TEACHING QUALITY AND CONTINUING PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Lessons from the London Challenge?
Research from the London School of Economics for the Sutton Trust has shown that English schools could move into the world’s top five education performers within a decade if the performance of the least effective 10% of teachers were brought up to the average. So, how do we improve the quality of teaching in our schools? The Teacher Development Trust cites research from New Zealand on the impact of high-quality CPD on the education outcomes of children, where children taught by teachers on high-quality CPD programmes were improving twice as fast as those in other classes. The improvement is more pronounced for those deemed in the 20% ‘least able,’ who made improvements four to six times as fast as their peers. The important point here is that CPD has to be high quality. Sadly,historically, much CPD hasn’t been high quality. Simply sending teachers to an occasional external course will have little or no effect on them, or on student outcomes, for that matter. Thomas Guskey has identified, in his research on evaluating CPD, that impacts of CPD must be measured through children’s outcomes. Schools have to be led by the evidence on what works to improve their pupils’ education.
Currently, there is a growing body of resources for schools to draw on. The Sutton Trust’s Pupil Premium Toolkit, the York Informed Practice Initiative (YIPI) and the Teacher Development Trust’s Good CPD Guide web site are all very useful in this respect.
Stephen Twigg, the Shadow Education Secretary, believes that we can learn much from the London Challenge about effective CPD. So, what can we learn? He writes: (Teaching Leaders Quarterly-March 2013): ‘There are three policy lessons. We need a system of challenge and support. Stick without the carrot might make popular headlines but it will do little to change the outcomes of the children served by underperforming teachers. London Challenge advisors set clear and ambitious new standards. But they did so by working in collaboration with teachers to get buy in. Second, working across schools underpinned the programme. Teachers would receive training from high performing colleagues in other schools. It is clear that being in a different setting was an important aspect for learning new and improved ways to teach. Third, the evidence from Ofsted’s evaluation of London Challenge found that where teachers were trained on improved teaching and learning strategies, this led to lasting legacies in their schools. Crucially, the impact was not only felt by schools in receipt of the support from partner schools, it was also felt by host schools.
The Logical Chain (Ofsted, 2006) noted that: ‘Few schools evaluated the impact of CPD on teaching and learning successfully’ a situation that appears not to have changed much.
Thomas Guskey (2000) introduced a significant focus on evaluating CPD through the impact it had on learning outcomes for young people. Guskey sees impact as being achieved at five potential levels:
organisation support and change
participants’ use of new knowledge and skills
student learning outcomes
Crucially, he argues that we need to pay attention to all five levels of impact if the goal of improving classroom learning is to be achieved, especially levels 2 – 5.
Following Guskey, Goodall et al investigated the range of evaluative practices for CPD. Using Guskey’s levels as a framework, they found that schools lacked experience, skills and tools to evaluate the impact of CPD.
(Acknowledgments to the Teacher Development Trust)
Success based more on collaboration than competition
But need to be careful in identifying lessons for other systems
Pasi Sahlberg’s ‘Finnish Lessons’ was voted by Lord Adonis, the former schools minister and author of ‘ Education, Education, Education’, as his book of the year. It has had a big impact on educators worldwide, seeking to emulate the highly respected Finnish education model. But Sahlberg warns other educators that the Finnish model is not easily replicable and of the dangers of drawing the wrong lessons, given the socio-economic and cultural factors at play.
By 2006, Finland was first out of 57 countries (and a few cities) in science. In the 2009 PISA scores, the nation came in second in science, third in reading and sixth in maths among nearly half a million students worldwide.
Finns only begin school at about age seven, don’t have very much homework, don’t have a particularly long school day or school year, and don’t regularly take high-stakes national tests. They also allow their teachers considerable freedoms, for example in designing the curriculum, and teachers have very few centrally driven controls to cope with. Teaching is also a high status profession . All Finnish teachers are required to hold masters degrees, and only one in four applicants is accepted.
Most of the gains in achievement have occurred within the past decade or two. In the 1950s, Finland began a series of reforms that eventually moved the country away from a “mediocre” system in which most people had only completed the equivalent of middle school. But, as Sahlberg notes, it is the most recent changes that appear to have produced the dramatic rise in Finland’s test scores.
Two main sets of factors seem to be at work.
Educationally, the Finns have a philosophy of “less is more”: concentrating on doing things better, rather than just doing more. In practice, they have relatively small schools so teachers generally know all the pupils in the school, and limited national-level bureaucracy, give teachers a lot of respect and autonomy and trust them, and, generally, cooperate and collaborate with each other and there is no polarisation between teaching unions and politicians. Indeed, the unions are regarded as instruments of reform. They offer a wide range of in-school services (free lunch for all students, counselling, and special education -nearly 30 percent of Finland’s children receive some kind of special help during their first nine years of school. ), don’t give numerical/ letter grades in elementary school, and, at least at the elementary school level, try to avoid grade repetition by allowing considerable flexibility letting students progress at different rates, in different subjects.
But crucial to Finland and its success is it homogeneity and equity. Finland has a very small-population of 5.4 m. Societally, the Finns have created a relatively egalitarian country that combines a free-market economy with the elements of a Scandinavian welfare state. Only about 4% of children live in poverty, compared to about 20%, for example, in the United States. It is almost a classless society and there are no divisions between the independent (private) sector in education and the state sector ie the private sector is negligible in size. Then there is the issue of ‘competition’, or rather lack of it. Sahlberg points out that nothing makes Finns more uncomfortable. In his book Sahlberg quotes a line from Finnish writer named Samuli Puronen: “Real winners do not compete”. Timo Heikkinen, a Helsinki principal with 24 years of teaching experience told the Smithsonian “If you only measure the statistics, you miss the human aspect.” There are no mandated standardized tests in Finland, apart from one exam at the end of students’ senior year in high school. There are no rankings, no comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions. This is why Sahlberg is favoured by the left and not universally embraced by education reformers, for example, in the States. President Obamas Federal ‘ Race to the Top’ initiative ,for example, invites states to compete for federal dollars using standardised tests and other methods to measure teachers and to reward them.
The main driver of education policy in Finland is not though competition between teachers and between schools, but cooperation and collaboration (a feature of Ontarios successful system in Canada, too)
And, unlike many other countries, there is little variation between the quality of schools. So, no post code lottery.(unlike the UK)
All politicians aim, when it comes to education, to ensure that every child should have exactly the same opportunity to learn, regardless of family background, income, or geographic location. Finland is one of the few places that is pretty close to delivering this.
But Finland also demonstrates that you cannot simply import an education system or even bits of it (ie cherrypick) to ensure your system works better and you have to be careful about what lessons can be learnt and applied . Context is everything. But one can say, with some confidence, that the Finnish model reiterates the importance of high quality teachers and teaching, the importance of a teaching profession that is high status, trusted and respected , and to ensure you have a working environment in which key stakeholders can work closely together and collaborate to achieve shared goals to improve outcomes for students.
Note-Pasi Sahlberg writes both as a teacher and as a professor of education.
Another dimension of positive psychology and its relevance to education
Positive psychology is making inroads into current educational thinking. Here is one aspect- Reaching a state of Flow-bear with me!
Flow in psychology’ is the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.
Part psychological study, part self-help book, Finding Flow is a prescriptive guide that ‘helps us reclaim ownership of our lives’. The author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has devoted his professional life to the study of happiness and how we can attain it.
Based on a far-reaching study of thousands of individuals, Finding Flow contends that we often walk through our days unaware and out of touch with our emotional lives. He describes the mental state of flow as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” Our inattention makes us constantly bounce between two extremes: during much of the day we live filled with the anxiety and pressures of our work and obligations, while during our leisure moments, we tend to live in passive boredom. So, the key, according to Csikszentmihalyi, is to challenge ourselves with tasks requiring a high degree of skill and commitment. So at its most simple level-instead of watching television, for example play the piano. Transform a routine task by taking a different approach. In short, learn the joy of complete engagement. Though they appear simple, the lessons in Finding Flow are life-altering.
Flow first came to Csikszentmihalyi’s attention while he was studying artists for his postgraduate thesis. As they worked the artists seemed to go into a trance-like state. To his surprise he found that the finished product was less important to them than the process of doing the work itself. External rewards were less important than intrinsic pleasure, an observation that went against the grain of psychological thinking at the time.
According to Csíkszentmihályi, there are ten factors that accompany the experience of flow. While many of these components may be present, it is not necessary to experience all of them for flow to occur:
Clear goals that, while challenging, are still attainable.
Strong concentration and focused attention.
The activity is intrinsically rewarding.
Feelings of serenity; a loss of feelings of self-consciousness.
Timelessness; a distorted sense of time; feeling so focused on the present that you lose track of time passing.
Knowing that the task is doable; a balance between skill level and the challenge presented.
Feelings of personal control over the situation and the outcome.
Lack of awareness of physical needs.
Complete focus on the activity itself.
So what relevance does this have for education? Csíkszentmihályi has suggested that overlearning a skill or concept can help people experience flow. Another critical concept in his theory is the idea of slightly extending oneself beyond one’s current ability level. This slight stretching of one’s current skills can help the individual experience flow. Flow can lead to improved performance too. Researchers have found that flow can enhance performance in a wide variety of areas including teaching, learning, athletics and artistic creativity. Flow can also lead to further learning and skill development. Because the act of achieving flow indicates a strong mastery of a certain skill, the individual must continually seek new challenges and information in order to maintain this state.
In the late 1980s Csikszentmihalyi and several colleagues undertook a longitudinal survey of over 200 talented teenagers to discover why some are able to develop their talents while others give up. One of their principal findings, published in Talented Teens – The Roots of Success and Failure was that ‘flow was the strongest predictor of subjective engagement and how far the student progressed in the school’s curriculum in his or her talent’.
The authors suggest three ‘promising steps for promoting optimal experience in the classroom’:
1. The most influential teachers were found to be those who always continue to nurture their interest in their subjects and do not take their ability to convey that enthusiasm for granted. Learning was found to flourish where the cultivation of passionate interest was a primary educational goal.
2. Attention should be paid to ‘conditions that enhance the experience of maximum rewards’. Everything should be done to minimise the impact of rules, exams and procedures and to focus on the inherent satisfaction of learning. (In a more recent interview, Csikszentmihalyi has stated that although it makes some sense to work on students’ weaknesses, it makes even more sense to work on their strengths, ‘Because once someone has developed strengths, then everything else becomes easier.’)
3. Teachers must read the shifting needs of learners. The flow state is not a static one: once a skill has been mastered it is necessary to add more complexity if the student is not to become bored – there must always be a close fit between challenges and skills. The teacher’s sense of timing and pace, of when to intervene and when to hold back, is therefore crucial. There must be freedom wherever possible for the student to control the process, but teachers must also draw on their experience to channel students’ attention.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. & Rathunde, K. (1993). The measurement of flow in everyday life: Towards a theory of emergent motivation. In Jacobs, J.E.. Developmental perspectives on motivation. Nebraska symposium on motivation. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Csíkszentmihályi, Mihály (1975), Beyond Boredom and Anxiety, San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1997) Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life. Basic Books, New York.
Csikszentmihalyi, M (2002), Flow: The Classic Work on How to Achieve Happiness, Rider, London
Thoughts about Education on www.newhorizons.org
Csikszentmihalyi, M, Rathunde, K, and Whalen, S (1997), Talented Teenagers: The Roots of Success and Failure, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
Scherer, M (2002), ‘Do students care about learning? A conversation with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’Educational Leadership 60 (1)
THE QCDA-ONE REASON WHY ITS GOING
But Government needs to be careful over the figures
The Education Secretary Michael Gove pointed out in the Second Reading of the Education Bill, on 8 February, that the QCDA quango (shortly to be culled) has a total staff of 393 employees of which 76 are in its Communications Department. Remember, this quango looks after the curriculum, which will be radically reformed by this Government. The QCDA doesn’t have that many defenders, it has to be said, its new and is , well sort of, a partial successor to the not much lamented QCA. Education Journalists tend to have quite good contacts in the communications departments of these type of organisations So, the education journalist Warwick Mansell, sharing others astonishment at this figure, did some digging on this. He found that this figure actually covered the world and his wife – in fact all staff in the communications and QCDA and Ofqual customer services departments, including switchboard and helpline operators; web and publishing editors; people who support schools and local authorities in delivering national curriculum tests, and those who deliver communications to employees. In April 2010, prior to the announced closure of QCDA, there were in fact 15 staff at QCDA dealing directly with communications, including three in the press office and one in internal communications.
I don’t hold a torch for the QCDA or many other education quangos for that matter but if one is going to criticise them (and there are plenty of grounds for doing so) Ministers can I am sure present a strong case without the need to play fast and loose with the figures. Its all a bit unnecessary and counter-productive.
On going debate on Early Years curriculum generates more heat than light
But New report helps identify what works abroad-six programmes showing significant impact
There is considerable on-going debate about how to educate our youngest children and what is the right balance to be struck between play and more formal methods of instruction.
Today, the important question before researchers and policy makers is what kind of preschool or nursery is most effective for young children? Which particular programmes have positive outcomes and what elements of these programmes contribute to their effectiveness? The early years curriculum has divided experts and the debate is now somewhat polarised. Some believe that that we have got the mix about right and young children need clear goals and targets , others that the last governments approach was too prescriptive, was not evidence based (ignoring best practice in the most successful systems) and is weighted too heavily towards teaching, not allowing sufficient time or scope for children to play, and less formal activities.
Notwithstanding some difficulties in evaluating the locally delivered Sure Start programme (the initiative is highly devolved) what evaluations we have , have delivered at best mixed findings. While there have been positive impacts on social development and health outcomes, there has been no significant impact on oral language development, an important precursor to success in school (Belsky & Melhuish, 2007)
A new report from CFBT Education Trust looks at international (mainly US) evidence ‘‘Effective early childhood education programmes: a best-evidence synthesis’ reviews research on the outcomes of programmes that teach young children in a group setting before they begin reception.
The aim of the review is both to assist educators and policy makers in deciding the types of programmes to implement and to inform researchers about the current evidence on nursery programmes as well as guiding further research. This report systematically reviews research on the outcomes of programmes that teach young children in a group setting before they begin reception. Study inclusion criteria included the use of randomised or matched control groups, and study duration of at least 12 weeks. Studies included valid measures of language, literacy, phonological awareness, mathematical, and/or cognitive outcomes that were independent of the experimental treatments. A total of 40 studies, evaluating 29 different programmes met these criteria for outcomes assessed at the end of preschool and/or reception/kindergarten.
The review concludes that on academic outcomes at the end of preschool and/or reception, six early childhood programmes showed strong evidence of effectiveness and five had moderate evidence of effectiveness.
The best approaches were those that provided a planned curriculum and emphasised teacher-led practice, supported by so-called structured “child-chosen” activities. Of the programmes reviewed, eight are available for implementation in the UK.
Most of the studies reviewed were conducted in the US, many in large urban areas. However, the similarities of the challenges of large inner city communities in the US to those in the UK lead one to think, according to the report, that the findings would likely generalise to the UK. A few longitudinal studies have followed their subjects into secondary school, and even adulthood. These studies show that comprehensive programmes, from a cognitive developmental perspective rather than a solely academic focus, had better long-term effects on social adjustment outcomes such as reductions in delinquency, welfare dependency, and teenage pregnancy, and increases in educational and employment levels. While the curriculum is one important factor that differentiates early childhood programmes, another factor that also differentiates programmes is the degree of support that the teachers are provided in implementing the curriculum.
The authors state ‘The findings of this review add to a growing body of evidence that programmes can have an important impact on increasing the school readiness of young children. There is a tremendous need for systematic, large-scale, longitudinal, randomised evaluations of the effectiveness of preschool interventions in bringing children from high-risk environments to normative levels of academic achievement. However, this review identifies several promising approaches that could be used today to help children begin primary school ready to succeed’ . Oli de Botton, a senior consultant at the CfBT Education Trust and former teacher, told Children and Young People Now recently that early education should balance the discipline of teaching with play. But he also said that teacher intervention and use of academic materials improve outcomes significantly, particularly for the most deprived children. “Effective programmes didn’t exclude play, but they did include a significant amount of teacher-directed activity,” he explained.
The full report concludes that on academic outcomes at the end of nursery and/or reception, six programmes originating in the USA, show strong evidence of impact: Curiosity Corner, Direct Instruction, ELLM, Interactive Book Reading, Let’s Begin with the Letter People and Ready Set Leap! Whilst most of the programmes delivered some child-led activities, teacher input was always emphasised.
Effective early childhood education programmes: a best-evidence synthesis(2010)-CfBT Education Trust
Bette Chambers University of York and Johns Hopkins University; Alan Cheung Johns Hopkins University; Robert E. Slavin University of York and Johns Hopkins University; Dewi Smith Success for All Foundation; Mary Laurenzano Johns Hopkins University
For report and case studies see:
HIGHER EDUCATION AND FREEDOM OF INFORMATION
Some Universities may be using non-disclosure agreements to hide poor performance and maladministration
5528 staff signed non-disclosure agreements in the last three years
It does seem than some institutions that survive wholly or in part because of taxpayers money still haven’t quite got the message that if you are funded from the public purse you have to be both accountable and transparent in your dealings . The Freedom of Information Act can help in this respect but it is extraordinary how many grant funded organisations are not subject to the FOIA and it has its limitations.
Recent revelations from the NHS concerning how whistleblowers are muzzled using public funds and the dreaded Non-Disclosure Agreement is deeply worrying not least because it has grave consequences for patient safety and best practice . The world of education is not immune from these shenanigans either. According to AcademicFOI.com the University of Southampton along with University College Falmouth are the only two institutions not responding to FOI requests. So that on the face of it sounds good. But one needs to drill down a bit deeper . Universities are according to a AcademicFOI.com survey entering with increasing frequency into non-disclosure agreements. 5528 University staff signed non-disclosure agreements in the last three years. 366 of these resulted from employment tribunal claims that were settled prior to hearings, at a total cost to the taxpayer of £11.5m . According to a correspondent in the Independent (4 August) ‘ the use of these agreements is frequently linked to redundancy, which in many universities are now being pushed through by managerial decision with little or no real consultation.’ The correspondent continues ‘In effect, tax-payers’ money is being diverted by the managements of universities to silence criticism of often arbitrary decisions, and fend off scrutiny of a frequently lamentable performance. Academics are told they will not get the redundancy payments to which they are entitled if they say anything to criticise the administrations which have pushed them out.’
A non disclosure agreement (NDA) is any agreement that restricts the right of an individual or a university to discuss a matter in public. Usually in employment disputes they are part of a Compromise Agreement. The exact wordings vary and are kept confidential but typically the member of staff signs their agreement not to discuss their settlement with anyone apart from immediate family or professional advisers. They also agree not to publicly criticise the university or discuss the dispute that led to the agreement being signed. The main justification for using NDAs in resolving employment disputes is that both individuals and universities can put disputes behind them and move on with their reputations intact. But they can also act as means of ensuring that important and possibly embarrassing facts concerning the academic, research or pastoral functions of a university are withheld from the public. This affects their accountability.
Academic FOI.com says “ There is no scrutiny as to whether a university with 20 NDAs resulting from employment disputes is “moving on” from 20 different minor disputes or “moving on“ from one major, and possibly unresolved, problem. There is an obvious conflict between widespread use of NDAs and legitimate whistle blowing of genuine problems within universities. Within research the use of NDAs is understandable where confidential commercial research is being undertaken. The difficulty arises if staff working on a project discover ethical or other problems after they have signed NDAs. The extensive use of NDAs in restructuring programmes prevents the affected staff from engaging in public debate about the wisdom or otherwise of that restructure. The use of NDAs for staff combined with strict rules on unauthorised media interviews and vague rules on “bringing the university into disrepute” creates a system which is not at all transparent.”
Just thirteen universities over the last three years signed no NDA agreements. Of the top five who did sign NDA settlements – Manchester signed 26 . (it also topped the Tribunal claims on 40) Birmingham 20 , Bristol 17, UCL 15 and Manchester Met 11. In terms of settlement costs Liverpool John Moores tops the League table on £ 362,108 and Manchester comes second on £ 247,881
Two things stand out. First there is a trend developing to cut deals with employees in the public sector, including with whistleblowers, behind closed doors at considerable expense to the taxpayer , which, in some instances at least, serve to withhold important information on the respective institution from the public. Second the standards of accountability and transparency across the HE sector are simply not good enough. Part of the new funding deal for the sector which will be forged over the next couple of years must include a big quid pro quo. In return for more funds there must be greater openness, transparency and accountability across the sector in admissions, performance, degree of student satisfaction, the value added , the employability of their graduates and the way they manage public funds. (oh, almost forgot, and how much they pay their leading staff)
- PAYING FOR RESULTS-CAN IT HELP RAISE PERFORMANCE- OR DOES IT CORRUPT THE LOVE OF LEARNING?
- PROSPECTS JOINS MUTUAL JOINT VENTURE TO DELIVER PUBLIC SERVICES-GOVERNMENT KEEN ON EMPLOYEE OWNED MUTUALS DELIVERING PUBLIC SERVICES
- PROFESSOR TONY WATTS RESIGNS FROM THE NATIONAL CAREERS COUNCIL
- EDISON LEARNING AND THE NAHT UNION LAUNCH A SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT INITIATIVE WITH DFE BACKING
- THE FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT OF ACADEMIES-WHAT HAPPENS IF THERE ARE CONCERNS?
- PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE REPORT ON ACADEMIES-SOME CONCERNS OVER FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT
- CAIRNS OF BRIGHTON COLLEGE BACKS ACADEMIES
- IS CAREERS ADVICE IN SCHOOLS EFFECTIVE OR IS IT TOO EARLY TO SAY?
- LEMOVS TEACH LIKE A CHAMPION -TOP TECHNIQUES USED BY THE BEST TEACHERS
- THE PUPIL PREMIUM AND SPECIAL SCHOOLS
- EDUCATION EXPORTS-NEW GOVERNMENT STRATEGY IN THE WINGS?
- INSPECTING ACADEMY CHAINS-ON THE AGENDA
- Careers advice and Guidance
- Charity Status
- Charter School
- Coalition Education Policy
- Conservative policy
- Discipline and Truancy
- early years learning
- education market
- education quangos
- education reform
- Free schools
- higher education
- Home Education
- independent schools
- primary schools
- Public Services Reform
- published letters
- Pupil Support
- quality assurance
- quality assurance and inspection
- school governance
- secondary schools
- Secure Estate
- SPECIAL NEEDS
- teachers and teaching
- Think tanks
- us education system
- Youth policy