Friday, July 25, 2008

Robust discussion and teaching

Here's a thing I've noticed - robust discussion is not the norm within a school - teachers tend to avoid the nitty gritty and take a superficial look at issues within a school - many focused on short term gain and rapid results.

Subject passion was one of things taken for granted when I was young. I don't know if these sorts of discussions are had any more to the same degree and those that have it are looked on as a little strange. School is to be left behind at 3.15.

When I was at uni (strangely) my finest example of subject passion was amongst the Psychology lecturers. Each lecturer openly discussed their viewpoint and critiqued/criticised the views of other branches of psychology - behaviourists ridiculed those focused on the cognitive, everyone thought the Freudians were nuts and so forth. It was passionate, it was open and everyone had a beer together at the end.

Teachers have to tow the DET policies publicly when speaking as DET teachers - after all we are employed and representatives of the department, especially apparent when talking to parents and the media. But... teachers are entitled to personal opinions as professionals at the coalface. It is possible to have an opinion contrary to your employer, yet still do the job as the employer wishes. A teacher can hate OBE, yet teach it in the way they are employed to do. A teacher can dislike middle school, but be trained in it and be a great middle school teacher within the school and support its ethos.

To establish new concepts effectively each new concept must be subject to frank and open discussion. Once a decision is made (by whoever has the responsibility for the success and failure of the decision), the process needs to be given the full opportunity to succeed and evaluated with an open and critical mind. Opinion on the results of a decision are bound to be divided and this depth to evaluation should be welcomed. Position on a topic should be defended but flexible in the wake of fair criticism. Successes and failures need to be identified and analysed. Where once the devil's advocate and the ability to argue both sides of an argument was welcomed, today this diversity in education perhaps is not as valued or viewed as it should be.

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