Are Teachers Brave Enough?

“Well, I taught them it. It’s not my fault if they don’t know it.”

At a conference of English teachers a few years ago I asked the audience how many could honestly put their hand on their heart and say they had never uttered such a sentence. Every teacher present confessed they had.

Once we acknowledge that what matters in our work is learning and not teaching, then we take on board responsibility to figure out every possible way we can to enhance the likelihood of effective learning.

Here’s an interesting review looking at a new book out that, to me, seems to be on the right lines. It urges teachers to have the courage to do outrageous things to get student attention and to bring learning to life.

Book Review of Teaching Content Outrageously: How to Captivate All Students and Accelerate Learning
Teaching Content Outrageously – Blog

This ties in with something i read years ago (if memory serves me it was from “Accelerated Learning” by Colin Rose) that looked at what gets remembered most. There were the Primacy Effect and Recency Effect that lead us to remember most those items at the beginning or end of a learning session. There was also something called the Von Restorff effect that indicated we also remember those items or elements that have something extraordinary about them.

It also ties in with synesthesia – the idea that the more that something engages all of our key senses (sight, sound and feelings) the greater will be its impact on us and the quicker we will learn it (and the longer we will remember it)

When we know and understand all these things from cognitive science about how the mind/ brain learns most effectively and remembers easiest, material like Mr Pogrow’s book become obvious and essential.

So, this then begs the question – why don’t more teachers show the courage to experiment in these ways? Is education, as a profession, so risk averse that it actually fails to do the things that could actually bring more effective outcomes for a higher proportion of learners?

Some of my favourite questions, often asked of teachers are; “Did you have a lesson that failed recently? A lesson that really fell on its face? A lesson that you would never again do in the same way? I think i shall be asking them even more frequently, because if we’re never failing then we’re not pushing the envelope, we’re not being brave enough and we’re placing how we look ‘safe’ as a teacher as a higher priority than the learning of the pupils.

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