Jean-Pierre Adamson is Head of English at the German-Swiss International School in Hong Kong. Having initially engaged with the Great Teaching Toolkit through our free Starter account and checked out the Foundation Course, he joined the GTT on a solo account with one other colleague to access the full suite of resources, courses and tools. Here, we catch up with him to discuss how he’s engaged with it so far, and the school’s plans for building on this starting point.
How has the Great Teaching Toolkit helped you personally?
First and foremost, I only came to ‘evidence-based practice’ as a concept in the last year or so. As with many teachers, although I had long been independently engaging with the research evidence and forming a personal overview of ‘what has worked’, I had also been doing what is seen as ‘good practice’ while falling into the trap of some neuromyths and practices that weren’t necessarily supported by the evidence. What has been great about the GTT is that it brings everything together in one place; suddenly, I had answers about what the evidence says, ideas about how I could put this into practice, and also how I could bring my colleagues along on that journey too.
The second thing was that it got me started engaging with the teaching and research community a bit more. Without something like the GTT to bring this all together, that community can seem quite distributed—there are pockets of great practice and really useful research in individual schools, academies and universities around the world, as well as across Twitter, LinkedIn and beyond. But it can be a bit overwhelming and hard to distil what’s really important and worth reading if you’re not already engaged. The GTT helped again here; it felt like I wasn’t alone in this task any more.
As well as having a community of its own, the Toolkit also points you towards people to speak to and places to read more on specific topics, where you can delve deeper for more information. The community is so open and helpful and there is so much great content out there that I have made part of my normal practice as a result of this exposure, such as the use of the Education Endowment Foundation evaluation reports. It brings a really clear structure to what great teaching looks like. I’ve found it’s been almost like a little magnifying glass to put these ideas in focus and get you to the right places!
And how have you supported your staff to engage with the Great Teaching Toolkit so far?
We’re still in the planning stages of this, mainly because it is a change to how our professional development has looked in the past. I’m sure we’re not alone in saying that CPD has looked quite ‘traditional’, in the sense of two hours sitting in a room and listening to some input, then ‘off you go’ and that’s been it. Engaging with resources like Zoe and Mark Enser’s The CPD Curriculum and the Chartered College‘s programmes and publications, as well as the GTT, has really started to change this thinking and highlight the importance of quality CPD. What we’ve started to get to is an understanding that the structure of the CPD being evidence-informed, as well as the content itself, is so crucial. The GTT and the Model for Great Teaching has been a brilliant entry point to this so far—not just for me but for our colleagues too.
In terms of engagement, we didn’t want to fall in to the trap of rolling something out across the whole body of staff and implementing it badly. But the learning so far has shown that it has the potential to be game-changing for our whole-school professional learning.
Personally, I started off with the Foundation Course on the free starter plan as an entry point, which was really digestible and a good overview of both the research and the principles behind the GTT—that provided a good jumping-off point, without being too much of a commitment. A colleague and I then signed up and started the Science of Learning Programme, and we’re working through that now. It’s been really interesting to look at this in real depth, alongside the Chartered College’s Certificate in Evidence-Informed Practice; it’s been so thought-provoking.
Finally, what would you say to others looking at the Great Teaching Toolkit?
The GTT has been instrumental in helping to provide both the intellectual clarity and the motivational push to become more reflective and evidence-informed. Great teaching can feel like a delicate and overwhelming task a lot of the time. There are so many ongoing debates in the wider educational discourse that sometimes it can feel like simply picking a core position, from something as apparently simple as how to present a new topic to a certain class through to choosing whether to promote a knowledge-rich or enquiry-oriented approach, is somehow always a polemical choice. To a degree it is, but not necessarily because it has to be.
In my experience, the polemical often enters the gap between research and practice—where we as teachers and curriculum makers lack confidence or clarity about what the weight of evidence fundamentally shows us. Perhaps worse, it is in this gap that neuromyths peddled by unscrupulous publishers and profit-driven third parties can sneak in.
Having a single resource like the GTT that distils the research evidence and summarises the key debates with clarity offers busy teachers the foundation and confidence to reflect on where their educational principles and values are really situated, allowing us to do the best we can for our students. With commitment, this can be a transformative aspect of your own development, so I am really pleased to have benefited from this. It has helped me to get a good handle on the vast literature and range of debates informing my own practice as a middle leader, but is of great value across the board, from ECTs to SLTs. It is a high-quality approach that gives everyone an entry point to concise evidence-informed content and implementation frameworks, along with practicing what it preaches in terms of delivery and standards.
If you would like to speak to one of the team about how you might implement the Toolkit at your school or college, simply fill out this form, and one of the team will be in touch!