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Four tips to make the most of deliberate practice

Chris Peacock, our ECF Lead, offers key insights into making the most of deliberate practice, which is a key aspect of our ECF programme.

The final stage of the instructional coaching approach to Mentoring is perhaps the most daunting, yet is the most powerful step. The EEF’s guidance on professional development stresses the importance of developing teaching techniques through modelling, rehearsal and feedback. Too often professional development does not provide this scaffolding, which helps teachers to translate principles into practice.

Too often professional development does not provide this scaffolding, which helps teachers to translate principles into practice

We can think of it as five phases which are all carried out without pupils in a classroom. Although these stages are listed from one to five, you will often go back and forth between them as you help to refine practice.

1. Mentor shares the success criteria for a good example of practice

2. Mentor models this to ECT

3. ECT models this to Mentor

4. Mentor provides precise feedback

5. ECT re-models in response to feedback

From speaking to ECTs and Mentors, we know that it can feel awkward trying this for the first time and often there is a sense of it seeming ‘false’ as there are no pupils present. However, we have learnt that there are a few simple principles to get this working in your weekly meetings:

Overcoming the ‘cringe factor’. Accepting that it will feel odd at first is fine. It takes a few weeks of deliberate practice before this feeling dissipates.

Focus on doing fewer actions really well. The ‘precise actions’ stage will make or break the ‘deliberate practice’ stage. Too many actions (or targets) and there will be too much to practice. Remember that one piece of practice modelled together should around 7 minutes maximum. Anything longer would indicate that the actions required are too large in the first place.

Get out of your seat and be in role. Likewise, this applies to your ECT. Although, this is practice in a low stakes environment, using physical and verbal actions together will create the mental muscle ECTs need to ‘test the waters’ before the stakes are raised when pupils are in the room. It also provides you with an immediate insight into how your ECT will possibly deliver this in the classroom and allow you to give early feedback.

Contextualise the practiced model. Allow your ECT to ask, ‘What if...?’ questions. For example, ‘What if Harry puts his head down when I ask him to do this?’. Paving the way for higher stakes when pupils are in the room will make the deliberate practice stage relevant and useful.


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