Practice

We develop teacher talent through disciplined, deliberate and intelligent practice and coaching. For example, we practise key techniques collectively as a staff twice every week during Morning Meetings and engineer more tailored practice during one-to-one coaching sessions.

  • Teachers face a very steep learning curve after qualification. After two or three years, teacher learning curves become notably less steep meaning that an additional year of experience makes a smaller contribution to their expertise.
  • Teacher training is almost entirely front loaded. This means that instruction in different teaching techniques, from the basics such as classroom management, through to advanced skills, such as assessment design, are delivered at once, prior to QTS.
  • By the time teachers are ready to start integrating more advanced techniques into their repertoire, they are often years away from their formal (front-loaded) training and will likely have forgotten the content of those parts of the course. Indeed, they may have written them off as unworkable after struggling to combine them with other skills early on, before they had the necessary spare bandwidth in working memory to try and assimilate them.
  • Inset days and observations or mentoring are used to deliver additional advice, but this is not comparable, for example, to the staged, supervised and examined sequence that clearly scaffolds progression through a medical career.
  • However, the best schools provide an environment where sustained teacher growth is possible; more supportive schools make experience an even more powerful performance enhancer.
  • Learning the skills of teaching, or any other profession for that matter, requires deliberate practice. Only in the schools that provide sustained opportunities for training, practice and feedback can teachers continue up their learning curve.
  • The PGP is our commitment to helping teachers to keep learning.
  • We each have three basic psychological needs. We need to feel competence in the sense of demonstrating and improving our abilities, relatedness in the sense of being valued, respected and desired by others, and autonomous in the sense that we are the authors of our own actions.
  • When these three things – sometimes referred to as nutrients – are present, humans express their natural, intrinsic motivation to develop and grow. Teachers need a sense of autonomy, but this does not mean leaving teachers free to do things that undermine collective organisational structures or student learning. As a first step, we encourage every teacher to set his or her own performance priorities for the coming year. The role of school leaders is to support teachers in crafting plans that really will improve their practice.

We are indebted to Rebecca Allen and Sam Sims’ The Teacher Gap (2018) in helping to shape our understanding of the power of practice.

Social justice in education involves a commitment to challenging the social, cultural , and economic inequalities imposed on individuals because of differential distribution of power, resources, and privilege (Mills College, 2020). The application and delivery of powerful knowledge within schools is recognised as a tool for social justice but, for this to be truly consequential, it must be a covenant of the curriculum.

Discussions surrounding the powerful knowledge to be imparted in schools cannot focus solely on providing disadvantaged students with access to ‘elitist’ knowledge but must also embody the need to include a range of voices and experiences, in order to strive for equitable education and progress for all marginalised groups.

We believe all children are entitled to the powerful knowledge which maximises life chances. Children need powerful knowledge to understand and interpret the world. Without it they remain dependent upon those who have it.

Powerful knowledge is cognitively superior to that needed for daily life. It transcends and liberates students from their daily experience. As such, our curriculum is led by, collaborated on and delivered by high-quality subject specialists.

We know that a good curriculum will always be contested: the grammar of each subject is given high status; the specifics of what we want students to learn matter and the traditions of subject disciplines are respected.

At Dixons, skills and understanding are seen as forms of knowledge. At each Key Stage, the curriculum should focus on closing gaps, early intervention, and developing the core literacy and numeracy skills for success at that level. Curriculum breadth and cultural capital are key to our mission.

For us, powerful knowledge is defined as ‘the best truth that can be known’ (Young et al, 2014). In practical terms, this is an important definition which holds teachers to account in terms of delivering purposeful and informative lessons, designed to equip students with knowledge.

This definition serves as an important reminder for schools to ensure, through continuous scrutiny and adaptation, that schemes of work are of the best quality, to guarantee that the ‘best truth’ really is being delivered to students. This is not the polite bolt-on of Post-16 study; to be changing, it must be within the formative experiences of education – from early years onwards.

Young continues that powerful knowledge can take students ‘beyond their own experiences’ (Young et al, 2014). In this sense, the desire is for equity to be achieved through exposing students, from all walks of life, to knowledge that was once reserved for society’s elite.

To truly strive for social justice, it is important to question not just to whom powerful knowledge should be taught, but also by whom powerful knowledge is constructed and defined.

The combination of accessing the collective knowledge base, as well as recognising the valuable contributions of their own and other communities, will provide students with the opportunity to improve their socio-economic outcomes, as well as developing a voice to continue to advocate progress. In this sense, social justice is achieved through teaching students to acknowledge, rather than assimilate to the accepted ‘norms’ of society, as well as providing them with the language to debate these ideas. The more able we are to develop our students’ understanding of such things, the better placed they will be to develop their own future platforms, upon which they can deliver their own powerful contributions.

At Dixons, we develop teacher talent through disciplined, deliberate and intelligent practice and coaching. For example, we practise key techniques collectively as a staff twice every week during Morning Meetings and engineer more tailored practice during one-to-one coaching sessions.

Many of our schools deploy role-play in Morning Practice: we explicitly practise how to support the learning habits and routines in our school.  As often as possible, we make our mistakes away from the children.  We plan and practise our approaches together – just as we do our curriculum.  Staff participate in 1:2:1 instructional coaching; as such, professional development can be completely bespoke.  At Dixons, we all have agency: teachers can teach and students learn.   

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