‘Fine Tuning’ Our Expedition Plans

May I show our appreciation and gratitude to Miss Robinson, Mrs Smith and students from XP who took part in our third and final ‘fine tuning’ of our Y7 expedition today.

‘Fine tuning’ is an approach that is used by a group of people to critique the Expedition planning process. It has specific protocols which begins with a 10 minute presentation by the Lead facilitator – in this instance, Mrs Poncia (ably assisted by Mr Smith) from XP East.

Mr Campbell (new XP STEM teacher) introduced everyone and explained that ‘fine tuning’ was all about being ‘soft on the people, but hard on the content’ and then facilitated the session which initially explored ‘warm praise’ for what the XP teachers and students liked. The panel then asked enquiring questions, and made suggestions about how we could improve our plans.

Mrs Poncia with the ‘Fine Tuning’ panel

The process encourages the people who are presenting to have a burning question that they would like the panel to consider providing answers to. Ours was ‘When should we introduce the all important guiding question?’ Existing experienced XP staff were able to offer advice based upon what they had learned from previous expeditions. Students then followed and provided us with several superb examples of when its introduction had worked well, and not so well during their time at XP. They then went on to provide us with some further suggestions which gave us many options to consider when returning back to our plans

The fine tuning session helped our XP East team to reassess our overall Expedition calendar, leading to a much better placed introduction of when we will introduce our guiding question. It has also led to establishing a greater sense of clarity with regards to our next steps, and reaffirmed in our minds that we are definitely on the right track.

See below for a quick interview with students.

Thank you all involved!

“That’ll learn ya!” is an enduring and endearing memory of what my mum used to say, as she cheerfully juxtaposed “teach” and “learn”. During our intensive induction programme we grasped the concept of teachers as learners, and conversely the notion of learners as teachers could be explored by skilful use of the correct protocol(s).

The late Middle English word “protocol” is derived from the French “prothocole”, itself via Latin and Greek prótokollo and in the EL context it can be defined as: “a related, well-defined set of actions in a classroom used for a specific academic purpose“. Which protocol(s) might we employ to encourage our learners to be teachers? Which protocols have I attempted to represent below?


As staff new to XP we have been encouraged to offer Praise, Question, Suggestion; to Build Background Knowledge; to offer a fist-to-five, complete an exit ticket and have the final word….but we have barely begun to scratch the surface of some perfectly practical pedagogical protocols. I pledge to widen my repertoire, work my way down the EL protocol list and eventually incorporate them all, over time, into my lesson preparation in order to emulate building a collaborative culture that is promoted on the EL website:


Join me!

Becoming an XP Butterfly…

Think about a caterpillar morphing into a butterfly, a beautiful analogy for change…

I’m sure we all feel like a caterpillar at times, an ugly, undeveloped, unconfident self. We all want to be the butterfly – the gorgeous finished product, flying about with grace and beauty, experiencing bliss everywhere we go. We all want to be seen as beautiful, respectable, and lovely. But, how do we get to that?

It isn’t so easy, some would say.  Often, we see people who have become the finished product: a successful, beautiful, powerful human being who has it all. We all see people who we respect, admire and wish we were like.  However, those people did not come into it without a lot of work on themselves, perhaps spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically.

We all want to be the butterfly, but do we really want to go through the process that it takes to become that? Think about what you see in yourself as the caterpillar.  You might be all caterpillar in your opinion, or some percentage of caterpillar versus a percentage of butterfly. Perhaps you’ve been working on yourself for quite a while and you’ve already transformed some parts of yourself that were undeveloped before now. Perhaps you feel like you might even be getting close to being a butterfly.

Truly, I have now discovered, that my new self was always there, just as the butterfly was always there in the caterpillar. It wasn’t really visible before the transformation, but the blueprint and the potential was always there and present. I think of my new self as the eternal, deeper self: the Me that was always present.

I would encourage you to simply stop and be the butterfly that you know you can be. Stop all the wondering, fixing of yourself, and all the searching. You are already know what you want to become. All you have to do is step out of who you think you are for just a moment.

Be patient. It doesn’t have to happen overnight – you can’€™t rush the process.  All you have to do is relax, drop the old stories and habits, and be determined to work hard and be the best you can be.  It is actually very simple. Of course, some of your old caterpillar ways might reappear and assert themselves now and then, but you can always redirect your awareness back into the butterfly-you at any and all times.

Be at peace. All you must do is relax and let your XP butterfly come forth!



I’ve worked in education for a grand total of 8 weeks.  In that time I’ve had to unlearn everything I thought I knew about teaching and learning, about what I thought working in a school would be like, and what my role as Learning Coach would entail.  I mean, what other job would start off with 4 days away camping, hiking, and jumping off bridges?! (You can read more about how that experience has helped us to start growing our school, and why it’s such a crucial element of our induction process, in Mr Portman’s previous blog post.)

As we head towards the Summer break, I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learnt about teaching at XP. East so far.

And here it is:

XP. East teachers don’t teach. 

Yep – you read that right!

Our teachers don’t teach.

Instead, they facilitate learning. There’s a difference.

In contrast to traditional learning, where the teacher takes on the “active” role and the children are in a “passive”, receptive role, our students are encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning, via self-assessment and presentations of learning.

When students are responsible for their own growth and assessment, learning becomes an incentive. A mistake is always seen as a learning opportunity – not a failure – and work is critiqued (and praised!) within a supportive, constructive framework.

Our learning expeditions are designed so that students are fully immersed into the subject matter, they are aware of the overall learning targets, they know what the success criteria are, and have all the information available to them so that they can answer the expedition’s guiding question.

So, our teachers don’t teach. They do much more. They take on many other different roles to help facilitate the learning process: as moderators, as challengers, or as commentators.  Progress is continually checked and monitored, with learning methods adapted accordingly along the way.

Ultimately, we are fostering a growth mindset, which develops the connection between hard work and achievement.  This challenges the fixed mindset that intelligence is something you’re born with, rather than something that can be developed.

“Yet” is a powerful word in our school.

Add it onto the end of this sentence: “I can’t do it.”

 “I can’t do it… Yet.”

There. That one little word is the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset (although I don’t think I’ll ever be good at maths 😉)

Mrs Parker.