Are gimmicks and trends getting in the way of teaching?

Writing in the Guardian, English subject leader Alex Quigley argues that anything that distracts teachers and school leaders from improving teaching and learning are cumbersome tools that only weigh them down…

…as leaders in schools, we are faced with daily emotional conflicts whose complexity can mirror that of an emergency crisis. We sometimes need to down our tools, learn new methods, consider alternative approaches and adapt our practices with humility.

Crucially, we should also analyse what tools we could and should throw off to lighten the load, allowing us to respond flexibly to what matters – teaching and learning. Anything that distracts teachers and school leaders from improving teaching and learning are cumbersome tools that serve only to weigh us down.

Consider GCSE interventions. How much time and energy is wasted on endless revision classes when teachers and students are equally exhausted? Endless data analysis, tracking and hulking great achievement plans all threaten to overwhelm us and stifle our capacity to respond with agility and effectiveness to individuals. How many added extras are implemented in school development plans to cure problems that could have been prevented much earlier with an agile and precise focus on teaching quality? As Dylan Wiliam rather paradoxically said, perhaps we should stop doing so many good things.

Could the downing of tools also relate to our obsession with Ofsted? There is a culture of Ofsted-obsessiveness; schools are swayed by the latest instruction or lingering whisper from inspections. Many of us are used to hearing about schools that have adjusted to Ofsted by stuffing lesson planning pro formas with literacy and numeracy requirements and the latest buzzword teaching strategies. Not only that, we have many schools creating their own interminable series of Mocksteds, driving down the confidence and energy levels of staff and erasing trust in the school organisation. Our own teacher development programmes become infiltrated by Ofsted judgements. What crisis would occur if we refused such debilitating labels for teaching and learning and had a solely formative programme of observations for development? I doubt there would be a national emergency at hand.

The obvious problem is that in adding the many intervention tools, we have lumbered teachers with a bureaucratic burden that squashes their ability to put out fires in their classroom. Perhaps as teachers we are guilty of arming ourselves with a tool belt to crack a nut. We can readily complicate our lessons by bunging them full of objectives, starters, potent plenaries, progress points, assessment for learning gimmicks, token literacy and numeracy – the list goes on and on.

The craft of great teaching is founded upon core essentials: relentlessly high standards and expectations of students, flexible and varied teaching strategies and regular, precise feedback. They are the tools we should carry lightly, guided with vigilance by school leaders…

More at:  Are gimmicks and trends getting in the way of teaching?

Follow Alex Quigley on Twitter @HuntingEnglish

Do you agree with Alex Quigley that too many gimmicks and trends are getting in the way of teaching? Any specifics you would mention? Please share in the comments or on twitter… 

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  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Short answer: “Yes”. This is a symptom of an unsupportive Ofsted regime that instills panic in schools up and down the land

  2. mdfcaw

    SchoolsImprove ‘agile and precise focus on teaching quality…high standards and expectations … regular precise feedback’ the key drivers

  3. thebigdog4312

    andylutwyche SchoolsImprove
    The sound of guillotines cutting card sorts registers on the richter scale whenever a visit is imminent.

  4. saddleworthcake

    SchoolsImprove HuntingEnglish Correct – education to please OfSTED not address particular needs of the students. Everyone running scared.

  5. artmadnana

    SchoolsImprove At last a rational, well argued synopsis of the absurdity and bombardment of Ofsted pleasing initiatives thrust on teachers.

  6. changepatriot

    SchoolsImprove Gove’sreforms R dangerousill-matched gimmicks. LoseGovedropOFSTEDWe need a profession notanunqualified pensionless PRB mob

  7. artmadnana

    rrunsworth SchoolsImprove of course it is. That’s the point. OFSTED lean on SLT, SLT lean on teachers and so on.

  8. changepatriot

    artmadnana SchoolsImprove Incessant bar raisingforcingfailure when notso&misuseofassessment termsRWilshaw”s style asOFSTED mindlessbully

  9. andylutwyche

    thebigdog4312 SchoolsImprove Indeed – pretending/hoping Ofsted doesn’t exist is probably the way forward rather than trying to impress

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