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10 top teaching and learning tips that all NQTs should remember
by John Winwood
In the chaos of your first year at the helm of a classroom, it's good to take a moment to reflect and remember what supports great teaching and learning.
In fact, whether you're a newly qualified teacher (NQT) or have been marking books for decades, it's always beneficial to remind yourself of the basics. So here are my top 10 points to never let go of:
1. Plan in depth
As your career develops, your confidence will grow – but that doesn't mean you can do less planning. You may not need to produce the same detail and documents as you did in training, but you still need to consider the key aspects of every lesson.
I use seven core teaching and learning principles as a basis for everyday planning. These include:
- Active lesson objectives. These are lesson objectives in the form of challenging questions that you can use in the lesson to track progress
- Micro-learning activities. These are a sequence of short (5-15 minute) activities that are all linked and help students retain interest and engagement throughout the lesson
- A student-centred structure. Avoid teacher dominance and ensure that students learn through actively doing rather than passively listening
- Assessment to inform learning. Ensure you have built assessment – such as questioning, self/peer assessment or drill testing – into the lesson to track and inform progress.
- Action on feedback. Planned post-feedback activities to improve or inform learning that follows
- Literacy and numeracy focus
2. Focus on engagement to resolve behaviour issues
Dealing with behaviour is one of the main challenges NQTs face. Many school behaviour management systems are reactive, but teachers can be proactive in varying teaching style.
Consider how you your lessons student-centred and engaging. I use the 70-20-10 model for delivery: 70% student activity; 20% mentoring, coaching and discussion; and 10% teacher-led. Always think: "If I need to explain this, what are the students doing?" The answer is being passive, so always make them busy, challenged and actively engaged learners – even if it's just structured note-taking.
Teaching is hectic and every moment is valuable. It's important not to work in isolation, however, as this can lead to stagnation and bad habits. Take every opportunity to collaborate: consider finding a planning buddy or creating a co-planning team to bounce ideas off.
Having a person with whom you can discuss issues and share ideas is a great way to develop teaching and learning. Unlike mentoring, coaching doesn't always require an experienced colleague, either – you just need someone who can ask the right questions to help you explore your thoughts.
There are many coaching models around. I find the "DEEP model, developed by the Centre for the Use of Research and Evidence in Education, is accessible and works well with staff of varying coaching abilities. It is pretty simple:
- Diagnose – what is the current situation?
- Explore the situation – what issues need addressing?
- Explore the possibilities – what options for change do you have?
- Prepare – what do you need to do to make a change?
5. Be creative and take risks
Teaching and learning would never evolve if we always did the same thing. What's more, our students live in a world that is continually changing, so we need to prepare them for it.Try new things, reflect, modify and revisit. For example, you could try a lesson study group. This involves small groups of teachers observing specific aspects of each other's lessons, providing feedback and support for reflection, all within a non-accountable environment.
Reflection is an important aspect of teacher training, and the best teachers do this all the time. Always take time to reflect on lessons as you plan them and afterwards to inform future learning.
The "REALITY" model for reflection ensures you dig deep to find issues and think creatively about solutions:
- Reality – what issue needs to be resolved? Are there several parts to it? Be objective
- Explore – investigate the issue and highlight the individual problems that make it up. Be honest
- Assess the options – solutions are available? Do not limit yourself – note down all ideas, even if you think they are unrealistic
- Limit your options – now decide which options have potential
- Ideal solution – draft your ideal solution
- Think it through – think through the solution from each stakeholder's point of view. Could anything block its impact?
- Your final solution – implement what you have planned.
7. Active research
It's easy to fall into the trap of forgetting to develop your own learning as well as your students. Research and try out new ideas; there's a wealth of content online to inspire you. Or you could undertake your own research at your school and complete a recognition project through the Teaching and Learning Academy. Most importantly, think about how you can gain new ideas and develop your delivery.
Observation should be a two-way process: ask to observe others, and ask them to observe you too. Lesson observations don't have to be extended: short insights be equally useful if they are carefully focused. Listen to feedback and be prepared to give it too.
9. Don't micro-manage
Teacher-dominated lessons often result in less progress because they promote superficial learning and reduced engagement.Train and teach your students to become skilled at reflecting on their own learning and making choices about how to move forward. Encourage their independence so you just facilitate.
10. Have fun and praise
Learning should be fun for your students and you – if enjoyment is a key part of lessons, you and your students will want to come back for more. You could try using "learning blooms" – set a task and give students a range of choices to approach it. All of the possible outcomes will allow your students to choose an activity that suits them.
We all want great to have successful lessons. Creating and embedding good planning and delivery habits for teaching is essential to achieving this.
This blog is an edited version of a post on John Winwood's website, Standout Teaching, here.