Kids call time on boring teachers

15th October 2004 at 01:00
Pupils want a say in what and how they are taught - and they want more fun and activity while they learn .

These are among the conclusions of an unusual research project carried out with pupils, teachers and student teachers as part of the Scottish Executive's "assessment is for learning" programme.

The research found some marked differences between the views expressed by teachers and pupils, commenting: "Teachers wanted to be left alone to choose what they teach and teach intuitively and holistically what they felt pupils needed.

"Pupils, on the other hand, wanted more specialist teachers who offered variety and expert knowledge and skills."

The findings stemmed from a group process known as "open space", devised in 1985 and currently running in 91 countries. Participants organise their own agenda around issues of concern to them.

The exercise took place earlier this year in Dumbarton, Livingston, Cumbernauld, Perth and Aberdeen. It involved 272 pupils aged 10-16, 93 teachers and 41 student teachers.

The survey also found that teachers were most comfortable in class talking and writing in an orderly fashion, "while pupils wanted more stimulation and, above all, action and movement during and outside classes".

There was too much "teacher talk" during lessons and not enough movement and stimulation, according to pupils.

Teachers generally agreed with pupils that learning should be "fun and interesting", but the pupils felt this might be more likely if their teachers were younger, more humorous, less boring and made subjects more appealing and creative. The report added: "Understandably, teachers did not discuss these elements of their work."

A proposition to "sack the boring teachers" attracted 52 votes from the 80 pupils at the session held in Dumbarton.

The call for younger teachers was supported by 19 of the 45 pupils at the Livingston event on the grounds that "they are more fit and have their own bones".

Among other pupil suggestions for better schooling that attracted significant support were being allowed to eat in class, since hunger leads to less concentration, more comfortable seating, music and plants, shorter days in summer and longer days in winter.

Pupils had clear ideas about the subjects they wanted to study: the priorities appear to be the expressive arts, music, drama, modern languages and physical education. They also attached importance to sports and first aid, and wanted more time for school trips, games and after-school clubs.

The report concludes: "Pupils were keen to be involved in having a say over several aspects of their school life, such as subjects, teaching styles and methods, more specialist teachers in primary schools, the teaching environment, making learning more fun and dress codes."

It adds, however: "Sometimes it seemed that pupils wanted much more from school than a school or teachers might realistically be able to provide."

The research was carried out as part of the assessment is for learning programme which has been running 10 projects on various aspects of 5-14 assessment, leading to a ministerial statement on the future course of action later this year.

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