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Team Review Process

Team reviews at Heathfield

Team reviews are a central part of developing teaching at Heathfield, and the process is constantly evolving. They balance other forms of CPD, for instance performance management observations, internal and external courses, or coaching. In most schools a review involves one department, or sometimes two or three working closely together, monitoring lessons based around a common theme. Observation is the key means of evidence gathering, and teachers receive feedback on the teaching and learning that a colleague sees. The SLT may often be closely involved in leading or monitoring this. Sometimes, a team review can feel imposed, even intimidating because the emphasis is on judgement rather than developing a dialogue about learning.

Many schools are trying to move away from this model. Key questions for any school may centre around the following : who is the team review for? What is its purpose? Is it to measure learning or develop it? Can it be both? What kind of learning is it meant to assess anyway? If there are other ways to measure learning, should a team review be about something else? What are the merits of a framework which encourages teacher-driven CPD, rather than SLT driven? What are the risks or obstacles? There are no straightforward answers, but asking them has influenced the direction team reviews are taking at Heathfield.

First, the review is lead by the team itself. The focus is chosen by the teachers, coordinated by the team leader, and links closely to the departmental development plan. Designated time is set aside (a Twilight meeting) to discuss and plan for the review which typically lasts two weeks for a larger department. Observations are used as an integral part of the process but more and more they are part of a reflection process, than a judgement. The head of department, or second, observes everyone teach but crucially each person also observes two other teachers, any he or she chooses. It could be their head of department or another team member, and there are no OFSTED style judgements. No numbers, no grading - instead, a discussion on the learning within that lesson.

The result has been interesting because, over a period of years, teachers have become more and more open to being observed. Teachers see observation as less threatening because they are not being judged. Consequently they take more risks, often asking colleagues to see them with more difficult classes and experimenting with the way they work with their students. Because the head of department is observed as much as other teachers, the review becomes more collegiate, less imposed. During reviews at Heathfield, there is often a buzz of interest and enthusiasm from teachers, sharing what happened in one lesson with a colleague leaving another.

Classroom observation is a valuable snapshot of learning, but other indicators are also used. Exercise books provide a much more useful record of learning over a sustained period of time, and have become much more central within team reviews.

Students also play an important part in the review process, with interaction ranging from sharing views on teaching and learning within small groups, to on-line questionnaires involving a year group. A significant development though has been the insight offered by student observers. This year, ten year 10s have taken part in team reviews. So, in a recent review in Design and Technology, two teachers were observed by two other staff and a student observer. Because the students were selected and supported carefully (for example they have one day's training before they start), and observed teachers are always given a choice, this has been universally popular. Often, students echo the insights offered by experienced teacher observers - sometimes they develop them further.

At the end of the fortnight, there is a second Twilight where experiences are shared and common themes discussed. From these ideas, an evaluation is written by the team leader and shared with the Head Teacher and Assistant Head responsible for CPD at a buffet lunch, to which the whole team (including key support staff where appropriate) is invited. No member of SLT has had any role within the process up to this point, apart from the Assistant Head receiving an outline of the initial focus and a Deputy Head arranging cover. There are no SLT observations. Responsibility is held by the department head and the team of teachers.

This year, team reviews have shifted their emphasis. Both English and Humanities used individual and group research, often using Twitter, as a starting point for their reviews. Maths, Science and Humanities used paired planning to slow down the process of exploring what makes good teaching and learning. Each teacher then observed the lessons they had both planned (often the results were very different in each class), sharing their responses and reflections afterwards. Teachers reported that they gained a lot - taking more risks because they were working together, and the subsequent observations seemed fundamentally different in their nature.

These reviews were concluded with teach-meet style presentations, drawing contributions evenly from all teachers in the team, and ended that part of the process with a bang. Instead of lengthy written evaluations which were then filed, the results created by the team (Power-points and other resources) were placed in staff resources for all to draw on, and in many cases develop further.

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