“The inspiring future of school improvement lies in the fear factor giving way to the peer factor.” Hargreaves and Shirley, 2010
This quote is incredibly powerful; it hints at a change in the attitudes towards professionalism over the last 30 years. When I started teaching, teachers were considered rulers of their own classroom.
My first action as a newly qualified teacher was to cover up the window in the door so no one could see into my ‘kingdom’. I was quite a good teacher, with outstanding exam results, but what I did was my business and I rarely interacted with colleagues on a professional basis. Today the picture is quite different.
The peer factor
I truly believe that teachers today are better trained and (usually) more open to collaboration and self-reflection than I ever was. This leads to higher quality teaching and much higher standards.
I look at the enthusiasm evident in Teach Meets; the energy developed through social media groups like #SLTChat; and am in awe when I go to ‘happenings’ like #SLTcamp where a group of teachers give up their weekend to talk with such passion about their profession.
The fear factor
For me, the emphasis on greater rigour around inspection, judgements and external accountability is not merely often badly managed but may inhibit the evolution of true professional accountability.
Outstanding systems, like those in Finland, moved quickly away from external accountability towards professional self-regulation and this has led to an exceptionally effective educational system.
The future: developing professional capital
I am reminded of Dylan William’s concept of ‘Love the One You Have’ – it would be daft to expect everyone to be outstanding but we can support everyone to be better than they are.
My work for the last 7 years has been based on the understanding that supporting teachers with better CPD is key to improving outcomes for young people, and video is proven to be a powerful tool for improving teaching and learning.
Many teachers and schools have already embraced the understanding that self-reflection and collaboration are the keys to the development of professional capital and express this through use of social media, lesson study and learning walks. Video, if sympathetically and sensitively deployed, can add a further dimension to these approaches.
The key to success with video professional development, I believe, is to ensure that the individual teacher is fully in control and empowered by the process.
IRIS Connect is very much about empowering teachers rather than reinforcing the accountability framework. It uses portable cameras, which will not turn on unless the teacher being observed agrees; enables self reflection and review; puts the resulting videos in the library of the teacher being observed rather than the observer; allows the teacher to share and place videos into other libraries at their choice and also to withdraw them from other libraries as they wish. In short, the teacher has complete control to transform their teaching every day.
Graham Newell is Director of Education at IRIS Connect.