Since Covid struck in 2020, so many things have been put on hold as we collectively navigate our way through unusual and challenging circumstances. Outside, gatherings have ceased and socialising has taken a significant hit. We now see this taking place in schools, too: cross-over of staff is rare or non-existent as we strive to keep teams safe. Even when schools were full of pupils many teachers were like passing ships as they drifted around in their own bubbles. Many of us have tried to tackle these issues digitally with get-togethers, quizzes and virtual meet-ups and these can have a really positive impact: just seeing others and interacting with them can be such a boost.
One area in our school that we had struggled to maintain was staff development: courses have ceased or gone digital; TeachMeets and BrewEDs are digital or postponed; learning walks have had to be rethought; school visits are a no go and cross-pollination of good pedagogy is significantly damaged. Within this blog I hope to unpick some ways of combating this digitally – and more specifically through the use of IRIS Connect.
Firstly, I want to share some of our strategies and how we have tailored them to an increasingly digital world. Our CPD cycle is underpinned by Paul Garvey’s Talk for Teaching and John Hattie’s ‘effect sizes’. We have removed formal observations (except for NQTs and those requesting/requiring additional support) in favour of these 5 key strategies:
Up until last year, both class teachers and support staff were paired and visited each other in class for 20 minutes. This was followed by a 20 minute conversation using a pre-set list of supporting questions to underpin the conversation. Now, staff share a 20 minute clip, recorded using IRIS Connect, with each other and discuss these virtually via a question sheet. The impact has not lessened and the workload has not increased, therefore this digital strategy has worked very well in overcoming the challenge of participating in face-to-face activities over distance. Twenty:20 cycles have key curriculum focus areas that are planned over a 2 year cycle in the school calendar to ensure fair coverage of all areas. Clips are subsequently shared with SLT and subject leaders so they have an overview of quality and consistency across school. From here, subject leaders will identify particularly strong clips and will ask to share these on our IRIS Connect Curriculum Group (discussed later in this blog) for all to see examples of good practice in specific areas.
2. Learning walks
Learning walks are scheduled two per half term over a 2 year cycle. Subject leaders share a SERF (self-evaluation and reporting form), where staff discuss their strengths and next steps using key questions to support their reflections, and the learning walk is used to quality assure these. In ‘normal’ times, subject leads do these with an accompanying member of SLT and school Governor. These have now changed and we conduct them purely online through IRIS Connect: staff record (up to) 30 minute clips and share them alongside SERFs. Subject leaders and Governors then watch these to quality assure the process and give staff feedback directly via the ‘time-stamped comments’ tool on IRIS Connect where it will be discussed with the team in subsequent CPD sessions. High-impact clips are then identified and staff are asked if they would be happy for these to be shared on the relevant IRIS Connect Curriculum Groups (see below). These learning walks and Twenty:20 clips add to the Curriculum Groups’ bank of videos over the 2 year cycle, leading to a bank of quality assured exemplification videos that tie in with our curriculum model and pedagogical strategies in school (plus lots of creative flair!). Next steps are to use the built in video conferencing tool, IRIS Connect Rooms, to deliver and record feedback from the subject leader and Governor.
Each term we hold a TeachMeet, where staff are asked to share a 2 minute snapshot of something they have found successful or something they have enjoyed based on a scheduled theme. These are really easy to do digitally via IRIS Connect Rooms (live conferencing), so we haven’t needed to change anything to continue this. We screen share a PowerPoint with everyone’s ideas and they talk the team through them. These sessions are recorded and saved on an IRIS Connect CPD Group, meaning that anyone can return to them and those unable to attend can still access the TeachMeet.
4. Film Clubs
Film Clubs are run half termly, where we would meet in-person as phases and share lesson recordings linked to a scheduled theme. This was really easy to adapt to being remote only, as the videos are already on IRIS Connect and can be accessed from anywhere. As a team, we now share our recordings with each other and discuss together using IRIS Connect Rooms so the session is recorded. Again, if clips come up that are particularly powerful or helpful then the staff involved will be asked if they can be shared to the IRIS Connect Curriculum Group for everyone to access.
5. General CPD
As a school we’ve been using National College online CPD materials. While using them, we thought about how we might begin to construct our own CPD systems using IRIS Connect. Our first online, recorded CPD session – where I introduced our new, whole-school curriculum model – was a success and set the standard and format for future sessions. Recording on IRIS Connect Rooms was easy and I could share my screen throughout the session.
IRIS Connect Groups
I have already explored the potential of IRIS Connect Groups as a curriculum building tool in a previous blog I wrote last year so now I want to focus on the benefits of IRIS Connect Groups as a tool for ongoing CPD and training.
We have started to record our staff training sessions (held digitally on Zoom at first, and now on IRIS Connect Rooms for further security and more streamlined systems). These recorded sessions are gradually getting banked in an IRIS Connect CPD Group. When new staff arrive, they can access a whole back catalogue of CPD as part of their induction process and existing staff have it available to check against and remind themselves as they develop their pedagogical skills. Instead of retraining the staff on the same things each year, we can grow, refine and add to the existing bank of training. This, theoretically, will lead to us having a far higher quality and more specific style of training available to our staff.
Another advantage of recording sessions and making them available via an IRIS Connect Group is that it gives a greater level of flexibility to staff who need it – for example staying late on particular days for training might be difficult with regard to childcare etc (particularly at the moment when we might be having additional childcare challenges or juggling children and work at home). Recorded sessions can be dipped into at any time, even piecemeal, meaning that they are more accessible and more digestible for busy staff.
We’re growing our curriculum and CPD model organically over time. We have set a 2 year schedule/deadline where we feel we could develop a really useful, well-rounded model that will effectively support our staff development going forward – both remotely and in person once normality returns. As noted earlier, we’re focusing on delivering feedback through IRIS Connect now that our base model for content delivery, collection and curation is working effectively.
Guest blog written by Chris Harrison @MrHtheteacher, Assistant Head, Grove Road Community Primary.