The SHS School Improvement Plan has detailed teaching and learning as a priority area since 2013. Like many priorities in education, unless it is linked to an action in practical terms it often gets left with the paperwork.
While we prioritised innovative methodologies and IT in the classroom as our respective areas, there was a realisation following a series of google docs with staff that, unless we initiated formalised professional conversations among staff and management, the outcomes for objectives of the plan would be limited to staff and management who were already involved in school evaluation.
In light of this, (and as a by-product of TL21 conversations) we agreed that there was a need for a more formalised conversation, one that would ensure that all staff members had an input.
We have moved our staff meetings to “flipped” staff meetings and the second half of the meeting is now dedicated to “teaching and learning” conversations. Staff are divided into groups and given a sheet with questions relating to teaching and learning in the classroom or (when grouped as a subject department) teaching and learning in a subject area.
Equally, management meets with the assistant principals and they discuss the learning environment, the management of the environment, and dealing with challenging situations. The main objective of these conversations is to initially demonstrate that the assistant principal role is more than a list of duties but rather a mind-set.
If the voluntary secondary school is to be able to deal with the rolling changes over the next two years all staff need to move to the space where conversations, actions and outcomes are planned, strategic and professional and, ultimately, accountable.
Here are three reflective tools that the school has devised, drawing on the standards in Looking at Our School 2016, to support and structure the professional reflection and conversations on teaching and learning described above:
- a ‘think, pair, share’ reflection sheet for teachers working in pairs and small groups – Teacher Reflection Sheet
- a reflection sheet for subject departments – Reflection Sheet for Subject Departments
- a leadership reflection sheet for senior management and assistant principals – Reflection Sheet on Leadership in Our School
Our thanks to Pauline McKenna, Principal, and the teaching staff of Sacred Heart Secondary School Tullamore for sharing these helpful resources.