In July last year, the principals of Paradigm Trust gave me a task: redesign Initial Teacher Training from the ground up.
The brief was to develop skillful, knowledgeable, thoughtful teachers for our pupils. I could use the knowledge and skills within the Trust and bring in expertise where we have gaps.
We are lucky to have a partnership with the University of East London, who support us by evaluating our programme and moderating our judgements so that we know we are fulfilling our legal obligations and not, in our enthusiasm, missing anything important.
So what does the programme look like?
We are strongly influenced by cognitive load theory and cognitive science. A classroom has an absurdly high cognitive load (I have written about this here). It is very hard to develop knowledge and skills as a teacher in this environment, so our course is designed to reduce teacher cognitive load. First we remove the children.
It looks very Lemov… Teaching and learning across the Trust already has a strong Teach Like a Champion (TLaC) flavour. Within schools TLaC guides our coaching model of professional development, and it provides a common language for teaching across the Trust. In our ITT programme, we practise TLaC strategies out of the classroom. We watch videos of the strategies (TLaC videos and our own); we rehearse in a predictable environment; we give each other instant feedback and go again straight away. By the time the trainees use a strategy in front of children, they will have observed it several times, both on video and in coaching triads and rehearsed it several times with feedback.
Whatever we want the trainees to learn, we quiz and rehearse. We use retrieval practice, spaced practice, interleaving and elaboration. When we want them to remember the key features of a effective learning intention (4Ms), we quiz it. When we want them to use set phrases to start and finish a turn-and-talk, we rehearse it over several weeks.
And we discuss these strategies with the trainees. We want them to use them in their classrooms, so we practise developing resources as a group. We share all of the materials, readings and podcasts with the mentors as well, so that they know exactly what their trainees have been working on and can make it a focus of observations and mentor meetings. It is working.
This is from a trainee’s lesson plan last week:
How have theories and/or principles of learning influenced your planning for this session?
This lesson is based on the principle of retrieval practice. My research brought to my attention the Ebbinghaus forgetting curve. To be able to remember, pupils need to recall the same information again and again over a period of time. Everything in the lesson the students have done before – it is now a case of being able to recall it and apply effectively. I have also made sure that my lesson objective was Made first, Manageable, Measurable and the Most important. Within the lesson I have set time aside where I know I will use TTYP which is part of the school rubric but also links to my research of the batch process (TLaC2.0). This is a time where I will step back and listen to the students discussion of the task. This will also enable me to hear whether there are any misconceptions and it encourages pupils to take a responsible and conscientious attitude to their own study. Every slide I have been conscious of the pupils’ cognitive load and where I know pupils may struggle I have made sure to give support. This group has a wide range of ability and although many still struggle with this learning objective I have made sure that there are challenges and extensions for my higher attaining students making sure I am stretching them too.
Subject knowledge is delivered by our most effective teachers. Because TLaC is embedded across the schools, the specialists can share subject specific knowledge and pedagogy that we know works in our schools. The trainees can put these ideas into practice the same day.
So far, our experience is wholly positive, but our trainees are about to begin a new challenge. They are going on placement. We have been asked whether such a focussed, school specific programme will disadvantage our trainees in other placements. I don’t believe it will, but we will be watching closely.
The programme continues to develop. Next year, we plan to spend more time working with the mentors. I am convinced that the trainees learn 90% from being in real classrooms, and if we can support the mentors better, the trainees will benefit.
I would welcome comments to this blog.