A CPD case study: Creating the Wow Factor!

Written by: Mark Fitzgibbon | Published:
Getting creative: Teachers taking part Marlborough Science Academy's The Wow Factor CPD programme speed-dating INSET day

In a bid to encourage, inspire and share creative teaching ideas across the school, Marlborough Science Academy has launched its Wow Factor and Creativity Week CPD programme. Deputy head Mark Fitzgibbon explains all

Following our successful Ofsted last spring, we were delighted by the feedback we received in respect of our “increasingly effective teaching”.

For many years now our head has encouraged staff to take risks in the classroom and not to be afraid of trying something new or an idea that is outside of their comfort zone.

However, it has taken a while for staff to actually feel confident with that philosophy. And, as in Ofsted inspections, teachers can often revert to teaching those careful lessons that are not likely to let us down – and who can blame us? Indeed, over the years there have been so many “right” and “wrong” approaches advocated for the perfect lesson that, when we are under pressure, playing safe can seem like the sensible option.

However, after Ofsted feedback regarding creativity in the classroom we have really opened up the spirit of teaching creative and invigorating lessons.

We all know the fun and excitement that go hand-in-hand with the joy that is teaching and we know that this can be achieved without compromising standards or opportunities for in-depth understanding.

Here at Marlborough Science Academy, we want creative and thoughtful teaching and learning to underpin everything we do. We want teachers to feel empowered and supported to try something new, to learn from each other, and of course to be guided by learners and their individual needs.

So what have we done in the past year or so to achieve this?

Focused training days

Towards the end of the summer term, every member of staff was asked to put forward one teaching and learning idea that they could disseminate to colleagues in 30 seconds or less. These were all collated and used to form part of “The Wow Factor”, an INSET day which we held when staff returned in September. And so it came to be that staff were greeted on their first day back with Kylie Minogue’s Wow blasting through the PA system followed by a giant animated head of chief inspector Amanda Spielman (created using Crazy Talk software).

Ms Spielman appeared on the big screen and through my voice addressed the staff about creative teaching and the impact that this has on learning.

This message was then reinforced by some of our students, who were pre-recorded and green-screened onto a creative backdrop talking about their most memorable learning experiences.

On arrival, all staff were handed a personally addressed, golden envelope, containing six copies of their previously collated top teaching idea, which had been printed onto Wow starter cards.

These were used during a speed-dating activity (pictured), where staff enthusiastically discussed and exchanged their Wow starter cards, instantly building up a bank of resources that they could use in their lessons.

The golden envelopes also included a personalised invite to take part in three different creative workshop lessons from a total of nine which were on offer during the day. These were all delivered by teachers from our school’s Teacher Development Team.

Using the Teacher Development Team showed staff how “doable” these ideas were and how it would be possible to integrate them into any learning experience or subject. The nine lessons were non-subject-specific and saw our teachers as learners. They were designed to take them out of their comfort zone and show them how a variety of pedagogical ideas could be implemented.

Staff also received a golden ticket. The golden ticket could be exchanged for two lesson observations of colleagues, one within their faculty and one outside of their faculty. The idea was to facilitate the quick exchange and dissemination of the Wow ideas and other good practice seen around the school.

During the INSET, the lesson workshops fully immersed staff in the learner role. The choice of nine workshops that were offered are as follows:

  • Pick ‘n’ Mix: Staff created and implemented a variety of different learning games using equipment they had managed to find within a limited amount of time.
  • Warr Tours: Staff used jigsawing and reduction ideas/techniques to help cover vast amounts of information quickly. It culminated in postcard summaries being produced.
  • Under Wraps: Staff learned how to produce differentiated origami objects in a session that focused on success criteria and peer and self-assessment.
  • Jump to it: This had staff bouncing throughout on trampolines with the help of Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats theory. It included use of video analysis for peer assessment.
  • Hyper Learning: This saw staff problem-solving based on the changing information that was being presented to them in their role play scenario.
  • Fifty Shades of Revenge: A murder mystery that inspired team-working skills.
  • Mapping Marlborough Materials: Staff had to treasure hunt in their teams using orienteering and then had to construct models with what they had managed to locate.
  • Living pictures: Staff had to discuss what materials they could find and use to reconstruct a variety of famous pictures (see main image, opposite).
  • Shaken, not stirred: Staff put into action teaching ideas inspired by television programmes such as Mock the Week and Bake off.

Creativity Week

The INSET experience received positive evaluations from staff and was the platform needed to inspire and launch our “Creativity Week” initiative.

We began by ensuring that our weekly top teaching tips briefing to staff focused on creative starter or entrance activities. We also continued to disseminate weekly student feedback about their most memorable learning activities, with staff shout-outs when appropriate. All of this was intended to continue to raise the profile of creative learning.

Staff were then asked if they would like to contribute to the Creativity Week and showcase the whole of their lesson or some creative starters, middles or plenaries.

A timetable of events was then constructed and personal invites were sent out to colleagues, inviting them to visit classrooms at the set times to experience “The Wow Factor” in action.

Staff who visited were asked to fill in and return a positive postcard – or a Creativity in the Classroom card – to the teacher who delivered the lesson saying what they thought was great and what worked well about the lesson.

We were delighted by how may staff opened up their classrooms to showcase their learning – from members of the leadership team and middle leaders to staff who had just joined us or were still training.

To give you a flavour of what went on over this week, in drama who would have thought that a roll of brown paper could be transformed into three-foot puppets. They were and then they were skilfully brought to life by our year 10 students to explore how movement and shape can portray emotion.

In English, Romeo and Juliet was explored using a speed-dating activity (pictured), this was combined with role play. Seeing students answering their pre-constructed questions while remaining completely in character was simply awesome.

Educating Rita, was introduced to year 9 by turning the clock back to the 1980s. In order to set the scene their classroom had been transformed into a cinema. The projector screen had curtains covering it, 1980s music welcomed students on arrival.

Cinema tickets were transformed and become entrance questions. Students acted out parts of the play and then discussed and justified where they thought the scenes fitted into the play.

Year 8 English students had a carousel of learning activities to look at war imagery. Constructing a war poem from the jumbled words given really focused their minds on the power of imagery and sentence structure.

Snail-racing inspired fabulous art work, with snails brought in and photographed and used to inspire the creation of paper models. For post-16 learners, water cycles were constructed using a range of household items in an amazing carousel of activities.

These are but a few of the selection of lesson ideas showcased throughout the week.

Conclusion

With just a tiny amount of money spent but with a lot of imagination we have seen a significant impact on teaching and learning.
Indeed, teaching and learning goes from strength to strength in the school. How do we know this? Well our students tell us each week in their Learning Counts meetings with our leadership team.

There is already a buzzing yet healthy air of competition in the staffroom and a real dialogue to be heard across the school, which is helping to shape good practice. Teachers are encouraging one another to try something new and we are now ready to launch the second Creativity Week. We are also planning to provide more support for the entire process through the use of coaching techniques.

  • Mark Fitzgibbon is deputy headteacher at The Marlborough Science Academy in St Albans.


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