Where are you likely to find the best, most innovative teaching methods? At a conference? In a book? On a blog? Maybe, but how about looking in on the classroom next to yours? According to Andreas Schleicher of PISA, speaking at the Education Innovation Conference in January 2018, the best practices are created in classrooms. The challenge is: how to disseminate it? The solution according to Schleicher is to make it easier for teachers to collaborate with each other. This is where he sees technology performing a really useful service.
In my experience, all these statements are true. Fortunately, there are several ways open to you through which you can pick up useful ideas from colleagues. Here they are.
If you head up a team, and have team meetings, why not occasionally invite someone from a completely different area to talk at your meeting? I tried this when I was running a team meeting as a training session for learning about relational databases. I invited a colleague from the science department to tell us about the differences between relational and flat file databases, which was appropriate when, and how she taught the subject to her students. It afforded a fascinating insight into a different kind of approach, with different examples than we non-scientists would have come up with.
Another option is starting a reading group. I read about this, and wish I'd have thought about it when I was a head of department. The idea is that you agree on a book to read, and then discuss it at the next meeting. It means buying or borrowing several copies of the book, which is an expense, but then they can all go into the departmental library, or the school library, or a classroom library (consisting of a couple of shelves at the back of the room).
Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to hear from colleagues in other schools by attending a teachmeet. In case you're unfamiliar with the idea, it's a gathering at teachers spend a few minutes telling the gathering about something they tried or a useful resource they've come across. Some are specialist in nature. For example, I'm attending a teachmeet about technology in education soon, and I've attended one where the focus was on children with special educational needs.
The best way to find a tesachmeet near you is to do a search for Teachmeets [year] [locality]. If you don't see any, think about organising your own.
Bearing in mind the earlier comment about looking in the classroom next door, some schools have even organised an internal teachmeet as a staff training day. This has the potential of being more useful, more interesting and more trusted than many other kinds of training day.
Social media isn't all bad. Facebook has lots of groups for teachers, as does Linkedin. Google Plus probably does too, but I tend not to use that very much. I've just carried out a quick search by typing the word 'teachers' in the G+ search box, and immediately found a group called Teachers Helping Teachers, with over 35,000 members.
And let's not forget blogs and Twitter, especially Twitter lists. Follow someone whose work you like, and then look to see who they follow. You can build up a personal network very quickly.
Finally, I should say that the main thrust of this article has been about you can find out about good practice from other people. But you have something to offer too. Whether it's tweeting something you've found, or writing about it in a blog, you can and should contribute if you can find the time. I believe that the best innovation and ideas come from the people who are involved at the chalkface, to use a common phrase, or at least not too far removed from it. Not from gurus who pontificate from on high. But that's a rant, I mean argument, for another day!