High Impact, Low effort



This month is the start of the #29daysofwriting challenge.  I enjoyed this last year and will be using my Staffrm account to post.  I’ll also be reporting here, both to give a little more detail and to keep a log of what I have written. The challenge developed a great sense of community last year, which is why I’m choosing to write on Staffrm.

What I would say to those who are new to writing or don’t want to run out of ideas is:

  • Write for yourself. Clarify an idea, write something out loud. The process of distilling thoughts into writing is immensely beneficial to your practice. If other read, comment and respond, that’s a bonus. Ignore the muppets who know nothing of your context, style or students.
  • Mix it up – I like to read about real stuff from real classrooms and schools and also about other stuff.  If we always write about school, how does that work for workload?
  • If you’ve nothing nice to say, don’t say it.
So, the following has been adapted from a geography article:

In my short teaching career, the national curriculum has changed three times including reform at GCSE and A’Level.  While this understandably creates pressure and tension, the curriculum is inherently dynamic.  Curriculum change presents an opportunity for creativity and excitement.  It allows us the opportunity to develop intellectual curiosity in ourselves and others.  It allows us to keep learning.
It’s easy to feel bombarded by policy changes, but this is nothing new. Nor is high teacher workload. Consider this from Teaching Geography in 1975:

‘As the teacher struggles to keep abreast of a 30-period week, with the pastoral care of pupils and with the hundred-and-one details of school operation, he (sic) continually hears about new ideas, new techniques and new information.’ (Bailey 1975)

Frustratingly, reading widely and engaging with Twitter and research can add to the workload pressure and one can develop a sense of being left behind or simply not doing well enough.  But, as teachers we should be creating the curriculum and asking what young people should be learning and what they should be able to do.  
The trouble is, what do we stop doing?  
Adapted from here.
Look at workload.  The DfE people just need to stop changing the curriculum all the time and shifting the accountability measures. This will allow schools to develop and embed. And we won’t sit still.  However, workload is a deeply personal issue.  Teachers have a shed load, but what alternatives are they putting forward? Teachers have to take responsibility and action.
So, look at your workload. Or the latest bog that shouts about what you should be doing and figure out where it sits:
Low Effort, High Impact
Ultimately, great teaching and learning by expert teachers over a long timescale leads to magic. What is it that you do that has the most impact but takes the least time? Do it more. Lots. Teachers talking to teachers about teaching.
High Effort, High Impact
These are the things that take a long time.  Like shifting the culture of low expectations that teachers have.  This is going to take yonks. Like engaging parents that don’t want to be engaged in order to get children in to school and getting better life chances.  It’s doing to take a lot of effort, but it’s also going to take a lot of time.  Energy levels run out before time, so pace it.  Think carefully about things that fall in to this category and measure impact at regular intervals. Curriculum change falls in to this category. These things are often like a caterpillar, slow and wriggly but eventually transform into something quite beautiful. 
High Effort, Low impact
What’s the point of writing the same comment in exercise books thirty times? Just stop.  What do you do that takes yonks but has very little difference?
Low Effort, Low Impact
These are things that need a bit of thought. Do they add to the culture and ethos that you’re trying to achieve? If so, they may be worth it. 

One Response

  1. Hi David – thanks for sharing the link back to here. Let's hope we can keep the discussion and commenting as open as the ideas.

    I just wanted to say that a really useful phase when using this thinking grid is to track the potential trajectory of ideas or interventions. Nothing is static really. So if you imagine that every strategy becomes easier or reduces in effort over time. I like to draw that trajectory on the diagram. This is especially useful to think forwards about how the impact of an idea or strategy might increase over time, or in fact decrease. With arrows marked on it tends to open up discussion about how to change the impact or reduce the effort further. Once you have plotted initial positions it is a useful phase to discuss what happens over time. You could even explore how a typical school calendar increases effort across the board, for example during report writing time. Equally true of times when there is less stress and pressure around.

    Hope those additional ideas help extend the use of this simple grid for you, it has always proven to be a great provocation for me.

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