The secret to great teaching? Keep it simple

When teachers put simplicity at the heart of their teaching style, everyone benefits, Jo Facer tells Jamie Thom

Keep teaching simple: Teachers should put simplicity at the heart of their teaching style, says Jo Facer

Jo Facer is on a mission to simplify education. The principal and author of Simplicity Rules believes this fundamental teaching ethos is often overlooked – despite the benefits it brings to both teachers and pupils.

She discusses this in detail on this months’ Tes English teaching podcast (listen below), explaining that she is concerned that we have “massively overcomplicated education” and lost our core sense of purpose and direction, and that simplicity within education is achievable, despite what we often think. 

At the start of her career, Facer used to fall into the trap of designing PowerPoint displays that reached 40 slides for her lessons. “It was so ludicrous. I had no life outside school. I don’t want anyone to think or feel that that is what education needs to be,” she says.

Now she takes a completely different approach – one much more concerned with the science of learning, she says: “Thinking about knowledge and memory transformed what I was doing in the classroom.”

In the episode, she gives a number of practical ways in which we can plan and deliver lessons based on this principle and how applying this simplicity lens to all aspects of teaching will help to re-energise teachers, and improve outcomes for our students.  

Reading and writing

Facer also explains that misconceptions about direct instruction are widespread in education and that it is not “the teacher talking and the children listening. That is lecturing, which is at best moderately effective at university level".

Instead, she believes that “teaching is a dialogue – you need to check that every single student in the lesson is understanding”.

She also shares a number of strategies for how to do this in the classroom – none of which require additional planning.

For English teachers who struggle with the complexity of teaching our core aims – reading and writing – Facer has a range of practical ways in which we can help our young people to engage with these difficult areas of our curriculum.

In writing, she highlights how “when teaching writing in a lesson you want to know what your model is. What would success look like in this task?”

She also shares a range of strategies to increase the level of reading that takes place in our classrooms, and ways we can inspire students to learn to love reading aloud.

You can listen to the podcast below or by typing 'Tes - the education podcast' into your podcast platform (including Spotify)

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