High quality training for teachers is a great thing, especially when it addresses the real world challenges of the classroom in a practical and useful way.
But even the best training, we should remember, hasn’t yet changed what happens in the classroom.
It takes sustained focus after training to do that. And it takes something that’s easy to underestimate: clarity. Chip and Dan Heath make this point in their amazing book on change, Switch. As they wrote on their blog,
What looks like resistance [to change] is often a lack of clarity. Change accelerates when people understand — in specific… terms — how to reach their goals.
That’s why I wanted to share some of Josh Goodrich’s work. Josh is Teacher Development Lead & AAP at Oasis Academy Southbank. He recently attended our workshop on Ratio in London and took the ideas back to his school–thinking all the while about how to get teachers to execute more effectively on two key techniques–Front the Writing and Show Call. For that he decided to rely on a tool he has been using for some time to help teachers get better–action steps.
The school has a system whereby teachers receive a weekly coaching observation and then identify a fine-grained, “high-leverage” action step, designed to help them focus on improving one small yet vital aspect of their teaching practice.
“After setting up this system,” Josh writes, “We realised that even great teachers sometimes struggle to set great action steps.” So Josh started pre-writing action steps–“giving teachers both an option of good action steps to set, and a “style-model” of what a good action step should look like.”
Clarity and precision were important. “In particular, I think that where possible a good action step should contain an element of scripting so that teachers can look back on the action step and have a very clear guide as to what to implement in their classroom, even some time after they receive feedback,” Josh wrote.
So Josh set out to give teachers options that allowed for quality, specificity, choice and adaptation. He made a list of very granular and replicable action steps. He then allowed teachers to choose one, adapt one or write one of their own with his action steps as a model.
One really good action step per teacher per week. That was the lever.
“What we provide is so far from being comprehensive that it would be limiting to insist that teachers use them exclusively, Josh told me. “The message we’ve given to our staff is that they should a) use a pre-made one if they are unsure about the right path to go down or if they are new to the process of coaching, or b) make / adapt their own if they have a better idea about the right powerful change for a teacher to make. We’ve been very clear that these must be “as good as…” the ones we list.
It’s a great approach the school’s taken–perhaps it helps to explain the school’s ‘Outstanding’ rating from OFSTED. I thought I’d share some pieces of it because it’s so well designed. So…
Here are Josh’s actions steps from our workshop. If nothing else they provide a great road map for how to do the techniques.
Also here’s a link to Josh’s online Action Planning site which includes Action Steps for topics well beyond our workshop: