Teaching - The 'Big 4'

IMG 3783Schools are constantly being asked to teach their pupils at the highest levels. The problem is that schools are often left wondering what this actually looks like.

We have contemplated this issue not by looking at the latest teaching trends or ever-moving teaching grade descriptors but by quite simply looking at the outcome of teaching: learning.

Between us, as a staff, we think we know enough about what great learning sounds like, looks like and feels like. By working backwards from this point, and with reference to the work of Mark Burns and Andy Griffiths,  we were able to attribute great learning to the result of 4 key areas that great teachers focus on: Challenge, Feedback, Flow and Active Learning.

We have discussed and agreed our understanding of the Big 4 such that a common language exists amongst our staff. This has allowed us to devise a series of principles that teaching at Blue Coat strives to meet. Great care has been taken to work to a series of principles rather than adhere to a checklist of features. We believe that the best teachers have to have the freedom to exercise their own creativities and styles within their teaching and checklists only hinder this from happening. We value diversity in our teachers as much as we do our learners.

Blue Coat professional development of teaching is firmly focused on teachers acquiring a detailed 360 degree perspective on where their strengths and next steps lie in relation to specific parts of the Big 4. With this knowledge, we can focus on where we need to improve and decide on how it is best met, be it through peer teaching, staff INSET, action learning sets, coaching or otherwise.


BC 17 of 122We hope that by considering learning first then teaching at Blue Coat is becoming closer to a facilitative, learning coach role. As a result of this teaching, our learners are becoming increasingly better at shaping and leading their learning. 

Through Challenge high expectations of the children are shared in achievable layers of learning that get progressively more complex and challenging. Children are regularly involved in constructing these learning focuses with the teacher, giving them greater ownership of what it is that they are learning now and what is coming up next.

Feedback on how the children are fairing in light of the challenge is essential in keeping children engaged, motivated and progressing in what they are learning. Feedback is frequent, high quality and happening at the times when it is needed most. This means that children themselves are deeply involved in giving themselves and their peers feedback, as well as receiving it from adults in the classroom.

BC 6 of 122Flow is the finely struck balance of challenge and fun. Activities need to be tricky yet engaging by touching on the pupils' motivations. Children will learn through any combination of activities that might centre on triggers of fantasy, teamwork, curiosity, challenge or competency to ensure that engagement is high and the 'time flies' factor remains throughout.

Active Learning puts children in the driving seat of their learning. Children are the enquirers, resourcing their learning and evaluating the progress that they have made towards their goals. The teacher remains global during this time, observing and intervening where needed but allowing the children to progress as far as possible independently.

By learning in these ways we aim for all children to realise their potential and to prepare them fully for the next stages of their future learning journeys.

Head's Tweet

from Mr Ryan

Well done, children, for your Harvest Celebration at St Mary's today.

Friday at 12:49pm