What do we need to do to Improve?

Whether you are new to the profession or an experienced teacher, there is always room for improvement. Instead of looking at general areas of improvement, it is often helpful to focus on specific components of teaching. Identifying well defined, specific goals is an important first step in the journey towards improvement. This post will list some possible goals that teachers and departments could focus on. I have used this list as a form of audit whilst running CPD with teachers and heads of department, asking them to self-reflect and think about what they need to improve.

Although there will always be exceptions, teachers should probably be doing or insisting upon most of the things below.

Behaviour, Efficiency, Focus

  1. All lessons should be silent when they are supposed to be.
  2. Entrances and exits from classrooms are fast and efficient, taking minimal time.
  3. Relationships with students should be positive.
  4. Narrate the positive: use specific praise.
  5. Warm-Strict approach: consistent and predictable expectations and use of behaviour policy ‘what you permit you promote.’
  6. Choices are used to direct behaviour.
  7. All lessons begin with some kind of Do Now activity so students can begin learning as soon as they enter the classroom.
  8. Behaviour is very good in all lessons: minimal disruption; teacher and students are not interrupted.
  9. In all lessons, students are expected to complete their work to the best of their ability. Support and consequences for those who choose not to.
  10. In all lessons, students sit properly/no heads on desks/only necessary resources on desk.
  11. Lesson tasks are procedurally simple and often predictable: more time spent thinking about content. ‘what do I want them to think hard about?’
  12. Wherever possible, routines are used (how to approach reading/how to hand out equipment/how to correct work etc).
  13. Every minute is used: additional practice/quizzing/extra tasks on hand to fill any left over time.
  14. Teaching is brisk, business like and focussed.

Books and Presentation

  1. Books are neat-dates and titles are underlines/good presentation.
  2. Students have booklets or textbooks that contain everything that they will need for the lesson.
  3. Board=Paper (students are expected to make notes).
  4. Support and consequences for poor presentation, poor note taking or lost resources.

Instructional Choices

  1. Instructional choices are made based upon level of expertise of the student: novice=explicit instruction/worked examples; expert=problem solving, exam questions. Most students are novices!
  2. I-WE-YOU is used to teach almost everything. Each stage is given sufficient lesson time.
  3. Students are taught (told/explained) everything they need to succeed at a task. Procedures/strategies AND content. (I stage)
  4. Sufficient examples/non-examples are presented when teaching new content. Concrete examples to exemplify abstract ideas where possible.
  5. Complex performance (extended writing/multi-step maths procedures/playing whole piece in music/specific movement in PE) is broken down into components, each of which is taught, drilled, practiced and then combined with others.
  6. Teacher annotates reading/models/diagrams, adding examples, non-examples, further information, cues and prompts.
  7. Teacher uses precise and sophisticated vocabulary and expects students to use it too.
  8. Worked examples/models/completion problems used for new content/skills/procedures (I stage).
  9. Teacher live models in class, narrating thought process.
  10. Multiple models are used to compare and contrast: good one vs crap one etc.
  11. Identify and explain common misconceptions before they occur.
  12. Initial practice is guided and the goal here is ACCURACY(teacher help, success criteria, scaffolds, writing frames, some steps completed, half done examples) (We stage)
  13. When ready, students are given extensive independent practice with applying what they have learned to the maximal range of relevant contexts and tasks. The goal here is FLUENCY and GENERALISATION (can they transfer to the full range of relevant tasks) (no support at all) (YOU stage)
  14. Students are given sufficient GCSE examination practice in KS4.
  15. Fluency (accuracy+speed) is used a measure of proficiency: exam timings? X repetitions/sentences in 1 min? 1 page in 20 mins?
  16. Practice is distributed across many, many lessons: content/skills are overlearned until they are automatized and effortless.
  17. Regular, varied, distributed retrieval practice moving from restrictive, prompted tasks (closed qs) to open ended, unprompted application (brain dump/essay)
  18. Retrieval Practice feedback involves follow up questions, telling students extra stuff. Students write all this down.
  19. Retrieval practice used as AfL: if kids don’t know stuff: reteach quickly OR if too complex, plan and teach remedial instruction sequence across multiple lessons.
  20. Checking for Understanding as many students as possible: choral response, mini white boards, cold call, everybody writes, no opt out.
  21. Think Pair Share/Socratic Questioning/ABC questioning/format matters/stretch it for extending thinking.
  22. Questioning is focused on content and procedures.
  23. Meta-cognitive strategies taught and used.

Curriculum Planning

  1. Knowledge Organisers are quizzable and contain high-utility, core information.
  2. Explicit vocabulary instruction in all units, presenting all forms of the word and using examples sentences.
  3. Wherever possible, information is given through extended reading with text dependent questions.
  4. Students are taught how to write in your subject: sentence forms/style/tone/essay structure/exam questions.
  5. Content is chosen based on utility, challenge and exam focus.
  6. 5 year progression model for skills/knowledge is purposive: clear ladder of increased competence/increased knowledge.
  7. Assessments inform curricula change/adaptation. (QLA/areas of weakness etc).
  8. Recap/retrieval lessons are built into curriculum….revision is therefore not just a bolt on at the end of 11.
  9. Units build on each other, yr7 prepares for yr8 etc. Content is cumulatively applied.
  10. Content stretches the most able (building towards a 9); weakest are supported.


  1. Instant corrective feedback given on new content; reduce feedback over time.
  2. Wherever possible, answers, corrections and feedback given live in class: less work and shorter feedback loop!
  3. Students mark their own retrieval practice/classroom work, taking advantage of hypercorrection effect.
  4. Whole Class Feedback when ‘marking’
  5. Whole Class Feedback informs next steps: what needs re-teaching and practicing over many, many subsequent lessons?
  6. Models (student or teacher made) used to feedback: compare work with model, difference=next steps.
  7. Probably a waste of time to regularly write extensive feedback in each book.
  8. Departmental approach is regular, visible (green pen/red pen/Feedback Lesson written as title), purposive (complacent errors= students self correct. chronic errors=reteach) and efficient.
  9. If students know very little or work is very poor, extra instruction is almost certainly preferable to feedback.

The entire list of prompts and components, including additional sections on homework, CPD and supporting colleagues can be downloaded as a word document below.

This is not supposed to be a checklist or a comprehensive list of all aspects of teaching; instead, it could be used as a prompt for self-reflection or diagnosing areas of improvement for a department.