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Work experience–not just for students.

2013-06-23 19.23.51

When Professional Tutor (looking after whole school CPD) at Priory School, I wanted to set up some work experience for the teaching staff.  The thing is, most INSET days (call them what you will) focus on staff being told what’s good or working with the same teams of people that they normally do.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but it doesn’t involve staff finding out for themselves, nor setting their own agenda.  As a Geographer, enquiry learning is central to my approach: setting up some questions and gathering information that leads to an outcome or change. In addition, professional learning needs to be personalised.  That’s not a choice within a narrow set of workshops (although that’s a great approach too – tools in the box remember).  Finally, teaching staff have the ability to identify what they need to work upon and put into action a plan.

This isn’t an original plan, but included here as interest to others as I’ve received a number of questions about the process.

So, whilst those with TLR or Leadership Spine posts headed off for a leadership conference, the 40 or so teachers were tasked with finding some work experience. 

Stage 1

This plan didn’t come out of the blue, but was part of the year-long plan to shake up professional learning at Priory.  Most importantly, Curriculum Leaders were tasked with ensuring that their teams found another school to visit.  The where was up to them, as was what they focused upon.  The when was an Inset day (7th June). Curriculum Leaders were also told that they would have to share the team’s findings during Professional Learning Time (after school sessions) in the summer term.

An unexpected win was that the catering team loved this as they could factor in some admin time.

The school was closed, and we were prepared to treat those that didn’t get something sorted as taking an unpaid day off.  In the end, no one fell into this as I ensured communication was clear.

Before the day there was a palpable sense of excitement in the school.  Teachers really were looking forward to visiting other schools.

Stage 2 The follow up

There were two stages to the follow up.  The first was to give some department time for learning conversations based around what went on during the visits.  The fact that curriculum leaders didn’t visit schools, meant that they had to rely upon the rest of their team.  We didn’t monitor the conversations as teachers were aware that they would have to share so this kept the focus.

The second was an event after school.  I supplied cake and gave leaders the option of presenting to the whole staff and a marketplace set up.  I emphasised that there was no set format.  This created a wide array of presentation techniques from mini-plays; dingbats; videos and talks supported with visuals.  The mission was to share something useful with everyone.  The rule of feet applied – this is tricky in teaching as we aren’t used to people walking out on us, but it’s important not to waste time if something isn’t relevant to you, so move on and don’t feel offended if people do. 

In the end, two departments shared with the whole staff (limited to 7 minutes) and other departments shared the learning in the marketplace.  The real successes were that support staff also presented some wonderful insights and that everyone shared something valuable.  Most of the presentations were followed by conversations and informal questions which also gave the opportunity to explore the different tools on offer too. I really like PowToon for example:

Lesson learned:

  • Ultimately, the visiting of other departments needs to be part of a sustainable CPD plan where staff go out when they need to.  When leading Priory Geography, we played host to an average of 10-15 other teachers each year from other institutions and I managed to visit a couple of school myself last year (not always on interview Smile). Although using an Inset day in this way was an excellent catalyst and the discussions excellent, it was resource heavy and many seemed to need permission to visit instead of being pro-active.
  • You can trust staff.
  • The follow up activities were really important, especially asking teams to consider what is working already.  Quite a few teams came back realising that what they do is much better than elsewhere already.
  • Freeing up Curriculum Leaders allowed them to visit and consider other options.

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