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Exclusive: Scripted lessons 'don't allow teachers to excel'

Teacher training boss voices concern over teachers following a script

Sam Twiselton

Teacher training boss voices concern over teachers following a script

The head of a major teacher training provider has questioned the value of scripted lessons which direct what teachers should say in lessons.

Professor Sam Twiselton, the director of Sheffield Institute of Education at Sheffield Hallam University has said that for teachers to improve they need to learn to be flexible and responsive.

She told Tes she had concerns about lesson plans that dictate exactly what a teacher should say to pupils.

Last year Tes reported evidence of how scripted lessons in schools were on the rise and have been promoted by several high-profile academy trusts.

These can vary between a fully scripted lesson to a sequence of learning which a teacher can work.

Prof Twiselton said: “I have heard in the most extreme cases this means literally reading from a script.

“I have worries about this. At its best teaching is a creative responsive experience.

“Yes you need a plan and you need some careful thoughts about how you are going to support these children’s learning but children aren’t going to follow a script even if you do.”

Prof Twiselton said that she had spoken to educators in developing countries where scripted lessons were being relied upon to ensure a basic level of teaching in areas where recruitment was a major issue.

While she recognised the benefit in that situation she told Tes that she believed a scripted lesson could only take a teacher so far.

“To go beyond that basic level, to really fly you have to go beyond a formulaic approach,” she adds.

“With scripted lessons. I haven’t seen it in action and I need to but my own personal research which looked at student teachers doing their initial teacher education suggests to me in order to become more expert you need to become more flexible not less flexible.

“If you link this to teacher training there might be a point where a scripted lesson is helpful right near the beginning when you are just trying to sort organisation and management when none of that has become automatic. I can see that might be a helpful prop but I would see that it needs to be gradually reduced.”

Scripted lessons have been used by several prominent academy chains.

Last year James Murphy, a former assistant principal, who now runs a company that uses direct instruction to help students who are behind in their reading catch up, told Tes lessons can be carefully prepared to ensure pupils learn effectively

He argued that scripts are designed to solve the problem of pupils making “entirely reasonable misconceptions out of our explanations, because our explanations haven’t been carefully prepared enough”.

Scripts, he says, can be precisely calibrated to ensure that knowledge is imparted in a way that is “as efficient as possible and completely unambiguous”.

To read the full article see the 9 November edition of Tes. This week's Tes magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here. 

 

 

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