Diane Swift

COVID-19: “Whilst we are geographically distant, we have been able to remain intellectually close through Thinking Moves”

Diane Swift is Executive SCITT Director of Keele and North Staffordshire Teacher Education

Beginning teachers across the country are feeling bereft of the opportunity to develop their scholarship of teaching through being in school.

Providers have rapidly responded to the national effort in relation to Covid-19 by developing programmes that enable trainees to be as well prepared, but the 2019-20 cohort have experienced an ITE programme like no other.

We simply cannot pretend to replicate school-based elements of the programme online, but we can offer high-quality professional learning and development. At Keele and North Staffordshire Teacher Education, part of Shaw Education Trust, we appreciated that it is eminently unhelpful to think of any trainee as being ‘behind’; such a perspective prioritises a lack over a difference. In difference there are opportunities, in a deficit model there is a burden.

We would rather carry an opportunity. So with our trainees we wanted to openly acknowledge that their experience is exceptional and, in doing so, be conscious and explicit about the opportunities which we have sought for them.

As part of this we have considered how best to embrace a metacognitive framework called Thinking Moves, developed by Roger Sutcliffe and the team at Dialogue Works, (https://dialogueworks.co.uk/thinking-moves/).

Thinking Moves offers a toolkit, which is not a set of tips and tricks but rather one that embraces the significance of vocabulary carrying meaning. It utilises the alphabet, so for each letter there is an associated Move; for example, Thinking AHEAD for A, Thinking BACK for B and so on. The clarity of the scheme is that each Move is associated with key partner verbs and synonyms. Additionally for each Move there are associated icons or ideograms.

This shared vocabulary has become an essential resource for us. Whilst we are geographical distant, we have been able to remain intellectual close. Our trainees have been asked to apply a Move to a subject area by planning a 5-10 minute activity, with their current placement class in mind. They then teach this via Zoom to a group of peers, who take on the role of the pupils.

They have to consider how to teach purposefully online, how to structure such learning and how to be specific. The trainees then analyse their teaching together, supported by an experienced tutor. They have been provided with both a planning and a co-analytical framework. These have been informed by the Moves, enabling a rigour that has been welcomed by the trainees.

Initial feedback from the trainees suggests that such a tightly framed approach has enabled them to continue to develop their practice and pedagogy in a meaningful way. It has, in fact, opened up an intellectual and scholarly space that is practice related. By focusing on one Move and one aspect of one subject, the trainees have had to think deeply themselves.

The apparent simplicity of this innovation is deceptive. Trainees have dug deep because of the need to reason and justify their pedagogic choices. They have needed to think carefully about the specifics of the intention of the Move and therefore select from the subject thoughtfully. Subjects have become rich resources to mine in relation to the prioritised Move.

In turn, the Move has become a trigger to think about the essential nature of the subject and what it means for a pupil to make progress in that subject. The trainees have been even more cognisant of the significance of their own subject knowledge so that they can address misconceptions and consider the vocabulary they will be using in order that their pupils can progress. Together the Moves and subjects strengthen each other.

Having developed our Thinking Moves Zoom Teach opportunity in response to a sudden need, there is much that we will draw on subsequently when we return to face-to-face teaching. The specifics of the learning intentions, and the significance between the relationship between the Move and the subject are key. For the trainees this has secured the importance of an activity serving an explicit shared purpose, rather than the activity itself being the focus.

The trainees have reflected on the importance of this both in relation to metacognition and self-regulation, but also in terms of disciplined subject thinking. This is an essential element of professional knowledge and one that we have been pleased to focus on whilst we are physically apart but collaboratively close.

Diane Swift is Executive SCITT Director of Keele and North Staffordshire Teacher Education

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