Inspiring Teaching: What we can learn from Exemplary Practitioners to support Professional Learning Communities

Professor Pamela Sammons PhD FRSA HEA

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Pam Sammons is a Professor of Education at the Department of Education, University of Oxford and a Senior Research Fellow at Jesus College, Oxford. Previously she was a professor at the School of Education, University of Nottingham (2004-2009) and a professor at the Institute of Education University of London (1993-2004) where she directed the International School Effectiveness & Improvement Centre (ISEIC) 1999-2004.

Her research over more than 30 years has focused on school effectiveness and improvement, school leadership, teaching effectiveness and professional development, and promoting equity and inclusion in education. She has conducted major studies in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland including the longitudinal Effective Provision of Pre-school Primary and Secondary Education (EPPSE 3+ -16) research from 1996-2014 and the impact analyses for the Evaluation of Children's Centre's in England (2009-2015). She has a particular interest in longitudinal studies and the use of mixed methods research approaches. She has provided research advice to inspection agencies in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Sweden and engaged in the development of educational effectiveness studies in Cyprus, Germany, Norway and Sweden. She was an author of the OECD country report on the Czech Republic (2012). She provided input to professional development of Challenge Advisors in Wales (September 2014) and is currently advisor to the DfE for its research on the "London Effect". Pam has been a governor of a primary school in Oxfordshire and is a governor for a secondary school academy in the city of Oxford.

This keynote will draw on  findings from a small-scale, mixed methods study of 'inspiring' teaching. The study, commissioned and funded by the Education Development Trust (formerly CfBT), included case studies of a purposive sample of primary and secondary teachers in England who were nominated by their head teachers as exemplary practitioners whose practice could be viewed as inspirational for their colleagues and pupils. The research was instigated based on the interest of principals in the CfBT Schools Trust to support professional learning across the Academy chain and promote school improvement.

Three main research questions underpinned the study:

1)    What do inspiring teachers say about their practice?

2)    What do inspiring teachers do in their classrooms?

3)    What are their pupils' views and experiences?

  1. A review of existing literature reveals that the terms inspiring teaching and  inspiring teachers are ill defined. The integration and synthesis of evidence from multiple perspectives increases understanding of the concept and examines overlap with research evidence on the characteristics of 'effective' teaching.

The research shows how mixed methods approaches to research can be used to collect and  integrate different sources of evidence to illuminate inspiring practice and provide new understandings to support professional learning communities' efforts to enhance teaching and learning.   

Several common themes emerged indicating that inspiring practice relates to the following core features: positive relationships, good classroom management, positive and supportive classroom climate, formative feedback, enjoyment, and a high quality learning experience overall. Additionally, evidence from this study suggests that inspiring and effective practice are complementary; effective practices may facilitate inspiring teaching, though inspiring practice is linked to additional features beyond those associated with effective teaching. These findings have both theoretical and practical significance. In addition to increasing  understanding of the concept of 'inspiring' teaching, the results have implications for school and teacher leadership, professional practice and developing professional learning communities.


David Hung

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David Hung is a Professor at the National Institute of Education of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. David holds the appointment as Associate Dean at the Office of Education Research and the Head of the eduLab initiative. These appointments require him to delve into the change of social-cultural practices in the context of schools in Singapore. He specializes in social cultural orientations to cognition, in particular, communities of practice and apprenticeship forms of learning. In 2004, David initiated the set-up of the Learning Sciences Laboratory. He has been involved in the ICT MasterPlan initiative by the Ministry of Education since its inception in 1997 and has witnessed its evolution over the years in terms of student-centred inquiry learning mediated through technologies. A significant part of the present effort is on translation and the diffusion of educational innovations, which the eduLab initiative is trying to advance.


Leading Collaborative Learning in Purposeful Professional Learning Communities

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Dr. Lyn Sharratt is a highly accomplished practitioner, researcher, author, and presenter. She holds a Doctorate from the University of Toronto and coordinates the doctoral internship program in the Leadership, Higher and Adult Education department at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Toronto, Canada. Lyn has worked in four school districts across Ontario as a school superintendent, superintendent of curriculum and instruction, administrator, curriculum leader, and teacher. Lyn has taught all elementary grades and secondary-aged students in inner-city and rural settings. She is lead author, with Michael Fullan, of Realization: The Change Imperative for Increasing District-Wide Reform (Corwin, 2009) and Putting FACES on the Data: What Great Leaders Do! (Corwin, 2012, published in English, Spanish, and Arabic).

Lyn is lead author of Good to Great to Innovate: Recalculating the Route K-12, (Corwin, 2015) with Gale Harild, and of Leading Collaborative Learning: Empowering Excellence (Corwin, 2016) with Beate Planche. Lyn's fifth book: CLARITY: What Matters MOST in Learning, Teaching, and Leading (Corwin, 2019) is currently 'in press'. As well as an author and practitioner working in remote and urban settings worldwide, Lyn consults internationally, working with system, school, and teacher leaders at all levels in Australia, Canada, Chile, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

This Keynote will explore purposeful Professional Learning Community (PLC) structures and processes that create opportunities for teachers and leaders to collaborate, reflect on and improve their practice. They acquire a deep understanding of evidence-proven impactful classroom practices by participating in ongoing Professional Learning Community work. This Keynote will reflect on teachers' and leaders' use of data in various forms to inquire about what defines 'precision-in-practice' within structured time designated for collaborative Professional Learning. This often-challenging but critically important PLC work, which is so dependent on context and culture, inevitably influences and shapes professional practice. It is this 'serious work' in PLCs that impacts teachers' and leaders' learning, teaching, and leading that creates the collective efficacy necessary to increase all students' growth and achievement.