Website: Reform Teacher Training: The Manifesto : focussing
September 27, 2014
Chris J Read
Kerngedachte: Firstly, they should be focussing on the
basics, and the basics only. Nobody who hasnt yet attained a teaching
qualification should be worrying at night about having to perform pedagogical
acrobatics in the classroom.
Teacher training is focussing on the wrong things
and it needs to be reformed.So, what should teacher training institutions be
doing? Firstly, they should be focussing on the basics, and the basics only.
Nobody who hasnt yet attained a teaching qualification should be worrying at
night about having to perform pedagogical acrobatics in the classroom....At
teacher training institutions around the country, committed, intelligent people
who have chosen to teach are being taught by committed, intelligent teacher
Perhaps theyre clustered around A1 sheets of sugar paper
making mind-maps about what makes a good teacher, or theyre being modelled
an exciting teaching technique in which one uses Plasticine to teach Romeo and
Juliet. Perhaps theyre watching some of their peers pretend to be students,
acting out a scenario where the characters of The Tempest are on Jeremy Kyle.
They might be trying out a tunnel of consciousness, or be sitting
back-to-back as one describes a photograph of a room, whilst the other attempts
to draw it. They might be being told about learning styles and making VAK
bobbins, or chuckling at a list of completely invented rules for teachers
from 1914. They might be nodding along to an RSC video of one of Ken
Robinsons TED talks, or watching the Shift Happens video. Some will be
engaged and inspired by these activities, and other less so.Theyre all wasting
I recently read Daisy Christodoulous Spectator article
(thanks Webs of Substance) in which she describes her anger at realising that
there already exists a body of evidence and cognitive science on how students
learn best, and that none of it was even hinted at during her teacher training.
As a recently qualified teacher myself who has trained with,
worked with and spoken to many, many NQTs and trainees, I commonly hear the
complaint that on ITT course fundamental topics such as behaviour are dealt
with summarily (if at all), and that the many hours discussing Vygotsky,
Piaget, Taxonomies and VAK learning seem to have no practical relevance to
life in the classroom.
Whilst I was training, and before Id actually had to take
charge of a class, the aspect of our training I found most useful was learning
how to teach. We learnt about, and practiced, a myriad of fun, child-centred
activities such as the ambassador activity, or the relay activity. We
listened, impressed, as we were told about Socratic Circles (especially when
the trainer told us that shed been observed by Ofsted several times using this
technique and it had never failed to bag her an Outstanding).
This was incredibly reassuring. All you needed to do to
become an outstanding teacher was successfully run one of these creative
activities, deliver it with personality and aplomb, and all would be just
gravy. We spent relatively little time on behaviour and were told to give
students little jobs to keep them occupied, like monitoring the noise dial in
the classroom. I was told by various sources that students would behave as long
as the lesson was fast-paced enough, or as long as I was in a good mood myself,
and (and this advice was absolute Kryptonite) that I shouldnt begin my first
lesson with The Rules because the kids would have had this a thousand times and
I should just crack on with the lesson because it would show I meant business.
If you were to delve into the mind of many trainees (and
practicing teachers who have been through this system) to find their mental
picture of an incredible teacher, youd probably draw out an image of someone
prancing entertainingly around the classroom setting off smoke bombs and
throwing tennis balls around as the children hula-hoop whilst singing a song
about fractions. This impression is one which is encouraged (or perhaps
created) by the fact that whilst training you are told that lessons need to
have pizazz, or fizz, and that above all they must be engaging.
I emerged into the classroom brimming with ideas, and sure
that Id be able to get kids to buy into my lessons by the force of my
personality and the sheer fun of what Id planned.
It was a disaster.
In my first lesson I tried to teach some of the context of
Of Mice and Men using The Relay activity. I tried to teach my Year 8s war
poetry by getting them to act out the events of Dulce et Decorum est. I hadnt
given them The Rules talk. I hadnt shown them I was an authority figure to
be respected. The ensuing results were exactly as youd imagine.
Whenever I now come across a PGCE student on school
placement heading enthusiastically into the classroom with an armful of Diamond
9 cards, a washing line and Plasticine, my heart sinks. Later on I know that
theyll beat themselves up for not being good enough, not being engaging
enough, and not being able to control the class.
So, what should teacher training institutions be doing?
Firstly, they should be focussing on the basics, and the
basics only. Nobody who hasnt yet attained a teaching qualification should be
worrying at night about having to perform pedagogical acrobatics in the
There should be a huge focus on behaviour. I wouldnt talk
about anything else for the first few weeks. As David Didau notes, behaviour is
the key. If you cant control the room, it doesnt matter how good the lesson
youve planned is.
Observations should be purely formative and focus only on
the behaviour and progress of students and the quality of work which is
produced. Training institutions should tell partner schools that if they assign
a grade to any ITT lessons they observe, then they wont be partner schools any
Trainees should learn what quality marking and feedback look
like, and why they should demand the highest quality in students written and
Trainees should know about the big debates taking place in
the educational sphere, about developments in educational policy in the UK and
around the world, and about the history of our education system. Trainees
should know about what cognitive evidence thinks about how we learn, and know
that they should have the confidence to teach in a way which most suits them
its the outcome, not the method which is key.
Luckily, I joined Twitter, read blogs, and happened to be
placed in a school which has a principal who is plugged into the educational
zeitgeist and who introduced staff to Willingham, Christodoulou and the
But if I hadnt, and only had my PGCE studies to go on, I
wouldnt know that there was a debate taking place around knowledge education.
I wouldnt know that learning styles have been discredited. I wouldnt know
that the primacy of child-centred learning and Vygotskian theory were fallible.
I wouldnt know that there has been a teacher-driven wave of pressure which has
helped to convince Ofsted (and by extension many school SLTs) to abandon a
requirement to teach in a certain way. I wouldnt have thought to question The
Gods of the three-part lesson with an AFL opportunity every twenty minutes.
Im incredibly grateful (and lucky) to have stumbled upon the Learning Spy and
Hunting English blogs in the Spring term of 2013, and from them to have found
my way to Andrew Old, Tom Bennett, Webs of Substance and then Joe Kirbys and
Daisy Christodoulous blogs.
I learnt about the knowledge/skills debate, the fact that
Daniel Willingham exists, the content of recent DFE and Ofsted reforms, how to
design a knowledge scheme of work, practicable ways to manage behaviour, get
students to write well and what effective marking looks like from the
internet. That shouldnt have been the
Here Ill try to re-blog what people are saying about
Teacher training is focussing on the wrong things and it
needs to be reformed.