I have been a teacher for 29 years, a Headteacher for 14 years and, at the age of (nearly) 53, this much I know about how for the first 25 years of my teaching career I didn’t really understand what I was doing.
Enthusiasm and force of personality got me through, pretty successfully, the first quarter of a century of my teaching career. Over that time my students attained good enough examination results. I forged great relationships in the classroom (when it comes to teaching, that’s half the battle, for sure), but I didn’t really understand how my teaching impacted upon students’ learning, because I didn’t really know how children learn. I aped the best pedagogic practices of the teachers who had taught me and, devoid of good CPD, for 25 years I used trial and error to improve my teaching.
My teacher training course was gently ineffectual. I have written about how I learnt to teach here and none of my criticism of those who taught me how to teach is remotely personal. Ultimately, however, the training was irrelevant to my core work as a teacher.
Evidence supplements experience, it doesn’t supplant it. Since the summer of 2013, when I began working with educational researcher Dr Jonathan Sharples from the IEE and the EEF, I have been learning how to teach more effectively. I have been combining the evidence available about how children learn with my years of experience as a teacher and I am, today, as good a teacher as I have ever been. And I now work in a school where every teacher is learning how to teach better, in a deliberate, conscious way.
At Huntington we have stopped guessing about what works. Our budget is getting tighter and tighter; the 8% cut in school budgets through to 2022 has already begun to bite hard. Despite the politicians’ post-election protestations, I doubt the finances will improve. It is even more important, then, that every penny we have left to spend at our school impacts positively upon improving the quality of teaching and our student outcomes. As a Research School we focus relentlessly upon improving our teaching without having to guess if what we are doing works.
A school which has mature systems where evidence supplements experience. At the forthcoming researchED York conference I will be talking about how you can use research evidence to enhance teaching and learning through a systematic approach to support your teachers’ disciplined enquiry. And for any school leader, the added attraction is that what I propose costs absolutely NOTHING!
There are some great speakers at researchED York on 8 July – Professor Becky Francis and Professor Rob Coe to name but two. You can book a ticket by clicking on the icon below and scrolling to the bottom of the linked page: