Saturday, 25 February 2012
All teachers should have access to academic journals
If I was feeling more artsy I would title this post 'The Frosted Mirror', because it is about teachers being unable to reflect properly. Pedagogical theorists place high esteem on those teachers who can engage with scholarly literature and incorporate research findings into their classroom practice. I agree with them and I think that the ability to draw upon high-quality research would be invaluable when striving to become a good teacher.
The government continually harp on about the low standards of entry into teaching and Gove has sought to professionalise teaching; if it is the teachers' subject knowledge that they wish to improve, then they should provide access to the educationalist journals to all teachers.
The venerable cast of educational theorists will be familiar to any trainee teacher - Bloom and his questions, Maslow and his hierachy, Vygotsky and his zones - but there is no expectation for a continuous engagement with classical and contemporary theory and research throughout one's teaching career. This absence is seen most clearly with the example of the notoriously restricted access to academic knowledge in lay society. Whether the desire is there or not (and it may well be laying dormant from understimulation), the point stands that teachers are unable to access the theory which undergirds good practice.
Those working towards their QTS are expected to synthesise theory and practice in order to demonstrate their competency, and though this is easily manipulated and made artificial by the 'snapshot' observations, the need to use - for example - Bloom's Taxonomy to differentiate questions within a lesson does breed good habits and good practice.
Policymakers who perceive, rightly or wrongly and for whatever reason, an underskilled teaching profession are faced with the decision of whether to focus their attention on attracting highly qualified new recruits to the profession, or embarking on retraining of current teachers. Compromise would always be the best option, but opening up access to academic journals to all teachers is not only a gesture of trust in the commitment and abilities of the profession but it would be an instant and invaluable resource.
For those teachers with the drive, ambition and/or know-how to research independently, they can get started immediately. For those who would benefit from extra help, it should be provided.
Despite the pessimistic zeitgeists which seem constantly to cast teachers in a bad light, across the educational profession you find levels of commitment which go way beyond most other professions. Dedication to pupils and their learning is the motivating force behind nocturnal planning, the spending of weekends trimming caterpillars out of A4 and requesting that everyone you know saves their cereal boxes for you. Good teachers care enough about their work to put in the extra effort. The precedent is there.
Theory and research are too valuable to be available only by those studying at university. If academic knowledge was connected to the classroom, it would facilitate the innovations, drive and deeper commitment that - in a rare triumvirate of agreement - teachers, politicians and inspectors all wish to see.