Robbie Campbell, Doctoral Student, Sheffield Hallam University, UK; Teacher, XP School, UK
Martin Said, XP Trust, UK
What does our induction look like?
It is June 2019, and in the bar of a rugby club, two new members of staff are discussing the increase in food poverty in the area with Glen and Mick Hennessey, who founded Thorne and Moorends Foodbank. Other members of our staff crew are packing or handing out food parcels, or talking to users of the foodbank about their circumstances. In the corner of the room, a volunteer at the centre describes to our staff how Glen and her colleagues saved her from a deep depression, helping her not just to feed herself, but also to get her life back on track. Meanwhile, back at school, some other members of our staff crew are creating an eco-greenhouse. Among the newly constructed raised beds, staff are busy planting leeks, donated by an expert gardener from the local Rotary Club.
So what do these vignettes have to do with staff induction? They illustrate two very important elements in our approach: culture and crew.
In XP School, culture is paramount; central to this is the idea of crew. When students join us at XP, their first experience of school is to get on a bus with 49 other students whom they do not know and be driven to the Outward Bound centre in Aberdovey. Here they are placed into a familial, pastoral group of 13 students and spend the week learning what it means to be crew. We believe that what is good for our students is also good for our staff. Before we can induct staff into our protocols and practices, first we must induct them into our culture. So, the first day of school for our new staff crew involves getting on a bus, driving to the Peak District and sleeping under canvas. Then, next morning, staff may climb mountains, abseil off bridges or squeeze through the tiniest of cracks tens of metres underground. At the end of the day, they sit in circles reflecting on the courage and togetherness shown. In other words, they spend the week learning what it means to be crew. Research has shown that crew builds stronger and deeper relationships between teachers (Loe et al., 2017). Teachers also develop a shared cultural alignment to the aims of the school, ensuring that they work with a sense of purpose.
This first experience is the start of a six-week programme (see Table 1), which begins for newly recruited staff in June each year. Following the outdoor element of their induction, staff take part in an ‘expedition slice’ called ’. A slice is an abridged version of the signature element of our curriculum, a ‘Learning Expedition’ (Pountney and Said, 2018). For most of the school day, our staff crew are in role as students, experiencing our practices and protocols viscerally, just as the students do. This allows staff to reflect on their own practice and beliefs so that they can deliver better educational experiences for students. At the end of the day we debrief, unpacking the holistic connections between the activities, including becoming a crew member, working with experts, carrying out primary research, and purposeful fieldwork and case studies that build towards a project that impacts upon their community. They also reflect on key aspects of learning such as reading challenging texts and maths anxiety. The final product for this expedition is a garden in the school grounds made from upcycled materials. Importantly, this could be used by students in the future, for which the first harvest’s produce was donated to the Foodbank. These three weeks are essential in helping to establish culture and as an experiential model for our curriculum, but also serve as the starting point in terms of the ongoing professional development for staff at XP in key pedagogical and curricular approaches.
For the final three weeks of induction, staff engage further with practices and protocols through book clubs, instructional rounds and opportunities to lead crews and contribute to the planning and implementation of expeditions. Teachers learn to be curriculum makers by engaging in curriculum planning with expedition teams consisting of experts and novices, allowing collaboration and sharing of knowledge and good practice to take place. This work culminates in an educator-led conference (ELC), where staff reflect and present to their new peers on their professional learning during their first month. The question answered is ‘What type of person and educator do I want to be at XP?’
XP School is a small secondary school in Doncaster, set up in 2016 and rated ‘outstanding’ by The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services... in 2018, and had their first set of brilliant GCSE results in 2019. The school accepts students based on a lottery from all areas of Doncaster and recruits teachers and learning coaches to begin in June on a non-teaching timetable to allow time for the induction before the academic year starts in September. XP is part of the growing XP Trust, which includes three secondary schools with the same principles and induction process. The induction programme is one of the elements that makes XP Trust such an attractive place to work for prospective staff, alongside the imaginative curriculum and wider school ethos.
Table 1: The six-week initial induction for the staff crew of 2019
|Week 1||Pitch up and crew up
Navigation in the wilds
Abseiling and caving
|Week 2||Expedition slice: Sowing the seeds
Immersion: Seva in the Sikh faith: fieldwork to the local gurdwara, langar and homeless kitchen
Introduction to the guiding question: ‘How can sustainable living contribute to social equity?’
Fieldwork: Deprivation index survey across Doncaster and Thorne and Moorends Foodbank
|Week 3||Expedition slice continued
Experts: Pat Hagan – Town centre and communities DMBC, Peter Wyatt – Rotary Club
(*continued until end)
|Daily staff crew*
Buddying up with existing staff*
Final product work on community garden
Introduction of ELC task and preparation
Instructional rounds and reflection*
Workshops/book clubs on XP practices and protocols*
|Week 5||ELC drafting and critique
Expedition planning in teams for the new academic year*
Co-leading academic and crew sessions*
|Week 6||Celebration of learning for expedition slice, including educator-led conferences|
Where next after induction?
‘The continuation of staff induction’ is a key performance indicator at XP, and there is a two-year programme that follows, starting in the new academic year. While the induction aims at ensuring that staff are ready to start teaching in September, there is an ongoing programme that furthers develops staff’s expertise in curriculum design in XP’s context (Pountney and Said, 2018), as well as placing staff on a leadership pathway depending on their prior experience and their intentions to develop their practice.
So how can induction be designed to develop a path for teachers’ sustained professional learning?
First, the induction is an acculturation into working in the school. Kraft and Papay (2014) suggest that the professional working environment has a huge influence on teacher development over time; establishing strong professional environments that demonstrate trust, openness and peer collaboration is essential for sustained professional development and must be the foundation of all staff induction programmes.
Second, the induction establishes, and recognises, the role of the teacher as a professional. At XP, teachers are not just considered implementers of lessons; teachers are considered creative and autonomous and able to work collaboratively. This notion of being a professional is seminal to the induction process and culminates in the teacher reflecting on and presenting their answer to the question: ‘What kind of an educator do I want to be at XP?’
Finally, the induction and professional development programme must be structured in such a way so that teachers are given the time and tools to engage in effective CPD. Built into the school week, XP School has two-hour subject team meetings dedicated to developing a better understanding of subject-specific pedagogy, subject knowledge and curriculum. Furthermore, development of expertise in curriculum-making is sustained as teachers develop five expeditions per year, each one bookended by rigorous tuning and review processes.
The process of induction at XP has been carefully crafted over time to ensure that teachers develop the competence, autonomy and the notion of crew around a shared goal needed to excel in their practice, and to not only deliver but also create curriculum. It is important to emphasise that we do not consider the XP induction to be ‘finished’; we continue to review and change it to meet the needs of teachers (and therefore students too), and we would welcome any thoughts and ideas on how we can continue to innovate and improve our induction process.
Kraft M and Papay JP (2014) Can professional environments in schools promote teacher development? Explaining Heterogeneity in returns to teaching experience. Educational Effectiveness and Policy Analysis 36(4): 476–500.
Loe R, Verbi S and Gibbs B (2017) Building relationships through expeditionary experiences. Relational Schools. Available at: https://relationalschools.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Building-relationships-through-expeditionary-experiences.pdf (accessed 5 July 2021).
Pountney R and Said M (2018) Developing effective learners through a school/university partnership in curriculum making. Impact 3. Available at: https://bit.ly/2LmXn8q (accessed 5 July 2021).