Monday, 9 November 2015

(Perhaps) Most of what you know about education is right.

There are a number of popular books about education which, while their contents contain valuable evidence and insights, their titles seem to suggest that teachers are mistaken or ineffective or slaves of politically correct ideas.

  • What if everything you knew about education was wrong? David Didau.
  • Seven Myths About Education. Daisy Christodoulou
  • Teacher Proof. Tom Bennett
  • Why Don't Students Like School? Daniel T. Willingham
That's not to say that these books are not valuable. Knowledge of myths is important: some of those they point to are already on our 'myths' page. Much of Willingham's book tells us a lot about the brain and learning, Tom Bennett has established ResearchEd.

The problem is: most students do like school, most students are able to read and write properly, most teaching is effective, most of what teachers know is not wrong. We need to try not to perpetuate the myth that schools and teachers are 'failing'.

EBTN has compiled much of the evidence about what does work in education. You can find much of it on the website.

Does teaching fit the evidence?

When we compare what effective teachers actually do in their classrooms with what the evidence shows would be effective, we see that they are already doing much of what the evidence shows works well.

Under the 'evidence' tab you will see that effective teaching includes:

  • checking and linking to prior knowledge
  • giving the big-picture as well as the detail
  • using a variety of senses to present new information
  • setting challenging tasks
  • giving feedback
  • repetition
There is scarcely a classroom where this does not happen to some extent. The evidence suggests that, if we want to improve learning, we don't need to throw out what we do, we just need to make small changes by practicing with methods which have been shown to be more effective.

Making teaching 'professional'

Teaching needs to become intellectually professional - building a shared body of knowledge based on careful research and classroom testing. We need to get away from gurus, ministers with 'solutions', journalists looking for a story, cure-all solutions and publicity-seeking titles.

Sure there are myths a plenty, but, even by OFSTED (UK inspection) standards, at least 50% of teachers are good or outstanding. Let's honour these skills and expertise and stop belittling the profession.

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