Learn from each other, says chief inspector

26th February 1999 at 00:00
TEACHERS should abandon their culture of dependency on experts in universities and town halls and learn how to teach better from their successful peers, Chris Woodhead, the chief inspector of schools, said this week.

Rather than attacking the Government for undermining their professional autonomy, they should learn to accept democratically determined education policy and get on with raising standards.

"In classrooms across the country, the challenge is to rescue the debate about education from the convolutions on academic discourse and the empty rhetoric of management jargon," he said in his annual Office for Standards in Education lecture at the Royal Society of Arts in London.

Good teaching was both an art and a craft, the chief inspector said. But good teachers did not need to be "expert in the latest theory of multiple intelligences"; they did not need "to sit at the feet of the local authority adviser to learn how children learn or to travel to the nearest university to soak up the wisdom of the professor of professional development".

In a lecture that seemed to call into question the very existence of university departments of education, he described most of their research as irrelevant, impenetrable and "read by only the most masochistic of teachers" and said teachers - including trainees - would learn more from good practitioners.

Challenging "the cult of the reflective practitioner", Mr Woodhead said teachers, like doctors or engineers, naturally "tinkered" to discover what worked best. However, they should not be seduced into becoming researchers as such a change of role was unnecessary - although research was needed to exploit the full potential of information technology.

"This talk of a radical redefinition of the role ....will deflect attention from the overriding need to make the knowledge that we have (and have had for decades) work.

"It will take thousands of teachers out of the classroom to attend courses of dubious value. And it will exacerbate the debilitating belief that there are experts out there in the universities and town halls who know more than good teachers already know," he said.

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