PRE-THRESHOLD: Part four of our series on becoming a head of department
As a head of department, you must keep the momentum of your staff moving forwards. This involves supporting them and ensuring that there is continuing professional development. Even the best teachers can benefit from new ideas, or updating their techniques.
As a result of teacher training, your most recently qualified staff will be used to being observed. However, you may have some "old-timers" who are not particularly comfortable being monitored. They may have had previous bad experiences or consider themselves a competent teacher who doesn't need any advice. As part of their performance management, they must be observed.
And there are ways of going about it to ensure that they enjoy the benefit.
Allow them to choose the first class you observe. You can then get them used to the experience and let them feel they have some control over it.
You can then move on to other classes of your choice.
Make sure the feedback starts with positives. Give specific examples of good practice seen in the lesson. Areas for development need to be clear and you must always give suggestions as to how these could be addressed.
Make sure that observations are all written as per school policy and that copies are given to the relevant people.
One of the best ways to reflect on your own teaching is to watch someone else teach, whether in your subject or not. Encourage your staff to do this. Even if it is only 20 minutes at the start of a lesson, they can pick up tips and also sometimes see what not to do.
Professional development targets
As part of performance management, it is important that all staff have achievable, focused targets to improve their teaching. These may be in some way connected to a schooldepartmental development plan, but should also include personal targets that may have been highlighted from an observation. Using SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-related) targets will help you formulate effective objectives.
Remember that initial teacher training students and newly qualified teachers have their own standards to meet in their teaching.
Budgets for external courses are being constantly cut so schools are increasingly relying on internal training as a continuing professional development resource. If someone in your department is lucky enough to go on an external course, ensure that he or she formally gives a presentation of the main things learnt to the rest of the department. These can be added to their professional development portfolio and hopefully you can discuss implementing some of the ideas within the department. Get your department sharing good practice among themselves and with other subject staff.
It is your responsibility as head of department to keep up with new initiatives in education, not only for your subject but for teaching in general. Keep up to date using the Department for Education and Skills and The TES websites. Think about how these can benefit the department and present them as something that can improve teaching and learning, rather than becoming another thing that your staff have to worry about.
Be willing to try out new ideas and techniques in your department. Your schemes of work should be flexible and you should always evaluate its effectiveness once you've tried an initiative out. Don't be afraid to say that something hasn't worked.
You should always encourage keen staff to develop the skills needed to move on in their career. Give ambitious staff responsibilities and new challenges. Listen to their ideas and teach them the "unseen" skills needed to be a leader of a team. For example, you can ask them to chair a meeting in your absence or develop a new scheme of work.
Nurture them and give them confidence. They may move on to bigger and better things as a result - but they will also move on if you don't stimulate or value them.
Department for Education and Skills: www.dfes.gov.uk'The Tes': www.tes.co.uk
Dawn Cox is head of RE and GTPNQT co-ordinator at St Charles Lucas arts college in Colchester