Thursday, 31 October 2013

Should Students be Taught by Unqualified Teachers?


Debating the issue of the necessity for teaching qualifications for individuals employed by schools as ‘teachers’, the government views are divided, with Mr Gove advocating that  academies and free schools (semi-independent schools funded by the central government) may draw on the subject knowledge and passion of people without formal teaching qualifications, while Mr Clegg is of the opinion that schools should employ only qualified teachers to ensure “basic quality standard”.  Educationalists, including heads of the Institute of Education, college principals and Dr Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, believe that “standards in further education as well as in schools are threatened by the absence of a national policy for trained and qualified teachers and trainers”.  However, Mr Gove’s department disagrees, stating that state maintained schools and colleges should be able to “hire brilliant teachers who have not got qualified teacher status – and have the same advantage that private schools have to bring in great linguists, computer scientists, engineers and other specialists to inspire their pupils”, as reported by The Telegraph on 30 October 2013. 

Dr Seldon, Headmaster of Wellington College, compares teaching to parenting, where qualifications are not needed, and believes that Mr Clegg and others, who argue for teachers to be qualified, are misguided regarding the teacher’s role who, he says, is “much more akin to that of a parent (...) yet no one is suggesting parents go off for a university course to qualify as a parent”.  Although in his conference speech he makes references to teaching as a profession (strange analogy to parenting here) and acknowledges it as a reflective practice highlighting passion, intellect, love of subject and children as required qualities, his focus on teaching also fails to recognize that the aim of teaching is to enable learning, hence, I assume no references to pedagogy or necessity for teacher training.

Arguably, subject expertise and passion are teachers’ great qualities, however, for effective, by which I mean active, self-regulated and autonomous learning to occur, the focus of this debate needs to shift from the teacher to the learner. In this whole debate on qualified/unqualified teachers, we seem to have lost sight of what teaching and learning are all about.  Learning is complex and, although some students can be naturally attuned to meta-cognition, this is not the case with the majority of learners who need to be taught how to engage actively with the learning material, where knowledge acquisition is right at the bottom of the learning taxonomy.  Therefore ‘good teachers’, to be effective in class, need much more than subject expertise and intellect. Great teachers are able to facilitate learning through the use of formative strategies in class and know when to step back, to allow for pupils’ reasoning, application and self-discovered, independent learning to occur.

In order to have a better understanding of principles which encourage children to learn and why some children are more successful than others, extensive studies into the psychology of learning focused on motivation and, in particular, on the association between motivation and learning outcomes have come to the fore (Boekaerts, 2002; Dweck, 1986), and it is relevant, when discussing classroom learning, to explore some theoretical aspects of learning which scaffold classroom interaction. Learning is one of those terms about which many assumptions are made, but around which there is a silence in terms of assertions because it is complex and specific to different learners, and no single strategy works for all (Schunk et al. 1998).  According to Hirst and Peters (1989), “Educating people is not done by instant fiat. It takes time, and a variety of different processes of learning and teaching are involved”. Drawing on a range of European studies, including her own research in Holland over the last twenty years, Boekaerts (1995) concluded that motivation, an essential element of successful learning, conceptualized in her research as specific self-regulatory skill, was necessary for learners to experience success in educational outcomes.

Since learning is not just limited to knowledge acquisition, for effective learning to occur, learners need to be equipped with appropriate skills, which means they need to know how to learn in order to be fully successful. These skills are developed through classroom interactions and classroom dialogue by trained professionals whose aim is not just to impart or introduce knowledge, or new material, but to ensure that learning at a deeper level takes place and progress is made by individual students.  To assert, that this can be done by any unqualified individual with subject expertise, or indeed to liken it to parenting, is, frankly, both insulting and ridiculous.  Although I agree that not all qualified teachers are excellent and some industry experts can make excellent teachers, the training, including newly qualified teachers’ induction process, provide common ground for development and reflection, giving teaching a professional framework.

Likewise, references to independent schools having the opportunities to employ unqualified teachers are hardly appropriate. Firstly, the vast majority of independent school teachers have QTS (qualified teacher status).  I have been recruiting teachers to independent schools for many years and it has never been a consideration to recruit an unqualified teacher. Secondly, even if the private sector has the ability to employ unqualified academic staff, independent schools, and not all of them are beacons of excellence, work under different conditions to maintained schools, and what may be appropriate in some independent schools, would not necessarily be appropriate in state-funded schools where about 93% of pupils are being educated.

In my view, the debate should focus more on learning, rather than on teaching. It is more about developing pupils as independent, sustainable learners – skills which are key to future success in the digital age, where students need to be prepared for life-long learning and multiple career changes.  To assert, that this job can be done by unqualified individuals, however charismatic and knowledgeable, is to deny students opportunities that they deserve.  Teacher effect on learning, including feedback, is huge (J. Hattie’s table of effect sizes below).  Students have only one chance of every year in education and their learning should be guided by qualified teachers who are committed to life-long learning themselves.

 

Hattie's table of effect sizes.

Influence
Effect Size
Source of Influence
1.13
Teacher
1.04
Student
1.00
Teacher
.82
Teacher
.72
Student
.65
Teacher
.61
Student
Class environment
.56
Teacher
.52
Teacher
.50
Teacher
.50
Teacher
Homework
.43
Teacher
Teacher Style
.42
Teacher
.41
Teacher
Peer effects
.38
Peers
.37
Teacher
Simulation & games
.34
Teacher
.31
Teacher
.30
Teacher
.30
Teacher
.24
Student
Physical attributes of students
.21
Student
.18
Teacher
Audio-visual aids
.16
Teacher
.14
Teacher
Finances/money
.12
School
.12
Teacher
Team teaching
.06
Teacher
Physical attributes (e.g., class size)
-.05
School

Terms used in the table (Interpreted by Geoff Petty)

• An effect size of 0.5 is equivalent to a one grade leap at GCSE

• An effect size of 1.0 is equivalent to a two grade leap at GCSE

 

Hattie says ‘effect sizes' are the best way of answering the question ‘what has the greatest influence on student learning?'. An effect-size of 1.0 is typically associated with:

• advancing learners' achievement by one year, or improving the rate of learning by 50%

• a correlation between some variable (e.g., amount of homework) and achievement of approximately .50

• A two grade leap in GCSE, e.g. from a C to an A grade

 

Dr Joanna Goodman

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Assessment without levels - Assessment

Assessment without levels - Assessment

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