On improving teaching
A special Australian event, hosted by Adam Boxer
Sometimes for teachers and leaders, it can feel that the pace of change is relentless. But I really love this quote by Dylan Wiliam, where he says that
This job you’re doing is so hard that one lifetime isn’t enough to master it. So every single one of you needs to accept the commitment to carry on improving our practice until we retire or die. That is the deal.
It might sound counterintuitive but this characteristically blunt statement energises me! It’s kind of my job to never be quite happy with my practice. Adam Boxer is somewhat of a specialist in the area of improving teaching in a smart and sustainable way. He is a teacher and lead practitioner at a school in London, he has led PD on a national and international level, and is the author of a number of books on evidence-based teaching. And if that wasn’t enough, Adam is also co-founder and educational director of Carousel Learning, an innovative online learning platform aimed at reducing teacher workload and improving student long-term learning.
Adam has kindly offered to host a special Australia-friendly event on improving teaching and learning across a department or school, at a respectable time of day, and at a time of year when so many schools are thinking carefully about how they approach improvement in 2023. For ease, the dates and time zones are:
28th November, 530-7pm Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne
28th November, 230-4pm Perth and Hong Kong
I asked Adam a few questions that I am personally curious about and he has given me the potted version here. Make sure you sign up for his webinar so that you can hear the important details.
There is a lot of discussion in Australia at the moment regarding the generation of free teaching resources. I think fears about teacher autonomy might be at the heart of this. So I asked Adam, why teacher autonomy is so important.
Three reasons: first, it's important in terms of motivation. Plenty of studies show that people are more motivated to do well in their work when they have control over their working lives. Second, because the teacher is probably the person who knows their own strengths, weaknesses, skills, challenges and subject the best. Imposing your external will on them risks ignoring and trampling on their knowledge. Finally, it's important as an inherent good - we should always have a goal of letting people take control over their lives, even if it didn't have any other constructive effects.
It’s so hard to find a balance between autonomy and competing perceptions of best-practice, so I asked Adam, what groundwork needs to be laid in order for teacher autonomy to work in the favour of the school and student outcomes.
This isn't easy to answer. You need to have a high-trust environment, where you know that people will do a good job if you let them. There do need to be robust methods for triangulation though - someone needs to check that all this autonomy is working out. It is also legitimate to have some "non-negotiables" that build a sense of coherence and consistency across a school.
Finally, I asked him to get to the guts of why so many initiatives fall flat. I asked, what is the number one mistake schools make when embarking on improvement initiatives?
Normally a lack of follow-up. Someone delivers some PD or training, and there is no plan for what people are going to do next. Getting this right is crucial, because otherwise the training and new ideas are just forgotten and fall at the wayside.
We are so appreciative that Adam has offered to share his expertise at such a great time for Australian school leaders, middle leaders and educators. I wrote in Education HQ about my own journey and the way that until recently, I hadn’t properly considered my role as change agent. I am so looking forward to hearing what he has to say. I will see you online at the event!