I’ve followed the coverage of the ResearchEd Conference with great interest. By all accounts it was a brilliant experience for those who were able to attend. Congratulations are due to Tom Bennett and Helene Galdin-O’Shea for organising the event. It’s great to see teachers getting so worked up about their profession; to give up a Saturday to further your professional development is admirable. (Although let’s not forget all those PE teachers who give up endless weekends and evenings to run sports teams.) Anyway, I’ve read as many blogs and tweets on the event as I could find, and it’s clear that people came away with a feeling of enthusiasm and hope.
However, unfashionable as it might be to rain on the evidence parade, there is a ‘but’ coming … (don’t worry, there’s also a potential solution – the clue’s in the title of this blog post – you could scroll down to the end if you can’t be bothered to read the ‘buts’ in between).
The notion of teaching as an ‘evidence-based profession’ causes me concern. Many of my concerns are covered by Keven Bartle here, HeyMissSmith here and Frank Furedi here. (I love the thought that Frank Furedi introduced himself as being like the ‘anti-Christ at the Last Supper’ – what a brilliant metaphor!) Anyway, these writers have left me with just a handful of concerns to mention, so here goes.
First is the lack of thought people are giving to the notion of consent: of parents and children. (Perhaps this was covered at the conference, but I’ve not seen any mention of it.) As a parent I’m not so sure I want teachers running experiments on my children. I’d prefer them to focus on teaching them, thanks. Yes, I know that a lot of teaching is about experimentation, and I’ve got no problem with that – I love the idea of a professional taking creative risks. But let’s not assume that schools now have complete freedom to test whatever ‘interventions’ they want on our children, please.
Second is a worry that this will be just one more thing that teachers are ‘expected’ to do. Clearly, for some people, the idea of research is thrilling, perhaps for others it is not. I came into teaching to teach: if I’d wanted to be a researcher, I’d have gone into research. And it’s worth remembering that in education these days, if they expect you to do something, then they’re sure as hell going to test you to check that you’ve done it.
Third is a concern that several bloggers have touched on. To my mind, teaching is not a science, it is an art form. Yes, there’s science involved, but at its heart being a teacher is about intuition, emotion, relationships, creativity, imagination and all those ‘fluffy’ things that Mr Gove and his blogger friends so detest.
Talking of Mr Gove leads me onto my ‘and finally …’. I was looking at the Educational Endowment Foundation’s Toolkit showing the value for money of various ‘interventions’ (awful word). Anyway, scroll down the list and see if you can find ‘performance related pay’. Ah! There it is! Not that pricey, hey, but it adds absolutely nothing to a child’s likely achievement. And what are teachers to be faced with from now on? PRP. Therein lies the biggest problem of all to me: cherry picking.
Now, I promised a solution, and here it is. In a moment I’m going to ask you to click on a link to a website. Read the website, simply replacing the appropriate words with ‘children, parents, teachers, education’. You’ll get the idea as soon as you click.
To visit what could be the basis for a National Institute for Teaching Excellence (or N.I.T.E.) simply go here.