Making Learning Last: final report

As part of their BSF ICT Making Learning Last Innovation Project, Beaumont Leys School has been using classroom observation technology to look at three issues: supporting self and peer observation and reflection for Newly Qualified Teachers (NTQs) and new teachers; recording teaching materials for use within a flipped classroom approach; and creating a bank of good practice resources, for example, starters, plenaries and experiments. These resources are shared via the school’s website and YouTube channel.

You can also read the initial project blog (March 2014) post and an update (July 2014) on the project.

Alex Vann, the school’s Assistant Head Teacher, is project lead, and provides a final report:

Observation Deck

Observation deck after Hurricane Sandy by Ashley Spratt/USFWS shared under CC BY 2.0

Classroom Observation

The classroom observation system (we are using IRIS) continues to be a huge learning tool for staff at Beaumont Leys School. It was introduced as part of our professional development and induction programme, and is being used extensively by our Teach First, Newly Qualified Teachers (NTQs), and first and second year teachers. An account is created for the teacher that allows them to access their video once synced to the website, and they were encouraged to change their password if they wanted to. This means that they have control over who views their lesson video, and they would choose to share the file if they wanted it to be used for professional development with a colleague. Teachers have also used the system for self-reflection away from any formal developmental observation process especially when attempting new techniques or styles. This is only possible using the video system and provides unique feedback for the teacher.

Reflection

Classroom observation systems are designed to let teachers watch themselves teaching, a view point that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to access. Teachers can analyse their own performance on video without having to recollect the lesson or events within the lesson which is a hugely powerful tool. Peer discussions between colleagues have been enriched and are more valuable as both viewers can stop the video and discuss events or write notes at time stamped points for later discussion. We have found that the discussions support professional learning rather, than observation for performance management.

Authenticity

The video system is far less obtrusive than having observers in the class. This means that the ordinary dynamics of the classroom are easier to capture, especially if you are creative about camera placement. Students act as they normally do which benefits the teacher as the discussion can go ahead without being affected by another member of staff being in the classroom.

Reduced disruption

Additionally, the fact that no cover needs to be arranged for an observation reduces disruption across the school as a whole. Once the lesson is recorded it can be shared (with the teacher’s permission), and viewed at any time. This has led to multiple people observing the same lesson but with different foci. It has also allowed comparison of lessons after coaching conversations. Teachers are able to view the changes they have made to their teaching of the same lesson in some cases, and the impact different approaches have had on progress in the classroom.

Good practice library

We have used the video technology to create a good practice library. This consists of short videos that either explain/demonstrate a particular teaching technique, strategy or tool, or show those techniques in a classroom situation. This is seen by staff as valuable, as they can observe colleagues using techniques in the classroom that work with the same students as they teach. The videos have supported staff in being more open to trying new approaches and taking risks, as they can see what works.

The good practice library has also acted as starting points for discussion or led to further developments in areas such as questioning/Assessment for Learning (AFL), use of Point Evidence Explain (PEE), Rock Star maths (a sequenced programme of daily times tables practice), or using technologies such as Plickers and our Epsom interactive projectors.

At present, staff can access the good practice library via the school intranet but development is underway to have these videos hosted via YouTube and available through a team site using SharePoint. We have guided staff towards the videos through our in house continuing professional development (CPD) program and during morning briefings, where we are developing a 3 minute CPD program. This format allows us to quickly introduce an idea or signpost a resource that staff can investigate at a later time.

We have also used the equipment in our professional learning for Lesson Study, a professional learning approach where a particular area of focus is identified by a teacher. Working in triads, a lesson is planned that will enable the teachers to look at the chosen area. The students are then the focus of the observation rather than the teacher – the lesson observation cameras can be set to view the whole class or a specific group of students. Having cameras in the room rather than two other teachers means that the class behaviour isn’t altered by the physical presence of observers. All three Lesson Study group members can view and discuss the recording in order to collaboratively develop and refine the class.

One teacher involved in this approach has commented:

“We used the Iris system for our lesson study triad. Our purpose was looking at techniques to engage Year 9 boys in maths with an active learning style used in Modern Foreign Languages (MFL). The advantage straight away was that there were no other teachers in the room therefore the dynamic was unchanged and we could get a true reflection of the techniques being used.

The method for the lesson study was this; a triad planned maths lesson was delivered to a Year 9 class by an MFL teacher who used active learning methods taken from her teaching in MFL.

We had the camera focused on three boys for the whole lesson and were looking at their reactions and engagement at different points during the lesson.

We met post lesson to view the video and discuss what we saw. It was very interesting watching the video, it facilitated a thought provoking discussion which we were all able to take something from and learn from.

We will be repeating this lesson study method using the iris system for a similar group of Year 9 boys in both an English and an ICT lesson later in the year.”

Flipped Classroom

Since the last project update the science faculty at Beaumont Leys have embraced the flipped classroom model and are at present building the resource bank through videoing particular parts of teaching. The Flipped Classroom model was introduced to them in a flipped classroom manner. We watched videos such as this one published by Keith Hughes in 2013:

This led to an evaluation of schemes of work and classes in terms of which would be suitable to trial the approach with and then detailed planning of what would be videoed, when and how it would be made accessible to students prior to their lesson.

It was decided that the priority for this model was Year 11 with the reasoning being that this method would be particularly effective in the delivery of practical information (experiments), which would be available pre and post lesson to augment the revision programme. This has been embedded as part of our Year 11 revision programme with the videos produced hosted on a dedicated YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5Me3Ek6YHKDOebZZ2BrRwg

The development plan is to continue building the video resource bank whilst also linking to sites such as www.khanacademy.org/ to help develop independent learning and allowing deeper learning to occur in the classroom. Further development of the video resource bank means that more homework will be ‘Flipped’ and viewed as necessary prior learning for the class. This has its drawbacks with student access to the videos or not viewing the homework which is something or teachers are working hard to negate. They are pushing the importance of the prior learning but recognising that sometimes there will need to be a backup plan.

We will continue the focus with Year 11 and move onto Year 10 in time.

Both teachers and students have given positive feedback about of the impact flipped learning. Watching short videos pre lesson that contains the major messages for learning fits in with the way students at Beaumont Leys like to learn and generally mirrors other techniques such as Point Evidence Explain (PEE). The school is going to continue to develop its use of video, particularly through flipped classroom approaches and use of the lesson observation system, both of which support increased flexibility of learning which would not otherwise be available to staff and learners

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