Our current favourite book at IRIS is Professional Capital by Hargreaves and Fullan, we’d highly recommend giving it a read!
An underlying theme of the book is the importance of trust within and between teaching professionals in order to improve standards. Without trust, CPD will not be continual; true collaboration will be absent; and coaching relationships will be unfruitful and potentially damaging.
But this is set against a backdrop where schools and teachers are so often denigrated by both the media and some politicians. There are strident calls for building accountability frameworks on which to judge and monitor teacher performance. In the USA, where calls for accountability frameworks are even stronger, Carrie Leanna has undertaken research which reinforces the importance of building the social capital of a school (Carrie Leanna,The Missing Link of School Reform, Stanford Social Innovation Review), which she recognises can be difficult to achieve.
At IRIS we acknowledge the importance of social and professional capital. This is understood against the backdrop of both the critical importance of developing communities of practice and the reality some of those teachers maybe resistant if they feel that observation can be used simply as a tool to judge rather than develop their performance. Ensuring that teachers are confident in opening their classroom doors, carrying out peer observations and innovating with teaching practice often requires a real shift in culture. Leadership teams must lead by example to embed this culture, demonstrating that taking risks, opening doors and entering into professional dialogues is developmental and judgement free. Only then will the seeds of trust between colleagues grow.
This understanding is integral to the development of the IRIS Connect system which is designed, from the roots up, to secure the trust of teachers. Our web-based platform is built with the highest levels of security; every teacher has a unique log-in; teachers have full control over their videos and can choose who and where they are shared. These safeguards are not designed to pander to the prejudices of individual teachers but based on our understanding that teachers need to have trust in the system itself if they are to fully contribute to the culture of collaboration and sharing which is needed to build social capital within and between schools.
In sum, our Teaching School focussed week has highlighted five key points that are central to the success of CPD, training and school improvement:
- Continuous – ensure CPD activity is part of an on-going process, not just a one off event
- Collaborative – exploit the collective experience and knowledge of all colleagues effectively
- Coaching – make professional dialogue part of a proactive and meaningful framework
- Cloud based – use technology to make collaboration and coaching over distance easier and more effective
- Professional capital and trust – develop a culture of openness, experimentation and discussion