05 December 2006

On standards

The new professional standards for teacher/ tutor/ trainer education in the lifelong learning sector have finally been published! Deep joy!

Great news, particularly for people like me who make a living from squeezing really good teacher education programmes into these artificial shells. It's a bit like pre-revolutionary China, and binding girls' feet...

Seriously: where is the evidence that conformity to these specifications makes any difference to students' learning? What research underpins this speculative exercise? Where is the evidence that "trained" teachers are better than "untrained" ones in vocational education? Are we sure what "better" means, here?


At 7:13 PM , Blogger Jonathan said...

I think there's a great deal of anecdotal evidence that teachers with teaching qualifications are more likely to teach better than those without.
I'm giving a paper in January critiquing Creative and Cultural Skills, one of the sector skills councils, who claim that design teaching is bad because it is being done by academics, not practitioners. In fact, most of it is done by practitioners who are part-time teachers who reject the 't' word. (My argument will be that we need more trained teachers and fewer 'experts' who flounce around the studio reminiscing about the 60s and how it was done before the computer came in... except I'll put it slightly differently!)

I find it curious that any skills organisation would go on and on about how important skills are, but reject (or more accurately, ignore) the most important skill in teaching: the ability to teach.
I've long suspected an average designer with teaching skills would make a better teacher than a brilliant designer with none, and have observed far too many examples of 'negative teaching' when you can almost see the knowledge being sucked out of students as teachers build their prestige by widening the gap between the knowledable (themselves) and the knowledgeless (the students). Bourdieu has a lot to say on this and his research into academia is enlightening when placed alongside his research into taste and cultural production.

It's not a given that an expert in something can teach that thing. In fact, as a great deal of research (please don't ask me to cite it!!) shows that artists and designers in particular are singularly unable to articulate what it is they do and how they do it.

In my experience of teaching on a PGCert for teachers in art and design, the reflective abilities developed on the course immediately improved the teaching abilities of those who took part and, again anecdotally (though I know some research has been done) resulted in better grades and that less measurable entity, deeper learning among students.

I'll have more about this on my blog when the paper's written - that's my Christmas Day sorted at least!

At 11:11 PM , Blogger James said...

I do actually believe that people who have thought about the task of teaching, and probably those who have been saved the effort of re-inventing the wheel by exposure to the sedimented wisdom of the past—are more likely to be better teachers (everything else being equal, which it never is and for any given value of "better").

Put simply, I just do not believe that the micro-specification of "standards" adds anything at all to the process; and I am 90% certain that it detracts from it. And so far I know of no research at all to support the counter-position.


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