Recently I’ve had a lot of requests for copies of my department handbook. Is there a sudden surge in people being asked to create them or is it just the time of year that people are updating those they already possess? Hrm?
Anyway, due to it being a school document that I have partly created during the school day I don’t feel I have the right to share it. Therefore instead, I will explain what mine consists of along with a few screenshots. I hope that helps those of you that are creating or updating yours, but please do not ask me for a copy as I will not be able to send it to you I’m afraid. However, I have created a template that you may wish to make use of, find it here.
- Academic Statement
- Department Vision
- Department Staffing – roles and responsibilities
- Teaching load – who’s teaching what
- Other responsibilities – e.g. extra-curricular, extended essays etc.
- Curriculum – break down of KS3 (MYP), KS4 (GCSE) and KS5 (IB)
- Assessed work expectations
- Lesson Observations – expectations and responsibilities
- Lesson Planning – expectations for teaching and learning over time
- Feedback and Assessment – expectations and strategies
- Student Assessment for Learning – outline of the AfL sheets we use with students
- Revision and Exams
- Behaviour and rewards
- Trips and Fieldwork
- Day-to-Day housekeeping
I’ve learnt a thing or two this year which means I’ve put a bit more in, with the aim of making things explicitly clear to aid consistency and professional development.
Academic Statement and Department Vision
These two pieces layout the basis of what it means to teach our subject, the former, the academic statement, seeks to set out the role of Geography.
Why is it worth studying?
What value does it have?
What do we want students to take away from their geographical studies over the 3, 5 or 7 years in which they study it?
The latter, the department vision is then an outline of how we as a department are going to achieve the above and how our department fits into the whole school vision and development plan.
How will we make Geography a subject worth studying?
How will we demonstrate its value in the curriculum and beyond?
How will our department contribute to the whole school vision?
How will our department contribute to the school's development?
I believe this section needs the buy in of all staff. During my first year here, I sat down with those in my department to create both of these. I had my ideas, but I wanted to have their input too. Since then I’ve had a new member of staff join the department each year due to the progression of others and I’ve failed in creating the statement and vision collectively.
This September we’ve two new members of staff joining the department, meaning a fresh start really as the other remaining member of staff joined us this academic year. My plan for our CPD day in September then is to sit down together and create a new academic statement and department vision as a collective. I believe it’s important for everyone to feel they have a contribution to make to the success of the department and a say in how we do it. I want us all to be aiming for the same thing and to be able to see where we are going together collectively.
Additionally, I know my vision has changed since I started as subject leader 3 years ago. These statements need to reflect the developments in my geographical knowledge, practice and general pedagogy as well as whole school changes.
Department Staffing, Teaching Load and Other Responsibilities
What this section includes is quite self explanatory really.
The staffing table outlines the position each person plays in the department, the responsibilities of their role and their teaching load. This is to enable staff to seek support and guidance from the right people, it’s to help teachers collaborate across year groups and key stages and to allow staff to identify their strengths in the provision of other responsibilities e.g. trainee mentors, extra-curricular, field-trips etc.
This section breaks down the curriculum by key stage, providing vital information about the topics and specifications studied, the examinations undertaken and the options selected.
This section also refers the user to important documents such as the exam specifications, the programme of learning for each key stage and the assessment for learning booklets and documents.
Assessed work expectations
We don’t mark general classwork at GCSE and IB, just past paper questions which are undertaken throughout a topic. This equates to 1 set of PPQs every 2-3 weeks. This is how we assess student’s application of knowledge. In lessons we then use assessment for learning strategies to check for understanding.
For consistency, expectations for assessed work are set out explicitly in the handbook.
This year I’m introducing a change to our testing procedures. Rather than giving end of topic tests at the end topic, students will not sit the test for a minimum of 2 weeks after they have finished it. Although I am considering making it so that end of topic tests are done at the end of the next topic, however I’d like input from my ‘new’ department and line manager on this before any final decisions are made.
This section merely outlines what should and what doesn’t need to be provided for a formal or informal lesson observation in accordance with the whole school policy. It also directs staff to lesson observation documents such as the observation feedback form, 5 minute lesson plan etc.
Really this section should be called learning planning, but I don’t like how it sounds so I’ve stuck to lesson planning.
It is something I’ve added this year for consistency and is an outline of what should be evident in teaching and learning over time. It would not be expected to see evidence of all of this in a lesson observation, nor evident just in books.
Instead sources of evidence would include discussions with staff, classwork, homework, lesson resources, assessment for/of learning, data, conversations with students, collaborative planning, units of inquiry, etc.
Feedback and Assessment
This section discusses the importance of feedback and assessment for/of learning in all its forms. Here staff are referred to the Power of Feedback document for further reading for the logic and evidence for the strategies outlined.
This section then provides a range of feedback strategies that staff have the autonomy to mix and match providing that students receive regular feedback from the teacher or peers to enable them to develop and progress.
More on the strategies that make up our Feedback NOT Marking ‘policy’ here.
Student Assessment for Learning
In supporting our students to become independent learners, we use assessment for learning sheets at KS3 and booklets at KS4 & 5. These enable students to track their progress along with set and track their personal targets.
This section aids the teacher in explaining to students how to use their AfL documents.
The remainder of the handbook
The remaining sections are just basic details that outline where to go for information on and resources for revision, exams and reports
There’s a bit that outlines our departmental approach to rewards and behaviour. There’s an outline of responsibilities for trips and fieldwork and some general day-to-day information that maybe of interest to new members of staff.
I hope this is of use.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.