This week I have been looking at aspects of teaching that I have found to be effective. I wrote a couple of blog posts on my thoughts (the building blocks of an excellent lesson) after we spent some time as a department piecing together our answer to the questions “What does effective teaching looking like?” And “Do we do it?”. I also considered these questions myself and displayed my ideas like this.
This considers which methods can be effective and, perhaps not surprisingly, suggests that many things can be, at least somewhat, effective. Most things work to some extent in the classroom; humans are naturally curious and we want to learn. I wonder though how this graphic would change if we considered the efficiency of different approaches? The greatest learning for the minimum input of time.
Anthony Radice wrote early this month that
“…we should acknowledge the truth that individual, one to one instruction by a knowledgeable and sympathetic person is the most powerful kind of teaching possible.”
But goes on to conclude that
“Whole class teaching is the only practical option when dealing with the whole class. Individual personal tutoring is also great, and my school does assign every pupil a personal tutor. But let’s not muddle up the two. Our time and energy are very precious, and wasting them on impractical methods means that we are failing our pupils.”
Whole Class Teaching: The Only Practical Option by Anthony Radice on The Traditional Teacher blog.
It is increasingly important that our teaching methods are both effective and efficient. Effective because education matters and efficient because we do. As the savage budget cuts to education bite, we are going to have to do more with less. Already, I am hearing of schools who are going to have much larger class sizes. It is not going to be efficient to mark books in the same way. Teachers in schools everywhere are being told to expect to see an increase in their contact time – so fewer frees for those beautiful and ornate resources you have been designing. Workload will increase and we will have to keep asking “is there an easier way to achieve the same outcome?”.
Finding the Silver Lining
I didn’t go into teaching to become some sort of “lean, mean, teaching machine” but perhaps we can find some positives in all this. Those annoying initiatives brought in by the shiny suited assistant head teachers will have to go. We will all get far better at asking why and saying no. We will have no choice and those in power will have no choice but to acquiesce. The terrible and mind numbing CPD will have to be replaced with teacher and department led professional development. As we learn to teach more efficiently we will start to claim back our evenings and weekends from the bloated monster that teaching, for many, has become.
Despite the difficult times on the horizon I am optimistic about the future of education and of teaching as a profession. I am seeing that increased collaboration on platforms like twitter are making the spreading of good practice quicker than ever before. The Charted College of Teaching and ResearchEd are making the research into effective and efficient practice more accessible to teachers than ever before. Things are changing fast and much of it actually for the better despite the challenges thrown at us.
We have a real opportunity to reform our practice from the classroom up simply because it will be the only way schools will be able to manage. Let’s embrace this opportunity and look for and develop efficient and effective methods of teaching.