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Teaching Issues

Collaborative planning to improve teaching

Meeting

Data, spreadsheets, tracking, CAT scores, Progress 8, levels of progress, intervention strategies, Pupil Premium….ever feel like your department time is eaten up with things a million miles away from the love of History and the love of teaching it to students that first brought you in to the job?

We do, so last week Richard and I made a commitment that at least once a fortnight we would sit down and collaboratively plan a new History lesson. Why? Partly as an antidote to all of the other factors we’re expected to manage but mainly to re-invigorate and improve our classroom teaching and because this is the part of the job we love.

Our first task was to decide on a topic. As luck would have it I have been failing to write some decent lessons on the English Civil War for about twenty years.

I had, as a result of a collaborative session with some SCITT trainees, an embryonic lesson on the Significance of the English Civil War. So, this enquiry became our starting point. By the end of the session we had finished and resourced a new lesson which both of us felt happy to teach. You can see it here.

What did we learn about collaborative planning?

  1. Make time for it. Set aside a dedicated time slot. Ignore the emails, unplug the phone, lock the door and hide if you need to; but make time.
  2. Have a specific goal or topic. We looked at our curriculum map and tried to find areas we felt needed improving. We also looked at the balance of skills and second order concepts and felt like there was a need for more work in historical significance.
  3. Get your resources to hand so you aren’t wandering around wasting time.
  4. Prepare to disagree. Sometime the process is easy and you are all in agreement. We found this when we were planning our enquiry on the Loughshinny skeletons. But sometimes you will have different ideas about what works and what students will need to do. You will disagree and in all honesty, you should. This is probably the main reason for collaborative planning- it exercises the brain and forces you to produce something that will stand up under scrutiny (a huge confidence builder if you are going to be observed or have to teach it to a difficult class).
  5. Use a model. We have found over the years that taking lessons or enquiries that you have tried and tested and basing new lessons on those is a great tactic when you are stuck. Health warning- you do, of course, need to consider issues of progression and variety within your curriculum. A lesson on significance in Year 8 should ideally re-visit but also add to skills developed in Year 7.

We can’t recommend this approach to planning enough. Working with a like-minded colleague and ending up with a new lesson at the end is the perfect antidote to the other “stuff” we are required to manage. Ultimately, you are creating your own CPD opportunities.

Neil Bates

Many of our lessons on history resource cupboard have been collaboratively planned. Alec Fisher and I spent about 7 years working together on the French Revolution. We kept tweaking lessons. We also were given a day off time table to plan the unit to start with.  Now that is quality CPD, but not all SLTs think such a day is useful. They should but you know the drill….

Richard McFahn

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