Twenty-one teachers, trainers and support staff from across South West Durham joined forces to kick off the Bishop Auckland College’s Outstanding Teaching, Learning & Assessment (OTLA) programme in May.
Project Lead and Advanced Practitioner Elaine Mattinson had earlier conducted research which revealed that newly-qualified teachers at the college had enjoyed engaging in teacher research as part of their teacher-training programme, and that they wanted to continue research based practice once the course was over. The OTLA programme provided them with this opportunity and newly qualified staff were encouraged to collaborate with established teachers, who have also discovered a revived interest in researching their own teaching.
At the first meeting in May, teachers quickly formed into “Action Learning Sets”, and created classroom investigation plans to tackle shared challenges. Newer teachers suggested innovations to explore, and experienced teachers enjoyed the fresh thinking and proposed practical solutions. Teams were formed across South West Durham Training, Bishop Auckland Community Learning and Bishop Auckland College. This combined expertise brought together staff from construction, engineering, maths, English, sport, IT, catering, apprenticeships, business, higher needs, child care and health and social care.
An example of action research in the health and care section saw teachers planning ways of using recent news stories to give an edge to personal development sessions. Construction, IT, sport and engineering teachers looked at how to get students to take responsibility and build their confidence with their assessment. There were lively discussions about strategies for using more ICT in lessons and animated exchanges about ways to raise expectations of student behaviour. Other groups explored ways of determining learners’ starting points in lessons and the use of self and peer assessment to measure progress. There was a huge sense of energy in the room – several teachers commented on the value of being able to focus on changes which they had personally identified from their own teaching experiences.
The twilight session was enjoyably busy, with teachers seeming to find new reserves from the healthy tea which helped to fuel their fresh thinking. After 90 minutes, colleagues dispersed with new planning sheets, bubbling with ideas to try before their next meeting. Andy Convery (OTLA Programme Professional Development Lead) had been invited to this planning meeting and left highly impressed, saying “It was an exciting session – everyone was so focused and enthusiastic”.
Elizabeth Lamb, Director of Quality at Bishop Auckland College, commending the enthusiasm and commitment of all staff who have willingly engaged in this action research project, said “Staff recognise the importance of experimenting with innovative learning and assessment methods, which provide students with an enjoyable learning experience and challenge them to reach their full potential.”