a high value on Talk for Writing and in many lessons, moving from exploratory talk, to performance talk, to formal writing is a natural trajectory.
We want our students to be able to write like a mathematician, a linguist, a geographer, a historian ‚but they must talk like one first. It is also essential that students can acquire the necessary academic language and become familiar with the nuances of writing in each specific subject area. This process requires joint deconstruction and modelling of written texts to support students to internalise the patterns and rhythms of language in its varying forms.
The most important part of the teaching and learning culture at MEA Central is that we view ourselves as a learning community. As teachers, we have never arrived and we believe that feedback is a gift. We like to read about all things pedagogical and our practice is rooted in evidence-based research. We respond to patterns emerging by adapting and applying flexibility. Our classrooms are open to colleagues: there is always a schedule of observations and learning walks and we believe that observing to learn is the most effective way of achieving consistently high expectations across the curriculum.
Through the Feedback Improvement and Evaluation Cycle, departments will be able to work collaboratively to develop their curriculum areas by reflecting and sharing best practice from within our own classrooms as well as through networks in the locality and Twitter-sphere.
There is an expectation that the Teaching and Learning framework is applied in such a way that individual subject areas can really take ownership of the principles and use them to support the nuances of each subject area.
At MEA Central we are a learning community and as teachers, we have never arrived. There is an expectation that we all take ownership of developing our own subject specific knowledge to ensure that our learners are learning from true experts.
There are a number of ways this can be done such as: attending subject specific CPD; reading research and publications specific to your subject area; reading relevant blogs on Twitter; being open to feedback and making adaptations to your practice; living the value of having never arrived by constantly looking for ways to refresh and improve your teaching approaches and regularly engaging in pedagogical conversations with your colleagues.
Teachers are given time in departments to specifically develop your subject specific pedagogy and often, this will be building on from concepts and ideas explored in whole-school training. The department development agenda will be driven from the data captured as part of the Feedback Improvement and Evaluation cycle.