What is in your professional toolbox?

Early education research tried to be like a science – it tried to use controls in its design methodology and tried to find quantifiable laws for us to work by. The early critics of this approach suggested that this was not addressing the individuality of the learner and the laws probably could not apply to all people.

Of course, those of us in education know that learning can be complicated. That is why most teacher training courses include multiple techniques and strategies to try and reach the majority of the learners, and why a good teacher continually reflects on their practice and adjusts it. And we all know that what worked well today, may not work well tomorrow. There are too many variables that we are not able to control.

Is education a science? Does it adjust its knowledge and disseminate this to the practice community after debate? How many of us in education subscribe to education research journals and read them religiously? How many of us engage with education research and then publish to inform our communities? No? Okay, then for you, it is not a science.

Some classroom teachers and tutors say they haven’t got time to read, critique and assimilate research outcomes into their practice. They might be happy to try and follow the wisdom of external influencers and follow established good practice and process. They master professional skills and continue to attempt to collect new skills to positively influence outcomes in the classroom.These teachers may not be critical consumers of research – but may be they are  good technicians.

Some teachers however are artists. These teachers look at trends and influencers and if they match with their practice and outcomes, then they will assimilate the practice but only if it seems right, and only if it inspires them. With art, there is no one right way to do it. An artist though will constantly monitor and critique their work, adjusting it, rethinking it, feeling it and connecting with it, and the creative process is just as important as the product.

Education at the grass roots level is very susceptible to trends, fashions and influences by gurus, in a similar way that health and climate change is. If it is a science, it is an immature one.  These trends may be based on research, or just commercially influenced as education is a big money spinner for some.

Often these trends are uncritically adopted by the practice community and flaunted as the way to education now. We hear about the “21st Century Learner” as if the biology and neurology of the human body has suddenly altered so we need to adjust accordingly, we hear of the “Generation Y” as if their inability to focus and take the easy and most entertaining road is something new to human psychology.

Fads and Fazes. E-learning, M-learning, white boards, I-Pods, black boards, chalk, paper, coloured pens, flip charts, powerpoint, computer simulation … all tools for education. And only that – tools that enable accessibility, communication, networking, support, demonstration, but the focus still has to be on the learning and does this tool help meet the right outcomes.

Which tools fit with your philosophy as a teacher, do they fit with your praxis and your product? A good technician will always use the best tools for the job. A good artist will always use the best tools to achieve the best possible outcome. Good teachers always look for better ways of transferring knowledge.

If education then is an immature science or an art, then each teacher has a huge responsibility. What ever you are, you have responsibility for the outcomes of your teaching. What are your main influencers? Are you a scientist, technician or an artist?

Note – this blog follows on from previous entry

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