Now, I have to admit that I don’t spend very much time reading a lot of theory, nor with engaging with the traditional versus progressive debate. I’m simply a teacher and school leader who tries to do the best for young people. I’m all for debate, as a geographer, the subject I adore comes under constant attack and us colourer-inners love nothing more than to gaze at our navels whilst enjoying a post pebble counting pint. As a geographer though, I am aware of the many paradigm shifts that have occurred and shaped our discipline. Such shifts are not restricted to geography. The subject has looked at the same phenomenon thought different lenses for ages and it is foolish to believe that anything is done independent of values or philosophy. It’s what makes life interesting, wriggling through the different levels of debate.
From what I can see, much of the debate stems from the differences in pedagogy. I have to admit that, although I was encouraged to use such things during teacher training, I have never really:
- Used learning styles, thinking hats or brain gym.
- Made students write down learning objectives. Ever.
- Assumed that secondary school children need to ‘discover’ learning.
- I’m not child centered, most probably.
- Ever really used mini-plenaries every 20 or so minutes. Unless of course, being observed. You see, I figured out early how to jump through hoops and put on a show.
- Group enquiries
- Shed loads of technology – why wouldn’t I make my life easier? I even sent out a bunch of students with iPads during an Ofsted inspection and insured that one of my colleagues took the Lead went up on to the roof.
- I’m a great believer in a traditional approach to behaviour management with clear routines. Mainly because you have to in order to get on to the really cool stuff!
- Stuck on a video with a fairly low level task (that I mark afterwards) while I spend the double lesson having an individual conversation with each student in the class.
- I even use, (deep breath) textbooks. Blimey. Better sit down. (why waste time finding resources when I can have a glass of red wine in the evening and use someone else’s stuff?)
- a strong leadership and vision is required. This includes the critical decision of what to teach. The how is less important. Teacher knowledge of both the subject and subject assessment is paramount. Assess those in your team and if knowledge is lacking, sort the CPD and badger your line manager until you get what you need.
- Figure out how you’ll monitor the quality of teaching to support teachers.
- Start with assessment. Teachers must have an understanding of what they are aiming to get young people to do. What skills, understanding and knowledge do children need to grapple with.
- Most importantly, use what is known to work. Seek out the proof and not the anecdote. Every classroom should be a research centre. Accept that some pedagogical approaches will work for others and not for you.
- Understand that there is a beautiful struggle for education. Learning shouldn’t be easy. It should be hard and young people of all prior attainment profiles should be pushed hard.
- Get GCSE stuff in early and raise expectations through the roof. Young people have the resilience to meet it and we have the knowledge and skill to support those that can’t. The worse thing to do is teach to the bottom.
- Model. Complete the activities yourself and write with and in front of students. Turn the projector off and craft things together.
- Get a routine down – behaviour is really everything. The first 10 minutes of a lesson are critical.
- Treat every lesson as a new lesson. We are the adults and whilst we need to challenge behaviour, we also have to be consistent.
- Understand that it’s all about whizz-bang-humdrum ratio. It’s not about lessons at all but sequences of lessons. Some activities will take more than one lesson to do.
As a final thought, if it truly is a debate then it should be conducted in a proper manner over a pint or coffee.