While the decision process is as robust as it can be, given the often limited time available, there is a continuous need to provide professional discussion and development opportunities. Developing personal capacity is a life-long need, in subject knowledge and pedagogy, in specific as well as general terms. We talk of mind-set for children as learners. This has to equally apply to teachers.
It is possible to summarise aspects of practice which will have an impact on decisions that infer and confer an inclusive message is given to learners.
The school Learning and Teaching policy should be clear and unambiguous, well communicated, well implemented and monitored.
There should be the flexibility to adapt schemes of work to the needs of the children in each class, including individual needs. Teachers should be appraised of the necessary provision for, individual learning needs and whether this is supported by an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP), internal monitoring through the SEN register or as an able child. Teachers should be aware of expected outcomes at year end, at an individual level.
Lessons will be well planned and resourced, have articulated purpose, including learning challenge, and anticipated expectations within engaging contexts for learning. A range of T&L approaches used. All resources, including support staff and ICT are used appropriately and effectively to enhance learning.
Communication within classroom, effective engagement with learning and oral feedback and guidance, self and peer assessment, all support learning. Teacher’s written feedback offers guidance for future learning.
Lesson outcomes inform future planning. Teacher records demonstrate monitoring of progress and identify interventions made.
Reports to parents, when sent, are detailed, informative and support future learning.
Teachers as investigators
A significant aspect of teaching, is the ability to investigate anomalies, those moments where the teacher suspects that a child, or a group of children, may not fully understand what is being taught.
This teacher mind-set is supported by an internal schema which develops from the idea that the baseline plans have been based clearly on the prior learning achievements of the children in the class.
Overview plans that have a clear direction allow diversion then a return to the main plan.
Improvisation is a skill that is honed in practice, as teachers spot what they see as possible needs, then intervene to determine the nature of the problem.
This is where high quality questioning supports a scaffolded conversation, enabling the child to externalise what they are thinking and the precise nature of the issue so that the specifics can be addressed, rather than assume global, generic approaches, which do not support progress.
It may be that this process requires a level of modelling, of making explicit what they are thinking, through drawing, diagrams or physical representation, preferably from the child seeking to explain, but some, and especially younger children, may not have the vocabulary to explain their thinking. The teacher may have to unpick step by step, very patiently, where the block exists.
Knowing the process of how children develop as learners in a subject is essential teacher knowledge, complementing subject specific knowledge.
While the teacher has reached a level of expertise, the children are still learners. What is obvious to the teacher and other adults may not be so for the child. It is often the nuances of subject specific vocabulary that constitute the block, for a number of learners, not just specific groups.
Investigatory skill is such an important aspect of teaching, embedded in the teaching standards (6&5) that it should be the teacher remit to undertake investigation, so that any specific intervention support can be carefully guided. I would go as far as to argue that teachers should regularly be teaching those children in the class with the greatest identifiable need.
Differentiated, or tightly focused, lesson inputs can be a stage in investigation; if a group didn’t “get it” yesterday, start with a reprise for that group, with a challenge activity for the rest.
Where Teaching Assistants are guided to undertake activities with children, training should be given to support them in noting children’s responses, and any interventions needed, which supports teacher assessment after activity.
Investigation underpins personalisation of approaches. Working with Vauxhall Primary School in London, the head used the term “forensic” underpinning their investigation of children’s needs. As a result, tailored approaches were deployed, with the result at year 6, that the school regularly achieved 95% level 4+ outcomes.
The idea of “find out what they don’t know and teach them” happens in an investigative, learning centred environment.
Teachers need to think like a detective, be forensic and take carefully planned actions, based on the evidence arising.