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Unpopular Thoughts

I’m aware that I may get blacklisted for this blog by many who will not read it in the tone it is intended. To anyone who is offended please understand, that is not what I wanted.
Before I start, can I say I am in no way ANTI research!! It is just that it isn’t the fail safe it is made out to be and there is enough flawed research out there for everyone!!
Teaching is a craft which mixes research, skill, intuition and experience! It’s also important that we recognise that the pedagogical “mistakes” of other generations are the building blocks for the development we make!! I have taught in the UK and abroad for 15 years. My parents, Aunties and uncles, brothers, cousins, grandparents and in-laws were/are teachers. My father was part of the team that created the first UK SCITT consortium and was in ITT leadership for many years after headship.

I have been immersed in education. I’ve been trained in education in multiple phases, settings, cultures, subjects and points in my own life.

Somethings stay the same. Somethings always change.

My current issues are:

⁃The cult of research. ⁃Obsession with assessment ⁃Homogenised learning ⁃Narrowing curriculum ⁃Lack of trust, respect and value placed on the profession.

It would take forever to look at all of these so I’m going to begin by ranting about just one.

I studied musicology as my degree elective. In depth analysis and research. I understand research methodology in all its pitfalls and glory.

I know how to cheat at research.

The truth is, you can accumulate research on almost anything in order to prove or disprove a hypothesis. Some of it is magic maths (adjusting the numbers in a study to affect the % outcomes), some of it is research bias (deliberately LOOKING for a particular outcome rather than measuring one outcome against many), fixing the conditions (who can honestly say what the “average” class looks like?).

I’m pretty sure that I could find research evidence that says farting in the face of every student improves their learning in some way:

To the same extent, someone somewhere may have attempted to disprove this or counter it:

And we can generally say that farts are farts and they don’t evolve anywhere near as quickly or with as much complexity as learners!!

Research is an excellent way of informing an existing idea. It’s great for testing something out.

To use it without the autonomy, heart and mind of a teacher is like using a pre-packaged teach by numbers kit.

Generic, lifeless and entirely inhuman.

My concern is the “fetishism of research” because, although prominent research advocates claim this wasn’t the desired outcome, more and more young teachers are throwing the word “research” at experienced educators like bullets. We had research 15 years ago too. Some of it stuck, most of it didn’t. Be prepared to be made to feel stupid and out dated by the next generation of newbies in 10 years time. It WILL happen.

This said, there is a place for CHALLENGING educational myths. Somethings that were heralded as the “next best thing” 15 years ago were time wasters.

My advice? Steer clear of fads, find YOUR style, adapt to YOUR learners and trust yourself. You do not have to replicate everything you learn. Choose your tools from the array available to you.

Next time I’m going to grumpily whine about assessment. Offend a few more people. Until then…. stay happy, stay kind, stay real!

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The author

Cate has been a teacher for 20 years. She has worked internationally and across all key stages in the UK. Her secondary specialism is Performing Arts with a keen interest in PSHE/RSE. Cate is recently married with two cats who keep her busy and an allotment that requires more time than she can give it!

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