Teaching Shapes

This term, in our school, we are working as ‘Teaching Shapes’ (groups of 3, 4 or 5) in order to support our professional development. As teachers we are working with other members of our faculties in these ‘shapes’ – triangles, squares or pentagons – around the principles of Lesson Study. We’ve just launched this to the whole staff and are hoping it can really support our professional development, embed our CPD priorities of questioning, literacy and feedback and help us prepare at the same time for curriculum change.

Having studied Professor Coe’s excellent ‘What Makes Great Teaching’ report it is essential to create time and space for faculty colleagues to work alongside each other and focus on subject knowledge and subject pedagogical expertise. This focus on Joint Professional Development will hopefully enhance everyone’s subject and pedagogical knowledge.

All our staff have been given a handy guide to Teaching Shapes which is the only paperwork needed to support this process. In it, we have clear protocols for how staff should work on the project including how learning visits should work.


The notion of Teaching Shapes is inspired by Lesson Study and the three stages of collaborative planning, lesson observation and reflection & review. We will be devoting  3 two hour sessions to this project. First, we want each Teaching Shape to consider the focus and intention of their group and crucially what impact they hope to have on student progress. For example, my group are going to focus on improving the independence and resilience of our students. We are called the ‘Four Tops’.

The first stage then involves collaborative planning. One idea we are using is lesson feedforward from an idea we saw on the ‘Teach Like a Champion’ blog. The idea is that a teacher plans a lesson linked to the group’s focus and presents this to the group. The rest of the group (shape) then asks clarifying question such as whether there is TA support or how many PP students are in the class. The group then offers feedback on the lesson plan in the form of What Went Well and Even Better If. The group then goes onto collaboratively plan the lesson. This process needs subject expertise which is why people are working with members of their own faculties. The great part is that feedback is given before the lesson is taught – lesson feedforward. We modelled this process in our launch with our Deputy Head having planned an exemplar lesson on Olber’s Paradox.

The next process involves a learning visit. One member of the group goes to watch another member of the group teach. They will watch part of the lesson but they are observing the lesson that has been collaboratively planned and that the group has planned together. This is really important. Therefore, the focus is not on the individual teacher but on the impact of the collaborative planning and strategies on the intended focus – e.g. Supporting independent learning and resilience or developing the quality of academic writing. In summary, this is a lesson which belongs to the Teaching Shape and not the individual teacher. The observation is not part of the QA process but part of a collaborative discussion. The observer will therefore act as a guest making faithful and objective observations. The shape are free to use and design a bespoke lesson observation form or could even use a blank piece of paper. 

The shape then reviews the collaborative planning and its impact on the learning of students and discuss and consider the impact of their new ideas, strategies and resources. The process then begins again and goes back to collaborative planning. 

We’re hopeful that the Teaching Shapes will be a really useful addition to our professional development. The emphasis on small groups working collaboratively will enable more bespoke professional development with colleagues all working on individual projects that are linked to their own and faculty priorities. All groups (shapes) will be sharing their ideas in mini CPD sessions in the summer term. We’ll let you know how we get on!


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2 Responses to Teaching Shapes

  1. itilbury says:

    Very interesting blog. We have similar “learning communities”.Really like the shape format and the way it builds interdependence between staff.

  2. Pingback: Lesson Feedforward | lovingthelearning

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