Teaching approaches: Planning for professional development

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Teaching Approaches

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1 Selecting and Using Resources

ORBIT materials are appropriate for pre-service, in-service and upgrading programmes at a variety of levels and for teachers with a huge range of existing skills. Teacher educators working in different contexts (universities, colleges, regional and school level) are able to use them in a variety of situations and programmes.

It is important to remember that ORBIT is not an entire curriculum for a formal teacher education programme. The purpose of ORBIT materials is to enhance areas of teacher education curricula and less formal teacher development activities in particular relating to interactive pedagogy and the use of ICT to support such teaching. (Adapted from TESSA Working With Teachers, section SelectingResources).

Mapping into a programme

For existing formal programmes the starting point is to look at both

  • your own teacher education curriculum
  • the ORBIT materials, and the Teaching Approaches we describe

to decide where it will be most appropriate to use the ORBIT materials. The Teaching Approaches described in the wiki may provide useful entry routes for ‘focus’ points in Professional Development.

The next step is to consider the format of use of the ORBIT materials, how teachers’ use of the ORBIT materials will be supported and how you might assess this use. This will depend on a number of factors:

  1. The purpose and intended learning outcomes of your programme or course.
  2. The number of teachers on your programme and its format (on – campus, distance learning etc).
  3. Access to technology; internet and computers.
  4. Support: the number and frequency of contact sessions and the expertise of tutors/ supervisors/ mentors.

We envisage 3 types of approach, as in the table

Table 3 Different types of use of ORBIT materials

Form of use of materials Highly structured Loosely structured Guided use
Characteristics Selection of a set of ORBIT activities for all student teachers/PD members to carry out Lecturers select appropriate ORBIT activities for their own course Designated time for student teachers to select ORBIT activities
Teacher access to materials New teacher books which include several ORBIT sections Website and

printed ORBIT sections incorporated into pre-existing material

Website access by individuals
(Adapted from TESSA Working With Teachers, section MappingResources).

2 Teaching, Learning and Professional Development

The resources have been designed with maximum flexibility in mind. They do not require attendance at external courses. Teachers of varying experience and competence can use them. While they are best used by groups or pairs of teachers working collaboratively, they could be used by an individual teacher (who should still have the support of a mentor or coach). They focus on the classroom as the workshop for professional development. However, while the study units offer flexibility, there is also a need to introduce an element of rigour into their use. Successful changes in practice depend on an understanding of the theory behind the change, so it is important not to ‘cherry pick’.

The resources offer a means by which teachers can investigate and develop a teaching competence or skill in a practical manner that will have an immediate impact on classroom activity and pupil learning.

The way in which the resources are used in a school will depend on the culture of the school, current and competing priorities, resources, and strengths and weaknesses of teaching and learning. It will depend on the maturity and robustness of the schools’ CPD provision. Some possibilities are described in Table 1.

Table 1

Mode of use Advantages and disadvantages
Whole-school use of single unit Provides a whole-school focus on a single set of related issues, and a coherent set of expectations and experiences for pupils but

… could compete with alternative priorities for some teachers.

Subject department use of single unit Provides a whole-department focus on a single set of issues but … may have less impact on pupils if not supported by whole-school approaches.
Whole-school use of a range of units Provides a whole-school focus on strengthening teaching and learning based on priorities identified by audits but … individual changes in teaching and learning styles may have less impact on pupils if not supported by whole-school approaches.
Teaching and learning development group use of a single unit or range of units Allows schools to build expertise and experience of new approaches where whole-staff involvement may not be possible but … may not have significant impact on pupils until new approaches are more widely adopted.
NQT, GTP or trainee use of a single unit or a range of units Based on an assessment of needs and the use of the NQTs’ career entry development profile, could provide a useful ‘rolling programme’ of skill acquisition but … needs to be part of a coherent induction programme and have the support of an induction tutor or mentor.
Use of units across a group of schools, e.g. a LIG collaborative Provides valuable opportunities to share and build on experiences beyond those available in a single school but … confidence and expertise may need to be developed before it can be shared.
(Adapted from Teaching and Learning - How to Use the Units, section Whole).

The table below explains the characteristics of a school or department with a well-developed capacity for improvement in teaching and learning approaches.

Attribute Examples at whole-school level Examples at department level How are you doing?
It routinely shares its expertise Staff meetings regularly feature teachers demonstrating or illustrating how they teach Collaborative planning involves teachers sharing their ideas on how work can be delivered. The department shares demonstration lessons with staff
It uses external support and challenge to enhance practice Teachers are regularly encouraged to attend external INSET. LEA school advisers are drawn in to contribute to school self-review processes The department uses the LEA KS3 consultants to observe lessons and provide feedback
It has a clear, operational focus The SMT signals clearly that certain items in meetings are significant in improving teaching and learning and ensures they are given significantly more time Meetings are focused on teaching and

learning issues. The team is clear about which items require only a little time. Administrative

items are given later slots in meetings

It has a well- developed set of priorities It has a clear and operational (not cosmetic) development plan which guides resource decisions and action taken The department has an action plan based firmly on an audit of teaching strengths and weaknesses. Resource decisions are based on declared priorities

of strengths and weaknesses

It elevates professional development to a continual process Individual teachers are enabled to watch colleagues teach on a regular and systematic basis An audit of each team member’s skills is used as a basis for termly review discussions and lesson observations
(Adapted from TESSA Working With Teachers, section Whole).

2.1 Taking the Whole School Approach

"A systematic and integrated approach to staff development, that focuses on the professional learning of teachers and establishes the classroom as an important centre for teacher development, is central to successful school improvement." Hopkins, Harris, Singleton and Watts (2000) Creating the conditions for teaching and learning. David Fulton Publishers. Used with permission.

Our materials (including the DfES Teaching and Learning Resources) are designed to be used in a variety of ways, for example by teachers collaborating in networks across schools; by groups within schools (subject or cross-subject teams); by pairs, as in peer coaching or coaching and mentoring; or even by individuals.

ASTs and other leading professionals can use them to support their work with colleagues.

The principles in the following table may be used to ensure that CPD can play an integral part of school improvement.

Principles of school improvement Implications for CPD
Focus systematically on teaching and learning The classroom should be the focus and the primary site for improving teaching and learning. CPD will involve both enquiry into and reflection on classroom practice, and opportunities to learn from good practice.
Base all improvement activity on evidence about relative performance Professional development needs should be identified at three levels: school, team and personal. School and team development needs should be identified through whole- school review; personal needs should be identified through performance management.
Build collective ownership and develop leadership CPD should draw in as many people as possible to build expertise across the school, enable individuals to both contribute and lead, and so make the success of whole- school initiatives more assured. Professional development arising out of school and team priorities places individual development in the context of whole-school improvement.
Involve collaboration with other organisations Teachers should have regular opportunities for collaborative working (e.g. joint planning, team teaching, observation and feedback, coaching). Successful collaboration requires time for teachers to share their learning with colleagues. It may be necessary to go beyond the department or school to find suitable colleagues to work with.
Create time for staff to learn together It is important to create opportunities, both internally and externally through links with other schools, for staff to learn with and from others. The value of informal learning as well as effective use of structured time should also be recognised.
Embed the improvements in the school’s systems and practices The professional development system should be integrated with other planning and review cycles. Individual professional development should endeavour to meet whole-school, team and personal needs.

Many schools have improved by applying these principles and by paying particular attention to teaching and learning. Two key areas to think about are teaching and learning, and professional development of teachers. One way to focus on these factors is by developing and agreeing a teaching and learning policy across the whole school, or partnership of schools. This brings ownership and a sense of community to the school or partnership. It also means that across the whole school the same approach is used, so the pupils are comfortable and know what to expect. (Adapted from Teaching Learning and Whole School Improvement, section Whole).

3 Developing effective approaches to CPD

There has been much research, particularly in the past two decades, on the effectiveness of staff development. In particular, Joyce and Showers have shown that in order to really embed change in pedagogy, a number of elements are required. These are indicated in the table on the next page, where elements of training are related to impact in terms of long-term change.

Level of impact
Training method General awareness
of a new approach
Understanding of how
to implement the
approaches in a new context
Internalising the
new approach
Able to apply
the new approach
in a range of contexts
Presentation of the approach through workshop or reading evidence
Modelling of the new approach by demonstration or video evidence evidence
Practice in non- threatening settings, e.g. simulated evidence evidence evidence
Constructive feedback on performance evidence evidence evidence evidence
In-class support such as coaching by peer or expert evidence evidence evidence evidence

Adapted from Hopkins, Harris, Singleton and Watts (2000) Creating the conditions for teaching and learning. David Fulton Publishers. ISBN: 1853466891. Used with permission. (Adapted from Teaching Learning Developing Approaches to CPD, section Whole).

4 Digital Video for Professional Development

‘Good pedagogic practice’ is not a stable entity. What counts as good practice is contested, variable, irreducibly situated in a specific context.

Digital video footage does not show anything: it always has to be interpreted. But this is also the case with any other form of classroom observation: the observer never merely observes what is happening, because any act of observation is also an interpretation. The meanings that are attached to classroom observations depend on a number of variables:

  • the purposes of the observer;
  • the focus of the observation;
  • the observer’s knowledge of the contexts of these interactions;
  • as well as what happens in the classroom.

Observation provides an opportunity for the observer to render explicit the criteria as well as the values, assumptions and prior experiences that shape and inform the act of observation. Because observation necessarily involves interpretation, different observers will disagree about what they are observing. Student teachers will not see a lesson in the same way that experienced teachers and mentors will see it – and what a student teacher can see will change rapidly during the course of their education. (Adapted from Using Digital Video in Professional Development, section CautionaryNote).

4.1 Identifying Digital Video Clips of Good Pedagogic Practice

4.1.1 Why use digital video footage?

Teachers analyse and reflect on their own practice in order to improve learning and teaching. They seek to improve their practice through professional development including engaging with and contributing to the development of new knowledge and ideas.

In recent years the field of education has been characterised by innovation and change. Teachers use their experience and professional judgement to assess the benefits of adapting their practice through critical analysis of any innovative pedagogy, strategy or theory. In the context of new professionalism teachers find themselves increasingly both developing their skills as coaches and mentors, and benefiting from the coaching and mentoring that they receive.

Within this context, I want to suggest that the use of digital video footage of classroom interaction offers five main benefits:

1.1 It provides a window on other classrooms As teachers and teacher educators, we are always wrestling with the problem of particularity. We teach and we observe others teaching in very specific contexts – particular schools, particular classrooms, particular classes taught at particular moments of the school day. Digital video provides us with the chance to see inside other people’s classrooms, to learn from others’ practice, to make comparisons about teaching and learning across different sites. (Of course, the window of DV provides a particular perspective on these other classrooms: we don’t get to see everything, and what we do get to see has been framed in particular ways. I will say more about this later.)

1.2 It enables us to review what happens in the classroom Classroom interaction is evanescent: it happens in time, and then is gone. Digital video gives us a way of capturing the complexity of these myriad interactions as they unfold in any lesson, so that we can observe them again and again. DV footage provides a means for us to check our impressions against the evidence, to confirm or refine our judgements by looking again.

1.3 It brings a multimodal lens to the analysis of teaching and learning … classrooms are places where communication extends far beyond the modes of spoken and written language; they are multimodal sites, sites where meanings are made through many differing means, and where resources such as gesture, gaze, posture, and the deployment of visual objects are crucially important to meaning-making. … In other words, to understand English in its full dimensions, and to understand the ways in which it creates new kinds of identity for students and teachers, we regarded a multimodal approach as essential (Kress et al., 2005: 13-14).

In the classroom (as elsewhere), meanings are constructed and negotiated multimodally. Classroom interaction is embodied: how the furniture is arranged and what is displayed on the walls, where and how teachers and students stand or sit, their movements and gestures and facial expressions, as well as what they say and how they say it – all of these resources contribute to the semiotic work that is carried out in a lesson. Digital video enables us to attend to any and all of these modes as they are deployed in the classroom, to consider how each contributes to, or detracts from, or is in tension with, the pedagogic intentions of the lesson.

1.4 It encourages discussion about the criteria used to interpret and to judge When we carry out classroom observation, we don’t always see the same thing. We can reach different conclusions about what is going on. In real-time, in-the-flesh observation, however, it is rare (and problematic) for more than one or two people to observe the same lesson. Digital video footage enables large numbers of observers to see the same lesson. Hence, in sharing their analyses of what they have seen, the observers are obliged to render explicit what they bring to the act of observation: the assumptions they have made, the values that underpin their judgements, the criteria by which they are operating.

1.5 It can focus attention on the importance of other forms of evidence, other kinds of knowledge The most productive question to ask of a piece of DV footage is, What else do we need to know to make sense of this? Digital video allows us into other classrooms (though only virtually, and only in the two dimensions of the screen – it cannot place us there, ‘in the round’). And what it cannot provide is a historical perspective – a sense of how the interactions we see are products of the (shared and separate, individual and institutional) histories of the participants.

For example in Teaching Talking 2 (see below, [1]), we see a Year 8 student make a one-word contribution to a plenary. But the significance of this contribution cannot be understood from the video clip itself. It is the teacher, Kate, who provides the information that Paula, the student, is a newly-arrived beginner bilingual, a Portuguese-speaker who has never before contributed to whole-class talk in her English lesson. Knowing this history, we can begin to appreciate the utterance as an important moment in Paula’s development and as evidence of the effectiveness of the collaborative group work that had preceded the plenary. (Adapted from Using Digital Video in Professional Development, section IdentifyingDVClips).

4.1.2 How to use digital video footage Some guiding principles: A little goes a long way

Footage of what happens in a classroom is rich, dense material. Tiny fragments of lessons are worth analysing in detail. Concentrate on small episodes – generally only a few minutes is plenty.

2.2 A clear focus for the observation What do you want (student teachers) to look at?

  • Classroom management?
  • Pedagogy?
  • Language?
  • Gesture?
  • Orchestration of feedback?
  • The layout of the room?
  • Student interaction?
  • Evidence of learning?

2.3 What don’t we know? What can’t we see? Be explicit about the limitations of our knowledge about the data and about the limitations of the data themselves (see also Section 1.5).

2.4 What issues does this raise for your practice? What have the student teachers learnt?

Some possibilities…

  • Show the same footage more than once, with a different focus each time
  • Provide transcripts of the footage – either before or after showing – or (more arduous but worthwhile) ask student teachers to transcribe a brief episode themselves: suggest that they indicate facial expression, body posture and gesture as well as language, and note the different kinds of contributions made by individual pupils
  • Run the footage without sound
  • Allocate different foci to different observers, such as:
    • selecting a particular pupil to watch during a sequence (so that a group of student teachers would be watching different pupils in a group);
    • observing the teacher’s gestures as well as the language used;
    • noting the board work/materials used (this would help in the discussion about differentiation);
    • noting the questioning – both teacher’s and pupils’…

'… and some prompt questions that might help to guide observation The learning environment of the classroom

  • What do you notice about the classroom – about layout, displays, resources?
  • What evidence is there in the classroom about learning and the learners, about the subject, about values and relationships?

How does the teacher organise, shape and structure the lesson?

  • How does the teacher manage the class?
  • How do we know that the lesson has started?
  • How does the teacher explain the task(s)?
  • What do you notice about the teacher’s and students’ use of language in the opening stages of the lesson?
  • How are transitions from one activity to the next signalled and managed?
  • Is there any sign of resistance from the students? If so, how does the teacher react?
  • How is the lesson brought to an end? Is anything said about future lessons?

Language and learning

  • What are the students learning, and how?
  • What tells you that work has started – the nature and level of talk, the posture and physical attitudes of students, reading and writing activities?
  • What do you notice about the students’ language in different parts of the lesson?
  • What is language used for?


  • Is the learning the same for all students? If not, how is it different?
  • What has the teacher done to make the lesson accessible to all the students?
  • What resources assist in the process of differentiation?
  • What obstacles are there to participation and understanding?
  • Do you notice any differences in the ways in which different students understand and make sense of the lesson? (Adapted from Using Digital Video in Professional Development, section HowToUseDV).