How IRIS Connect supports the teaching schools Big 6

Posted by Charlotte Curl on 19 October, 2012

three teachers at a lap top discussing CPDHow IRIS Connect supports the teaching schools Big 6

We know every school and every alliance is different but the core set of challenges presented by the teaching school Big 6 is a unifying factor. This blog piece will explain specifically how IRIS Connect supports teaching schools by reducing the cost and increasing the impact of the learning and development activities key to their success KPI’s.

With regards the specific features of IRIS Connect, we believe we have a role to play with regards each of the” big 6” Teaching School objectives.

Supporting the Big 6

teaching school classroom with NQT and young students1. Play a greater role in training new entrants to the profession

Initial Teacher Education is a cornerstone of the Teaching Schools programme and also sits at the heart of the IRIS Connect system. It is difficult to quality assure the observational and coaching standard of an initial teacher training programme across multiple schools without very significant travel expenditure: IRIS Connect addresses this issue by allowing trainees to be observed in real-time over distance or to capture and upload their lesson and share it at a later date. These videos can then be analysed by their mentor alongside teaching standards to identify areas of strength and weakness. This relationship can also developed via the use of coaching tools built into the system which allow “teaching triads” to be developed between the teaching school, the school based mentor and the trainee. Trainees are also able to share lesson observation videos, hints and tips between themselves within the learning community, a very effective support mechanism.

2. Lead peer-to-peer professional and leadership development

We believe peer-to-peer learning is essential to developing classroom practice and leadership skills. With regard to professional development, the IRIS Connect system enables teachers to develop teacher learning communities and inform them with authentic videos and detailed analysis. Peer teachers can coach each other, engage in lesson study activities and reflect objectively together on teaching and learning. All this can be achieved within the schools existing timetable without the need for elaborate planning or teaching cover. Please review IRIS Connects impact on Balby Carr’s whole school approach to a peer driven, whole school, learning community.

With regards leadership development, there are core skills associated with the implementation of IRIS Connect associated with the management of change and the development of a trust based learning community, which are essential leadership skills throughout the organisation. The implementation of a “teaching triad” approach to ITE and CPD is also an extremely effective tool for the transfer of feedback and professional dialogue skills to alliance based CPD leads.

A very interesting area of development at the moment is the use of IRIS Connect for leaders to capture meetings and presentations so that alliance leaders can effectively reflect and improve their skills collaboratively.

teacher with LiveView IRIS Connect camera in classroom3. Identify and develop leadership potential

This is not a core function of IRIS Connect, however, our experience is that the teachers who adopt IRIS Connect early and are able to communicate the efficacy of its use to other team members, do tend to be those with an open attitude to their classroom practice and with an inherent understanding of the role collaboration has to play within the process of improving outcomes. In many of our partner schools keen IRIS Connect users often move on to be effective lead practitioners.

4. Provide support for other schools

IRIS Connect is collaboration tool, captured videos are uploaded to a collaborative space where teachers can reflect on analyse and share their practice. Uniquely, due to our could-based approach and advanced permissioning tools this does not have to be between teachers in the same school. Teachers can choose to share their practice to searchable libraries to model practice, observe each other and engage in professional dialogue at a time which suits them and which does not cost a fortune in travel expenses. Indeed, we firmly believe that IRIS Connect, by reducing cover teaching and travel costs will cover its own costs within the first year of use for most Teaching School Alliances. It is interesting to reflect on how Pates grammar schools regard IRIS Connect as a key to their future inter-school collaboration projects.

5. Designate and broker specialist leaders of education (SLEs)

In order to identify SLE’s it’s important to have an understanding of the strengths and development objectives of every teacher and every school within the alliance. IRIS Connect informs an open and objective dialogue. Once identified, IRIS Connect enables SLE’s to feed their skills and knowledge back into the community by modelling practice via our group libraries and by observing and coaching less experienced teacher over distance. Once you have an understanding of development objectives it’s easy to pair teachers with SLE’s over distance on the basis of need and expertise rather than simply who is most conveniently geographically located. Please see Ken Brechin’s experience at Cramlington Learning village for an insight into how IRIS Connect supports the effective transfer of teaching skills.

IRIS Connect discovery kit in a primary school classroom with teacher6. Research and development

IRIS Connect is a key research tool within a number of multi-million dollar education research programmes worldwide, we produce data which is authentic, objective and shareable.

Educational research, whether that be an action research cycle within the school as part of a lesson study model or a more formal programme associated with a university is reliant on two things:

  • Objective data with which to measure the impact of the innovation is often hard to assess. IRIS Connect allows observations which have little or no impact upon the classroom dynamic.
  • Effective sharing of results and tools for replication and implementation. All teaching school systems come with the ability to bolt on a University research partner for free allowing innovations to be benchmarked analysed and shared effectively

We hope that we have contributed in some small way to the debate and the body of knowledge surrounding the establishment of Teaching Schools. IRIS Connect was born at the height of the BSF programme. We consistently argued that while good buildings were important we felt that the obsession with the “built environment” was drawing resources away from much more impactful factors such as effective professional development and initial teacher education.

This thinking culminated in our first whitepaper “Making the Network for Teachers” in which we pulled together the key research from around the world demonstrating the importance of teaching skills to educational outcomes and the demonstrable ineffectiveness of traditional modes of professional development. We proposed a response to this challenge by creating tools to help reduce the costs and increase the impact of CPD. Key to this was the use of time shifted video to enable professional development to be delivered in the classroom, with contextualised, iterative professional dialogue and coaching.

When we first read the “importance of teaching” whitepaper that set the groundwork for Teaching Schools our immediate response was that while the focus on teacher quality was admirable we were concerned that the paper focused too heavily on Human Capital, the skills and knowledge of individual teachers rather than the “Social Capital” of how, given the right tools, a learning community of teachers could collaborate to raise standards for all. Our second whitepaper “Going Beyond CPD” captured this thinking and placed collaboration within and between schools at the centre of a development cycle for every teacher.

We are keen to develop our relationship with all teaching schools and will work with each collaboratively to maximise the power of their learning communities. Please take some time to look at our site and specifically our case studies. There is no substitute for a demonstration of our system and discussion of your specific circumstance so if we have sparked your interest please don’t hesitate to get in touch.


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Topics: Multi-Academy Trust

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