Tuesday, 4 September 2012

"How" should we teach?

Last week's Radio 4 Eduction Debate, still available on their "Listen Again" facility,   discusses how children should be taught.  Flavour of the moment from the "experts"  appears to be cleverly directed self discovery, and classrooms devoted to this aren't classrooms at all, but SOLEs (Self Organised Learning Environments).

 I have very occasionally seen lessons organised (and yes, well done, they are organised, not disorganised) in this way and greatly admire the teachers capable of  managing them.  However, it is not the style that suits all teachers.  Others can inspire by a more teacher-centred approach, generating a  love for their subjects and for learning by their own enthusiasm and erudition.  AJP Taylor's famous TV histroy lectures  were a god example, and there are thousands more in less publicised forums every day.

Our problem today, and perhaps in ather areas as well as eduction, is that our" masers of the universe" determine "best practice" (in education, what and how they were taught) and then impose it on everyone. Hence the National Curriculum, Standard Attainment Tests and "tick-box" examinations, all supervised by OFSTED.  We need the courage to move away from this supervisory aparatus and towards a system in which well-qualified and enthusiastic teachers  are trusted to inspire the young and not so young in whatever manner best suts them.

The programme's resident cognitive scientist, a Guy Claxton,  said:  "If we don;'t find ways of measuring what we value we end up valuing what we measure."  This was  in relation to the assessment of learners , but it applies to teachers as well..  It is very difficult to measure a teacher's capacity to inspire, so we look at the tidiness of his or her register, mark book, lesson preparation and mastery of the latest acronyms.  Education, instead of being exciting,  becomes a deadly routine, designed, as Claxton claimed, to produce obedient 19th century clerks rather than the explorers the 21st century needs.

Tomorrow-night's  programme (Radoi 4 FM only at 20h00, 05/09/12)) discusses "who" should teach.

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