Teaching-centred leadership in practice: a Professional Reading Group

Establishing a Professional Reading Group in your school can be one of the best things you can do to develop a shared understanding of what great teaching looks like. I discussed this as part of the Teaching-centred Leadership chapter of The Teaching Delusion.

In recent months, I have had a number of teachers and school leaders get in touch with stories about how their Professional Reading Group is going, or to ask for advice about running this. The purpose of this post is to share the latter.

Keep it light

The work of a Professional Reading Group is important, but being a part of it shouldn’t feel like a chore. People should want to be in this group. It is as important that they enjoy reading and discussion as much as it is that they learn from it. There’s no need to put out an agenda or to take minutes – that’s far too formal.

Focus on teaching

In theory, your Professional Reading Group could read anything, but my advice would be to keep the focus on teaching practice. If you’re looking for a steer, go to John Catt Educational – the volume and quality of the teaching-centred books they publish is superb: https://www.johncattbookshop.com

Invest in your staff

Staff shouldn’t have to buy their own books. Rather, schools should support staff by buying these for them. The principle of investing in staff to invest in students is paramount. Once staff are finished with their book, they can donate it into the school’s Professional Reading Library, for other staff to benefit from.

Keep it manageable

Teachers and school leaders are busy people. The reading they are doing for the Professional Reading Group will more than likely be in their own time. They will be doing this because they want to, not because they have to. But this doesn’t mean they want to spend whole evenings or weekends reading – they have a life beyond school! Therefore, keep the amount reading and the number of meetings manageable. My advice would be somewhere in the region of 20 pages once a fortnight.

Ask good questions

Your Professional Reading Group will need a Chair. This doesn’t have to be the most senior person in the group. In fact, it’s often better if it isn’t. Rather, it just needs to be someone who’s good at chairing. Their main job is to get discussion going and to make sure everyone gets a chance to participate. Good questions to ask tend to be ones like:

  • ‘What stood out for you as particularly interesting in this chapter?’
  • ‘What did you think about [X] on page [X}?’
  • ‘Was there anything that really made you pause and think?’
  • ‘Is there anything about your practice that you think will change as a result of reading this chapter?’

Share as much as you can

Do as much as you can to share learning from reading beyond the group. This will help to get others interested and facilitate wider learning. Talking about learning from reading at whole-staff and departmental meetings is a good way to do this. So too is setting up a ‘Learning From Reading Noticeboard’, to which staff can add notes summarising take-home messages.

The Teaching Delusion: Why Teaching In Our Schools Isn’t Good Enough (And How We Can Make It Better), published by John Catt Educational, is out now. Available at: https://amzn.to/335GFn3 and https://bit.ly/2XzQRne

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