Underpinning principles: Responsive teaching

Teaching is a highly complex and dynamic decision-making process about how to best respond to children and to support their learning. MacNaughton and Williams, 2009

Responsive teaching within our school is characterised by:

High Quality Planning Planning is responsive to the children’s interests and current affairs. It focusses on learning and there are clear links to overarching curriculum intent, implementation and impact. Planning creatively connects curriculum areas, ensuring learning contexts are authentic, with clear developmental learning journeys. Planning identifies responses to individual learning needs, including those needing a personalised curriculum, those who are higher attaining and those accessing nurture and enhance provision.

Knowledge and Understanding Adults understand how children learn. They know how to engage, motivate and inspire children. Teachers provide a creative curriculum that both supports and challenges children that is responsive to all individual needs. Teachers identify key starting points, concepts, typical misconceptions, pathways and the most compelling routes/sequences to enable mastery.

Metacognition Children are supported to take increasing responsibility for leading their own learning. Learning is designed to provoke dialogue, active listening and sustained shared thinking between all participants. Children supported to develop metacognitive skills to enable them to understand how they learn best, and how they can use this knowledge to reach personal goals. Adults consistently model specific skills and learning behaviours to encourage children to recognise, understand and emulate.

Listening, Questioning, and Higher Order Thinking Learning is documented in a variety of ways including books, photography, film, social media and displays.  This documentation not only values and celebrates children’s knowledge, skills and understanding but also the learning journey itself enabling children to reflect on and articulate their own learning process, whilst supporting adults to consider their practice in the classroom (Hale, 2018).  The achievements of all children and all subjects are celebrated in a  range of ways  including home learning, subject displays and interest tables and Star of the Week.

Problem Solving Meaningful experiences enable children to find answers to puzzles, dilemmas, issues and quandaries through a process of creative thinking and enquiry. Teachers’ knowledge of the children enables them to stimulate their interests and curiosity. Children are excited to find out how and why things work, how they can make things happen. Children are supported to use their own knowledge and understanding to consider adjustments to effect change.

High Quality Assessment and Feedback Assessment is continuous, rigorous, specific, and relevant. Adults use their knowledge and understanding of children’s learning to identify misconceptions, knowledge gaps and future learning needs, alongside celebrating achievements. Feedback is given before, during and after episodes of learning. Adults are careful to respond to individual preferences in when and how to give personal feedback. All assessment and feedback is designed to support and enhance children’s future learning in manageable steps.

Effective Deployment of Additional Adults Deployment of additional adults is responsive to the needs of all children. They are supported to understand the needs of the children they work with and how to adapt their teaching strategies to maximise engagement and learning. Adults consistently model and demonstrate effective learning strategies, approaches and behaviours.

Researchful Practice A culture of researchful, evidence based practice encourages adults to actively seek development opportunities and ways of improving practice, drawing on evidence from both within and beyond the school. Research activity such as Lesson Study and Teacher Research Groups enable adults to focus on the learning needs of individuals and groups of children. As a result teaching and learning strategies are developed in order to respond to needs more effectively.


MacNaughton, G and Williams G., Teaching Young Children: Choices in Theory and Practice, 2nd edn (Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2009), p. xiv

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