Many of us within the teaching profession would dearly love to see a period of stability and calm. I think we may need to learn to thrive in chaotic times (to misquote Tom Peters) as the pace of change is becoming exponential. To do this we need to be clear and consistent on the pursuit of our goals, posts may keep changing but our goals don’t (with thanks to Vivienne Porritt for coining this great phrase).
The alternative is to desperately try to cling to the posts and keep them from moving. In reality, we have to accept the positioning of certain posts is not within our determination as the final authority and decision-making lies with others.
Another great #SLT session, on the Great Education Debate, asked, “What is the purpose of education?” Not easy in 140 characters but lots of people made an attempt to answer and this was my offering:
The posts may be changing all around us but I don’t think our goals are.
I’ve not really changed my views much on the purpose of education or the core offering to young people. I’m not a “knowledge versus skills” debater. You need both. The current ascendency of the drive for a more knowledge based curriculum is seen by some as an antidote to the previous overemphasis on skills. I see it more as a reaction, as for every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction. What we need is to reach a point of equilibrium where, knowledge skills and the development of the learner are all interdependent and mutually supportive. Whenever an extreme position is taken that sees one of the trinity of the “knowledge dimensions” in education – knowledge & understanding, procedural skills and the development of the learner – as more important, to the exclusion or belittlement of the other elements, we end up down a cul-de-sac. At some point in the future we have to turn around, as we can’t go any further with one or other element on its own, and so the pendulum swings again.
“The World is Not Flat”
When Dylan Wiliam used “The World is not flat” phrase in a recent presentation it struck a chord. He went on to make the point that scientists have stopped investigating this particular issue. The World is not flat, scientists and people in general have agreed on this and moved on to other areas of research.
Whilst research doesn’t reveal absolute, universal truths the increasing amount of research data behind some ideas should make it difficult for us to ignore. John Hattie’s Visible Learning (2009) and Visible Learning for Teachers (2012) books are fascinating, encouraging and challenging all in equal measure.
If you are not familiar with Hattie’s work he took a whole series of educational activities and interventions and put their impact on achievement on to a single scale (d) for comparison purposes. A d=0.40 was average and then he ranked about one hundred and fifty of them in order.The wider point Dylan Wiliam was making is that in education we are still discussing and debating issues which researchers have long since proven one way or the other. They have now moved on to other more contentious educational issues even if we haven’t. This doesn’t in anyway ignore the massive experience and expertise that teachers bring to what works but it does challenge the assumption that “What I do works otherwise I wouldn’t do it” kind of approach. Our role and challenge is to use research and theories to support us as practitioners, to close the research loop, by evaluating the impact of what works in our classroom – in essence we become the researchers in the classroom.
When Harry Met Sally
The 1989 film “When Harry Met Sally” is a romantic comedy that looks at what happens when two different ideas about friendship clashed. A number of encounters and meetings over time, with some very funny moments thrown in, all ended in disaster. Harry and Sally keep going their different ways until one fateful New Year’s Eve.
Sometimes when two ideas meet, which may at first sight appear very different, you can create some wonderful things.
It got me thinking, what would happen: