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Friday, 7 November 2014

Are We Overthinking Teaching?




Whilst indulging in one of my favourite  'teacher' past times at the weekend, tweeting, I came across yet another teaching methodology article from the BBC Lavish Praise from Teachers does not help Pupils.


This article is based upon a study 'What Makes Great Teaching', produced by Prof Coe for the Sutton Trust which drew upon more than 200 pieces of research into what works in the classroom. The main findings of the report are as follows:

The two factors with the strongest evidence of improving pupil attainment are:
  • teachers’ content knowledge, including their ability to understand how students think about a subject and identify common misconceptions
  • quality of instruction, which includes using strategies like effective questioning and the use of assessment
Specific practices which have good evidence of improving attainment include:
  • challenging students to identify the reason why an activity is taking place in the lesson
  • asking a large number of questions and checking the responses of all students
  • spacing-out study or practice on a given topic, with gaps in between for forgetting
  • making students take tests or generate answers, even before they have been taught the material
Common practices which are not supported by evidence include:
  • using praise lavishly
  • allowing learners to discover key ideas by themselves
  • grouping students by ability
  • presenting information to students based on their “preferred learning style”.                
Whether I agree or disagree with the findings of this study is irrelevant. My problem with all such studies and their following reports is the constant suggestions of what teachers 'need to do' or in the case of this article 'stop doing,' in order to get better and raise standards. 
 
Teaching is a profession that is wide open to constant scrutiny, teachers are bombarded with suggestions of changes to their methodology which, it is purported, will improve their teaching and likewise raise standards. The barrage of suggestions on how to improve are relentless. This can lead to teachers teaching in a way that does not fit them, it becomes forced, it doesn't flow.



What is being missed in all of these studies into teaching and learning is that  there is no 'magic teaching formula'. We know great teachers raise standards but no two 'great' teachers are the same. They each have their own individual styles and skills sets, they all have their own strengths and weaknesses. Great teachers love teaching and it is this passion and commitment that drives standards. 

The ability to be 'great' comes from teachers crafting their skill finding and refining their own individual style based upon their teaching philosophy, personality, age and life and teaching experiences. ...

Trainee teachers and those new to the profession should be allowed to discover themselves as teachers, to craft and refine their skill. Experienced teachers should be trusted to be 'great'' to do the job the way they know works and the way they, as professionals know they can!




Let's stop overthinking teaching!