Friendly guidelines cut no ice with classwork

Willis Pickard

In thinking about their classroom work teachers do not spontaneously refer to the demands or terminology of a national curriculum.

Joanna Swann, of Sunderland University, and Professor Sally Brown, of Stirling University, who interviewed teachers in eight Scottish schools, concluded that their thinking is "economical, resistant to change, and emphasises the conditions that impinge on teaching, especially the characteristics and behaviour of pupils and curriculum content".

The research involved interviews with 21 teachers in four primaries and four secondaries. The aim was to get them to reflect on their teaching without prompting them about the 5-14 guidelines, which, although they do not have the statutory force of the national curriculum in England and Wales, are being introduced in every school. The Government's attempt to "sell" the guidelines by suggesting that they are teacher-friendly and merely represent best practice may have actually discouraged some teachers from changing their thinking, the researchers said.

"Where teachers have been reassured by the idea that 'this is what we are already doing', they have not been motivated to engage in high levels of critical reflection."

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