Free article: Developing an ethos of high expectation

Published: Sunday, 09 July 2017

In this article, Steve Burnage shares some practical strategies to enable school leaders to develop an ethos of high expectation in their schools. 

Summary

  • There is a clear link between the quality of learning and the quality of teaching.
  • Learners may evidence outstanding learning while experiencing poor teaching; and outstanding teaching does not necessarily lead to evidence of outstanding learning and progress.
  • School leaders and their teams need to be able to make clear judgements about the effectiveness of the teaching taking place and should focus on the this is having on learners’ progress.
  • School leaders might gather evidence from a variety of sources: pupil attainment data; pupil progress data; observational data and discursive data.

Exploring a cause and effect relationship

There is a clear link between the quality of learning and the quality of teaching, but care should be taken not to confuse the two. Learners may evidence outstanding learning while experiencing poor teaching; and outstanding teaching does not necessarily lead to evidence of outstanding learning and progress.

Diagram Exploring a cause and effect relationship

The diagram suggests that there is a clear relationship between the quality of teaching and the quality of learning; and between the input a learner receives (teaching, resources, learning intervention, pastoral care etc.) and the impact these have on the learning and progress made by the pupil. In order to develop an ethos of high expectation across any school, school leaders and their teams need to be able to make clear judgements about the effectiveness of the teaching taking place, and should focus on the impact the teaching is having on the progress learners are making.

Gathering evidence to support an ethos of high expectation

School leaders might gather evidence from a variety of sources:

  • pupil attainment data, e.g. test results, teacher assessments, external exam results
  • pupil progress data, e.g. actual performance against predictions from reliable external sources
  • observational data, e.g. lesson observations, book trawls etc.
  • discursive data, e.g. conversations with learners, staff, parents etc.

The key elements that contribute to an ethos of high expectation

If school leaders are to ensure that they give learners the best opportunities to demonstrate outstanding learning and progress through outstanding teaching, they should:

  • Make sure that their schools have a clear vision of what outstanding learning and teaching looks like.
  • Develop highly effective strategies in their own teaching and in the teaching of those that they lead.
  • Monitor, evaluate and improve the teaching of all those delivering high-quality learning in schools.

An ethos of highly effective learning and teaching consists of two key elements: the climate FOR learning and the structure OF learning.

Creating a climate for learning

In order to create a climate for learning, school leaders should work together with their staff to:

  • Create a successful climate for learning, with a complex mix of policies to promote a positive general ethos, with some specific, shared, concrete systems that are needed to underpin and facilitate the smooth running of a school.
  • Ensure that leadership is shared, understood and seen as fair. This is at the heart of a school with an effective climate for learning.
  • Place student responsibility at the heart of school policies.
  • Ensure that senior staff are seen as high-profile exemplifications of the school’s behaviour systems.
  • Build levels into school systems so that all staff take responsibility for managing behaviour. 

Creating a structure of learning

The requirements for outstanding teaching and learning require that teachers:

  • Focus and structure their teaching.
  • Actively engage learners in their learning. 
  • Use assessment for learning to reinforce learning and support reflection and target setting.
  • Have high expectations of each pupil’s effort and achievement. 
  • Make the learning motivating.
  • Create a settled and purposeful atmosphere. 

However, within this structure, it is also vital that learners are given freedom to learn independently.

Below are nine effective strategies to encourage independent learning:

  1. Give choices. Giving learners regular opportunities to make choices will encourage them to reflect on their own interests and preferences. It will also make them start to take responsibility for learning.
  2. Encourage group work. Group work temporarily takes the control away from the teacher and gives it to the learners.
  3. Encourage learners to predict how well they did in assessments. This will start them reflecting about their strengths and weaknesses and the progress they are making.
  4. Set some learning goals. Initially setting learning goals will require a lot of help from teachers, but it encourages learners to reflect and self-evaluate independently.
  5. Use authentic texts. Authentic texts are materials that were not originally designed for learning purposes. These can be motivating as they connect the classroom with the outside world and make the learner see that learning does not take place only in the classroom.
  6. Involve learners in lesson planning. Encourage learners to help plan the lessons.
  7. Encourage learners to keep learner diaries. These can form a dialogue between the teacher and the learners which is mutually beneficial.
  8. Build reflection and extension into activities. Open questions are generally more thought-provoking meta-questions that encourage learners to reflect and extend their learning.
  9. Encourage self and peer editing. Encourage learners to check their own work or that of a peer. Teachers could help them to make an editing checklist. 

Developing independent learning abilities is about assisting learners to develop skills which will help them to become good learners; to take responsibility for learning and to be able to apply these skills to any new learning situation. This in turn will contribute to developing an ethos of high expectation among the learners themselves.

Toolkit

Use the following item in the Toolkit to put the ideas in this article into practice:

About the author

Steve Burnage has a breadth of experience leading challenging inner-city and urban secondary schools. He now works as a freelance trainer, consultant and author for senior and middle leadership, strategic development, performance management and coaching and mentoring. Steve may be contacted by email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or via his website www.simplyinset.co.uk.

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