Leaders should leave room for innovation

10th August 2007 at 01:00
THE TARGET culture in schools is making it difficult for teachers to provide pupils with learning skills, say academics who observed primary and secondary teachers at 40 schools in five local authorities.

The researchers from four universities found that teachers were concentrating on subject matter at the expense of learning strategies. However, to be effective, the two need to be taught in tandem.

They report: "The current performance-orientated climate in schools in England seems to make it difficult for teachers to practise what they value. However, effective change is only likely to be achieved if individuals and organisations go beyond the implementation of surface procedures and engage with deeper principles."

The academics say this could be achieved through targeted training sessions in which teachers are able to re-evaluate their beliefs about learning. They should also be encouraged to think about classroom roles and relationships and the way they structure tasks.

"School leaders need to create structures and cultures that focus on learning. They must support teachers in creating, sharing and evaluating innovations in classroom practice.

"It takes confident and well-supported leaders to provide their staff with the space and permission to innovate, and perhaps learn from failure," they say.

They believe that external organisations, such as the National College for School Leadership, should help heads support teachers in this way. And local authorities should provide information technology resources that facilitate research into knowledge acquisition.

They note: "Classroom-focused inquiry... involves considerable demands on individuals and institutions because it requires risk-taking, opening practice up to critical scrutiny, collaboration and a willingness to take responsibility for decisions, action and consequences."

* m.james@ioe.ac.uk

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