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Think Tank: Developing teaching and learning with Carl Hendrick

On March 25th, the Think Tank met to discuss teaching and learning at Sandringham School.  I suppose we are at a bit of a crossroads, trying to get to grips with what are the most effective aspects of teaching.  We now have more evidence pointing to particular approaches than has been available in the past, whether it be found in books like Hattie's Visible Learning, the EEF's Teaching and Learning Toolkit or The Sutton Trust's 2014 report titled What makes great teaching? However, as teachers in schools, as important as it is to be research informed, this goes hand in hand with being informed about what has worked for our teachers and our learners in the past.  What do we get right, that may or may not be captured in the research base?  Where are we less effective?  And vital for any school, if we want to develop practice further, is how to work in such a way that draws upon our community's shared knowledge and supports their practice development further.


We were privileged to be joined by Carl Hendrick, Director of Learning and Research at Wellington College, and author of the Chronotype blog, who shared his journey in developing research and learning at his school.  If you ever have the chance to talk with or listen to Carl about his work, you really must; committed to working out what works in education, he has set about developing a school wide approach to Growth Mindset, drawing on the expertise of teachers, students and the Harvard Graduate School of Education no less.  His rigorous approach, illustrated by one of his slides below, is anchored to a question pertinent to his school, and characterised by being esearch informed, with careful data analysis and reflections before any interventions are trialled.  Such an approach is currently keeping the plethora of motivational posters at bay whilst considering carefully the interventions that are likely to have the greatest effect at Wellington College. 


Teachers at Sandringham were particularly struck by the prominent role students have taken in this process, illustrated in another one of Carl’s slides below.  They are able to offer a learner’s perspective which is without doubt valuable.  Perhaps most importantly, their role as co-researchers give them a central role in dissecting the meaning of the Growth Mindset research, challenge teachers’ views and biases as much as the research findings themselves.  Student voice here is clearly creating a firmer base from which next steps are decided. It was very apparent in the discussion that ensued in the Think Tank afterwards that this aspect of Carl’s work chimed with Sandringham teachers particularly.  This was an example where ‘student voice’ was being carefully considered and was enabling richer discussions and more effective decision making.


Another aspect of Carl’s presentation that resonated with our group was the idea of aligning the focus of teaching and learning within a school to one central theme versus having a diffuse range of foci.  Illustrated in the two images below, Carl has set about aligning the central focus of his school on growth mindset.




This was particularly interesting as within any school, each teacher will have their own strengths and priorities for further development.  As such, could it be restrictive to have one central focus which may be more relevant to some teachers than others?  Carl explained the value of alignment in terms of the student experience, and that should particular approaches be more effective than others, then a common language from their teachers would better support their understanding and behaviours as learners.  In addition, it was very apparent that there were no shortage of professional learning opportunities at Wellington, something for all teachers to engage with.  Ultimately, running parallel to a significant focus on developing Growth Mindsets, Carl is committed to further developing an evidence informed culture in which effective practices are visible and create an appetite for teachers to challenge their own learning as much they would their students’.


This Think Thank discussion was extremely valuable in terms of shaping our next steps at Sandringham School, working out what makes great teaching for our learners.