Teaching our teachers: The Learning Pod redefines professional development
Jon Wayth, Head of MFL at El Limonar International School (ELIS) Murcia, explains how The Learning Pod is helping teachers develop a new approach to training, with a direct focus on preparing students to succeed.
In 2014, The Teacher Development Trust conducted an umbrella review of international research into effective professional development. The review showed that teachers need to focus on developing skills that directly relate to their aspirations for students. At ELIS Murcia, we have taken inspiration from this to create a professional development programme that is long-term, wide-reaching and, most importantly, is focused on student outcomes.
The Learning Pod
The ELIS Murcia Learning Pod is a professional development structure introduced in 2018. In basic terms, six teachers from across the school (from early years, primary, upper school and sixth form) participate in three days of training, in-depth discussion and reflection on various key areas of teaching and learning. These days are distributed throughout the academic year and are divided into three key sections: professionalising, intellectualising and coaching.
The morning session of each Learning Pod allows our teachers to reflect by investigating the latest research-based practice. This year, we have focused on teacher credibility and marginal gains in the classroom. The essence of these morning sessions is to evaluate current practice and to consider how we can improve student outcomes.
The second session of the Learning Pod allows our teachers to deepen their understanding and knowledge of wider pedagogical issues or concepts. Again, this content is based upon academic research. This year, we have particularly developed our knowledge on critical thinking, metacognition and feedback.
Each Learning Pod concludes with time dedicated to learning and refining the skills needed for solution-focused coaching. This form of coaching seeks to empower teachers to find their own solutions by reflecting upon their own strengths and skills. Participants are then paired up and trained to coach one another between each Learning Pod. The pairs work to establish a clear goal based upon the session’s content, which has a clear impact on student progression.
The aim of the Learning Pod is to have a wider-reaching and longer term impact upon all staff. Each year creates six new coaches, and participants will be able to deliver the key concepts and research to their own departments or key stage so the expertise will cascade through the school.
Providing staff with the time and space to reflect on their practice and evaluate the teaching and learning taking place in their classrooms is vital in helping teachers to continually evolve. As Dylan Wiliam says, “every teacher needs to improve, not because they are not good enough, but because they can be even better”.