Osiris Outstanding Teaching & Learning Conference 2014 by Cheryl Pennington

Improving Teaching & Learning by Mike Hughes

As part of the Osiris Outstanding Teaching and Learning Conference I recently attended, consultant, Mike Hughes, shared ideas about how a college or school can improve the quality of teaching and learning. Central to his session, Mike suggested we need to build teachers’ capacity. These are my notes from his session.

Always keep the focus on students and learning.

There are 3 factors at play that impact the quality of teaching and learning:

EXTERNAL CLIMATE – Ofsted, league tables (common to everyone), this circle doesn’t encourage risk taking.

INTERNAL CLIMATE – within every college it is different

PERSONAL – every teacher’s personal reflections

Whole college inset days result in very little improvement, on 21st July 1988 this was the first day of  INSET for schools and colleges.

More effective approaches to development include:

1) Placing a physical green card on the classroom door, as a risk or innovation card to indicate the teacher is experimenting or ‘having a go’ with a new method or resource.

2) Video lessons to really encourage teachers to reflect.

3) Aim to build the CAPACITY of teachers. The best teachers can:

  • Respond
  • Be flexible
  • Have plan B, plan C up their sleeves
  • Have confidence and professional judgement to change the learning flow in a lesson.
  • The best teachers understand learning.

Create the right conditions for teaching and learning to flourish:

1) Appoint good teachers.

2) Develop teachers who can think on their feet.

3) Create the right culture through everything you do and say.

4) Through strong leadership, create the norm about what is expected in reflective practice and development of skills and expertise.

5) Through the culture, get staff talking about teaching and learning.

6) Reflect on the key question ‘what is the catalyst about teaching and learning in your college?’

7) The challenge is to get staff to talk about teaching in a non defensive way and either reduce or get rid of the emotion. Achieve this by:

  • Creating a dialogue about aspects of teaching and learning.
  • Identify a catalyst for change.
  • Provide a framework for research or further developments e.g. through action research.

An example might be:

‘How long in lessons is it before the first open question is asked? Ask teachers who would like to be involved in a piece of research? Our aim is we have to get students curious, we need to get students engaged, get your HOTS question in quickly in the lesson’.

Use the GROW model as a framework:

GOAL –           where would you like to be?

REALITY  –    where are you are now?, what do you think is important in teaching and learning now? e.g. How long before you get an open question?

OPEN  –         what could you do? How about? In English we are doing?

WHAT –          what now?

Using this approach leads to non-judgemental conversations which take place within a framework. This can then lead into the start of action research.

His website



Image from Mark Brannan- Flickr


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