Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A good teacher is...

Thanks to Ewan's del.icio.us feed, I came across this article from the BBC about good teachers. Researchers were asked to pool their findings in an attempt to answer the question, "What makes a good teacher?" The results were interesting.

One researcher, Professor Patricia Broadfoot, was reported to have said that
the key ingredients of good teaching included: creating an atmosphere of mutual respect and fairness in the classroom, providing opportunities for "active learning" and humour to encourage pupil engagement, making learning interesting, and explaining things clearly.
According to the author, another researcher, Debra Myhill, reported that

The crucial ingredient... was a teacher's ability to reflect on his or her own performance and then to change it.

and that

teachers should neither passively comply with government initiatives, nor should they point blank refuse to implement them. Instead they should "adapt them creatively".

A third researcher, Mary James, said that

the teacher should "promote the active engagement of the learner".

and the author stated:

She noted that teachers liked to be given practical guidance on how to improve their teaching, yet what they really needed to develop was their own judgment of what works and what does not work in their own teaching.

The author of the article, Mike Baker, then goes on to say
The big question now is whether - after 20 years of being told exactly what and how to teach - there are enough teachers ready to be "creatively subversive"?
Also, after years of being told in precise detail how to teach, will teachers feel ready both to devise their own way of teaching and engaging students and also constantly to evaluate and adapt their own teaching methods.
These questions are good ones, I think. I have seen my K-12 teacher friends struggle with mandated curricula that, in some cases, tell you what page you should be working on if today is January 29.

I think, though, from talking with other teachers, from reading the blogs of some really great teachers like Darren, Clarence, Jo, Graham, Eric and a bunch of others that there is, indeed, hope. There are a lot of good teachers out there. And those of us who aren't as good as we would like to be have tremendous opportunities to learn. We can all learn from each other.


Yvonne Caples said...

I like the idea of being creatively subversive. From your previous post where you reflect on 3 years of blogging where you basically say you went from being uncomfortable not knowing to no longer needing to be in control and wanting to face the next challenge. Well, I think that is what makes a good teacher. The willingness to takes risks and a sense of excitement about chasing that ever-evolving phenomena that we call quality education.

Graham said...

I'm finding that it is increasingly frustrating to go to conferences and Professional Development sessions and have an expert tell me how things should be done in my classroom. This online interaction between educators willing to push the boundaries and as Yvonne says "be creatively subversive" is where my true learning takes place these days. This way, I can see where theory meets the reality of working with students - teaching is way too complex to be boxed into an either/or methodology, not to mention disrespectful of our learners' varying needs.

Susan said...

Thanks for blogging about this. I hadn't seen the article and I found it affirming, and encouraging. I agree with Graham about so much PD being frustrating. At the same time, I don't think the entire format has to be dumped. I was fortunate enough to be at the Learning 2.0 conference in Shanghai last year and all 17 people who attended from our school said it was the best conference they had attended. Sounds like they are tweaking it to be even better in 2008.

Miguel said...

Nancy, thanks so much for sharing this. I'm going to blog it eventually because I see strong connections.

But quickly, I believe that we've set teachers up to atrophy that creative engine of their's. Experience teaches me that it doesn't atrophy, but that you can lose confidence in your own ability...creative juices flow strong as ever, you just don't think they're there.

Reflecting on instructional practice is the catalyst for change, not what you use to accomplish it...however, being connected via blogs and wikis helps accelerate that change tremendously.

What do you think about that idea?

Thanks again for such a wonderful random thought,

Miguel Guhlin
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