Sometimes it’s easy to feel that those in charge of education in our country believe that most teachers don’t actually want the very best for the children of our country. The rhetoric sets out a battleground where on one side there are those who want rigour and high expectations. On the other side are those who just want to give children warm fuzzy experiences and don’t care about high academic standards.
I believe that this view is, to put it politely, absolute balderdash. There is no question that most teachers want the very best for the children in their schools. In short we’re being led into believing that an argument exists where in actual fact almost all of us are in complete and utter agreement.
The debate that needs to be had is not about the outcomes we all desire, but rather about how we get there. Currently the prevailing argument seems to be that high academic outcomes go hand in hand with rigorous inspection regimes, frequent quantifiable tests, traditional chalk and talk teaching, rote learning, streaming of children into sets and teachers with high level degrees in their chosen fields.
However I would argue that high academic standards are reached through different means. Here are a few examples (the links below offer evidence to back up these arguments)
Supportive inspections that seek to offer advice, support and actively share good practice.
Constant formative assessment.
Mixed ability classes with an emphasis on responding to the needs of each child.
A focus on helping children construct concepts, beginning with real world models and images.
Teachers with a high level of pedagogical knowledge – (knowing how children learn the subject matter they are teaching)
I feel that is vitally important that the assumptions those in charge of education make about the sort of teaching that leads to high academic standards are strongly challenged. And if we are going to have a debate about how to raise educational standards in our country then we need to frame that debate properly. In my eyes it’s a debate about the best ways to help children learn. So let’s argue by all means, but first we have to be sure we’re asking the right questions.
Squeak to you soon