Returning to teacher centred learning

I would describe my classrooms as child centred, if I was pushed. I would go so far as to say I am lazy in the classroom because I don’t feel like I do very much. I change the power point slide, I put students in groups or pairs, hand out questions, sometimes I even ask them, I very rarely answer them with the answer, I frequently tell students ‘I don’t know’, sometimes I don’t even let them talk to each other (silence is golden). My power points contain little information, just a series of instructions that I expect students to read and then follow. I say child centred because it is the students that are working and I am a wanderer, at least that’s how it feels to me most of the time. So why am I there? Because I know how to teach; I have planned that lesson with very specific goals in mind, because students need someone in the room to direct them (even if it is just to the right page in the textbook- I did say lazy).But also because on occasion I need to be standing at the front telling students about the subject, because I know what happens when you remove a child’s right hemisphere and the resultant effects on their learning, I can tell them what happens during brain surgery, the difference between sticky and non-sticky brain tumours, what we mean by being fruit aphasic, how to do a sigh test. But mostly my work happens outside of the room in the planning, preparation, reading, marking, and all the paperwork. That is, the bit that feels like work anyway.

Recently in the twittersphere there seems to have been a swing back towards teacher centred ideas about education (from my brief forays into the world of twitter). The pendulum has swung back again from student led learning, group work and student leaders, to teachers being central in the classroom, and to any learning that happens. Perhaps this is a response to the battering the profession has received politically- actually we are important, we might be one person in the room but we control that room, sometimes with an iron fist, sometimes with a velvet glove and sometimes just with the LoLz. Without a qualified teacher, planning, directing and reflecting on what happens in the classroom, students will rarely get anything out of the lesson (see what happens when I leave my year 12’s work to do if I am absent vs. what happens when I am in the room).

I think this swing is an important one. It is difficult to argue that teachers are important when the profession itself was removing the word teaching from what it does. It is no longer teaching and learning, it is learning and teaching; you will no longer be judged on what you do in the room, rather you will be judged on the progress made by each student in the room at that time; I am a facilitator is very different to I am a teacher; students lead the learning is very different to teachers direct the learning. Perhaps by doing this we made it seem abundantly clear that teaching isn’t a profession with experts in their field practising every day, but more of a sales pitch to the people in the room to engage with the learning as they saw fit. In which case, why would we need to be qualified? After all, the students are leading the learning, making the rules and teaching each other. They are even marking their own work, or the work of their peers developing their own learning and that of others. Why, then, do we need an expert in pedagogy in the room? We simply need an administrator to put students in groups and remind them occasionally that they need to go and look at another student’s work.

We owe it to ourselves and our colleagues to acknowledge our own importance and value in the classroom, in the corridor and in the pastoral meetings we have with students. Teachers are professional educators, and we need to take that mantle back, and wear it with pride. We need to remember that students need professionals in the room if they are to succeed, people who know what they are doing and reflect on how to do it better. A teacher centred school is one that enables teachers to do the best for their students because it enables good teaching. It tells the world that teaching is important.

What teacher centred is not:

  • An easy life for teachers;
  • Doing what you have always done;
  • Working 9am til 3.30pm (despite what people I meet out and about seem to think);
  • Coasting (although I hesitate to use the word);
  • Cynical and self-serving.

What teacher centred learning is:

  • The best for children.

Next blog: on being child centred.

With thanks to Tom Sherrington:




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