education

Recent Opinion Pieces for TES on education.

I’ve recently been writing opinion pieces for tes.co.uk.  Here they are:

11th June: On the need for a government focus on teaching rather than schools.

19th June: About the trendy issue of the Growth Mindset in education.

26th June: the potential of pupil voice – if we listen

3rd July: the power of CPD to change – teacher led

11th July: on education innovation

17th July: a proposal for digital education

27th July: are personal devices in school too distracting?

6th August: we need a learning pattern to match the new working pattern

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education

Berlin to Brazil – it’s all about teachers

Brazil is famous for great food, and great people.  The latter was in evidence for a rich discussion I led at the think tank, Instituto Fernando Henrique Cardoso in São Paulo on Friday.

I was asked to stimulate a discussion based on reflections on how to improve schools systems.  This was a great opportunity to pull together some of the thinking from my attendance at the World Education Symposium in Berlin and the Education Fast Forward debate two weeks ago, at the Oppi Festival in New York last week and now at Bett in Brazil.  In that time I had been lucky enough to hear from the likes of Howard Reingold, Andreas Schleicher, Randi Weingarten, Andy Hargreaves, Pasi Sahlberg, and Taylor Mali.

First, it is clear that the conflict between education and learning applies across the world.  In this rapidly changing world, people are learning in new ways outside formal education.  Schooling and qualifications are struggling to keep up and to keep learning relevant to the real world.

The coincidence of the 21st century skills demanded by employers, and the learning styles that young people gravitate to is profound. This opportunity is being largely ignored because it is inconvenient for high stakes accountability systems as it is harder to test.  It also requires some new pedagogy from teachers.

The highest performing jurisdictions of Singapore, Shanghai and Hong Kong are, however, the most innovative. They are designing creativity into their systems.

Secondly, politicians are easily distracted by what doesn’t work at a system level.

Parental choice and new school structures are yet to work at a system level.  Chile, Sweden, the US and the UK show that, whilst there may be innovative schools, it is not raising standards at a system level.

Quality teaching is more important than class sizes or technology.

Thirdly, what is important is great teaching.

“We uplift the people we serve by uplifting the people that serve them” – Prof Andy Hargreaves

The jurisdictions that perform well focus on:

  • great initial teacher training, with recruits from a range of academic backgrounds
  • strong career routes for teachers, and not just into leadership
  • embedded professional development with time for reflection, feedback and collaboration
  • collaborative teacher networks
  • strong leadership of teaching

This is encouraging for my work at TES.  Our collaborative teacher network for sharing resources is growing all the time. Our  Courses are proving popular and are pioneering a new socially based online professional development.  I continue to think about how we might further develop those but also what more should be done on ITT, on teacher careers and leadership development.

And finally here is Taylor Mali performing at Oppi

2015-05-16 11.01.55 from Jim Knight on Vimeo.

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education

Is Democracy Good for Learning?

As the UK woke up to the political earthquake of the General Election, I was in Berlin listening to the OECD’s education guru Andreas Schleicher. As the architect of PISA test and the TALIS teacher survey he regularly gives great new insights evidenced by data.

Andreas told us some of the things that work in the best performing school systems such as Singapore and Shanghai. Here there is significant investment in teacher capacity, rewarding them well, giving them time for preparation and training funded by larger class sizes, and running a longer learning day with more self directed learning.

He has clear evidence that this focus on teaching capacity works and yet these important findings are not applied in most Western jurisdictions. Incidentally, he also finds more evidence of innovation in the leading Asian systems.

It would have been inappropriate for him, as an OECD official, to point out that the successful Asian jurisdictions were less democratic. However he added a couple of other things. He said that short electoral cycles can be a problem and that politicians are more likely to do what is urgent than what is important. He also pointed out that school choice tends to make no difference because many parents are interested in more than just academic performance – such as school neighbourhood. Andreas was speaking at the inaugural world education summit organised by the Robert Bosch Stiftung.

The previous day I also took part in the 13th Education Fast Forward debate which discussed the challenge of developing 21st Century skills in schools (such as creative, collaborative, & presentation skills). Both discussions were coming to a similar conclusion.

Howard Reingold strikingly suggested in the EFF13 debate that there is a growing conflict between education and learning, that our qualifications and schooling are hampering the development of learning. He suggested that whilst in times of stability the older generation should be passing on what it knows to young people, at times of rapid change – like now – the older generation should be passing to young people the skills to direct their own learning.

This sentiment was reinforced in Berlin by speakers from Australia, India, the U.S. and Asia.

We can carry on trying to improve the system we’ve been tinkering with for the last 70 years, and nothing will really change. Or we can design a new system based around great teaching that at its heart coaches learning.

And so I came full circle in my mind. This change in teaching may be the right thing to do that ignites the fire of learning that we need for our children to thrive. If so it is really important. But implementing the change would take much longer than a five year electoral cycle and parents, employers and teachers would all need to be persuaded to support it to sustain it.

Meanwhile countries who don’t worry so much about democratic consent are just getting on with it and gaining a competitive advantage.

But I am first and foremost a democrat. Coming back to the UK, I have to accept our election outcome.

I congratulate Nicky Morgan on being re-appointed as Secretary of State for Education. My advice to her is to focus on what is important. In this case it is both important and urgent to address teacher capacity, especially recruitment and development. Here she can build on her record, learn from the best in the world, and many of us on the left of education politics will happily work with her on that vital agenda.

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digital, education

Tech is all very well but the inspiration comes from the people

I have been in Atlanta since Friday night for the ISTE conference.  It has been a great chance to catch up with new and old friends, make some business contacts and reflect on this education business I am working in.

First thing is that maybe the US is getting civilised! They have given so much to the world, for better or worse, but it is nice to see the Americans importing some great things.  When I lived in Detroit 30 years ago you had to work really hard to find any decent beer – I had to go to Mexico to find good dark beer.  But now, even in Atlanta the home of Coca Cola, they have so much really good local beer from IPA to brown ale.  Where there is good beer, football is not far behind and this country is currently World Cup mad! We’ll see at 4pm local time how long that last when the USA plays Belgium.

In between soccer games I have also been having an extended discussion about teaching and teachers.  Last week I was part of an Education Fast Forward debate on the latest OECD TALIS results.  I led a session on this here at the conference yesterday.  This survey of over 100,000 teachers in 34 countries told us a lot including:

  • the esteem of teaching is very variable and correlates to higher student achievement, and…
  • most teachers value 21st century pedagogies but teaching practices don’t always reflect that, and..
  • the more teachers collaborate with each other the higher is their self esteem and job satisfaction, and…
  • appraisal and proper feedback improves teaching, and…
  • behavioural issues equate to lower job satisfaction, but class size doesn’t

On Sunday I also led a discussion on how we get a common narrative across the Atlantic on digital education.  We had started this in London as I sought to bring together the eLearning Foundation and the One to One Institute, and were delighted that Brian the head of ISTE invited us to continue the discussion here. Thanks to Intel we also had dinner together and were lucky enough to be joined by Guy Hoffman.  Guy’s TED Talk on robots with soul has been watched over 2.4 million times.

Guy’s work in giving robots body language is telling us so much about ourselves.  He gave me so much to think about with his inspirational technology, and how he is relating it to people.

But probably most inspiring in this sea of education technology has been the people.  The great thing about ISTE is the thousands of teachers giving up time to be here.  This is best encapsulated by the VW Camper Van positioned as you enter the exhibition area.

The very simple technology of wipeable pens is capturing what teachers think education will look like in 25 years.  Plenty see it being student centred, 24/7, schools without walls, teachers as facilitators etc.  Always positive and always believing in children.  And then my favourite:

it will be what we make it, so let’s get cracking!!

What better way to sum up why we are all here.

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