Collaboration, Diversity, Group work, Professional development, Reflection

Collaborative and Reflective Staff Networks in Education

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Nick Bentley – Lead Practitioner for Inclusion and Drama

Staff in our school have been working hard to establish a range of reflective and collaborative networks, aimed at developing reflections, promoting discussions and empowering practitioners. What follows, then, is a summary of five models we have used to do this.

  1. Action Research: As a way to support staff to take control of their classrooms and act as practitioner-researchers, our assistant headteacher Charlotte Paine has successfully rolled out action research with smaller groups of staff first, before all teachers and teaching assistants from across the school have contributed to presentations on their research. This has been wonderfully popular, and supported with teacher confidence, collaborative working and innovations with teaching.
  2. Coaching: In a development which was really appreciated by many teachers and support staff, Yamina Bibi and Fiona Morris – former colleagues of mine who are educational leaders with a precision focus on developing staff to be their very best – worked hard to establish a coaching culture at our school. Here, a full range of staff are developed through personalised coaching sessions, led by staff across the school, allowing staff to set their own targets and negotiating their own paths towards them.
  3. Diversity Discussion Group: Inspired by the grassroots education movements @WomenEd, @DisabilityEd, @LGBTed and @BAMEed, we established a meaningful collaborative discussion group allowing staff to reflect on issues of diversity across the curriculum and in education more broadly. Staff have found this group to be genuinely exciting and helpful, promoting and supporting the important role of diversity in education.
  4. Teacher Journal Group: The opportunity to engage with a teacher journal allows staff to track their own learning and consider what is helpful and meaningful in their diverse teaching contexts. In line with this, we have had a teacher journal group at our school which has involved different staff including a teaching assistant, a curriculum leader and a lead practitioner discussing, sharing and learning new ideas.
  5. SB Discussions: Staff have really tended to enjoy rich discussions over hot educational topics, including inclusion, student led-learning and the value of collaboration. Hearing colleagues, with their wealth and diversity of opinions and experiences, come together to interrogate a range of educational topic, has been really meaningful.

All told, then, we have sought to establish a full range of platforms for teachers to share their opinions and empower themselves to forge their own paths. I hope this blog post may be of value to those working in education, considering how to embed or develop collaboration and reflection in the cultures of their schools.

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Collaboration, Diversity, Multimodal Learning, Student Leadership

Multimodal Learning: Inclusion, Collaboration and Identity

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Nick Bentley – Lead Practitioner for Inclusion and Drama

As is the case, I’m sure, with many colleagues, I often like to take a step back and think about how far I’m meeting my own conception of the teacher I want to be. My initial step was to buy a huge stack of certificates and stickers to celebrate my students’ learning, and my second step was to buy and wear a rather frivolous neck-tie (we could consider the merits of authentic role-modelling on another occasion). A rather more meaningful moment of self-reflection came as I thought about my lessons. Are they meaningful and joyful? Are they challenging and collaborative? Do they facilitate student independence and celebrate young people’s diverse identities? In thinking through these questions, I returned to the notion of multimodal learning.

    Multimodal approaches to learning recognise the reality of the physical and social spaces which classrooms are, broadening the terms of what learning is and how it happens. The kind of tools I have found to be helpful have included images, video-clips, sounds and music. Concrete objects and props can be combined with art, text and discussions, to not only open up mediums of learning, but also to diversify the ways young people can demonstrate their understanding. Drama, collaboration and teacher-in-role can engage students’ imaginative and lived experiences in relation to the world, across the curriculum. Our school has recently embraced Google Drive and Google Classroom, with exciting potential for the impact of technology on learning.

    I would suggest that multimodality in the classroom can promote inclusivity as it removes barriers to learning by offering various pathways to engage with the lesson; it can equally promote challenge by encouraging creative thinking amongst learners. Through its celebration of the social resources of the classroom, it promotes collaboration and communication skills. By championing young people’s different interpretations – when used meaningfully, multimodal approaches should include diverse representations of ethnicity, sexuality, religion and gender and identity – it can celebrate young people’s diverse identities; by sharing images of different groups of people, exploring multiple identities through drama and discussion, and representing diverse individuals through art. Importantly, it can bring a sense of energy, engagement and excitement ot the classroom. I certainly wouldn’t say I have become my perfect self-identity as a practitioner, but by employing multimodal approaches, I have taken a step closer to becoming the kind of teacher I have always hoped to be.