Visiting The Belmont Learning Hubs

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting @dan_brinton @belmont_school to see his “learning hubs” as part of the package of distributed leadership professional development initiatives implemented at his school.

After sharing an overview of his vision, implementation strategy and long term aims Dan took me on a tour of his learning hubs:

Questioning; how can questioning be used to assess knowledge, challenge thinking and direct learning?

Feedback & Critique; how can we use feedback to promote progress, reflection and pride in our work?

Challenge & Mindset; how can we create a culture of growth mindset where challenge is embraced?

E-Learning; how can we use technology to enhance learning inside and outside of the classroom?

(There was also a Literacy hub which sadly wasn’t on that afternoon.)

These are the five key aspects of learning and culture that the team at Belmont have identified as the key foci to push their school forward and deliver the best for their students.

I’ll not go into detail on the vision and processes as Dan shares a lot about what happens on his blog here. This is one of my favourite five blogs on the Internet and I strongly recommend giving it a read.

What I would like to share was the clear impact that this program had on the staff:-

1) The staff were really welcoming, open and honest about their learning journey. They shared their triumphs, challenges and some great ideas I could take away to use. There was a clear growth mindset in their own learning. 

(My instant takeaways to use in my classroom are at the bottom.)

2) The staff were passionate in their discussions about learning; it seems like an obvious thing to say but putting teachers together and giving them time to think and talk is such an important thing. It not only provides an important opportunity for reflection and development it also clearly defines what’s important in your school. It’s a culture thing.

3) Staff were focused on their legacy and impact. The work they were doing in their hubs was to share with their colleagues to make a difference to all of the students in their school. They knew what they were working on was an investment in the future.

4) Hub leaders and their groups were thinking rich picture; strategically looking at how their work and future plans will impact on all stakeholders. Clearly looking to synthesise with other initiatives in school such as their action research and lesson study groups.

As well as getting a great insight into the workings of the project and experiencing the groups first hand I was also lucky enough to pick up two quick ideas to use straight away in my classroom.

Multi-Coloured PEE

Chris Jones was kind enough to share how he had been focusing his students on scaffolding PEE (Point, Evidence, Explain) paragraphs using 3 different coloured pens. It’s a great, simple to implement concept and a clear way to highlight the paragraph structure to the students.

Memrise

Lee Ferris shared this tool with me; it was originally designed as an App for language learning but can be used to work on key vocabulary and concepts. It’s easy to use and works around repetition and interleaving the learning by carefully timed reminders by e-mail or alerts on their phones.

I’m not only using it to brush up on my hugely rusty Japanese; I’ve also set up some essential vocabulary for my Key Stage 4 Religious Studies classes and high frequency academic vocabulary using the @LearningSpy list (with David’s kind permission) to develop their comprehension of exam style vocabulary.

Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE

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Tell their boss

Last week I was fortunate enough to visit my son in his school nursery. It came about because of the holidays in the LEA where I work differing from the LEA where I live. This meant that I had the pleasure of doing Daddy stuff like the school run and going to clubs.

The important thing however is what I experienced on my visit. As soon as I entered I could see the structures and routines; with four year olds I think that’s a pretty impressive feat. While the children had a slice of toast and settled in I was able to look through Finbar’s Learning Log. (Note: not a piece of wood.) It was clear what he’d been learning and there was a clear and rigorous tracking system in place behind it. (Which the children weren’t aware of; purely for the staff to identify progress and set targeted discreet learning experiences.) 

Whilst looking through this I was mobbed by the children wanting to tell me who they were and what they had been learning. This was a purposeful learning environment where the children were proud of their achievements and enjoying themselves.

Then it was time for the ‘wake and shake’ which was recorded by older students at the school. I was especially impressed when I discovered they pick their own songs and choreograph these themselves.

I left thoroughly pleased and impressed, for some parents this is where the adventure ends but I wanted to share what a fabulous job I thought they were doing. I made sure I shared my thoughts with his teacher as it is always nice to receive positive feedback, but also made sure I sought out the Headteacher. 

Praise to an individual is a good thing and I’m always keen to share positives but I also think it’s important to flag those positives up the chain of command because:

1) I genuinely believe if you have experienced something positive you should share it.

2) Great leaders want to hear positive things about their staff so they can share the bright spots and use these as opportunities for powerful positive dialogue. A well done or thank you from the boss is a valueable thing.

I used to do this when I had slot on a behaviour patrol rota. Simply put we wandered around to lessons that had been identified by the teacher as ones they would like you to pop into. This extra presence had a positive impact (behaviour statistics backed this up) and gave a great opportunity to see a lot of different ideas. I would often share the positive with the colleague and with their line manager. I’ve never had someone complain at receiving good news yet.

So next time you see something positive tell them AND tell their boss. As educational professionals it costs us nothing to share a bit of professional positivity and it does make a difference.

Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE