Starting from my 2 principles of teaching:
- Have your students learned what you wanted them to learn?
- How could you improve on this, so more of the students learn more of what you wanted them to learn?
Inherent to these principles is reflection and improvement. I am greatly enthused by how much what I have read about teaching has helped to improve my practice. And it occurs to me, how do I decide what to read? If I take on board ideas from a book or blog, it would be a regressive step were the ideas ill-thought-out.
The best thoughts on education I have read recently have been by David Didau, Tom Sherrington, Daisy Cristodoulou, Joe Kirby, Jemma Sherwood, and Martin Robinson. There is a common thread to these people and that is they are all currently involved in education and write with an authority based on experience of the classroom and an understanding of the best of current writing about education. There are essential blogs such as this one by Tom Sherrington, and essential books such as this one by Daisy Christodoulou. Reading this writing can only improve the practice of teachers.
I will contrast this with some examples of writing on education which I think are unhelpful:
A mea culpa: through no one’s fault but my own, in my training year I bought and read John Holt’s ‘How Children Fail’. This book contributed to my approach to teaching, in particular I took on his attempted aphorism: learning is not the product of teaching, learning is the product of the activity of learning. I think this is simply wrong. There are two glaring aspects of the writing that would now flash up to me as being a warning that the book is not worth reading: it’s anecdotal, not based on research; and although he was a teacher, he was a teacher some fifty years ago, his ideas are outdated. Both of these reasons means the book is not worth reading for any teacher.
Sir Ken Robinson gives a fantastic talk, if he was speaking at your graduation, there’d be plenty to talk about at lunch with the family afterwards. However, his ideas have been comprehensively rejected by many working in education, see Joe Kirby, Tom Bennet and Alex Quigly. Robinson writes well and his work is researched, but I think the fact that he has never been a teacher and his main research into teaching was thirty years ago points to why so many teachers find his writing to be less than helpful.
Almost everyone has an opinion on education, but not everyone gets a stage to promote their views. One example of someone who has is Tham Khai Meng who claimed in an article in the Guardian that “everyone is born creative, but it is educated out of us at school”. Fortunately for teachers, Martin Robinson forensically pulls apart the thinking of Ogilvy & Mather’s Chief Creative Officer . Meng is a ‘theorist of education’ who has never actually been involved in education.
I will finish by producing a schema that generalises the points I have made: