During Autumn 2019 and, with the publication of the Core Content Framework we, like many of our colleagues in the sector, reviewed our curriculum and reflected on how explicit and connected the teaching of pertinent pedagogy, cognitive science, learning, and child development theory was to our school-based training.
As we reflected, reviewed and analysed, we identified the key theories we believed created the best scaffold for our trainees to hang their developing knowledge and understanding on and wove them into the professional studies training delivered by the core team and into tutorials through the lead tutor team. This gave scope for our trainees to learn and recall the pedagogy, and apply it contextually through tutorials to ‘deepen’ the learning and create links and connections which we know enhance long-term memory.
At the same time, we reflected on our commitment to our School-Based Trainers (SBTs), or mentors, and reviewed their current ability to articulate their knowledge and understanding of pedagogy in the day-to-day practice of the classroom. We recognise that this is critical for the development of our trainees – the SBTs do the day-to-day coaching, mentoring, training and feedback. We were setting an expectation that these school-based conversations would be based in the general principles of pedagogy as well as specific techniques of practice, so we needed to ensure our SBTs could work in this way too.
We decided that we needed to entwine the core training theoretical strand of learning with the school-based practice strand even more to be like a rope that flexes, moves and connects, but is seamlessly joined and in its ‘joined-ness’ has strength and resilience. In real terms, this meant we needed to teach, or remind, the mentors of the pertinent pedagogy, cognitive science and child development theories that are central to our trainee curriculum offer, so they could provide day-to-day explanation and challenge rooted in the best, pertinent evidence.
We already have a secure and generous programme of SBT meetings and CPD over the year and this is where the ‘Pause for Pedagogy’ idea came from – during each meeting, and alongside training the mentors in coaching and mentoring, and ensuring and assuring operational activity, a pause was made where the ITT leads and tutors summarised key pedagogy that had been taught to the cohort.
This was shared as short films, one-page profiles or the trainer themselves summarising the pedagogy. This information is hosted on our website so that SBTs can come back to it in the future and refer to it again as they feel is helpful. Sharing this information with SBTs was only part of the package – our policy and procedure for quality assurance includes opportunities for coaching and mentoring SBTs in joint assurance activity, and we began enhancing these opportunities to model our expectations for trainees to articulate their practice using reflection and analysis and keep their decisions rooted in the evidence base and pertinent pedagogy.
Autumn of 2019 became winter of 2020 and by spring we were in our first national lockdown. Our trainees predominantly remained in their school communities, teaching vulnerable and key worker children in school and children at home. We began a programme of weekly online group tutorials linking theory and practice: we knew we had to give the trainees the best foundations possible – they were potentially vulnerable going into the classroom in September.
At this point, the core ITT team took some of the role of linking and connecting pedagogy and practice from some of the mentors for some of the time due to illness and absence from school.
Spring turned to summer and we carried out our final assessment processes – as closely aligned as possible to our non-Covid processes. Trainees completed planning sequences for online learning, reflected on and analysed their pedagogy and practice, and analysed their impact on pupil progress. During the final assessment vivas, our quality assurers and external examiner noted that many trainees and SBTs were talking pedagogy confidently and demonstrating their ability to link pedagogy and practice and refer to pedagogy when they explained their decisions and impact on pupil progress.
While we may not have seen the same impact as we might have hoped had Covid-19 not impacted on delivery, this is a promising strategy for raising the knowledge, understanding and skills of our SBTs so that they can provide ‘in the moment feedback’ and curate professional discussions with trainees that blend the general principles of pedagogy with specific teaching strategies in order to ensure trainee and pupil progress. By learning together and joining up the different elements, we are creating a shared language for communication and challenge. We are committed to sharing knowledge and developing a shared vocabulary to communicate the pedagogy. This is a central part of our curriculum offer and is part of supporting SBTs to be the best that they can be; the students to be the best that they can be; and, ultimately, the children to be the best that they can be.