Farewell from Rachel Lofthouse

This month I left Newcastle University for a new post at Leeds Beckett University where I am Professor of Teacher Education.  I am thrilled to be given this opportunity to work in my chosen field at a new institution and looking forward to making a contribution to knowledge, practice and the work of teachers, student teachers and educators in that region, as well as (I hope) further afield.  When the job was advertised it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss, although my first job application in 17 years was somewhat daunting.  I found myself writing it on New Year’s Day and perhaps that was the clincher, with the hopefulness of a new year, the potential challenges seemed enticing.  There were two additional pull factors. Firstly, I was born in Headingly (where the Carnegie School of Education at Leeds Beckett University is based), but left when I was two years old, so this felt like a bid to return to a forgotten homeland. Secondly, I had been to the Headingly campus the previous summer, on a warm sunny day when the parkland and redbrick buildings looked at their best, to attend a @WomenEd event.  Perhaps this application was my response to the commitment the women at that conference were making to shaping and sustaining education through their own professional lives.  So, cutting that story short, and via an interview in a box overlooking the cricket ground at Headingly (where the university occupy a stand) I have taken up the post.  Time will tell what this will bring, but I look forward to it.  But in looking forward I also look back.

My academic, professional and much of my social life has revolved around Newcastle University for longer than the nearly 18 years I have worked there. I joined the then School of Education in Joseph Cowen House in 1990, to do my PGCE with the relatively new tutor David Leat. Indeed I was the first candidate he ever interviewed for PGCE.  My PGCE was the best transition to professional and educative life I could imagine, and David should take credit for this.  It was a place where we explored ideas, made mistakes, learned to outgrow our embarrassment and naivety as new teachers, gained lifelong friends, and benefitted from mentoring and university tutoring which was absolutely based on the principles of critical friendship, subject enthusiasm and professional allegiance.  We learned how to reframe our perspectives on teaching and learning, and worked hard to learn to teach our subject (Geography) with both rigour and freshness.  This was pre-national curriculum and pre-QTS standards – a world becoming ever harder to recall!  I had placements in Scotswood and Hexham (thank you to Dave Lockwood and Gordon Whitfield my mentors), and went on to be a ‘probationer’ in Durham (thank you to Ian Short for his pragmatic leadership and support) and later a head of department in Prudhoe (thank you to Bill Graham for his subject wisdom and patience).  Much of my practice development and intellectual curiosity was supported by my work in partnership with the local authority advisors and colleagues from other schools, with particular shout-outs to Mel Rockett, Robert Peers, Anne D’Echavaria, James Nottingham and many others.

I have occasionally found myself in the right place at the right time, and the 1990s was just that for me. As a teacher I kept connected to the university in various guises. I was part of the Thinking Through Geography group, a PGCE mentor and occasional visiting tutor and a teacher-coach participant in a Schools Based Research Consortium project on teaching thinking skills.   I joined the university in 2000, having left behind the beckoning era of teacher performance management, threshold pay and league tables. I was an enthusiastic Geography PGCE tutor, enjoying the buzz that job offered of working with a diverse group of motivated student teachers, helping them make sense of education from their new perspectives and helping to sustain local geography departments where so many of them went on to work. The legacy of the teaching thinking skills work was significant and became a core characteristic of both the Geography and wider secondary PGCE in the 2000s.  My own interest in the work of mentors also provided continuity as I transitioned from that role to the university, and aligned with my experiences as a teacher coach in the research project.  Over time I took the lead in the secondary PGCE and then moved on to look the various part-time Masters programmes.  This gave me multiple opportunities to work with teachers from across the region, at all stages of their careers and in all educational sectors. In the last few years my particular interest has been developing the PGCert in Coaching and Mentoring modules. From my modules, and across the M.Ed and Ed.D programmes a significant learning experience for me has always been listening to teachers talk about their work and supervising their research. I have also enjoyed working more directly with a number of North East schools (including Hermitage, Cardinal Hume and Kelvin Grove) to develop and research approaches to professional learning and development, often through coaching. Thank you to all my Newcastle University students, and to the teachers, coaches and mentors I have worked with in schools. I have gained so much from working with you.

And so to my colleagues, without whom none of my enthusiasms for my work would have translated into practice.  My teaching colleagues in PGCE and Masters programmes and my research colleagues in CfLaT have been the most amazing critical friends, collaborators and co-conspirators. The educational landscapes that we inhabit have changed radically over my 18 years at Newcastle University; initial and continuing teacher exists in a topsy turvy world which maps haphazardly onto the changes in the organisations we used to know simply as schools, but now as academies, MATS, teaching schools, (to name just a few), and both our university and the wider HE sector has been transformed through student loans, the REF and global league tables. Through this my colleagues, who are unfortunately too numerous to name individually, have been a constant source of inspiration and challenge.  They know who they are, some are newly appointed, some have departed and others have worked alongside each other for many years.  They are all people who care deeply that education works for all in society; that it offers individuals ways of making sense of their world and allows communities to thrive.  Thank you to you all, for you have continued to teach me that education is of the people and for the people; wherever they (and we) are.

Developing critical perspectives of pedagogy: the role of Teaching Thinking

Our Secondary Core and School Direct PGCE and Employer-based PGCE students (based at Newcastle SCITT) started their new term with a busy period at both university and in school.  One aspect of this was the two day conference on Teaching Thinking Skills, which is the taught basis of a Masters module.   Here the students were introduced to thinking skills, metacognitive talk & lesson study, and they will follow this up using Lesson Study to co-plan, teach, observe and co-enquire into this pedagogic approach in their placement schools, as described in a previous blog post. The focus on teaching thinking skills builds on the legacy of former work by tutors and school teachers in the North East of England, in the late 90s and early 2000s which resulted in the ‘Thinking through …’ series of books.


During the conference students had keynote lectures provided by ECLS colleagues Professor David Leat and Dr Rachel Lofthouse and Kirsty Tate (Assistant Headteacher from Park View School), and were also introduced to Project-based learning by a group of their fellow School Direct PGCE students.

In between these session were six workshops.  Each one designed to ‘model’ popular strategies for teaching thinking skills. Each strategy was be briefly modelled so that students could gain an appreciation of Thinking Skills pedagogies from learners’ perspectives. This was followed by discussion which allowed them to think about which approaches they want to plan for in their own subjects and phase for their later lesson study.   Workshops were well received by the students, as one of our Employer-based PGCE students stated, “The sessions on Thinking Skills were very engaging and highly insightful.”  What a relief to know that the legacy of the original research and development work from well over a decade ago lives on! Details of some of the six approaches modelled in the workshops are given below.

Mysteries (Kim Cowie)

Mysteries give students an opportunity to develop thinking skills and work collaboratively. They require students to link information logically into cause and effect and justify their decisions.  They encourage substantive conversations and can create cognitive dissonance which while it can frustrate usually sparks enjoyment and creativity as students start to ‘argue’ and hypothesise’ – great fun as a student and as a teacher!

Living Graphs & Fortune Lines (Jon Haines)

Visualising thinking, and working collaboratively, to plot less conventional information, such as non-dated events, emotions and observations on paper, required trainee teachers to communicate effectively, justify, argue and reason to support their decisions and choices. Within minutes of reading through the statements for the first task, substantive conversation, contextualisation and linking to the real world were all evident alongside an increased depth of engagement and discussion that anyone may have predicted based upon the subject matter!

Map from Memory (Lynne Kay)

The Map from Memory strategy required students to work on their memory, by providing a context in which they became more aware of their memorisation techniques, worked out how to develop some specific strategies, with a view to becoming more effective learners and readers. Students worked in groups of four and tried to memorise chunks of visual information. Individuals came out in turn to look at the map and commit this information to memory before passing it onto others in the group as accurately as possible. In reflecting back, groups discussed some of the skills underpinning a successful approach to interpreting text or diagrams or both. It helped to raise awareness of what is involved in enabling learners to arrive at a ‘global’ or ‘gist’ understanding, establishing the ‘big picture’, and how the ‘big picture’ can help to interpret the meaning of parts of it. Adapting the strategy to different subjects and how it could be used in different ways was also discussed.

Audience and purpose (Roger Knill)

This technique focusses on developing pupil ability to justify choices to meet changing situations. It is a life skill in that it mimics the evolving choices we all make with a range of options but variable demands. How do we choose what to wear when surveying the weather on a daily basis? It teaches pupils that we can make decisions to create valid answers but also that it is a real skill to select different responses when the occasion demands. It is highly adaptable to all subject areas in school – from identifying the appropriate quotes from a novel to exemplify different themes within literature or selecting which equipment to conduct a range of experiments on a fine system in biology. Choosing only 6 options from about c.20-30 possibilities means that pupils can juggle a manageable amount of information and the layered decision making encourages substantive conversation, compromise and justification of conclusions. Great preparation for subsequent writing!

Odd One Out and Symbolic Stories (Rachel Lofthouse)

In this workshop students were first asked to scrutinise three photographs of classrooms, generating responses to the question: which this the Odd One Out and why?  It is a very flexible technique and can be used as a quick starter or plenary, as well as a more substantial activity.  We then practiced Symbolic Stories. An extract of text was read to the students and they individually interpreted this drawing symbols and pictures. Once they had done this they retold the story to a partner, giving an opportunity for them to fill in gaps for each other, compare how they each used symbols for different ideas, and opening up subject related themes through discussion.

Most likely (Steve Humble)

Predicting requires students to state from observations and previous knowledge what is ‘most likely’.  It requires them to look for patterns and trends. With a good prediction activity a teacher needs to clearly define what the prediction is to be about and to identify attributes that help inform the prediction. So a prediction activity is different from a guess because a guess is based solely on experiences that are recalled from the past. Guesses may lead to inaccurate predictions if they fail to be substantiated by data collected over time by the student. Mostly likely activities require students to use their existing knowledge to inform future thinking.


Disruptive thinking from an international perspective on education… in the midst of a learning journey in the UAE

This blog is written by a Secondary PGCE and M.Ed in Practitioner Inquiry alumni whose career pathway has taken him from North East England to the United Arab Emirates. Here he reflects on his career thus far and how his approach and mindset has its roots in his work on the Newcastle University M.Ed programme.

Shaun Robison image for blog

When I first started teaching, I was motivated by the challenge of teaching young people to think critically. I was always passionate about learning about other cultures, people and places and the opportunity to work on a government reform project focused on developing teachers’ pedagogy back in 2008 was too good to turn down. So I took the opportunity and moved to Al Ain, in the United Arab Emirates. Al Ain is the fourth largest city in the United Arab Emirates and has the largest population of Emiratis. I originally planned to stay for a year and return to Newcastle in an expanded role. As part of my role in the project, I was able to complete my dissertation for my M.Ed on ”The Impact of Thinking Skills in a UAE Context”.

Since then, I have worked as a teacher-trainer, school improvement partner, higher education director and project director for a British educational operator and an Indian investment company. I am also the Co-Founder of the UAE Learning Network – the largest network of teachers in the country, a member of the Education Intelligence Group and I served as a panel member on the Education Matters Show for 3 years on Dubai Eye Radio Station. I have worked in the classroom developing teachers’ pedagogy and I have also written government tenders, business plans for large scale education reform projects and new build projects. I take great pride in knowing how a business plan and feasibility study can impact on the outcomes within a classroom and how a teacher can be equipped to deliver an innovative curriculum from a commercial perspective. I call it the physics of education – knowing how all of the parts impact on each other and understanding how to leverage different components to get better outcomes for the children in the classroom.

Aside from my professional life, I have learnt and been immersed in Arabic and Emirati culture. Learning and living with another culture can be incredibly challenging but I have learnt so much about myself and others that I can only say that the experience has been incredibly enriching. My wife and I both completed our PGCE and M.Ed at the same time and we have shared this adventure together here in the UAE.

The international sector should not be looked upon with rose tinted glasses; like everywhere, it has its benefits and its limitations. I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly from many angles with respect to international schools so making the decision to teach abroad should not be taken lightly.

I have just recently conducted the first ever UAE Teacher and Educator Survey across the country. The findings have shocked certain sections of the industry here as they challenge the status quo but we have also highlighted the sector’s biggest challenge – retention of teachers. My intention for completing the survey was to give teachers a voice as they are often un-heard and on the fringes of the industry here, as it is purely market-led. I still remember and smile about the activity I did during my PGCE at Walker Technology College to gauge the teacher-voice within the school.  Working with and alongside teachers has been my constant passion since completing my PGCE and M.Ed and at my core, is everything I learnt at Newcastle

As educators, we should not underestimate lived experience. The international sector is awash with opportunities that may offer a glimpse into another world that may change your worldview on education.

Shaun Robison is currently completing his PhD in Education with Newcastle University on “Professional Learning Re-Constructed through Narrative Enquiry in the United Arab Emirates”. He has a passion for professional learning and teacher-training.

You can follow Shaun on twitter @shaun_robison

Making sense of the puzzle of practice

This blog is written by a Secondary PGCE Geography alumni whose career pathway has taken him from North East England to Sydney, Australia.  Here he reflects on his current work to support teachers to make sense of the puzzle in their practices and how this has its roots in his work on the Newcastle University PGCE programme.

A passion for thinking and learning was first fired in my PGCE course at Newcastle University, working alongside Rachel Lofthouse as my tutor. With an enhanced understanding of the seminal work of David Leat and the ‘Thinking through…’ team, I was able to use this as a springboard for the rest of my career. After seven years of teaching at Seaton Burn College, working in a variety of leadership roles but most prominently in the professional learning of teachers, a move to Australia led me to Masada College in St Ives, Sydney – an independent Jewish school for 3-18 year olds. My journey in leading and developing teacher capacity continued soon after joining Masada, primarily with a focus on embedding technologies. In 2015, I was invited to join the Executive team as Head of Teaching and Learning 7-12. My time in Australia has provided a myriad of opportunities and 2016 is no exception! It is shaping up to be another year full of professional learning. In July, I am extremely fortunate to have been accepted to be a participant at the Harvard University School of Education ‘Project Zero Classroom’ and ‘Future of Learning’ courses, both of which are central to our teaching and learning ethos at Masada. In addition, as the recipient of the NGS Superannuation ‘Dedicated to the Dedicated’ scholarship, I will visit USA schools who are pioneers in student centered classrooms. In connection with this study tour, working alongside ‘Flipped learning’ pioneers Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergmann, I will facilitate professional learning at FlipCon in Adelaide and the Gold Coast.


This article represents a snapshot of my work alongside Carla Gagliano as my fellow Head of Teaching and Learning (ELC-6) and the many outstanding colleagues we have across the school.

Day One, Term One and as our new and established colleagues arrived back at Masada College, refreshed and looking forward to the year ahead, we began by asking them just one seemingly simple question: What do we want the children we teach to be like when they are adults? It’s a question that has been posed many times by our colleagues of the Project Zero team at Harvard University, to teachers around the world in developing cultures of thinking in schools.

The question creates a myriad of responses, but what is most interesting is the commonalities in what our teachers consider to be residuals of education. Not merely the ability to pass a test or reach the top Higher School Certificate grade, but imbue in our students a set of thinking dispositions (Ritchhart, 2002). Not thinking skills, but dispositions such open-mindedness, curiosity, scepticism, metacognition, compassion, inquisitiveness and truth-seeking amongst others. In this way, we see our students grow into the intellectual life around them. They learn to become thinkers, rather than do thinking.

At Masada College, through our Leading Learning educational package, we respect students’ talents, develop their creativity, their sense of responsibility, enrich their thinking and encourage everyone to strive to achieve their personal best. In our almost decade long journey in developing cultures of thinking, we have observed our teachers not ‘teaching thinking’ or relying on ‘thinking programs’ but instead leveraging cultural forces such as routines, language and interactions to create an environment where a collective and individual thinking is valued, visible and actively promoted as part of the regular day-to-day experience for all.

370 - Sept 2015 publicity images - Photography by Mark Zworestine - MCZ12882

This ‘experience for all’ crucially includes our teachers. We embrace the notion that if we want a culture of thinking for our students, then we need a culture of thinking for our teachers. Guided by Project Zero consultant, Mark Church, all of our teachers conduct an action research project of their choosing to develop their understanding of a puzzle of practice to enhance student learning. At the heart of our culture of thinking are fortnightly focus groups, guided by an experienced facilitator. Working alongside peers to unpack their teaching puzzle, discuss possible next steps and share effective practice creates opportunities for rich discourse about teaching and learning.

As we have developed our culture and become a leading organisation using the approach, we are regularly asked to share our insights and learning with schools both nationally and internationally. Our highly acclaimed ‘Building Capability for Critical and Creative Thinking’ course is a three-part professional learning opportunity for us to share these insights and assist teachers and leaders from schools across New South Wales place critical and creative thinking at the heart of what happens in schools and classrooms. Throughout the course professional learners reflect on their practice and discover and embed this rich and transformative approach.

We strive for Masada graduates to display the sorts of attitudes toward thinking and learning we would most like to see in all young people – not closed-minded but open-minded, not bored but curious, neither gullible nor sweepingly negative but healthily sceptical, not satisfied with surface-level learning but digging deeper towards a genuine understanding. As educators, it is our responsibility to ensure that students truly become thinkers, not only to ensure examination success but to guarantee success beyond school and promote life-long learning.

Ryan Gill
Head of Teaching and Learning 7-12
Masada College, Sydney
Follow me on Twitter: @ryanagill


Ritchhart, R. (2015). Creating cultures of thinking: the 8 forces we must master to truly transform our schools. Josey-Bass

Ritchhart, R. (2016). Making Thinking Visible: Using Thinking Routines in the Classroom. Presentation.

“Step out of the shed and into the garden”: how lesson study enables deep professional learning.


Upon first hearing of the words ‘lesson’ and ‘study’ in the same sentence, I was puzzled. I was to be studying another trainee teacher’s lesson? Wasn’t I supposed to be teaching lessons? Wasn’t that, after all, the whole point of the PGCE, to learn how to teach through practice? I wasn’t completely wrong, however, once my blinding ignorance had slowly subsided, I realised that even though teaching and learning was now at the heart of my life, I had, up until now, focussed solely, if not obsessively, upon the teaching and learning of other subjects –  those of the pupil cohorts sent my way. I must get those learning objectives on the board. How will I be showing progress? Will behaviour for learning targets be achieved? And what about assessment?

In my misguided innocence to please and deliver, I had forgotten about MY own learning and what others could teach me. Of course, I diligently attended every CPD session and university lecture but it takes time to realise that independence in sustained professional learning is also vital. I needed to take time to breathe. To step back. And to slow down and reflect. We often spend so much time moving forward that we forget what sights we have passed along the way. This blog is my narrative of how I took a pause to process key stages and markers that are appearing with increasing frequency on my professional journey as my career in teaching continues to accelerate.

Education is not something one can ever really ‘finish’, not truly. I am learning and I will also be learning as an NQT and also for many more years to come for that is the cyclical nature of the profession to which we have entered – and this is not something mutually exclusive to education, either. Coming from a family of medical professionals, I have also been aware of the other contours of our public sector landscape continuing to reform and evolve as society progresses and years tick by. That said, I was more than a little disappointed, if not in a state of lamentation, of my failure to see beyond the four or five periods stretched out before me. I had been so busy in my shed of learning, attempting to differentiate, collate evidence, mark homework and plan lessons to name but a handful of examples, that I hadn’t heard the screaming going on just outside. I needed to step out, and beyond, so I could actually learn something within a wider professional context before returning to the aforementioned shed and returning to my own affairs. Lesson study was the means by which I could facilitate this process of study for myself for once – and not just my Key Stage Four French class which hadn’t quite mastered the imperfect tense yet.

Cynicism and scepticism dissolved, the lesson study process began. Here we were, myself and Matthew Hutchings, a Chemistry specialist, about to embark upon a professional task about which I knew relatively little. Writing retrospectively, I am now in a position to share what I have learnt and espouse the benefits of lesson study to one and all – an invaluable tool for education practitioners far and wide and one which is possibly, at times, overlooked.

The rise of genuine professionally-minded discussions about the teaching and learning taking place and the benefits of the lesson study process have helped both me and Matt become critical in examination of our own practice and what we would wish to do moving forward in the future, which was something I never thought possible to such an extent, especially in terms of cross curricular engagement with another teacher in a world where some scholastic departments have a tendency to be more than a trifle tribal. Sad, but true.

Personally, I have relished the chance to observe a subject outside of my own subject specialism to contribute to not only my Teaching Standards (T8/PPC) but also begin to examine within myself a broader, deeper and wider idea and construct about what I really think the purpose of education is and how fully-rounded it can be. The observation of Matt’s practical experiment was a chance for me to confess to his pupils that as a linguist, Chemistry was far from my forte but I’m not too old to be learning, too. The pupils seemed to respect this, albeit with a minor degree of surprise, but I’m sure it was hugely reassuring for them to know that I am only human too, teacher at 3:25 or human on the drive home.

Lesson study was useful to see the interactions and behaviours of some of my own pupils in a different lesson with a different teacher and think about why this might be similar, different, and/or unchanged and what I/we could do about it. Humans are social animals and school is, for many young people, the centre of their social environment before adulthood. This permeates into our lessons and as teachers, we have a responsibility to ensure behaviour for learning is largely a positive affair, both inside and outside the confines of the four walls of a classroom.

I enjoyed the chance to observe a trainee in practice to realise that I am not the only one learning, developing and training and this helped dilute any initial professional and/or training confidence issues, something which appealed to my introverted character and emotional nature as a person, distanced from the classroom persona I project on a daily basis when I’m ‘in the zone’.

Amidst a plethora of training, teaching and learning challenges that crop up during the PGCE year, the directed process of lesson study was invaluable in allowing myself and Matt to reflect more deeply about what we are actually doing, how we are doing it and even the ‘why’ (this doesn’t always happen for us in as much detail for a “normal” lesson with time constraints often an unavoidable barrier to the depth of our routine reflections).

Matt put the date in French as a nod to me as a MFL trainee in his Chemistry lesson. A pupil asked why, with more than a certain tone of incredulity and sarcasm to which the response was: “We don’t always teach French in French lessons, nor English in English lessons. We’re all teachers and, quite frankly, why not?” This genuinely made the pupils before my eyes ponder what had just been uttered to them by an education practitioner – even if only for a moment – and felt to me as one of the most sincerely tangible albeit short manifestations of SMSC and the broader notion of what it is ‘to educate’ coming to life before my very eyes in a classroom. If I hadn’t been involved in lesson study, I may never have even seen these fleeting but crucial seconds! It was almost as if the pupils were thinking that it’s actually okay to have a bit of French within chemistry and that, actually, subjects are interlinked as part of a broader curriculum and not mutually exclusive entities.

So, I leave you now with my reflections and invite you to probe at your own. Perhaps you already have. If so, keep doing it. If not, there’s never any time like the present. A real exploration of lesson study is beyond the ticking-boxes-jumping-hoops superficial. It is a real exercise, a deep process which places the spotlight not on them but on us. What are we learning? Step out of that shed and into the garden. You might be missing something.

Author: James Rivett Newcastle University PGCE Student, Modern Foreign Languages

Abi Henry, Mathematics School Direct PGCE trainee, reflects on our recent SEND Conference.

The day started with an informative session from Newcastle School Improvement Services about the massive legislative changes that have taken place within SEN from September 2014 as part of the Children’s and Families Act 2014.  This clearly laid out the responsibilities and expectations on teachers to support all children.  It is good to understand the framework in which the profession we are training for sits.


This was followed by 4 workshops to explore differing needs and how best to differentiate a lesson to ensure the needs of all pupils can be met.  The sessions were varied in their content but also their delivery which would have suited most learners.


The speakers were well informed and generous with their time and knowledge.  They used good techniques to make us consider how if feels to be a child with SEN and what measures we can take to alleviate the daily stresses they may feel.  We all have a  responsibility to make sure school is a positive and pleasurable opportunity for young people who are far more likely to learn if they are happy.


In terms of what I will take away and plan to try out over the coming weeks:

  • Plan your lesson for the children and then add the subject specific information to the lesson
  • Have ‘Secret Heros’ – when on yard duty give a child what appears to be a random fact to a question you will ask in a later lesson – it allows all children to succeed and build confidence answering questions in the classroom.
  • If a child needs a worksheet printed in a certain colour just print them all in that colour; don’t single them out.
  • Use word to check the readability of the work you produce (the +5 rule).

Thank you to everyone for organising!

Behaviour Conference Reflection

Matt McGuire, PGCE Trainee reflects on what he learnt from the Behaviour Conference

undefinedPlato said that “all learning has an emotional base” suggesting that behaviour puts a student’s feelings on display, so teachers need to know exactly what to say to enable students to process the information and get on with it. The workhops focussed on how we as teachers can act in ways where good behaviour is inevitable and bad behaviour is rare. Throughout the day it became clear that the most significant factor is the quality of the teacher, and how behaviour is something that is taught rather something that is managed. As a teacher it is important to not only know but also understand the tools at our disposal including voice and body language. Looking at scenarios, I learnt the importance of planning for behaviour through understanding student’s backgrounds in order to implement appropriate strategies. Although reflection is important, it is important not to dwell on the negatives and instead learn from them. Finally, I learnt that when teaching behaviour, students can be motivated in different ways.  Teachers must decide which technique is most appropriate to use, depending on the individual situation.

Florelena Galvis, SD PGCE Trainee reflects on the day and what she personally gained.

Last Friday’s Behaviour Conference provided a great opportunity for teacher trainees to discuss and understand a topic that is central in today’s teaching classrooms: behaviour management. The conference opened with a lecture about “Behaviour and/for Learning”, by Dr Simon Gibbs, Reader in Educational Psychology. In this talk, Dr Gibbs focused on how teachers could turn poor behaviour into positive learning by creating classroom routines and adopting strategies that would directly address students’ anxieties, reminding us all that a significant portion of the nation’s pupils are excluded every year due to undesirable performances in the classroom. How can teachers make a difference in children’s learning process?

A series of workshops continued, initiated by a discussion about why students behave the way they do. In this first session trainees learnt about the nature of behaviour, which was defined as “thoughts and feelings in display”, meaning that pupils carry with them “bags of stress and fears” caused by situations at home, outside home or maybe even at school, and that we teachers need to take this into consideration. The following session concentrated on behaviour management techniques and strategies, and presented a very effective way to minimise poor behaviour in the classroom: see everybody, hear what is going on, communicate clearly and uses body language appropriately. The next workshop encouraged a discussion that involved real classroom scenarios and effective ways to deal with these that would promote a safe learning environment within the classroom. For example, a good way to deal with a misbehaving student is to give them choices where the responsibility for changing their behaviour around falls entirely on them. The final session referred to how teachers can help improve behaviour for learning by incorporating tactics in their lesson plans that account for any opportunity of misbehaviour or prevent misconduct from escalating.


All four workshops presented several ways that teacher can deal with poor behaviour effectively in the classroom, and a common conclusion from all four meetings was that teaching is an emotional profession, and that teachers must control their emotions and reactions in front of every occurrence of poor behaviour, no matter how bad this is, in order to be able to successfully deal with them.

The behaviour conference was not only exciting and enjoyable, but also very enriching in arguments and answers. It allowed trainees to think about possible behaviour situations that could threaten the progress of their lessons and potentially turn into a build-up of whole-class poor conduct. The conference provided a fertile base for participants to think about ideas and strategies that could be put in place to minimise poor behaviour and to maximise learning. Trainees left the conference feeling more confident about managing students’ behaviour, and willing to try different techniques that could help them secure behaviour for learning and, more importantly, overcome their apprehensions about behaviour management.