This is the third of five extracts from our book School Myths: And the Evidence That Blows Them Apart.
Francis Gilbert, co-founder of the Local Schools Network, and author of several books on teaching, strongly challenges the idea that teaching is ‘just about subject knowledge’ added to a ‘bit of craft or technique’. For him ‘what goes on in the classroom is really complex and goes way beyond a set of rules or sorting out seating plans. To be a good teacher you have to really consider children as individuals, know how children learn, be in possession of a wide variety of different strategies. For instance, to know about ‘multiple intelligences’ is really useful.’ Teaching, says Gilbert ‘is about so much more than being a trained craftsman. It’s about becoming a professional who must deal with a multitude of complex situations. It’s about intellectual awareness as well as having all the toolkit ... it’s a mode of being.’
Professor Lori Beckett et al argue that teaching is an intellectual activity which needs to be underpinned by high-quality teacher education. She writes: ‘A teacher who cannot or who does not wish to go on learning, will become a hindrance to the progress of education and a danger to the intellectual development of hundreds of children.’ Gilbert takes this argument further with his emphasis on the importance of teachers understanding what really works in the classroom, backed up by the continuous research by experts in ‘evidence-based pedagogy.’ He argues that it is about shifting the focus of teaching as being a means of social control to being an emancipatory activity that enables students and teachers to enjoy a measure of intellectual freedom. It is very different from the ‘top down’ approach one saw with the National Literacy Strategies … we need to get every teacher reflecting deeply and seriously upon their practice, thinking hard about what is motivating children, what is helping children to learn, and what is not.’
Anthony Seldon praises the so-called ‘dynamism’ of unqualified teachers. But he was (until the summer of 2014) a headmaster of a school that charges over £30,000 a year, with small classes of highly motivated and affluent children who are themselves trained in the arts of ‘emotional intelligence’. There may be room for the occasional unqualified ‘dynamic’ individual in such an environment (although most private schools actually employ teachers with QTS) but the challenges of the state system are far greater and more diverse in intake: an argument, surely, for even higher educational and professional standards.
…Unqualified teachers may also have difficulty coping with vulnerable pupils with behavioural issues and special educational needs. How can an untrained individual - however talented - learn about the disabilities, obvious and subtle, faced by so many young learners, without drawing on the serious study of experts?
We’ll be posting two more short extracts over the next few days. The book is available for Kindle from Amazon at £3.
Short extract from Myth One: ‘Comprehensive education has failed’ is here
Short extract from Myth Three: ‘‘Choice, competition and markets are the route to educational success’ is here