Helping schools along the evolutionary path

We hope that people and organisations that are working with schools, to help them advance their educational offering, will make use of the evolutionary stages taxonomy and the resources you will find in this blog. We do however have a concern that sometimes those leading programmes for teachers and school leaders do not practice what they preach.

If we wish schools to provide an outstanding education for young people in the connected world, programmes to help them do this should be run by outstanding tutors. In the UK this has been considered very carefully in the creation of the Naace TOTAL programme for school leaders – “Towards Outstanding Teaching and Learning”. Being an outstanding tutor requires approaches very similar to those required of an outstanding teacher. As a result the way that tutors run their courses will model good teaching practice, as follows.

That this is being done should be made explicit to the course participants, to help them realise that their experiences on the course are in some ways similar to the kinds of learning experiences pupils should be experiencing in their school. For example, to help them realise why pupils might want to use their mobile phones, how much a visualiser can help learning, the ways that online classroom management tools work to stimulate better learning, or how much better collaborative aids understanding compared to just listening to the teacher.

High Expectations. Courses need to be tailored to the level and needs of participants. Relative to this the expectations of what the participants will achieve on the course and how their practice will change as a result need to be set high – and the participants made aware of this.

Using technology where appropriate. This means using the kinds of technology that you expect schools will adopt as they fully embed the use of digital and change pedagogy as a result. It is important that the technology works reliably for tutor and participant so check carefully what is available. Make sure the participants bring their own technology and expect them to use it whenever they need to.

– Internet access is of course required. If not available on site use a mobile phone hotspot. References to Internet sites that support what the course is dealing with need to be provided, in the presentation slides that will be made available to participants, or even as QR codes.

– Projector is required. If there is an interactive whiteboard endeavour to use it interactively, with the participants.

– Use of personal phones should be incorporated, for things such as taking photos of group work.

– A visualiser is required, preferably with some use by participants as well as by the tutor, so they can personally experience how they can demonstrate something to the whole group much more effectively.

– The courses should to be blended. Files should be both downloaded and uploaded during the course and the online platform is to be available pre and post the course, so that they appreciate how online resources can be used to support and extend the learning.

Active learning by participants.

– content delivery by the tutor, while some will be necessary, must be balanced by activities in which participants will lead their own learning and engage in discussion and activities.

– courses are likely to be more intensive than school lessons and hence examples of active learning used on the course may be curtailed compared to what would be done with pupils, but it is desirable to model such things as enquiry-based learning if possible and sensible in the course.

Collaborative learning.

– teachers are generally quicker to learn than pupils (except about technology) so the pace of collaborative activities can be set high. However teachers love to talk and will often go off at a tangent to issues not directly relevant to the collaborative activity, so the conversations need to be kept focused on the task.

– collaborative discussions need to be facilitated well, with the tutor avoiding too much provision of input and concentrating on drawing issues out from the participants.

Use of classroom management tools. Online tools can support various innovative approaches to teaching and learning, for example:

– use a random name selector to select participants for tasks.

– use an online voting system to RAG assess understanding.

– use a wiki to collate views on a topic.

Flipped learning.

– Some kind of pre-prep for the course should be provided and that this has been done should be checked up on.

– If the course is spread across two days (overnight, or with time in between as for TOTAL) there should be tasks to be done or thought about between the two days.

– There should be some follow-up activities proposed for participants to do, that are linked to their ‘day-job’ needs.

Assessment for learning.

– It is desirable to build in some kind of AfL processes, at least at the level of checks on understanding on each session, and possibly through technology (another possible use for their mobile phones).


– the course must produce evidence of the work the participants have done. Where at all possible this should be tasks that relate to their real job needs and that they can take further in their job roles (e.g. starting to create lesson plans to be completed later, doing first-stage technology development plans for their school).

– there must be some evidence of progression visible, which requires that their starting points are identified and evidence of these is captured so that it can later be related to where their thinking or skills have developed to.

– and the progression should not stop at the end of the course. On the TOTAL courses we use “Postcards from the future”, with the participants noting on a postcard what they expect to have achieved in their school in three months’ time, as a result of attending the programme – which we mail back to them in 3 months as a reminder of their intentions.


In schools that have normalised digital the quality of teaching and learning is improving very fast, driven by the teachers’ professional development networking and by the pupils showing how they can learn better, and discussing this explicitly with each other and their teachers. Very few current teachers and even fewer school leaders have any experience of what digitally-enabled outstanding teaching and learning feels like. Don’t waste the golden opportunity of them gaining some first-hand experience of outstanding teaching and learning when they attend your programme.