Wellbeing series: 1. Why might emotion regulation be interesting to teachers?

Introducing our Emotion Regulation blog series…

As an organisation, we prioritise the needs of teachers and we want to be able to offer insights and practical strategies to support teachers physically and emotionally both in and out of work. In partnership with Big Change, we’ve created a Wellbeing Programme specifically for Teachers, and have spent the last few months developing it with the help of our learnings from psychology research. In this series we’ll look at sharing some of what we’ve discovered, particularly about emotion regulation – an area of increasing interest to psychologists, both in the field of teaching and in psychology more broadly.

In the first blog of this series, we’ll explore why the psychology of emotion regulation is relevant to teachers, before sharing a key model of emotion regulation and its implications for wellbeing in parts 2 and 3.  Finally, in the final blog of the series, we’ll share some thoughts on how we might use this psychology in a practical way to support the wellbeing of teachers – and especially those in the early stages of their careers!

1: Why might emotion regulation be interesting for teachers?

There’s no doubt that teaching is an emotionally and psychologically demanding profession. It’s one of the things that makes it both extremely rewarding and enormously challenging. Nevertheless, when we look at teacher wellbeing, teacher training and the support currently available to teachers, the psychological demands of the job aren’t being widely discussed. There is, however, an increasing body of research that aims to understand more about the emotional experience of teachers and the impact this has on their day-to-day life. At a time when teaching seems to be becoming ever more demanding, and teacher wellbeing a growing cause for concern this is particularly pertinent.

Clearly teacher wellbeing is complex. The research has identified key external factors that need to be considered and addressed if we are to begin to tackle the challenges of supporting teacher wellbeing – such as poor behaviour, workload, and leadership decisions. However, while these external factors are increasingly understood, there are some internal factors that are also worthy of exploration. There are learnings from psychology that may help teachers navigate the tricky day-to-day pressures of their jobs, whilst the system is changing to account for bigger-picture challenges.

Just as on our Masters in Expert Teaching we look beyond teacher to understand expertise, our interest in emotion regulation also comes from outside education the education sphere. It’s something psychologists have been exploring as a way to understand negative emotions, i.e. how they manifest themselves; how to manage them and, more recently, how regulating them can increase the impact of positive emotions on our wellbeing.

In education, researchers have used these frameworks to understand what it is that teachers experience and studies have drawn clear links between emotion regulation and burnout. They suggest that the more skilled a teacher is at regulating their emotions, the less likely they are to experience burnout. What’s more, they are also more likely to be satisfied by their work! Given the impact it can have on wellbeing and work satisfaction, researchers recommend teachers be taught about the process of emotion regulation so they might use it as a tool to help them manage their day-to-day work.

Researchers in the field of emotion regulation often conclude their work with a call to share knowledge. It’s widely felt that supporting individuals to understand their emotions, and how humans typically deal with them, can help us to begin to reflect on how we deal with challenges each day, and to interrupt and adapt the emotion regulation cycle to alter our experiences of events.

What’s more, understanding doesn’t only serve as a tool for dealing with negative emotions but can also be employed to maximise the benefit of positive emotions, of which there are many in the life of a teacher!

As part of our work on teacher wellbeing, we’ve sought to understand what research in this field can tell us about our day-to-day experience, and how we can make this knowledge accessible for busy teachers. We’ve worked with teachers to develop practical ways to apply this knowledge, and created a forum to share and develop our understanding of emotion regulation, in the hope that it can provide tools to help teachers pursuit of wellbeing. If you’re interested in being involved in our free 2018-19 Teacher Wellbeing Programme, you can find out more here (applications close at the end of September 2018!).

It’s important to note that research in this field is relatively new, and psychology is notoriously hard to prove and understand. Nevertheless, we feel there’s real value for teachers in having a theoretical understanding of (and practical strategies based on) elements of psychology which can support wellbeing.

In the next blog of this series, we’ll provide an overview of our current understanding of emotion regulation. To find out more about the research that has influenced these blogs, and our Teacher Wellbeing Programme, keep an eye out for the paper which forms the basis of this series – we’ll be releasing it in full to end the series.

You can find Jacynth Bennett, Associate Dean and course lead for the Wellbeing Programme, on twitter using the handle @BennettJacynth


Jacynth leads our Teacher Wellbeing Programme (Free - thanks to Big Change!). Drawing on psychological expertise from a number of different fields, and teaming it with the psychology of habit building, we work with early years teachers around London to help them develop their own practical and evidence-informed ‘toolbox’ to support teacher wellbeing.

Jacynth Bennett

Associate Dean, Institute for Teaching
Find out more about our Wellbeing Programme...

Institute for Teaching announces intention to merge with Ambition School Leadership

The Institute for Teaching has today announced its intention to merge with Ambition School Leadership. The new organisation will have a single focus – to support teachers and school leaders to keep getting better so that all their pupils, regardless of background, get a great education.

Great teaching and great school leadership have a disproportionately positive impact on pupils from low-income communities and have the biggest impact on school improvement.

The Institute for Teaching and Ambition School Leadership both deliver programmes dedicated to improving the quality of teachers, school leaders and system leaders. They particularly work with schools in challenging contexts that serve significant numbers of disadvantaged pupils.

Matt Hood, Founder and Director of the Institute for Teaching, said:

“Teachers and school leaders deserve as much effort to go into their development as they put into supporting their pupils. That’s why we believe that investing in the professionals who work in our schools not only helps them get better but means they are happier and stay in the profession for longer. Working with Ambition School Leadership gives us an opportunity to have an even greater impact.”

James Toop, CEO of Ambition School Leadership, said:

“The most important part of school leadership is creating the conditions for effective teaching to take place. The Institute for Teaching provides some of the highest-quality teaching programmes in the sector that help leaders to deliver their vision for pupils. I’m really proud that our combined programme offer will provide clear and coherent development pathways at every level.”

Work is currently underway to bring the two organisations’ programmes and participants together, leading to greater reach and impact in schools in challenging contexts across the country. A press release on the merger is available here.

To find out more about Ambition School Leadership, visit their website

Practice makes permanent - Isolating pieces of pedagogy

Isolating a piece of pedagogy and practising it outside of the classroom makes perfect sense.

This is a typical reaction from one of our teachers after being trained in a key principle of ours – the idea that teaching is a performance profession, and therefore, just like surgeons or actors, teachers should practise under controlled conditions before they ‘go live’ with their classes.

For many schools, however, the scale of change involved in this principle is dramatic. The long-standing culture of teachers’ professional development has focused on discussion rather than action. This often means that teachers struggle to see the value of practice. After all, standing in front of colleagues and seeking their feedback on your classroom performance is not something most teachers would get excited about! This is, however, a key component of our whole school Transforming Teaching programme. How do we break down the barriers towards practice?

It’s actually fairly straightforward. We build practice into the majority of our training sessions. Cycles of practice – feedback – and more practice enable teachers to see the immediate improvements it can bring about in their performance. Practice has its biggest impact when learning from taught sessions is reinforced through instructional coaching. As one of the teachers we work with on our Transforming Teaching programme put it after an instructional coaching session:

“It’s surprising how often teachers don’t practise – doing so yesterday made us realise just how difficult it is, it made me refine my own actions and realise how often I go on autopilot”.

These light-bulb moments are great to see and are our first step to changing teaching quality for the better. However, the growing body of research from across the IfT faculty* clearly shows that getting teachers to think differently about practice is only half the battle. What we need is for teachers and schools to adopt new habits, enabling them to incorporate practice into their CPD models.

One way we tackle this is through coaching sessions with the teacher educators in the schools in which we work. This, more than anything else, helps them to embed habits of practice. The power of this was particularly brought home to me by the reaction of one of our teacher educators. We had been working together on the modelling sections of her year 11 lessons to focus on rigour – scripting and practising her modelling and the questions to check for student understanding. This has quickly become a powerful habit – to the point where in one meeting she explained how she felt like she’d let her students down by forgetting to take her pre-scripted questions to one of her lessons!

This is why it’s been so exciting to work with the teams of teacher educators in our Transforming Teaching schools. They know their contexts and can see what support is needed to bring about sustainable change. They’ve been quick to appreciate the value the instructional coaching model offers through individualised feedback, and are now, with our support, looking at how practice can become an integral part of their school cultures. They recognise the value of having expert coaches and being systematic about training:

Good practice requires good planning by a coach – this comes from the experience of trying it in training”.

Transforming Teaching is such a fantastic project to work on because it allows us to apply carefully considered theoretical models and adapt them to real school contexts. However, in the excitement of testing out our core ideas, it’s important that we don’t lose sight of why we want our teachers to practice – a goal perfectly summed up by one of our teacher educators:

It’s interesting to reflect that we used to ask our teachers to practise in the classroom. By asking our teachers to practise prior to teaching, our students will get the best”.

*For some of our recent work, have a look at our papers on learning – they investigate what we actually know about the science behind it, and how we can use it in our teaching and teacher education.

Learning: What is it, and how might we catalyse it? – Peps Mccrea


The Learning Curriculum – Harry Fletcher-Wood and our Fellowship in Teacher Education pilot cohort

In June as a relatively new member of the IfT Team, Amy Bates (Training Manager) shared her thoughts on the IfT’s approach to instructional coaching. You can find out what she had to say here.

If you’d like to find out more about our Transforming Teaching programme, have a look at the course page – applications for 2019 entry open soon!


Steve Farndon is a Tutor at the Institute for Teaching on our Transforming Teaching programme.

Since joining the profession as a history teacher in 2006, Steve has worked as middle leader and research and development lead in schools across South London, and in Cumbria. He is also a Teaching Fellow of the Historical Association.

Steve Farndon

Tutor, Transforming Teaching

Stuart Lock: Reflections on the IfT Fellowship in Teacher Education Launch

“This is a pioneering programme – nothing like this currently exists”

…said Peps Mccrea as he welcomed a group of partners and supporters to the Launch of the Institute for Teaching’s new Fellowship in Teacher Education.

Mccrea is a successful teacher-educator, well-regarded for his pithy, insightful books on effective teaching and learning, and he has a significant social media following. Peps joined the IfT in its early days because it’s research-led and deliberate-practice focused approach appealed to him.

Too many teacher-educators have never been taught how to teach teachers. So the development of the most valuable resource we have in schools is often left to chance. Teacher development is subject to the variations in the quality of local curricula and local subject or phase-mentors.

Rather than allowing this to be an excuse for limiting the scope or ambition of the IfT, it’s the reason for their almost unlimited ambition. The Fellowship, led by the personable and knowledgeable Harry Fletcher-Wood, is designed to equip teacher-educators, whether professional tutors, senior teachers or head teachers, with the specialist knowledge and skills to transform teacher education. And the ambition on show extends not just to these individuals, but to the whole system.

At the Fellowship launch, I had the opportunity to observe one of the first sessions of the course, during which Fletcher-Wood explored the concept of the ‘bets’ that every teacher educator needs to make when formulating their training approach:

“Should the content of a teacher-education programme be determined by the participants, or by the institution?” Fletcher-Wood asks.

From the rich and varied discussion that followed, one could see the participants developing more intentional bets – that is, making more considered decisions and becoming more aware of the possible consequences.

“How explicitly do you address socio-political factors?” …

“How subject-specific is the programme?” …

Fellows participants cluster around the centre of the spectrum of ‘bets’ – there wasn’t always this much agreement!

Of course, teacher-educators already decide these things – perhaps by repeating what was done the year before, or perhaps by going on ‘gut instinct’. But the consequences are significant.

We repeatedly hear about developing ‘explicit’ and ‘intentional’ bets, which are informed by research, and I am utterly convinced that each of the participants will be well-equipped with the best research and insights that the IfT can offer. How could one attend a course run by an institution directed by Marie Hamer and Matt Hood, with design and teaching from the likes of Nick Rose, Peps Mccrea and Harry Fletcher-Wood, and not be research-literate?

Throughout the launch, my overwhelming feeling was that the participants on the Fellowship in Teacher Education are being trained to return to their institutions not just as the best teacher-educators in the world, but equipped to challenge the leaders of their schools, MATs and training institutions, and hence encouraged to rip up the orthodoxy and do something significantly better. Repeatedly IfT participants and faculty members return to discussing the importance of ‘alignment’ and of sharing thinking and research, discussing with others and leading change – from the outset the IfT have been openly sharing their ‘thinking’ online and at events, and always welcome debate.

“Outcomes in this country are not good enough” says one participant, reflecting what I feel was one of the most exciting aspects of the afternoon. In talking to participants, course designers and every single member of the IfT – including those with no background in education – everything is about improving the quality of teaching for young people. During discussions at the launch the IfT team referenced some of the most incredible courses and people across the world, from which they have drawn inspiration, and I am convinced that this course could be a game changer for our schools and hence our young people.

“There are about 20 people on the Fellowship programme. That’s 20 lucky schools” I say.

“We’re aiming to have significant influence outside of those institutions” replies Peps.

As I’ve said, I’m convinced that this level of ambition will transform teaching in the UK. The Institute for Teaching is aiming to make teaching more research-informed, more effective, with a practice-based model, and they want to reach every single teacher.

I believe they can do it too – that’s what is exciting.

For more information on the Institute for Teaching’s Fellowship in Teacher Education, visit the course page, where you can also find details of how to get in touch with the team.

You can follow Harry Fletcher-Wood – Associate Dean, and Fellowship in Teacher Education course lead – on twitter.


Stuart Lock is the Executive Principal of Advantage Schools Multi-Academy Trust, which includes Bedford Free School – at which one member of our first cohort of participants on our Fellowship in Teacher Education teaches. Stuart joined the profession as a maths teacher, despite graduating in philosophy from LSE and UCL, before taking the headship at Cottenham Village College and later at BFS.

Stuart Lock

Executive Principal, Advantage Schools

Start at the End - A Case for Backwards Planning

Chris Read is a Design and Training Manager at the Institute for Teaching on our Transforming Teaching programme. Before joining the IfT Chris worked as a senior adviser at the New Schools Network, and previously taught English in secondary schools in the North West. He is also the vice chair of a small MAT in Greater Manchester and chairs the school improvement committee. You can find him on Twitter @c_j_read 

What goes in a curriculum?

At the Institute for Teaching we think a lot about good teaching (obviously!) and we think teaching is a performance profession which you can get better at with practice. However, good planning is a crucial element of what drives effective teaching – just as a brilliant actor deserves a great script to showcase their skills, so a brilliant teacher needs great lesson content to showcase theirs. As Doug Lemov says in Teach Like a Champion, “planning is critical to effective teaching – as critical as execution in many cases.”

So how do we write the script that will allow our best teachers to demonstrate their teaching chops? Deciding what to put in a curriculum is hard. Deciding what to then put in a unit of work, or in an individual lesson, is hard too. The good news is, there’s a way of approaching planning which is both more effective and requires less effort than many teachers and schools are currently putting in.

Start with the end and work backwards

Say you want to plan a unit of work on Weimar Germany for year 10. Or on multiplication for year 2. Rather than starting with the topic, and the huge choice of things you could cover, and then thinking of all the things you could do each lesson to cram in more topic material, think about your end point. This means considering what an end of unit assessment would look like, and completing it as if you were the most proficient pupil in the class you’re teaching, before carefully teasing out all the knowledge and skills you needed to be able to complete that assessment as well as you did. This list of knowledge and skills – the learning objectives in your unit of work – will form the basis of your planning.

This is why we refer to this technique as backwards planning. In terms of what happens from a pupil perspective, yes, they are taught and then they (hopefully*) learn, but when we plan backwards, we reverse this. We think about what they’ll learn first, and when they’ll learn it (the sequence) later. It’s only after these stages that we think about how they’ll learn – what they’ll actually get up to in the classroom.

Isn’t backwards planning from an assessment just teaching to the test?

In short – no! A test is just a measurement of what someone knows – and a test can only assess a small sample of the overall domain which you’re teaching. You’ll be teaching your pupils more than enough to do well in their end of unit assessment, not just the content of your end of unit assessment. Importantly, sometimes ‘teaching to the test’ means teaching exam technique and format rather than content, and this certainly won’t be what you’re doing!

Could you design a whole curriculum like this?

Absolutely! Reach Academy Feltham, one of the founding schools of the IfT, plan their entire curriculum for each subject in their all-through school backwards from what a pupil needs to know to get an A* at A-level.

Backwards makes sense!

At the Institute for Teaching, we believe amazing teaching can make all the difference. An amazing actor can bring a script to life, and an amazing musician can transform a musical score into something beautiful and profound. Similarly, an amazing teacher can do phenomenal things with a great lesson. But just as the actor or musician wouldn’t begin performing in front of an audience until they knew their script or score, so a teacher should only step in front of a class once they know what they’re trying to teach, and the overall aims of the lesson. By backwards planning, we’re putting the ‘what’ right at the start of the process.

*and perhaps forget, are re-taught, and deepen their learning further! See Rose, N

If you missed out last reflections piece from our Design and Teaching faculty, you can catch up with it here. Amy Bates, one of the Training Managers on our Transforming Teaching programme, shares her thoughts on instructional coaching and ‘getting granular’. We share all of our blogs on Twitter, so follow us @ifteaching for our latest updates.

If you’d like to find out more about our Transforming Teaching programme – its aims and approach, and how you could get involved – head to the course page.

‘Getting Granular’ – Reflections on Instructional Coaching

Amy Bates is a Training Manager at the Institute for Teaching on our Transforming Teaching programme. Before joining the IfT Amy worked as Head of Languages at a school in Cheshire and has taught French, Spanish and German – which she has also examined at GCSE level. Amy has authored and contributed to a number of GCSE and A-level textbooks and language learning resources. You can find her on Twitter @a_l_bates

Coaching at the IfT

When I joined the IfT as a Training Manager I was excited to explore how the teaching faculty use coaching in their teacher development programmes. Coaching combines three of my favourite activities – watching lessons, drilling down to the nuts and bolts of great teaching and discussing it with like-minded colleagues. Two months in, I can confirm that the IfT’s approach to instructional coaching didn’t disappoint – it’s an extremely enjoyable process for teaching and learning geeks like me!

‘Getting granular’ & the importance of practice

On our Transforming Teaching programme we draw on Paul Bambrick-Santoyo’s instructional coaching model, outlined in his book Get Better Faster (2016). Bambrick-Santoyo notes that although well-intended, in his experience feedback to teachers is often too vague to be helpful. Examples like ‘make sure students follow instructions’ just can’t be translated into actions and improvements!

At first glance, it seems quite easy to make this feedback more specific by adding more detail, perhaps saying: ‘use your voice to ensure students follow instructions’. However, this still isn’t anywhere near bite-sized enough.

Amongst our teaching faculty we talk a lot about ‘getting granular’ – something that we learn to do as instructional coaches. This means breaking down feedback into its tiniest components so that a single, clear and observable action step can be determined. In each feedback cycle the action step chosen should also be the highest leverage – i.e. the smallest change in practice that will have the biggest impact on teaching and learning.

At the IfT, we place huge value on practice. As our Director Matt Hood says, teaching is a performance profession, and we need a dress rehearsal before we ‘go live’. These ‘dress rehearsals’ are a powerful part of the instructional coaching process. Although it’s great to discuss the action step and its mechanics, nothing beats standing up and acting it out, so each action step also needs to be easily repeatable to bring about improvements.

Learning to be a great coach

Identifying the highest leverage action step in each session is my favourite part of the instructional coaching process, and it’s been such a useful way to reflect on my own teaching and classroom experience. I have to admit though – it can be challenging!

As we all know, so much can happen in just 10 minutes of a lesson, so there’s a huge amount of teaching and learning that needs to be unpicked to determine the right action step. Sometimes apparently useful action steps are just too specific to a certain lesson and can’t be easily repeated in future; such steps are therefore often not the highest leverage. On the other hand, action steps that could have a large impact – and help a teacher in all of their future lessons – are mostly not bite-sized enough to easily act on. I’ve really enjoyed narrowing down the highest leverage action steps so we can work with our teachers to tackle them, and I can often hear my IfT colleagues reminding me to ‘go granular’!

Improving teaching

Following the lead of experts in fellow performance professions like elite sports and medicine, instructional coaching moves away from evaluating teachers and instead focuses on improving them – skill by skill, week by week.

I see this as a really exciting paradigm shift; in the words of Dylan Wiliam, “every teacher can improve, not because they are not good enough, but because they can be even better”.

For more reflections from our Design and Teaching faculty, check out Design Manager Chris Read’s blog on how and why we use Backwards Planning on our Transforming Teaching programme. We share all of our new content on Twitter, so follow us @ifteaching for our latest updates.

If you’d like to find out more about our Transforming Teaching programme – its aims and approach, and how you could get involved – head to the course page.