DESC Staff Reading Group Meetings-

Autumn Term

The hallmark of our Professional Learning Community (PLC) at DESC is that each individual is responsible for actively driving forward their own professional development, as well as supporting others with theirs, everyone has a responsibility to ‘get better’ and ‘make a difference’.

Action-research is encouraged, with teachers trying out new methods, innovating, analysing impacts and sharing their findings with the community. This could be through joint practice development programmes such as Pedagogy 1,2,3 or Lesson Study resulting in specific case studies which could further promote intellectual debate and discussion amongst staff.

All are also actively encouraged to seek further research in education beyond DESC through engaging with literature and current philosophy in a variety of media, which contributes to informing future policy and practice.

Staff book groups proved popular last academic year, as a medium for engaging with research, as illustrated in this blog post, ‘Make it Stick’. This academic year the reading groups have proved to be just as well received, with 30 staff signed up so far. In the first instance we have split into three groups to read, “Lean Lesson Planning” by Peps McCrea, “Teach Like a Champion 2.0” by Doug Lemov and “Working Memory and Learning” by Susan Gathercole. See the updates from meetings below.

Reading group meeting proforma

Tips for running a staff reading group


Lean Lesson Planning- Peps McCrea

(Led by Rachael Edgar)

Our two meetings so far have been lively and stimulated lots of discussion. We all enjoyed the book and thought it had much to offer teachers and provided much food for thought. The main focus of Lean Lesson planning is ‘doing less to achieve more’. Doing less, but doing it even better and becoming more efficient in our planning. Maximising the time we have to produce as much actual learning in the classroom as possible and focusing our attention on the things that really matter.

Our discussions centred around how we could develop our practice for gradual, incremental improvements abound, as well as how we could use the evidence to inform our teaching. There are three main diagrams that McCrea uses in the book, relating to the lean habits. Our Assistant Head Stephen, helpfully summarised these for us in the pdf below.



We discussed putting the findings from our research into practice in a variety of ways. On an individual, Dept level and school wide basis through tweaks to our own lessons, sharing information within Dept meetings and shaping whole school policy. For example, at DESC our observation and feedback process is conducted in 6 week cycles as a developmental process, rather than one off process. Following these short observations, the observer then engages in a coaching conversation with those observed, Stephen (AHT) has used LLP to help support with structuring the dialogue in these feedback sessions.

Some questions for our O & F

dr 2




Working Memory and Learning- Susan Gathercole

(Led by Sian Davies)

Our Reading Group discussion revolved around the first chapter of Working memory and Learning by Susan Gathercole and Tracy Alloway. As a group, we discussed our interests in the field of memory and the ideas generated by the first chapter. Some of the discussion considered the ideas of NOVELTY LESSONS being most memorable and how teachers could use something as simple as a change of routine to make a particular lesson memorable for students. We also discussed the need to improve the ways in which we teach students how to develop their own memory skills, sometimes explicit teaching of “memory palaces” , contextualising or ” information in 3 different contexts” could be useful in helping students move concepts and ideas from their short term memory into long term memory and thus, make learning more effective.

We also discussed how, on a personal, departmental and instituitional level, we can work towards improving the ways in which we address all students’ needs – particularly those students who may struggle with retaining or retrieving information. There was some discussion of distractions and how it may be necessary to have lessons where distractions are kept to a minimum.

We are planning on finishing the book by our next Reading Group meeting and designing some strategies which could enable us to improve our teaching as individuals, across departments and across the whole school. This could culminate in summarising our findings from the book, offering PD sessions based on the book or developing a whole school strategy for addressing students memory needs in the most effective way.


Teach Like a Champion- Doug Lemov

(Led by Louise Ford)

It was so interesting to discuss the idea of developing a common language of learning and I look forward to our next meeting when we can take these ideas further.

Sharon has already made a start on the Like a… poster which I think is going to be a fantastic tangible end product for our  2 sessions.

Read further about the best of TLaC in this post “Teaching for effective learning”


DESC Badge