Collaborate to Motivate

Picture an outstanding lesson and what do you see? What’s going on in the lesson? What is the teacher doing? What are the students up to? For some, the image conjured might be a calm classroom where students sit studiously with their heads in a book, but I would guess that most of us have pictured a classroom where students are working together. They are engaged in dialogue with the teacher and their peers, sharing ideas and opinions, asking questions and working on tasks and problems together. Whenever I have worked with groups of teachers to discuss and draw out the key features of outstanding learning a common factor that always prevails is some level of cooperation and collaboration between students. Sometimes you can walk into a lesson and instantly know it is outstanding because the learning is so palpable. There is a certain buzz to a lesson where students are working purposefully together in small groups. Indeed, it is harder not to find good examples of learning when these conditions are present. Evidence of learning is much harder to find in quiet lessons where students work in isolation.

Collaborative approaches to learning dominate the evidence-based research for the impact they have on student achievement. When compared to more traditional methods where students passively receive information from a teacher, cooperative, problem-based learning has been shown to improve student engagement and retention. Furthermore, More than 1200 studies comparing cooperative, competitive, and individualistic efforts have found that cooperative learning methods improve students’ time on tasks and intrinsic motivation to learn.

This got me thinking about how we can motivate students in their learning. A staple theory on most Business Studies or Psychology syllabus is the work of Abraham Maslow and his Hierarchy of Needs.

Abraham Maslow’s popular theory of human motivation represented through his Hierarchy of Needs (1943) identifies five distinct levels of human motivation (see below).  Here I have suggested how the five basic human needs might be fulfilled in a classroom context, from the basic needs through to self-actualisation – the desire to become everything that one is capable of becoming. A few slight tweaks might be necessary should we examine the concept from a whole school perspective, but this is my take. As teachers, we help our students achieve these ‘needs’ in our lessons and, to me, it seems fairly obvious that their love and belonging needs would come from opportunities to collaborate with others and feel part of a learning community. I’ve dedicated a whole section of the book to collaborative learning and would welcome opinions on how Maslow’s theory might work in a classroom setting.

Fig 4.1 Maslow in the classroom


EDpuzzle: A Great Way to Flip

I recently came across when planning a cover lesson.

EDpuzzle is a website that allows teachers to create tutorials, assignments and projects easily by importing and editing video. The inherent problem with using videos for teaching or flipping the lesson, is that, unless we have made the videos ourselves, the content doesn’t always meet our needs. Perhaps additional concepts are covered or the explanation or example doesn’t quite suit the specification or class we intend to use it with. Edpuzzle has a number of features that help us get around some of these problems.

To start, EDpuzzle allows you to search for and pull content from various sources, such as YouTube, TED, or upload content yourself. The first handy tool is the crop function. No longer do you need to specify a time frame to watch, just trim down the unnecessary content.


Perhaps the two most useful tools of the website are audio track and audio notes. An Audio Track acts as a voiceover recording. I’ve found this particularly useful when I have needed to replace video audio with my own explanation or instruction. For example, when interpreting the images on the screen such as adding my own explanation to a diagram as it is being drawn on the screen or providing a commentary to the visuals.

The Audio Notes add similar functionality, but instead of providing a voiceover, allows you to pause the video and add your own explanation. This is my favourite tool as it allows you to add clarification, prompts and explanation at relevant points. Something you can’t usually do when students watch a video outside of the classroom.


The final function before exporting your video to an assignment, project or a class, is the Quizzes function. This allows teachers to pause the video and add any type of question you like. Multiple choice, short answer, extended written response or simply your own comment (like adding a voice note). The answers submitted by your students when assigned as a class are then collated for you to view on the website. There are also additional settings you can apply that prevent students from skipping any of the features you add to the video. The results of the questions and progress on each video are collated and shown visually on the dashboard. Multiple choice questions are graded automatically and open questions can be marked online with feedback given to each student. The results can even be exported to a CSV file.


I’m still learning, but initial attempts to use this resource have been promising. A great website that is effective and simple to use.



Effective CPD

Driving Outstanding Practice: A Model for Inter-School Collaboration

The case for inter-school collaboration is strong and over the past few years the prominence of collaborative partnerships has grown. Inter-school collaboration creates new opportunities, raises standards, delivers economies of scale, breaks down barriers and improves understanding of different educational contexts and helps teachers work together in a mutually beneficial way.

In October 2012 I contacted a colleague to explore the possibility of building ties between the independent school I had recently moved to and the comprehensive maintained school I had left that summer. At the time, he too was looking to build a collaborative partnership between a number of schools to develop best practice teaching and learning. After a few phone calls to friends, acquaintances and old colleagues, a Saturday meeting was arranged at my home. The purpose of our meeting was to try and pick out the most successful elements of CDP in its various guises and come up with a solution that incorporated them all. Over several brews and a full packet of chocolate hobnobs the Driving Outstanding Practice Programme (or DrOPP) was born. The programme was launched in January 2013 through a local Teaching School Alliance with four schools hosting the half-day events. The initial cohort involved teachers from eight different local schools. The programme was successful and has since branched out to involve more schools and teachers. Since its conception, the principles behind the DrOPP have been used successfully in a range of contexts to help bring teachers together to collaborate and share their ideas and expertise in teaching and learning.

Each event would take a different focus on a key aspect of teaching and learning. These initial events were entitled Achieving Outstanding Teaching and Learning, Best Practice in Assessment for Learning, Driving Improvement Across Classrooms, Encouraging Successful Student-led Learning and Differentiation for Key Learner Groups. We allocated these topics to a school where there was a strength or a particular area of interest. Each event followed its own agenda depending on the nature of the topic or preference of the facilitator and held during a morning or an afternoon.

Before starting the programme with a new cohort we asked each teacher to produce a one-page profile of themselves, their areas of expertise and three things they hoped to gain from the programme. Apart from being a nice way to introduce the cohort to one another, these profiles were extremely useful in tailoring events and pairing teachers with similar objectives. In order to personalise the programme for each teacher the lead members of staff from each school, acting as facilitators, would get together to discuss networking opportunities, not only amongst teachers on the course, but between those teachers and the staff at the school they were visiting. In the past this has allowed us to a pair a newly appointed Head of Science with an established Science Faculty Leader, a teacher looking to develop the use of ICT in her subject with a teacher who effectively used a departmental blog and Twitter feed and teachers looking to introduce a new syllabus with those having taught the specification for several years. We were able to set up most of these meetings by asking the relevant staff to pop along during a free period, break or lunchtime. No matter what was the format or focus of the event we also tried ensured the following principles were always applied.


Whenever I go on a course, visit an exhibition or take part in INSET I want to come away with something. A free pen, or two, will often suffice but whenever the focus is teaching and learning I’m always looking for a new idea, a strategy or a resource I can potentially adopt. When I get the chance to talk with other professionals I also want to learn from their expertise. Therefore, each event would start with an opportunity for small groups to bring along an idea related to the focus of the event to share with others, very much in a teach meet style. As the events progressed these slots for sharing ideas and practice also focused on any actions or implementation from the previous meeting. For example, what the teachers tried and how it went. In order to ensure no one missed and idea or resource it also worked well to collate all of the ideas and resources via email following an event. At the end of the programme these were then shared as a bank of resources on a memory stick or posted on a sharing site. These resources build into an extremely valuable source of expertise that everyone can come back to later.


So much teacher training takes place without the pupils being around. Instead, we wanted our delegates to discuss teaching and learning and then experience it first-hand. In most cases we were able to do this with a series of short learning walks following a discussion, sharing of ideas or a demonstration from a facilitator. This gave delegates the opportunity to immediately observe and reflect. For example, after a session on questioning, delegates were able to observe a series of lessons with the purpose of identifying good practice techniques. Other approaches involved interviewing a panel of students about how they learn best, departmental tours with Heads of Department and receiving feedback on lesson plans from pupils. It is always a privilege to walk into another teacher’s lesson and see how others operate in a different context. The opportunity to do this was highly regarded by everyone on the course.


In each event we also found time for a bit of ‘sage on the stage’. This normally involved one or more of the facilitators presenting new ideas or a selection of teachers from the home school showcasing strategies in a carousel. Once again, this offers a great opportunity for delegates to take away new ideas. All schools deal with things differently and this presented the opportunity to invite middle and senior leaders to share whole-school policies and procedures and future plans.


From the outset the impetus of the DrOPP has been to get teachers having an impact and driving change within their own schools. In order to help teachers embed what they had picked up at each event we set a beyond event challenge. During the early event this would simply involve trying out a new idea within their own classrooms, but would quickly progress into coaching others, leading department training and developing a new whole-school initiative. These beyond event challenges also helped maintain enthusiasm following an event and gave delegates a channel to make improvements in their own schools.

For the final event of the DrOPP we allowed individuals and groups of teachers to share the initiatives they had developed within their own contexts through a showcase event. Apart from being a nice way to end the course, these showcases gave teachers the chance to see how the ideas they had previously shared had been transformed and adapted to meet the needs of others in a different context, whether that be subject, stage or type of school.

There have been times when I have wondered if an event will run as smoothly as we had hoped. Of course, some events work better than others, but the main thing that always seems to click is the people. Put like-minded teachers in a room, give them a stimulus, give them quality time and they will do the rest. The DrOPP is a common sense approach to CPD, but for any course to be effective there had to be a real commitment to release teachers for several days and give them the opportunity and platform to drive change.