Jonathon Fletcher, an assistant head at Isleworth and Syon school, looks at staff attitudes to Teachers’ TV and ways of using this resource for CPD.

Isleworth and Syon School for Boys is a comprehensive school in west London with 1100 students. Along with many schools locally and nationally we are trying to develop our Inset provision and individual CPD programme to try to make it more relevant to individual staff. This fits in with the idea of ‘intelligent demand’ outlined in the TDA’s ‘Outlook for Teachers Directorate March 2006-March 2009’*. In short, we are trying to personalise the learning of our staff within the context of the school’s aims. Teachers’ TV is an ideal source to help with this.

Every member of staff has a laptop and the school has a wireless network. The availability of ICT within school has made a big difference to staff accessing the website and watching programmes.

Last year we used Teachers’ TV to target certain areas within the school’s Inset programme. For example, a session was run on questioning techniques for the English faculty as part of the school’s general assessment for learning training. A short extract was used from a Teachers’ TV programme as it closely mirrored our school in terms of the class being taught. This addressed those staff who say ‘it would never work here’.

We have also used it to help explain changes to the Ofsted inspection system, by showing a programme to heads of faculty and heads of year as part of their scheduled meetings. In both of these situations it was used on a ‘spur of the moment’ basis, enhancing what had already been planned rather than being central to planning.

Survey It was decided to do research into developing the use of Teachers’ TV to supplement and enhance professional development.

All the teaching staff at school were surveyed to ascertain how much they used Teachers’ TV and whether they found it a useful resource. Time was spent during a staff briefing outlining the purpose of the survey so that staff were more likely to respond to the request. Of the 64 teaching staff in school 35 completed and returned the survey.

Despite the heavy national advertising campaign some staff had never heard of the channel let alone any of the programmes. Ten percent hadn’t even heard of the channel. I assume that this is the same 10% of staff who read the TES only for jobs and don’t check the school bulletin or the e-mails they are sent!

The key point is how to reach out to these staff and get them using the programmes and resources on the channel that would benefit them. Of the staff who had heard of the channel just under 50% had watched a programme. This was usually a programme they had been directed to watch as part of the school’s Inset or meeting schedule.

I am unsure if this is a local or a national phenomenon when it comes to individual professional development. Some staff are unwilling or unable to commit to individual professional development outside school. Members of staff with whom I raised this highlighted two main reasons why:

They have enough to do planning and marking outside school hours anyway.

Watching a programme on Teachers’ TV is like taking work home.

This is understandable because teachers are under a great deal of pressure at present and rightly aware of their work-life balance.

This does, however, raise an important question for schools and the programme makers in terms of how we maximise the impact and use of Teachers’ TV. Staff who have watched programmes at home on the whole commented to me that they found them useful, making them think about their individual practice. Of the 18 members of staff who had watched programmes, 38% said they had changed their practice in some way from the information or ideas they got from them. This, I believe, is a very positive picture.

Issues were raised in terms of what Teachers’ TV really is. From our point of view, the fact that the resources are available online makes them far more convenient to view. This means that Teachers’ TV is helping towards the personalisation of learning for staff and individual schools.

For staff of a certain age, the old Martini adverts have been the best way to explain the ‘any time any place anywhere’ concept. I believe that using Teachers TV via a broadband connection really does enable us to undertake ‘any time, any place, anywhere learning’ and I think that this is the route that Teachers’ TV should be taking.

This fits in with our use of the programmes. Most people commented on the ease of access to the programmes online and they like being able to watch them anywhere around school or at home.

The programme archive system on the website is very easy for people to use – staff have commented on this. However, the question of when programmes should be removed because they are no longer useful is an issue. As programmes are constantly added, the sheer volume may well turn watchers away because searching for programmes will take too long.

A point to note here is the quality of the cataloguing and abstracts. Some of the catalogue entries tell you very little, so staff are unlikely to investigate further.

The resource links on individual programmes need to be thought through a bit more than they are at present. On far too many occasions these are just web links. They do not even take you to specific points made in the programmes. They will go to the home page of the DfES, for example. If people are to use these resources they need to be far more focused on the issues involved in the programme as this will encourage staff to investigate and use them in greater detail.

Raising awareness We want to see the channel becoming an embedded part of the training strategy.

Andrew Bethell, TES, 17 February 2006

This is indeed a challenging statement. For schools to try to embed Teachers’ TV in their training strategy, a great deal of individual research needs to be done in schools. Schools have very diverse needs, so it is important that the training coordinators have a good understanding of the resources that are on the channel.

As a school we have developed ways to try and enhance the understanding of what Teachers’ TV is in order to try to break down misconceptions. One member of staff said to me, ‘What is the point of it if I can’t sit the kids down in front of it?’It is slightly worrying from our point of view that the member of staff still believes that the channel is solely to provide resources to use in the classroom.

We are trying to raise awareness of the channel in the following ways:

a weekly e-mail to all staff showing the listings for the following week

use of programmes in our Inset programme – asking people to pre-watch before a session and come with comments
programme of the week on the staff bulletin

ensuring the programmes that are used are relevant and of high quality to ensure that people want to come back to the channel.

Uses of Teachers’ TV At present, our use of the resources is piecemeal. As a school we need to develop the ways in which we use them. Developing an understanding of the resources on the channel is very important and will only come with time. As the person in charge of staff development I try to spend one period a week looking at the website and identifying programmes that support the objectives laid down in the school development and training plan. These programmes are then brought to the attention of key personnel in school as a resource they might want to share with others or watch themselves.

The problem comes when you tell colleagues you have spent a lesson watching or going the through the website. They don’t see it as work. It fits in with the idea of staff having ‘thinking time’. For some reason people think if you are sitting in your office thinking you aren’t really working!

I see Teachers’ TV as a resource that will develop over time, on a slow burn, as people become more aware of the style of the programmes and programmes are carefully picked for the school context. This, I feel, is of fundamental importance as without that connection to school and individual needs people are not going to engage. The Institute of Education provided us with an excellent breakdown of the programmes that help staff who are working to Chartered London Teacher status. This is the type of model that I want to try to develop here.

The targeting of the programmes is very important. When using them it should not a ‘one programme fits all’ approach. Small clips need to be extracted to highlight key points (ie using the programmes in the way you would use them in the classroom to enhance learning and understanding).

For me the most exciting aspect of channel is that the programmes are available online. This means that every member of staff can access a programme in their own time. As mentioned above, we have already asked some staff to watch a programme before a meeting to help stimulate discussion in much the same way you would issue paperwork prior to a meeting. I believe that this has been an excellent way to stimulate discussion.

A productive way to introduce staff to the channel has been as part of individual coaching sessions. In conjunction with other resources I mention programmes and encourage staff to watch them (having first watched them myself to ensure relevance). This has been very useful in building up the channel in the staffroom, as staff talk to each other about programmes they have watched and particularly useful with colleagues who are following the Leading from the Middle development course run by the National College of School Leadership.

Looking forward
Ways in which we can continue to develop the use of Teachers’ TV include:

Targeting programmes to help address individual or whole-school issues. For instance, staff coming together to watch a programme and then breaking up into small groups to discuss the issues. It could even be used in this way for people to demonstrate that they are working towards Chartered London Teacher status.
Using small clips to help facilitate faculty/year team or working group development within school.

Martini! Encouraging staff to watch it anywhere: during non-contact time, in the staff room after or before school.

Keeping a watching brief on the channel. This means, I believe, a member of staff watching the website on a regular basis, once every two weeks maybe, to see if there are any programmes relevant to school issues at the present time.

Recording programmes in topic batches so they can be watched by large groups of staff in better quality.

Developing the use of the channel with the support staff in school along the same lines as we will with teaching staff.

In conclusion, Teachers’ TV is a wonderful resource for CPD leaders. It is something that I have embraced and will try to develop further. I think that in the future the channel needs to decide what it is: is it a TV channel or is it an internet service? It certainly provides far easier access and use on the internet. However, for larger audiences the quality of the picture is lost with projection. Could we one day be watching clips on mobile phones as part of a free 3G network?

Editor’s comment

The point has been made before in CPD Update that the value of Teachers’ TV is multiplied when it is used systematically. It comes to us via the same medium that we expect to entertain us at the end of a stressful day. Watching somebody talking enthusiastically about the job which has just left you exhausted somehow fails to convince as a life-enhancing experience. It has the power to make tired teachers feel angry, cynical and, sometimes, inadequate. But it can also inspire. Jonathon Fletcher shows that, between cynicism and inspiration, it can work very effectively to support professional learning. He does not suggest that it is an effortless, magical solution to all professional learning needs. There has to be some hard work invested by a school in order to take full advantage of its potential.

As Teachers’ TV itself gains in experience so it becomes more responsive to the needs, concerns and interests of teachers. It does not belong to government and it is not required to stick to a ‘party line’ on matters educational.