The Tale of OneStep CPD
20 Jun 2019
Chapter I: “Spending a lesson making a castle won’t help them pass their GCSEs…”
I became a teacher because I loved History; I wanted to inspire a whole generation of pupils to love History as much as I did. When I started teaching though, I realised this wouldn’t be the ultimate goal of my classroom. With all the best intentions, we are judged on results (and I wait with anticipation to see the new OFSTED framework in action from September…) I couldn’t just do re-enactments of the Battle of Stamford Bridge and the Anglo-Saxon Shield Wall or make Motte-and-Bailey castles in class time. My classroom was on occasions a hive of discussion, but more often than not there was dead silence, excluding the pens moving so fast you could hear the scratches of ballpoints on paper.
Naturally, there were pupils that needed structure support with their writing. The amount of pupils I discouraged from GCSE History because of the amount of writing still makes me feel guilty. I attended countless sessions on teaching History effectively: supporting pupils with effective differentiation and literacy, literacy, literacy. But every session was problem based, complaining about the state of education and the lack of money and time. No session I went on actually gave me a solution to my problem.
Chapter II: How could I improve?
Each week at our departmental meeting, one staff member shared a new strategy they had found effective with their Pupil Premium students, particularly: literacy focused. One week my colleague brought ‘Slow Sentence Paragraphs’ by David Didau. My colleague demonstrated it on the board and explained how all pupils could write a paragraph if you broke it down into a checklist. I was so excited, the magpie teacher grabbing the strategy and taking it to my room like a shiny new prize, unleashing it on all my classes.
And the result?
I have no idea.
I just hurled it at them wildly as a starter, main and plenary, in no particular order. Some pupils liked it, some didn’t, and I didn’t see an improvement in marks or an improvement in writing without the structure in place.
Over the next few weeks in our meetings I was more probing of the strategies my colleagues brought.
“What’s the impact? Does it lead to better results? Do the kids learn to write better? Can they understand difficult concepts?”
An awkward pause from my colleagues.
“I have no idea.”
Chapter III: Take On Professional Development
I left teaching not because I fell out of love; quite the opposite. I had a deep frustration in not knowing what worked for me and my students. Increasingly I also had a fiery motivation to do something about my frustration. I became a CPD lead in my school and absolutely loved it; we used pupil work to evidence the impact of strategies in the classroom. But at the end of the year there was no real proof beyond our qualitative comments. Normal CPD service resumed due to the lack of proof of impact.
Chapter IV: OneStep CPD
I took my frustration to Twinkl, and after the best 5 years of my life I stepped away from the classroom and into an office. Whilst I no longer get to wax lyrical about History all day I do get to focus on my solution. I have spent the last year testing, testing and testing some more, amounting to over 5,000 hours of teacher time across 4 different countries. I met with Leon Walker, the man behind Flash Marking, to discuss how to effectively test strategies in the classroom, and by April this year we had a fully fledged logic model we were happy giving to teachers.
So that is our CPD service: trial a strategy in your classroom for 6 weeks and see what the impact is. Our solution is not perfect; nothing can be. What we offer is something that helps teachers to be the best they can be, one step at a time. Find out what works and be able to evidence it.
You have no idea how happy I was when a teacher chose ‘Slow Sentence Paragraphs’ by David Didau to test and found it did have a positive impact on her EAL pupils in particular about including full stops and capital letters in their writing.
Chapter V: Coffee, Pause, Digest
This post was my story, the reason for OneStep CPD. This blog, however, is not. This blog will be a hub for anyone involved in education to share good practice and ideas, tips that can’t be used in a 6-week initiative. But people can also share their opinions, and if you agree or disagree then put it in the comments (all we ask is for you to be constructive).
If you would like to put forward a blog post then please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org
. We provide you with a platform for your frustrations and solutions. I only wish I had access to a similar thing two years ago.
Sally Hill is the CPD Manager at OneStep CPD. She was a History teacher in Manchester for 5 years, including time as a Head of Department and CPD Lead. She supports Arsenal and is currently working on a solution to that frustration as well.