Beware false prophets, silver bullets and the curse of the FAD

Five life lessons learned from 35 years of 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”

Everyday the twitter-sphere is alive with the next how to teach better bit of advice. Edu-books galore wash across the market. Approaches are lauded and followers proclaim almost to the point of religious fervour, that this book or that book or this person or that person has the answer. The problem with books is invariably they tell us what they think the research tells us from their perspective. This is almost inevitably through a lens.

It’s odd having been in this 27 years to see this repeating pattern this years prophets are next years back-trackers furiously proclaiming that you just haven’t done it right or speedily repackaging to get aboard the next edu-goldrush.

Personally, I think research has real value, questioning what we do, exploring what works, honing our practice but lets pause for a minute. The moment someone proclaims this is the way you should do it we have already lost. The moment research is packaged and sold as an answer we’ve already lost the point of the research.

At the moment the research is being used to stop new research. The best research opens up exploration of new channels and ideas. In education it’s being used to stifle, close down and control rather than open up.

We’ve all got VAK horror stories, lets remember that we were told this is what the science said at that point. Personally, I found the literacy and numeracy hour structures much more damaging to good teaching. Sadly we all lack the time to properly be research-informed, school leaders will jump on the bandwagon and a research idea becomes a lesson tick-list at the drop of a hat. Ideas become display requirements, retrieval becomes a timed expectation.

I’ll be honest the teachers in my school are better teachers for being research informed, what they are not however is automatons with precise lesson structures to deliver. They are all individuals, they are all teachers, with experience and nous to make the decisions ( * a good teacher knows that each class is different on each day of the year too, so many external things influence learning and the research has yet to deal with effective learning when a spider falls off the ceiling onto someone’s book and the after effects of the trauma on learning etc)and choices in their classrooms. We talk and discuss, we hone, we develop. What makes their classrooms great is them and the more I may impose something the less I see of them.

Finally, I want to mention a teacher of ours who is retiring after 39 years working at our school. She is an utterly magnificent classroom teacher. The way she gets children working and the way they learn in her room is astounding. Is she research informed?… a little. Does she know what good teaching is?…undoubtedly. The answers are really in our classrooms.

The true answers to great teaching lie with our teachers. Problem is do they have the time and the trust to find their holy grail or will we force them to choose poorly?

*Thanks Kate you are so right

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