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☰ Teaching - Sound, Good or Excellent?

Head's Blog

Teaching - Sound, Good or Excellent?

Posted on November 05 2019

I have been involved in education, as a class teacher and leader, for nearly 20 years. It has been my passion for my entire working life, a dream ever since I was young. I have always strived to learn more about teaching, to improve and to develop further, as much as I can. Just this week I am attending an Independent Schools Association study conference to further develop my craft and listen to new and exciting techniques from fellow educators, hopefully being able to impart some extra skills to the team at Forest Park. 

At Forest Park, we are preparing ourselves for our next ISI inspection, which we think will be conducted at some point during the academic year. The teaching team have been working hard to define excellent learning; a job we haven’t found that easy if I’m honest. For too long most in education have thought about high-performance teaching and what that looked like, rather than focus on what high-performance learning looks like. Previously inspectors would grade teachers or lessons as sound, good or excellent, the assumption being that excellent teaching led to high-quality learning, which is not always the case. Isn’t it best to look at what makes excellent learning rather than excellent teaching?

In most schools, excellent learning is increasingly measured by inspectors by scores in a test or assessment data comparisons. They focus on whether schools have achieved certain grade targets set or they compare performance against other local schools. Now, as much as this is important in ascertaining progress and attainment, it is not the only measure. 

Pupils sometimes fall into this trap too and can sometimes ask what they have to do to get higher marks in a test? How do they get a pass or an A grade? How many merits or ticks they have in a piece of work. Is that what excellent learning looks like? As teachers, or as a school, a large part of our judgement is measured in final exam grades or end of key stage data, but it is just part of the learning jigsaw. There are many other aspects of learning that have to be slotted into place before we can successfully declare that we have prepared our pupils for the next stages of their education and life.

At Forest Park we feel that productive learning is ensuring our children want to learn more; if you don’t want to learn more, then that is unproductive learning. If children learn just to pass a test or attain a grade, then they will forget what they have learned soon after. Unproductive learning. Real learning empowers pupils to go on and want to grow for themselves. At Forest Park, we work tirelessly to create greater ownership for our pupils, so that they feel value in what they learn and want to continue learning to have a greater depth and breadth of subjects and concepts.

In an increasingly complex world into which children are moving, their capacity to thrive will depend on their lifelong commitment to want to learn. We need to develop “learning individuals”, help them to find a passion, encourage them to want to learn deeply, to want to learn more. Learning is not waiting to be taught, it’s about being curious to find out more and challenge oneself. 

At Forest Park, our role as educators is not to fill empty vessels but to ignite fires. By focusing on just passing a test we can fail to ignite the fire. The one competitive skill that will set children apart is the skill of being able to and wanting to continually learn. It is not an ancillary benefit of teaching, it is the sole purpose of teaching and is the one thing that cannot be measured by the test.

Nick Tucker

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