There are many challenges currently facing the teaching profession, some specific to the UK others that are global. Problems include funding, recruitment and retention of teachers, workload and well-being plus more. Despite these undeniable issues I also think it is a very exciting time to be a teacher. I suggest this because of professional learning. There are now methods of professional learning and development that did not exist previously. Teachers are embracing professional learning and are able to take ownership of their own development and interests through a variety of strategies.
What do all great teachers have in common? Likely, many attributes and qualities but all great teachers never stop learning. I am a very strong advocate for teachers taking ownership of their own professional development and learning because when I did this it improved my teaching practice and many aspects of my life. Taking responsibility of your own professional development can enhance, and eventually even transform, your teaching practice.
I recently attended a presentation, at the ResearchEd conference in Dubai, listening to teacher, leader and author Robin Macpherson discuss cognitive psychology. In his presentation, which you can read more about here, Robin posed some very interesting questions that I have been thinking about and reflecting on. Robin made the point that there has been an increased interest in cognitive psychology amongst educators in recent years and this is certainly true. However, some of the psychology linked to memory that we are now discussing, sharing, reading and writing about is not actually new at all.
Teaching is tough, whether you’re Foundation Stage, GCSE, A Level, Independent, State – all sectors of education come with their own pressures and challenges. One of the most difficult parts of being a teacher can be the questions around quality assurance. It is important to quality assure the work that teachers do, to leave teaching and learning to chance is the talk of foolish but even now despite the huge debate and debunking of graded lesson observations, they do still go on.
I often share the quote above because I remember reading it and feeling completely liberated. The quote is taken from The Confident Teacher: Developing successful habits of mind, body and pedagogy (2016). It is my favourite book about education and you can read my review of it here. In the early years of my career I often felt exhausted. I was constantly chasing perfection and desperately trying to complete the endless to-do list. There’s always something we can add to our lists as teachers, whether that’s developing schemes of work, lesson planning, paperwork or even tidying up displays.
It can be argued that Dual Coding is a teaching and learning strategy that teachers have been using for years and years. Yet the term and the discussion around this approach has only become widespread in recent years (despite the work of Allan Paivio with his dual coding theory dating back to 1971 and he states that dual coding has its roots in the practical use of imagery as a memory aid 2500 years ago!). There are now lots of videos, blog posts, podcasts and presentations shared by educators about how dual coding can be used effectively in the classroom.
The exam season is fast approaching and this can often be a time of stress, anxiety and pressure for students and teachers alike. I have taught GCSE and A Level throughout my career and whilst some aspects have become much easier, for example in the first few years of teaching I would have fears that I wouldn’t teach all of the required content in time … but I always managed to with time to spare. Careful planning, confidence and experience can help teachers with these worries but I like many other experienced teachers are teaching new exam specifications for the first time. This has brought new challenges such as being the first year to sit the new exams, meaning limited examples of past papers and a lack of clear grade boundaries.
I didn’t fully engage with educational research at the start of my career but in recent years it has transformed my teaching practice and further built my confidence in the classroom. As a trainee teacher I was told that educational research informed us about VAK learning styles and the idea of the learning pyramid! This so-called research is now better known by many in education as edu-myths, theories that have been debunked because they are not supported by the science and research as initially claimed. This post isn’t about debunking myths but if that is something you are interested in then I can highly recommend the work of Pedro De Bruyckere, Paul Kirschner and visiting the popular blog by US educator Blake Harvard.
Last month, December 2018, I was very fortunate to visit Hong Kong. This trip was a combination of work and leisure. I was presenting at the Asia-Pacific International Schools Conference (known as AISC) and the timing of the conference was perfect as it was at the end of the winter term at my school here in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi. Therefore after the conference, I was able to spend a week exploring Hong Kong – it was my first time visiting Hong Kong. I absolutely loved it, both the conference and the sightseeing. I wanted to share and reflect on my trip.
I’ve recently just completed writing my first book! It has been a long and at times challenging process but also very enjoyable and exciting. Love To Teach: Research and Resources for Every Classroom is due to be published next month with John Catt Education – you can pre-order it on Amazon here. Anyway, this blog post is about reading not writing but a large part of the process of writing my book involved reading and engaging with educational research. Even before I decided to write a book I was reading a lot of books about education, linked to my subject specialism, pedagogy, leadership, literacy and much more. I read a very interesting article in The Guardian by teacher and author Carl Hendrick suggesting ten educational books that he believes all teachers should read. I started to make my way through the list suggested by Carl Hendrick (I have yet to read Daisy Christodoulou 7 Myths and Trivium 21C despite their popularity!). Inspired by this list I have created my own list with my favourite books linked to education. I am very aware there is a lack of diversity amongst the books I have selected. There are many wonderful female authors that I can highly recommend such as Mary Myatt, Jill Berry, Debra Kidd, Sarah Findlater and Nina Jackson. This list was based purely on my favourite books linked to education but I am aware the majority of the books below are written by men. This is the list of my favourite books and I believe every book deserves its place in my top spot list.