Generic Teaching Strategies

There is much talk today of what are known as “Generic Teaching Strategies.” These strategies are said to be applicable to all classrooms, lessons and contexts.
At EducationState we, predictably, reject this belief on the grounds that any teaching must be adapted to the localised conditions of that moment in time and space.

Shoe Horn

Unlike what can be achieved with a shoe horn, to argue that there are things in common across all educational scenarios is to argue that all students/learners/pupils are the same and can be treated so. There is an element of egalitarianism here but the upshot of this belief is that we are all the same when quite clearly we are not. Any psychologist would tell you that we all experience the world differently. If we didn’t then we would all behave in the same way and hold the same prejudices but you only need look in a newspaper to know that humans are capable of the most unexpected behaviour.

Rather than celebrate uniformity, Ofsted and the Government should recognise that we are all different and that generalising based on the particular is plainly absurd. Any observation can only tell you about there and then and no more. You can’t extrapolate because it leads to the application of data not generated by the context. Strategies then arise that are based on a sample of classrooms as if they apply to all. So you have control techniques from Secondary School classes being taught as a generic teaching strategy to teachers of adult learners. When did a middle-aged woman with 3 kids need controlling? Boarding of aims and objectives becomes a given but why board when your students want you to teach? Breaking down things into manageable chunks makes perfect sense but aren’t you then guilty of teaching process not product? Checking learning? Have we agreed what ‘learning’ means then? News to us. How can you ‘evidence’ something that we don’t even know for sure exists? Group tasks are meant to engage and lead to learning but neuropsychology tells us that, as goal-orientated beings, we choose the most efficient way to complete a task and therefore we are economical with our language and our information. This would not evidence learning but it would lead to task achievement very naturally thank you very much. Inspirational and challenging teachers are best. Really? That isn’t a teaching strategy; that is a personality assessment. It is hard to smile when you are underpaid, undervalued and overworked.

Why, when this is so obvious, do the DfESUIKWHATEVER and the Great Balls-Up keep harping on about the need for observations based on clear and measurable standards and targets? Because they are anti-intellectuals who fear independent thinking and loss of control. It is the climate of fear that justifies further inspection. Fear that teacher, learners and even managers are not doing their jobs. But they are. We know they are. Those who aren’t doing their job are the people who make the decisions. If they were doing their job i.e. using their brains to think rather than using their ignorance to act, they’d know that the current system is ineffectual, corrupt and simply wrong. We call on those blinkered types to open their eyes and realise that they don’t have to pay hundreds of pounds to consultants to help teachers pass the test. Instead they should trust and rely on those who know their students best – their teachers! Let them learn from their mistakes and grow with the students based on their very particular temporal and spatial conditions. This is the only way.

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