Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Leading the Action Behind the Scenes

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Leading the Action Behind the Scenes

Article excerpt

One director of teaching and learning explains why his role is a vital cog in school life

Whenever I am asked what I do for a living, I take a deep breath before delivering my rather long-winded title. I am a director of teaching and learning.

Confused looks usually follow, especially from people of my generation. I usually say that it's something akin to a director of studies in old money. I am left feeling as though I have misrepresented my role. However, it is important that we do define this job, as it is a crucial cog in the school wheel.

There are important distinctions between the old "DoS" label and the new-fangled "DTL". As schools became more conscious of the importance of classroom delivery in securing student progress and engagement, it made sense to develop a role that was primarily about quality assurance rather than academic administration (although there's plenty of that, too).

Aside from safeguarding, the quality of teaching and learning should be a headteacher's main concern. The fabled 2007 study of the world's best-performing school systems by US management consultancy McKinsey ( found that improving "instructional quality" was the most significant factor in raising student outcomes. So DTL is a weighty role indeed, with many functions and required skills, which can be summarised as:

Helping heads of department

This is likely to involve being part of their appraisal process, agreeing departmental development objectives, discussing training needs, scrutinising exam performance and ensuring that appropriate quality assurance is undertaken through work sampling, lesson observations and minutes of departmental meetings. The ability to diplomatically chair meetings with heads of department is a dark but much-desired art.

Overseeing initiatives

At a strategic level, this involves identifying where the staff body most needs to improve. These issues might emerge through inspection, changing priorities or a collation of "areas for development" gleaned from lesson observations. Such priorities might also be identified by asking teachers and students how they can most effectively be helped. It is important to win the hearts and minds of the staff when such initiatives are imposed from above - sometimes by the government - and they must be galvanised to comply in a way that doesn't compromise their values as teachers. …

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