Reflective Teaching

This year in education has been one of change and planning for the future. With the new GCSEs, AS/A2 curriculum changes it has given me much to think about since I joined Gillingham School in September 2009. Joining a very successful school and department I have had big shoes to fill, a challenge I have relished. I believe I have put in place the correct building blocks for the future. This month I have had a chance to look back and reflect upon our successes and future developments. For a successful department I believe you must not look at too many areas to change, focus, innovate or tweak. Geoff Barton, Headteacher of the King Edward XI School likened managing a large department to plate spinning, you have to be able to manage each of the areas you start to change – too many and the plates start crashing around you. Personally, a maximum of five strategies/innovations is perfect. Making sure your strategies are manageable and flexible you are able to keep a good grasp and move the strategies forward.

Idris Mootee, of  the innovation playground blog,  has said, ‘innovation is hard, it is not about getting the ideas at all, it is about managing ideas. So you have a few great ideas, so what? The future is never about the future but now.’

The five strategies we will be focusing on are outlined below:

  • Teaching & learning

The primary target for improvement this year revolves around teaching & learning within Geography. As a Department we want to teach the best we can and we are looking at our lessons and seeing where we can make improvements and implementing new teaching strategies. We must make our teaching experience more personal for the students and improve their independent study skills. This must be developed from KS3 onwards and carried on within the school.

  • Assessment for Learning

AFL is a very important skill and is an area where we could develop within Geography. As teachers we are sometimes too controlling and we must put the onus back on the students for them to achieve. Investigating methods and ways of implementing this into our schemes of work must be one of our priorities. This will encourage student learning and raise achievement across all year groups. AFL will also help improve the student’s knowledge of using a mark scheme and what to include in a good answer. This will reduce our marking and in the long-term our workload.

  • Reflective Teaching (including observations)

As teachers we must be more reflective of our own practice and make amendments where we need to. We must utilise our strengths and work on our areas of development. Observations are vitally important to watch other teachers and how students learn. This would be ideally done within the Department and with other Departments once a term where possible. This should therefore improve our own teaching and benefit the students .Working with other colleagues will help develop cross curricular opportunities to raise achievement throughout the school.

  • Technology

Geography has prided itself on using technology where possible to improve our lessons and the student experience. This needs to be further developed to further enhance our learning and the students. GIS must be developed within the Department across all year groups.

  • International link with a school abroad and feeder schools

As part of our role in the local and global community we would be looking to develop a link with a school abroad. This would develop our student’s knowledge of their role within a global community and understanding of issues that occur worldwide.

Locally we would like to work with the feeder schools on developing our link and improving geography. This would enhance geography’s status and develop their geographical knowledge. Geography is sometimes not always taught in primary schools to a high level and we would like to develop this to help their progression and achievement later on.

Please get in contact regarding what your departments/schools are planning/changing for the future…I would love to hear them especially in these uncertain times with possible budget/curriculum changes.

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Personal, Learning & Thinking Skills

I am slowly catching up with my blogs at the moment as it seems to be a very busy term so far. Recently I went on a course run by Dorset County Council. This was my first course in my new county having previously worked in Hampshire and Surrey. The course itself was based on ‘Focusing on Skills in Foundation Subjects’ particularly personal, learning and thinking skills and run by Katie Ashcroft, Foundation Subjects Consultant. Personal learning and thinking skills (PLTS), together with functional English, mathematics, and ICT, cover the areas of competence that are most often demanded by employers. Integrating these skills into the curriculum and qualifications will provide learners with a platform for employability and further learning. PLTS involve:

  • team working
  • independent enquiry
  • self-management
  • reflective learning
  • effective participation
  • creative thinking.

The course itself was split into three sessions;

  • Session 1 – Developing pupils’ independent enquiry skills
  • Session 2 – Developing pupils’ team work skills
  • Session 3 – Developing a cross-curricular approach in foundation subjects

It is was a very informative and enjoyable course. It was great that they re-emphasised the importance of PLTS in lessons. PLTS help prepare pupils for the future, in and out of school. They develop the essential skills and qualities for to be a life long learner, life and future employment. They also provide a common focus for learning across subjects and provides great opportunities for cross curricular collaboration. PLTS use functional, transferable and creative skills which can be applied to real life scenarios.

It was pleasing to be given the opportunity during the course to identify the skills our department might want to develop in geography and reflect. With the new GCSEs and A’Level syallbus’ this course has come at a good time for reviewing the schemes of work we have developed so far and want to develop in the future. As teachers we sometimes forget about the skills the pupils require and focus on the content we need to teach. It has to be a balance of both and is something we feel at Gillingham we are achieving. It is also vitally very important that the pupils are clear about the skills they need to be successful in your subject area.

There was particular emphasis on cross curricular links and their importance within schools. This is a requirement within the new Secondary Curriculum for all subjects to explore connections with other subjects. Cross-curricular links provide a more coherent and relevant experience for the learner. It enables all pupils to understand the importance of different subjects and in helping them make a sense of the world. It provides pupils with the opportunity to apply the knowledge, understanding and skills they have acquired in one subject to a different context. For those of you investigating to develop cross-curricular links I recommend looking at the subject comparison web-page provided by the National Curriculum, which can be accessed here.  

The course linked the theory of skills to what Ofsted are looking for within schools. This is key for any school to have an awareness of what Ofsted expect from us as practitioners. I have quoted below Ofsted’s expectations;

‘The school’s curriculum provides memorable experiences and rich opportunities for high-quality learning…The school may be at the forefront of successful, innovative curriculum design in some areas…A curriculum with overall breath and balance provides pupils with their full entitlement and is customised to meet the changing needs of individuals and groups…Cross-curricular provision…is mainly outstanding and there is nothing less than good. As a result, all groups of pupils benefit from a highly coherent and relevant curriculum which promotes outstanding outcomes.’

These are skills I feel all schools’ are trying to achieve. Unfortunately, they do not happen over night and they do take time to develop and integrate in the school community. By sharing good practice, an understanding of what we want to achieve and hard work these skills will start to appear in all schools.

Welcome to miketidd.com

My name is Mike Tidd and I am Head of Geography at Gillingham School in Dorset. I have been a teacher for most of my working life and I immensely enjoy my role as a teacher. I have a deep interest in education developments and I am motivated to help fellow practitioners and young people to achieve their potential.

Over the last few years I have watched colleagues and friends write their own blogs with much interest and delight. I have seen the response these have received and how people can work collaboratively together to make a difference. It has finally come to that moment where I have decided to join the ‘conversation’.

My website will be focusing primarily on education within the UK. I shall be writing about new education developments, geography as a leading subject and how new technologies may have a role to play in education.

I look forward to your future comments from what I blog about.

I wish you all a successful 2010!