Sometimes the simplest questions in life are the hardest to answer.
For all of the millions of pounds invested in researching school effectiveness, and the thousands of hours spent by policy-makers reforming education systems, do we yet have a unanimous answer to this most important of questions:
“what makes a good teacher?”
The short answer is “no“.
One thing is for sure though:-
OFSTED praising the innovative teacher-training programme, Teach First.
This scheme places high-quality graduates straight into challenging secondary schools for two years.
In this way it offers practical and hands-on training much earlier than in a traditional teacher training course.
According to OFSTED, the Teach First scheme is both producing a very high proportion of “outstanding” teachers and is also helping to transform the inner-city schools where they are being trained.
Professor Patricia Broadfoot, a former Professor of Education and now vice-chancellor of the University of Gloucestershire, argued persuasively that the evidence from international studies showed that “the highest quality teaching and learning comes when we have the greatest autonomy for the teacher and the learner”.
The good teacher, she went on, was someone who was “left to get on with what they think their students need”.
This certainly sounded like a rejection of the prescriptive approach of the national curriculum as well as the new Curriculum proposed by Michael Gove.
Professor Broadfoot went on to propose a much more child-centred approach which we had but this new proposed curriculum seem to lack!
So, for Professor Broadfoot, the key ingredients of good teaching included:
- creating an atmosphere of mutual respect and fairness in the classroom,
- providing opportunities for “active learning”
- Encourage pupil engagement, making learning interesting, and explaining things clearly.
Professor Debra Myhill, from Exeter University, took a similar line.
She argued that while good subject knowledge and intellectual ability were both important, they were not “sufficient” to be a good teacher.
Indeed she advocated that a good teacher should go in for “creative subversion”.
By this, she meant that teachers should neither passively comply with government initiatives, nor should they point blank refuse to implement them.
Finally, although no-one explicitly said a “good teacher” needed to like children, I think this was implicit in their definitions. However, Professor Myhill did say that “a teacher who hates children may be very good at class management but they are unlikely to be very good at encouraging learning“.