96% of teachers think their role is to facilitate student inquiry

In this blog post, I’d like to put forward the view that Dr Mary Bousted is wrong when she asserts that teachers should be allowed to teach in the way ‘they believe in’. Here is a brief summary of the claims:

  • PISA high-ranking countries are moving away from traditional education (both in terms of curricula and teaching methods) and choosing to focus on teaching children soft skills (‘developing the whole person’) rather than mostly focusing on academic content – we’re doing the opposite (i.e the wrong way)
  • The OECD has found that “The future needs to emphasise the integration of subjects and the integration of students. It also needs to be connected so that learning is closely related to real-world contexts and contemporary issues and open to rich resources in the community” and “Educational success is no longer about reproducing content knowledge, but about extrapolating from what we know and applying that knowledge creatively in novel situations, and about thinking across the boundaries of subject matter disciplines. If everyone can search for information on the internet, the rewards now come from what people can do with that knowledge”
  • Teachers in the UK believe that the best way to teach is through facilitating children’s inquiry based on their own interests and knowledge, but instead are being forced to use didactic methods/rote memorisation

I’ve been trying to consider other viewpoints which is very difficult because I’ve come to conclusions based on reading some pretty weighty evidence, research, findings – I’m not really open to the above because it just seems like a re-hash of all the old prog-ed values, but with more tech-words layered on top. But, could I be wrong? So, I decided to journey deeper into the world of education experts…..

Dr Bousted attended the International Summit on the Teaching Profession (ISTP), a gathering of the best and most influential voices in education from around the world who are united by a vision to prepare young people for the 21st Century. Among other topics, ‘pedagogies for the future’ was discussed, drawing upon a background research paper produced by the OECD entitled ‘Valuing our Teachers and Raising their Status‘. Naturally, I went to have a good old read, but found that I was barred, probably because I’m just a mere blogger. However, there was a link to a webinar discussing the contents of the paper, so I watched that instead. Here are a few highlights from the first part of the webinar which focuses on education in the 21st Century:

  • There is a positive correlation between value/status of teachers and outcomes in education
  • We live in an interconnected, post-truth world – we need to prepare children for this [online] world where automation threatens the kinds of jobs that require people to know stuff
  • We need to focus on teaching pupils ‘how to think like a mathematician’ rather than just giving them disciplinary knowledge of the mathematician
  • Pupils do better when they have more control over what they learn and do
  • Pupils need to be developing competencies such as creativity, empathy, problem solving skills
  • Pedagogy needs to, above all, ‘mobilise’ the above competencies in children
  • When we map curricula against desirable competencies (Canada is held up as a good example), certain competencies seem to be neglected, such as entrepreneurship
  • Data shows that the more time spent learning, the lower the attainment in science, for example
  • Technology is the way forward – better than textbooks, can be used to personalise education, but we don’t have the pedagogies, yet, to really get the best from this technology

The webinar then swiftly moved to another linked topic of conversation around teacher autonomy – linking to the above topic in terms of an assumption that teachers know best and actually want to be teaching these 21st Century skills (oops! we should be saying ‘competencies’ now!), but are being prevented by ‘others’ such as, perhaps, The Government- why are we not letting them do what they believe is right (which just happens to be what the OECD and the ISTP believe)? Why are we making them use proven, equitable methods of teaching and learning when they really want to be facilitating inquiry?

Screenshot 2018-04-03 at 8.56.20 AM

I was a bit shocked at the statistic which flashed up on my screen. 96% of teachers? Are we all lemmings or something? I wonder if this is the same group of ‘teachers’ which happen to all be against timed tests, The Government, MATs, baseline testing etc.

Thankfully, we have the considerable work of knowledgeable people regarding how the brain works, how memories are formed and linked to other memories, and the implications therein for effective, equitable and efficient teaching and learning methods in the classroom – we know that student-led and tech-dependent inquiry in ‘relevant’ topics is not the best way for children to learn, no matter how seductive the message or how fun the lessons are. We also know that in order to think creatively, for example, you need to have something to think about and that something is actually knowledge, so we need to teach it.

Who’s with me?

Only about 4% of teachers, apparently.


8 thoughts on “96% of teachers think their role is to facilitate student inquiry

  1. #4% person here

    If its as hard down south as it is up north you have my sympathies. There seems to be “lemmings” galore in the teaching cohort. I am astonished at the anti this that & the other even under reasonable questioning by such as @NickRobinsonBBC as he chatted to NUT person yesterday on R4.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is why I am completely down on the teaching profession at the moment. I am fed up with the ideology of the whole thing, from various groups of zealots who seem more intent on winning philosophical arguments than doing the (relatively simple) job of awakening children’s minds. I do agree with you, there is a substantial body of knowledge that supports ‘traditional’ techniques, but why this then has to be couched as people being ‘forced’ to do things they don’t ‘believe’ in I don’t know. Some people *choose* to use those techniques because they happen to work for them. I am happy to accept that there may be people for whom the opposite works – though they need to be able to support their claims. On the other hand, I am equally fed up with the traditionalist world-view that supposedly claims that the only valid outcome for or measure of educational success is exam grades. I do not see that oppressive, brain-dead compliance in an exam-cramming classroom is any better than something freer that permits more individuality of mind. Education in this country has traditionally been based far too heavily on notions of compliance rather than self-growth. And there’s my problem: that last phrase sounds completely as though it comes from the woolly, progressive arm of the profession – except it is more achievable through intellectual rigour than mere play.I am disappointed that Mary Bousted chose to jump on such a bandwagon. Why couch the whole profession in such binary terms? And more fool the rest of the profession for playing along.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. p.s. there’s a world of difference between what ‘people’ believe in, in some fuzzy philosophical sense and something that they believe in because they have found it works. Which did Bousted mean here?

    Liked by 2 people

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