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Hartlepool College


Our story

Hartlepool College is and GFE College based in the north east of England.

The college is well established and has been transforming students’ lives since 1849. In 2013 the College appointed a new Principal, Darren Hankey which marked a sea change in the direction of travel of College. Before this moment, there had been emphasis on completion of a new build, financial management of the College, growth of the college and other strategic objectives.  The new Principal was now set to operate in the difficult FE sector with all its challenges. Notwithstanding these challenges, and it became clear that there was a way to thrive in the FE sector. Simply put, if we got the teaching, learning and assessment practice right everything else about the organisation would thrive. This quote by Dylan Wiliam summed up a new approach to the development of the college’s staff

If we create a culture where every teacher believes they need to improve, not because they are not good enough but because they can be even better, there is no limit to what we can achieve.

Dylan William, University of London

The first practical task was to select a team of Advanced Practitioners to have a focal point to drive the standard of teaching and learning within the College. The second task was to do was to make sense of the amount of research and work that was out there in the edusphere. Task three, figure out what was the best practice. So with a room and six new Advanced Practitioners, our first question was of course: where do we start?

Teachers love to teach; they stand in front of people and tell them stuff that they do not already know. Their days are generally not spent researching or undertaking scholarly activity. On the other hand, all teachers want what is best for their students, so improvements in their teaching benefits everyone. The college’s Professional Practice Observations (can anyone still remember them?) data showed that, 79% of staff achieved at least Ofsted Grade 2. Previously improving this rate had not been considered a priority. Furthermore, there was no direct intervention; staff would be observed again in the next academic year.

Our team were invited to attend ResearchEd 2016 York. This was a real chance to meet some of the people that were to shape our vison. These people included Oliver Caviglioi with his clarity in dual coding, and who we continue to follow. Professor Rob Coe whose work on evidence-based Education is outstanding.  Alex Quigley for his work in Teaching English and John Tomsett who is a fabulous advocate of excellence in Teaching and Learning and his Book series “This much I know about…”. He is a great Education leader to turn to regarding any aspect of teaching and learning. Also, Tom Sherrington who is an education guru, and a fabulous conference speaker with great ideas on contemporary education.

Further engagements with ResearchEd 2017 York Research Ed 2018 Durham hosted by Prof. Rob Coe with speakers including Julian Elliott Professor of Education and Kristopher Boulton on Direct Instruction.

Having undertaken lots a reading there were some constant themes that were recurring which included Barak Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction, Explicit Direct Instruction (EDI) by dataworks, (a strategic collection of research-based instructional practices) and the meta-analysis of John Hattie’s Visible learning. At the same time as firming up our understanding of what works, we were eager to bust myths and found “Seven Myths About Education”, by Daisy Christodoulou a great way to help discredit some prevailing teaching methods that continued to lurk in our College. Daniel Willingham’s “Why Don’t Students Like School” gave further thought to where we could improve.

Our team visited the then Ofsted graded “Outstanding” Gateshead College to work with their team of Advanced Practitioners and visited Tyne Metropolitan College to consider their areas of outstanding provision. The team also attended and delivered presentations at TeachMeets at local schools Manor College,  St Hild’s School and Heathfield School. Our team was developing a clear picture of practices that were clearly based upon sound science and research. We were starting to form the basis of our teaching and learning strategy. Some of the key concepts that would drive our work were metacognition, cognitive load theory and dual coding.

We have delivered two Annual conferences at our college each year, inviting alongside our own team and staff, Dan Williams of SET and Andrew Foster @TougherMinds. We deliver CPD session weekly to ensure constant updating of staff.

As the teachers’ main role is to teach, we wanted to design an approach that, if followed, would ensure that the most impact on students’ learning and progress. Based on the work by Evidenced Based Teachers Network, a Teaching Standard for the college has now been developed. The primary aim of the standard is to support staff in areas of their practice.

There are six main themes in the Teaching Standard, which are used as a guide to support staff to develop their practice to the highest level. Importantly, the College no longer conducts lesson observations, the evidence for this is woolly at best, and is moving towards a coaching model to focus on the improvement and development of staff and their practice

Teaching Standard

Section 1: Orientate and focus

A key phase, which sets the tone for the lesson ahead. The Teacher should be clear about the high expectations that they have for students and the behaviours that are expected by the students, such as drinks, mobile phone, and readiness to learn. Students are expected to follow HARTS- Hardworking, Ambitious, Resilient, Thankful Self-aware.

Section 2: Prior Knowledge

A period of retrieval, interleaved and spaced practice. Teachers use this time to see what students can recall from previous teaching. Teachers assess students’ knowledge of material covered previously with targeted questions. The teacher should go back over material covered days, weeks and months previously.

Section 3: Present new material

Teachers present information linked explicitly to previous input. Cognitive load & limits to working memory should be considered – images and words (spoken and written) are effective. Dual coding should be applied where possible. Teachers should make explicit the links between new material and that previously covered (chunking).

Section 4: Set a challenging task

This section of the lesson provides students with desirable difficulties for students, which is essential for learning and the retention of material. Tasks are set which increase in “stretch and challenge” for all students.

Section 5: Provide feedback

This high impact strategy is essential for learning. As well as the teacher’s formative assessment, students are to use metacognition methods of self-appraisal and reflection as well as peer to peer feedback, ensuring that the teacher is not the only source of feedback.

Section 6: Repeat

Students need to practise, practise, and practise. The Repeat element includes repeating work within a session and over time. Student practice should be spaced, delivered and assessed over different times. Work should be interleaved and mixed-up with other topics and material, especially when assessing prior knowledge.

The Teaching Standards continue to develop especially when it comes to specific techniques. The Advanced Practitioners continue to develop and collaborate with the education community. At FEShowcase at The University of Derby 2019, amongst many speakers was Flavia Belham, Chief Scientist @Seneca Learning, who exploded some myths about exam revision techniques and highlighted the best practice for exam preparation. In addition, Jo Fletcher-Saxon promoted the research within FE through #FEResearchmeet where FE is taking ownership of research and scholarly activity.

The College believes in collaboration with other colleges, institutions and peers and that staff should be allowed to develop their own practice with support and guidance.

No apologies for repeating the earlier quote, as it is such a vital ethos which drives our staff, it is a quote that has remained constant throughout our journey and it drives us on to the next part of our journey in developing more professional research capabilities of staff and developing staff in such a way that they will continue to improve.

If we create a culture where every teacher believes they need to improve, not because they are not good enough but because they can be even better, there is no limit to what we can achieve.

Our journey now brings us to the Research College Group (RCG) led by Sam Jones and small group of likeminded practitioners, driving forward our collective will to improve.

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