What do I know?
I know what really matters in education. What matters is what happens in the classroom, in William’s ‘black box’ if you like. Political shifts, policies and curriculum changes overall have little effect on pupil outcomes so long as classroom practice remains unchanged. Teachers are under too much pressure with too little time to do anything about the politics, the curriculum or ideas about education that have no evidence, but are based on hearsay and opinion.
Teacher effectiveness is the key to lasting and sustained school improvement which means improved pupil outcomes. It does not mean improved paper work, planning, infrastructure, leadership or funding. These are not the causes of better outcomes for children, although each can act as either obstacle or support to that end. Pupil outcomes are determined by how teachers teach. The big picture must always have this concept at the centre.
Educators should never forget that what they are doing (or not doing) effects lives! A child is more likely to live longer if they stay in school longer; they are more likely to be healthier over their lifetime, more likely to have a roof over their head and be able to provide for their family too. Those who leave school early, or with poor qualifications, are more likely to end up in jail, commit crime, get sick and need benefits. Education makes a difference to people’s lives…and everyone’s lives.
In this way, I believe educators need to focus firmly on what goes on in the classroom. School leaders need to focus on what happens in classrooms and not just what is written down on pieces of paper about what goes on in classrooms! Schools matter, but classrooms matter more. It matters very little if you’re an ‘expert’ in school leadership, if you you can draw up clever tables, graphs and invent a million new efficient procedures, if none of these have any impact on how teachers teach and indeed pupils outcomes.
Teachers need support and training to make a difference. If educationalists always keep in mind the classroom, lecture hall, science lab, art room, IT suite, dance studio or gym, all the places where learning takes place, then things will start to change for the better.
We need evidence based teaching support and less and less reactive, unempirical political interference in education.
Get inside the black box and create change!