Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Too much of teachers’ planning time is spent making resources for them to use in their classes in isolation. Equally the 2016 DfE workload survey found that 38% of respondents thought planning was an unnecessary burden.

On the 7th September I went to the ResearchEd conference at Chobham Academy to hear Chris Fountain talk about how, using recent research into planning and teacher workload, we can reverse this situation and make planning a productive process through collaborative planning which leads to better outcomes for students and more time for teachers.

On average a teacher spends 1hr 45 minutes of their week planning, with an average teaching timetable this equates to just 6 minutes per lesson.

In reality, as a teacher we will spend this time creating a presentation to sit our students in front of and perhaps a worksheet, even through the most impactful way for us to spend this planning time for our students is through closing gaps in our subject knowledge. Planning is fundamentally a thinking process not resource creation. Collaboration and a shift within a department from the individual to the collective can help to facilitate this change. 

The most effective collaboration in teams happens when there is: expertise and this is shared, excellence (and the team working together to ensure uniform standards of excellence therefore that all students get a good deal), consistency and efficiency through the sharing of knowledge. 

So what can we do to make sure we collaborative effectively to make the most of the limited planning time we have?

  • Ensure resources that we create are shared
  • Spend departmental/ NQT meeting time looking at resources which exist and reviewing them and using this to move towards collaborative preparation for teaching. 
  • When collaboratively planning look at a unit/map for a year group and go back to basics – why are we studying this? and why are we attempting it in such a way?
  •  With assessments that are standardised across the department get the teachers to do the assessment at the beginning (at their own level, not as a student) to identify gaps in subject knowledge that can be filled collaboratively. 
  • Look collaboratively at student responses/example responses from staff and use this to make a personalised plan which will ensure a consistent experience across a department. 
  • Take time to interrogate individual resources and have high-level discussions about them, to identify possible learning opportunities which are personalised for our own classes.
  • Consider any unit or scheme of work as a whole, what is the main learning, possible misconceptions and any links and connections that the students will potentially make. 

I know I will make a real effort this academic year to make collaborative planning a top priority for my department, in order to drive up standards, improve student experiences and help manage teacher workload, this year.

Sarah Purdue 

Sarah is the Subject Leader for Geography at St Bonaventure’s and has presented on the ADMLQ course this year. Not only does she inspire young people in East London, but spend the summer teaching in Cambodia – an adventure she will be sharing soon!