‘Open door’ classrooms – Why teachers shouldn’t be afraid of letting others in
Stuart Carroll runs through the CPD benefits of adopting an ‘open door’ policy with respect to your school’s classroom teaching…
The term ‘open door policy’ typically refers to the figurative ‘door’ of management being left open for employees to offer feedback on any aspect of the workplace.
The aim is usually to build trust and open dialogue between employees and managers, which will hopefully lead to workplace improvements – so why are there often reservations about adopting open door policies within education?
In the context of schools, the concept could be better described as an ‘open classroom’ policy. At Castle Mead Academy where I work, this equates to all classrooms being open to receiving visitors at all times (barring exceptional circumstances).
These visits might involve senior leadership, prospective parents or any other members of staff at the school. It can feel overwhelming at first, but if implemented effectively, can be hugely valuable for teacher development.
In our school, we’re made aware of potential visitors in advance where possible, and know that our role in the process is to focus explicitly on the teaching and learning of our students, carrying on as we normally would.
Visits from leadership will often be looking to gauge whole school effectiveness in relation to specific evidence-based teaching strategies, or areas of our ‘invigorating instruction’ framework. In that instance, we’ll have already learnt about the foci in our bi-weekly professional learning sessions, and had the opportunity to put this into practice, while gaining peer feedback in our weekly expert practice sessions.
Any key findings will then be shared across the whole school – generally with no mention of individuals, though senior leaders will go out of their way to praise staff for any identified areas of especially good practice.
Working at a school that embraces an open-door policy has had several positive impacts upon my own practice. These have included enabling me to network, and build strong relationships with my colleagues that are built on trust.
It has also helped to normalise the process of having others enter the classroom, for both myself and my students. Other than a brief smile of acknowledgment, I’ll carry on as planned. Visitors will see no theatrics or premeditated performance – just high-quality teaching.
In turn, I have been able to attend other lessons being taught across a range of subjects, enabling me to identify notable examples of good practice myself, and use these to inform my own teaching.
Stuart Carroll is a former engineering lecturer and current design technology teacher at a school in Leicester