Making practitioner roles explicit – a framework for supporting good CPDL
The relationship between teachers and artist practitioners is a crucial aspect of the Teacher Development Fund. Mark Londesborough, Associate Director, Creative Learning and Development for the Royal Society of Arts, describes how their programme of professional development has evolved over the course of their first year.
Performing Pedagogy is a project run by Arts Connect and the Royal Society of Arts that, as one of the Teacher Development Fund pilot projects, works with artists to help teachers embed learning through the arts in the curriculum. In the project, drama practitioners work with primary school teachers to co-design and evaluate drama-based lessons intended to improve KS1 & 2 children’s narrative writing and storytelling. Our aim is to support teachers to be more autonomous in the use of drama; increasing their confidence to take considered risks, their willingness to step out of comfortable patterns of behaviour and allow for uncertainty in the classroom.
During the project’s first year, the programme team noticed that teachers and drama practitioners didn’t always have common vocabulary to describe the various ways in which they might work and learn together. Drama practitioners and teachers tended towards familiar roles of ‘trainer’ and ‘trainee’, but both groups felt that this limited the benefit that they could derive from the process. The programme does include training and in-class modelling to build teachers’ technical knowledge of drama, but embedding requires more role flexibility from both parties, responsiveness to learners and ongoing negotiation between the teacher and artist. What we saw was that maintaining a trainer/trainee relationship prioritised putting new technical knowledge into action, over and above reflection on its appropriateness to a given context/ learning objective.
To improve the effectiveness of the programme, we realised that teachers and artists needed stronger support to enable effective reflection on their practice. Varying start-points for teachers required a more reflective, personalised and differentiated process. The elements of structured reflection on integration of drama in the curriculum should incorporate artists’ feedback and insight, so that technical knowledge can be underpinned with more reflective thought about why, how and when to incorporate drama into teaching, as well as the social and emotional awareness needed to teach through drama. Deeper involvement of the artists in reflection on how learners are responding to the use of drama would also encourage them to see themselves as learners in the process, not just trainers.
To support this, for the second year of delivering the project, we’ve defined three different roles that artists might play, in order to help make it easier to negotiate the various kinds of support and collaboration needed as the project progresses:
The framework was based on evidence in the Teacher Development Trust’s Developing Great Teaching systematic review, that in the best CPDL, specialist support includes modelling, coaching, observation and feedback. We wanted to ensure that our framework would help drama practitioners to model not only drama strategies, but the kind of reflexivity and responsiveness to uncertainty that we want teachers to embed into their own practice. We also wanted to be explicit about the distinctive contribution that artists can make in challenging assumptions of what might work in the classroom. Importantly, the wording of the role descriptors encourages drama practitioners and teachers to work collaboratively, support integration, and delegate leadership for learning – all of which require ongoing negotiation and responsiveness to both teacher and learners’ needs.
The three roles were negotiated and agreed with teachers, school leaders and the artist practitioners on the programme. Discussion about them also formed part of whole-staff presentations made by artists on their first visit to schools. Negotiating them in these ways was important for two reasons: to make sure that they correspond with what really does (or might usefully) happen between teachers and artists, and to provide that missing shared vocabulary to support their conversations. The programme team has been careful to introduce the roles not as fixed ideas, or as a hierarchy or a linear process. We have invited teachers and practitioners to report on how they are using, adapting and alternating between the roles at different points over the course of the programme. Initial responses to the framework were positive and both teachers and artists immediately began using them in their conversations and documentation of visits and we will review their impact at the end of this year’s programme.