Tag Archives: professional learning

7 implementation ideas for your behaviour strategy

In a previous post, I set out the components of a great behaviour strategy. The strategy alone is of course not enough. In order to secure not just the absence of poor behaviour but children flourishing, the implementation is the star of the show. Making any strategy systematic requires dogged determination and here are some ideas that could make it a reality.

1. Make sure the why is front and centre

We must be careful not to jump straight into the what. It is far more likely that colleagues will collectively enact a behaviour strategy if the why is widely understood. For us, the reasons for making the improvements to the behaviour strategy lie in the vision for the future that we’ve established.

An important addition to this is the wider aim of the school. For children to flourish, there needs to be not just the absence of negative behaviours but the explicit teaching of productive behaviours.

2. Commit to developing a shared understanding of the active ingredients

Although colleagues knowing why is important, it must be quickly followed by some detail or we risk frustration. The first level of necessary detail is developing a shared understanding of the active ingredients of the behaviour strategy – key concepts or behaviours that must be consistently understood and applied. A group reaches shared understanding of a set of concepts over time and not after one presentation. Leaders must beware of assuming that staff know what they know just because information has been shared. As such, there needs to be a range of implementation activities over an extended period of time. Those activities rely heavily on colleagues knowing the key concepts so regular conversations using common, consistent language are vital.

3. Harness the influencers

A lone senior leader mandating change can work well in certain situations but in others, can hinder implementation. By selecting and training influencers in advance of whole staff sessions, we can ensure multiple, confident voices which is great for generating momentum. Pitching an idea to an entire staff without having primed key people is a mistake. Having a number of colleagues amplifying the key messages and advocating the strategies will be far more reassuring for staff and more likely to result in good implementation. If anyone is uncertain or even resistant, having more colleagues as advocates can more effectively influence them than a lone senior leader could.

4. Provide clear initial training and regular follow up sessions

To get any group to learn new strategies and adapt habits requires lots of practice, lots of repetition and timely feedback. That initial training session benefits from being short and clear. Even if a strategy has only minor alterations, the perception of change can sometimes be greater than the change itself. Providing an overview of the strategy and scripting the first steps will be more likely to result in successful habit change than sharing the strategy in its entirety in the first session.

Follow up sessions might be with the whole staff but more likely they’ll be lead by influencers such as year leaders in team meetings. Those follow up meetings will take place after staff have tried out different aspects of the strategy and the influencers will need to ensure certain conditions in order to develop understanding and support their teams. One of those conditions is that everyone in the group should talk in equal measure rather than be dominated by one voice. The goal would be to check understanding of the active ingredients and to ‘fill the windscreen’ with a reinforcing narrative of strategies that have worked. This can lead nicely on shared problem solving of situations where there has not yet been success.

5. Provide individual coaching and feedback

There will always be colleagues that have tough situations to crack with managing behaviour and cultural leadership of their room. This can be informal through the encouragement of low stakes visits to colleagues’ rooms and returning the favour by inviting them back. The key is enabling the discussions afterwards.

Sometimes the coaching can be more formal. An example of this can be asking a colleague to picture a goal and what achievement of that goal looks and feels like. Once that is clear, asking them to vividly imagine the obstacles can help to isolate tricky parts and subsequent analysis and problem solving.

A further option could be less of a coaching model and more of a mentoring model whereby someone highly skilled in managing behaviour models particular strategies for a less experienced colleagues, setting small steps to develop their expertise. It can help here to establish memorable rules of thumb – if that happens, do this.

6. Create a system of reminders

We all need reminding of things occasionally as we settle into certain routines and one way of nudging behaviour is to provide timely memory prompts. This could be in the form of staff newsletter which states particular strategies. It could also be more subtle. For example, a thank you board in the staff that recognises efforts in cultural leadership can provide a prompt that is just as effective. A final suggestion for reminders can be the presence of a highly visible senior leadership team modelling certain behaviours that may be slipping in order to show what we value.

7. Get parents on board

Parents want their children to be happy and successful at school and the home-school relationship is vital to fully implementing a behaviour strategy. Karen Wespieser’s ResearchEd Home talk on improving home-school relationships is a great source of advice for this. We share expectations of behaviour with children but if we neglect sharing those same expectations with parents, we’ve missed a trick.

Parental workshops can engage most but sometimes it is the hardest to reach parents that we most need to work with. There can be many reasons for parents not engaging but reaching out to parents before needing to contact them with bad news can work wonders. Early and regular conversations to build a relationship, share what is expected and, importantly, share success of the child are great ways to influence the behaviour of those that need our guidance the most.

Leave a comment

Filed under behaviour, leadership, Uncategorized

10 steps to designing a great behaviour strategy

Reviewing our expectations of behaviour should be regular but planning for a full reopening in September provides the opportunity to design the culture that we want.

This post is intended to be a guide for leaders reviewing their policy and practices. It draws on a number of influences, including Tom Bennett, Paul Dix and Bill Rogers, all of whom are far more expert than I am and I’m grateful for their wisdom.

1. Recruit a group of colleagues to collaborate on strategy design

One leader (or even a group of senior leaders) designing a behaviour strategy is a mistake. Leaders can often exist a different school to other colleagues with less experience or lower perceived status and as such may not have a genuine picture of the realities of typical lesson to lesson and day to day behaviour. The group needs voices from all roles within the school but particularly from those that at risk of experiencing the brunt of poor behaviour.

Importantly, the more that staff have a voice in crafting the strategy, the more likely they’ll buy into it.

2. Decide on the active ingredients of you behaviour strategy

The leadership of behaviour requires all adults themselves to behave in a consistent manner. There will be certain aspects of a behaviour strategy that need to be crystal clear to all staff and implemented with fidelity otherwise the strategy will fall flat. They are key concepts or behaviours needed from staff that the strategy is built around. Here are ours:

3. Define how you want children to behave

With active ingredients pointing us in the right direction, attention turns to specifics and the first thing for the group to define is how we want children to behave. If there is not a clear idea in the minds of all staff of what is expected, it can create confusion and uncertainty.

This process involves considering different situations throughout the day and what we’d like the norms to be. Good behaviour is taught therefore this needs absolute clarity. A list soon becomes pretty long though and that’s where confusion can creep in – too many things for staff and children to remember. Just because we might want children to do certain things in certain situations, it does not mean that all of those things should become rules. Rules should be memorable and by agreeing on rules strategically, we can help children (and adults) to develop schemata for behaviour, organising all the things that we want them to do in long term memory under a couple of headings.

This is where Paul Dix’s ready, respectful, safe rules work really well. Three concepts are easy to remember and we can sort all our desirable behaviours into one of them. Our definition of how we want children to behave is below. The rules are clear and the expectations are detailed under each rule.

4 Provide advice for staff on establishing norms

This is the hard bit. Getting children to consistently behave in the way that we want them to is tough. For this section of the behaviour strategy, I’m indebted to Harry Fletcher-Wood for his work on behavioural psychology. Michaela – the power of culture is also a great source of inspiration. We can’t take for granted that staff instinctively know how to set and maintain norms so clear guidance is vital. Here’s our guidance:

5 Think beyond behaving well

School staff need to understand what drives behaviour and one aspect that is new to our behaviour strategy is creating a feeling of belonging. The more I read about this, the more I realise how important it is in creating a culture where children can flourish. Arguably more so now than before after a prolonged period of lockdown, children need to feel that they belong. The power of culture is great in this area, We’re more likely to see productive behaviours if children feel belonging. Many adults will be able to do this naturally but part of designing culture is to aim for all adults creating an equally good culture in their classrooms and beyond. Here’s our guidance for staff on creating a feeling of belonging:

6 Make link behaviour to teaching

There’s a common misconception about motivation. Wisdom suggests that one needs to be motivated before committing to hard work, or that our job as teachers is to motivate children so that they work hard. That’s not the case. People are generally motivated to do something if they are good at it therefore the relationship between motivation and action is the other way around.

If children feel like they are being successful, they are more likely to want to behave in that way again. Here is a good opportunity to make a link with teaching guidance and I’ve chosen to link it to the analogy of the elephant and the rider from Switch by Chip and Dan Heath, explained in this video. We’ve taken key parts of our teaching guidance and reframed it in the context of enabling success so that children will feel motivated:

7 Decide on ways to celebrate good behaviour

It is far more preferable to influence children’s behaviour with the carrot of positive recognition than the stick of consequences, although both have their place. Here’s our guidance:

8 Planning the response to inappropriate behaviour

If anything is going to protect staff from inappropriate behaviour, it is school wide application of responses to poor behaviour. The first step is to predict the behaviours that might need dealing with and classify them. What is considered low level and what is considered serious? If this isn’t clear there is bound to be inconsistent expectations, for example, one teacher may allow interruptions to go unchecked while another deals with them quickly and efficiently.

The next step is to plan what teachers should say or do if children exhibit the undesirable behaviours. I would argue two key points. The first is that any consequence should be planned and given with the aim of reducing the likelihood of that behaviour recurring. The second is that certainty is more important than severity.

Then we need to consider escalation of low level behaviour – what staff should do if a child repeatedly misbehaves. The role of leaders here is crucial. If we are going to achieve true equality of adult authority, each adult has to act with with confidence within the strategy and avoid passing poor behaviour on for someone else to deal with. Sometimes though, more senior staff need to get involved. When that happens though, the senior colleague is there to support their colleague to make the appropriate intervention, standing on their shoulder instead of taking over.

Not all adults are necessarily confident in directly addressing negative behaviour, particularly with unfamiliar older children so, as Paul Dix advocates, having scripts can help. They’re perhaps not meant to be used word for word but they do give a structure to difficult conversations with children or parents and can prevent others from taking the conversation off on a tangent:

9 Understanding policy expectations

The behaviour policy is an important document and there are certain aspects that need to be included, for example, the behaviour principles written statement from the governing body (on which to base the policy), information about the right to search pupils, the use of reasonable force and exclusions. Details can be found here.

10 Writing and communicating the policy

The standard way that behaviour policies are written is not usually helpful for staff – pages of solid text. I’d recommend writing a policy purely for the purpose of governance. For staff, greater care needs to be taken in how important messages are communicated. For this reason, setting out information in a clearer way as in the images above would make it far easier to train staff and return regularly to key messages.

Leave a comment

Filed under behaviour, leadership

What I think about…professional learning

Moving schools and with more than an eye on headship is sure to get you reflecting. The following posts are what I think about various things, in no particular order. Previous posts were about displays, learning generally, maths and reading. Next up – professional learning.

What should leaders prioritise?

With likely a range of often conflicting priorities, deciding what to work on is tricky.  Subject leaders will strive to keep their subject’s nose in front of the rest but ultimately, leaders must be able to zero in on what it is that the children need.  Once that is known, leaders can think about what teachers might need to do differently in order for those outcomes for children to be realised.  The list of things that teachers (could) do day to day is endless so leaders must be able to judge, through experience or by leaning on research, which of those things are worth pursuing and which need to be jettisoned because they take up our time and mental effort for no significant impact.  Research such as that by Hattie is useful but are the interventions described in such research too broad?  For example it is obvious that feedback can have a significant impact on learning but only if it’s done well.  Consider the difference between these scenarios:

  • training on implementing a new feedback policy
  • training on providing feedback on persuasive writing

Or these:

  • training on clear teacher explanations
  • training on explaining how to add fractions clearly

There is a difference between being research led and research informed.  Research should be considered in combination with the needs of children and teachers so that leaders get teachers thinking about effective ways to teach.

This would go some way to ensuring that teachers’ subject and pedagogical knowledge is developed, in line with the Sutton Trust report into what makes great teaching. It’s relatively straight forward to ensure that the focus is on those things, however ensuring the impact is a lot trickier. It makes sense for leaders to have from the outset a very clear idea of what they want that impact to be. Phil Stock’s post on evaluating impact (based on  Guskey’s hierarchy of five levels of impact) is very useful here in terms of leaders planning what they want to happen as a result of professional learning and the rest of this post details how one might do that.

Intended impact on outcomes for children

The intended outcomes for children should be set out so that there is no misunderstanding of the standard to be achieved. Using resources like Rising Stars Assessment Bank for maths can help teachers to gather the types of questions that all children will be expected to answer.  The same can be done for a unit of work on reading – find or write the questions about a text or texts, including the quality of response that you’d expect in order to demonstrate age related expectations.  Something similar can be done for writing.  Find or write a piece that would exemplify the standard that you’d expect from children.  Whatever the subject, leaders working with teachers to clarify what exactly children will be able to do and what their work will look like is the goal.

Individual questions would serve as criterion based assessment but for reading and maths, these questions could be compiled into an overall unit assessment and a target could be set for all children to achieve in the first phase of a unit of work. Gentile and Lalley, in Standards and Mastery Learning  discuss the idea that forgetting is the inevitable consequence of initial learning even if it is to a high standard of say 80%+ .  The problem is that for the most vulnerable children, who don’t achieve that initial mastery of the content to anywhere near that standard, forgetting happens more quickly and more completely.  If children don’t initially understand to a certain level, their learning over time is far less likely to stick and will make subsequent planned revision not revision at all but a new beginning.  Therefore, the expectation of the impact on children of any professional learning simply must be that all children achieve a good standard of initial understanding, whether that is judged as absolute through criterion referenced assessment or by a percentage on a carefully designed test.

Now of course, meeting the standard set on an assessment means nothing unless it is retained or built upon. This initial assessment would not be at the end of the unit of work but part way through.   I’d expect, on an end of unit test, higher percentages compared to those that children will have achieved on the initial assessment.  This is because that initial assessment will have served to tailor teaching to support those that require further instruction or practice.  And I’d expect that intervention to have worked.

To summarise, teachers and leaders first set the assessment and the standard to be achieved.  The unit of work is taught until all children can attain the standard, then the unit continues, deepening the understanding of all which is then checked upon at the end of the unit and beyond. The DfE’s Standard for Teachers’ Professional Development (July 2016) identifies the importance of continually evaluating the impact on outcomes for children of changes to practice and so assessments of what children have retained weeks and months after the unit of work are crucial – they ‘ll inform at further tweaks to teaching and professional learning.  When there are clear milestones for children’s achievement, the professional learning needs of teachers comes sharply into view.

Intended impact on teachers’ behaviour

Once it has been decided what the intended impact on outcomes for children is, attention needs to be turned what teachers will do in order for children to achieve those outcomes. Such behaviour changes may be desired at the planning stages of a unit of work, for example in the logical sequencing of concepts related to addition and subtraction over a series of lessons. The behaviour changes may be desired during teaching, for example explaining and modelling how to create suspense in a piece of writing. Finally the behaviour changes could be desired after lessons, for example where teachers receive feedback on how children have done by looking at how they have solved addition and subtraction problems in order to amend the sequence of lessons.  Another example could be providing feedback on their writing to make it more persuasive either face to face or by writing comments in their books.  The key here is that behaviour change is specific to the unit of work.  Having said that, leaders must support teachers to think in increasingly principled ways so that over time, principles can be more independently applied to other units of work and subjects.  As such, intended changes to behaviour must be iterative and long term, with opportunities to make connections between topics and subjects through coaching and shared planning.

For any behaviour change, teachers must see the outcome.  They must see someone doing the things that are expected of them.  This live or videoed teaching needs to be deconstructed and then summed up concisely which acts as success criteria for teachers. For example, in a unit of work on place value, desired teachers’ behaviours could include (and this is far from exhaustive; simply to illustrate the point):

  • Plan for scaffolds (and their removal) so that all children can partition and recombine numbers fluently and accurately.
  • Intervene on the day if a child shows significant misunderstanding of that day’s learning.
  • Use concrete manipulatives and pictorial representations to model and explain the concept of place value.
  • Co-construct with children success criteria appropriate to the type of leaning objective (open or closed).

Having such success criteria ensures that both leaders and teachers are clear of what is expected in order for the desired impact on children to be realised. It can also be used to focus practices like lesson study and coaching conversations, which are crucial to keep momentum going and embed change.

Intended impact on teachers’ knowledge

If leaders require teachers to develop certain practices, for many there will be a knowledge gap that inhibits such development. The DfE’s Standard for Teachers’ Professional Development identifies the importance of developing theory as well as practice. Subject and pedagogical knowledge, as well as knowledge of curriculum or task design are all vital for teachers to be able to refine aspects of their practice.   This could be as straightforward as analysing the types of questions that could be asked to get children thinking deeply about place value before teachers write their own which are appropriate to the year group that they teach. Or it could be ensuring that teachers understand and can articulate the underlying patterns of addition and subtraction in the maths unit coming up. It could even be knowing the texts that children will be using for reading and writing in depth in order for them to dedicate future thinking capacity to pedagogical concerns. By setting out the intended theoretical knowledge to be learned and by providing opportunities to gain that knowledge in ways that do not overly strain workload, leaders can set teachers up for successful changes to practice.

Organisational evaluation

For children to improve based on teachers’ developing subject and pedagogical knowledge, there must be great systems in place that allow such development to happen.  Leaders need to be very clear about what it is that they will do to ensure that teachers are supported to act on the advice being given.  Some examples include:

  • Making senior leaders or subject specialists available for shared planning
  • Providing access to a coach (and training for coaches)
  • Arranging for staff to access external training
  • Ensuring that observations are developmental
  • Planning professional learning using Kotter’s change model

These items become success criteria for leaders implementing long term change.  They can be self evaluated, of course, but external validation of school culture is valuable here.

Reaction quality

The final strand of planning for impact concerns how teachers perceive the professional learning in which they’ll engage. It goes without saying that we’d like teachers to find professional learning not just useful but transformative – a vehicle for improving outcomes for children, personal career development and increasing the school’s stock all at the same time.  One can only create the conditions in which another may become motivated and by taking into account what drives people, we can go along way to ensuring a thriving staff culture. Lawrence and Nohria’s 4-Drive model of employee motivation is very useful here, describing four underlying drives:

The drive to acquire and achieve

If staff are confident that the professional learning will lead to them acquiring knowledge, expertise and success, then they are more likely to feel motivated.  Professional learning then must appeal to this drive – spelling out the knowledge and status that can be achieved through the planned work and never underestimate the power of distributed leadership, carefully supported, of course.

The drive to bond and belong

The school’s vision is key in keeping everyone focused and pulling in the same direction and this can certainly be reinforced with a common school improvement aim as the focus of professional learning.  Finding ways to ensure supportive relationships is crucial.  Culture is the result of what we continuously say and do so leading by example in developing good working relationships will go some to making it the social norm.  Leaders must also look for and iron out any pockets of resistance that could threaten the desired culture.

The drive to comprehend and challenge

This refers to providing opportunities for staff to overcome challenges and in doing so grow.  Setting out each individual’s importance in the school and how they contribute to its success is an example. This is often a long game, with external judgments being made in exam years or in external inspections, so leaders must find quick wins to acknowledge the impact of teachers’ work on the development of the school.

The drive to define and defend

By drawing attention to the good that the professional learning will do not just for the children but in turn for the reputation of the school, we can create a fierce loyalty.  If we get our principles right an articulate what we stand for, this momentum can be very beneficial for implementing professional learning.

This is the job of the leader, striving for improvement in outcomes for children whilst developing staff and building a culture of success. Any professional learning has to have clear outcomes and its only then that they can be reliably evaluated and tweaked to inform the next iteration.


1 Comment

Filed under Coaching, CPD