The first TEAN (formerly Escalate ITE) annual conference took place at Glasgow Caledonian University on 21 May 2010. After a welcome from the Vice Chancellor, Professor Pamela Gillies, the Chief Executive of GTCS, Tony Finn, spoke of the history of the Council as the "world's first independent, self-regulated professional body" for teachers, and of developments within the Scottish educational system. He explained that it was a pivotal time for the Curriculum for Excellence framework, as the first intake was due to start secondary school in September 2010.
The keynote address was then given by Professor John Gardner. Within this, he spoke of what he perceived to be the issues leading to the numbers of children currently failing in the education systems of the UK. Speaking first of the differing histories of education in the four nations, he asked whether schools were ‘bad' because they were disrupted by the behaviour of certain pupils - or because they were disrupting the education of these pupils. He quoted Ofsted findings that 4% of primary and 6% of secondary schools were inadequate, equating this to 350,000 pupils.
He also referred to the Ofsted report, Excelling against the odds, which had found the important elements of success to be: leadership*, disadvantage not being viewed as a barrier, students coming first, investment in staff, nurturing the community, high expectations, consistency, and constantly looking for ways to improve. Somewhat controversially, Gardner suggested that, in order for schools to be reinvigorated, headteachers should have 5-7 year fixed-term contracts. Fundamentally, schools needed to be happy places. Whilst accepting that the data were 10 years out of date, and lacking in clarity, he pointed to an OECD study which identified England as a country where pupils did not enjoy school**. Pupils needed to be consulted more, and less time should be devoted to worrying about teaching - which does not always lead to learning.
He had 'Wordled' five documents (from the UK and RoI) for teacher competencies, which threw up some note-worthy differences in terms of focus and priorities. ‘Standards' figured large in the English TDA document, Professional Standards for Teachers: Why sit still in your career?, ‘knowledge' in that of Northern Ireland - and ‘professional' in both. Although ‘learning' and ‘learners' also appeared quite frequently, Gardner made the point that in the pursuance of targets, it is possible to lose sight of the purpose of education itself. He referred to the risks of dividing pupils into three bands; those that will, might, and will not make the target grade - and of focusing resources on those who might. This was happening in the USA, and was starting to happen in the UK. He went on to suggest that, once a measure is used to regulate a process, after Goodhart's Law, it becomes the target itself - "and out goes the importance of education!" Individual learning becomes a secondary concern. To summarise, Gardner proposed five ways to strengthen the importance of education:
- Fixed-term contracts for headteachers
- Increasing headteachers' salaries
- Making all schools happy
- Listening to pupils
- Focusing on learning.
Unfortunately, there was no time for questions following the address.
(NB *See here for a critique of Ofsted's reification of leadership
**This can be countered by the data from the Alexander report)
The rest of the day was filled with a wide variety of presentations, round tables and workshops. Reports on a selection of these are provided below.
The nature, effects and purposes of Masters in Teaching and Learning; essence and appearance
During this round table session, Helen Scott and Simon Asquith from the University of Cumbria explored the nature, effects and potential impact of MTL at the start of its roll out in schools. Conceived as a joint venture between school-based coaches, university tutors and teachers themselves, it was intended to provide highly personalised CPD, firstly for early professional development, and to be a driver for school improvement. Scott and Asquith argued that there were a number of implicit assumptions within this, e.g. that teachers will want to do it, that it will improve schools, that it will make better teachers, etc. Under the 'gloss of certainty', issues had come to the fore, which they contrasted under the headings of ‘essence' and ‘appearance' (after Colley, 2002). So, for example, the 'appearance' of MTL as an "ambitious programme for the early professional development of teachers" could be seen in terms of ‘essence' as "Government intervention on an unprecedented nature and scale to stop the high levels of early career flight and poor induction processes". Scott and Asquith presented findings from interviews they had conducted in partnership schools, as well as comments collected during coach training days. Participants were asked to contribute their own experiences and perspectives, and to consider the possible effects on ITE.
Questioning the concept; ‘My Best Teacher'
Interestingly, this discussion about ‘my best teacher' was addressing the distinction between 'a good teacher' and 'my best teacher', and focused in some part on the TES article published each week on this subject. It was lead by Peter Gossman, University of Glyndwr. One of the things highlighted in the discussion related to the personal qualities of 'good teachers'/'my best teacher', and how presently in teacher education there seems to be a focus on testing and standards in the classroom, rather than providing inspiration and a memorable learning experience for pupils. Participants talked in pairs about their ideas of 'best teacher' and 'good teacher', and noted that many of the qualities were the same in both lists. Gossman suggested there could be two sides to this: the professional side of teaching, which includes standards, assessment, and quality and so on, but also the more personal attributes, that do change as a teacher becomes more experienced, and are perhaps the side most remembered by pupils. 'Best teachers' appeared to have memorable personal qualities, such as kindness, a sense of humour, love of their subject, enthusiasm, ability to engage, someone who cares and is motivational beyond the classroom, etc. The general opinion in the group was that this is more important than testing, scores, tables and standards, in order for children to learn and enjoy learning. Gossman posed the questions as to how or if we can teach our students the qualities of 'best teacher', and how we get a teacher to move from one to the other (i.e. 'good' to 'best').
Azer, S.A. (2005) The qualities of a good teacher: how can they be acquired and sustained? Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 98, 67-69
Dobson, S. (1985) Teacher quality. Professional Development in Education, 11, 145-153
Englehart, M.D. & Tucker, L.R. (1936) Traits related to good and poor teaching. The School Review, 44(1), 28-33.]
Social and emotional aspects of learning: for pupils, parents, teachers and teacher trainers
Within this workshop, Karen Stuart (University of Cumbria) used a variety of tools and exercises to explore the concept of SEAL. Although there are no Ofsted criteria for this area, there are five outcomes, which are skills-based: self-awareness, managing feelings, motivation, empathy and social skills. The participants engaged in a number of activities which highlighted the nebulous nature of some of these concepts, and which could also be used in their own practice. Stuart pointed out that teachers/tutors needed to model, not ‘teach', SEAL for it to be effective, and that there was a value in SEAL in learning at all levels. A number of useful handouts were provided at the end of the session, including a chapter entitled The teacher within (from NLP for Teachers: How to Be a Highly Effective Teacher by Richard Churches and Roger Terry, 2007), an information document on SEAL, and three activity sheets, entitled Psychological games, Transactions, and Ego States - The internal voice.
Overseas Trained Teachers: problem or solution?
Lionel Warner from the University of Reading gave this presentation, focussing on the representation of OTTs, and the role they have to play in our education system. He pointed out the anomalies and inconsistencies contained within the UK policy and regulation of teachers, and suggested that, whilst the media often portrayed teachers in a poor light, the representation of OTTs in particular seemed to have a negative note not only in the press, but also in recruitment and employment documents, and even in academic literature. Referring to the results of a small-scale pilot study he had recently completed, Warner had found the main professional difficulties experienced by OTTs to be classroom management, a complex curriculum and lack of support in schools. On the other hand, support in schools was given as the main reason for professional success. The next stage of the research is to investigate perceptions of OTTs' strengths. Warner stressed both the value of CPD for OTTs, and the need for them to be recognised as "a valuable commodity, not merely second-rate workers drafted in in time of shortage".
The Dual Carriageway: an efficacious model for working with teacher trainees and mentors on new initiatives
This presentation discussed the 'duality of learning' which had occurred within a programme for upskilling final year teacher trainees in PMFL whilst at the same time delivering CPD for mentors in the University of Wolverhampton's Partnership schools. Presented as an innovative way of working, Tracy Wallis and Paul Gurton explained that trainees had had a number of taught sessions from them and other trained linguists, whilst mentors engaged in workshops in developing skills in observation and feedback on Primary Language lessons. This had proved to be an effective way of developing Partnership, and efficient in terms of time and money. Wallis and Gurton reported that they had secured further funding to run an improved programme this year, and planned to enhance this model as a way of working in other initiatives.
Sue Field, Helle Hylleberg and Karen Crinnion