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As we head towards the end of term, it's a great time for teachers to pause and reflect on their achievements and challenges, before planning and setting goals for the new academic year.
Developing reflective practice is a key skill and is where professional development begins. Such reflection can be formal or informal. It often happens informally when teachers talk to each other about their day, but the danger here is that an unstructured approach can result in limited positive progression.
Engaging teachers in a more proactive dialogue about pedagogy and practice to achieve truly successful reflective teaching, requires a more systematic process which allows teachers to record their experiences and observations. The process also needs to enable them to self-evaluate, as well as to share their thoughts with colleagues and managers. It's also important that senior leaders discuss impact and the necessary resulting actions.
Having evidence as a back drop is critical for this – whether for an individual teacher or across an organisation. We know and recognise that this is key in supporting the growth and development of new professionals, but what of school improvement?
Schools generally have plenty of information - for example figures on pupil performance, school self-evaluation, lesson observations and attendance - but commonly it is in silos and not joined up. But actually, while the information within each of these elements may be accurate and rigorous, it is of little use in isolation. It is far more useful if the data being reflected upon has been sourced from the same fundamental school improvement drive.
To really make a difference, evidence has to be measurable and effectively evaluated, driven by the school improvement plan. It's vital to be confident that the evidence is sound and gives a true picture of what is happening to ensure the outcomes are meaningful and the impact will make a difference.
Having a shared and agreed framework, and the tools for recording and measuring practice in place, ensures activities are carried out in a structured and sequenced manner, with consistency of approach.
It is one thing to use self-evaluation to judge current practice, but it is also critical to use it to inform actions for improvements when setting future goals. This can only be achieved if all forms of evidence use the same starting point and backdrop. These in turn should arise from the objectives the school sets in order to effect school improvement.*A fuller version of this article appears in the June issue of Education Today – please click here to read the complete piece