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Designing an ITT programme in school

Ed Podesta

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Here goes with the first post to this forum, which I hope will be a place we mentors can come and discuss what we do!

So. I've been mentoring for a couple of years, and I'm starting to feel a little more confident about the core skill of observation (though I think learning this will be like painting the Forth Bridge).

Now I feel I need to build some structure into my Mentor programme. So, I guess my quesiton is, should I do this, and if so, how, and what kinds of things do I need to cover. I'd be really greatful for any help more experienced mentors can offer.



Edited by Ed Podesta
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I think we should actually start with your first point which is lesson observations, which as you rightly point out is a skill which takes many years to develop, but is probably the most important tool in any mentors kitbag. I was very fortunate to be trained in lesson observation by my LEA History inspector, who alsop happened to be the Chief Inspector for the Borough. She was quite an amazing woman, but that is another story, and I owe a great debt to her for her support. Anyway, what she taught me was that there are lots of little things that you should be doing throughout your observation but the crucial question that you have to always have a the forefront of your mind is 'have the students learned more at the end of the lesson than at the beginning?' now although that may seem an obvious question, it is not quite so clear how to measure this, so what you need to be aware of is how explicitly the lesson objectives have be laid out - and I don't necessarily mean written on the board - and how clear the students understand these objectives. The best way to do this is to ask pupils what the purpose of the lesson is / purpose of the activity they are doing is and you will be suprised at how few actually know. The other things that i was taught was to look at pupil books and see what progress is making during the lesson and over the term / year. There should be a good 'dialogue' between pupil and teacher and there should be changes / improvements in the way the work is being completed. It is also important to see if the teacher is using diagnostic marking or whether the marking is full of pointless 'well dones'. You should also be looking for examples of extended writing and skills development and seeing if students are working independently or instead copying large chunks of text from book / board. However one of the most crucial elements of any lesson is whether the students are actively engaged in the lesson. In other words if the lesson is boring or the teacher is doing all the work, it can only be a satisfactory lesson. I hope this is a start.

Now I feel I need to build some structure into my Mentor programme. So, I guess my quesiton is, should I do this, and if so, how, and what kinds of things do I need to cover.

One of the crucial points that I hammer home for my BTs / teachers in my dept is that the lessons have to be engaging and therefore the teacher should be confident in experimenting with a variety of different tasks and styles. I model for my students how to use different types of role play - Hotseating, Ian Dawson type whole class extravaganzas, Ian Luff type small scale playlets, pair work or group work roleplay. And I encourage them to have a go, once they are confident enough with their class. I see engaging lessons as my biggest weapon that I use for classroom management (ok it's my only one, cos I'm rubbish at shouting!)

Another massively important thing to understand is how to write effective lesson objectives and learning outcomes; I basically say that lesson objectives are the things that you want the students to achieve eg the pupils should be able to understand the key events leading upto the battle of hastings; the pupils should be able to interpret the sources written by the Normans before the battle. And the learning outcomes are how the teacher is going to make sure the pupils have achieved the objectives eg the pupils will have written a timeline showing the key events; the pupils will have compared the sources and underlined the biased comments.

Ok that will do for now. I have a feeling that Roy Huggins has produced something similar on History teachers Discussion forum here

Edited by Dan Lyndon
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My mentor when I was training at Sussex University was Stephen Ball. At the time he was researching and writing Beachside Comprehensive. I found him an excellent mentor (he also persuaded me to do a research degree that involved classroom observation). Stephen always emphasized the need for reflection. All students had to keep a diary where we analyzed in great detail our teaching (the contents of our diary was used in our assessment). Keeping a diary was very useful and it had a long-term impact on my teaching.

One of my own innovations was to get the students that I taught to write reports on my teaching performance. Although painful it was a worthwhile experience. The most important point was that students don’t like teachers to do anything that will distract them from what you are saying.

Later of course I worked as a mentor to student teachers. The main task is to help them develop a style of teaching that reflects their own personality. It is not possible to “ape” the behaviour of a good teacher you have observed. Students will see through this. It is important to be yourself. That means that some people cannot ever become good teachers. Usually it is because they lack empathy. To be successful you need to be able to put yourself in the position of the student.

You also need to be generous in your attitude towards education. As one student who was training to be an art teacher told me, “I’m leaving the profession because when it comes down to it, I am only interested in my own art and not that of my pupils.” Others fail because they lack any enthusiasm for the subject they are teaching. If you do not have it when you start teaching, you definitely won’t develop it over the years. Enthusiasm is the most important aspect of being a teacher. If you are not enthusiastic about the subject, how can you expect to persuade your students to be enthusiastic about their studies? Passion is also important. This is what keeps you going during the bad times.

Empathy, generosity, enthusiasm and passion: can these be taught? Not really. If you have not got these at the start there is nothing that can be done for you. Sure you can make them competent and efficient but you can’t turn them into a successful teacher. As W. A. Ward once said: "The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires."

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As W. A. Ward once said: "The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires."

I have been a mentor for PGCE and GTP student teachers off and on for a number of years and I agree most strongly with the points John makes.

Inspiration is actually the key to learning at any level.

I would also argue that to survive in education these days new teachers must be "inspired" by a clear understanding of what they are doing and why.

The nuts and bolts of planning lessons, classroom management, lesson objectives, behaviour management etc. etc. can be taught to most people so long as they have something of a personality to begin with.

However it is not your paperwork, scheme of work or lesson planning which is going to sustain you through 40 years of rough and tumble in the classroom, or through the continuous and vacuous interference of government in your important work.

Rather it is the understanding of and commitment to the role of the teacher in state education. In former days this often came from ones theory and sociology aspects of teacher training - I guess however in our "apprenticeship" style training model of today much of this falls to the mentor. I wonder how many "mentors" feel sufficiently well prepared to fulfill this role?

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Thanks Dan, Andy and John.

If I can summarize the points raised so far. My ITT mentor programme should aim to help Trainee Teachers understand the following things:

1 - the importance of aims, which I suppose is also the importance of planning for learning;

2 - the importance of experimentation; and

3 - the importance of engagement, inspiration and enjoyment.

is that a fair summary?

What about you lurkers out there!?

What about the international dimension, how is it different out in the wide world?


Edited by Ed Podesta
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I'm not sure how useful an international dimension might be to someone working within the UK education system, but here goes.

I sometimes have to be a mentor for trainees who want to become language teachers. I use a modification of the Cambridge Diploma in TEFL observation form (which I don't happen to have on this computer, but which I'll try to attach next time I'm at work).

One key element is a form I use during the lesson observation which is basically a series of columns with these headings: Time/Activity/Interaction

In the first column I write the exact time things happen (including the time I think of things to write down) + spontaneous thoughts and observations I might have. The Activity column is for what the 'official' lesson is about, including the exact words the teacher uses in giving instructions, wherever possible. The Interaction column is filled with abbreviations like T -> SS (Teacher talking to the entire class at once) and S <-> S (pair work).

In an average 45 minute lesson, I'll fill about about 5 of these, and afterwards I lay them out on a table, so that both the trainee and myself have a physical record of what went on, which forms the basis of a discussion of the trainee's performance (which often takes about an hour).

We don't make such formal demands on trainees (or serving teachers) as you seem to do in the UK, so we rarely start with a formalised, written lesson plan. If we did, I'd include the other two Dip TEFL columns: Aims and Aids. Then, at each point in the lesson, I'd be recording which of the lesson aims was being handled, and what teaching aids were being used.

Nowadays Sweden has a system called 'school-based training', where about one quarter of the assessment of each teacher trainee is formally entrusted to the mentor in school, with the collaboration of the teacher training college, of course. Here in Kalmar, we have a network of mentors in the county schools which meets a couple of times each term to discuss exactly how this assessment takes place. This has resulted in quite and elaborate checklist for English teacher trainees, to give them some guidelines about what to think about as they go into and through their teaching practice.

Practising teachers are not subject to an inspection programme, but working in teams is standard, and peer 'inspection' (otherwise call teamwork!) happens all the time.

OK, that's the formal system.

When it comes to specific advice to give both teachers and trainees, my principle message is one which has already been mentioned: I don't want you to teach like me, but rather to teach like you. I always try to include sessions where we go out to a school and I teach a regular class with my trainees (or sometimes INSETT participants) observing me, and later commenting on my performance. My standard way of working is to demonstrate activities in the classroom for about 15 minutes, followed by buzz groups so that participants can begin to form their own impressions about what has been going on.

For my distance INSETT groups team blogging has been an extremely useful tool. I have an active group at the moment on a course called Teaching English to Younger Children, where the serving teachers work in study groups and observe each other's lessons (the members usually work in different schools, so this is also a way of spreading best practice throughout a local authority area). They post their observations on the blog, and also report back at regular video conferences. Unfortunately for most of the readers of this forum, many of the contributions are in Swedish, but you'll find one or two entries in English:


(You'll find some English in the March postings).

There seems to be something about the form of a blog which invites longer and deeper reflection than on a standard discussion forum. One explanation I heard for this last week was that blog participants feel a greater sense of ownership of the discussion space on their own blog than they do on the university's discussion forum. The main point, though, is that 'reality is something which emerges from discussion' (a very useful quote from the Swedish Armed Forces!). An informed, continuing dialogue between people who feel free to express themselves and share their experiences is probably the most important thing teachers and trainees need. The difficulty is in creating a 'safe environment' for this dialogue, so that participants don't feel that they'll be judged or penalised for taking part in it.

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thanks David, especially for the stuff you write about peer observation and blogs. I've been (tentatively) asked to set up an ICT champions group at school, with the intention of implementing ICT across the curriculum more deeply. I've thought about using an action research/peer observation model, and your post makes me think I could use a blog to assist with this.

hmm food for thought.


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I'm doing a seminar about blogging and podcasting at Stockholm University on May 4th (you ought to be able to participate via Marratech, if you're interested). I've created a blog for that seminar, where I've already posted one or two descriptions of on-going blogs (including the TEYC blog in much more detail). You'll find it at:


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I'm doing a seminar about blogging and podcasting at Stockholm University on May 4th (you ought to be able to participate via Marratech, if you're interested). I've created a blog for that seminar, where I've already posted one or two descriptions of on-going blogs (including the TEYC blog in much more detail). You'll find it at:


Ta. one more thing... marratech?


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Marratech is a desktop video conference system which we use quite a lot here. You need the Client software which you can download free from http://www.marratech.com, an ordinary webcam (if you want to be seen), and a headset - mike and earphones - if you want to be able to talk to the other participants without everyone else getting feedback from your computer.

After that you need to know which virtual room we'll be using … and I can let you know that when it's been decided.

If you want to try out the connection, open the Marratech software, and look up at the text box up towards the top of the screen. You'll see something like http://sessiondirectory/, which you replace with:


Click return and this takes you to Kalmar's portal page.

When you get there, click on Groucho's Café, and you'll enter a virtual room which is free for use by anyone at any time.

If you look down in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen, you'll see the icon for the Whiteboard. Click on that, and you can use all the drawing tools, etc which are along the top of the screen.

We've discovered that some UK schools have ferociously-protected IT systems, by the way. There is a way round this, but you usually need the cooperation of your IT department. If you have problems with this, I can put you in touch with one of our technicians who knows a lot about firewalls.

As you might expect, it all works better if you're on a broadband connection.

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I have pasted some feedback from my trainees about what they have found helpful and unhelpful in terms of mentoring. Hope it is of some use or interest.

A few general points, perhaps stating the obvious

The affective domain of mentoring is very important to them, it's not just a technical thing - being made to feel welcome etc, especially in the firsst few days when they are v. nervous.

Easing them in gently to whole class teaching, not all classes at same time- it takes them hours to do the simplest of lesson plans in the early stages.

Role changes over the course of the year mentors need to give a lot of help, support, guidance at first but on second placement let them stand on their own feet more, get them to be proactive in choosing priorities for development.

There should be lots of subject specific dialogue, not just general stuff about class management etc. There need to be discussions about how to approach interpretations, causation etc, lots of use of Teaching History - get them to read articles to talk through with you.

Feedback from History trainees

Most of the feedback received over the past 2 years has been unequivocally positive and reflects appreciation for the enormous amount of help, support, time and encouragement that history students have received in the course of their placements. Even the feedback of this nature gives some insight into how much importance student teachers attach to being made to feel welcome, part of the department, a potential asset rather than a burden. (See comments in Part 1)

Since I have worked in the partnership, we have received no feedback such as that noted in Part 2; feedback received from a student in a London partnership, which shows that whereas for many students, teaching experience is an enjoyable and interesting experience, for the occasional student, it is perhaps the most intensely miserable experience they have encountered in their lives. We have included it as a reminder of the importance of doing as much as possible in terms of encouragement, support, a positive welcoming environment, and the cultivation of constructive and mutually rewarding professional relationships.

Part 3 includes some comments which express reservations or constructive suggestions for improved practice. Although obviously, some of these might reflect the weaknesses and recriminations of students who were struggling, they might provide some insights into avoiding mistakes, or rectifying omissions, oversights etc.

Part 4 is a summary of some of the most widely expressed suggestions which have come history student teachers.

Part 1- It was not difficult to find many comments similar to these:

“The history department has a high profile and is extremely professional in its approach. All teachers in the school display a co-operative and friendly attitude to student teachers.”

“Excellent, enjoyable, helpful.”

“Excellent; particularly days spent in other departments.”

“Working with a broad range of teachers has been very helpful.”

“Honesty- good feedback, (no bullxxxx).”

“Excellent range of ideas.”

“Being allowed to try just about anything.”

“Daily brief talk with mentor in first stages of first practice was very reassuring and helpful.”

“Welcoming atmosphere was extremely important- nice to be told that they’ re happy to have us because we’ ll bring new ideas to the department.”

“Very important to have a friendly mentor who supports you and behaves as if he/she can learn from you as well as the other way round.”

“Welcoming letter and information booklet from the school was very helpful.”

“I’ve had freedom and scope to grow professionally.”

“Access to IT was limited but I was encouraged to use it where I could.”

“Mentor always approachable, always helpful.”

“This was as close to a perfect placement as one could hope for. Staff all helpful, mixture of ability classes and opportunity to try different methods.”

“Head of Department was excellent finding the right balance between specific, constructive and focused feedback and guidance, and space to find out for myself. The help she gave was both rigorous, fair and relevant, and was appreciatively received.”

“Excellent support from all staff, greatly enhanced by being treated as part of the staff from the beginning; vital for the development of one’s self confidence. Some formal and a great deal of informal feedback- informal feedback very helpful as it allows continuous lines of communication to be formed.”

“The school is wonderful. Both subject mentor and link teacher have gone out of their way to be helpful and supportive. I feel that my time in school is largely dependent on getting on well with my mentor and being committed and organised. I am very lucky; my mentor is a wonderful person and teacher. I have been to parents’ evenings and in on SEN meetings and curriculum planning sessions. I already feel part of the school.”

“Pupil shadowing was really interesting and helpful.”

Part 2- Included as a reminder of the importance of making students feel welcome and wanted, (this example is not from a UEA student, but that is not to say that there has never been a case of students receiving an indifferent or desultory welcome in the partnership).

“Very disappointing. Staff friendly enough in the main but I’ve had little support. I often feel lost and much of a spare part. The HOD is not very helpful and seems to resent my presence.

The department is well established, with two experienced teachers who excel in managing extra-curricular activities, but right from the start, there was no obvious effort to help me feel at ease or indication that they were there to support me. In fact it was made very clear to me how much extra work they were being forced to do because of me. No time was ever set aside for me to talk to either of them about how I was getting on.

To sum up, I found both members of the department unapproachable, quite oblivious to any needs or worries I might be having, and very unsupportive. They just do not have the communication skills, personalities or temperaments to support a beginning teacher on teaching practice. Any beginning teacher placed at School in the department is very much in the position of ‘sink or swim’, and this is not a pleasant or very valuable learning environment to be in.

Part 3- Comments suggesting omissions, niggles, things which weren’t quite right etc.

“Good pace of induction but would have liked to receive timetable earlier to get started on preparation.”

“Comments usually very constructive and lots of targets set but I felt I didn’t quite know how I was progressing as comments were not very focused.”

“Support appreciated but no opportunity to team teach or take small groups.”

“Would like to have observed more GCSE and ‘A’ level teaching.”

“I was fortunate to be co-teaching with a fellow history student, and this helped with workload, but by the last week of first placement, I was more than ready to practice the skills I was acquiring. In hindsight, I would have liked one class that was totally my own for the whole 5 weeks, to know if my classroom management methods worked.”

“Observation was rather unstructured and got slightly boring.”

“Some ‘A’ level would have been nice; I realise such teaching time is precious but just support teaching or observation would have been helpful.”

“It would have been helpful to get schemes of work for classes to be taught asap.”

“A bit more feedback on things which were OK; most of us are very self-critical and need to be told when something has gone well.”

“To be able to discuss lesson observation notes fully- for them to be an agenda for discussion rather than a verdict.”

“More structured and varied observations.”

“More info. on classes to be taught.”

“Perhaps in the 2 day placements after Christmas, we could have taught or team taught a few lessons- loss of contact and continuity with pupils between Christmas and 2nd placement.”

“Mentor was good but could have been a bit more encouraging and ‘mellow.’”

“Good for mentors to be as specific as possible on competence.”

“Would like to have been observed by a greater variety of people.”

“More guidance needed on assessment.”

“More on how to write reports.”

“Specific time should be set aside to talk to one’s mentor, on a regular basis if at all possible.”

“Not too many targets at a time.”

“It was helpful to see things done outside history- could have been used more.”

“Mentors must make induction into KS3 and KS4 assessment a priority. I was allowed to help devise a KS4 exam paper, its mark scheme and then mark them. This is an excellent exercise and should be encouraged.”

“As much help and advice on lesson planning and preparation as possible in the first few weeks.”

“Should be allowed to see and discuss the final report.”

Part 4- This is a summary of the suggestions for improvement which featured most commonly (ie more than once).

• Importance of appreciating stress and apprehension of first few weeks of first placement- maximum of support and encouragement needed.

• More variety and focus to observation- more specific guidance on what to look for.

• More time and practice on assessment.

• The opportunity to read through the final summary report. (This year, the form has a space for the student to sign, to acknowledge that they have seen their report).

• More exposure to year 11 and post 16 groups, even if it’s just support/ observation/team teaching.

• More structure/ideas for the post Christmas school based days. Suggestions varied from teaching or team teaching a few lessons, support work for SEN pupils, IT work with small groups, or display work. Some time needed to get on with SY2 and 3, but other things needed as well, so as not to lose contact with pupils or feel a bit in the way.

• Suggestions and guidance across the full range of competences, but perhaps focusing on different ones at different stages.

• Wherever manageable, to get timetable of groups and topics to be taught as far in advance as possible.

• To be observed by/work with a variety of teachers. Working with teachers outside the history department was often much appreciated.

• To be encouraged in the use of IT, even if the department was not “state of the art”, in terms of software etc.

• Involvement in trips and visits, including helping to organise them, was felt to be very worthwhile.

• Appreciation that paired students sometimes want to work separately and don’t always want to work together. There are times when feedback needs to be given separately.

• One to one time talking to mentor/s was felt to be one of the most valued sources of help. Didn’t matter if it had to be moved about sometimes, as long as it was regular and not rushed.

• Students very much appreciated a climate where they felt able to discuss and negotiate their experience to at least some extent (when to move to whole class teaching, which groups they might like to take, teaching outside their subject etc), whilst accepting that they had to fit in with the needs of the school and the department, and the professional judgement of the mentor.

• Some chance to maintain contact with “real live pupils” in post-Christmas period so as not to lose contact/familiarity/confidence with the world of the classroom.

The most commonly cited, and “most important to students” features of mentoring, were being made to feel welcome in the department, and having the chance to talk to mentors, both formally and informally, on a regular basis. The active involvement of other members of the department, and of sometimes working with colleagues in other departments was also widely mentioned as a positive aspect of school experience.

The following is a list of experiences which were mentioned as “good ideas”, which students felt should be considered as possibilities should time and resources permit:

• Some contact with, or visit to a Special School or Pupil Referral Unit

• Some form of mock interview/any help, advice on letters of application

• Involvement in Parents’ Evenings

• “Shadow” report writing- to compare with what the “real” teacher had written

• Involvement in drafting mark schemes and exam papers, shadow marking of scripts

• Involvement in GNVQ assessments

• The chance to do some collaborative teaching where a lesson was prepared and delivered together with the mentor.

• Involvement in and part responsibility for departmental visits

• A chance to watch ICT activities which were part of departmental schemes of work where this was feasible.

• Opportunity to work with small groups of pupils on IT tasks, SEN work (This was suggested as an idea for the difficult post-Christmas days in School A)

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