How to get your educational book published with Crown House Publishing’s David Bowman – PP156

Ollie Frith
Ollie Frith

Ollie and Kevin speak to David Bowman, Managing Director of Crown House Publishing, about the educational book market and why it’s booming again. David also talks about how they find educational authors and what makes a great educational book.

David was originally in ‘productivity service’ with a gas board but moved into the family business which was, at that time, book distribution. This eventually transformed into a book publisher known as Crown House Publishing in the early 2000s which now specialises in CPD books for teachers.

Is there a growing need for CPD books for teachers?

David Bowman
David Bowman

David doesn’t think the need is growing but does believe the quality and quantity of CPD books for teachers has improved a lot. Nowadays, quite a lot of schools buy Crown House’s books in quantity and use them as the basis of their CPD. David sees this trend as instrumental in encouraging and supporting the improvement in teaching over the past few years.

Is there a danger that teachers are just reading the narratives of others and not forming their own?

David says that they do receive a lot of work which is simply regurgitation of previous ideas whereas what they want to hear is the author’s own voice, their analysis of what’s going on, their opinions, their blueprint for achieving better outcomes for children.

Crown House go out and look for people who can do this and David says they are not usually existing authors. They find them speaking at conferences,  writing blogs or being active on social media. They also receive submissions from prospective authors and they are interested in anyone who has something new and different to say.

However, a book needs to be shaped – it starts with an idea and a discussion between the author and Crown House.

It’s a difficult task to get your thoughts into an effective structure and in a form other people are going to understand and can act on.

David points out that good books can take upwards of five years to come to fruition and sometimes great books don’t sell. A book they published called ‘The Philosophy Shop’ by Peter Worley won the Education Book of the Year Award in 2013 but sold less than 2,000 copies! Schools were not interested in it. The whole concept of teaching children to think critically and creatively has been squeezed out of the curriculum.

In an age of social media and online resources, do traditional publishers still have something to offer?

David believes that traditional publishers still have a huge amount to offer. He points out that they treat every book as a partnership. The author provides the content but Crown House provide expert editing, design, proof-reading, marketing and an active sales team. This means they can produce the best book possible and maximise sales.

We see so many self-published books that are ill-conceived, poorly organised, poorly written and don’t meet a market need.

With the help of a traditional publisher, some of these could have been good books.

What are David’s three top tips for teachers or leaders who are thinking of writing a book?

  1. Make sure you have something new to say – which means doing research into what has already been written to avoid regurgitating material and
  2. Make sure there is a big enough audience for what you want to say – just because you have a big online following, that doesn’t mean people will want to buy your book
  3. Ask yourself, “Why do I want to publish this book?” – Do you want to raise your profile and so want to make use of the wider network of a traditional publisher or do you want to make money out of it because you have a big audience and can self-publish to keep more of the money generated?

What does the future of publishing look like?

David says that there will be increasingly more content published digitally but nowhere near as much as had been predicted three years ago.

Physical books have definitely fought off the challenge of e-books and have a great future

Crown House Publishing

After years of decline, the physical book market grew by 4% in 2016 and has settled at 20-25% of the market. This is a stark contrast to the 60% which was previously predicted. This has come about because readers have re-discovered a connection to real books, publishers have increased the quality of what they are offering and e-books have retained their value, not being sold at a massive discount compared with real books. This is completely different from the ‘race to the bottom’ which the music industry has had to endure.

Do publishers have a responsibility to promote certain topics?

David says that publishers have a responsibility to publish what authors want to write in the best ways possible and don’t tend to promote one view over another.

https://www.crownhouse.co.uk/

How to transform behaviour with staff and students from Oldham Sixth Form College – PP155

Tara Elie
Tara Elie

Oldham Sixth Form College have had two trainers trained by Pivotal Education in Levels 1, 2 and 3 of the Pivotal Curriculum. Tara visited the college and recorded some interviews ‘on location’ to find out how the Pivotal Curriculum is affecting staff and students.

What has changed?

Tara spoke to Louise and Doug and asked them what has improved since starting to use Pivotal approaches. After implementing their 30 Day Pledge which was about meet and greet, all staff including the support staff noticed a change in the culture of the college. Simple things like all staff being outside their classrooms to help manage the behaviour in the corridors made an immediate difference.

“There was more a sense of calm at the beginning of the year…because there was a bigger staff presence in the corridor.”

Oldham College logoStaff are also managing low-level behaviour  problems in their own classrooms rather than referring issues upwards and there has been a definite shift away from passing behaviour onto the senior leadership team.

Consistency amongst staff has also improved with more of a shared understanding of what’s needed.

Measurement and evidence

It’s important for all staff to understand the impact of the changes and so the college have been keen to collect data. For example, from September to March this year, referral appointments to escalate behaviour incidents have gone down by 47%. This is evidence that staff are dealing with a lot more of the behaviour incidents themselves. This means that if the Senior Leadership Team have to deal with an issue, it’s a significant, serious one rather than the low-level ones they used to see.

Staff now have the tools and the confidence to deal effectively with behaviour issues themselves.

When staff were surveyed before the implementation of the Pivotal approaches, the messages were that behaviour management was inconsistent and that staff wanted more sanctions. The 47% reduction shows that staff are not thinking like this anymore. They don’t think that behaviour management is a sanctions-based system now. Instead, they believe that they should be dealing with issues in their own classrooms – managing and improving relationships and therefore improving outcomes.

Sone staff initially thought that the Pivotal approach might be ‘too soft’ for 16-19 students but they now understand that it does work and improves both outcomes and relationships.

Have students also noticed changes?

Tara spoke to Kamal who said that he had noticed more positive postcards had been sent home. He thinks it helps a lot because students aren’t just noticed when they are ‘being naughty’ but also when they are behaving positively. He also likes the way it shows his parents how he is doing in college. He put the postcard he received up on the fridge and he says it motivated him to see it there.

Other students mentioned the impact of recognition boards and meet and greet. These small changes are being noticed and appreciated by students.

Are the changes in approach just for the 95% of students who generally behave well?

Oldham Sixth Form College is also seeing improvements in ‘Hard to reach students’ who tend to be disengaged with the education system. Retention figures for this group have improved from 92% last year to 95% this year. The college attribute this to the strong relationships which have been developed through the Pivotal approach between teaching and pastoral staff and this group of students. Not only does this help academically but also in a great deal of character development. Students value the consistency they now get from staff – the positive approach, the clear expectations and the positive recognition.  Particularly pleasing is the number of students who have been in re-take courses who are now accessing university places.

What about support staff engagement?

Tara says that support staff are often neglected in training but in Oldham Sixth Form College, this is where the biggest impact has been seen. The college has around 80-90 support staff which is 50% of the workforce. Training in the Pivotal approach has been delivered to them as well. They are ‘really buying into’ the approach because they have never had the consistent tools to handle behaviour in the same way. They have come together to decide what the behaviour issues are, for example, in the Learning Resources Area. They have created behaviour posters and Tara noticed that the reception staff had taken and embellished the rules to make them more relevant to their own area of the college.

Co-training

Doug and Louise have shared the training responsibilities in a co-training arrangement. Doug has valued Louise’s experience of training in different situations as well as the way in which they have been able to plan the best approaches for their staff and learners. It’s also helpful for staff to have two trainers to provide a bit of contrast in delivery. Doug also sees the value in training existing teaching staff to deliver the Pivotal Curriculum as they have a large amount of credibility with the staff.

Louise points out that delivering training is exhausting so it’s good to share the load. She also values having someone else to manage the training – ‘reading the room’ while she is delivering content, for example, or collaborating on approaches and improving sessions based on feedback.

Pivotal Curriculum Training

“In 22 years this is by far the best behaviour management programme I’ve ever been on and ever delivered.”

Louise thinks the quality and effectiveness of Pivotal behaviour training lies partly in its on-going nature. There are a series of units, all focussing on changing one thing. She came away from the first two days of training thinking ‘this is it – this is the key!’

Doug is looking forward to embarking on the action research module and how it will help to develop behaviour management even further, giving staff even more ownership over the processes and encourage a more collaborative approach.

Why Mental Health issues are on the rise and what schools can do about it – PP154

Pivotal’s own Mike Armiger discusses the state of Mental Health in our children and young people. He suggests a range of ways in which schools can cope with the situation and best support those young people who are struggling with their own mental health.

Mike Armiger
Mike Armiger

Why are Mental Health issues on the rise in schools and other educational settings?

Mike feels it’s important to separate mental health from mental illnesses – they are very different things. Mental health is all about a child’s overall well-being.

Mental health isn’t a constant – it can fluctuate at different times of your life. Children today have such complex lives to navigate that anxiety can affect them, even from sources like political upheaval and the sometimes overwhelming pressures of social media. Often, people talk about resilience as if children can develop this in isolation but that’s not the case – it’s all to do with dependency:

You can only be resilient if you have a safe place and a safe adult to return to.

Other aspects are poverty, abuse and difficult family conditions but Mike also highlights the curriculum as a major cause of problems. He believes we have designed and developed the curriculum to create a massive amount of pressure on children to perform and hit targets. This means that a lot of the more creative subjects where children can find release have been marginalised and pushed out in favour of extra core subject time.

How can educational settings support young people with Mental Health issues?

Schools are being asked to plug a lot of gaps in mental health provision without the resources to do so. This is in the context of cuts in school funding and the first staff cuts are always in pastoral and support staff.

Counselling and talking therapy is extremely beneficial to children and young people with mental health issues – they need to be able to talk it through with an emotionally-able adult but there are also many things we can do to reduce stress levels in our bodies as well.

The main thing we can do is be able to support conversations.

Many schools are adopting very helpful practises to help in this area such as mindfulness. Mike mentions the Headspace app which allows users to take 10 minutes out and sport is also physically beneficial because of the way it affects the brain. The arts are also a great help.

However, Mike wants to stress that putting mental health in the agenda is perhaps even more important than all the above. A lot of schools and other settings are putting time and effort into training staff to recognise mental health issues in children and that’s great but it needs to be in combination with giving adults in schools the skills to have conversations confidently with those children. There is still a huge problem with the stigma attached to mental health so every school needs to make sure that assemblies, the PSHE curriculum and staff training are all really strong and consistent.

Another really important tool for schools is goal setting and Mile tells us about the power of getting young people who are experiencing difficulties themselves involved in supporting mental health programmes to help others in schools.

Most importantly, though, Mike points out that if we are committed to raising the profile of talking about mental health, we must have the systems in place to cope with the inevitable rise in children and young people coming forward for help.

What can teachers do when a child or young person is in crisis?

We need to provide young people who are in crisis with a safe place immediately.

When you are in a state of crisis in terms of your brain and your thoughts, what you really need is certainty.

  • Talk about the things the young person can do
  • Remind them of times in the past when they have been positive or interacted well with peers
  • Talk about the things you can do to reduce the stress
  • Talk and take the focus away fro the anxiety by providing practical tasks
  •  Think about ‘grounding’ – sometimes being physically on the ground will help
  • Model calm breathing with the young person – in through the nose and out through the mouth
  • Communicate the situation to all other members of staff who will come into contact with the young person
  • Chase up any existing referrals or arrange new referrals
  • Ensure that child is able to go to a safe environment when they leave the school or other setting

Whole class punishment – a student speaks out – PP153

Kevin Mulryne
Kevin Mulryne
Paul Dix
Paul Dix

In an unusual but very engaging episode, Paul and his son, Bertie, interview Netta, a year 9 student and her mother, Penny. Netta tells us about her personal experiences of whole class punishment and her feelings about it. We also discuss many other aspects of school behaviour and it was great to get a student and parent’s point of view on this essential subject!

Netta wrote a letter to her school after receiving a number of whole class punishments. She reads it out on the episode. It’s eloquent and presents a balanced view of her attitude towards group punishments where students like her suffer through no fault of their own.

What do the best teachers do to manage behaviour?

Netta says that the best teachers make sure the students are motivated by and interested in the lesson. Also, they make sure the more able students are suitably challenged so they don’t get bored. Those teachers also have creative ways of dealing with disruptive students like her MFL teacher who has given a boy a set of Spanish words which he is allowed to shout out in class!

“I definitely respect teachers who are more creative with their lessons.”

Does punishment in schools work?

Netta believes some of it does but a lot of it needs improvement. Schools need to check their punishments are working not just follow what they have always done. Different punishments work for different people. Netta likes her school’s behaviour points system – she thinks it’s positive that you can get rewarded for good behaviour not just punished for bad behaviour.

She also like the fact that you start with a fresh slate every year. Some people have received over a hundred points in a month. She points out that most students don’t really care about the points.

Is group punishment fair and what does it teach?

Netta is passionate about group punishment not being fair.

It teaches the well-behaved students that there’s no point in being good because they will be punished no matter what they do.

Paul asks if it helps the group to self-regulate and Netta says that there is an element of peer pressure to behave better in her class but it just causes arguments between students and then the whole class gets kept behind for even longer!

Netta’s mum. Penny,  finds group punishments very frustrating. She points out that there is a difference in how well behaved and poorly behaved children are treated – poorly behaved children are lavished with praise when they do something small which is good but those who are well behaved all the time are ignored. However, rather than accepting the situation, Penny is pro-active. She writes when good things happen and so she has developed a relationship with the school which means she can write when she sees things are not going well. She is respectful but assertive in her communications. She offers help from her own teaching experience or points out relevant training.

What can children do to positively influence behaviour practice in schools?

Netta thinks that if students see something which isn’t working they can talk to the school or get their parents to talk to the school – sometimes the school don’t take the students seriously but they will listen to parents.

There is a student council but they don’t usually talk about behaviour and those types of issues.

Do school behaviour practices reflect many parents’ desire for strict and tough discipline?

Netta thinks they do at her school. They can’t get away with much. Penny reflects that she is impressed that her children are so respectful and well behaved, when she considers how she herself was at school! She doesn’t like extreme ‘military’ style behaviour policies and she says that she thinks this kind of approach often comes from schools’ perceptions of the children they are dealing with rather than from parents.

Perfectly Practical Parenting with Sue Atkins – PP152

Kevin Mulryne
Kevin Mulryne
Paul Dix
Paul Dix

We welcome Parenting Expert, Sue Atkins, onto the podcast. It’s the first time we have spoken to a parenting specialist and it was a fascinating interview with Sue, who regularly appears on radio and TV – even sharing the sofa with Piers Morgan!

Sue is a Parenting Expert, Writer, Speaker, Broadcaster, Parenting Coach and Mum as well as the author of the Amazon best selling books “Parenting Made Easy – How to Raise Happy Children” & ‘Raising Happy Children for Dummies’ one in the famous black and yellow series as well as the author of the highly acclaimed Parenting Made Easy MP3s and CDs and Workbooks and The Secrets To Well Behaved Kids App. She  regularly appears on the flagship award winning “This Morning” Show on ITV, BBC Breakfast television, SKY TV, BBC local and national radio.

Sue Atkins
Sue Atkins

Is there a right way to parent or is it enough to be the best we can be?

Sue believes we can only be the best we can be with the resources we have at the time and a lot of parents feel guilty about not knowing something but all we have as a reference, usually, is how our parents did it. You can choose to do the same or choose to avoid doing the same as they did.

“The best thing to do is to do your best, relax but be positive…Parenting isn’t a competitive sport.”

Sue points out that not many parents are self-aware – they act in the moment rather than taking time to ponder what the best actions are. Parents need to work and talk together to develop a plan of how they are going to bring up their children – and be consistent.

Does smacking have any place in parenting?

Sue believes strongly that smacking should not have any place in parenting. Some people say that ‘it didn’t do them any harm’ but if adults hit adults, it’s called assault. Why is it seen as OK to hit children?

Sue also talks about being mindful of our triggers – and those of our children – are we tired? Is our behaviour affected? Do we lack restraint because of how we feel? Sue advocates all parents ensure they create ‘me time’ so that they can relax and come back to parenting with a sense of humour and a sense of balance.

Listen to Sue’s own podcast – The Sue Atkins Parenting Show
Visit Sue’s website – TheSueAtkins.com

(Creative Commons Sound clip by Johnny Pixel Productions, Inc. – http://www.johnny-pixel.com/ http://www.freesound.org/people/jppi_Stu/)

How to reintegrate radicalised young men with Detective Inspector Thorlief – PP151

Kevin Mulryne
Kevin Mulryne
Tara Elie
Tara Elie

Tara Elie shares with us an amazing interview she recorded with the Dutch Detective Inspector Thorlief. It’s an amazing, thought provoking and deeply affecting episode with lots of parallels in every educational setting.

Find out why Thorlief was accused of ‘Rolling out the red carpet for the Jihadis’ and why Tara was immediately by his compassion.

“It was hard to believe he had achieved what he claimed with such simplicity of approach.”

Thorlief has been subjected to mockery but still manages to see the big picture. His intelligence and empathy are striking.

Some of the parallels between his work and ours in school is in his work with mentors on life skills for the radicalised young men. He works hard to create belonging in the men who have no sense of it when they first meet Thorlief.

What is the ‘prevention triangle’ and why is prevention key to success with these men? Thorlief explains what happens when young men are unable to be reached by the community – that’s when he comes in.

“He allows them to be open and candid about their experiences and he talks about ‘raising them again’ as citizens.”

It’s a remarkable and very important episode of the podcast.

(Creative Commons Sound clip by Johnny Pixel Productions, Inc. – http://www.johnny-pixel.com/ http://www.freesound.org/people/jppi_Stu/)

A Yearning for Outdoor Learning with Juliet Robertson – PP150

Kevin Mulryne
Kevin Mulryne
Paul Dix
Paul Dix

We had such a fun time this week talking to Juliet Robertson all about outdoor education. We learned some amazing things about settings which spend 90% of their time out of doors as well as a huge heap of tips and strategies for every classroom!

Juliet is one of Scotland’s leading consultants on outdoor learning and play.

Is outdoor learning only for younger learners?

“Anyone can be outdoors and anyone can learn outdoors.”

Juliet also believes that any outdoor space will do fine for outdoor learning – a concrete playground is fine. She also points out that 90% of people live within a 10 minute walk of green space.

How much planning and form filling needs to be done in order to take children outside?

“Often, fear stops people from realising the freedoms they have.”

Juliet Robertson
Juliet Robertson

Juliet says that the Health and Safety Executive have, over recent years, been making it clear that we shouldn’t confuse health and safety with other matters – we need children to experience risk. We now have risk/benefit assessments – there needs to be a balance. As long as reasonable precautions have been put in place and the benefits outweigh the risks, we should be happy to carry out any reasonable activity.

“Schools, teachers and other people who work with children dynamically risk assess all the time.”

Having risk assessment conversations with the children is also very important.

Is learning more efficient inside or outside?

Juliet believes that this depends on how it is being mediated – she has seen rubbish lessons inside an outside. There is a lot of added value in outside education and children are more active and less stressed:

“Outside, you are constantly problem solving.”

Half to a third of younger children would rather be outside learning and often the gap between the least and most able is often closed because, for example, the need to decode text is removed. Juliet refers to a Scottish study into maths taught outside where dramatic increases we seen.

Are our children getting less likely to be outside in their daily lives?

It’s a complex picture, according to Juliet. There is a growth in parents who believe that their children should not be inside too much and are doing a lot about it.

“The fastest growing sector…is outdoor nurseries…we have 23 in Scotland.”

Juliet shares many practical ideas for outdoor lessons – do listen to the whole episode!

Juliet’s book, Dirty Teaching

Juliet’s website

Juliet on Twitter

Tweet of the Week

Handshake video

(Creative Commons Sound clip by Johnny Pixel Productions, Inc. – http://www.johnny-pixel.com/ http://www.freesound.org/people/jppi_Stu/)

Fastrack Behaviour and Black School Shoes – 149

Kevin Mulryne
Kevin Mulryne
Paul Dix
Paul Dix

In a different kind of episode to normal, Paul and Kevin discuss a voicemail from Hannah who is looking for inspiration on research topics around behaviour and answer a question about how to persuade the last few children in a school to wear black shoes. The Varndean Goats get a mention as well…

Then there is a selection of audio clips from the recent Pivotal Fastrack Training event where a week was spent in a hotel. The variety of experiences and backgrounds of delegates is fascinating and it sounds like it was an amazing event to have been part of.

Fastrack Behaviour and Black School Shoes

Tweet of the Week


(Creative Commons Sound clip by Johnny Pixel Productions, Inc. – http://www.johnny-pixel.com/ http://www.freesound.org/people/jppi_Stu/)

How to Teach Guerrilla Style with Jonathan Lear – PP148

Kevin Mulryne
Kevin Mulryne
Paul Dix
Paul Dix

Jonathan Lear joined us this week to talk about ‘Guerrilla Teaching’.

Jonathan is a practising teacher and deputy head at an inner-city primary school. His Independent Learning bio reads:

‘Jonathan doesn’t so much teach as create an atmosphere in his classroom that is magical, engaging and exciting and that makes the children desperate to get on and learn. And, as you would expect from a ‘guerrilla teacher’ he doesn’t let anything the government might say or do get in his way when it comes to doing the right thing for his young learners.’

“If we’re not taking the opportunity to dress our children as farm animals, then they’re definitely missing out” – Guerrilla Teaching

What three pieces of advice do you find yourself giving regularly?

Jonathan Lear
Jonathan Lear

Teachers starting out:
A history lecturer at Jonathan’s college used to say, “Catch the child good” and he believes this is really important. Whatever issue a child has there will be times when they are doing what you want them to be doing and it’s your job to notice.

More experienced teachers:
Tim Brighouse said, “Creativity without rigour is crap.” Jonathan is not a fan of creativity which involves just ‘dancing around at the front of the class being an idiot’ while learning nothing – it just wastes everyone’s time.

“We’ve got to be clear about the learning and just use our creativity to enhance that…make it stick, make it memorable.”

Leaders:
Just because something works doesn’t make it educationally desirable. Jonathan believes that when we look back at today from 50 years in the future we may wonder why we were doing some of the things we regard as ‘working’ today. He identifies testing as part of this.

Is it the children’s responsibility to listen to the teacher or the teacher’s responsibility to engage the children?

Jonathan started off teaching believing it was his fault if the children were not engaged but he says his perspective has changed now. He sees the climate and culture of the school as a crucial element in engagement of children. It’s a  collective responsibility of every single person in the school, children, teachers, support staff and everyone else. You can’t set the tone yourself as a teacher, you need that whole school ethos to make everything fit together.

Why should I dress a child as a donkey?

Jonathan says that we should only do this if we are prepared to do it ourselves. He is a fan of ‘childishness’ and says that children are growing up too quickly. He thinks there is a danger we treat year 6 children as mini adults and their classrooms sometimes feel like sterile lecture theatres. He found that his year 6 classes would do anything for a sticker or a pair of comedy glasses. It’s all about teachers being willing to laugh at themselves.

How important is planning?

Jonathan thinks planning is essential but he thinks the format is unimportant – it’s the process of planning which makes the difference. A lot of the time we end up writing down meaningless things as part of planning. It’s so much more important, for example, to focus on the specific language we use in any given lesson. Young children can be thrown if we use different language to describe difficult concepts but if we think precisely about what language is the best to use for a particular concept, we won’t end up using vaguely correct language which confuses our classes.

Why bother taking risks if we know what we have always done works?

Jonathan believes this partly has to do with your ideas on what the purpose of education is. If you think it’s all about passing tests and you have found how to do that, you’ll stick with it but if you have an optimistic mindset and you think it’s about creating the environment for children to flourish, we will continue to ask questions and try and improve.

What is Guerrilla Teaching?

Guerrilla teaching is about regaining control. Jonathan has always been a militant and when he thought an imposed change wouldn’t make any difference to the children in his class he just wouldn’t do it. Nothing bad happened. He found this addictive and it became a pattern. Later he spoke to colleagues and found out that they were doing the same. He found he had more power with his own class than he thought he had.

There is a huge amount of additional detail and anecdotes in the episode so do listen right to the end.

Find Jonathan’s book here.

Jonathan on Twitter

(Creative Commons Sound clip by Johnny Pixel Productions, Inc. – http://www.johnny-pixel.com/ http://www.freesound.org/people/jppi_Stu/)

How to Train, Retain and Research with Dr. Phil Wood – PP147

Kevin Mulryne
Kevin Mulryne
Paul Dix
Paul Dix

Dr. Phil Wood is a former geography teacher, subject leader and AST and is now at the School of Education at Leicester University. His research is about changing pedagogy and challenging organisations and teachers to look at their pedagogy. Phil is also an associate trainer with Independent Thinking.

Accountability

Phil is concerned that a lot of schools are now driven by numeric data and senior leadership teams are concentrating on accountability rather than being part of the extended group of teachers. He would prefer to see accountability being more community-led rather than being driven by improvement targets based exclusively on exam data. He thinks this is partly due to the ways in which headteachers are judged at the moment – a bit like football managers – by their most recent set of results. Phil advocates a more nuanced and multi-channel approach which takes account of much more long-term aspects.

What is the ‘what works’ agenda and what’s wrong with it?

Phil explains that the ‘what works’ agenda is based on the flawed premise that there are ‘end of the rainbow’ solutions to all the issues around pedagogy. If only we can find them, they will present us with all the solutions to our problems.

This is shown in the recent fetish for randomised control trials and certain elements of systematic reviews. Once you understand ‘what works’ it can then be applied to all contexts and thus the whole job of pedagogy becomes quite simple.

Phil sees this massive reduction of complexity as impossible. It’s not chaotic – you can see patterns and work out what approaches have the best chance of working well but the place of the teacher is always to mediate this – to work out which of the better-evidenced ideas are going to work in their context.

The way this has been implemented in recent years – to attempt to create speedy change – has meant that nothing has the time it needs to be embedded, monitored and analysed.

How do we give teachers in training access to the thought processes of expert teachers?

Phil has been involved in trying to embed lesson study into teaching practice. Because of time and other pressures, student teachers can be ‘running parallel’ to the department they are in. They tend to be planning alone and maybe getting a little feedback on their plans from their mentor but then they go back into working by themselves. To counter this, Phil had the mentor and student teacher working much more closely together. Lessons were taught in threes – the first by the mentor which the pair would then evaluate and plan an amended version for the student teacher to deliver to a parallel group. Thus, the expert teacher was opening up their own thought processes to give the student involvement in and access to them. The student is part of the discussion and learning a whole raft of different aspects of the lesson planning and delivering process from the expert teacher.

This makes it much easier for the expert teacher to share their experience where they might find it much more difficult to explain in a de-contextualised manner.

Feedback from students teachers has been very positive as they feel involved in the process and are learning a great deal from the expert teachers. The expert teachers are also happy with the process because they can gain new ideas fro the students and also develop their own practice by having the opportunity to analyse it for this purpose.

Are teachers too busy to engage in research beyond their classroom?

Phil points out there are different kinds of engagement in research from reading digests to engaging in practical classroom-based research. There has been a reduction in those who feel able to be involved in research as the pressures of teaching have grown in recent years. However, there are plenty of examples of great practice underway, for example a small study Phil is involved in to do with growth mindset.

This is much likely in a Multi-Academy Trust or Teaching School Alliance or where individuals are keen. Partnerships with universities can be extremely productive but Phil believes it has been counter-productive in recent years that the impression has been given that research is easy and quick – the best research is very a time-consuming and taxing process.

However, Phil does see research as a core activity for a profession that wants to be sustainable and truly professional – tie should be devoted to it and it shouldn’t be seen as something you need to give up your own time to get involved in.

Can you train a teacher in six weeks?

Phil believes this is impossible and in fact there is evidence to suggest that what Phil and his colleagues refer to as ‘pedagogic literacy’ can only be fully developed over a whole career.

There is always more you can do. You never reach the end point.

If pushed, Phil would recommend a two-year course, based in schools but with proper partnership with universities. Then there must be development throughout the career.

Can teacher work be reformed to aid teacher retention?

Phil believes that bringing back trust in teachers but blended with a genuine sense of responsibility leads to getting more out of people. This also means that vast amounts of paperwork can be eliminated which exist in a hyper-accountability system where the majority of it has nothing to do with children’s learning.

Alongside this, you have to accept there will be lots of people who will teach in different ways. As long as it is evidenced, it should be allowed.

Is behaviour training in universities really that bad?

Phil says that it isn’t. The best way of training in behaviour is in the classroom and so schools who have systems in place to support the students while they train are the most effective, with the support of universities. As Paul points out very few trainee teachers sit down with their mentors and plan for behaviour.

Phil on Twitter: @complexsoc1

Email: pbw2@le.ac.uk

Independent Thinking page: http://www.independentthinking.co.uk/people/associates-q-z/dr-phil-wood.aspx

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