Little_Mavis' rants and musings

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Is Traditional the new Progressive?

The first thing that irritates me about all of this is simply the labels used. For a start, surely if there are supporters of new methods of teaching that becomes progressive? (I have the same trouble with post-modern. It’s just a contradiction in terms)

Anyway, that’s something of an aside. What I’ve really been pondering is why I am so bothered by the push for “traditional teaching” including all of the imparting of knowledge, teacher talk and discipline. For one thing surely it’s far easier than all the hoops teachers have been made to jump through in the name of pleasing Ofsted. I actually prefer to be taught that way. Nothing makes my heart sink more than being made to do role-play or group work when I’m being trained. I just want to be told stuff, make notes then go away and sort it all out. I also rather liked teaching. It was easy. I hated having to work out how to fit meaningful group-work into an IT lesson for an observation . So why do I feel so strongly about the current push to return to “traditional teaching”? After all, it’s the way I was taught and I was fine with it.

What I have found is that different methods of delivery were appropriate for different topics, or even the same topics with different classes or at different times of the day/week. Also different teachers work in ways they feel comfortable.

Before its sad demise I taught Key Skills IT to post-16 students across college. Teaching A level kids was a doddle. They accepted they needed to do it as part of their course. You told them stuff, they learned, they produced work. Sorted. Other groups provided more of a challenge. They’d come to college to do Sport, or Performing Arts, or Hairdressing and saw no reason why they should also have to do IT, English or Maths.

Sometimes we had to be more inventive. When I taught databases to some groups, (notably Performing Arts) they became the database and sorted or filtered themselves (engagement). That approach wouldn’t have gone down quite so well with a science A level group. I based their portfolios on work they were doing for their main course. Some teachers were wonderfully co-operative with this and gave me copies of the assignments so I could work out how I could make sure all the criteria for the key skills portfolio could be met while they were doing coursework (transferable skills). Others, sadly, not so much so I had to create additional assignments. (Relevance!)

As a co-ordinator I provided all the teachers on the course (there were many as it was used as a timetable-filler) with a scheme of work, lesson plans and resources. Some used them, others not so much.

Overall I feel the problem is that many teachers feel they are being pushed to replace one set of forced methods with another,when what they really want to do is use the right method for a particular subject, topic, class, time, place and personality.

The other worrying aspect is the conviction of some who have hardly taught (maybe in one school for a couple of years) that they have the answers to everything. Actually, I know how they feel. My first child did not have tantrums. Parents around me were suffering while I sailed through. I thought it was because I had done everything right. I was a brilliant parent. Then my second child reached, oh, about 15 months. I discovered that the reason the first hadn’t had tantrums was because she wasn’t the tantrum-throwing type. The younger one was. We learned to deal with it but I learned a little lesson in humility.

I just wish some people could accept that their method may not be the only method that works or even the best method in every circumstance. And even if it is, aren’t kids going to become bored with and habituated to it and it will therefore lose its impact? I’m not at all convinced that replacing one orthodoxy with another will help with the perceived ills of our education system.