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April 2010

This month ideas about and techniques for Outstanding Lessons

Article: Outstanding Teaching
New Resources
Additional Resources
Wise Words

This Month's Article:

What is Outstanding Teaching?

What is Outstanding Teaching? An Article that summarises and explores what outstanding teaching might be. Provides prompts for professional reflection and debate, and offers 9 areas for evaluation and growth.

This is a Free Sample Resource

Categories: Article, Teaching & Learning, Any Subject, Educators

Tags: Outstanding CPD
Dare to Stand Out
Outstanding lessons happen because of outstanding teaching. Outstanding teaching happens because of outstanding teachers. But what exactly is 'outstanding'? Can it be measured or is it intuitive? Are outstanding teachers born or trained? Is 'outstanding' a final destination or does it describe a journey of professional growth?

Outstanding can be a divisive and restrictive word: 

If she's outstanding, what does that make me?
If I'm outstanding, what do I do next, and will I take a risk that might threaten my status? 

These come from fixed mindsets that view outstanding as a product rather than a process.

I believe that outstanding is a way of describing who you are as a teacher as well as what you've achieved. It's as much about becoming and growing and learning as it is about achieving a certain status. I believe that anyone can be outstanding. NQTs can be outstanding. TAs can be outstanding. Teachers at 22, 42 or 62 can be outstanding (as can those at all the other ages in between, of course).

Outstanding is who you are and how you are as well as what you do. 

To Be Sure
A while back I was asked to lead a session at one of Northern Ireland's top performing grammar schools. The brief was for 'Outstanding Lessons'. I asked for a copy of the criteria by which the ETI would judge a lesson. I waited, asked again, waited, asked someone I knew at the CCEA , waited some more, then eventually got the response, "To be sure, outstanding is just something you know when you walk in the lesson". (Belfast accent)

My first thought was that surely this couldn't be right? Surely you needed a tick list of carefully hewn and rigorously evidenced criteria? Surely a 'gut feel' was woolly and subjective and therefore misleading?

My second thought (it took a few weeks to think) was that it's not gut feel OR tick list. It's gut feel AND tick list, integrated and meshed together. The gut feel about a lesson, the ethos in a room, and the intuitive a-ha! about the teacher are signs and signals that point towards the criteria on the clipboard.

How to Know Outstanding
An even longer while back I used to train NVQ Hair and Beauty students: highly intelligent yet immensely undervalued (usually) girls. One problem we faced was this: when the girls worked with clients of very high expectation, they did not know how to provide a quality experience. They were unable to imagine what the client wanted to feel like during and after the session. The girls didn't recognise the more emotional outcomes of a successful design and cut or massage. And the reason they didn't know was because they had never experienced it themselves. Our solution: put the girls in the chair as clients of the salon's top designer. Let them receive 'outstanding' before they learn to give 'outstanding'.

There's a parallel issue with teaching. A teacher who has never fully experienced learning at the hands of an outstanding educator does not yet know or feel what 'outstanding' is and can be. As teachers we need first to learn from outstanding trainers and colleagues so we can create a model of what we hope to give our students. We need to receive 'outstanding' before we can give 'outstanding'.

How to Define Outstanding
There are many tick lists out there for 'outstanding'; both official and personal. In fact the outstanding teachers I work with all have their own tick list philosophy of learning that's evolved from their experience and research. But what they all have in common is that what they do is distinct. You walk into their workspace and you know something important, purposeful and unique is taking place.

I've spent some time collecting a variety of opinions on outstanding including: Ofsted, HMI, US master teachers, UK ASTs, Professors of Education and Local Authorities. They've much in common and lead to a practical model for being outstanding, for standing out.

A Practical Model for Outstanding
I've created a flexible and practical meta-model that integrates many existing takes on 'outstanding'. 

The model divides outstanding into three areas:

1. Yourself
2. Your Relationships
3. Your Teaching

Each area further divides into 3 focusses for development:

1. Yourself
Personality, Professionalism, Purpose

2. Your Relationships
Children, Colleagues, Communication

3. Teaching
Style, Strategies, Subject(s)

You'll never guess, but each of these splits again into 3 areas. For example. Professionalism looks at Leadership, Learning and Behaviours; Style looks at Skills, Tools and Techniques; and Children considers Understanding, Scaffolding and Expectations.

That gives us 27 areas to celebrate and develop. 27 chances for you to value who you are and how you want to grow. Here's a summary concept diagram to download.

Feel free to take this model to pieces and rebuild it for your own context. Add, remove, edit, re-shape. Use it to reflect on your own practice and to coach colleagues in their own. And do let me know how you get on!

New Resources:

1-2-4 Thinking

1-2-4 Thinking A Thinking Skills Tool offering a simple paper-based process for groups to combine their thinking and learning. A structured introduction to small group collaboration.

Categories: Thinking Tool, Collaborative Thinking, Skills-Based Learning, Any Subject, Junior, Secondary

Tags: Collaboration Decision Making
Teacher Premium Resource: Login or Upgrade to Teacher Premium to access this resource.

1-2-4 Thinking Powerpoint

1-2-4 Thinking Powerpoint A Thinking Tool Template in Powerpoint, providing editable slides for 1-2-4 Thinking. 1-2-4 Thinking provides a structured introduction to small group collaboration.

Categories: Thinking Tool, Collaborative Thinking, Skills-Based Learning, Any Subject, Junior, Secondary

Tags: Collaboration Decision Making
Teacher Premium Resource: Login or Upgrade to Teacher Premium to access this resource.

This month you've got some extra starters (part 10 of the 9-part book) plus the whole Ebook in a single download.
(May 14: The EBook is no longer available in parts)

190 Ways To Start A Lesson

190 Ways To Start A Lesson An EBook featuring over 190 diverse ways to begin a lesson. Arranged into 10 sections you'll find a host of simple methods for engaging pupils with their thinking and learning.

Categories: Book & EBook, Teaching & Learning, Curriculum, Any Subject, Educators

Tags: Lesson Starters
Teacher Premium Resource: Login or Upgrade to Teacher Premium to access this resource.

Additional Resources:

Updated Smart Thinking Skills Tools:

Patchwork Thinking : Updated tool from December 2005:

This flexible and practical resource is one of the most popular on my training courses. It's a template for getting students thinking about the connections between keywords and principle topic ideas and can be used by individuals, groups and pairs. 

Patchwork Thinking

Patchwork Thinking A very popular Thinking Skills Tool that uses basic subject knowledge to make creative connections. Straightforward to plan and run in class. Makes content memorable and interesting.

This is a Free Sample Resource

Find out more or Download now:
Categories: Thinking Tool, Creative Thinking, Any Subject, Junior, Secondary, Thinking Skills

Tags: Connections

Visual Lesson Starter:

Which of these is the most dangerous and why?


clpPick Me lesson starter clip

Storytime lesson starter clip

Next month, as requested, I'll be applying the toolbox to specific subjects.

UPGRADE to Teacher Premium Membership for full access to all 5 starters for 12 months.

Wise Words:

"If you hire only those people you understand, the company will never get people better than you are. Always remember that you often find outstanding people among those you don't particularly like."
Soichiro Honda

Next month we think about Multiple Intelligences & Outstanding