Lack of pace is just a symptom

12th May 2000 at 01:00
I REMEMBER being told, as was Pamela Relf, that my lesson "lacked pace" and being confused as to what this meant exactly and being left feeling inadequate.

I did not feel suicidal because the remark did not come from an intimidating inspector but from a colleague. I sort of saw what the remark meant and I knew I was not being as effective as I would like to be but it was of no help whatsoever in giving me any clue as to how I could improve.

To my mind simply increasing the speed with which I thought, said and did things was only likely to confuse pupils further. It was only when I forgot the criticism and trusted in my own judgment that I began to communicate with my pupils more effectively and notice in passing my lessons had increased pace dramatically.

The criteria for what represents an effective lesson are derived from empirical research data, from what an effectivelesson looks and feels like. But all good inspectors know this and recognise the limitation of criteria (arrived at through always contested research methodologies) for actually saying anything about how one might teach more effectively. A lesson that lacks pace is merely a clue to the fact, possibly, that the teacher on that occasion lacks self-belief, and is hesitant about how to proceed.

If inspections are to raise standards they must more intelligently use their criteria to get at the underlying, key difficulty a teacher may be experiencing in communicating with pupils.

This might require inspectors to reveal a bit of themselves in the course of a proper, respectful conversation with the teacher concerned rather than hide behind the illusory certainties of the always-flawed inspection criteria.

Simon Burton

Alberts Cottage

Upwaltham, West Sussex

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