Home' Teacher : July 2010 Contents 10 TEACHER JUNE/JULY 2010
'Teaching is not rocket science. It is, in fact,
far more complex and demanding work than
rocket science.' That's the view of Richard
Elmore, Professor of Educational Leadership
in the Graduate School of Education at Har-
vard University, and anyone who has stepped
into classroom will probably agree with him.
Teaching is no simple task. It demands a
careful balance between the art and science
of teaching. The art is in creating relation-
ships between teacher and student, between
teacher and subject, and between student
and subject. The science is in understanding
how people learn. These two elements are
inextricably linked. Teachers are, however,
becoming increasingly distracted from this
core work by ever- changing policy agendas,
changing community expectations and gov-
ernment requirements, often expressed in
simplistic measures like National Assessment
Program -- Literacy and Numeracy scores,
say, or Year 12results. One reason our teach-
ers are distracted from this core work is that
they spend much of their day doing the work
of teaching, so there's very little time in the
school day to reflect on the work.
We know from 20 years of educational
research that there is a close link between
student learning and teacher learning. As
Professor John Hattie from the Faculty of
Education at the University of Auckland
says, the more the student becomes the
teacher and the teacher becomes the learner,
the more successful the outcomes.
While parents arm themselves with My
School data, the important question to ask
principals is how they are ensuring all teach-
ers have the knowledge and skills to meet
the needs of every learner? According to
Hattie's research, teachers currently spend
on average one minute per month talking
Would we have confidence in our doctors
if they spent 12 minutes a year improving
their skills and increasing their knowledge?
Why should teaching be any different?
The day should be long gone when teach-
ers close the classroom door, oblivious to
what researchers have observed as making
the greatest impact to learning and teaching.
Of course, the problem with our current
educational approach is that it relies too
heavily on what I call the 'opt in/opt out'
model. Elmore calls this approach a 'theory
of volunteerism in education.' It's the anti-
thesis of evidence-based decision making, in
that teachers make decisions about learning
strategies based on their own personal pref-
erence and ideas, not on any qualitative or
quantitative data or feedback.
In responding to the needs of today's
learners and the demands of a knowledge
economy, we cannot as a profession tolerate
this kind of 'volunteerism.' The only way to
create a 21st- century education system is to
invest heavily in developing the knowledge
and skills of teachers.
This begins with a universal recognition
that teachers are team members of a learn-
ing com munity. They learn as well as teach
-- from their colleagues, from students and
from their ow n critical reflection on what
they observe and do. Decision making is
shared and is based on professional discus-
sion on student data, feedback and research.
In other words, teachers share responsibil-
ity and accept accountability for improving
their ow n and their students' learning.
This is a powerful strategy for empower-
ing and enabling all teachers. It places them
in a position where they are supported by
the knowledge, expertise and experience of
good teachers. It enables them to make the
link between theory and practice.
TEACHING ISN'T ROCKET SCIENCE; IT'S FAR MORE COMPLEX AND
DEMANDING. ALL THE MORE REASON, THEN, THAT WE TEACHERS
LEARN FROM OUR COLLEAGUES, OUR STUDENTS AND OUR OWN
CRITICAL REFLECTION ON PRACTICE, SAYS GREG WHITBY.
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