The SEVEN insider secrets to great INSET days

22 March, 2019

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Love them or loath them, INSET days remain a perennial part of the education system. Having delivered and evaluated more than 7000 days in a wide range of contexts, we can offer an interesting insight.

Here are seven secrets to great INSET days based on our analysis and feedback.

1. Specificity

What you think you want is one thing, but checking that it’s what everyone else wants is another. Being able to express that with high specificity can be even more demanding. To achieve this, we would always recommend conducting a ‘needs analysis’ to help you to discover what training options are best for you. We’ve put together our own ‘needs analysis’ here:

Your inspection may suggest that you pay greater attention to feedback, however the trouble with this is that it can mean so many things and almost every member of staff will have a different starting point. You run the risk of pitching it too low and everyone feels patronised, or too high and you get a cognitive overload.

Those extra hours in planning and discussing it through with both an INSET Advisor and Trainer can make all the different. It can help to ensure that messages are individual, training is always viewed as relevant and outcomes are delivered.

2. Practical vs theory

As pedagogy is on the rise, along with evidence-based practice, academia has become more prevalent. Yet any quick delve into the likes of Metacognition will show theory and research can get complex and nuanced.

For busy teachers this can become frustrating, as they are doing their best and want things that help immediately in the classroom. To get around this, the best trainers start with a practical approach and blend in the theory when it makes sense or when the audience requests an explanation. This is a very tricky balance but satisfies even the most practice-focused practitioner.

The very best trainers we use keep the theory in the background and only bring it out when relevant questions get asked.

3. Expert practitioners

Expert practitioners occupy the space between teachers (practitioners) and academics (the researchers). They build up an expertise in specific areas, which come from writing, researching, presenting and consulting. They understand different contexts, know what blocks somebody adopting new ideas and are able to provide very practical and individualised examples of implementation.

Even if you like a trainer who has been in before, check the New is their specialism otherwise you may experience diminishing returns.

4. Five key domains

The best INSET training offers these four content areas;

• Short-term fixes. These are practical ideas that can be used immediately. They include; starting points, activities, games, resources and fixes.

• Medium-term gains. These are stepped actions and module plans. They build up over a number of lessons or a term. These include; plans schemes of work, routines, iterations and development builders.

•  Long-term strategies. In this they should helicopter you above the immediate and place all proposed actions in a longer term pedagogical base. For example, simple behaviour tools have to lead to sustainable improvement in learning to pass the pedagogy test.

• Experience. You have to do these things if they are going to stick and can promise that you’re going to use them with aplomb. By having experiences built into the INSET training, you understand the emotional and cognitive domains that the learners will later experience. Most teachers do not enjoy role play, so more subtle versions are essential to replicate experience. Otherwise it’s just words and tips and very little changes.

At the end of the day INSET is about changing practice for the better – creating motivation. The will and thrill to try something new is every bit as important as the technical knowledge and skill. The best trainers know this and make the day professional, memorable and fun.

5. Conditions

The Maslow basics are too easily overlooked in the speed of school life. The environment can have a significant effect on how we learn and the amount of information which is absorbed. The basic list includes; comfortable seating, clear visuals, good acoustics, warm welcome, warm refreshments (cold in summer), sugar supplies to aid concentration if it starts to dip, heat in the room for when the day starts, paper and pens and tables to work at.

The more advanced list includes; twitter support, questions board, next steps clarity, presence of senior leaders to confirm what is being covered is both important and part of whole-school plans, feedback and evaluation processes, technical support.

6. Avoiding the squeeze

Invariably, school plans are long and multi-faceted, and trying to cover too much in one day is to be avoided. Time and focus should not be taken at the beginning for extra messages and long introductions.

Bespoking can seem like an efficient way to cover several key action points to compensate for scarcity of days and the difficulty is that pace and effective learning is all too often compromised.

Any presentations will have been planned and will be executed to a proven success formula. Putting extra items into the agenda at the last minute or compressing them into the end of the session can have the adverse effect.

7. Inclusion in practice

Whilst it seems good value for money to have all staff in the same INSET presentation, (especially when using an outside speaker), this should be considered carefully. Including Teaching Assistants in a session works well with some content, but can lead to the feeling of isolation with other areas.

In one recent INSET day, an Osiris presenter turned up expecting 60 to 80 staff, only to find 300 staff, no senior leader and no explanation.

One way around this is to have the day staggered, so that everyone hears the basic message in the morning and the afternoon then allows for more advanced or individualised practice.

Some speakers are great facilitators, whilst others like to be more motivational. Some are highly gifted orators, whilst others are steeped in practice and being practical. What works for senior leaders may be very different for N/RQTs, so be aware of the diversity. This really brings you back to number 1, in terms of being highly specific.

Osiris Educational is the UK’s leading independent training provider for teachers.

We work at the forefront of innovation in education providing pioneering, challenging and effective training solutions in teaching. We use the best and most renowned trainers to help teachers improve their ways of thinking and approaches to teaching. or call 01790 755 787

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